Phillies notch first win as Burrell powers up

MIAMI GARDENS -- So, you want to walk Ryan Howard intentionally?

Makes sense. After seeing him become one of baseball's most dangerous sluggers last season, no manager in his right mind wants to pitch to the National League MVP in a close game.

Pat Burrell is out to prove that isn't such a sound strategy.

With the Phillies leading by three runs in the seventh inning Friday night -- and still seeking their first victory -- Florida Marlins rookie manager Fredi Gonzalez ordered right-hander Ricky Nolasco to walk Howard and pitch to Burrell.

Devin Hester: Fastest Player in Madden History

The Madden video game has never given a player a perfect score of 100 in one of its skill ratings. Until now. Bears return man Devin Hester, who set an NFL record with six kick return touchdowns in the regular season and then added another in the Super Bowl, has scored a 100 in the speed category.

"That's just about the best thing you could have told me," Hester said with a huge smile, when informed of his new Speed rating. "It's an honor -- I don't know what to say, really."

Among the players who have had a 99 speed rating in the past are Deion Sanders, Randy Moss and Charles Woodson. I don't think Hester is as fast as Sanders and Moss were in their primes, but Madden ratings aren't exactly the most precise measurements in the world. It's still pretty cool to see someone get a 100.


Irvin's toss close enough to avoid embarrassing himself

ARLINGTON, Texas It seems everyone gave ex-Dallas Cowboy Michael Irvin the same advice about throwing out the first pitch today at the Texas Rangers home opener.
Don't mess up.

Irving -- having seeing replays of the nowhere-near-the-plate toss by Cincinnati's mayor -- vowed he'd at least come close.

That said, Irvin went to the mound at Rangers Ballpark In Arlington.

His high toss to the first-base side of the plate was close enough for him to smile and go into a victory pose.

It was Irvin's most prominent Dallas-Fort Worth appearance since being voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He received a standing ovation from about 40-thousand baseball fans.

Irvin also went to the owner's box to greet Rangers owner Tom Hicks and his guest: Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.

Irvin has selected Jones as his presenter at this summer's Hall of Fame ceremony.


Salmons helps rally Kings past Jazz

SACRAMENTO, Calif.- The Sacramento Kings finally won a home game Friday night, while the Utah Jazz continued their puzzling play on the road.

Kevin Martin had 21 points and John Salmons scored 17, including 11 in the final 3:49, to help rally the Kings to a 107-103 victory over struggling Utah.

Relying primarily on the versatile Salmons down the stretch, the Kings outscored Utah 32-21 in the fourth quarter, to snap a four-game losing streak.

"To make a long story short, we couldn't stop them in the fourth quarter," Utah coach Jerry Sloan said. "We had the ball a couple of times coming down the stretch there to finish the ballgame and we weren't able to. I thought they got whatever they wanted every possession."

UM's Beason has workout

Former University of Miami linebacker Jon Beason, who is expected to be a first-round selection in the NFL Draft later this month, went through a workout for seven teams, including the Miami Dolphins, on Thursday morning at Hollywood Chaminade-Madonna High.

Beason ran the 40-yard dash in the low 4.6-second range, with scouts placing his best time around 4.62 and 4.63 seconds. He also hit 10 feet in the standing long jump, and his vertical jump was measured at 32.5 inches.

''Overall, I would probably give myself a seven out of 10,'' Beason said. ``I was a little disappointed. I didn't put everything together like I wanted to. All in all, they're still happy with me.''

Beason, 6-0 and 233 pounds, leaves today for personal visits with several NFL teams and will not return home until April 20.

''It was fun just getting it all out of the way, putting this part of the process behind me,'' Beason said.


Beason To Visit Dolphins

Players from UM and other local colleges, including Hurricanes linebacker Jon Beason, are set for pre-draft visits today at Dolphins headquarters in Davie.


Money changes little for 49ers' Gore

SANTA CLARA-Just days after signing the first lucrative contract of his career, 49ers tailback Frank Gore made it clear that the ferocious running style he's displayed in the past two seasons will not be diluted by his newfound wealth.

"It's not about the money with me," Gore said Tuesday. "I'm happy I have it and that I'm secure. I love the game. No one is going to have to worry about me slacking off. I love competing."

