03 September 2006

Portis practices, hopeful for Monday's season opener

Ashburn, VA - Washington Redskins running back Clinton Portis said Saturday that he is close to 100 percent healthy and is hopeful for Monday night's season opener against the Minnesota Vikings.

Portis has been sidelined with a separated shoulder since the
Redskins' exhibition opener against Cincinnati on August 13. He missed the final three pre-season games and has been listed as questionable all week on the Redskins injury report.

'I'm about 93.9 right now,' Portis said after participating in a light practice on Saturday. 'I've still got two more days to get to 100 percent... At the rate things have been increasing, it looks pretty good.'

Edgerrin makes Cards contenders this time

It's opening weekend in the NFL and I feel compelled to lead with the Arizona Cardinals.

In most years, this would be considered so wrong and offensive, I would be fired.

But not in 2006. Not for a team that made the biggest splash in free agency with the signing of star running back Edgerrin James. Not for a team that clearly boasts the best receiving tandem in the NFC. Not for a team that owned the NFL draft, highlighted by the scooping up of one of the most successful quarterbacks in college football history, who is going to be a star at the NFL level. Not when the Arizona Cardinals, for the first time in, well, forever, will have a legit home-field advantage as they break in a gorgeous new stadium this weekend.

The influence of all of the above cannot be understated.

James has come in and changed everything, from the clubhouse music to the equipment to the team chemistry to the tempo in practice. As star receiver Anquan Boldin told me this summer, "Edge has set the bar high for us. He believes we are a playoff team. He wants us to work like a playoff team. He wants us to bond like a playoff team off the field. Edge knows what it takes, and we are ready to follow."

Burrell can’t shake slump

MIAMI — Phillies left fielder Pat Burrell, a frequent target of boos at Citizens Bank Park, isn’t living up to manager Charlie Manuel’s expectations, either. “When you’re looking at Pat, you’re looking at a .270-.285 hitter with 30 to 40 bombs,” Manuel said Friday before the Phillies’ 3-2 win over the Florida Marlins.

With the regular season down to 21 games, Burrell will have trouble getting there due to a .240 average and two homers since Aug 1. For the season, the slugger was batting .254 with 24 homers and 84 RBIs after going 1-for-4 with a double and a strikeout on Friday. “Mentally, he’s just in a funk,” Manuel said. Manuel has responded. Since July 25, Burrell has started only 33 times in 43 games. And of late, Manuel occasionally has opted for new protection behind cleanup hitter Ryan Howard. On Friday, Burrell hit sixth for the third time this season — all since Aug. 29 — with Jeff Conine plugged in the No. 5 hole. “I think Pat definitely has more power, but I think Conine right now is a better option of making solid contact,” Manuel said.



The Minnesota Vikings have signed offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie to a seven-year contract extension, according to a report on the Pioneer Press website.

The deal is reportedly worth $48.5 million, including a league-record $18.1 million in guaranteed money for an offensive lineman.

The Vikings had to be careful when constructing the contract as Steve Hutchinson has a clause in his deal that stipulates he must be the team's highest-paid lineman.

The All-Pro left guard signed a seven-year, $49 million contract with Minnesota in the off-season.

Along with Hutchinson, McKinnie should give the Vikings one of the league's most formidable offensive line tandems.

Selected seventh overall in 2002, McKinnie has started 55 of 56 career games, including all 48 over the last three years.

The 6ft 8in, 335lb McKinnie is slated to make $900,000 in base salary in 2006.


McGahee feels like his old self

FOXBORO -- It has been more than three years since Willis McGahee ripped his left knee apart at the Fiesta Bowl and threw his future as a professional football player into doubt.

You'd never know that, of course, if all you had to go on as your evidence was what McGahee did for the Buffalo Bills the last two years -- 284 carries for 1,128 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2004, and 325 carries for 1,247 yards and five touchdowns last year.

But to hear the former University of Miami standout tell it, he wasn't feeling ``right'' until ``probably towards the end of last year.''

