NFL star has a new play for Broward - Former football star Michael Irvin is coming home to help revitalize the Broward area where he grew up.

Former Dallas Cowboy wide receiver Michael Irvin vividly recalls the shock of his two sons when they saw the modest Fort Lauderdale house where he grew up. They told him, ``Dad stop lying. You didn't grow up here.''

Those words from Michael, now 10, and Elijah, now 8, brought Irvin's memories of the past flooding back to him. It's a time of his life that Irvin admits he has been running away from ever since he graduated from St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Fort Lauderdale, received a football scholarship to the University of Miami and ultimately was drafted to play for the Dallas Cowboys.

''I wanted out of here so bad,'' said Irvin, who gets emotional recalling how he would never let his friends from St. Thomas visit his house off Northwest 27th Avenue near Dillard High School and always envied their fancier homes. ``I wanted better.''

Franks' starting days may be over

Bubba Franks tried to fend off the question before it was asked.

Before a reporter reached Franks' locker on Thursday afternoon, the Green Bay Packers' tight end offered this: "I don't want to talk about being on the second team."

Yet on the second day of the voluntary organized team activities — and the first session that was open to reporters — Franks' apparent demotion stood out.

When the No. 1 offense took the field for the first time during a team period, Franks was on the sideline. The Packers opened in a two-tight end set, and the first reps went to Donald Lee and Tory Humphrey. On the next play, fullback Brandon Miree replaced Humphrey, leaving Lee on the field. Franks got only a handful of reps during the team periods of Thursday's two-hour practice.

Edgerrin James Returns to Cardinals Practice

Despite some conflicting reports on his whereabouts, Cardinals running back Edgerrin James did return to organized team activities earlier this week as expected. His arrival came shortly after Coach Ken Whisenhunt got him on the horn and said that he needed him in the Valley.

"He said, 'I am going to be there at some point,' and I said, 'Edgerrin, I need you here,' " Whisenhunt said. "He said, 'I'm gonna be there Coach, I've got my calendar.' I said, 'Bring it in and we'll talk about it.' And that's all I can ask for."

It's really nice to see James answer the call. Although he would probably prefer to be in Florida working out with the Giants Plaxico Burress and Jeremy Shockey, the team comes first and rhythm with teammates is extremely important.

By all accounts, James is expected to return next Monday and spend the entire week (Thursday) with the team as they round out their OTA's. From there he'll likely go back to Florida and workout until training camp begins on July 30th.


Pocket fuel: With Schaub, Houston preps for liftoff

The relationship that could revitalize the Texans was born in a restroom on South Beach.


Andre Johnson, the Texans' star receiver, was relaxing at the News Cafe in Miami back in March, eating lunch with former Miami Hurricanes teammates Reggie Wayne, Santana Moss and D.J. Williams. Matt Schaub, whose term as the Texans' starting quarterback still was best measured in hours, called to introduce himself, but Johnson couldn't hear a thing over the commotion of the lively South Beach afternoon. So he sought decibel refuge in the only place he could find -- a nearby bathroom.

That's improvisation at its best, and it's a skill Johnson will put to good use when he's trying to flash open as Schaub scrambles to avoid the pass rush that has long been the cattle prod in the Texans' side. The duo's methods -- and settings -- of communication have improved since the getting-to-know-you call in Miami, and the Schaub-to-Johnson combo could be just what inches the Texans toward their first playoff berth. The new teammates have been throwing and catching two to three times per week since April 2, and by now they've connected on "more passes than I could even ballpark a guess on," Schaub says.

Giants' Burress and Shockey Pull Disappearing Act ... Again

The Giants began their third round of organized team activities yesterday and surprise, surprise, surprise, tight end Jeremy Shockey and wide receiver Plaxico Burress were no where to be found.

"You've just got to accept it," Eli Manning said. "I've got to do what I've got to do. You make the best out of it. Whoever comes to practice, I'll try to get the best out of them."

It sounds like Manning is waiving the white flag and I suppose the fans and organization should do the same. While Burress and Shockey reluctantly showed up earlier this month, it's apparent that is the most effort they're going to give.

I'm a bit disappointed to learn about their most recent disappearing act because I truly thought they had turned a corner. Sadly, that's not the case at all and they won't be getting the additional work with their young quarterback like the team so badly needs.


