Bruce Johnson Impressive on College Pro Day

CB Bruce Johnson was again more impressive in Miami than he was in Indy.  He measured in at 5-09.75 167.  He also posted some great 40 times of 4.42 and 4.45.  His VERT was 38.5, his BROAD was 10-4, his 20 yard shuttle was 4.03 and his three cone was 6.92.  He didn’t do the bench press.

(draftzoo.com)

Ray Lewis won't finalize deal for 2 weeks

Free agent Ray Lewis isn't expected to sign his agreed-to three-year contract with the Ravens for another two weeks.

When Lewis finally signs, his deal will reportedly pay $22 million over three seasons. That's $2 million less than the offer Lewis could've had if he didn't try to test free agency. It's also unknown how much is guaranteed.

(rotoworld.com)

Payton Gets Married

Congratulations to Jarrett Payton, son of Bears Hall of Famer Walter Payton, on his wedding Wednesday in Florida to Trisha George. The couple's reception will be Saturday at Soldier Field.



(chicagotribune.com)

Source: Buchanon agrees with Lions

The Detroit Lions continued to upgrade their tattered secondary by reaching a two-year agreement with Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Phillip Buchanon, a source told ESPN.

The 5-11, 186-pound Buchanon agreed to a two-year, $8.5 million contract, according to a source. The Bucs were trying to re-sign him. Earlier Wednesday, the Bucs agreed to a three-year, $8 million deal with Falcons defensive tackle Grady Jackson.

This will be the fourth team for Buchanon, who entered the NFL as a first-round pick of the Oakland Raiders in 2002. Buchanon spent three seasons with the Raiders. He went to the Texans in 2005 and 2006. The Bucs acquired him in 2006, and this was his best stop.

Buchanon started 29 games over the past two seasons. He had 113 combined tackles during those two seasons along with intercepting five passes. The Lions signed him with hopes that he is in his prime at the age of 28.

(espn.com)

Ravens re-sign LB Lewis

The Ravens and ILB Ray Lewis have agreed on a multiyear contract, the club announced Wednesday. According to ESPN.com, the deal is for three years and worth more than $7 million per season. "This will allow Ray to finish his career as a Raven," Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome told the team's Web site. Lewis, 33, is regarded as one of the best defensive players and on-field leaders of his generation and has been the face of the Ravens’ franchise for much of his career. He started all 16 games in 2008, notching 117 tackles and 3½ sacks. He is entering his 14th NFL season.

The return of Lewis became likely when other offers for him did not materialize as he had hoped in free agency and when the Ravens lost Bart Scott, their other starting inside linebacker, to the Jets.

The PFW spin
This is the ideal outcome for both Lewis and the Ravens. Lewis gets the handsome payday he sought, and the Ravens keep the leader of their defense.

Lewis still packs a punch in the running game and boasts the instincts and enough quickness to hold up in pass coverage, but Newsome's statement was telling. Lewis probably has three seasons left, at best. However, the Ravens could not afford to let him go, and because a one-year deal for Lewis was not feasible, they were wise to give him the multiyear contract. The Ravens have Super Bowl aspirations entering the '09 campaign, and Lewis is capable of doing enough in just one season for this signing to be a successful one.

A significant portion of the value Lewis provides at this stage of his career comes from his leadership and mentoring, and even if his production falls off in 2009 and beyond — entirely feasible given his age — he will be a difference-maker if the Ravens' other starting inside linebacker, whether it be reserves Tavares Gooden or Brendon Ayanbadejo or someone else, quickly gets up to speed in the Ravens' defense because of his help.

One day, and perhaps quite soon, the Ravens will have to replace Ray Lewis, but it will not be tomorrow, and this buys the Ravens some time while allowing them to benefit from what Lewis has left to give as a starting NFL linebacker, as well as a teacher.