The five-year, $28 million contract he signed last week also hasn't changed his goals.

Draft awaits UM's Taylor

Cleveland – Since her season ended in March at the ACC tournament, Miami's Renee Taylor has been busy preparing for what could be the biggest week of her life.

There were long sessions in the gym working on her shooting, practice games with some of her male friends and weight-room sessions designed to improve her strength and endurance.

All of it in preparation for the annual WNBA pre-draft camp held this past weekend in Cleveland.

During today's draft, Taylor will learn whether her extra work impressed WNBA coaches and scouts.

FBN 49ers Gore

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -Frank Gore has some big goals to go along with his big new contract with the San Francisco 49ers. The Pro Bowl running back hopes to improve on his breakout campaign last season and top 2,000 yards in 2007.

Gore finished 2006 as the NFC's leading rusher with a franchise-record 1,695 yards. Now he's looking at an even bigger goal, possibly even surpassing Eric Dickerson's NFL record of 2,105 yards set in 1984.

``That's my goal,'' Gore said Tuesday. ``I always want to do better than what I did last year. I know that's a big number. I'm going to try to get it. I will work hard this offseason. If it happens, it happens. If it doesn't, it doesn't.''

Gore was due to earn $435,000 in his third season before agreeing to the four-year contract extension last week. He will be under contract to the 49ers through 2011 with a deal containing more than $14 million in guaranteed money, including a signing bonus worth a reported $6.5 million.

Texans' Johnson: New QB Schaub 'a leader'

HOUSTON (April 3, 2007) -- Andre Johnson and Matt Schaub stood on the practice field chatting and laughing, smiles planted firmly on their faces.

It didn't take long for the Houston Texans' quiet Pro Bowl receiver to warm up to his new quarterback. On the first day of Houston's voluntary offseason workouts, the two looked like old friends.

"Every time we see each other we're just talking, trying to learn things about each other," Johnson said.

Many of the Texans joined Johnson and Schaub at the 45-minute conditioning workout, including last year's top draft pick Mario Williams and newly acquired running back Ahman Green.

Schaub came to Houston to replace David Carr in a trade March 22. Johnson thinks he's already got a feel for the former Falcons backup in a short time.

"Just from looking at the way he walks around the locker room and things like that, you can tell he's a leader," Johnson said. "That's something you want to have at the quarterback position."

Bears mulling whether to move Hester to offense

LAKE FOREST, Ill. – Ron Turner isn’t exactly straddling the fence when it comes to the debate about whether to move Devin Hester to the offensive side of the ball.

“He’s obviously a special talent, and to be honest with you, I’ve been trying to recruit him since the day we drafted him,” the Bears offensive coordinator said Sunday at the fan convention. “I’m going to keep working on that and see if we can get him on offense.”

Hester was named All-Pro and selected to the Pro Bowl after setting an NFL record with six combined kick return touchdowns. His seventh, a 92-yarder on the opening kickoff of Super Bowl XLI, was voted the team’s top play of the season in a poll on

“He’s shown what he can do when he gets the ball in his hands,” Turner said. “If he’s on offense and we can get his hands on the ball six, seven or eight more times a game, who knows what he might be able to do with it. So we’ll keep working on that.”

Michael Irvin to throw first pitch - Former Dallas Cowboys star to toss in Rangers' home opener

ANAHEIM -- Former Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Michael Irvin has been selected to throw out the ceremonial first pitch for the Rangers at their home opener against the Boston Red Sox on Friday.

Standing room only tickets remain for the game, which starts at 1:05 p.m. CT at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.

Irvin played for three Super Bowl championship teams and will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame later this year. Former Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman threw out the first pitch in 2001 and Emmitt Smith did the honors in 2003.

Irvin, the Cowboys' first-round draft pick in 1988, had a 12-year career with the Dallas Cowboys. In 1991, he led the league with 1,523 yards on 93 catches. From 1991-1998, Irvin recorded 1,000-yard seasons in all but one year.