Everett looking for progress - Bills’ third-year tight end pegged to be game breaker

Kevin Everett is a potential breakthrough performer for the Buffalo Bills this year.

The 6-foot-5, 255-pound tight end is one of the young players on the team who has the talent to become not just an average player but an impact player. He’s also at the point in his career, entering his second full season on the field and third overall, at which his breakthrough could happen.

The question is: Can a guy who caught one pass for 1 yard for the entire 2006 season make a big step forward?

The Bills have seen reason to be hopeful through the first six days of spring practices.

“We’ll see, but I’ve certainly liked what I’ve seen from Kevin Everett the past week,” said Bills offensive coordinator Steve Fairchild. “I really do. I think his whole demeanor, his attention to detail, it looks good. He just looks very comfortable, and when he’s comfortable he’s a very talented guy.” Everett was a third-round pick of the Bills in 2005 out of the University of Miami. He missed his entire first season because he tore up his knee on the first day of his rookie minicamp.

Patriots Notebook: Testaverde not retired yet

Vinny Testaverde is taking part in the Patriots passing camp this week, and it's not merely for kicks or to help out coach Bill Belichick.

According to Mike Azzarelli, a close friend and associate of the quarterback, 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,'' Azzarelli said when asked about Testaverde's appearance in Foxboro this week participating in passing camp, which is part of the team's Organized Team Activities.

``He's intent on playing.''

Was anything in the works in terms of a contract?

``I can't comment on that,'' said Azzarelli, who had previously served as Testaverde's agent. Azzarelli is no longer an agent, per se, but continues to work for Testaverde.

Steelers' Davenport feeling more comfortable

The way Najeh Davenport measures it, a football player is only as fast as his field intelligence, his grasp of the game plan, his comprehension of the playbook.
And, man, he feels his brain synapse at 4.4, 4.5 speed nowadays.

It's a completely different Steelers state of mind from last fall.

"He had to learn everything on the run last year," new Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians recalled of the backup running back, who was signed the day after the team's 2006 season opener. "It was really game plan to game plan. Now he's learning the nuances of the offense."

Is Packers' Bubba on the bubble?

When the Green Bay Packers lost tight end David Martin to the Miami Dolphins via free agency it seemed as if the departure boosted the stock of veteran Bubba Franks, who had lost ground to Martin at the position last season.

But not so fast. According to a recent report by the Green Bay Press Gazette, Bubba might be on the bubble. The story had the Packers considering making some cuts from among a group consisting of Franks, wide receiver Robert Ferguson, defensive end Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila and strong safety Marquand Manuel.

It doesn't take long to fall from the penthouse to the outhouse in the NFL, and Franks is a good example.

Jimerson Carries Diamond Jaxx over Smokies, 5-4

(Jackson, TN) May 29th- Charlton Jimerson hit three home runs, including a walk-off homer in the bottom of the ninth inning as the West Tenn Diamond Jaxx rallied to defeat the Tennessee Smokies 5-4 in game two of a five game series from Pringles Park. The win pulls the Diamond Jaxx to within four games of the Smokies in the Northern Division. Tennessee remains one game ahead of Huntsville, who lost to Montgomery 3-0.

Jimerson homered in his first two at-bats and delivered a two run double down the left field line to tie the game at four in the sixth inning. With Smokies pitcher Greg Reinhard (0-1) on the mound and one out in the bottom of the ninth, Jimerson hit a drive over the left field wall for his third homer of the night. Jimerson finished the night 4-5 with three homers and five RBI's. He also made Kam Mickolio (3-0) the winning pitcher. Mickolio pitched an inning of scoreless relief.

Tennessee scored all of their runs in the first two innings. The Smokies were held to just two hits after the second inning. Josh Kroeger hit a three run homer to pace the Smokies offense. Casey McGehee extended his hitting streak to fourteen consecutive games and made three outstanding defensive plays at third base.

Game three of the five game series takes place on Wednesday night at 7:05 CDT. Left-hander Robert Rohrbaugh (4-4 4.50) gets the start for the Diamond Jaxx. Tennessee will counter with right-hander Mark Holliman (6-2 2.26).


