13 May 2007

Open Job? Bubba Frank Update

Bubba Franks has been the Packers' starting tight end since his rookie year of 2000, but the coaching staff sent him a signal at minicamp Friday that he'll have to win back that job this year after his disappointing 2006 performance.

Donald Lee took the first snap of each drill with the No. 1 offense, and Tory Humphrey appeared to work ahead of Franks at times also. Lee, Humphrey and Zac Alcorn all have been taking part in the Packers' offseason workout program beginning March 19.

"They've been working all offseason; I don't have any problems with them in there right now," Franks said. "It's not a problem."

Franks, who caught only 25 passes and had no touchdowns last season, said he went back to the offseason workout program of his first six NFL seasons after staying in Green Bay and taking part in the Packers' offseason workout program last year. Franks is one of about 20 players who attended the University of Miami and return there in the spring and summer to work out in a competitive atmosphere with their college strength coach.

"You go back to doing something that works when things go wrong," Franks said. "… This year, I'm on a mission. There's nothing that's going to get in my way."


Patriots DL Learned Much From The "U"

FOXBORO, Mass. - Kareem Brown did not have to participate in the Patriots rookie mini camp this weekend to get his first taste of the NFL. New England's second pick in the draft from Miami had already digested plenty from the legion of "U" alumni now playing in the pros.

While holding court in his new Patriots locker room over the weekend, the fourth round pick's outsized personality was matched only by his massive physical stature.

At 6-foot-4, 290-pounds, the defensive lineman described his good fortune of having built-in access to the Miami NFL pipeline thusly, "It helps a lot. I talk to those guys all the time, and they just give me a little bit of their experience in the NFL. It motivates you. You see them every day and you want to be in their shoes."

One of those alumni is the Patriots Vince Wilfork, also a defensive lineman, and when Brown watched Wilfork make his famous fumble recovery last year and start rumbling toward the end zone, Brown gave his best Forrest Gump impression while recalling his only thought: "Run Vince Run." When asked if he would have taken that one to the house, Brown said confidently, "I would have, yeah."

Ed Reed announces local benefit

Former Destrehan High School football standout Ed Reed, now an all-pro safety with the NFL Baltimore Ravens, returned home Friday to announce the first fund-raiser for his charity

Reed has partnered with Valero Energy Corporation to organize the first Ed Reed/Valero St. Charles Golf Classic, which will be held July 2 at Belle Terre Country Club in LaPlace.
Proceeds will go to the Ed Reed Eye of the Hurricane Foundation, which helps needy families in the St. Charles Parish area, as well as in Baltimore.

Tamara James Update

Tamara James made the 12-man Washington Mystics Roster.


Portis slowed by knee soreness

Already trying to rehabilitate shoulder and hand injuries, Washington Redskins running back Clinton Portis now has to deal with a knee problem.

Portis missed the team's offseason workouts Wednesday and yesterday to travel to Birmingham, Ala., where he was examined by Dr. James Andrews and diagnosed with patella tendinitis.

"It cropped up at the end of last week," coach Joe Gibbs said. "He had some soreness in the knee, but he described that he could run and work out on it and it would be fine the next day. This week it bothered him after the workout day so we decided to have it looked at."

There is no timetable for when Portis can return his running program.

Rams add QB Berlin to roster

The Rams added another arm to their roster Thursday when they signed former University of Miami quarterback Brock Berlin.

He is expected to be on the field next week when organized team activities (OTAs) resume at Rams Park.

The 6-foot-1, 215-pound Berlin started for the Hurricanes for two seasons after transferring from the University of Florida. He originally signed with the Miami Dolphins in April 2005 as an undrafted free agent. He played in two preseason games before he was released.

Berlin, 25, re-signed with the Dolphins in January 2006 and was sent to NFL Europe. He completed 99 of 181 passes for 1,041 yards and seven touchdowns, with seven interceptions, for the Hamburg (Germany) Sea Devils.

Miami cut him again during training camp, and he was out of football until April 25, when the Dallas Cowboys signed him.

His stay in Dallas was brief; the Cowboys released him May 10 after picking up another free-agent quarterback, Matt Moore.

