25 February 2007

Davenport agrees to 2-year deal

The Steelers signed backup running back Najeh Davenport to a two-year, $2 million contract yesterday, paying him the kind of money that should put him high in their plans for next season.

Davenport, who would have become an unrestricted free agent, received a $405,000 signing bonus, a salary of $595,000 this year and $1 million next year. He is entering his sixth season in the NFL.

The Steelers signed Davenport to a one-year contract after their first game last season when Green Bay released him. He eventually became their backup to starter Willie Parker after Verron Haynes was injured at midseason. New coach Mike Tomlin has stated a preference for using two running backs, something that is becoming a trend in the NFL.

Davenport, 6 feet 1 and 247 pounds, gained 221 yards on 60 carries last season and also returned kickoffs.


Bucs Bring Back Buchanon

In a move that bolsters the team’s depth at cornerback for the 2007 season, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have signed unrestricted free agent cornerback Phillip Buchanon.

Buchanon, who joined the Bucs in mid-October of last season after beginning the season with the Houston Texans, performed well for Tampa Bay, playing in 10 games and starting four. Seeing increased playing time due to a nagging turf-toe injury that eventually sidelined starter Brian Kelly for the season, the former first-round pick made the most of his opportunity, fitting into the Bucs’ Cover Two defense well.

Buchanon actually became a free agent on Friday when the new league year began, but he quickly returned to the Buccaneers.

Suns' Jones saved by leather ball - Former Pacer struggled shooting synthetic ball

PHOENIX -- James Jones' place in the Phoenix Suns' rotation was on the ropes at the end of December.

Then he was saved by the ball.

The former Indiana Pacers guard is a niche player, his employment status relying almost exclusively on his jump shot. When he struggled to get comfortable with the synthetic ball the NBA introduced at the start of this season, he paid for it with playing time.

Jones, who started Friday's game against the Pacers at U.S. Airways Center in place of the injured Shawn Marion, scored in double figures just once in the team's 31 games.

Burrell feasts on Seminoles

Forgetting his roots, Phillies outfielder Pat Burrell didn’t realize the coach of an old college rival was having a little fun by bluffing a first inning intentional walk with first base occupied.

"I didn’t know what was going on," Burrell said after playing three innings of the Phillies’ exhibition opener Wednesday night, a 12-4 thumping of college power Florida State.    FSU coach Mike Martin simply was reliving memories from the mid-1990s when Burrell was an All-American third baseman at Miami who feasted on ’Noles pitching.   

Dan Morgan Update

Morgan's future with Carolina had been uncertain since he suffered at least the fifth concussion of his career in last season's opening game against Atlanta.

Doctors told him to sit out the final 15 games, and Morgan declared he was cleared to play in 2007 on Jan. 1, the day after the Panthers finished a disappointing 8-8 season.

The middle linebacker was due a $2 million roster bonus Thursday. The reworked deal makes his contract more salary-cap friendly.

Still, there are questions about Morgan's ability to stay on the field. He's missed 40 of 96 games in his six-year Panthers' career because of concussions and other injuries. Studies have shown players with multiple concussions are more likely to suffer additional concussions, and there are concerns about long-term damage.


Jonathan Vilma Update

If the London Fletcher-Baker deal isn't consummated and Buffalo's Nate Clements opts to sign elsewhere, the Redskins could trade for Jets middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma.


Boras lends Cora, Red Sox a hand

FORT MYERS, Fla. - It was well into a hot Florida afternoon, late enough that the rest of the Boston Red Sox major leaguers had already exited the team's minor league complex.

But out on Field No. 5, two men were doing all kinds of awkward-looking drills involving cones, rubber bands and other devices. Alex Cora and his trainer, Jose Cruz, were executing the plan laid out by a most unlikely director.

Scott Boras, of all people, has shown Cora the light.

"Scott and I talked about it and he said if you keep your legs and range, you're going to keep making money," the Sox utility infielder said. "I turned 31, but if I keep doing what I'm doing, there will be a few options out there, not breaking the bank, but making some money."