Hester looks great

The experiment never worked at the U. of Miami, but Chicago’s super return man, Devin Hester, looked like a natural at receiver in recent mini-camp work. The first two days of camp, he didn’t drop a pass. He ran solid, crisp routes and, basically, had his teammates and coaches raving about him.

Give head coach Lovie Smith high marks for convincing Hester to junk cornerback for being a wide receiver.

“It was more exciting than I really thought it would be,” Hester said. “Whenever a player gets his hands on the ball and knows what he can do with it, it's a lot of fun.”

After the catch, Hester routinely made players miss. The new dimension should be great for Rex Grossman and also alleviate the frustration that Hester, who returned six kicks for touchdowns last season, will face when punters and kickers kick away from during the season. The Bears needed to find a way for Hester to get more touches.

On kickoffs, Hester will be paired with safety Danieal Manning, former college kickoff specialist, in hopes they can form a 1-2 punch. He will still wear No. 23 and be listed as a running back/receiver.


Leon Williams Update

Crennel revealed that second-year linebacker Leon Williams had arthroscopic surgery on his ankle and will be brought along slowly


Ryan Braun Update

It took nearly two months but the final piece to the Brewers' infield puzzle has joined the squad in the person of third baseman Braun. A first round pick from the University of Miami, Braun is a right-handed power hitting third baseman with great speed. Prior to his recall, Braun, 23, was tearing up the International League, batting .342 with 10 HR, 22 RBIs and a .701 slugging percentage in 34 games. He picked up in the majors right where he left off in Triple-A, collecting four hits, one a home run, in his first eight at-bats before going 0 for 7 his past two games. Although the Brewers are 0-4 since he hit the scene, Braun's Achilles heel, his fielding at the hot corner, hasn't been a problem yet -- he's handled all 10 of his chances cleanly. There's little reason to believe that Braun won't be a fixture on Milwaukee's infield -- with Rickie Weeks and MVP candidates Prince Fielder and J.J. Hardy -- for the rest of the decade. He's an automatic in all leagues.


Video of Ryan Braun's 1st Major League Homerun

Click Here to check out Ryan Braun's 1st Homerun. You must have Windows Media Player installed on your computer.

Vernon Carey Update

Our sources tell us that Dolphins OT Vernon Carey is not thrilled about making the switch from the right side to the OLT spot, but that he's willing to do so for the good of the team. Word is Carey feels more comfortable, particularly with his footwork, at right tackle.


DJ Williams Update

The fact the Broncos didn't take an inside linebacker in the draft speaks volumes for how easily they think SLB D.J. Williams will adapt to a switch to the middle to replace Al Wilson. Previous middle linebackers in new defensive coordinator Jim Bates' system have thrived in terms of production, and Williams' skills have been underutilized to this point in Denver, according to our sources. Free-agent signee Warrick Holdman is expected to have an edge for Williams' old spot on the strong side.


Ryan Braun Audio Interview after His First MLB Game

Listen to Ryan Braun comment about his first MLB game with the Milwaukee Brewers.

Click Below to listen:


Memorial Day Means Baseball and My First Look at Ryan Braun

At least the Braves are playing a day game in Milwaukee that TBS is televising. I'm excited because this gives me my first chance to watch rookie Ryan Braun. Now, I highlighted Braun in my Spring Training Update piece and then went out and drafted him in my keeper fantasy league. I enjoyed keeping track of his stats in the Minors and was excited when he got the call to the Majors.

In 34 games with the Triple-A Nashville Sounds, Braun batted .342 with a .418 on-base percentage and a .701 slugging mark. Not too shabby. Braun produced that gaudy slugging percentage thanks to 22 extra-base hits in 117 at-bats, including 10 home runs. Just as importantly, Braun held his own in the field, as he made just three errors.

Meanwhile, the Brewers got off to a great start, despite some lousy production from the players they put out at third base. Corey Koskie was slated to be the team's starter at the hot corner, but Koskie is still suffering from post-concussive syndrome and has yet to play a game this season.

Fast becoming 'Pat the Sat'

PHILADELPHIA -- Pat Burrell was hitting the ball with authority on the Phillies' last homestand, homering five times in 10 games and giving the club the kind of production it craved out of the No. 5 position in the lineup.

