20 May 2007

Veteran linemen provides coaching to rookies

DENVER (AP) - Veteran defensive end Kenard Lang found himself pulling double duty at the Denver Broncos' seven-day quarterback camp that concluded Thursday.

In addition to working on his position, the 12-year lineman found himself a frequent respondent to the inquiries of wide-eyed rookie defensive linemen.

Lang didn't mind.

"I am an instructor and I like the title," said Lang. "Teaching is in my veins. You know, my mom was a principal.

"Here, the position fell into my lap," Lang said.

At the start of camp, Lang found himself helping fourth-round draft choice Marcus Thomas, who was hearing catcalls from Bronco veterans about his stance.

Michaels' three-run homer ignites Indians' offence in 10-3 rout of Royals

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Jason Michaels capped a five-run first inning with a three-run homer, and the Cleveland Indians avoided a sweep by beating the Kansas City Royals 10-3 on Thursday night.

Casey Blake added a three-run triple and also doubled for the Indians, who have the majors' best home record at 17-4 but are still two games under .500 (11-13) on the road. Ryan Garko had three hits for Cleveland, including a two-run single in the first.

Starter Jeremy Sowers (1-4) earned his first victory since beating Toronto 7-2 on Sept. 5, 2006. Sowers went seven innings, giving up one run and six hits with one strikeout and one walk before Roberto Hernandez relieved him to start the eighth.

Hernandez gave up Shane Costa's RBI single and left after walking Alex Gordon to load the bases with two out. Aaron Fultz walked Ryan Shealy, forcing in a run that got Kansas City within 10-3.

Packers' Bubba Franks in Danger of Being Released

Not long ago, Bubba Franks was viewed as the Packers franchise tight end. Now, Franks is fighting not only for playing time, but a roster spot.

There are no assurances that Franks, the Packers' first-round pick in 2000, will make Green Bay's final 53-man roster. In recent seasons, the Packers have sought to upgrade the position and, in the team's most recent minicamp, Green Bay had Donald Lee and Tory Humphrey working with the first-team offense.

The Packers also tried to work in this year's seventh-round pick, former Rutgers tight end Clark Harris, but he dropped a couple of passes.

Franks is coming off a season in which he dropped enough passes to jeopardize his standing this season. He was not as reliable as a team would like its tight end to be. It is the reason that, even before training camp begins, Franks is on the bubble. He needs to do a better job holding on to the football and to fend off the competition that the Packers are going to throw at him this summer.


Agent: Dan Morgan's health paramount

Colorful, candid NFL agent Drew Rosenhaus talked with the Observer's Charles Chandler before giving a speech at a Charlotte Touchdown Club luncheon Wednesday. In the interview, Rosenhaus discussed controversies involving clients Clinton Portis and Terrell Owens and the prospects for Panthers clients Dan Morgan (linebacker) and Justin Hartwig (center-guard):

Q. Are you concerned about Morgan playing again despite his history of concussions? Of course, I'm concerned. I care about Dan, not as a client, but as a friend, as a brother. I'm concerned because of the severity of the situation, but I want to assure you we've been very thorough. We've been very careful. He's healthy, he's normal. He's got a normal baseline right now.
What may happen in the future? We're hoping for the best. But one thing I can promise you is we are not going to, in any capacity, risk it. If anything should happen, he'll retire.

Q. How does the Panthers picking the draft's top center, Southern Cal's Ryan Kalil, in the second round last month affect Justin Hartwig, who was slated to be Carolina's center when he signed a lucrative free agent deal last year? I talked to the team about it. I think the feeling is that Justin is one of the more versatile linemen. Justin can play guard. He was drafted as a tackle. He has a great deal of versatility. He's not the kind of player that a rookie is going to come in and beat him out. But he's an unselfish player and he'll play any position.