``I really wasn't 100 percent,'' McGahee told New England reporters via conference call, ``but I was able to get out there and make a couple of plays. Towards the end of the year, I started feeling it. This year I am very confident in myself.''

Struggling Burrell moves down in batting order

MIAMI -- Pat Burrell was back in the lineup Friday night. Whether his long-lost home-run pop will ever return remains to be seen -- although there won’t be as many chances to see it over the season’s final three weeks. Burrell has started three of six games this week. He has just two home runs and is hitting .230 since July 30 and has fewer RBIs with men in scoring position (45 in 131 ABs) than Jimmy Rollins (49 in 101 ABs) this season.

At least Burrell no longer has the onus of protecting Ryan Howard lurking. Charlie Manuel has slid Burrell into the No. 6 hole and bumped Jeff Conine into the No. 5 spot behind Howard lately.

"He makes consistent contact," Manuel said of Conine. "As far as Pat goes, I want him to stay up, keep swinging and try as hard as he possibly can."

Steelers Sign Najeh Davenport

PITTSBURGH — The Steelers added size and experience to their backfield today when they signed veteran running back Najeh Davenport to a one-year contract. Financial terms of the deal were not released.
Davenport (6-1, 247), a fifth-year veteran from the University of Miami, spent his first four NFL seasons with the Green Bay Packers. In 39 games, Davenport has rushed for 1,068 yards and seven touchdowns on 217 carries (4.9 avg.). He also has caught 17 passes for 107 yards (6.3 avg.).
Originally drafted by the Packers in the fourth round (135th overall) of the 2002 NFL Draft, Davenport missed most of the 2005 season after breaking his ankle on Oct. 9 against New Orleans. The 27-year-old Davenport, whose first name is pronounced "NAH-jay", set a personal best with 178 rushing yards on Nov. 29, 2004, against the St. Louis Rams.


Edwards, Winslow together at last

BEREA, Ohio — Browns fans have waited for more than a year to see Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow Jr. on the field at the same time in a regular-season game.

The wait will be over Sunday when Edwards and Winslow take the field against the New Orleans Saints.

Injuries have short-circuited the careers of Winslow and Edwards so far.

Winslow has missed the past two seasons because of a broken leg in 2004 and a motorcycle accident last year in which several knee ligaments were torn.

Portis eyes second game of season

Ashburn, Va. — Redskins running back Clinton Portis is targeting Washington's second game for his return from a shoulder injury.

He essentially ruled himself out for the Monday night opener against the Minnesota Vikings. He wore a helmet and his No. 26 jersey during the entire practice Friday for the first time since partially dislocating his left shoulder four weeks ago. But he said he was focusing on the upcoming games against Dallas and Houston.

"The way things look, bro, you'll probably be seeing 2-6 against Dallas," Portis said. "But who knows?

"If not, I should be ready for Houston. They want me to be 100 per cent."

Notes: Adjustment goes on for Michaels

CHICAGO -- Jason Michaels has been in the Majors for parts of the past five seasons.

But at times this year, he's felt like just as much of a rookie as the young kids he is now surrounded by in the Indians' clubhouse.

Between taking on an everyday role for the first time in his career and moving to the American League, Michaels has found 2006 to be a challenge.

"This whole year has been a big adjustment," he said. "I'm just trying to figure it out."
Acquired by the Phillies over the winter to replace Coco Crisp in left, Michaels has had sporadic success at the plate in the No. 2 spot of the order.

He's currently in an upswing, having hit in 11 of his last 15 games entering Friday, batting .333 (19-for-57) with eight RBIs in that span. He's now .

49ers have high hopes for second year tailback

SANTA CLARA, Calif. - The San Francisco 49ers are placing the hopes of their rushing game, and perhaps their entire offense, on the surgically repaired shoulders of second-year tailback Frank Gore.

The 49ers had the NFL's worst offense last season, which directly contributed to San Francisco also having the NFL's worst defense because the teams punchless attack couldn't sustain drives and remain on the field.

