WISCONSIN SPORTS ROUND-UP: Braun no longer most disliked figure in Wisconsin sports. Bielema is.
A new poll shows that Ryan Braun is not the most disliked sports figure in Wisconsin.
The firm of Public Policy Polling interviewed almost 1,200 likely voters on their political preferences. And while they were at it, they also asked about the state's sports celebrities. Only 15-percent had a positive opinion of Braun, the Brewers' slugger who was suspended for taking performance-enhancing drugs after he repeatedly lied about it. Earlier this year, Braun had an approval rating of almost 60-percent. That was when he was given the benefit of the doubt, as he kept denying reports that he took PED's. So who's the most disliked sports figure in the state? It's Bret Bielema, who suddenly bolted from the University of Wisconsin coaching job last December to take the same post at Arkansas. Only six percent in the Public Policy poll were positive on Bielema. Almost three-fourths had no opinion.
Meanwhile, there's a new indication that Wisconsinites are willing to let Brett Favre return to the green-and-gold family. Favre had a 50-percent approval rating in the new poll, way up from 26-percent back in 2010 when he played for the rival Minnesota Vikings. Packers' president Mark Murphy has said he'll retire Favre's Number-Four when the time is right -- and this poll, at least, shows that the time might be getting closer. However, Favre is no match for Aaron Rodgers' popularity. Seventy-five percent of likely Wisconsin voters like today's Green Bay quarterback. Only seven-percent disapprove of him. The Public Policy poll was taken last weekend, when the Packers crushed Washington and Rodgers tied a team record with 480 passing yards. The poll has a margin of error of 4.6 percent.
Green Bay Packers' tight end Jermichael Finley returned to practice today, after he saw out yesterday with a lingering toe injury. Meanwhile, safety Morgan Burnett did not take the field during the portion of the workout that was open to the media. Burnett was a limited participant at practice yesterday, after missing his first two regular season games with an injured hamstring. It's not known whether he can play on Sunday at Cincinnati. Corner Casey Hayward has already been ruled out for Sunday's contest. The jury's also still out on rookie running back Eddie Lacy -- although James Starks has already been named the starter while Lacy recovers from a concussion suffered last Sunday. Corner Jarrett Bush did not take part in today's practice, as he gets over a bad ankle. Fullback John Kuhn did not attend, as he gets over an injured hamstring.
Packers' rookie left tackle David Bakhtiari has Aaron Rodgers' blind-side covered -- so far, at least. Green Bay's fourth-round draft choice was inserted into the starting lineup after Bryan Bulaga went out for the year with a torn ACL knee ligament. Coach Mike McCarthy decided not to move Marshall Newhouse back to the left tackle slot he held a year ago, opting instead to go with the younger Bakhtiari. So far, the move has paid off. Bakhtiari has kept two of the NFL's best outside pass rushers at bay. He only allowed one sack by San Francisco's Aldon Smith in the season opener, and was barely responsible for another. Last weekend against Washington, Bakhtiari easily held his own against Brian Orakpo. The rookie did not let Orakpo get any sacks or quarterback hits against Rodgers. Packers' guard Josh Sitton is a believer. He says Bakhtiari is solid with his athleticism, his ability to move his feet, and the way he uses his hands in pass blocking. Bakhtiari said he got great advice from his brother Eric, who spent the previous five seasons as an defensive lineman with five NFL teams.
The Green Bay Packers have scored 66 points in their first two games. And if they keep that up, the Pack could have three receivers with a-thousand-yards or more this season. Randall Cobb already has 236 receiving yards, putting him on pace for almost 19-hundred for the year. Jordy Nelson has 196 yards, on pace for almost 1,600. James Jones had 178 yards last week after being held without a catch in Week-One. He's on pace for over 1,400 receiving yards in 2013. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers says it's a lofty goal to have a trio of thousand-yard wide-outs -- but he believes it's possible. Rodgers said a recent resurgence in the running game could help the receivers get more open when they're called upon. The 1-1 Packers are practicing today for their next game on Sunday at Cincinnati.
The University of Wisconsin is the pre-season favorite to win the first Big Ten Conference men's hockey title. The Badgers edged out Minnesota in a poll of the league's coaches. The poll was unveiled today at the inaugural Big Ten hockey Media Day in Saint Paul Minnesota. The Badgers won 22 games a year ago in their final season in the WCHA. Michigan is third in the pre-season poll. Michigan State and Ohio State are tied for fourth. Penn State is last among the six teams making the jump to the Big Ten for the first time. Also, the coaches named 13 students as "Players to Watch" during the season. Wisconsin has the most on the list with four -- defenseman Jake McCabe and forwards Mark Zengerle, Nic Kerdiles, and Michael Mersch. Kyle Rau of Minnesota was the only unanimous selection. The season begins October 10th, with conference play to debut on November 29th.
Wisconsin inside linebacker Derek Landisch is expected to play on Saturday, when the Badgers host Purdue in their Big Ten opener. Landisch has been out for two games, after hurting an ankle in the season opener against Massachusetts. He's expected to share playing time with Conor O'Neill, who resumed a back-up role last week at Arizona State after starting the previous week. Meanwhile, Tanner McEvoy is practicing at safety this week. He's been out the last two games with an injured left wrist. McEvoy joined the Badgers as a junior college transfer at quarterback. He was a back-up receiver almost three weeks ago against Massachusetts.
Stevens Point native Janel McCarville says she's happy to be back in the WNBA women's pro basketball playoffs. The center for the Minnesota Lynx is in her seventh pro season after playing her college ball at the University of Minnesota. McCarville averaged just over six points and four rebounds in 22 minutes per game in the regular season. That was after the 30-year-old McCarville took two years off from the WNBA. She joined Minnesota in the hopes that team would again be good. The Lynx will host Seattle tomorrow night, in the opener of the best-of-three Western Conference semi-finals. The 6-2 McCarville made the post-season three times with the New York Liberty between 2007-and-2010. She has playoff averages of 12 points and six rebounds. Her career regular season averages are around eight-and-a-half points and five boards. McCarville was drafted by the Charlotte Sting in 2005 -- but the team folded after she played two seasons there. In high school, McCarville led Stevens Point to a runner-up finish in the 2001 Division 1 state finals.