29 April 2007

Confident Carey ready for left tackle

AVIE — Vernon Carey is the Dolphins' new left tackle because coach Cam Cameron has a good feeling about him.

"Sometimes it's hard to describe what you sense," Cameron said. "I just sense he's a guy that we can develop some trust in."

The last time a Dolphins coach put that much faith in Carey, it didn't take him long to realize he was wrong.

The Dolphins traded a fourth-round pick to the Minnesota Vikings to move up one spot in the 2004 draft in order to select the University of Miami product. That's how confident they were that Carey could fill a big hole at right tackle.

About two weeks into training camp - two days after the first exhibition game was played - then-coach Dave Wannstedt moved Carey to guard, hoping that a "light would go on."

Carey said it took him until last season, when he played well at right tackle in 16 starts, to rid himself of the "bad attitude" that resulted from his rookie year.

"I was just a younger guy," Carey said. "I wasn't a starter yet and probably felt I needed to get some reps at something I wasn't doing all my life. Now, I'm older. I've got a lot more confidence than the previous years and feel I can play on the left side."

The incredible shrinking Sapp

Warren Sapp would not go into specifics when asked about what appeared to be a startling weight loss following Friday's first practice.

If Sapp wanted it kept private, nobody told Lane Kiffin, who informed the media that Sapp had lost 49 pounds, making the Raiders defensive tackle only slightly bigger than their new quarterback.

Asked about Sapp's weight, Kiffin said, "He was 285. He was 334 I think last year. I was not here, but I think that's what the books say. We're very excited about that."

It may be the lightest Sapp has been in his professional career. Kiffin said he can't remember Sapp being that light in Tampa Bay when his father was defensive coordinator.

"He looks fast out there. He's flying around," Kiffin said.

Is it possible Sapp has lost too much weight and will have trouble holding up?

"I don't know," Kiffin said. "We'll see."


Morgan returns to field confident despite concussions

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -Just days after NFL commissioner Roger Goodell ordered all team doctors and trainers to attend a summit on concussions, Carolina linebacker Dan Morgan was back on the field.

Morgan, who has suffered at least five concussions in his career, has heard about the summit and the concussion symposium held last month in California. He knows about the stories of depression and memory loss from numerous ex-players. He knows Leigh Steinberg recently label concussions ``a health epidemic.''

But Morgan is determined to return to the game he loves. And on Friday, less than eight months after his most recent concussion, Morgan took part in the Panthers' opening minicamp practice.

``Obviously the words surrounding a concussion are me and some other guys. But I'm not concerned with it. It's out of my head,'' Morgan said. ``I really don't even want to talk about it. I want to move on and get on with my football career, play and have fun.''

Hurricanes RB highlights undrafted free agents

Miami running back Tyrone Moss is the headline player among nine undrafted free agents signed by the Browns.

He will join the team's seven drafted players and 34 tryouts at coach Romeo Crennel's weekend rookie minicamp beginning today.

Moss was supposed to be Frank Gore's successor as the Hurricanes' feature back but a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in 2005 slowed his career. He came back the following year as a backup after he was suspended for missing study hall sessions.

Focus on 'O,' Olsen

A solid case can be made that no NFL team got greater production from its rookie class last year than the Bears.

Reaching that same level in 2007 might be difficult -- Devin Hester set a league record for return touchdowns, and Mark Anderson's 12 sacks made him second in rookie of the year balloting -- but the Bears will get a better look at what they have starting today. A three-day rookie minicamp begins at Halas Hall, and the 72 hours will be packed with lessons on the playbook.

While the focus in 2006 was defense, most eyes will be on the offense this year with tight end Greg Olsen and running back Garrett Wolfe in positions where they could get on the field early.

Olsen promises to add a weapon to quarterback Rex Grossman's arsenal that has been missing. As much as helping Grossman, though, Olsen figures to help the wide receivers, such as Bernard Berrian.

Athletics' Piazza placed on DL

The Oakland Athletics placed designated hitter Mike Piazza on the 15-day disabled list because of a sprained right shoulder and purchased the contract of outfielder/designated hitter Jack Cust from Triple-A Sacramento.

Piazza suffered a sprained AC joint in his right shoulder at Boston Wednesday during a sixth-inning collision with Red Sox third baseman Mike Lowell.