The 49ers have revamped their offense considerably since then and will send six new opening-day starters onto the field for Sunday's game against the Arizona Cardinals. Gore might be the key addition to that lineup as coach Mike Nolan envisions a run-oriented attack.

Gore's point: I can play

After a round of operations on his shoulders and knees in recent years, Frank Gore heads into the 49ers' season opener Sunday at Arizona eager to put to rest any questions about his durability.

``I can't take back what has happened to me,'' said Gore, the 49ers' primary running back since the Aug. 20 trade of Kevan Barlow to the New York Jets. ``I don't even think about it. I'm good. I'm all right. I'm just looking forward to going out there and proving I can get the job done.''

The 49ers used a third-round pick on Gore in the April 2005 draft, gambling that his surgically reconstructed knees would hold up to the demands of the NFL.

Gore, who tore ligaments in each knee while at the University of Miami in 2002 and 2003, became the first rookie since Dexter Carter (1990) to lead the 49ers in rushing last season when he finished with 608 yards. His average of 4.8 yards per carry was the best among rookie runners with at least 50 attempts, including offensive rookie of the year Carnell ``Cadillac'' Williams (4.1).

Portis Appears Unlikely to Play In the Opener

His colorful costumes turned each Thursday last year into his personal comedy routine, but Clinton Portis yesterday played a role he didn't particularly enjoy.

"This is the first Thursday you're going to see me injured and hopefully it will be the last one," said Portis, who suffered a partial separation of his left shoulder in the Washington Redskins' first preseason game against Cincinnati. "Today, I'm the Injured Man. But, hopefully, we can change things. I want to get back on the field as soon as possible, and try to help my teammates."

James speaks out about Colts

It seems Edgerrin James isn't doing a lot of fond looking back on his seven-year stay with the Indianapolis Colts.

Now with the Arizona Cardinals after signing a four-year, $30 million deal in the offseason, James made it clear in a USA Today story that he didn't appreciate the Colts giving him a one-year franchise contract two straight years while big-name teammates were signing long-term deals.

"All season, I told (backup running back Dominic Rhodes), 'Dog, if I get through this season, I'm out of here, and it's going to be your show. Just let me get a chance.' It was like I was breaking out of jail or something."

Also in the story, James took umbrage with Colts president Bill Polian's draft-day description of James' possible successor, Joseph Addai. Polian said the LSU rookie is "what we haven't had here in a while, in terms of taking an 8-yard run that's blocked and turning it into a 22-yard run."


Portis Remains Questionable for Opener

ASHBURN, Va. Sep 7, 2006 (AP)— Clinton Portis' first Thursday character of the season: a football player who doesn't appear as if he's going to be able to play in his team's first game.

"Today," Portis said, "I'm the 'Injured Man.'"

Portis wore a white baseball cap, a gray sweat shirt and black sweat pants, a drab outfit that matched the bleak outlook for his participation in the Washington Redskins' Monday night opener against the Minnesota Vikings.

"I would love to be out on the field," Portis said, "but we've got to look at the long run. We've got to look at the overall season instead of trying to jump back early and play in this game and then miss the key games we've got coming up behind it."

McGahee Eager to Prove Bills Doubters Wrong

Last year Willis McGahee rushed for 1,247 yards. Most NFL running backs would chalk it up as a productive season, but for McGahee it was a forgettable one. Not so much because of his rushing total, but because of what was going on around him. The frustration primarily stemmed from the way in which he was used, which for a feature back could have been described as part-time.

McGahee feels it kept him from being the best back he could be for the Bills. But now with a new head coach, a new offensive coordinator and a new offensive approach which makes him a focal point, he believes he'll be able to put his full skill set on display.

"It was taken away before," said McGahee of how he was used in 2005. "But that's in the past and you can't do anything about it. You live and learn from that. You just let the animal loose and let him do what he does."

Inspired by Steve Fairchild's offensive system which will feature McGahee more in the passing game and leave him on the field more frequently in third down situations, Buffalo's top back got himself in the best shape of his pro career.


