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Phillies, Utley Have Communication Issues?

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(credit: Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

(credit: Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

Campbell_Bill-FEATURE-img Bill Campbell
Bill Campbell, known to all Philadelphiasports fans as “The Dean,”...
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By Bill Campbell

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — So the Final Four is Ohio State, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisville. For all of you who got your brackets right, congratulations. For the rest of us, there’s always next year.

It would appear that the Phillies and Chase Utley are not on mutually agreeable speaking terms – at least for now. You can only hope that, when the season starts and the games have some real meaning, the communications process will improve.

It has been revealed that the missing Utley was in Phoenix, Arizona visiting a physical therapist named Bert Fischer, who suggested a new series of non-surgical treatments, strength exercises and joint mobilization to treat the chondromalacia that has now affected both of Utley’s knees. Utley, a quiet one at best, says he will take the rehabilitation process fairly slowly, whatever that means.

Meanwhile, the Phillies organization appears to be at the mercy of Chase Utley when it comes to revealing his physical status. He says he plans to play in 2012, he just won’t say when. He adds that he is upset and disappointed, but refuses to let the situation get him down.

When he missed the first 46 games of the season last year, he said the pain was worse, but it was confined to his right knee. It now seems to have spread to the left. The problem in layman’s terms is a roughing of the cartilage underneath the kneecap, which has been an Utley problem since 2010.

Where money enters the picture, as it always does, Utley is owed $30 million over the final two years of his contract that expires after the 2013 season. He is not considering neuro-fracture surgery and says the pain is not bad enough to end his career but “just something I’ve got to deal with.”

Will the ball club and fans find Utley’s 17 minute impromptu press conference of last Sunday terribly informative? Hardly. It’s evident that the only authoritative voice on the Utley story belongs to Utley himself. The Phillies appear to be mainly going along for the ride. The 33-year-old second baseman is a most important cog in the Phillies’ wheel.

Until now, both the general manager and the manager have put forth conflicting stories on his development – as they did on Ryan Howard. The Phillies simply dislike facing potential problems, but so do the media and the fans. It’s time for everyone to start playing the game the same way down in Florida.

And now we have heard this bit about the Eagles suddenly becoming interested in drafting a quarterback. The report is that they are interested in long-term stability at the position. Which raises the question, at least from this corner, why didn’t they show some interest in Tim Tebow who could have made sense in a lot of areas — not the least of which is public relations?

But of even more importance, like Michael Vick, Tebow is a left-hander who could become an immediate back-up or, if Vick should miss a game or two (which he usually does), a replacement with experience. Blocking systems could remain unchanged. There didn’t seem to be much interest here in Tebow, who was just traded from Denver to the New York Jets – at least not enough interest to merit public discussion.

And how do you figure the Flyers? They go to Montreal, win a game easily, clinch a playoff spot, come home to take on the Tampa Bay Lightning only to get whacked, 5-3.

Have they forgotten that they still have a chance to catch the Rangers or the Penguins in the Eastern Conference of the NHL? In games that matter, the Flyers continue to fall a goal behind the opposition early and they did it again last Monday night at home. All games matter – but some more than others, particularly at this time of year.

And how about the 76ers, whom Doug Collins says were “disconnected” in their awful loss at San Antonio the other night? The Spurs were playing their third game in three nights and were ready to be taken — and they were missing key people. But the Sixers played like a bunch of guys who were meeting for the first time.

The Sixers have lost 5 of their last 7 and 13 of their last 20. Like the Flyers at this time of the year, at this moment, they are in a flat-footed tie with Boston in the Atlantic Division and it should be noted that veteran Celtic Paul Pierce has scored 20 or more points in 5 of his last 6 games.

One pleasant note on the local basketball scene: Drexel has given basketball coach Bruiser Flint a new contract and a multi-year extension. This is much deserved. His team went 29-7 this season and won 2 games in the NIT — the first two postseason victories in Flynt’s tenure at Drexel. They also had a 19-game winning streak. Nice to see a good guy rewarded.

I have written much lately about Elena Delle Donne, whose dream season ended this past week with the Delaware Blue Hens. The big step from Delaware to Kansas was just too steep.

The nation’s leading scorer had 34 points, but Angel Goodrich had 27 of her own for the 11th-seeded Jayhawks, who played a splendid second half for a 70-64 win at Little Rock, Arkansas.

Delaware’s only other loss this season was to Maryland, way back in December. Delaware had never won an NCAA game until Delle Donne joined the team this season. She propelled the Blue Hens to an opening road win over Arkansas in which she scored 39 points in 30 minutes. They never looked back.

“This really has been a dream season and a dream team,” said Delle Donne fighting back tears.

She finished her first season at Delaware by going 9 for 18 in her final game, 15 for 18 from the foul line with 10 rebounds.

Tina Martin, the Delaware coach, promised, “We will be back.”

No report on this week in sports would be complete without noting Tiger Woods’ return to the winner’s circle for the first time since 2009. Woods won the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill.

Woods, who was 13 under par for the tournament, finished with a final round of 70 to win easily by five shots. He received a huge ovation after his final putt on the 18th green and, throughout the tournament, received terrific support from the galleries. It was his 72nd career PGA tour title.

Welcome back.

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