(profootballweekly.com)

Clinton Portis is the Model of Offseason Conditioning

Why was it so necessary for Jason Taylor to agree to the Redskins' offseason conditioning demands? Well, because Clinton Portis does it. Yes, Clinton Portis, whose entire career has been defined by his by-the-books insistence on showing up for voluntary offseason workout sessions. Clinton Portis, whose 2008 campaign was marked primarily by his demands that all teammates practice regularly, regardless of their various injury concerns. Clinton Portis, who ended that season by promising not to think about football until July.

So, Sarge, why exactly was it necessary for Taylor to commit?

"It's not fair to Clinton," Sarge Cerrato said to Comcast SportsNet yesterday. "Because Clinton's got the same 75 percent [clause], and Clinton lives in Florida too in the offseason, and he comes up [to Ashburn] and makes his 75 percent. So I don't think it's fair to the rest of the team, to Albert Haynesworth--who has it in his contract--to DeAngelo who has it. Dock's got it in his contract, all these guys have it in their contracts, when he's just gonna stay home and not work out. And to me, as you get older, you need to work out and be in a structured environment where you have strength coaches, you have people pushing to get the best."

"People pushing to get the best." Pretty sure that's gonna be the name of Portis's autobiography.

(washigtonpost.com)

James eager to shed Card colors

MIAMI -- Arizona Cardinals running back Edgerrin James made no attempt to hide his disdain for his current employer while working out at the University of Miami on Tuesday afternoon.

You could see his frustration when he pointed at a framed photo of himself in a Cardinals uniform and said the picture needed to change. You could see it when he found one of his Cardinals jerseys lying over an office chair and said the uniform was right where it needed to be -- near the trash can. And that bitterness surfaced again when James welcomed Cardinals safety and fellow Miami alum Antrel Rolle into the Hurricanes' weight room by shouting, "You're about to have Arizona all to yourself."

If you haven't noticed by now, James is really ready to leave Arizona. He already has told other media outlets that he wants to be released, and he is making even more noise now that the unrestricted free-agency period has started. ESPN.com's John Clayton reported Wednesday that James contacted Cardinals general manager Rod Graves on Tuesday night and pleaded for his release. James has one year remaining on a four-year, $30 million contract he signed as an unrestricted free agent on March 12, 2006.

In James' eyes, it's bad enough that he had to endure the worst individual season of his career -- one that included his being benched midway through the season -- even if it did end with the Cardinals' reaching the Super Bowl. Now he's watching the open market fly by without any opportunity to see what value he might have to other teams.

But as difficult as that has been for James, he knows he has to be patient. He understands the Cardinals need to consider all their options at this stage, but he also stresses that he had a mutual agreement with the team when the season ended, one that revolved around his eventual departure.

"I never try to blame anybody for [the current situation] because at the end of the day, I made the decision to go there in the first place," said James, who left the Indianapolis Colts after seven productive seasons -- including four Pro Bowl selections -- to join the Cardinals.

"The only thing I don't agree with is holding on to me. That's not fair to me. But I also know that while I may have missed some opportunities, I've always found a way to wind up on top."

That is the key message James, who turns 31 in August, wants to deliver to the NFL. His career isn't dead yet, and he's not about to start fretting about the possibility that he'll be the next 30-something running back to find himself unwanted by other teams (think Shaun Alexander). As far as James is concerned, he still has plenty of time to prove that his career-low 514 yards in 2008 had more to do with poor coaching than a mercurial decline in his skills. In other words, he has more motivation now than at any other point in his 10-year career.

That is one reason James was training at such a brisk clip during his 90-minute workout inside his alma mater's weight room Tuesday. Even though he'd been out partying until 5 a.m., he went through his squats, curls and bench press exercises with the same vigor that could be found in the current Hurricanes players who watched him from afar. James was just as eager to check in with Miami team doctor John Uribe, the man who repaired James' torn ACL during the 2001 season. James figures it is better to keep a closer eye on how his body is functioning now that he has reached the age of 30.

The bottom line is James knows he's facing the most critical offseason of his career. Sure, that knee injury was hard for him, but that's a different type of issue. James knew he could work his way back to a Pro Bowl level if he simply trained as hard as he always had. When Cardinals head coach Ken Whisenhunt benched him, it was the first time James had been told he just wasn't good enough to be on the field.