Q&A with Michael Irvin

As well as he played - and he will enter the Pro Football Hall of Fame in August - the former St. Thomas Aquinas, University of Miami and Dallas Cowboys receiver talks an even better game. Staff writer Ethan J. Skolnick caught up with Irvin at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino for his Playmaker Charity Weekend.

Q: How are your poker skills?

A: "I'm not a great poker player. I'm not much for bluffing. I'm so pure and honest, it's ridiculous. This game requires an expertise in lying: lying and the ability to deceive and the art of deceit. Those are things that I haven't mastered, and I don't know if I really want to master, because it may take away from my broadcasting career. I make my living on telling it like it T-I-S, tis."

Q: Who is your Hall of Fame presenter?

A: "Jerry Jones. . . . In all my years, and I've been blessed, the reaction I got out of Jerry when I asked him to present me was one of the greatest things I have ever experienced. It was honest, it was pure, he was so excited, and my wife was so overjoyed, and there were tears shed in the room."

Q: The odds on you crying that day?

A: "I don't know. I'm learning more and more what it means to be a Hall of Famer. And I have used the Hall of Fame as a springboard, many a time. When I got tired, and I'd go, "Man, this is what it takes to be a Hall of Famer." And so I knew the enormity of it all, but I couldn't grasp it all until I got here and started going through it. So for me to tell you that I'm going to be in total control of my feelings.... I don't know what the happenings will be that day."

Q: Do you endorse UM moving to Dolphin Stadium?

A: "I love that we have the great tradition that we had in the Orange Bowl. Tradition means that we had great success there. But we cančt live on yesterday's success. Wečve got to enjoy it, remember it, appreciate the tradition, but we have to move forward to tomorrow's success. There's a business aspect to all of this."


Roscoe Parrish Update

Roscoe Parrish
made a few nice catches, one in particular was made against a zone coverage where he found a soft spot and Losman delivered a strike to him. He also beat his coverage deep as he got inside on Thomas, but the pass was underthrown as it fell incomplete.


History not working in Hester's favor

There is already so much hype surrounding the transition of Chicago Bears kick returner Devin Hester into an offensive player that I'm hoping he lives up to the expectations.

The real question, however, isn't whether Hester can make a significant contribution on that side of the football. It's whether he'll still be able to produce those breathtaking returns that made him a Pro Bowler during his rookie season in the NFL. After all, it's hard enough to be an electrifying return man in this league. To do it year after year, well, that's proven to be fairly difficult for most players.

This isn't to knock Hester, who scored an NFL-record six return touchdowns in 2006. It's just a fact. Returning kicks takes guts and guile, and recent history really hasn't been very kind to players who make their names with that specialty. In today's NFL, anything can hamper a return man's dominance, whether it's the loss of a couple key blockers, the departure of a special-teams coach, or in the case of Hester, outright fear by opponents.

"The opportunities for me probably aren't going to be what they were last season because teams know me now," Hester says. "It's tough for good returners because you can go from having 30 to 40 returns one season to 15 or 20 the next. That's a big part of why guys don't keep putting up the same numbers."


May 23, 2007 -- Jeremy Shockey flew in from Miami under the radar like a stealth bomber late last week to participate in the Giants' offseason program, to the delight of quarterback Eli Manning and Tom Coughlin and his coaches.

"My only goal is to win a championship, and I can't do that injured," Shockey told The Post yesterday. "The No. 1 way to stay healthy is for me work on natural grass."

Shockey said he is in the best shape of his life after another winter of spartan workouts on the natural grass at his Miami (Fla.) alma mater.

"I hope the fans can understand my point of view," Shockey said. "I hope my teammates and coaches can understand my point of view. I'm not going to change my workout routine. I'm not going to change my philosophy of working out.

Testaverde plans to play

Vinny Testaverde is taking part in Patriots [team stats] passing camp this week, not merely for kicks or to help out coach Bill Belichick.

