24 December 2006

Twenty questions: Testaverde would love chance to extend TD streak

FOXBORO - Last year, it was Doug Flutie’s drop kick. This year, could it be another touchdown pass for Vinny Testaverde?

As was the case a year ago, the Patriots [team stats] enter their finale with a playoff berth clinched. They’ve got a shot at the No. 3 seed in the AFC, but will more likely finish fourth.

So not a ton is riding on tomorrow’s game against the Tennessee Titans [team stats]. And that’s where Testaverde comes in.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick respects both the history of the game and the players who have served it the longest. He seems to have a particular affinity for Testaverde, who 12 years ago piloted the Browns to the lone playoff berth of Belichick’s tenure.

Shockey to Miss Game Because of Injured Ankle

Giants tight end Jeremy Shockey will miss the regular season finale against the Redskins tonight because of an ankle injury.

Shockey didn't practice all week, and did not accompany the team to Washington yesterday, team spokesman Avis Roper said.

The Pro Bowl tight end had been listed as questionable for the game. A victory would virtually ensure the Giants (7-8) a playoff berth.

On Thursday, Shockey was seen walking through the locker room with a noticeable limp and appeared to favor his left ankle.

Shockey was hurt in Sunday's 30-7 loss to New Orleans.


In search of bat, O's make Huff an offer

Still looking to add an impact bat to the middle of their lineup, the Orioles made a contract offer yesterday to Aubrey Huff, one of the most accomplished players left on the free- agent market.

Exact details of the contract offer are unknown, but one industry source said the Orioles proposed a three-year deal to Huff, worth in the neighborhood of $6 million per season.

Huff's asking price has gone down significantly since the opening of free agency. One baseball executive, whose team has talked to Huff's representatives, said the 30-year-old, who can play first and third base and the corner outfield spots, was seeking a three-year deal worth around $7.5 million per season. The Orioles' initial offer is not believed to be that high.

Wilfork looks good to go: NT expects to return vs. Titans

FOXBORO - Nose tackle Vince Wilfork [stats] is expected to play tomorrow when the Patriots [team stats] visit Tennessee for their regular-season finale.

Wilfork’s travel bag was packed and he practiced for the third straight day. The Pro Bowl-caliber tackle has missed the last two games after spraining his right ankle against the Dolphins.

Though it’s unlikely Wilfork will see his usual number of snaps in the middle of the team’s 3-4 defense, just getting him back on the field will provide a boost, as well as ensure that he doesn’t open the playoffs next weekend rusty after having not played in a month.

Second-year pro Mike Wright has played well in Wilfork’s absence and was particularly effective against the Jaguars last Sunday. Save for a 74-yard touchdown run by Maurice Jones-Drew on a broken play, the Jags barely averaged 3 yards a carry.

Still, the Pats are clearly better off with Wilfork in the lineup and Wright working in a support role. That should once again be the case tomorrow.


Shockey skips practice with ankle injury

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Giants tight end Jeremy Shockey missed practice with a sore ankle for a second straight day Thursday, putting his status in question for New York's regular-season finale against Washington on Saturday night.

Shockey did not speak to reporters Thursday, but was seen walking through the locker room with a noticeable limp and appeared to favor his left ankle.

The Pro Bowl tight end was hurt in Sunday's 30-7 loss to New Orleans. He has been listed as questionable for Saturday night's game.

"He's getting better, but he couldn't practice," coach Tom Coughlin said.

Coughlin said a decision on whether to play Shockey might be delayed until 90 minutes before kickoff. The Giants (7-8) will virtually assure themselves of a playoff berth with a win.

Offensive lineman Rich Seubert also missed practice Thursday with a leg injury and is listed as doubtful.


Rookie counts on nerves

KIRKLAND – Nerves won’t be an issue for Kelly Jennings on Sunday because he’s always nervous before he plays.

Jennings, the Seattle Seahawks’ rookie cornerback, will be making his first NFL start in Tampa Bay on Sunday. He said 18 family and friends will drive in from Orlando and Live Oak (about 21/2 hours north of Tampa) for the game.