Although James rebounded to help play a key role in the Cardinals' postseason run -- he ran for 236 yards on 61 carries during the playoffs -- some of the feelings from that humiliation still haven't subsided. He still remembers all the supportive messages he received at that time and all the ways he tried to cope. In fact, he laughed at the memory of sitting in a Miami nightclub during Arizona's bye week. He ran into Baltimore Ravens running back Willis McGahee, another former Hurricane who also had slipped to second-team status with his squad. The two men joked about whether they eventually would be relegated to scout-team duties, and that humor helped lift James' spirits.

That's one thing you can say about James: His confidence has not waned. He didn't become the league's active career rushing leader by accident (he has 12,121 yards, which ranks him 11th in league history). He is held in high enough esteem that the Hurricanes' team meeting room in the football office now is dedicated to him (also thanks to a large donation). James is convinced other teams could use him better.

"People know what I'm about," he said. "[The situation in Arizona] was like somebody buying a computer just so they could play solitaire on it. Why not use me to the best of my abilities? I've had seasons where I've caught 60-plus passes, but I only caught 12 last year. It's not like I forgot how to catch."

James added that he's excited about the prospect of playing four or five more seasons, mainly because the game has changed noticeably since his rookie season in 1999. He likes the trend of teams splitting carries among running backs, and he's certain the league isn't nearly as brutal as it used to be. Gone are the days when he faced punishing hitters like Bryan Cox and Marvin Jones on a regular basis. Now James sees a league filled with defensive ends preoccupied with sacks, defensive backs focused on interceptions and a game so devoid of lethal blows that he refers to it as "finesse football."

But James also has another incentive to keep playing: unfinished business. As proof, he keeps a list on his BlackBerry of the runners who rank ahead of him on the league's all-time rushing list. When he pulled out the phone Tuesday, he noted that he needs 123 yards to surpass Marcus Allen and that 619 more yards this past season would have moved him into the top five. "I should've been number seven by now instead of number 11," said James, who rushed for 2,381 yards during his first two seasons in Arizona. "But I'm not worried. I'll get there."

That was James' way of saying people shouldn't be surprised if he finds a way to help another team win. Right now, he's so certain his Arizona career is over that he says the only way he'll be with that team next season "is by force." But James also isn't ready to say where he'd like to end up next. All he knows is that the worst season of his career is behind him and that there's no reason to think good times don't lie ahead.

(espn.com)

Dwayne Johnson has found his rock: Kids

A funny thing happened on the way to "supporting roles only" in Dwayne Johnson's movie career: Kids.

The struggling action star did The Game Plan, a comedy for Disney, and all of a sudden he's big box office and every child's best bud. He did Cory in the House on the Disney Channel. He's starring in Disney's Race to Witch Mountain, opening Friday3/13, and has an animated film (Planet 51) and another kid-friendly comedy (Tooth Fairy) due out this year. He's hosting Nickelodeon's "Kid's Choice Awards" at the end of March.

"He doesn't take himself seriously," says AnnaSophia Robb, one of his teen Witch Mountain co-stars.

"He's a dynamic personality with this self-deprecating sense of humor," says another co-star, Carla Gugino. "Kids respond to that."

Johnson laughs at the notion. But he owns it. The former wrestler is as canny as anybody in the biz about finding a niche. He's not wrestling anymore. He's no longer going by "The Rock." And he didn't really discover his big-screen appeal to kids until he tested those waters.

"I started to examine family movies, what makes them work, what makes them not work," he says. "I realized that when a family movie is done right, everybody in the family has some character they can relate to on screen. If they're done right, the lead character in the movie becomes a better person by the end of the movie and makes everybody around them better, too. That's what family is all about -- struggle, perseverance, staying together. And that's what a family movie has to have going for it, too."

The divorced father of a 7-year-old knows what kids like, which may be why he's fast becoming Disney's go-to guy for kid-friendly action. Johnson, like Disney, knows "branding."

