Wayne cancels appearance

A death in the family prompted Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne to cancel his two-day stint as host of the "Best Damn Sports Show Period," a Fox Sports spokesman said.

Wayne was supposed to host the sports entertainment show Tuesday and Wednesday nights but changed his plans at the last minute, the spokesman said.

It was not known who died in Wayne's family. A Colts spokesman said the team was unaware of the situation.

The 2007 Pro Bowl star was scheduled to appear Tuesday with teammates Dwight Freeney and Bob Sanders. The show spokesman said it was not known if Wayne would reschedule to host at another time.


James Jones Update

James Jones started over Boris Diaw in Wednesday's win over the Sonics and had 13 points and three 3-pointers on 5-of-11 shooting. Jones may start the rest of the way for the Suns, and the move appeared to help Shawn Marion, who had 24 points and 10 boards. Then again, it could have been shoddy Sonics' D that responsible for Marion's big night. Jones will have some value if he continues to start.


Diaw to sit, Jones to start - James Jones will get start against Sonics


Suns swingman James Jones will start tonight's home game against Seattle in part to stir up the offense, but also because of Boris Diaw's recent struggles.

Shawn Marion moves to power forward, a spot in which he is more productive, and Jones has the chance to jump-start his offensive game.

Jones will take the spot Diaw has occupied most often beside the four set Suns starters - Steve Nash, Raja Bell, Marion and Amaré Stoudemire. In the season's 78th game, Phoenix, with 58 victories, will try a starting lineup not used this season as it tries to best utilize eight rotation players.

Frank Gore Plans On Earning His New Money

Remember the days when Frank Gore actually had to sit backup to Kevan Barlow? After receiving a contract extension from the 49ers to the tune of $14 million guaranteed, those seem like a lifetime ago. But Gore wants the world to know that he's not one of those guys who plans on lazying it up with his new fortune.

"I always want to do better than I did the year before," Gore said. "I'm excited to do better than I did last year. The organization doesn't have to worry about me sloughing off."

Gore also plans on dropping from 215 to 210 pounds this offseason after LaDainian Tomlinson told him how much faster he got after dropping a couple of pounds.

Notes: Burrell continues April success

NEW YORK -- The sixth-inning situation Monday supplied a textbook reason not to pitch to Ryan Howard.

There were two outs, first base was open and right-handed reliever Ambiorix Burgos could've dealt with the right-handed Pat Burrell, a more favorable matchup, instead of the lefty-swinging Howard.

So Mets manager Willie Randolph challenged the reigning National League Most Valuable Player, and paid for it when Howard clubbed a three-run home run that gave Philadelphia the lead. Among the reasons for his decision, Randolph offered this nugget:

"Pat Burrell is a Mets killer," he said.

Wilfork’s worthy cause

A reminder that Patriots nose tackle Vince Wilfork is hosting his fourth annual draft party for diabetes research on Saturday, April 28 from noon to 6 at Pinz in Milford. Wilfork will be on hand all day — along with Greg Dickerson and Gary Tanguay of FoxSports — to sign autographs, analyze the draft, and mingle with guests. There will be free food, a cash bar, a Madden Playstation tournament, and a bowling tournament. Tickets are $40 for adult and $20 for children 12 and under. Tickets can be ordered by calling (617) 268-0001, e-mailing draftdaytix@sportsidentity.com, or by visiting Wilfork’s web site, vincewilfork75.com.

For those who can’t attend, Wilfork is still accepting donations for the Diabetes Research Institute. The cause means a lot to him, because he lost his father David to the disease in 2002 at age 48.

“Every donation helps,” Wilfork said. “There are so many people in the world suffering from diabetes. If there is a chance I can prevent someone from going through what I saw my father go through, I want to help.”


Irvin counters with lawsuit against man who alleges assault

DALLAS — Hall of Fame receiver Michael Irvin has filed a countersuit against a contractor who alleges in his own lawsuit that the former Dallas Cowboys star grabbed his arm and injured him during a dispute over a $2,800 payment.

Irvin filed suit Tuesday against Shawn Vandergrift, whom Irvin hired to install a fountain at his Plano home, according to court records. Irvin's lawsuit claims extortion, duress and slander. The lawsuit also names Dominick Marsala, Vandergrift's lawyer.

Vandergrift's suit claims that Irvin grabbed the contractor and jerked his body as he tried leaving. Irvin had begun "screaming and shouting" after Vandergrift said he was owed payment for the work, according to Vandergrift's lawsuit.

The former wide receiver denies the assault allegations and claims Vandergrift's lawsuit is "an attempt to extort and coerce money from Irvin," according to his lawsuit.

Marsala said Vandergrift has passed a lie detector test in which his client was asked questions about the allegations.