Antrel Rolle Update

After a trying rookie year in which Antrel Rolle battled a knee injury, the former first-round pick returned for his second season with the Cardinals determined to prove his worth as the eighth player selected in the 2005 NFL Draft. Despite being matched up against the opponent’s top receiver, Rolle responded with a solid season, and as a 16-game starter he collected 87 tackles, one pass interception, 10 pass deflections and two forced fumbles.

In the season opener against the San Francisco 49ers, Rolle led the team with eight tackles and two pass defenses in the Cardinals’ 34-27 victory.

In Week 5 Rolle had a stellar performance with a season-best eight solo tackles and one pass defense against Kansas City.

The following week against Chicago on Monday Night Football, the former Miami Hurricane logged two pass defenses and three tackles.

As the season wore on, Rolle continued to work hard and improve his overall game. In Week 12 at Minnesota, Rolle tied for second on the team with nine tackles and also added one pass defense.

The following week at St. Louis, Rolle posted three solo tackles and recorded his first forced fumble of his career in the Cardinals' 27-21 victory over the Rams.

In the home finale vs. Denver, Rolle recorded a new career high with 11 tackles and added a pass deflection against the Broncos.

Arguably the best performance of 2006 for Rolle was the final divisional game against the 49ers in Week 16 as he recorded two tackles, one pass defense, one forced fumble and snagged a key a fourth-quarter interception as the Cards defeated San Francisco 26-20.

With a full 16-game season now on his resume, Rolle will return for his third season in 2007 and has the tools and proven track record to be a solid contributor in the Cards secondary.


Brett Romberg Update

SCOUTING REPORT:C Brett Romberg was a college star at Miami but had to wait more than three seasons to get a chance to see what he could do in the NFL. Romberg made the most of the opportunity in three starts at the end of 2006. The Rams won all three games and averaged 33 points and nearly 170 yards rushing a game. Relatively speaking, Romberg lacks ideal size for the center position and has short arms. But he is a skilled technician with some quickness who makes excellent use of leverage to handle bigger defensive linemen. Romberg showed himself to be an intelligent player, adept at making the line calls that are critical from the center position. His co-op blocking improved the more he played. By making the most of his opportunity last season, Romberg has put himself very much in the mix for the starting center position. He will be challenged by veteran Andy McCollum, who is rehabbing from knee surgery.


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Boobirds out for Burrell?

PHILADELPHIA - It'a Opening Day for the Phillies, and with that come several tests. One will be more telling than the rest.
Ryan Howard will be tested to see if he can reprise his MVP season. That's not the key test.

Pat Burrell will be on the clock as a heavy-contract, No. 5 hitter. Not it. Brett Myers is at the position where he either has to contend for a Cy Young Award or admit that he is just another above-average pitcher. But it's not the biggest trial.

The greatest pressure will not be on Charlie Manuel to earn a new contract, on Shane Victorino to prove he is every-day ready, on Tom Gordon to pretend he is not nearing 40, on Jon Lieber to stay in shape, on Carlos Ruiz to nicely represent the farm system or even on Jimmy Rollins, who has had more to say than a professional wrestler's cornerman.

Darrell McClover To Replace Lance Briggs?

If Lance Briggs is close to leaving the Bears -- with negotiations expected to continue this weekend with the Washington Redskins -- finding his replacement at weak-side linebacker could become a pressing matter.

The first name Babich offered up when asked about the subject twice was Darrell McClover, who was signed at midseason and became a special-teams ace. McClover has good speed and good hips, but he lacks experience with the defense.


Jury still out on Hester's role in 2007

The Bears think of it as a no-lose situation.

Nevertheless, the best way to deploy Devin Hester in 2007 remains a difficult decision chiefly because the Pro Bowl kick returner wants to play defense rather than offense.

"As you look at Devin Hester at the University of Miami, he played running back a little bit, of course he played wide receiver and he played defensive back," Bears coach Lovie Smith said at the team's 10th annual fan convention Saturday. "We've had discussions about him playing all of those positions. It makes sense.

"First off, you could argue that he's the most exciting player in the National Football League with his hands on the ball. So why wouldn't we move him to the offensive side of the football? But you also have to play guys where their heart is. Devin's heart is on the defensive side of the football -- but he likes scoring touchdowns."