"Disney gets that," he says. "It's a cool thing when you can make movies that everyone can go see. I love the partnership I have with Disney. I recognize the power that the brand has, its impact on families all over the world. We had great success with The Game Plan, and when they came to me with this, I was ready."

"This" is a re-boot of one of Disney's popular franchises from the 70s, the Witch Mountain movies about kids with mysterious powers. Race to Witch Mountain revives the series, with Johnson playing an ex mob "wheel man" now driving a taxi, a regular Joe named Jack Bruno who finds himself transporting two alien teens on their quest to find their way back home. The film ratchets up the action to a level not usually seen in a family film. And it lets Johnson show off his timing, his way with a funny line. That was evident even back in his days in the ring.

"As far back as when I was 8, I used to memorize monologues from Rocky II, Indiana Jones movies. And I'd memorize these Richard Pryor monologues. I know I was too young to listen to them, no business at all listening to what he was doing. I'd sneak the tapes off and commit these long, vulgarity-laced monologues to memory. You memorize Richard and you learn timing."

Johnson is the first to admit that in making his family friendly move he hadn't taken into account the old W.C. Fields maxim about the perils of working with children and dogs. He's done just that -- twice -- now.

With child actors, "you have to be super efficient in your planning, so that you do your scenes with them in the short day that they're allowed to work," he says. And dogs?

"It is a HUMBLING experience, working with animals," Johnson says, laughing. "You have to remember that no matter how poignant your acting is in a scene, or how great you think you are in the scene, if you're in that scene with a DOG you have to know that all eyes are on the dog. You could be doing Gone with the Wind. But if there's a dog and Vivien Ö Leigh, nobody's watching Vivien."

(orlandosentinel.com)

Former Miami Hurricanes football star Ed Reed gives hoops team pep talk

With his team set to play two more crucial, must-win games after playing in two crucial, must-win games, Frank Haith wanted to make sure he had something fresh and exciting to get his team pumped for its game at last-place Georgia Tech on Wednesday night.

With the help of UM defensive assistant coach Micheal Barrow, Haith brought the fiery leader of one of the greatest Hurricanes' championship football teams ever. When Baltimore Ravens Pro Bowl safety Ed Reed was done giving the Canes a pep-talk right before they left for Atlanta on Tuesday, forward Jimmy Graham seemed to be ready to run through a wall.

''He talked to us about the importance of seizing the moment,'' Graham said. ``He said it's all about communication and brotherhood.''
Said Haith: ``He talked about opportunity. He talked about doing the little things that separate winning and losing. It was great.''

(miamiherald.com)

McKinnie's pretrial Hearing Cancelled

Vikings T Bryant McKinnie had a pretrial hearing cancelled on Thursday, but is still set to go on trial March 16 on four charges stemming from a fight last February.



(profootballtalk.com)

Burrell to attend sister's wedding

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Pat Burrell will rejoin the Rays on Monday after spending the weekend in San Francisco to attend his sister's wedding.

"The wedding is [Saturday]," manager Joe Maddon said. "And he has to fly back from San Francisco. So we gave him a couple of extra days for the distance. ... I thought we could live [without him for] three days in March."

Maddon has known about the wedding since the day Tampa Bay signed Burrell to a two-year, $16 million deal on Jan. 5. Maddon could relate to Burrell's attending a family function, as Maddon missed a weekend series in his first year as the Rays' manager to attend the college graduation of his fiancee -- who is now his wife.

"I told him all about that," Maddon said. "I said, 'I've done that.'"

Maddon is not concerned about Burrell getting enough at-bats. Burrell is hitting .250 with two RBIs in eight official spring at-bats.

"By the time he gets back, it's going to be almost like a normal Spring Training," Maddon said. "And as a DH, we can get him as many at-bats as he wants. And the other nice thing to remember is Minor League camp is right there. We can send guys over to get at-bats at the Minor League camp if they want more at-bats. So we've got all these different abilities now that we haven't had in the past. ... The length of the camp is so much greater that we're not worried about a situation where he's coming back from a wedding."