Berlin joins Marc Bulger, Gus Frerotte, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Drew Tate among Rams quarterbacks.


Willis McGahee

With all of the hoopla -- and rightfully so -- surrounding Ravens quarterback Steve McNair's first  comments regarding the unusual DUI charges facing him in Tennessee, running back Willis McGahee seemed like almost an afterthought during the team's first minicamp today.

But McGahee's first workout open to the media went without a hitch. In fact, McGahee, whom the Ravens acquired from the Buffalo Bills in March for two draft picks in last month's draft and a third-round choice next year, looked good, catching a few passes in the flat on seven-on-seven drills and running smoothly.

McNair and McGahee were the highlights of today's session. Equally noteworthy were the absences of linebackers Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs, cornerbacks Chris McAlister and Samari Rolle, offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden, free safety Ed Reed, defensive end Trevor Pryce, defensive tackle Kelly Gregg, center Mike Flynn and running back Mike Anderson -- which didn't seem to bother coach Brian Billick.

"I'm very comfortable with the guys that we have here. I'm excited about that," he said. "And those that aren't here, I'm very comfortable knowing what they're going to be able to do when they get here."

Several players who underwent surgery during the offseason returned to the field. Return specialist B.J. Sams (ankle), fullback Justin Green (knee), defensive tackle Justin Bannan (toe) and running back Musa Smith (neck) all took part in drills. Linebacker Dan Cody, who opted to avoid surgery on his left knee, also practiced.


Bears to give Hester a look at wide receiver

LAKE FOREST, Ill. (May 14, 2007) -- Devin Hester is taking his game-breaking skills to the Chicago Bears' offense.

Hester set an NFL record last year for kick returns for touchdowns, and he started off the Super Bowl with a 92-yard kickoff runback for a touchdown. He rarely played on anything but special teams, though, and when he did, it was as a cornerback.

Now, the Bears will try him as a wide receiver.

Coach Lovie Smith said the All-Pro return specialist will make the switch beginning with the upcoming minicamp.

"I think Devin Hester is one of the most exciting players in the NFL with his hands on the football," Smith told ChicagoBears.com. "I think he would be an excellent defensive back, also. We just feel that this is in the best interest of us and him for him to achieve his full potential as a football player."

Learning the Belichick way

Kareem Brown pulled a folding chair featuring the Patriots' logo up to a pack of reporters surrounding Brandon Meriweather, climbed on top of it and commandeered a writer's pad and pen.

"Are you thankful Kareem's your roommate?" the 6-foot-4-inch, 240 pound rookie defensive lineman asked Meriweather to the amusement of the real press.

"I kind of wish I didn't have a roommate anymore but since I've known you eight years I might as well," Meriweather, the 24th overall pick at last month's draft, said.

There was no doubt on Saturday, the opening day of Patriots rookie mini camp, that the Pats' top two draft picks are playful. There are however, two much more important pending questions for the former University of Miami stars who participated in an in-game brawl against Florida International last season.

D.J. Williams: The New Ringleader

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- It was only his first day leading the pre-practice breakdown, and already D.J. Williams was willing to pull rank.

After a short introduction, Williams beckoned first-round pick Jarvis Moss to stand in front of his new teammates and open the morning's work. But Moss couldn't captivate their attention with a dance, nor could he work them into rhythm.

This was no time for a tepid response. Not at the first practice of the year, the opening session of the Broncos' 14 organized team activities between now and June 7.

"It's the first day and we needed more intensity than that," Williams said. "I could tell (Moss) was a little nervous.

No. 21 makes right move

Driving from northern Virginia to Baltimore this afternoon for today's Preakness Stakes draw, I still had a hard time comprehending what I was going to say in this blog entry.

Sean Taylor did something smart by reporting to the Loudoun County Parkway on Tuesday for the second week of the Redskins' off-season practices/workouts/rehearsals/recesses.
It boggles the mind, right?

Sean Taylor did something right.

Sean Taylor did something befitting a future leader.

Sean Taylor did something smart.

Sean Taylor did something that showed respect for his head coach.

Maybe the kid is getting it after all.

Cora! Cora! Cora!