CHARGERS: He's no Sapp, but who is, Raiders tackle asks

SAN DIEGO ---- The Chargers face a guy Monday night who ranks near the top in an annual NFL players poll. Yep, defensive tackle Warren Sapp is again a big part of the Raiders' defense.

That ranking? It comes from the Sports Illustrated query to players about the league's most overrated player. More years than not, it's Sapp.

"It's hate,'' Sapp said Wednesday. "I'm no longer the 1999 Defensive Player of the Year, but I'm definitely overrated by any stretch of the imagination.''

Say what?

"The only person I get compared to is myself,'' said Sapp, who missed the final six games last year with a shoulder injury. "No other defensive tackle has put up 16 1/2 and 12 1/2 sacks. "The only person I'm compared to is myself when I was 26 and 27 years old.''

Duane Starks re-signed

Starks sighting: Eight-year veteran cornerback Duane Starks is back on the 53-man roster, four days after the Raiders cut him. To make room for Starks, they waived safety Hiram Eugene, an undrafted rookie.

"I was on vacation," Starks said with a smile. "I'm back now and ready to work. I love football, so I'm definitely excited to be back."

Starks said the Raiders told him Saturday to "stick around" with the expectation of re-signing. The team never removed his name from his locker.


Redskins' wide-outs are bonding

ASHBURN, VA. // Brandon Lloyd could sense it nearly from the first time he stepped onto the practice field for the Washington Redskins last spring. As much as he was bonding with new teammates Santana Moss and Antwaan Randle El, there was a pervading sense of competition among the receivers.

Even though Moss had established himself as Mark Brunell's favorite target last season - in reality his only reliable receiver besides tight end Chris Cooley - Lloyd believed that he and fellow newcomer Randle El were actually fighting with Moss for one of the starting jobs.

"It's competition for Santana," Lloyd, who played his first three years in the NFL with the San Francisco 49ers before coming over in a trade, said recently with a laugh. "Nobody's sewed up here. Nobody has the edge. There's competition across the board."

Dorsey Changes His Number

Quarterback Ken Dorsey is wearing 11 instead of 5.


Notes: Huff getting lots of playing time

PHILADELPHIA -- When Aubrey Huff sent Phillies lefty Cole Hamels' offering deep to right field on Monday, he not only tied the game, but may have also bought himself another day in the Astros starting lineup.

Huff got the start at third base against Phils lefty Randy Wolf on Wednesday night -- his second straight nod against a southpaw. This is despite the fact that he's hitting 42 points lower against lefties than he is against righties.

Huff, who can also play the outfield, is battling the struggling Morgan Ensberg at the hot corner. The right-handed-hitting Ensberg has started just five of the Astros' last 19 games, including Wednesday's.

Arizona hopes James plays with an 'Edge'

TEMPE, Ariz. — The running woes that have long plagued the Arizona Cardinals could be history. Now, Arizona has the `Edge.'

After only a cameo appearance in the preseason, Edgerrin James will be on full display in the Cardinals' opener Sunday against San Francisco. It's time to earn that four-year, $30 million contract.

"I'd say Edge should get probably 25 runs and probably five touches with the pass," coach Dennis Green said after the Cardinals practiced Wednesday.

Cardinals fans packed the team's new stadium for two home preseason games, but only got a glimpse of their new star running back. James carried seven times for 1 yard in four preseason games, caught two passes for 11 yards, and would have preferred not to have played at all.

'Best Player' and 'Changed Man': Redskins Hope Taylor is Both

SHBURN, Va. (AP) - Clinton Portis' expression turned serious at the mention of Sean Taylor. Portis is a showman known for hyperbole, and this time he wanted to make sure that his words would not be treated as a joke.

"We're talking about someone who I think probably is the best player in the NFL," Portis said. "Not best safety _ best player in the NFL."

Maybe that's a bit of a stretch, but it is true that there is a growing consensus that the Washington Redskins safety has the potential to be a once-in-a-generation player. He hits like a linebacker. He can cover like a cornerback. His intensity is unmatched. His face, hardened by tough inner-city experiences, rarely cracks a smile. On the field, he is one serious, mean dude.

