31 December 2006

Franks will get chance to bounce back

Bubba Franks' lack of production the past two seasons has been perplexing, but the veteran tight end might have a bigger role in the offense in 2007.

Franks has 29 touchdowns and has been to three Pro Bowls in his seven years in the NFL. He became one of the highest-paid tight ends in the league when he signed a seven-year, $28 million deal before the 2005 season.

In 2005, injuries forced Franks to miss six games, and he had just 25 catches for 207 yards and one touchdown.

The 2006 season was worse. Franks, who gained notoriety because of his nose for the end zone, became more known for dropping passes and fumbling. He finished the season with 25 catches for 232 yards and no touchdowns.

Newest Oriole Huff happy to be here

When Aubrey Huff passed his physical yesterday, finalized a three-year, $20 million deal and was introduced as the newest Oriole, it likely represented the last major move for the club in a busy offseason.

The Orioles signed nine free agents, including two of their own, and made two trades. The bullpen was overhauled, the starting rotation received a new member and the lineup was bolstered by two veterans with solid track records.

"It's one of those things where we don't know how good we are at this point," said Orioles executive vice president Mike Flanagan, who called Huff the type of hitter the club has been seeking all offseason. "I think we improved on paper. ... We expect our rotation to be better ... our bullpen to be better. We are optimistic

Giants tight end Jeremy Shockey may play Sunday versus the Eagles

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) - Jeremy Shockey's swollen left ankle has improved considerably and there is a good chance the Pro Bowl tight end will play for the New York Giants on Sunday in the NFC wild card game against the Philadelphia Eagles.

"I want to play every Sunday," Shockey said Wednesday. "I felt bad I couldn't play last week. It's the nature of this sport, being hurt. You have to deal with the injuries. It's the one thing I don't deal with very well. It's getting better every day and hopefully I'll be able to do something this week."

Giants coach Tom Coughlin said that Shockey, who had a team-high 66 catches for 623 yards and seven touchdowns, would do some individual work Wednesday and possibly practice on Thursday.

Patriots sign RB Quadtrine Hill to practice squad

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. - The New England Patriots signed rookie running back Quadtrine Hill to their practice squad today. The Patriots practice squad now stands at its limit of eight players. The squad had consisted of seven players since wide receiver Bam Childress was signed to New England’s active roster on Dec. 23, 2006.

Hill, 24, was originally signed by the Houston Texans as an undrafted free agent on May 4, 2006. The 6-foot-2-inch, 228-pound running back was released by Houston on June 15, 2006. Hill was signed by the Chicago Bears on Aug. 21, 2006 and was released on Aug. 24. The Sunrise, Fla. native attended the University of Miami, where he played in 48 games over four seasons from 2002-05, rushing 40 times for 253 yards and catching 56 passes for 414 yards and two touchdowns.


Giants TE Jeremy Shockey misses practice Wednesdsay

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — Pro Bowl tight end Jeremy Shockey missed the New York Giants' practice on Wednesday because of a sprained ankle.

Shockey was hurt in Sunday's 30-7 loss to New Orleans. He has been listed as questionable for Saturday night's game at Washington.

Fullback Jim Finn (back) did not practice on Wednesday. He is probable.

Offensive lineman Rich Seubert (shin) also missed practice and it is unlikely he will play.

Starting guard David Diehl was excused from the workout to attend the birth of his first child. Diehl's wife, Nicole, gave birth to Addison Elizabeth Diehl at 2:35 p.m.

The Giants (7-8) can virtually clinch a playoff berth with a win on Saturday.


Gore will run again this year - The 49ers tailback eyes Eric Dickerson's season record of 2,105 rushing yards.

Frank Gore's first season as the 49ers' starting tailback ended with him leading the NFC in rushing and owning every meaningful franchise record for a runner.

Hey, Frank, what will you do for an encore?

"I'm going for 2,200 (yards) next year," he said with a straight face. "That's the record, right?"

As a matter of fact, 2,200 yards would shatter the season rushing record -- 2,105 yards -- Eric Dickerson set in 1984. Baltimore tailback Jamal Lewis flirted with the mark in 2003, and Gore would need to tack 411 yards onto his total this season (1,695) to earn the record.

Morgan gets late, but great, Christmas gift

CHARLOTTE, North Carolina -- Carolina Panthers middle linebacker Dan Morgan said yesterday he's been cleared to return to football next season despite multiple concussions.

Morgan suffered at least the fifth concussion of his career in the season opener against Atlanta and missed the rest of the season.

