Shockey scratched

Jeremy Shockey pulled out of the Pro Bowl on Friday, nearly a month after a sprained left ankle forced him to miss the Giants' regular-season finale against Washington. Dallas' Jason Witten will take his spot on the NFC roster.

Shockey was injured on a fourth-quarter hit from Jay Bellamy in the Dec. 24 loss to New Orleans. But the tight end fought off the injury to catch three passes in the first-round playoff loss to Philadelphia, although he hobbled off the field several times. He also battled an injured left ring finger, dislocated during a pre-game workout in Tennessee on Nov. 26.

Shockey was voted to his fourth Pro Bowl in his first five seasons after registering a team-high 66 catches for 623 yards and seven touchdowns.

The Giants' off-season program begins March 19, although it is unknown whether Shockey will participate or continue with his annual spring workout in


Toledo's own returns to Ohio

Those who knew Rob Chudzinski as a person, student and athlete growing up in Northwest Ohio always knew he had big things ahead of him.

Chudzinski attended St. John's High School in Toledo - about 100 miles west of Cleveland, where he was named offensive coordinator of the Browns on January 20.

He wasn't the biggest or strongest athlete around, but his work ethic and attention to detail immediately thrust him to the forefront, as have they in his coaching career.

At the mere age of 38, he already has served as offensive coordinator of the Miami Hurricanes, winning a NCAA championship, has helped developed star tight ends in Bubba Franks, Jeremy Shockey, Kellen Winslow and the Chargers' Antonio Gates, and now is one of the youngest offensive coordinators in the NFL.

Still with him - Wayne carries reminders of deceased brother

There are two pictures on the wall of Reggie Wayne's locker at the Indianapolis Colts' practice facility.

There's one inside a horseshoe-shaped frame. It's a photo of Rashad, his 32-year-old brother, who died in September when a delivery truck he was driving crashed into a highway guardrail in Kenner, La.

There's another picture. Rashad's prized Mustang. One of a number of his brother's "hoopties" -- that is, tricked-out rides.

"He had so many (pictures), me and my brother were cleaning out his apartment, I just reached in there and the first one I grabbed, that was going to be the one," Wayne said Thursday as the Colts prepared for Super Bowl XLI against the Chicago Bears in Miami. "I have a whole other shrine at my house. So many pictures of him, IDs, stuff like that.''

This rookie has no ego about what he can do

Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy fears him. Bears coach Lovie Smith says he could be the difference maker. So how does Bears rookie return man Devin Hester feel about his role in the Super Bowl?

''I don't feel like I have to go out and return a punt or a kickoff to prove anything,'' Hester said. ''I just want to have a solid game.''

Ever humble and shy, Hester spoke softly, looking downward. But when Desmond Howard's name was mentioned, the 24-year-old looked up and smiled. Does he remember what Howard did a decade ago in Super Bowl XXXI?

''Oh, yeah, he came out on top as the MVP of the Super Bowl,'' Hester said.

Brett Romberg Update

Brett Romberg was a late-season surprise who plays with good leverage and savvy. Romberg emerged from the practice squad and started the last three games, and rookie Mark Setterstrom, a seventh-round pick, finished the year as the starter at the guard.


Faith helps keep Hester ready for takeoff

On the greatest night of Devin Hester's professional life, it almost seemed like he could fly.

Stunning the nation and the St. Louis Rams with a Monday Night Football tour de force, Hester returned two kickoffs for touchdowns. Those 94- and 96-yard runs put the rookie in the NFL record book with six return touchdowns on the season.

And since he seemed so ready to take off, it seemed only natural to ask Hester about the wings tattooed on his back. They are large, arcing over his shoulder blades and following the line of his lats, cradling between them this phrase:

"No weapon formed against you shall prosper and every tongue which rises against you in judgment you shall condemn."

Pat not essential to Phils' success

PHILADELPHIA — Pat Burrell has become the Donovan McNabb of the Phillies, the player on whom the most unreasonable of Philly fans pin every unmet expectation, every disappointing defeat.