Outside of his brother, none of his family has seen him play. Jennings, the Seahawks’ No. 1 draft pick from Miami, said the last time his family watched him he was starting for the Hurricanes.

Pressure? Nah.

“I always feel jittery,” Jennings insisted Thursday. “When I do feel jittery, that’s when I know I’m ready to play. If I don’t feel jittery, then something’s wrong. I just know that first series jitters are going to be there, but then after that, I’ll be OK.”

Wayne honored

Wide receiver Reggie Wayne has been named this year’s Colts recipient of the Ed Block Courage Award.

The award is an annual recognition for courageous play by an individual. Wayne is one of 32 NFL players cited for the award. The players of each member club nominate an individual annually and those chosen are honored at a banquet.

The 29th annual Ed Block Courage Award dinner is scheduled during March in Baltimore, Md. Proceeds from the affair benefit the Ed Block Courage Award Foundation in Baltimore.

The Ed Block Courage Award Foundation’s goal is to establish homes for abused children in each NFL city. Indianapolis established an Ed Block Courage home (Children’s Bureau) in October 2000. The home is part of a national support network for abused children. Atlanta, Baltimore, Buffalo, Chicago, Carolina, Cleveland, Dallas, Detroit, Miami, New York (Giants), Oakland, Pittsburgh, St. Louis and Seattle have already established homes.


Change agrees with Salmons

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Though he played his first four NBA years with the 76ers, his hometown team, John Salmons knew he needed a change after a final season in Philadelphia that included a fractured relationship with Allen Iverson.

Salmons got that change in July when he signed a five-year, $25.5 million contract with the Sacramento Kings. He called his 2005-06 season with the Sixers "a roller-coaster ride."

That included a disagreement with Iverson after a game Dec. 23, 2005, in Atlanta in which Iverson scored 53 points and Salmons missed three shots in the final 2 minutes, 21 seconds of a 111-108 loss.

"For three and a half years, [our relationship] was great," Salmons said last night before his new team faced his old team at Arco Arena. "That's what I regret most from last year, that I didn't handle that situation the right way. I could have handled it a little bit better.

49ers' Gore overcoming odds as team's go-to back

There was one person whom San Francisco 49ers running back Frank Gore needed to share the good news with right after coach Mike Nolan told the second-year running back he'd made his first Pro Bowl.

Lizzie Gore has inspired her son's remarkable return from two anterior cruciate ligament injuries and two shoulder surgeries during the last few years. Since her son was in the 11th grade, Lizzie Gore has had dialysis three days a week as she waits for a kidney transplant.

"My mom means everything to me," Gore says. "She's been on a waiting list for a kidney for a long time. I see her cramping after her dialysis treatments. Seeing her fight through that, she's my strength."

Gore bought his mom a house in South Florida last year. After gashing the Seattle Seahawks for a franchise-record 212 rushing yards in San Francisco's win on Nov. 19, he flew home to Florida to spend time with her.

McGahee covets new deal - Agent says Bills RB deserves extension

Willis McGahee has been one of the best running backs in the NFL over the past three seasons. Now his agent believes he should be paid accordingly.

Drew Rosenhaus said getting McGahee a contract extension will be "a high priority" this offseason.

"Willis has been a very productive player for the Buffalo Bills," Rosenhaus said from his Miami office. "He has played through injuries. He's worked hard. He has been a good teammate. I think he deserves a new contract and we will vigorously pursue that this offseason."

Rosenhaus said he approached the Bills about an extension earlier this year, but added those talks were just preliminary. He hopes more intensive discussions will take place once the season is over.

McGahee still has one year left on the five-year deal he signed as a rookie in 2003. He was due to make $905,000 in base salary next season, but Rosenhaus indicated that McGahee has hit some escalators that increase his pay significantly in 2007.