This is Piazza's first season in the American League, where he is hitting .282 with one homer and eight RBI in 103 at-bats as a designated hitter.

Over 15 major league seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Florida Marlins, New York Mets and San Diego Padres, Piazza became the best hitting catcher in big league history with a .309 career batting average, 419 home runs and 1,291 RBI. His 396 long balls as a backstop is a major-league record.

Cust was acquired from San Diego on Thursday for a player to be named or cash. He was hitting .295 with eight homers and 19 RBIs in 24 games for Triple-A Portland.


Scott Pioli on Brandon Merriweather

Former Miami coach Larry Coker was interviewed today and talked about how you and Bill Belichick spent time talking with the players down there. Is it fair to say you might have had any questions about character answered in those discussions?

“We feel very comfortable with Brandon [Meriweather], and him as a person and as a player. We did spend -- not only myself and Bill -- but we have a number of scouts who went through there. Organizationally, we talked about all of his situations. We spent quite a bit of time with him as well personally in different environments and different situations. We felt comfortable with Brandon, and Larry and his staff were outstanding. Larry is one of the people in this business that you can certainly trust what he says. And we have a relationship with Randy [Shannon], the new head coach.”

(Dale & Holley Show WEEI)

Piazza out 4-6 weeks with strain in shoulder

Oakland Athletics designated hitter Mike Piazza is expected to be out four to six weeks with a strained right shoulder. He suffered the injury diving into third base in an effort to avoid being tagged out Wednesday.

With two outs in the sixth, Bobby Crosby hit a grounder to Boston Red Sox third baseman Mike Lowell. Piazza, who was on second, and Lowell both charged for the bag and collided near it. Piazza was tagged out and stayed on the ground in pain.

He thought the shoulder was separated, but the injury was diagnosed as a strained AC joint.


Williams set to shine in new role of middle man

D.J. Williams may be going from third-down scrub to the league's top five in tackles.

Who says coaching doesn't make a difference in the NFL?

No Broncos player figures to benefit more from the change in defensive bosses than Williams.

Under defensive coordinator Larry Coyer, Williams was a first-round outside linebacker who spent the past two years running off the field on passing downs.

Coyer was replaced this offseason by Jim Bates, who moved Williams over to the middle linebacker position vacated by Al Wilson, who was released because of a neck injury.

Column: Cora is a true Patriot

BOSTON — Why can't the Boston Red Sox be more like the New England Patriots?

You've heard it before. In fact, if you're honest, you've probably said it before. Of course, you forget about guaranteed contracts and the game's obsession with statistics, which end the discussion immediately.

The inference is most Patriots players care more about winning than, say, getting a paycheck. Of course, that is not true, but you get the message. Patriots players take orders from Bill Belichick and they seem to follow them to a T.

But these first-place Red Sox are more like the Patriots than you think.

Exhibit A: Alex Cora.

Burrell bouncing back offensively, defensively

One aspect of a healthy Pat Burrell that is lost on most people has been his ability to play defense.

The left fielder has struggled with injuries, including a surgically repaired right foot that hampered his running ability, for two seasons.

This bothered him not only at the plate and on base paths but in the outfield.

Last year, manager Charlie Manuel went to Chris Roberson as a defensive replacement for Burrell, a role assumed by Michael Bourn this year to mixed success. While still not blessed with blazing speed, Burrell is slowly making Manuel's late-game decisions tougher.

"To me, it's becoming a tough position when to take him out," Manuel said. "I don't want him to be short on at-bats because he is a run producer."

Bears’ top pick knows how to handle pressure

CHICAGO — Nothing like having something to live up to, like being a first-round draft choice. But then living up to something is not altogether new for Greg Olsen, chosen by the Bears and projected to be their long-term solution at tight end.

“When you look at a draft, the centerpiece obviously is the (top) pick,” said General Manager Jerry Angelo, noting that the Bears drafted Pro Bowl returner Devin Hester out of Miami in last year’s draft and “we were so impressed with the University of Miami we decided to do it again.”

Indeed, if there is a theme running through Olsen’s football life, it is pressure and what it has brought out in him.

Broncos' DE Lang ready for challenge from draft picks

DENVER (AP) - Broncos defensive end Kenard Lang isn't worried about competition from the Broncos' new draft picks.