Yes, he's more deserving of the boos and public frustration than McNabb is — Burrell did hit .217 with runners in scoring position last season, after all. Beyond that, Burrell has somehow become the cause of all that ails the Phillies.

The 131 strikeouts last season, the way he limped around left field with his injured ankle, his back leg breaking down and turning his swing into an ugly uppercut — he's the easiest target on the team.

They couldn't trade him? Why couldn't they trade him?

BRICKER: Hester could exploit Colts' big weakness

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Indianapolis will have a predicted edge in most of the matchup areas in Super Bowl XLI, but the one facet of this game that is heavily weighted in the Chicago Bears' favor is kick returning.

It's also the area that the Colts must spend an inordinate amount of time dealing with in the days before the game, and there is going to be a great deal of pressure on special teams coach Russ Purnell to make things better.

It's difficult enough that Purnell's kickoff coverage unit is facing Devin Hester, who has six kick returns for touchdowns this year. But his unit has done a poor job all season, right into the playoffs, where they gave up an 80-yard kickoff return to New England's Ellis Hobbs on Sunday.

Frank Gore Update

The Niners realize it would behoove them to give ace RB Frank Gore a healthy raise before his contract expires after the 2007 season. However, the way we hear it, negotiations with Gore's agent, Drew Rosenhaus, will hardly be cut and dried, since, regardless of Gore's great success, they still consider him a 24-year-old running back in a 30-year-old's body. Another valued young Niner with the same contract situation as Gore, starting ORG Justin Smiley, is a good bet to be re-signed first.


Devin Hester, the Bears' Super Bowl X-Factor

Everybody knows it: Super Bowls often come down to special teams play.

In Super Bowl XXXVI, the Patriots squeaked out a 20-17 win over the Rams thanks to a game-winning kick from Adam Vinatieri. Vinatieri repeated those heroics in Super Bowl XXXVIII, helping the Pats edge the Panthers 31-28.

But big special teams performances aren’t the realm of kickers alone. With that in mind, and with Super Bowl XLI less than two weeks away, it’s hard to understand why the Chicago Bears’ most potent weapon is being entirely ignored by the media.

Robert Hite Update

Hite's development has come at the team's confidence in him combined with his natural talent. Being given a chance, if you will. Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.

But, this young kid from Cincinnati, Ohio has never been afraid of hard work to achieve any task or obstacle thrown at him. People said he was too small, not strong enough, that he couldn't handle the rock. That same detracting mentality is why Gilbert Arenas wears the number '0' ... and pops 60-point games on bona fide superstars.

Hite will get there someday. he's certainly in the right support network.  "I've just been trying to prove people wrong my whole life," he said. "All I can do is just play hard and keep working and hopefully everything works out for me."

It will for Hite and it will for the Heat, because of the way this team embraces one another and moves forward. It's respectable, to say the least. And thought it's not measurable on paper, in the end, they'll win more games because of it.


Bills' Everett a no-show last season

Entering the 2006 NFL season, many in Buffalo were holding out hope that second-year tight end Kevin Everett would emerge as a true offensive threat for the Bills. The 2005 third-round pick from the University of Miami was coming off a severe knee injury that stopped him from playing as a rookie.

Aside from Everett, the Bills' tight end stable for '06 included less-than-household names like Robert Royal, Brad Cieslak and Ryan Neufeld. Despite that, Everett never caught on his first real season as a pro. The former junior college transfer started in four of Buffalo's 16 games, catching just one pass for one yard. To say the soon-to-be 25-year-old was nonexistent would be an understatement. In fact, he was almost ghostly.

Buffalo's young quarterback, J.P. Losman, could have used a solid tight end as a security blanket. The position only produced 31 receptions (fewer than two per game), 284 yards (17.6 per contest) and four touchdowns, three of which came from the veteran Royal. Losman, who was in his first full campaign as a starting QB, was among the AFC's better passers, but he no doubt would have improved further with a more competent pass-catching TE.

