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The Martin Chronicles

All things sports and beyond.

Jim Harbaugh remains a world beater

Jim Harbaugh makes college football interesting, unpredictable and fun, Martin Fennelly writes.

AP photo

Jim Harbaugh makes college football interesting, unpredictable and fun, Martin Fennelly writes.

Jim Harbaugh has crossed the Rubicon.

And I love it.

Michigan’s daffy, driven head coach has marched on Rome with his team and family. Field trip.

At the Vatican, Harbaugh handed a Wolverines helmet and Jordan shoes to: Pope Francis.

Talk about team building.

Then he addressed the media.

Harbaugh, that is, not the Pope. Harbaugh wore a suit – and a Michigan cap.

I’m not making that up.

I’m not making any of this up.

You couldn’t make up Jim Harbaugh if you tried.

Don’t you love it?

Harbaugh makes college football interesting, unpredictable and fun.

Of course, Michigan is holding three practices in Italy, too.

We have no news of Nick Saban and Alabama planning a visit to the Holy Land.

Jim Harbaugh has yet to beat Urban Meyer as Michigan coach, or win a championship. He couldn’t beat Jimbo Fisher Florida State in the bowl game last season.

Right.

Any of those guys hooked up with the Pope lately?

Harbaugh at the Vatican.

Sure beats three days at IMG.

Michigan’s coach is so far out front of everyone else when it comes to branding that it’s sick. He’s like six countries and one Holy Father ahead of everyone else. He’s a mastermind with a capital big block M. …

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Bucs can't go wrong with a safety or tight end

If Ohio State safety Malik Hooker drops to No. 19, great news.

AP photo

If Ohio State safety Malik Hooker drops to No. 19, great news.

It’s time for last-second crazy talk.

Give me a safety or give me a tight end.

Give me a destroyer of tight ends or a destroyer of safeties.

The NFL Draft is here. The Bucs sit at the 19th pick, at least at the moment.

This team has all sorts of needs. Safety is an obvious one. Tight end isn’t.

Either one works for me.

NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock’s mock draft Wednesday night had Ohio State safety Malik Hooker falling all the way to the Bucs. I’m not seeing that, but if Hooker does drop, great news. Me? I’d move up a few spots to get him. If that happened, and if I was a Bucs fan, I’d start banging pots and pans in celebration.

If Hooker isn’t around (LSU safety Jamal Adams will be long gone), I’m looking at Miami tight end David Njoku. If Njoku is there, that would be something else to celebrate.

A tight end.

You heard me.

At 19, it’s impossible to know who’ll be available. Too many things can happen in front of you.

If I’m the Bucs, the dream scenario is that one of those top two safeties, Adams or Hooker, is around. That would give an improving defense a huge leap to the capability to being a dominant defense. …

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Nikita Kucherov needs to shut his yapsky

Lightning All-Star scorer Nikita Kucherov waited until he was all the way back in Russia, preparing for the hockey world championships, before he slammed teammates’ lack of commitment during their disappointing, playoff-less season, Martin Fennelly writes.

[Times files]

Lightning All-Star scorer Nikita Kucherov waited until he was all the way back in Russia, preparing for the hockey world championships, before he slammed teammates’ lack of commitment during their disappointing, playoff-less season, Martin Fennelly writes.

Shut your yapsky.

Lightning All-Star scorer Nikita Kucherov waited until he was all the way back in Russia, preparing for the hockey world championships, before he slammed teammates’ lack of commitment during their disappointing, playoff-less season.

The 23-year-old Kucherov’s lips were mostly zipped down the stretch this season, his anger presumably mounting. But show some guts. Do it here. Don’t tail gun from afar. Don’t tell a Russian news outlet that some Lightning players “got their money and stopped working.” Of course, that’s translated.

Let’s not make too much of this. It will be a non-story soon enough, or should be.

Also, part of me thinks it’s about time a Lightning player spoke his mind, that someone admitted what was on all our minds: complacency, invisible, but insidious, crept into the Lightning and wrecked its season.

PREVIOUS STORY: Nikita Kucherov with harsh words for Lightning

But why does Kucherov go to Russia before he starts flapping his gums, mewling about who were or weren’t his linemates? Long-distance grousing about player dedication and coaching decisions and your “torments all season” is no way to begin the offseason. …

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Junior's legacy goes beyond his father

Dale Earnhardt Jr. is stepping away from NASCAR after this, his 18th season. Surely his sport must be in a white-hot panic. Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart retiring is one thing. Junior’s departure is an earthquake. His sport needs him. More than it should, probably. Maybe it was lazy in always thinking Junior would be there.

Junior doesn’t leave racing as one of the best drivers in history. His father might be the chart topper in that regard.

But he leaves in one piece, and with peace of mind, with a very good career and a legacy all his own, and that matters. Eighteen years of mattering, and not just because of what his daddy did before him.

There was always something about Junior to be admired. I was there when he finished second in the Daytona 500 – the day his father died. I saw him win the Daytona summer race a few months later, something that seemed so contrived I initially thought the fix was in. Only it wasn’t. I was there for Junior’s two Daytona 500 wins.

No, he never won the points title.

But I always thought Junior handled fame and his father’s shadow as well as anyone could have. …

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Do Bucs and FSU fans like the idea of Dalvin Cook through the Tallahassee pipeline?

Hey, FSU/Bucs fans, we're reporting from the Tampa Bay Times Draft Central analysis center (we have lights, bells, printouts and everything).

I'm here to ask Florida State and Bucs fans a question:

How do you feel about the Bucs possibly having another high-profile Seminole, running back Dalvin Cook, in their sights for a third straight year?

The Bucs have gone Jameis Winston at No. 1 and took kicker Roberto Aguayo in the second round. Is it a good or bad thing if the Bucs turn into Little Tallahassee?

Or are the Bucs going to the FSU well too often? Do you think teams should pick players based on fan appeal? Don't forget that the Bucs have built an orange and blue buffer, since they grabbed Vernon Hargreaves III in the first round last draft.

Email me at mfennelly@tampabay.com.

Let us know how you feel. In your reply, tell us where you live and, very important let us know ahead of time if it is okay to use your name and response in a story.

Dalvin Cook to the Bucs -- what do you think, Seminoles and Bucs fans?

Contact Martin Fennelly at mfennelly@tampabay.com or (813) 731-8029. Follow: @mjfennelly.

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