No wonder former teammate LaVar Arrington nicknamed him "The Grim Reaper."

"He is the best football player I've ever coached," said assistant coach Gregg Williams, who has been at the trade for 17 years.

Giants' Moss returns to practice, ready to contribute

EAST RUTHERFORD — Sinorice Moss was all alone in his apartment Monday night, watching his alma mater, Miami, play Florida State to a 13-10 loss.

It was probably better that way, since the wide receiver had on all his Hurricanes gear — headband, sweatshirt, heaven knows what else.

"I was just rooting for my guys," said Moss, who only a year ago was one of those guys.

Michaels donates time to community - Indians outfielder nominated for 2006 Clemente Award

The thinking was that a visit from a Major League ballplayer would perk up some of the kids at Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital.

In reality, quite the opposite happened.

"They inspired me," said Indians left fielder Jason Michaels of the kids. "That's basically what it came down to. They inspired me."

That June visit to the hospital, which treats children with cancer, heart trouble, cystic fibrosis and other illnesses, was far from Michaels' only endeavor to help out in the community.

So when it came time for the Indians to select their nominee for the 2006 Roberto Clemente Award -- given annually to the player who best demonstrates the values Clemente displayed in his commitment to the community and helping others -- Michaels was an easy selection. This might be just his first year with the club, having been acquired in a winter trade with the Phillies, but he hasn't wasted any time making an impact on the Cleveland area.

"Coming to a new team," he said, "it's a good chance to get out in the community."

Punt return job all Hester's

With other players sweating out final cuts, rookie Devin Hester is secure in the knowledge he has won the Bears' punt return job.

"He has caught the ball extremely well, made good decisions," coach Lovie Smith said. "Except for the first game, he has been outstanding back there. He's a weapon. He's getting closer and closer to breaking one."

Moss On Slower Route

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Sinorice Moss spent Monday night glued to his television and his past watching the University of Miami's season-opening loss to Florida State.

"It was exciting to watch that game," said Moss, the Giants' second-round pick this year and a former Hurricanes receiver. "I'm a big UM fan. I was wearing all of my stuff, my headband, shirt, my shorts. I'm sorry they lost. But it's still my university."

And then he spent Tuesday taking an important step toward his future by returning to practice for the first time since July 29. His persistent quadriceps strain has calmed down.

"They'll start me slowly and get me back into things," Moss said.

Jimerson homers in first AB

PHILADELPHIA — Hayward's Charlton Jimerson hit a pinch-hit home run in his first major league at-bat for Houston, but it was Chase Utley's home run in the 10th inning that lifted the Philadelphia Phillies to a 3-2 victory.

Jimerson, a former Mt. Eden High standout, pinch-hit for Roger Clemens with two outs in the sixth inning and broke up Cole Hamels' perfect game with a homer.


James ready to help Cardinals take flight on and off field

PHOENIX — Before heading off into a sweltering Arizona night, Edgerrin James lowered the window of the SUV he was riding in and playfully engaged in role-playing.

He was suddenly an Eddie Murphy character.

"Billy Ray Valentine: Capricorn," James said, citing the line with the same pitch, pace and accent that Murphy did in the 1983 comedy classic,
Trading Places.

"But really," he added in his own voice, laughing, "I'm a Leo."

James, a lion of a running back for seven years with the Indianapolis Colts, has indeed traded places.


Sinorice Back

SINORICE BACK: Second-round draft pick Sinorice Moss practiced for the first time since the opening days of training camp in late July.

Moss, who has been bothered by a quadriceps injury, was not allowed to go all-out during the practice. The wide receiver's status for the regular-season opener against the Indianapolis Colts at Giants Stadium on Sunday is uncertain.

"We're going to kind of move him into some other things, maybe tomorrow, extend him a little more and see how he does," coach Tom Coughlin said.

If Moss is not ready, veteran Tim Carter will be the third receiver. Carter had an outstanding training camp, catching a team-high 10 passes for 98 yards.