Ravens' Ray Lewis earns 8th Pro Bowl berth

BALTIMORE (AP) -Ray Lewis is going to the Pro Bowl, after all.

The Baltimore Ravens' middle linebacker earned an eighth trip to Hawaii on Wednesday, replacing injured linebacker Al Wilson of the Denver Broncos on the AFC squad. Lewis was named a first alternate last month.

Lewis led the Ravens' top-ranked defense with 164 tackles, the ninth time in his 11-year career he finished as Baltimore's leading tackler. He also had five sacks and two interceptions.

Lewis is the sixth member of the Ravens to be named to the Pro Bowl. Safety Ed Reed, offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden and outside linebacker Adalius Thomas were picked to be starters. Linebacker Terrell Suggs and cornerback Chris McAlister will head to Hawaii as reserves.

Is Chud Another Dud?

Fans love it when teams think like them. Judged purely on that, the Browns are the darlings of Cleveland.

We love it when the local team brings in local guys. It gives a sense that the team is truly comprised of "our boys," players and coaches who truly know the pain we've been through as fans these past four decades.

Give Browns management credit for trying to play up the local angle as much as possible. From Charlie Frye to Joe Jurevicius to Dave Zastudil to LeCharles Bentley, the roster is overflowing with native Ohioans.

GM Phil Savage and coach Romeo Crennel both had prior ties to the Browns upon accepting their current jobs.

Devin Hester's Impact on the Super Bowl

This is where Devin Hester could pull Chicago’s fat out of the fire. He has become a household name in his own right, scoring six return touchdowns – one more TD than wide receiver Muhsin Muhammad. Hester was also second in the NFL with 12.8 yards per punt return, while Indianapolis’ Terrence Wilkins was a mediocre 9.2 yards. Hester also topped Wilkins in kick returns by 26.5 yards to 24.5. Those yards add up over the course of a game and take pressure off the unproven shoulders of Bears QB Rex Grossman.

Yet even with Hester, there is a hidden story that should make Bears supporters pause before laying down their cash. Hester committed 12 fumbles this year on returns. It’s not uncommon for returners to let the ball slip through their hands – Wilkins did so 13 times this year – only to pick it up right away and start heading downfield.

Hester, though, has suffered his share of embarrassing moments. For example, in Week 9, Eddie Jackson of the Miami Dolphins recovered a Hester fumble at the 10-yard line to set up a Marty Booker touchdown in a 31-13 Miami romp, spoiling any hopes for an undefeated season in Chicago.


Santonio Thomas Update

The Patriots yesterday signed Santonio Thomas off their practice squad earning a promotion.

Quadtrine Hill Update

The Patriots yesterday signed Quadtrine Hill off their practice squad earning a promotion.

James ‘super excited’ for ex-teammates

Edgerrin James is in Miami. Soon the Indianapolis Colts will be, too. And that’s fine with the Cardinals running back, who left the Colts to sign with Arizona as a free agent almost a year ago — and a year before his original NFL team finally made it to the Super Bowl.

Echoing similar thoughts he repeated all season, James said rather than feeling he is missing out he instead is “super excited” his former team has reached Super Bowl XLI.

“I’ve always said I wanted to see the Colts in the Super Bowl,” James said in a phone interview from Florida. “All the pieces were there.”

NFL Network's Coverage of the Senior Bowl

Two potential new proCanes, Kareem Brown and Brandon Merriweather are participating in the Senior Bowl this week. Below is a list of the NFL Network's coverage of the Senior Bowl where hopefully we can get a glimpse of Brown and Merriweather.