Denver bracing for 49er running back Gore

DENVER - The Denver Broncos don't need to be reminded of the kind of season San Francisco 49ers running back Frank Gore is having. With 1,542 yards, he leads the NFC in rushing and trails only LaDanian Tomlinson and Larry Johnson in the NFL.

"We are aware of him," defensive tackle Gerard Warren said. "We will be aware of him."

The second-year pro needs 29 yards to set the franchise's single season rushing record, surpassing Garrison Hearst mark of 1,570 set in 1998.

"You don't have to know his stats to know what kind of year he's having," safety Domonique Foxworth said. "You can tell by looking at film."

Gore has a good chance of finishing the season as the conference rushing leader. He takes a 114-yard lead over Tiki Barber (1,428) of the New York Giants into the final weekend of play.

Top running backs aren't something new for the Broncos this season. Denver faced San Diego's Tomlinson, the NFL's rushing leader with 1,749 yards, and Johnson of Kansas City, who has run for 1,651 yards and Seattle's Shaun Alexander on successive weeks.

"We've dealt with a couple of pretty good ones within our division," defensive end Kenard Lang said.

Winslow now learning to tone down the hype

Kellen Winslow Jr. told Houston writers on a conference call that he's toned himself down since the start of the season.

"I think I've done a pretty good job about not speaking out, speaking out of anger or frustration as I was in the beginning of the season," he said. "I've learned that anything you say can be twisted around, so you have to watch what you say even if you're just joking around or you don't mean it.

"My teammates know what type of person I am. They know me, they trust me and I get along with everybody on the team."

Job change coming for Dorsey Sunday

BEREA — There are certain jobs in sports that seem extra appealing to the average fan.

Playing professional golf is one. You make lots of money with little chance of suffering a crippling injury.

Being a backup quarterback in the NFL isn’t bad, either. You stand on the sideline with a clipboard in your hands, walk off the field with a clean uniform and get paid handsomely.

So why in the world would Ken Dorsey want to leave the comfort of the sideline to start at quarterback Sunday when the Browns close the season against the Houston Texans? Especially when he’ll have to line up behind a line that’s down to third-string right tackle Nat Dorsey and might have to start backups at the guard spots because of injuries to Joe Andruzzi and Cosey Coleman.

Ex-Sixer Salmons finds it's good to be a King

SACRAMENTO - The food at Chris Webber's "Center Court" restaurant, two visitors from Philadelphia learned yesterday, is good. It's the 76ers games that have provided the indigestion.

The Sixers blew into Sacramento to face the Kings last night. It is not true that the 50- to 60-mph gusts in the San Francisco area were created by the Golden State Warriors' blowout victory Tuesday night in Oakland.

The visitors from the East didn't get blown out as much this time as they were simply held at bay in a 101-76 loss, their 14th in the last 16 games, their 12th in 13 games on the road and their 13th straight under 100.

"This was one of the few times we didn't play as hard as the other team, as hard as I would've liked, for sure," coach Maurice Cheeks said after the Sixers finished with a season-low point total and were able to muster only two points off eight Kings turnovers.

Sapp ties his return to team's plans

Defensive tackle Warren Sapp said Wednesday that he intends to play for two more years. Where he plays is up to the Raiders.

Sapp is under contract with the Raiders. However, he won't decide whether he wants to return until he hears how the Raiders plan to approach next season.

``I'm just going to sit down, have a nice little conversation and see what everybody's thinking,'' Sapp said of a planned meeting with Raiders officials after the season. ``See if we're all on the same page. If not, then we'll go different ways. If so, then we'll find a way to come back and put this thing on.''

Sapp, 34, said many of the pieces are in place for the Raiders to be successful. The Raiders are 2-13. Even so, they have the top-ranked pass defense and every member of the league's fourth-ranked defense (in average yards allowed) is under contract.

Jennings set to step in

KIRKLAND — Marcus Trufant's high right ankle sprain will almost certainly keep him out of this Sunday's game — though he is listed as doubtful — and that means rookie Kelly Jennings is set to make his first career start.