The practice also marked the first time in weeks that Coughlin has not had anyone missing at practice.

Starting center Shaun O'Hara (knee) and starting left tackle Luke Petitgout (back) returned last week, while backup G Rich Seubert (toe) returned along with Moss on Tuesday.

"It was good to be able to come off the preseason and be able to have everybody in pads and working," Coughlin said.


McGahee News

Among the many intriguing player storylines throughout the league is that of Buffalo Bills running back Willis McGahee. He has seemingly done everything he needed to do to rebound from a disappointing 2005 season by dropping weight and being fairly well focused in training camp to learning the new scheme of new offensive coordinator Steve Fairchild. McGahee also has been saying the right things in terms of the enthusiasm he has expressed for playing a larger role in Buffalo's offense. And if the Bills are to have a prayer of even being respectable, they desperately need McGahee to carry the brunt of the load and have the biggest season of his NFL career. He has a chance to get off to a strong start against a Patriots defense that could be missing some key players due to injury for the Bills' Sept. 10 opener at Foxboro.


Winslow high on Frye

BEREA - K-2 keeps saying his return from a 30-game abyss will be A-OK.

Coming off Thursday’s preseason finale, tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. suggested fans can quit worrying about QB-1, Charlie Frye.

“People underestimate Charlie,” Winslow said after Frye ran two mini-series in his final preseason tuneup. “He’s gonna be fine. I mean ... he’s gonna be a star in this league.”

Bills' Parrish eager to run routes

(September 5, 2006) — ORCHARD PARK — Every time Roscoe Parrish fields a punt, the potential for the big play, that game-breaking return, always exists.
Speedy, elusive and slippery, Parrish can be a return-team nightmare.

While at the University of Miami, Hurricanes coach Larry Coker called Parrish "the most exciting player I've ever coached."
Parrish would like Buffalo Bills coach Dick Jauron to soon be saying the same thing.

Except not just for his work returning punts and kickoffs. Parrish is hoping he can be on the receiving end of passes from quarterback J.P. Losman when the NFL season kicks off for the Bills on Sunday in Foxboro, Mass., against the New England Patriots.

"I'd like more of a chance to show what I can do on offense," said Parrish, who caught just 15 passes last fall in 10 games. "I just want to contribute on offense and on special teams."


Coughlin: An idle Moss gathers no reps

Sinorice Moss will be back on the practice field with his teammates today. Whether that means he'll be back on the playing field Sunday in the season opener remains to be seen.

If it were up to Moss, he'd be jumping right back in to where he hoped he'd have been by now if not for the strained quadriceps that killed his first NFL training camp.

"Nothing changes for me because I missed camp. Injuries happen to everybody," Moss said. "They say things happen for a reason. Someday I'll find out the reason why this happened to me now, but I'm still excited to be here and I hope to play my first NFL game on Sunday."

Willis says he's ready to ramble

Willis McGahee was intent on putting last season where it belonged, which was as far from One Bills Drive as possible. He figured there was no reason Sunday to revisit a miserable year in which the Buffalo Bills finished 5-11. Instead, he emphasized how this is a new era, complete with a new coach and a new offense.

Quarterback J.P. Losman has newfound confidence after struggling last season. The Bills have 20 new players on the roster from a year ago. They have three new starters along the offensive line.

But for all the changes the Bills made, there appears to be little changing this: They are going nowhere without a strong running game.
And it starts with McGahee.

"I can't be more excited," he said after practice Sunday. "The season is finally getting here, and I'm ready to go out there and rock and roll."

Ravens' Reed hides, seeks interceptions

Ravens safety Ed Reed used to consider it a chess match when going head-to-head with a quarterback.

Now, when he faces the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Chris Simms in the regular-season opener Sunday, it'll be more like hide-and-seek.

Deception has become the most improved part of Reed's game this season, and for good reason. Because quarterbacks threw away from him last season, Reed has concentrated on acting like he's going one way before taking off where the ball is really headed.