Tuesday, Jan. 23
10:30 a.m. - Day 2 Morning Practice (90 minutes)
5 p.m. - Day 2 Afternoon Practice (2 hours)
9:30 p.m. - Path to the Draft: Day 2 Recap (30 minutes)

Wednesday, Jan. 24
10:30 a.m. - Day 3 Morning Practice (90 minutes)
5 p.m. - Day 3 Afternoon Practice (2 hours)
9:30 p.m. - Path to the Draft: Day 3 Recap (30 minutes)

Thursday, Jan. 25
10:30 a.m. - Day 4 Morning Practice (90 minutes)
5 p.m. - Day 4 Afternoon Practice (2 hours)
8 p.m. - Path to the Draft: Day 4 Recap (30 minutes)

Saturday, Jan. 27
3 p.m. - NFL Total Access pregame show (1 hour)
4 p.m. - 2007 Under Armour Senior Bowl, Live (3 hours)
7 p.m. - NFL Total Access postgame show (1 hour)

NFL Conference Championship Weekend Video Highlights

Check out the Conference Championship Playoffs Video Highlights featuring Reggie Wayne! Click at the top on NFL U Video Highlights or click here!

Threat of Hester has Dungy worried

INDIANAPOLIS -- New England has what might be the NFL's premier return game, and it forced the Indianapolis Colts to labor in Sunday's AFC championship victory.

Ellis Hobbs returned six kickoffs for 220 yards, a record for a conference title game. He set up a touchdown with an 80-yard runback and triggered a field-goal drive with a 41-yard return.

When the Colts meet the Bears in Super Bowl XLI, the challenge will be Devin Hester.

"We covered pretty well for the most part, and then we let those two [Hobbs returns] get out," Colts coach Tony Dungy said.

"With a guy like Devin Hester, that can be catastrophic.

"That's a big part of what they do and how they're built. They get field position with their defense, they get field position with their return game and they've got an offense that really takes advantage of good field position. That's going to be critical."

Hester set an NFL record with six touchdown returns in the regular season: two on kickoffs, three on punts and one on a missed field goal.


Robert Hite Update

As for rookie guard Robert Hite, the former University of Miami standout who was arrested on a DUI charge over the weekend, he’ll be away from the team foran undetermined amount of time. The team released a statement from president/coach Pat Riley saying:

“Because this is a pending legal matter, we are limited by what we can comment on. That said, Robert has personally apologized to me, to the team, ownership and his family to the extent that his arrest has caused any embarrassment. We feel confident that Robert is acutely aware of the seriousness of the incident and understands that his actions in his personal life have an impact, not only on himself and his family, but on our entire organization and set an example for the youth in our community.

While we stand behind our players, we want to make it clear in a public forum that the Miami HEAT takes great pride in being an outstanding community leader and expects the same of its players. Robert and I have mutually agreed that he take some time away from the team to try and get his personal issues in order.

The team will have no further comment on this issue.”



Bears return specialist Devin Hester can't wait to get down to South Florida for the Super Bowl. After all, he's only one season removed from the University of Miami, where he starred for the Hurricanes.

Many of his friends still play for UM.

''They were text-messaging me all week,'' he said.


NFL U Playoffs Update

Still in the Playoffs: Reggie Wayne, Devin Hester, Darrel McClover.

Out of the Playoffs: Vinny Testaverde, Vince Wilfork.

Congrats to Those Remaining!

Heat rookie guard Hite charged with DUI, misses game

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. -- Heat rookie Robert Hite was charged with driving under the influence early Sunday, and missed Miami's game against Dallas.

According to the Miami Beach Police report, which was first obtained by Miami television station WSVN, an officer detected a "strong odor of an alcoholic beverage on his breath" after the player was stopped for speeding. The report also said Hite's eyes were bloodshot and his speech slurred.

Hite was processed and released on $1,000 bond at about 2 p.m., Miami-Dade Corrections spokeswoman Janelle Hall said. Hite was not at the arena for the Heat's game, which began at 1 p.m.

One for the ring for Testaverde

INDIANAPOLIS - After 20 seasons as an NFL quarterback, Vinny Testaverde has a rather modest goal for tonight's game.
"I'd love to take a knee. I wouldn't need to do anything more."