Jennings replaced Trufant at right cornerback when Trufant was helped off the field with his injury early in the third quarter against San Diego last Sunday.

Jennings, used all season as the nickel cornerback and on special teams, came on and played what Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren called Jennings' best game of the season last week.

Often matched up against Chargers receiver Vincent Jackson, six inches taller and 63 pounds heavier, Jennings had two pass breakups and three solo tackles.

Winslow eyes end of season

BEREA — Kellen Winslow is waiting to exhale.

One more game, and he can rest his surgically repaired knee. One more game, and he can call his comeback a success.

“I’m looking to get through one season healthy and I’m one game away,” he said Wednesday. “It’s really like my rookie year. I want to get into the offseason and get as healthy as possible.”

Winslow (6-foot-4, 248 pounds) has started all 15 games in his first action since breaking his leg in Week 2 of his rookie year in 2004. He missed the 2005 season after tearing up his knee in a motorcycle accident.

Rockies agree to terms with Graves on minor-league deal

DENVER (AP) - The Colorado Rockies agreed to terms with reliever Danny Graves, who pitched for Cleveland last year, on a minor-league contract.

Jeff Bridich, the team's director of baseball operations, said Wednesday the deal is pending a physical in January. "We like his history and experience as a bullpen guy," Bridich said.

The Rockies lost relievers Jose Mesa to Detroit and Ray King to Washington during the off-season. The team recently re-signed veteran Tom Martin.

"There was a need to fortify our bullpen," Bridich said

Mike Rumph Update

The Redskins made another roster move Wednesday, waiving disappointing cornerback Mike Rumph. A former first-round draft selection of the San Francisco 49ers, Rumph appeared in seven games this year, recording 11 tackles.

Rumph, 27, has 138 tackles and three interceptions in 43 career games over five seasons with Washington and San Francisco.

To replace Springs and Rumph on the active roster, the Redskins signed defensive backs Leigh Torrence and John Eubanks from the practice squad.
Torrence played in 10 games with the Falcons last season but was waived prior to the beginning of the 2006 campaign. Eubanks was signed by the Redskins as an undrafted free agent last May.


CB Phillip Buchanon has been a valuable midseason find, helping the Bucs weather the loss of starting CB Brian Kelly

At the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ expansive new facility, Mark Dominik and Doug Williams have second-floor offices that look out over the team’s three practice fields. That’s a pretty significant improvement over their digs at the team’s old headquarters; Williams’ office had one tiny view of a parking lot and Dominik’s had more co-tenants (one) than windows (none).

This moment-to-moment view of practice is a nice perk, but it can also be an unexpected source of angst. As key figures in the team’s pro scouting efforts, Dominik and Williams are charged with swinging into action any time a sudden need develops on the roster, and those big glass windows sometimes deliver unwanted information. Imagine staring stoically out your window as practice unfolds silently below, only to see a starting defensive tackle go down with a freak knee injury.

Yeah, that will throw a wrench into your day. Goodbye peace of mind, hello, free agent board. Someone print out the waiver wire, brew some coffee and clear off the conference room table.

Ken Dorsey: Believe the hype - or not

This Sunday, the NFL's ultimate losers - my beloved Cleveland Browns - will finally get a chance to work with one of college football's all-time winners.
Not Charlie Frye.

The Ohio boy who had a great career at the University of Akron, will miss yet another game with a "not" broken wrist.

Not Derek Anderson, the guy from Oregon who we've been told five million times about the way he was given shoes when he was a kid from the Portland Trailblazers. No, after turning in four mediocre performances under center for the Browns - and somehow convincing a few fans that he was the answer - Anderson is on IR after separating a shoulder Sunday against Tampa Bay.

Instead it's going to be Ken Dorsey.

Beleaguered Franks gives thanks - Tight end happy his miscues didn't cost team a victory

Green Bay - The Green Bay Packers used to rely on tight end Bubba Franks every time they got near the goal line.
Now they can't even afford to have him near it.