Hester Sings Take Me Out To The Ballgame"

Draft Risers and Fallers

1. up Jon Beason, OLB, Miami (Fla.): Beason had a personal Pro Day workout for scouts on April 5, and his performance there has his stock, already rising, potentially moving him to the top of the outside linebacker class. Though undersized at 6-feet, 233 pounds, Beason's combination of athleticism and versatility has scouts comparing him to Detroit second-year linebacker Ernie Sims. Sims, you may recall, was ranked by most as the third or fourth best outside linebacker of the 2006 class and a mid to late first-round pick. However, in the weeks leading up to the draft, his stock inexplicably began to rise, ultimately resulting with the Lions taking him ninth overall. Sims, a 16-game starter, went on to lead the Lions with 144 tackles, finishing tied for 12th in the NFL. In clocking in at 4.62 seconds in the 40-yard dash and posting solid numbers in the broad (10-feet) and vertical jumps (32.5"), Beason could take advantage of a weak linebacker crop and be on the verge of a similar late rise.


Draft Risers and Fallers

2. up Brandon Meriweather, FS, Miami (Fla.): Beason isn't the only former Hurricane creating a stir among scouts as the draft approaches. Certainly because of their great history in producing elite NFL talent, it is quite rare that a former Hurricane can enter the draft as an underrated prospect, but that is exactly how Meriweather is viewed by many scouts. Meriweather's off-field incidents will keep the talented safety from moving up as far as his athleticism warrants. On the field, Meriweather's combination of hitting ability, range and quickness allow him to not only stand out as a free safety, but he's capable of playing cornerback as well. The last safety I scouted at the Senior Bowl who stood out as consistently as Meriweather did a few months ago was another undersized playmaker: former Iowa strong safety Bob Sanders. I envision Meriweather developing into a similar performer at the next level, except as a free safety.


Hester Throws out First Pitch 7 Sings "Take Me Out to the Ballgame"

Bear down: Throwing out the ceremonial first pitch was Bears' special teams ace Devin Hester, who had an NFL-record six return touchdowns last season.

Wearing a Cubs jersey with his name stenciled on the back, Hester also was guest conductor for "Take Me Out To The Ballgame" during the seventh-inning stretch. Joining him on the field was Bears coach Lovie Smith.

"I was only a little worried," Hester said. "The pitching part is more athletic, but the singing part is all vocal and you gotta know the words. But Chicago fans are the greatest and if I could tell 'em to their faces, I'd let 'em know they're the spark of my life."


Wilfork Q&A

MILFORD -- Patriots nose tackle Vince Wilfork stopped by Pinz in Milford, Mass., earlier this week, promoting his fourth-annual NFL Draft party with his wife Bianca. The party is scheduled for Saturday, April 28 at Pinz, with proceeds to benefit diabetes research. More information can be found at Wilfork’s website.

Five questions with Wilfork:

What do you have in store for this year’s draft party?“This is our fourth annual draft-day party and every year it’s getting better and better. We’re excited to have it here, which we think is a great spot so a lot of people don’t have to drive to Boston or Rhode Island. I’m not sure who it will be, because it is an off period for us, but some other players will be here. I know growing up as a kid, I always wished I could meet NFL players, so I think that’s a good part of it, because we’ll be here having a good time. In the end, I'm just the football player. [Bianca] is the brains behind this.”

The More Devin Hester, the Better

In just one season in the NFL, Devin Hester has become a household name. His explosiveness and blazing speed have broken many a game wide open – just ask the Arizona Cardinals – and his penchant for finding the end zone gives heartburn to opposing coaches. Bears’ fans are itching to see more of their All-Pro return man next season, and Lovie Smith feels the same way.

“You could argue that he’s the most exciting player in the NFL with his hands on the ball,” Smith says.


“Exciting” may be an understatement. After setting an NFL regular-season record with 6 returns for a touchdown (which does not include his amazing 92-yard dash on the first play of Super Bowl XLI) the Bears have begun mulling over the different ways they may be able to use Hester next season. Although he played on only special teams and defense in 2006, Smith and offensive coordinator Ron Turner are not ruling out the possibility of playing the former Miami Hurricane on offense in 2007.

49ers' goals more important than Gore's

Running back Frank Gore appeared miffed last week when he learned from a reporter that coach Mike Nolan wants to limit his carries in 2007. Gore's goal is to rush for over 2,000 yards and challenge former Ram Eric Dickerson's single-season record of 2,105, set in 1984.

The 49ers, meanwhile, are looking for a return on their $14 million in guaranteed cash. The money was part of a four-year extension Gore signed last week.

Research reveals that running backs who top 370 carries in a given year are often rendered ineffective or are seriously injured within the span of the next two seasons. It took Gore 312 carries to gain a team-record 1,695 yards last season.

The 49ers have their own goals as a team, such as making the playoffs. A winning record could assure Gore more carries with the 49ers running the ball to protect leads late in games.

A Look Back at Least Week's Top Stories

- Devin Hester: Fastest Player in Madden History
- UM's Beason has workout
- Draft awaits UM's Taylor
- Bears mulling whether to move Hester to offense
- Michael Irvin to throw first pitch - Former Dallas Cowboys star to toss in Rangers' home opener
- Brett Romberg Update
- CHECK OUT proCanes.com NEW Wallpapers Section!
- Jury still out on Hester's role in 2007
- Notebook: Taking care of Gore in several ways
- Filling the Void (Philip Buchanon)