But Morgan said he was in Pittsburgh last week, where he took numerous tests, and a team of physicians led by concussion expert Dr. Mickey Collins gave him the OK to begin playing again during mini-camps in the spring.

Collins recommended in October that Morgan not return this season.

"It was real exciting. That was a great Christmas present, a late Christmas present," Morgan said yesterday. "I felt great. I felt I was going to do real well and I went up there and did real well on all my testing."

Morgan suffered his first concussion as a pro in 2003. He missed four more games in 2004 with another concussion. He then suffered one in the pre-season and another in the loss to Atlanta in Week 1 this year.


Jennings, Babineaux key to thin secondary

KIRKLAND - The lockers on either side of those belonging to Jordan Babineaux and Kelly Jennings were empty on Tuesday afternoon. For a few minutes, it was as if the duo was standing on an island with no one else around.

The image served as an appropriate metaphor for this Saturday's game against the Dallas Cowboys.

Babineaux and Jennings are the Seattle Seahawks' starting cornerbacks, due in large part to a rash of injuries that have knocked out three players in two weeks.

Report: Orioles, Huff agree to 3-year deal

The Baltimore Orioles have reached an agreement on a three-year deal with free-agent outfielder Aubrey Huff, according to a report in The Baltimore Sun.

The contract will reportedly pay Huff $20 million over three years. The 30-year-old slugger hit .267 with 21 home runs last year in stints with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and Houston Astros.

Over his career, Huff has been a steady hitter but has struggled with defense, though he is capable of playing both corner infield positions as well as the outfield.

In a career that has spanned a little over six seasons, Huff is a .285 hitter with 141 home runs and 487 RBIs. He had his best season in 2003, when he hit .311 with 34 homers and 107 RBIs.


Magic Benton Update

Florida veteran OS MAGIC BENTON jumped ahead of Arkansas WR/DB KEVIN WILLIAMS this season to become the af2's all-time scoring leader. The veteran completed the 2006 campaign with 840 career points. Benton also has the distinction of being the first af2 player to hit the 800-point plateau. Williams joined the 800-club in Week 17 and ranks second overall with 820 points. Benton also became the outright leader for all-time touchdowns scored in af2 history in 2006. The six-year league standout, who played collegiatelly at Miami, had a super season with a team-best 111 catches, 1,612 receiving yards and 40 touchdowns. Benton has 138 career scores. Tulsa Head Coach and former af2 standout player MITCH ALLNER entered 2006 as the af2 career leader with 126 touchdowns. 10.) Vena sets single season passing yards record


'Canes in the NFL Playoffs

Ed Reed
Ray Lewis
Reggie Wayne
Vince Wilfork
Jonathan Vilma
Devin Hester
Darrell McClover
Jerome McDougle
Kelly Jennings
Jeremy Shockey
Sinorice Moss
William Joseph
Jeff Feagles

Gore's next goal with Niners: 2,200 yards

SANTA CLARA, Calif. - After far too many offseasons spent mostly in the hospital or the training room, Frank Gore has more welcoming destinations in mind this year.

The 49ers' record-setting running back will first head home to Miami, then jet off to Honolulu next month for his first Pro Bowl. After a little break, it's back to work making sure San Francisco can ride its suddenly sturdy running back to bigger things in 2007.

When the 49ers (7-9) packed their belongings and left their training complex Monday, Gore was entirely healthy and incredibly happy after a breakthrough season. With one last standout performance in San Francisco's dramatic win at Denver on Sunday, Gore finished as the NFC's leading rusher with a franchise-record 1,695 yards.

Vinny on mark: Late TD adds to record

The Patriots [team stats] coach inserted 43-year-old quarterback Vinny Testaverde [stats] into a 33-23 game with two minutes left in the fourth quarter and the ball at the Tennessee 36-yard line. He then called three straight pass plays, enabling Testaverde to extend his own little piece of history.

Testaverde followed a 23-yard strike to Chad Jackson with a 6-yard score to Troy Brown [stats], giving Testaverde a touchdown pass for an NFL-record 20th straight season.

“That’s not why I came here,” Testaverde said. “I didn’t come here to throw another touchdown. I came here to get a ring.”

His teammates and coaches seemed pretty excited about the score. In a scene reminiscent of Doug Flutie’s dropkick during last year’s finale, the Patriots streamed onto the field following Testaverde’s toss. Belichick thrust both arms over his head.

Gore breaks 49ers record with 1,695 yards rushing

DENVER - For Frank Gore, it was a workmanlike finish to the single-most productive season by a 49ers running back.