Franks had a big thanks to extend to teammate Dave Rayner after he saved the veteran's bacon with a 44-yard field goal in the final minutes at

Lambeau Field, giving the Packers a 9-7 victory that should have been so much easier.

"He saved me at the end," said Franks, who came to Rayner after the game and thanked him for his heroics.

Phillip Buchanon Update

CB Phillip Buchanon had his second INT of the season for the Bucs Sunday at Cleveland. Buchanon is now the starter at RCB.


NFL U Week 16 Video Highlights

Check out Week 16 NFL U Video Highlights featuring Frank Gore, Warren Sapp and more! Click at the top on NFL U Video Highlights or click here!

NFL U Week 16 Season Gallery Updated

Check out Week 16 pictures to NFL U Gallery. Check out more pictures of Frank Gore, Warren Sapp, Ray Lewis and more by clicking above on NFL U Season Gallery or click here.

Browns will turn to Ken Dorsey at quarterback

CLEVELAND - Browns quarterback Ken Dorsey will find himself in a familiar position when he takes snaps against the Houston Texans on Sunday afternoon - that of fill-in. He will replace Derek Anderson, who suffered a shoulder separation in the 22-7 loss Sunday to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

But the way the fourth-year signal caller from the University of Miami speaks, he has little problem with assuming that role, a surprising observation in that in his prior three years, he has started just 10 games, the last being against the Tennessee Titans on Nov. 27, 2005. In that game as quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers, he went 23-for-43 for 192 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. In fact, he doesn't seem fazed in the least.

"The way I look at it, as a professional it's my job to be ready in any situation. It's not the first time this happened to me," he said. "I feel like I'm going to prepare and try to get ready for next week. I feel like I owe it to the city and I owe it to the guys on the team to prepare the best I can and play the best I can."

McIntosh Makes Good Impression in First NFL Start

ST. LOUIS, Dec. 24 -- In a game that did not have meaning in the standings for the Washington Redskins but was important for their continuing evaluation of personnel, rookie linebacker Rocky McIntosh made his first NFL start Sunday against the St. Louis Rams.

McIntosh, 24, had worked out during the week at the strong side in practices when it appeared Marcus Washington would be out, but assistant head coach-defense Gregg Williams did not commit during the week that McIntosh would start. Before the game, the team announced that Jeff Posey would replace Washington in the starting lineup, but when the game began, Williams shifted weak side linebacker Warrick Holdman to the strong side and started McIntosh.

In the first half, McIntosh made two nice plays. The first came when he tackled running back Steven Jackson behind the line on a screen pass. The second came when he closed space on an end-around to Kevin Curtis, turning what appeared to be a potential big gain into a seven-yard play.

McIntosh finished the game credited with eight solo tackles, tied for second with Andre Carter to strong safety Vernon Fox's nine.


Happy Holidays From All of Us At proCanes.com


Cards notebook: James surpasses 1,000 yards

SAN FRANCISCO - For both the Cardinals and Edgerrin James, reaching the 1,000-yard rushing plateau is somewhat remarkable. Even James, who normally downplays such things, understands that.

“Under the circumstances, it means a lot,” James said Sunday, after he ran for 105 yards on 29 carries.

James has 1,093 yards this season, the highest total for a back since the franchise moved to Arizona, besting the 1,070 Garrison Hearst gained in 1995.

The Cardinals have had just three previous 1,000-yard rushers since moving to Arizona in 1988, the last being back in 1998 when Adrian Murrell ran for 1,042 yards.

Dorsey and Cribbs, your QBs for next week

JUST when you thought the Browns' season couldn't get any more bizarre.

Starting at quarterback, No. 11 Ken Dorsey.

Now THAT will make you choke on your holiday eggnog, eh?

So much for tidings of comfort and joy at the holiday season.

After 15 weeks, that's where the Browns stand. Ken Dorsey is their starting quarterback and return man-extraordinaire Joshua Cribbs is his backup.