John Salmons Update

John Salmons started in place of injured Ron Artest (knee) and had 15 points, five rebounds, five assists, two steals and a three in a high-scoring win over the Bobcats.

Salmons hit just 3-of-5 shots on the night, but got to the line 10 times, connecting on eight freebies. He doesn't have much value when the Kings are at full strength, but if Artest is going to miss time with his knee injury, Salmons will be a good fantasy play.


Devin Hester Update

Don't be surprised to see Bears Pro Bowl RS Devin Hester on offense in 2007. "That's something that I think our coaches are going to talk about at length. It wouldn't surprise me," Chicago GM Jerry Angelo said at the scouting combine.


Schmidt Wants to Help Burrell

CLEARWATER, Fla. (AP) - February 26, 2007 - Mike Schmidt says he can relate to Pat Burrell's struggles, though the Hall of Fame third baseman and the enigmatic left fielder don't have a close relationship.

"To me, Pat is the guy I identify with on the team," said Schmidt, who arrived at Phillies camp on Monday to serve a 10-day stint as a special instructor. "I don't know that Pat really feels that from me. We're not that close. I've reached out. Maybe he doesn't want to accept it.

"I root for him a lot. I see myself in him so much for a lot of reasons - the approach to hitting, having to deal with strikeouts, the adrenalin factor and how it affects your ability to hit, wanting to do so bad in front of the Philly fans."

Robert Hite Update

Robert Hite has been a good scoring threat for the Skyforce, and he had 20 points on 9/13 shooting against the Flyers.


Randal Hill - Ex-WR Now Catching Criminals

On the football field, former NFL wide receiver Randal Hill made the most of his blazing speed and intensity to effectively get his job done. 

"My biggest asset was speed," said Hill, who spent seven solid years in the NFL.  "But I also didn't drop many balls or fumble.  I was highly aggressive and played with intensity." 

Before making his mark on the pro level, Hill was a star receiver for the University of Miami (Fla.), where his amazing speed earned him the nickname "Thrill" Hill.  He finished his collegiate career with 107 catches for 1,643 yards and 11 touchdowns and was a part of the 1987 national champion Hurricanes squad.  

Starting Lines: McGahee Not `Untouchable'

Coach Dick Jauron said Monday the Bills would listen to trade offers for running back Willis McGahee. "It's in our best interest to listen to everybody, and no people are untouchable," Jauron said at the scouting combine in Indianapolis. Last week, new general manager Jerry Reese said the Giants would be interested in McGahee to replace the retired Tiki Barber.


Schmidt tries to defuse his critical remarks of Phillies' Burrell

CLEARWATER, Fla. - Last month, Mike Schmidt made headlines when he candidly talked about Pat Burrell. Monday, the Hall of Fame third baseman sought to clarify, and, as a result, even more questions - and attention - were drawn to Burrell, who's emerged as one of the most popular topics in Phillies camp.

Can Schmidt help Burrell?

Does he want to help him?

Is there hope for the leftfielder?

Schmidt started this conversation in January when he told the Dayton Daily News that Burrell and the Reds' Adam Dunn "tick me off" because they strike out too much. "What they are doing now is not great, it is mediocrity," he said. Those words quickly found Burrell, and Burrell seemed more than just annoyed, most likely because Schmidt has criticized Burrell's approach to hitting in the past.

Salmons returns with Kings, better stats

PHILADELPHIA -- John Salmons tried hard to be diplomatic when asked about former 76ers teammate Allen Iverson.

Salmons, a Philadelphia native, returned Monday night for the first time since he signed a five-year, $25.5 million contract with Sacramento last summer. He said he's happy with the Kings and he wanted to put his experience with the Sixers behind him. But Salmons couldn't resist. Not entirely.

"I'm happy for [the Sixers] now because all that stuff is over with," Salmons said. "They're just playing free."

Salmons was then asked if it was tough playing with Iverson. The two were together in Philadelphia for four seasons, during which Salmons averaged 5.1 points, 2.1 rebounds and 1.8 assists.

Hester may get chance on offense next season

INDIANAPOLIS — It’s not official yet, but indications are that the Bears might not be able to resist the temptation to move Devin Hester to offense.