It's the fact the Denver Broncos selected two defensive linemen from the Florida Gators that has the former Miami Hurricanes' player chafing.

He jokes that it's almost a sin. But he says he'll make an exception for Gators Jarvis Moss and Marcus Thomas.

Lang and Ebenezer Ekuban are penciled in as the starters at defensive end going into the 2007 season. But Moss and second-round draft pick Tim Crowder of Texas will be looking to steal their positions.

Lang says the competition will only make the team better.


The Next Ditka? Olsen Ready for Bears

LAKE FOREST, Ill. - Greg Olsen grew up with football. His dad was a high school coach and would take him and his brother, Christian, around to different camps. That's where he got an early glimpse at how various programs are shaped into winners.

After later starring for his dad at Wayne Hills High School in New Jersey, Olsen started out at Notre Dame, transferred to Miami (Fla.) and now his football journey has landed him in the NFL as the first-round pick of a fabled franchise, the Chicago Bears. He's the first tight end the Bears have taken in the opening round since a guy named Mike Ditka was chosen out of Pittsburgh in 1961.

Greg Olsen Introduced

Check out a video of Greg Olsen being introduced as a Chicago Bear.

Click Here.

Bears’ Olsen knows all about filling big shoes

The challenge of playing football at the highest level isn’t likely to intimidate Bears first-round draft pick Greg Olsen.

Olsen is the first tight end the Bears have drafted in Round 1 since 1961, when they took Mike Ditka — the first tight end elected to the Hall of Fame and a living legend in Chicago.

Great expectations are nothing new to Olsen. At Miami, he followed three outstanding tight ends: Bubba Franks, Jeremy Shockey and Kellen Winslow Jr. He relished the challenge then, flourished in the situation, and insists he is ready for the next step.

“It was a big attraction,” he said of the tight-end legacy at Miami. “If you’re worth your salt and you’re a tight end, that’s the place you go. But it’s not the place you go if you’re not ready for the expectations that the position and the school bring. You can’t just go there and be another guy.

Four Canes headed to camps

A day after the NFL Draft concluded, at least four University of Miami players had plans to participate in minicamps.

Punter Brian Monroe signed a two-year, undrafted free agent contract, including a signing bonus, with the San Diego Chargers. He leaves for the weekend minicamp Thursday.

''He's going to compete to win a spot,'' agent Martin Magid said by phone from Philadelphia. ``They may have him do some kickoff and extra-point holding. He's a great athlete.

``We had about three or four teams that were calling for him, but San Diego looked like the best opportunity.''

Wealth of talent at Miami: Belichick digs in again

FOXBORO - When the Patriots [team stats] finally got back to choosing draft picks yesterday, as opposed to moving them or trading them, they went back to the well, so to speak.

The Patriots grabbed another defensive player, and they chose one from the University of Miami, the home of their previous selection in this year’s draft.

Miami defensive tackle Kareem Brown was selected in the fourth round with the 127th overall pick yesterday, joining Hurricanes safety Brandon Meriweather, who was picked in the first round (24th overall) by the Patriots on Saturday. The Pats worked out both in March.

Meriweather reax

What do expect with the Patriots?

“I haven’t even thought about that, I’ve been pretty much just thinking about getting to the team and helping out the team every way I can and learning my playbook, and getting ready to play in games.”

Any preconceived ideas about the Patriots?

“I don’t have any preconceived ideas about (the Patriots). I talked to (Bill Belichick) over the phone, and I understand he’s a bottom-line kind of guy. He’s a guy that loves to win, and I think I’m a guy that loves to win too.”

How did Belichick approach the off-field incidents?

“Me and coach Belichick, we sat down and talked about it, and I basically told him it was a dumb decision by me. I should’ve known better than to make that decision to even have a gun. I think he understands that, and we’re just trying to get on with building a football team.”

Valuable Cora continues to be put to good use

NEW YORK -- Is it time to stir up a second base controversy?

No, no, please no, said Alex Cora, who had a two-run homer, a run-scoring infield out, and a triple that came within 2 feet of being a homer during yesterday's 7-4 Red Sox conquest of the Yankees.

"Not at all," he protested when asked if he thought he should be starting over the struggling Dustin Pedroia. "I don't make decisions. You go in, see your name on the card, and go do your best."