According to Mike Azzarelli, a close friend and associate of the quarterback’s, the 43-year-old Testaverde has not hung up his cleats, nor does he have any plans to do so. He’s looking for work. He’s looking to add a 21st season to his distinguished resume.

“He’s not retired. I doubt he’d be hanging out,” said Azzarelli when asked about Testaverde’s appearance in Foxboro this week. “He’s intent on playing.”

Passan: Chudzinski Brings Fresh Approach

Since 1999, Browns fans haven't had much to cheer about when the Browhs offense was on the field. That may change, and soon, if offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski can make the most out of the the weapons the team has assembled. Here's Rich's latest Rant...

Maurice Carthon’s failure as the Browns’ offensive coordinator for a season and a half was fueled by his refusal to adapt to his personnel.

He tried to put the round peg in the square hole. He attempted to stuff 10 pounds of offense into a five-pound bag. He relentlessly banged his head against a stone wall despite repeated failures. He refused to change.

That stubbornness ultimately led to his dismissal or, as the club preferred to call it, his resignation.

Now, it’s Rob Chudzinski’s turn and from early indications, it appears as though the new Cleveland offensive coordinator will be flexible, creative and open to suggestions.

Goodell Slams Remarks By Portis - NFL Won't Pursue Disciplinary Action

NASHVILLE, May 22 -- NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on Tuesday condemned comments by Washington Redskins tailback Clinton Portis in support of Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick, who is under investigation for his possible involvement in an alleged dogfighting operation in Virginia.

"I'm extremely disappointed and embarrassed for Clinton Portis," Goodell said in a written statement following a one-day NFL owners' meeting. "This does not reflect the sentiments of the Redskins, the NFL or NFL players."


Quarterback Matt Leinart and running back Edgerrin James both were missing from Tuesday’s voluntary workout. Whisenhunt, who spoke to both, said Leinart will return today. James, who returned home to Florida, will be back for next week’s work beginning Tuesday.


James Jones Update

2006-07 performance: Jones got off to an awful shooting start until a return to the leather ball changed his stroke - or his mind-set. D'Antoni never wanted to get away from Jones' knowledge of the system, help defense and three-point shot (45.2 percent in 13 starts).

2007-08 outlook: Jones is an ideal role player at a $2.9 million salary for next season. A better ability to hit shots off the dribble or inside the arc would be a boost. He hit only 35.6 percent of his two-point shots this season.


Ravens' McGahee one happy camper

After Willis McGahee's first practices with the Ravens last week, team officials couldn't say they gained any insight whether their new running back is primed for a career year or if he is going to add any punch to the passing attack.

But the Ravens did learn something about McGahee -- he is a man of his word.

Often criticized for missing voluntary workouts with the Buffalo Bills, McGahee lived up to his promise that he would attend the Ravens' minicamps and expects it to pay dividends.

"I'm motivated, I've got to step my game up," said McGahee, who will rejoin his teammates for the second Ravens minicamp tomorrow. "My teammates are expecting a lot of me. I'm going to go out there and dish it out. Hopefully, we can all work together and make that run we want.

Kevin Everett Update

Kevin Everett who saw a lot of time in the slot caught a nice pass deep down the seam. Losman hit him with a bullet on his inside shoulder as the play stood a good chance of going for a touchdown in a live football setting.


Vinny Testaverde Update

Veteran free agent quarterback Vinny Testaverde was spotted yesterday at Gillette Stadium, and while he has not signed with the team, he apparently plans to spend the next few weeks with the club. Testaverde, who joined the Patriots last November, still had his locker at Gillette Stadium as of last week. Testaverde's presence is likely tied to the fact the Patriots are holding Organized Team Activities over the next two weeks. They have three quarterbacks on the roster: Tom Brady, Matt Cassel, and rookie free agent Matt Gutierrez.


Burrell's Suite Top Item in Auction

The Phillies raised a record $720,056 during Monday’s Phillies Phestival for ALS. The total was $48,000 more than last year’s total.