So what happened? Going into last night's homestand opener against the Diamondbacks, "Pat the Bat" didn't have a hit in his last six games (including five starts). During that time, he went 0-for-17, seeing his average dip to a season- low .225 (dropping his May mark to an abysmal .157).

In Greg Olsen and Devin Hester, Bears Add Speed to Offense

As long as Rex Grossman is under center, the Bears' offense is never going to strike fear in the hearts of opposing defensive coordinators. But John Clayton made an interesting point on ESPN today: Has any team added more speed to its offense in the off-season than the Bears?

Think about it. Chicago has moved kick returning superstar Devin Hester to offense, where he'll play some wide receiver and some running back, and the Bears drafted Greg Olsen in the first round, and in terms of straight-line speed, Olsen is probably the second-fastest tight end in the league. (San Francisco's Vernon Davis is a bit faster.)

Hester and Olsen (who were teammates in college at Miami) won't make a huge impact on the offense, but the mere threat of a few extra big plays has to put smiles on the faces of Bears fans. It's been a long time since anything on offense has done that.


Jarrett Payton, Son of Walter, to Play Canadian Football

Walter Payton was a great player on the field and a good person off the field, and that has engendered a great deal of fan support for his son, Jarrett Payton.

Jarrett has played running back for the Miami Hurricanes and the Amsterdam Admirals and the Tennessee Titans, but he doesn't have anywhere near the talent of his father, and he's never been more than a role player. He couldn't find an NFL team to offer him a spot at its training camp this year.

But in a strange way, there's something especially admirable about Jarrett Payton's efforts to make it in football. Payton has signed with the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League, and he says he's going to keep pursuing his lifelong ambition of playing pro football. Jarrett Payton knows he'll always be defined as his father's son in the eyes of most fans, and he knows he's never going to match his father's accomplishments. But he continues to play because he loves the game, and wherever he goes, he'll be a fan favorite.


Payton's new place - The Bears' great's son aims to restart his pro football career in Montreal

MONTREAL -- It's final now/

The decision's made/

So I pack up and dip in the Escalade/ Cause I belong now/

NFL passed me/

You ask me/

I'm so happy now/

I hope that my Dad sees/

The workin' finally paid off.

-- First lines of the rap song "I Belong," by Jarrett Payton

The telephone rang in Chicago and he didn't answer. He didn't recognize the number. The phone rang again and still he hesitated. The area code was foreign and he had no idea who was calling. The phone rang a third time and curiosity got the better of him. Jarrett Payton said hello.

Eric Winston Update

Eric Winston will become the new starter at the right tackle spot, starting his second season out of the University of Miami.



Look for cornerback Phillip Buchanon to get first crack at nickel back, if offseason workouts are any indication. Buchanon signed a two-year, $5-million contract this offseason, which showed he isn't just another throwaway backup.

He will have to fend off Torrie Cox and, possibly, others. The need for a nickel corner arose when Juran Bolden was released last month.


Who's Hot? Devin Hester

The Bears couldn't be happier with Hester's transition from cornerback. He is proving to be a good route runner, sure-handed, and, after the catch, he has made defenders miss. Chicago is satisfied it has found a new weapon.


Winslow looking good, QBs Quinn, Frye not so much

This and that from a Browns offseason practice... with the proviso that only so much can be gleaned from a workout that was voluntary and included no contact...

Tight end Kellen Winslow did not participate in the practice and probably won't take part until training camp. But if looks mean anything, he's doing fine in his comeback. Winslow walked out to the practice about midway through -- he was inside doing rehab -- and looked as fit as ever. He barely had a limp, wore no brace or sleeve on his knee, and when he jogged about 10 yards, he did so with no limitation. He still has to prove he can come back from microfracture surgery, but if looks mean anything, he's on track.


Ravens' McGahee eager to make difference

OWINGS MILLS - In ornate, cursive letters tattooed onto his thick neck, Willis McGahee wears a note of optimism.
A few inches below the Baltimore Ravens running back's left ear, a tattoo reads: "Guess Who's Back."

Now that McGahee got acclimated to the Ravens during his first minicamp with the team since being acquired in a trade from the Buffalo Bills in March, he's intent on capitalizing on a fresh start.

"I'm motivated, I've got to step my game up," said McGahee, whom Buffalo traded for two third-round draft picks and a seventh-round selection. "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."