Cora's best is always pretty good, but lately his best has been superb. This was the third time he's had a direct hand in winning a game in a 10-day stretch that began with the game-winning triple in Toronto April 19, continued with the game-winning base hit off Mariano Rivera the following night, and then rolled merrily along with yesterday's scintillating performance in Yankee Stadium.

Cameron sees Carey at LT

Dolphins coach Cam Cameron said one reason why the team didn't pick a left tackle Saturday is because it already has one in former right tackle Vernon Carey.

"This young man has a lot of ability," Cameron said Saturday. "In my view, we have a guy that can develop into the kind of left tackle we're looking for. Is that going to happen? We're going to find out.

This will be Carey's second go-round at the position. The Dolphins traded up in the first round of the 2004 draft to take the former Miami Hurricane with the 19th overall selection and plug him in at left tackle.

But during training camp, it quickly became apparent that he lacked the confidence to play the line's most important position and he was moved to the right side. Carey finally had a good season last year at right tackle.

Anthony Alabi is expected to replace Carey at right tackle.

Seattle takes 'ecstatic' Atkins in fourth round

SARASOTA -- The Atkins clan may be breaking out a few frequent-flier miles. Seattle isn't exactly a stroll across the street.

"It doesn't matter,'' said sister Amina Atkins, 26. "If he was drafted by the Italy Cucamongas, we'd be there.''

Sarasota's Baraka Atkins became the first area player taken in this year's NFL Draft. The former Booker High and University of Miami defensive end was taken by the Seahawks on Sunday with the 21st pick (120th overall) of the fourth round.

Meriweather's Defense

Q: How do you think you can help the Patriots overall on defense?

BM: Right now, I haven’t even thought about that. I am lost for words right now. I’m pretty much thinking about getting to the team and helping out the team in every way that I can, to learn my playbook and get ready to play in the games.

Q: What kind of preconceived ideas do you have about Coach Belichick and the Patriots organization in general?

BM: I really don’t have any preconceived ideas about that. I have talked to [Coach Belichick] over the phone and I understand that he is a bottom-line type of guy. He is a guy that loves to win. I think I am a guy that loves to win too. I really don’t think about it [with any preconceived notions].

Q: What type of questions did Coach Belichick ask you in regards to the incidents that you had with the gun and also the brawl against FIU?

BM: Coach Belichick and I sat down and talked about it. I basically told him that it was a dumb decision by me. I should have known better to have made the decision to even have a gun. I think he understands that. We are just trying to get on with it, building a football team.

'I'm happy with being a Patriot'

How do you feel you can help the Patriots? "Right now, I haven't even thought about that. I've been pretty much at a loss for words. I'm just pretty much thinking about getting to the team and helping the team out in every way I can, to learn my playbook, and get ready to play in a game."

What thoughts did you have about Coach Belichick and the Patriots in general? "I don't really have any preconceived ideas about him. I met with him, I talked to him over the phone. I understand he's a bottom-line type of guy. He's a guy who loves to win and I think I'm a guy who loves to win, too."

Character issues had no bearing on Belichick

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – He is not Rodney Harrison, and doesn’t want to be. Nor does New England Patriots first round draft choice Brandon Meriweather fit the shoes of Ed Reed or Sean Taylor – two other former University of Miami Hurricanes.

The Patriots chose the former Hurricanes free safety with the 24th pick in Saturday’s National Football League draft, but they opted to deal their other first round pick (28th overall) to the San Francisco 49ers for their first round pick in next year’s draft, plus a fourth rounder on Sunday (110th overall).

“Rodney Harrison is a great player,” Meriweather said. “He has his own style of playing, I have my own style of playing. He’s a Pro Bowler, soon-to-be Hall of Famer. I can’t ever compare myself or say that he and I have anything in common, until I do it.

Jason Geathers Update

The Ironman of the Game was WR JASON GEATHERS, who recorded seven receptions for 74 yards and a touchdown on offense and two total tackles on defense.

Beason Looking to Learn

I'm glad I get to say I told you so about Jon Beason not making a mistake by leaving after his junior season.

Beason's excited about becoming a Panther because it provides him the opportunity to learn from former Hurricane and Carolina veteran Dan Morgan.