(mlb.com)

Stardom suits Braun just fine

PHOENIX -- If Ryan Braun needed a reminder of how far he has come in just two years, a Brewers fan offered some photographic evidence.
Braun had just played his final tune-up before leaving to man left field for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic when he stopped to sign a few autographs on Saturday. An 8x10 photo sticking through the fence caught his eye.

"It was me from my first big league Spring Training," Braun said with a smile, "and I was No. 75."

With apologies to Brewers swingman Seth McClung -- No. 73 -- double-digit numbers that start with seven are usually reserved for Minor League prospects likely to remain that way for at least another year. And that was precisely the idea in 2007, when Braun, less than two years after he was selected fifth overall in the 2005 Draft, wore No. 75 for his first big league camp.

Braun had other ideas. By May, he was wearing No. 8 in the big leagues, and he was there to stay.

"That was only two years ago, but it feels a lot longer than that," Braun said. "It's kind of incredible, looking back and reflecting on where I was then and what I've accomplished in such a short period of time."

Some numerical evidence: Braun, 25, is a .301 hitter with 71 home runs and 203 RBIs over 10 months in the big leagues. He's the second player in Major League history -- Albert Pujols is the other -- to belt 30 home runs in each of his first two seasons. Braun's 71 homers ties him with Pujols for the fourth-highest total through a player's first two years, trailing only Hall of Famers Joe DiMaggio (75), Ralph Kiner (74) and Eddie Matthews (72).

Braun was the 2007 National League Rookie of the Year despite spending the first seven weeks of the season at Triple-A Nashville. He followed that up in 2008 by leading the Brewers with 37 homers and 106 RBIs despite a bad back that cut short his swing through much of August and September. Braun finished third in NL MVP balloting and was voted to start the 2008 All-Star Game.

Now he's poised to start for Team USA in the Classic. The U.S. tournament opener is Saturday in Toronto against the host Canadians.

"I don't think I ever anticipated this much, this fast," Braun said. "I recognize that when you are at this level a lot of people put you on a pedestal, and they want a piece of you. I think I've handled it well."

Braun fittingly grew up a few miles up the 405 freeway from downtown Los Angeles, and he has made the most of his sudden celebrity. He worked all offseason on a line of high-end T-shirts under the brand Remetee that go for $75 and up. He's filmed a commercial with Sports Illustrated cover girl Marisa Miller, inked an endorsement deal with an airline and is working on his own line of aluminum bats.

It's not all business. Braun attended a Hanukah dinner at the White House last year and talked baseball with President George W. Bush, and he attended the past two Grammy Awards in L.A. He will appear Thursday night with some U.S. teammates on the Late Show with David Letterman to promote the Classic.

New Brewers manager Ken Macha has learned quickly that Braun brings a touch of Hollywood to the Brewers.

"He was asking me what my favorite restaurants were around Phoenix," Macha said. "But I go to the bars and have bar food, so I was, like, scuffling to give him an answer. I had to tell him the restaurants that Doug's [general manager Doug Melvin's] wife recommended."

Braun hosted a film premiere in Milwaukee last summer and almost got deeper into the movie biz this winter. He was offered a bit part in a picture that was originally written for former NBA player Rick Fox.

Braun turned that opportunity down "because there was just too much going on." Every now and then, he reminds himself, baseball is paramount.
"Every opportunity I have is ultimately the result of the success I have on the baseball field," Braun said. "I've always kept that in mind, made sure that stays as my No. 1 priority and my focus. That will never change.

"But when you work hard and have success on the field, I think you should have a chance to enjoy some of those other things. I've had some unbelievable opportunities, and I'm proud of the way I have handled myself and the way I've stayed out of trouble. My parents raised me the right way, and I think that's a big part of it."

Braun's dad, Joe, was born in Tel Aviv and moved to the U.S. when he was 7 years old, and Ryan's mom, Diane, to the horror of Brewers fans everywhere -- or at least in Wisconsin -- is a brewer for Budweiser. He also has a younger brother, Steve, an infielder who went undrafted out of the University of Maryland last summer and signed with the Brewers.