Gore contract a rare and beautiful thing

It is a beautiful thing in the NFL when player, agent and team come together to make a deal happen without any badmouthing, posturing, holdout threats or actions, me-first attitudes or even disregard for market value. This is exactly what has happened between the 49ers and running back Frank Gore. Although minor details still need to be arranged, the two sides came to terms earlier this week on what appears to be a reasonable contract for all parties.

Reportedly, the deal is worth approximately $27 million, about $14 million of which is guaranteed money. By all accounts, that money is a large payday for the next five years, but in a market where offensive linemen are getting bonuses of $17 million, it really seems like quite a reasonable contract for a player who rushed for nearly 1,700 yards last season.

Before heavy negotiations were underway, Gore's agent, Drew Rosenhaus, suggested that his client would only sign a contract that would make him the highest-paid back in the league. Admittedly, then, there was some minor posturing. But that was the last antagonistic remark from either party, likely because of Gore putting his foot down toward Rosenhaus, whom he had hired last year with the specific task of getting a good deal done. Not that Gore would have any problem with getting that kind of deal, but he had other priorities.

Notebook: Taking care of Gore in several ways

If the 49ers and Frank Gore had entered the 2007 season without a new contract, the team's best player would have also been one of its lowest-paid players. Clearly, something had to be done, and coach Mike Nolan said the timing was right for the 49ers to sign Gore to a five-year, $28 million extension that was a good deal for both the team and its star performer.

"It was a little early because Frank just finished his second year," Nolan said, "but if you identify somebody you want to have that is a good player - that you want to have around for awhile - it's good to get it done early because the longer you wait, the more expensive it gets and the closer it gets to them seeing that window for free agency."

The 49ers essentially controlled Gore's rights for the next three seasons. He was signed through 2007, but the team could have given him a high tender next year as a restricted free agent, then made him their franchise player in 2009.

But the 49ers and agent Drew Rosenhaus worked out a contract that makes Gore one of the top-10 paid running backs in the league.

Ethenic Sands Update

Ethenic Sands was named the Schutt Offensive Player of the Game in the Florida Firecats 55-22 win over the oklahoma City Yard Dawgz after his 4 TD performance.

SANDS, Ethenic 7rec 102yrds 4TD 40long

Magic Benton Update

Magic Benton, was awarded with the Cutters Catch of the Game in the Florida Firecats 55-22 win over the oklahoma City Yard Dawgz.

BENTON, Magic 7rec 84yrds 2TD 25long

Filling the Void (Philip Buchanon)

CB Phillip Buchanon fit into the Bucs' defensive scheme well after signing just prior to midseason last year

In the last six months, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have added two veteran cornerbacks who could fill potential gaps in their secondary, this season and in the future. Interestingly, those two defenders – Phillip Buchanon and Sammy Davis – might also erase another type of void that has been five years in the making.

The 2002 and 2003 NFL Drafts passed without the Bucs executing either of their original first-round picks . Those two selections (plus second-rounders in 2002 and 2004) were shipped to the Oakland Raiders in February of ’02 as part of the deal that freed up Head Coach Jon Gruden to make his bay-to-bay switch.

Obviously, the Bucs knew well in advance of draft weekend during those two offseasons that they would be idle in the first round. Presumably the team could have lopped a few days off their scouting timeline in the springs of 2002 and 2003. They could have sent their scouts and personnel folks home early a few days a week, told them not to bother scouting, say, Dwight Freeney or Jordan Gross. Barring the most unusual of draft-day trades, the Bucs weren’t going to be anywhere near the clock when such highly-regarded prospects had their names called those two April afternoons.

Morgan returns; decision thorough

PHOENIX --There was a time last fall when Carolina Panthers middle linebacker Dan Morgan said he was ready to play football. So did a Pittsburgh-based concussion specialist. Neither opinion really mattered.

"I said, `Dan, you're not going to play on our team until the doctors clear you,' " Jerry Richardson said.

Richardson, of course, is the owner of the Panthers. Richardson admitted Wednesday at the annual NFL meeting at the Arizona Biltmore that he exercised veto power on Morgan's comeback attempt after suffering at least his fifth reported concussion (dating back to college) in last season's opening game.