He carried the ball a season-high 31 times for 153 yards and added two receptions for 32 yards in the 49ers' 26-23 overtime victory over the Denver Broncos on Sunday.

In his first full season as a starter, Gore had an NFC-leading 1,695 yards rushing, the third most in the league behind San Diego's LaDainian Tomlinson (1,815) and Kansas City's Larry Johnson (1,789).

Gore set a team record for yards rushing in a season, overtaking Garrison Hearst's 1,570 yards achieved in 1998. The team's leading receiver with 61 catches for 485 yards, Gore also eclipsed Hearst's team record for combined rushing and receiving yardage with 2,180 to Hearst's 2,105.

McGahee's production doesn't justify new deal

BALTIMORE - This won't come as any great surprise, but Willis McGahee was not in a celebratory mood in the early stages of New Year's Eve. The Bills' featured back wasn't raising a glass. He was raising an objection.

McGahee rushed 11 times for just 23 yards in Sunday's season-ending, 19-7 loss to the Ravens. He fell 10 yards short of a 1,000-yard season. Asked if he felt the Bills hadn't run the ball enough, the 990-yard man nodded toward an adjacent locker, where offensive coordinator Steve Fairchild was standing.

"There you go right there," McGahee said. "Talk to him."

Fairchild didn't hesitate when he was asked if the Bills had abandoned the run. "Yeah, I probably did. They're tough to run against. Had we been able to get a little more out of it, it might have helped us a little more."

Huff, Orioles Agree to $20M, 3-Year Deal

Aubrey Huff has reached a preliminary agreement on a three-year, $20 million contract with the Baltimore Orioles, who hope the versatile free agent can add punch to a lineup that ranked 11th in the AL in home runs last season.

The agreement was secured over the weekend, according to a source who spoke on condition of anonymity because the Orioles have not yet announced the deal. The contract will be finalized if Huff passes a physical, which will likely be administered this week in Baltimore.

Huff, 30, can play first base, third base and both corner spots in the outfield. But his value to the Orioles is his bat: Huff hit 21 homers last season with Tampa Bay and Houston, and averaged 27 from 2002-05 with the Devil Rays.

Baltimore hit only 164 homers last season, led by Miguel Tejada (24) and Ramon Hernandez (23). No other player hit more than 16.

Healthy Shockey needed to boost passing game

If the Giants want to win in the playoffs, they'd better get their passing game going. To do that, they need their leading receiver on the field.

So, Tom Coughlin, will Jeremy Shockey's sprained left ankle heal enough to allow him to play on Sunday against the Eagles?

"I'm not sure about that," the coach said on a conference call yesterday. "We're going to have to progress and see."

The good news is Shockey can wait two more days. The Giants don't return to practice until Wednesday. But chances are, Shockey will still be limited at best while recovering from an injury that was serious enough to keep one of the toughest players in the league off the train to Washington over the weekend.

Hobbling Winslow ties team mark

Houston- Tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. tied Hall of Famer Ozzie Newsome's team record of 89 catches in a season - and did it on a gimpy knee that will require more surgery in the off-season.

"[Newsome] was a great player, so it's a great honor for me to be compared to him," Winslow said. "But I'm just happy to get through a season as healthy as possible and I'm looking forward to next year."

Winslow tied Newsome's record by catching 11 passes for 93 yards against the Texans, including a long of 22. He finished the season with 875 yards and three touchdowns.

Gore's dedication results in a run into record book

01-01) 04:00 PST Denver -- Frank Gore's game and attitude was personified by a small black box that stood in his locker after the 49ers' 26-23 win over the Broncos.

It was a lunch pail, given to him by running backs coach Bishop Harris with Gore's number 21 printed on the side. The rest of the running backs received the same gift.

"When you come to work, you bring your lunch," Gore said. "That's what we do every day, (and) we bring them to every road game."

McGahee fails to have grand time

BALTIMORE - Needing just 33 yards to reach 1,000 for the season, reaching that milestone for a third straight year seemed like a sure thing for running back Willis McGahee.

But the Baltimore Ravens' defense had other ideas.

McGahee had no room to run all day and finished with a season-low 23 yards on 11 carries in the Bills' season-ending 19-7 loss. The total left him 10 yards shy of the 1,000-yard plateau. Thurman Thomas and O.J. Simpson remain the only backs in Bills history to do it at least three times.

"It was tough," McGahee said. "[The Ravens] have a good defense. They're all good on that side of the ball, so I knew it was going to be hard to run on them."

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