The Red Sox finally lost last night, dropping the second game of their four game set with the Tigers . Tiger phenom Justin Verlander silenced the Red Sox bats over 7 and 2/3 innings, and the 7-2 decision marked the end of their 11 game winning streak.

Yes, I am aware that the Sox have played 38 games, so far this season. I’ll even concede that they have come out on the losing side 12 times. However, none of the other 11 losses had come after manager Terry Francona had scribbled 13 Cora onto his lineup card to start the game. Up until last night the Red Sox had been a perfect 11-0 with Cora as a starter.

In reality, that 11-0 is a misleading stat, as his stellar .392 batting average. To be sure, this is Cora’s best start to a season (I haven’t done any research, but it seems likely), and the fact that he has terrific stats has only served to call attention to a guy who plays the game the right way and is able to excell in a reserve role. One of the keys to winning a championship is having a deep bench with guys that are versatile and can produce despite not getting regular at bats. In Alex Cora, the Red Sox have just such a player.

Pitching and catching with Chudzinski

New Browns offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski hasn't had a day off since he was hired on Jan. 20. And he won't enjoy one for another month.

Chudzinski is busy installing a new offense that, he hopes, will resemble the explosive one he left behind with the San Diego Chargers.

It's the fifth offensive system the Browns have used since 1999.

Chudzinski is the team's sixth offensive coordinator in that time. He was put in charge as the team faces a crossroads.

The Browns are the only team in the NFL that has finished last in its division the past four years.

The offense has been bolstered by the signings of left guard Eric Steinbach and running back Jamal Lewis in free agency and the selections of left tackle Joe
Thomas and quarterback Brady Quinn in the draft.

Taylor at last reports for work

Safety Sean Taylor was a surprise participant as the Washington Redskins began their second week of organized team activities yesterday at Redskin Park.

Taylor, who had not been in touch with the coaching staff while absent last week, acted as if his return wasn't a big deal even though he and still-absent cornerback Shawn Springs had been the only players missing.

"I don't think there's a problem," said Taylor, who didn't participate in any voluntary offseason work in 2005 and wasn't a regular in 2006 either as his felony assault case made its way through the legal system. "I should've been here with everybody else, but I'm sure I'll make it up the next couple of weeks."

Nose for news tackle - Kareem Brown

The best reporter in Foxboro is 6 feet, 4 inches tall and weighs 290 pounds. He also has an assortment of colorful tattoos across the vast canvas of his body and ranks No. 2 all-time among Miami defensive tackles with 20 sacks in his college career.

If fourth-round draft pick Kareem Brown doesn't make the Patriots, he'll probably find a job in the media.

As a pack of reporters gathered around Meriweather on Saturday, Brown perched himself on a chair and took notes as a favor to an accredited journalist. When other newsfolk realized the gigantic scribe was Meriweather's Miami teammate, they gave him the chance to ask a question.

"What kind of a car do you drive?" Brown asked.

The question produced the most interesting Meriweather material to come out in two consecutive days of interviewing.

Brown eyes label of playmaker

Kareem Brown bristles at the word: "underachiever." He can't get around it, as if an offensive lineman were grabbing a fistful of his jersey.

The label doesn't make sense to Brown, a defensive lineman who was the second player selected by the Patriots in this year's draft, taken in the fourth round (No. 127 overall).

How could he be an underachiever?

He -- not first-round pick Brandon Meriweather -- was the University of Miami's 2006 Defensive Player of the Year after recording 11 sacks, the second-highest total by a defensive tackle in school history. We're talking about a school that has produced Warren Sapp, 1991 No. 1 overall pick Russell Maryland, and New England nose tackle Vince Wilfork. Still, it sticks to Brown like a piece of gum wedged on the bottom of a shoe.

Brown out to show what he can do

FOXBORO — Many would have you believe it's next to impossible to leave the University of Miami's football program and not have at least a little controversy on the horizon. That's Patriots' first-round pick Brandon Meriweather's reality.

And that of Kareem Brown.

Just like Meriweather, who's still in the wake of the Florida International brawl/stomping incident last fall, Brown is proud of his pigskin lineage. It's not limited to the fourth-round pick's J.C. Penney portrait-sized tattoo of the former Hurricanes logo on his left bicep, either.