The latter of the Bears’ two second-round picks, 57th overall, Hester spent his rookie season developing his limited cornerback techniques but made an instant impact by returning 6 kicks for touchdowns, plus another in the Super Bowl.

“We need to get the ball in Devin’s hands,” coach Lovie Smith said. “The more times we put the ball in Devin’s hands, the better our chances are.”

When late-season injuries to starting cornerbacks Charles Tillman and Nate Vasher forced Hester onto the field as the nickel cornerback in passing situations, his production in the return game dipped. But special teams coordinator Dave Toub doesn’t foresee any problems next season.

Winslow 'making good progress' after latest surgery

CLEVELAND -- Kellen Winslow has to make another comeback. The Browns' talented tight end underwent microfracture surgery on his right knee last month, a more extensive procedure than was initially revealed and one that will require a longer recovery. Winslow, who tied a team record for receptions last season despite missing nearly two seasons with injuries and being slowed by a bad knee, remains on crutches following the Jan. 30 operation to remove scar tissue and repair cartilage. Microfracture surgery involves drilling holes into bone in the knee to promote blood flow and form scar tissue, which replaces any damaged cartilage.

Notes: Burrell recalls college days - Former Miami star, Phils face Florida State on Wednesday

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Most players see the start of exhibition games as the next step toward the regular season, with fewer workouts and taking the field against players wearing different uniforms.

Pat Burrell has an added incentive for the Phillies' first game, against Florida State University on Wednesday at 6:35 p.m. ET at Bright House Networks Field. The left fielder, who starred at the University of Miami for three seasons, wants blood against his former rival school.

Actually, he doesn't, but he's laughed at the thought. Instead, Burrell remembered getting a similar thrill while in college.

Piazza Still Has All the Tools - A's New DH Reports With Little-Needed Catcher's Gear

PHOENIX, Feb. 22 -- Mike Piazza showed up at the Oakland Athletics' camp early Thursday morning -- the day of the team's first full-squad workout, and six days after its pitchers and catchers reported -- with an enormous green Spalding duffel bag, the kind favored by catchers, slung over his shoulder. Inside it was some catching gear, including five mitts -- three brand-new ones still in their plastic wrap, the other two used, one of which was wrapped tightly with shoelaces to help get it conditioned -- and some bats.

But when Piazza followed his new teammates into the glaring desert sun for the workout, all but the bats stayed behind in his locker. The catching gear was still there, untouched, when the workout ended some four hours later. And it is safe to say Piazza's newest mitts will still be wrapped in plastic when this season ends, if the A's have their way.

Eric Winston Update

Kubiak hinted that Spencer's uncertain future means the team could give ORT Eric Winston a shot on the left side. Winston started seven games at right tackle as a rookie in 2006, but he played left tackle at Miami (Fla.). However, some evaluators believe Winston might be best-suited at guard.


Piazza getting prepped for new role - Longtime catcher adjusting to season as full-time DH


PHOENIX -- Mike Piazza will be Oakland's third-string catcher this season, but don't expect to see Adam Melhuse walking around with his chest puffed out because he's ahead of a future Hall of Famer on the depth chart.

Like everyone else in the world, Melhuse knows exactly why the A's signed Piazza. It's the same reason he's a lock to someday land in Cooperstown, and why new manager Bob Geren respectfully declined Piazza's offer to catch in the bullpen on Thursday during the club's first full-squad workout at Papago Park.

"Just get yourself ready to hit," Geren told Piazza, who admitted that adjusting his new role as a full-time designated hitter won't be easy.

Bills put McGahee on trading block; Giants interested

02/24/2007 13:50 PM - The Buffalo Bills are using part of their time here at the NFL scouting combine this weekend to apprise teams that starting tailback Willis McGahee is available via trade, and it appears they have attracted the interest of at least one potential suitor.

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Buffalo Bills are using part of their time here at the NFL scouting combine this weekend to apprise teams that starting tailback Willis McGahee is available via trade, and it appears they have attracted the interest of at least one potential suitor.

Jerry Reese, the first-year general manager of the New York Giants, acknowledged on Saturday morning that his team has some interest in McGahee, a four-year veteran who has twice posted 1,000-yard seasons.