Winslow: Crennel encouraged him

Browns tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. explained the animated exchange with coach Romeo Crennel that was caught on camera.

Though it appeared Crennel was chastising Winslow after a second pass intended for him was intercepted, Winslow said Crennel was pumping him back up.

"It's very inaccurate [that we fought]," said Winslow. "Coach Crennel has my back, and I have his. He was just trying to encourage me. He was saying he's going to need me and just make some plays like you always do.' That's all that was. It wasn't an argument or anything."

Hester's fancy footwork pays off in end

DETROIT -- From a special-teams perspective, it wasn't his best game by a long shot.

But it was all water under the dam when All-Pro return specialist Devin Hester solidified the Bears' 26-21 victory over the Detroit Lions on Sunday at Ford Field.

On the game's final play, Lions quarterback Jon Kitna lofted a pass to 6-foot-5 receiver Mike Williams in the back of the end zone. Hester, who gives up six inches in height to Williams, managed to separate the Lions' 2005 first-round draft pick from the ball.

"Once there's a scramble, we're supposed to latch onto a player and that's what I did," said Hester, who comes in on defense at cornerback in passing situations. "I gave him a pull and actually kicked the ball. We went up at the same time. He got his hands on it, and I think at the same time I was able to kick at it and it fell out."

Giants Notebook: Shockey's play shows he's no saint

Last week, there was some uncertainty as to whether Giants tight end Jeremy Shockey was trash-talking with Eagles cornerback Lito Sheppard in the postgame tunnel. When asked about a curious exchange of words, Shockey said he wasn't trading words.

Yesterday, there was no question about it: Shockey and Saints safety Jay Bellamy were going at it. And in the locker room after the Saints' 30-7 blowout victory, the former Rutgers defensive back had a few more words for Shockey, whom he helped hold to only two catches for minus-3 yards.

"He took a shot at 'Mack' (Saints cornerback Mike McKenzie) late in the game. I thought that was (bull)," said Bellamy, who was starting for injured former Giant Omar Stoutmire. "So he's a talker -- a guy with talent but you watch him on film, he's always complaining and that might be their problem over there."

Sapp visits with Herm

Oakland defensive tackle Warren Sapp and Chiefs coach Herm Edwards once worked together in Tampa Bay, where Sapp used to play and Edwards was an assistant coach.

The two got reacquainted at odd times during Saturday night’s game. Sapp ventured over to the Chiefs’ sideline more than once during timeouts and engaged in brief conversations.

At one point, Sapp put his arm around Edwards’ shoulder.

“We were wishing each other Merry Christmas,” Edwards said. “We were just (exchanging) pleasantries. It’s the season of giving.”


Wilfork, Watson are out

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- If the Patriots are going to slow down the Jacksonville Jaguars' second-rated rushing attack (163.1 yards per game), they're going to have to do it without Vince Wilfork.

The nose tackle, who is nursing a right ankle injury, has been downgraded to out for today's game against the Jaguars, along with tight end Benjamin Watson and right tackle Ryan O'Callaghan.

Wilfork and Watson (left knee) were both injured during the Patriots' 21-0 loss to the Miami Dolphins Dec. 10 and will miss their second straight game. O'Callaghan (neck ) will be inactive for the fourth straight game.


A Look Back At Last Week's News

- Gore's a special player already
- Coverage Units Able To Contain Hester
- McGahee hangs tough
- Offensive Hester a Downer
- Jet's Vilma Just Doing His Job
- NFL U Pro Bowl Selections
- Texans receiver Johnson tabbed for Pro Bowl
- Reggie Wayne finally makes the Pro Bowl
- Pro Bowl beckons 49ers RB Gore will start for NFC in Honolulu
- The voice of experience: Vinny’s wisdom benefit to Brady
- Top Pro Bowl Snubs
- Mills & Williams out, James & Terry in (Tamara James Update)
- Leon Williams Update
- Hester prepares for more action
- Moss will return kicks with Ward put on IR