Listed at 6-4, 290 pounds, the defensive lineman is adamant his college program suffers from a case of mistaken identity. There's no denying the brawl happened, but the Miami-native Brown reiterated there's no better place to get a player ready for life in the National Football League.

"It's a perception. That's what it is. It's not a fact. People can think what they want to think and we're going to continue to work hard," Brown explained during the team's just-concluded rookie mini-camp. "People have no idea. We as a program, we let people think what they want to think. We're going to continue to work hard. They're going to continue to coach us hard and we're going to continue to get better."

McDougle, Moats might have to face the music

Dead men walking?

Even if they are, there isn't much Ryan Moats and Jerome McDougle can do about it, except work their hardest and hope for the best.

Moats and McDougle don't seem to figure into the Eagles' 2007 plans, unless other players are injured or they are able to produce some sort of miraculous, 11th-hour revival of their faded promise.

Hester will now catch them if he can - Potential upside huge, but Bears need to keep it simple for it to work

See defender. Run past him. Catch the ball.


If the instructions for new Bears wide receiver Devin Hester are much more complicated than that, the team risks turning a necessary position switch into a failed experiment.

Don't issue Hester an offensive playbook. Give him a cocktail napkin with doodles. The simpler it is for Hester the harder it will be for opposing defenses to stop one of the fastest players in the league.

"There are only a few guys in the league who can make people miss and do the things [Hester] can do with the football," coach Lovie Smith said.

Phillies’ Burrell has Hill’s number

PHILADELPHIA — Michael Barrett seemed to sense the imminent danger.

The Cubs’ catcher had just watched pitcher Rich Hill fall behind Phillies batter Aaron Rowand 2-0 to start the fourth inning.

So Barrett paid a visit.

“I just didn’t like the feeling of those 2 pitches,” Barrett said. “I just didn’t like the way those balls came out. I just wanted to make sure we were on the same page and we were together.”

Barrett proved prescient as Hill walked Rowand and hit Chase Utley on an 0-2 pitch before giving up a 3-run homer to sleeping giant Pat Burrell.

Burrell part of solution

One night after the veteran general manager blamed the Phillies' poor start primarily on the middle of the batting order, one of the culprits responded.
With a rare display of power.

Leftfielder Pat Burrell, the poster child for the club's struggles, slammed a pair of homers and knocked in five runs last night, steering the Phils to a 7-2 win over the Chicago Clubs at Citizens Bank Park.

Cole Hamels (5-1) pitched seven strong innings to notch the win. Lefthander Rich Hill (4-2), who took a third-in-the-league 1.73 ERA into the game, absorbed the loss.

Rex Grossman Gets Another Weapon: Devin Hester

It was only a matter of time, I guess. After six special teams touchdowns his rookie season, Devin Hester -- a man without a true position -- will be joining the offense. Hester was listed as a cornerback at the University of Miami, but that's not why the Bears selected him in the second round of the 2006 draft. Whatever, he's taking his skillz to the other side of the ball:

Hester will work with the wide receivers at minicamp, but he's also expected to line up in the backfield at times and could be utilized like the New Orleans Saints' Reggie Bush.

Well, Chicago could utilize him like Reggie Bush, but I'm pretty sure that'll be where the comparisons end. I'm envisioning more of an Antwaan Randle El-type role. Whatever, I think it's a good idea. Hester is obviously a scoring threat, and if nothing else, he'll take some of the pressure of Rex Grossman. Which reminds me, maybe Hester can line up at quarterback for a few snaps every game too. It couldn't hurt.


Cardinals notebook: Whisenhunt happy to see sharp Edge

Running back Edgerrin James was back Sunday, after missing Saturday’s minicamp opening practices because of a family funeral.

Coach Ken Whisenhunt said James looked “sharp” and in shape, which was really little surprise.

Whisenhunt also said the two had discussed how many of the voluntary organized team activities James will attend.

“I don’t know exactly,” Whisenhunt said. “He’s probably not going to be there for all 14, but it is my understanding he will be there for a number of them.”

The Cards’ organized team activities begin Wednesday, with the 14 workouts spread over four weeks and ending June 7.