Since 1984, the Phillies have raised more than $9.4 million to fight ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. During Monday’s event, fans were able to meet and take photos with members of the Phillies, get autographs and participate in auctions.

The top two items during the live auction were the use of Pat Burrell’s suite, which sold for $5,400, and a Ryan Howard game-used jersey from last year, which sold for $4,100. The top item in the silent auction was two chairs used in the Veterans Stadium Executive Dining Room, which sold for $3,500.

The money raised during Monday's Phillies Phestival will be used by the Greater Philadelphia Chapter of the ALS Association.


Former Browns QB Kosar to open new restaurant in Cleveland

CLEVELAND (AP) - Former Cleveland Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar (KO-zar) has signed on to bring a new restaurant to the city's Flats entertainment district.
Kosar's restaurant is the first announced tenant for a new $$230 million development project.

Randy Ruttenberg is with lead developer Fairmount Properties. He says Kosar's management group has agreed to open a nearly 7,000 square foot restaurant and sports bar that will be similar to the Kosar-branded Bernie's Steakhouse near Miami.

Kosar led the Browns during the late 1980s and early '90s. He keeps a home in south Florida.


Portis defends Vick — and dog-fighting

Washington Redskins running back Clinton Portis defended Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick in the dog-fighting controversy, WAVY-TV reported.

"I don't know if he was fighting dogs or not, but it's his property, it's his dog," Portis told WAVY-TV. "If that's what he wants to do, do it. I think people should mind their business."

Portis also told WAVY-TV that he knows "a lot of back roads that got the dog fight if you want to go see it" and that "if it's behind closed doors, it's OK."

Reggie Wayne ESPN the Magazine Feature Article

Click on the pictures to enlarge the article and read. Enjoy!

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Hester begins transition

LAKE FOREST — Devin Hester’s former “brothers” keep telling him what he can’t do.

“You’ve got no routes. You can’t do this. You can’t do that. We can run with you. Stuff like that. We’re just teasing him,” Bears cornerback Ricky Manning Jr. explained.

“There’s a lot of joking around, because I played DB,” Hester said as his conversion from a defensive back to wide receiver began Friday at the Bears first minicamp of 2007. The minicamp finished Sunday.

“Those guys are great guys,” Hester continued. “I spent a whole year with them and had a lot of fun. It’s like a brotherly challenge. Everyone wants to go against me as a DB.”

You know it’s a tease, because the Bears seem to think there is nothing Hester can’t do after he returned an NFL-record six kicks for touchdowns as a rookie. He added a seventh with the opening kickoff of the Super Bowl.

Franks faces challenge after disappointing season

GREEN BAY, Wis. — Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy says no starting jobs were won or lost during the team's three-day minicamp over the weekend.

That's good news for Bubba Franks, who had to share a significant amount of practice time as the first-team tight end with Donald Lee.

After failing to catch a single touchdown during a disappointing 2006 season, Franks knows he will have to compete for playing time this year and says he's returning with a fresh attitude.

The veteran went home to Miami to clear his head in the offseason. After some introspection, he admits he was being selfish last year.

"I'm more of a team player now," Franks said. "I think last year, it got to the point where I was thinking about myself. I was selfish. It comes a time in a person's career where you think you're the only one out there. But I wasn't. This year, it's going to be totally different."

Smith's diplomacy hooked Hester - Coach gradually sold move to offense

Lovie Smith can order players to do pretty much whatever he deems important for football. But when he decided Devin Hester could help the Bears more on offense than defense, he knew the move would go better if Hester bought into it.

The coach didn't want to force Hester, whose mentor and football idol is former cornerback/returner Deion Sanders, to give up being a defensive back.

So Smith started making "suggestions" to Hester over the last two months.