"There is some talk about Willis out there," Reese said. "We'll investigate Willis. We'll investigate everybody out there with trade talks. We'll leave no stones unturned."

Bears' Hester to see more action on 'O'

INDIANAPOLIS -- Bears general manager Jerry Angelo pondered the question for a few seconds.

"Do you have a player on offense who other teams fear and say they have to stop when they play you?"

Angelo produced the name of wide receiver Bernard Berrian. Although his numbers hit career highs of 51 catches, 775 yards and six touchdowns, they didn't put Berrian among the league's best receivers.

The real threat teams feared is the one who became the first player ever to return an opening kickoff for a Super Bowl touchdown and the first with six regular-season returns for TDs. That, of course, was rookie Devin Hester.

What does Antrel Rolle need to improve on?

We are going to change some things defensively this year a little bit that will help him.  The biggest thing for Antrel is technique. From looking at him on tape, there are a little bit of inconsistency with his alignment and how he played things. Hopefully we will get those things cleaned up. My impression is he is a young player who wants to be good and that is a good sign.


Beason choice a mistake?

Did linebacker Jon Beason make a mistake by skipping his senior season to enter the NFL Draft?

Seems like he did if you believe NFL Draft expert Mel Kiper. According to Kiper, Beason is no better than a third-round pick and may slip into the fourth round.

I haven’t talked to Beason since mid-January, but I can assure you he wasn’t thinking about the fourth round when he decided to come out.

Cards not ruling out shopping for another back

INDIANAPOLIS • Adrian Peterson, Arizona Cardinal? It’s a crazy notion. Running back would seem to be far down the list of draft needs for the Cardinals, especially after handing Edgerrin James a four-year, $30  million contract last offseason.

But new coach Ken Whisenhunt has talked about the need for another back to step in and lighten James’ load after James piled up 337 carries last season. With the explosion of successful teams with two good halfbacks — think New Orleans with Deuce McAllister and Reggie Bush, Chicago with Thomas Jones and Cedric Benson, Indianapolis with Joseph Addai and Dominic Rhodes — teaming Peterson with James isn’t far-fetched.

Subtly feeding into the idea is Cardinals vice president of football operations Rod Graves, who said his goal of free agency is “take the pressure off feeling we have to address a certain position with our No. 1 pick.”

Hester could be the Bears' weapon of choice

NDIANAPOLIS — Bears general manager Jerry Angelo pondered the question for a few seconds.

“Do you have a player on offense who other teams fear and say they have to stop when they play you?”

Angelo produced the name of wide receiver Bernard Berrian. Although his numbers hit career highs of 51 catches, 775 yards and six touchdowns, they didn’t put Berrian among the league’s best receivers.

So much riding on Burrell's bat

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- At least twice in the offseason, Phillies manager Charlie Manuel phoned Pat Burrell, just to say hello and catch up on life.

Rarely did they discuss baseball.

If anything, Manuel didn't want the Phillies' most reviled player to think about the game, and the relentless booing of the Citizens Bank Park faithful that still was ringing in his ears from last season.

It didn't matter that Burrell had blasted 29 home runs and racked up 95 RBIs, production equaled or exceeded by just 32 players. Because of his .222 batting average with runners in scoring position, his major league-leading 63 called third strikes, a gimpy right foot that hobbled him in the outfield and on the bases, his often-surly attitude and a $9.5 million salary, he had more critics than the White House.

A Look Back at Last Week's proCanes.como Top Stories

- Jim Carrey Is a Devin Hester Fan
- UM's Olsen may be best of tight ends class
- Mike Piazza adjusting to a world without glove
- Winslow's surgery was more extensive
- Bunting boo-boo sidelines Graves
- Alouettes sign Jarrett Payton
- Winslow recovery will take months - Type of knee surgery isn't always successful
- Vernon Carey Update
- How Does Michael Irvin Rank Amongst the Top Receivers of All-Time?
- Video Feature of Jeff Feagles' Career
- Miami's Olsen aims for first round in NFL draft
- Michael Irvin, ESPN part ways
- Huff excited to get started