Vet raising ’Canes: Wilfork ready to mentor rookies

FOXBORO - Big brother already has given the boys a lecture. He’s already offered up a quick course in Patriots [team stats] 101. And you better believe when Vince Wilfork [stats] talked, Brandon Meriweather and Kareem Brown listened.

Given the three share a bond in coming from the University of Miami, it was natural for Meriweather and Brown to seek advice from a fellow Hurricane. And, given Wilfork’s nature, he wasn’t shy about delivering nothing but the facts. He wasn’t going to tip-toe around the basics, or the truth.

“Both the guys I gave the same speech. So, they understand what we expect out of them. They understand what I expect out of them,” Wilfork said Saturday night before participating in Kevin Faulk [stats]’s charity softball game. “They know what I’m talking about. Get ready to win ball games.

Meriweather's First Impression

Now that New England fans have gotten over the initial shock of Bill Belichick drafting a supposed Miami bad boy the Boston media has actually taken the time to get to know Brandon Meriweather, and they've learned he's not as threatening as his media-driven persona.

The Boston Globe - which I interned at twice by the way - is my favorite sports section, which is why I'm proud to have assisted Christopher Gasper with his personality profile of Meriweather. If you haven't already read it CLICK HERE. It's a must read! I say that because even I learned something about Meriweather I didn't know (I had no clue he was adopted).

Here is the transcript of Meriweather's interview when he reported to training camp last weekend.

Q:  Describe how you feel?

BM: I don’t think I can explain it in words.  I’m very excited to come to a Super Bowl contending team.  I don’t think my feelings right now can explain how excited I am about being here.

Belichick speaks: Kareem Brown

Q: Was Kareem Brown a guy that you got a look at while evaluating [Brandon] Meriweather?
BB: We evaluated all of the players at Miami.

Q: Was he a standout on his own?

BB: Yes, sure. He’s definitely a player that we thought was going to be drafted back in the fall. We started looking at tape. It was Brown. It was [Baraka] Atkins. [Jon] Beason. [Brandon] Meriweather. The guys on the offensive side of the ball. There were a number of players. You kind of look at all of them. When I was down there, I either saw them on tape or in person.

Q: Kareem said yesterday that he’s dropped a lot weight. Is that a good thing? Is he quicker?

BB: It’s true. I think we’ll have to see him out on the field. I don’t think it’s slowed him down. He’s reshaped his body a little bit in the last few months. I think he looks good.

Q: Is that a good sign that he dropped the weight before he got here?

BB: I think it started at the end of the season. It wasn’t something that just happened in February. It was something that was a couple of months along. You always like to see players in good condition. I know that in March when I was down there, that’s not midseason, but you want to see players in good condition and training and it’s clear that he’s been working hard and that was evident in the workouts as well.

Ex-Hurricanes tackle/end gets in line behind the best

FOXBORO— The Patriots have one of the league’s best starting defensive lines, and fourth-round draft pick Kareem Brown is here to learn from the Richard Seymour-Vince Wilfork-Ty Warren trio while also solidifying a spot for himself on the New England roster.

“The Patriots wouldn’t have drafted me if they didn’t see something in me,” Brown said yesterday on the first day of rookie minicamp at Gillette Stadium. “I’m here to do a job. I’m going to learn from Seymour and Warren and Vince, and I’m going to take everything I can from them.”

Brown, the University of Miami’s 2006 Defensive Player of the Year, already has spent a lot of time talking to fellow former Hurricane Wilfork.

Meriweather grateful Pats trust his character

FOXBORO — If you don't like what you see, Brandon Meriweather suggests you look again.

With a media image far more imposing than his scrawny physique, the softspoken safety from Miami comes off on first glance as an undersized prospect with troubling character concerns. Making his New England debut Friday at Gillette Stadium, the Patriots No. 1 draft pick said he's glad Bill Belichick took a closer look.

"I think coach Belichick is one of those people who is a great feeler of people," said Meriweather, in town to participate in this weekend's rookie minicamp. "I think just by talking to him, I could tell that he was a smart guy that can feel out people well. Thanks to him, I'm here."