"It went from once a month to once a week to every day," Hester said, laughing. "So I said, 'There's no 'I' in team,' and if the head coach thinks it's going to be better for the team …

Fresh leader - Williams tackling new role on defense

ENGLEWOOD — D.J. Williams has gone from the man in the corner to the man in the middle — in more ways than one.

For the past three seasons, the Denver Broncos’ linebacker has been able to maintain a quiet presence with the public. Muted and often grumpy, he’s been sequestered in the shadows of the team’s other stars.

But his role expanded the minute linebacker and former emotional leader Al Wilson was waived in April. Williams will not only move into the middle of the team’s defense, he’s been planted firmly in the spotlight.

“I still don’t like it, but it’s the role I have now,” Williams said during a session with the media this week that might have lasted longer than the total time he spent with reporters previously in his NFL career.

Move to left a right choice for Dolphins' Carey

Dolphins offensive tackle Vernon Carey possesses the antennae for picking up the local noise, as one would expect from someone working in the town where he was born, raised, went to high school (Miami Northwestern) and college (University of Miami).

So, Carey has heard all the doubts about him since the Dolphins traded up to take him in the 2004 NFL Draft. That includes the latest skepticism, that Carey is ready to make the big move across the line from right tackle to left tackle.

Although Carey doesn't keep a Nixonesque Enemies List of those who don't believe he can handle it, he did call the disbelief ``very motivating.''

Carey said his wife, LaTavia, told him, ``You know what a challenge this is for you. A lot of people feel you can't get it done.''

Then, he said, ``People turned on me in my second year and said I wasn't worth a first-round pick. I changed their minds about me. Now, I need to change their minds about left tackle.''

Packers: Franks sees the errors of his way

GREEN BAY - Bubba Franks blames himself.

Sure, the Green Bay Packers' veteran tight end couldn't control a few things that happened to him last season - how often he was used as essentially an extra offensive lineman to help in pass protection, or how the new coaching staff took more of a liking to David Martin's skill set - but Franks admits it was his fault for not rolling with the changes better.

"It didn't matter (what the coaches did). It was the way I took it," Franks said during a break in the team's mandatory full-squad minicamp Saturday. "Regardless of what they throw at you, it's the way you take it."

Which is why Franks is apparently taking perhaps the biggest non-Brett Favre news of this camp - that he's no longer the Packers' starting tight end after holding the job since being taken in the first round of the 2000 draft - as a challenge rather than an affront.

Wayne shakes off rust, works toward another big year

They're invisible to the naked eye, but Reggie Wayne insists flecks of iron oxide fall off his body as he runs routes and snares passes from Peyton Manning.

That would be rust, which has accumulated over the months since the Indianapolis Colts' Super Bowl victory over the Chicago Bears.

"You come in kind of rusty, so you want to bang some of the rust off,'' Wayne said during a break between Saturday's two minicamp workouts. "It's just polishing up, starting to get that engine running.''

Wayne is coming off the best season of his career: 86 receptions, 1,310 yards, nine touchdowns. It earned him his first Pro Bowl selection. The task at hand is getting better.

"Got to,'' Wayne said. "Always got to get better.''

Minicamp offers tale of 2 linemen

One guy coming back, one guy maybe heading out.

As the Eagles completed their first minicamp last week, Jevon Kearse emerged from the last practice downright giddy. He's coming back from knee surgery, and he looks good and feels healthy -- and he's looking forward to the future.

"I feel like it's my rookie season now," Kearse said.

As Kearse was talking, all smiles and expectation, Jerome McDougle slung a bag over his shoulder and walked quietly to the door. McDougle has spent four disappointing years as an Eagle, since the team traded up to draft him in the first round in 2003.

He's managed just 32 solo tackles and three sacks in a career marred by injury -- including a gunshot wound that cost him the entire 2005 season.
Today he looks good and feels healthy, but McDougle's future is far more uncertain.

"There's a reason for everything," McDougle said. "Maybe God has got a plan for me, and sometime in the near future I'll know what that is."