Check out what the former Chaminade-Madonna standout had to say to Carolina media about becoming the Panther's first-round pick.

On how he feels about being drafted by the Panthers: It's funny, I was just talking to my agent about it and I told him that ever since I declared that I was coming out early that I wanted to be a Carolina Panther.

On why he said that: I just felt it was a great fit for me, to come in and play with and learn from Dan (Morgan), a guy I trust. We're both Hurricanes. I know he's going to look out for me. I think it's a great place to live. I know it's on the rise as far as real estate goes. The uniforms. I love everything. It's a great place

Meriweather off to Patriots

CORAL GABLES -- With three players selected in the first round of the NFL Draft, Miami extended its record to 13 consecutive years.
Safety Brandon Meriweather was the first Hurricane selected as the New England Patriots took him with the 24th overall selection.

The Patriots felt comfortable drafting Meriweather despite two incidents that have drawn a lot of attention -- including a shooting last summer in which he returned shots legally and his involvement in a brawl against Florida International during the season.

"I think all of us have made mistakes," Patriots coach Bill Belichek said. "At least I have. I think what's more important is not an incident that a person had, but really who they are, what their character is, and what you think that person really is, and what they're about. I would say that about anybody."

TE Olsen gives Grossman a big target

He has the flowing blond locks and pedigree of another athletic tight end from the same college program, but Greg Olsen is no Jeremy Shockey.

''I'm not quite as emotional as he is,'' Olsen said. ''I approach it a different way. I'm more of an even-keel, level-headed guy who plays hard like he does.

''I just don't ... I'm just not ... I'm just a different type of player.''

Safety helps raise ’Canes

FOXBORO - Five years ago, the Patriots [team stats] took Daniel Graham [stats] with the 21st overall pick in the NFL draft, eschewing Miami safety Ed Reed to fill a need at tight end.

Reed went three picks later and blossomed into an All-Pro. Yesterday, the Patriots weren’t going to let another Hurricanes safety slip through their grasp.

At the same No. 24 slot that Reed went in 2002, Brandon Meriweather became the third Miami safety to be selected in the first round in the last six years. The previous two, the Baltimore Ravens’ Reed and Sean Taylor of the Washington Redskins, played against each other in the Pro Bowl.

Hurricane DT Brown tops second-day haul

The Patriots started the second day by tapping defensive tackle Kareem Brown, a teammate of first round pick Brandon Meriweather at the University of Miami, in the fourth round (No. 127 overall). It marked the first time in team history the Patriots used their first two picks in a draft on players from the same school.

Brown offered his take on the ugly brawl between Miami and Florida International University during the third quarter of the Hurricanes' 35-0 win Oct. 14. Meriweather stomped on players during the melee. "That was an unfortunate incident and that should never happen in any sport whatsoever," said Brown. "I was just trying to do my best to pull people back. You know Brandon is a high-profile guy and people are going to say what they want."

Tyrone Moss Signs With Browns

Meanwhile, UM tailback Tyrone Moss, who graduated from Pompano Beach Ely High as Broward County's career rushing leader, signed a free agent contract with the Cleveland Browns.

''I'm a little bit disappointed I didn't get drafted,'' Moss said, ``but I'm very excited and I feel like I have something to prove.''


DJ WIlliams Update

The coach said D.J. Williams has started a transition to middle linebacker. Shanahan said Williams, a first-round pick who is entering is fourth season, is suited to the position because of his size.

"I think it will be a natural for him to make the transition," he said.


Jones aims to bounce back

LOS ANGELES - Since forward James Jones entered the Suns' starting lineup eight games ago, he has scored in double digits in Phoenix's four 100-plus outings and single digits in the Suns' four sub-100 outings.

Jones called his Game 3 performance "horrible." The Lakers played tight defense against the Suns' three-point shooters, leaving Jones with no three-point tries for the first time in the past 10 games.

"If you're in the corner, they're paying close attention and not allowing you to get the ball and forcing our bigs - Amaré (Stoudemire), Shawn (Marion) and Boris (Diaw) - to make plays when they trap Steve (Nash)," Jones said. "Just try to make ourselves available and make it easier for Steve. Give him better angles and just get the ball quicker to the paint, because that's their soft spot right now.