James began Miami’s revival as NFL player factory

Edgerrin James didn’t need to be introduced to Antrel Rolle during his first practice with the Arizona Cardinals. A look and a nod was all it took.

James knew a fellow ’Cane when he saw one.

“We’re the biggest family in the business. We’re the boldest family, we’re the closest,” James said of the brotherhood of former Miami players who out-talk, out-bond and outrepresent any other alumni group in the NFL.

“That’s one thing. We let you know that we love where we come from, and you’ll see why we brag on what we do.” There’s plenty to brag about. Miami has had at least one player selected in the first round of the NFL draft in each of the last 12 years. It’s the longest such streak in NFL history.

Buck Ortega Update

Buck Ortega signed with the Browns.

Jamaal Green Update

Jamaal Green was signed to the Bears practice squad.

Cora, Red Sox catch a break

BOSTON - A game finally went Boston's way when right fielder Alex Rios slapped the ball the wrong way.

Rios accidentally swatted Alex Cora's fly ball into the stands from about 10 feet in front of the wall for a two-run homer in the seventh inning that gave the Red Sox a 6-4 win on Thursday night and snapped their six-game losing streak.

Winston Update

Rookie Eric Winston, chosen one spot behind Spencer in the third round, was never in danger of being cut because he has too much potential. Kubiak also said he thinks Winston can play either tackle or even move inside to guard.

Packers: Davenport runs out of time

GREEN BAY - The Green Bay Packers finally ran out of patience with running back Najeh Davenport.

The oft-injured Davenport was the biggest name among 19 final cuts made Saturday as the Packers moved into compliance with the NFL-mandated, 53-player limit in advance of next week's regular-season opener against the Chicago Bears.

"It was difficult," Packers general manager Ted Thompson said of the decision to release Davenport. "He's been here, he's done a good job, he did everything we asked.

"Najeh, I'm sure, will be working somewhere."

Orien Harris Update

Defensive end Orien Harris, their second pick in the fourth round and the 133rd overall in the April draft, was waived, the same fate that happened last year to receiver Fred Gibson, their fourth-round pick.

Packers say goodbye to Davenport

GREEN BAY, Wis. - The Green Bay Packers don't know who is going to lighten the load for running back Ahman Green this season, but now it won't be Najeh Davenport.

Davenport, an old-fashioned pile-driver with a long history of injury, was released Saturday as the Packers took a novel approach by cutting down to 51 players, two shy of the mandatory 53-man roster limit.

General manager Ted Thompson waived 19 players and in effect said goodbye to cornerback Mike Hawkins, one of three players placed on injured reserve.

Hester valuable in all phases

CLEVELAND — Devin Hester provided food for thought, but does this every time he flashes his Olympic-type speed while breaking a long return.

The Bears' rookie second-round draft pick made a 54-yard punt return to set up the first-team offense's only touchdown of preseason. Afterward coach Lovie Smith admitted some within the organization wouldn't mind seeing the former Miami player's speed put to use on offense instead of — or in addition to — returns and cornerback.

"Ron Turner and the offensive guys are in my ear quite a bit, I'll say about that, along with others," Smith said of his offensive coordinator. "Right now, with him being a rookie coming in, we just wanted to do a few things and he's making progress at the cornerback position.

"But initially, the plan for him is to initially be our returner."

Punt return job all Hester's

With other players sweating out final cuts, rookie Devin Hester is secure in the knowledge he has won the Bears' punt return job.

"He has caught the ball extremely well, made good decisions," coach
Lovie Smith said. "Except for the first game, he has been outstanding back there. He's a weapon. He's getting closer and closer to breaking one."

Jarrett Payton Waived

The Titans waived Jarrett Payton.

Duane Starks cut

The Raiders cut Duane Starks.

Jamaal Green Cut

Jamaal Green was cut by the Bears.

Buck Ortega Cut

The Redskins cut Buck Ortega.

Ravens safety Reed has home covered

Maybe up north, things are different.

Maybe in the greater Baltimore area, where he is the Ravens' superstar safety and a genuine celebrity, Ed Reed is a different kind of guy.