Take the snap from center Dan Koppen, drop his knee, count his blessings and try not to smile too broadly behind his facemask.

Take a knee and watch the scoreboard clock in the RCA Dome count off the final seconds to tonight's AFC championship game. Take a knee and watch the celebration on the New England sideline. The game has been won.

Take a knee and realize for the first time in a very long career that he's going to the Super Bowl. Tom Brady may throw the winning touchdown pass or Corey Dillon could run in the winning touchdown.

A Bush in hand sure beats McGahee

It's one of those opinionated Sundays . . .

Allow me to cast another vote urging the Bills to drop Willis McGahee on his head.

As for his so-called written "apology" for a Penthouse interview in which he urged the Bills be moved to Toronto in order to brighten his social life, I suspect that his opening line - "It has come to my attention" - was never thought, much less spoken, by McGahee in his entire life.

Aside from his over-inflated ego, refusal to leave Miami to work out with his teammates in their offseason conditioning program and his inability to distinguish third down from fourth down, there is a more important reason to replace McGahee. The Bills need someone to convert on third-and-1 in order to keep drives alive. He doesn't do it often enough.

It's a pretty good year for running backs in the draft. If Buffalo wanted to invest a first-round choice in one of them, the top two, Marshawn Lynch of California and Adrian Peterson of Oklahoma, likely would be gone before the Bills' turn at No. 12. There is an off-chance Antonio Pittman of Ohio State or Kenny Irons of Auburn would last until Round Two, but the most tempting possibility in Buffalo's top spot might be Michael Bush of Louisville.
Bush, a preseason Heisman Trophy candidate, broke his leg in the opening game. His recovery would have to be medically certified, but if he's healthy he's a 6-foot-3, 250-pounder with outstanding speed. He was recruited as a quarterback.


Catch-23: Hester thinks too much

It's a beautiful thing when Devin Hester runs the ball, fluid and instinctive. He looks for the colors of the jerseys in front of him, nothing too heady, and then runs away from the wrong color. Or he slips through holes in between colors, and then? He flies.

''Obviously,'' Bears special-teams coach Dave Toub said, ''after the catch, there's nobody like him.''

Yes, but Toub said two things there, didn't he? ''Nobody like him'' and ''after the catch.'' We've seen the problems with that second part lately, the catching part. Hester has become the scariest Bear, scaring us before the catch, scaring opponents after.

What has happened? For most of the season, Hester has been touchdowns and spotlight, NFL return records, endorsement options and even Deion
Sanders, the mentor, showing awe.

Chudzinski takes over as new OC

BEREA — On the surface, you have to wonder why Rob Chudzinski decided to accept the offensive coordinator role with the Browns.

Chudzinski, who spent the last two seasons coaching tight ends in San Diego, had a chance to interview for the Chargers’ coordinator position that opened when Cam Cameron left to coach the Miami Dolphins. If he had been offered that post, he would have had LaDainian Tomlinson, Philip Rivers, Antonio Gates and an outstanding offensive line at his disposal.

Instead, Chudzinski assumes the reins of an offense that was 30th in the NFL in scoring, 31st in total yards and 31st in rushing yards last season. No one knows who will be the quarterback, and the line is a mess.

Why take on such a responsibility? It has to do with Chudzinski’s love of the Browns. He grew up in Toledo, where he attended St. John’s High School. He often watched Browns games on television, looking through a window while playing football in the front yard of his parents’ home.

Silent of late, Hester still dangerous

Of late, the Lethal Weapon hasn't looked so lethal.

Chicago rookie Devin Hester, who this season set an NFL record with six returns for touchdowns, has been rendered ineffective of late by other teams' designs and his own mistakes.

In his past three games, Hester has returned eight punts for a total of 24 yards. In the Bears' playoff game against Seattle, he muffed three kicks, finishing with three returns for a net of 5 yards.