The human eye has trouble seeing Meriweather as the NFL first-rounder who made more tackles than any defensive back in Hurricanes history (293). He is 5 feet, 11 inches tall and weighs 195 pounds, but Meriweather has always been undersized, enrolling at Miami at a scale-friendly 160.

Meriweather counting on Hall monitors

FOXBORO— While much has been made about the troubled past of first-round draft pick Brandon Meriweather, the former University of Miami safety focused yesterday on his future with the Patriots.

With the start of its rookie minicamp today, New England introduced Meriweather, who said he was looking forward to working with Patriots veterans like fellow safety Rodney Harrison in the offseason to acclimate himself to life in the NFL.

“I plan on getting with the veterans,” Meriweather said. “I think Rodney will be a great person that I can get around, and he can help me out with all the media and all the people in town — where to go and where not to go. I think since he has been here long enough … I think that is someone I need to get around and learn from.”

Joe Gibbs Is Kinda Pissed at Sean Taylor

Earlier here at the FanHaus, we talked about Redskins safety Sean Taylor missing the Redskins voluntary workout last week. There have been rumblings that Taylor is mad about his contract situation. And now there are more rumblings that Taylor is miffed that the Skins failed to re-sign his buddy Ryan Clark last offseason. Either way, Taylor blew off the team.

Well, seems like Redskins head coach Joe Gibbs isn't too thrilled about the snub.

Washington Redskins Coach Joe Gibbs expressed surprise and dismay yesterday that neither starting free safety Sean Taylor nor starting cornerback Shawn Springs attended the first week of voluntary workouts. Springs said yesterday he plans to join the workouts the first week of June.

"With Sean Taylor, I've had no contact whatsoever," Gibbs said. "I'm not aware of anything there. That's about all I can say about it. I've had no contact."

Meriweather has strong suits

FOXBOROUGH -- Brandon Meriweather impressed his new boss before playing a down. The Patriots' first-round draft pick, who was formally introduced yesterday at Gillette Stadium, caught owner Robert Kraft's eye with his sartorial selection.

The rookie was clad in a black suit, red shirt with a black and red tie, and a matching pocket square. "He's a very sharp dresser," said Kraft. "The pocket square, the whole deal. The guy knows how to dress."

Kraft's Mr. Blackwell impression aside, Meriweather will be judged on how he looks on the field and if he can stay clear of trouble off it. New England will get some idea about the former today with the start of a two-day minicamp, where Meriweather and the other rookies will get their first taste of NFL life.

Cowboys release QB Berlin

IRVING _ The Cowboys will have four quarterbacks throwing passes in this weekend’s minicamp after releasing Brock Berlin Thursday.

Berlin was signed by the Cowboys last month, but became expendable when the team signed Oregon State’s Matt Moore to a rookie free agent contract shortly after the draft.

Moore joins starter Tony Romo and backups Brad Johnson and Matt Baker on the Cowboys roster.

Portis talking big

I got an interesting e-mail late last night about Washington Redskins running back Clinton Portis' upcoming appearance on the BET sports talk show "Ballers." Portis taped an episode that is set to appear Tuesday at 11 p.m. The show is hosted by former NBAer John Salley, former NFLer Hugh Douglas and comedian Guy Torry.

A partial transcript was emailed out last night and here is the one quote that jumped off the page. Asked about the Redskins' outlook in 2007, Clinton said ...

"I think this year we're going to make a lot of news. We went out and got what we needed. I actually think this will be our year. We're going to be in the NFC championship game. I guarantee that. Whatever that takes, we're going to get there."

Burrell remains enigma

There are certain undeniable truths in this world and for the Phillies that can be summed up with this: Pat Burrell is what he is.

At some point it will be necessary to move on from discussing the Phillies left fielder because nothing will change -- what you see is what you get.

Burrell has been a lightning rod for most of his tenure in Philadelphia. He has been seen as the symbol of what is wrong with this organization. It's been said he doesn't hit in the clutch, he doesn't give a total effort (not true, according to teammates), he plays poor defense (although he's better now that he's healthy), he strikes out too much and he doesn't swing enough.

He's been the focus of fans, managers and potential managers alike. He's been singled out by Mike Schmidt for not being the best player he can possibly be.