Maybe up there his time is over-scheduled and his public appearances have to be approved in advance by somebody with a front-office title. Maybe up there he is told where to go and who he can talk to. Maybe up there he has to pass up a little kid with a purple football and a black pen or a grandmother waiting patiently for him to sign five footballs, one for each one of her grandsons.

Darrell McClover Waived

Of that group, notables include McClover, who appeared in all 16 games for the Jets in 2004 but missed 2005 due to injury was waived.

Guillermo Diaz Update

The team may have reached an understanding with Guillermo Diaz – word is Diaz may opt to play in Italy next year rather than force the issue with the Clippers. The Clips paid Diaz’s way to Tim Grgurich’s camp in Vegas and liked what they saw, but were supposedly not ready to guarantee a roster spot just yet. If Diaz does choose to play in Italy, the Clips will retain his rights, and he could be a lock for a roster spot next year.

Giants' Moss has catching up to do

Tom Coughlin won't believe it until he actually sees him on the field, but Sinorice Moss is finally expected to make his long-awaited return to practice on Tuesday.

Unfortunately for the rookie receiver, it may be too late.

Out since July 29 with a strained quadriceps, the second-round pick now appears to be out of the Giants' immediate plans. While Moss was optimistic he would need only a week to work his way into the Giants' offense in time for the Sept.10 opener, Coughlin seemed to indicate that it would take him a lot longer than that.

"We'll have to see where he is," Coughlin said yesterday. "I think he's going to be able to retain all the information, but is it going to be applied? And don't forget, we're not into sharing reps now. (He's) not going to get many reps. He'll have to come back working in the scout-squad capacity."

Kenard Lang Update

Back where he belongs -- Think Kenard Lang is happy to play at defensive end for the Broncos, the AFC runners-up last season?     Lang spent last season at linebacker in the 3-4 scheme of the AFC North doormat Browns, and he makes it clear that he didn't much care for that position. Or canned meat, for that matter.     "If you're used to eating Spam for these past four years -- Spam, Spam, Spam, you know what I mean? -- and then you have a chance to eat some steak and some lobster, some filet mignon, you're going to do everything you can to stay that way," Lang said. "Linebacker, a guy goes in motion, things switch up, you drop, you cover -- that was too much for me. I had too much smoke coming out of my ears."


Javon Nanton Update

The Saints cut Javon Nanton.

Nick Luchey Update

Nick Luchey was released by the Texans.


James is trying to turn Cardinals into winners - starting with shoes

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. - Edgerrin James doesn't find the rancid history of the Arizona Cardinals all that repugnant. He isn't turned off by their comic ineptness through the decades, their mustering just one playoff victory in the past 60 seasons and never once making the Super Bowl.

That part James can stomach.

``I've always been my own person,'' James said. ``That's what got me this far, doing my thing, making my own decisions. If I did what everybody else did, I would probably be in trouble. If `Edge' doesn't have an interest in doing this, `Edge' is not doing this. That's how I live.''

But even though James was able to overlook the Cardinals' sordid past when he signed a four-year, $30 million deal in March, bidding farewell in the process to the high-powered Indianapolis Colts, the running back from Immokalee, Fla., and the University of Miami cringed when he took one look at their uniforms, the cleats in particular.

They were white, as in inappropriate for smash-mouth football.

Feagles' retirement kick ricochets

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Jeff Feagles was so sure last season would be his 18th and final year that he conducted an unofficial countdown of how many punts were left in his weary leg.

He advised New York Giants coaches and management of his decision, emptied his locker, sold his family's house in New Jersey and moved with his wife and four sons to their retirement home in Phoenix.

So how is it that Feagles will drive from Ridgewood, N.J., to Giants Stadium to compete in his NFL-record 289th consecutive game when New York opens the regular season with a Sept. 10 game against the Indianapolis Colts?

Well, the strange story has everything to do with a veteran's love of football, the unpredictability of youth and more cardboard boxes than any family would ever care to pack again.