The family remains very close. Joe and Steve Braun were on the field when the Brewers celebrated their regular-season-ending win over the Cubs last September. Ryan Braun's two-run homer in the eighth inning and CC Sabathia's brilliant pitching performance propelled the Brewers to the NL Wild Card and their first postseason appearance since 1982, the year before Braun was born.

"That's something he started doing in high school, and he just continues to do it," Joe Braun said of his son's clutch home run. "Some of our friends always say that nothing surprises them when the moment is right and he steps up there and makes something happen. I hope he continues to do it."

Braun said he models himself after Classic teammate Derek Jeter, a fellow Creative Artists Agency client who was at the 2006 All-Star Game in Pittsburgh, when Jeter was playing for the American League and Braun represented the U.S. in the Futures Game.

"He's somebody I really look up to as a person," Braun said. "He's a winner, first and foremost, and he's handled the 'celebrity' aspect of everything as well as anybody in sports. It's unbelievable the pressure and the scrutiny he's under being the guy in New York, and I think he's handled it so well."

Braun hopes he's on the same path.

"I know how hard this game is and what kind of challenges are ahead of me," he said. "I'm going to deal with that by working harder, because I don't think I've been even close to the kind of baseball player I can be."

(mlb.com)

Salmons leads Bulls in 110-88 win over Warriors

CHICAGO (AP) — John Salmons had 23 points and seven rebounds, Joakim Noah added 14 points and 17 rebounds and the Chicago Bulls beat the Golden State Warriors 110-88 Wednesday night.

Brad Miller finished with 19 points and six rebounds for Chicago, and Derrick Rose finished with 14 points and six assists. The Bulls pulled into a tie with Milwaukee for eighth place in the Eastern Conference.

Leading by six at halftime, Chicago stretched the advantage to 11 on Brad Miller's jumper with 3:54 left in the third quarter. Rose's jumper gave the Bulls a 75-62 lead heading into the fourth.

The Bulls, coming off a 16-point loss to Charlotte the previous night, pulled away early in the fourth quarter. Tyrus Thomas' dunk sparked a 6-0 run to start the period, and Miller's jumper put the Bulls up 81-62 with 10:09 left.

(ap.com)

Walker Replaces James at Ramat Hen

So you thought the end of the regular season would put an end to player movement? thing again. In a surprising and rather infuriating move, Ayana Walker moved from Holon to Ramat Hen in place of Tamara James who was released. Holon added Brooke Reves – the league's 2nd leading scorer who was released from last placed Tel Kabir.

James was Ramat Hen's leading scorer with 18.5 points per game, the best 3pt shooter on the team with 47.1% and the most versatile offensive option the team had despite playing through a nagging shoulder injury, but Ramat Hen still decided to let her go. The loss on Monday at Ashdod must have stressed to Ramat Hen a bit too much just how dependant they are on their lone post, LaToya Pringle. Ayana Walker will replace James, she averaged 21.1 points and 11.4 rebounds per game in Holon this season and this will be her 2nd term with the club.

As you recall Ramat Hen won the Israeli Cup before the break and up until Monday shared 1st place in the league with Ramat Hasharon. The team wasn’t playing particularly well since Shay Doron joined as she hasn't quite fit in yet, but it's definitely surprising they decided to change their team concept at this critical stage of what has been a very successful season for the club. It will be interesting to see how Walker & Pringle work together and how long it will take Ramat Hen's offense to play real basketball and not just live off offensive rebounds.

(safasal.co.il)

Tracking proCanes - Frank Costa - Part II


Part II: Frank’s thoughts on the current state of the program, favorite things, word associations and more! Click here to read Part I.

proCanes: What do you think about the current state of the hurricane football program, and why do you think it went down the way did, and how can it get back up to where it was when you were there?
Frank Costa: If you talk to any of the ex-canes that were there when we were there winning National Championships obviously we are not happy with where we are. Looking at a team like Florida winning two titles in the last three years, that used to be us and now it’s Florida. That’s not a warm and fuzzy feeling that I have in my stomach. You don’t like to see our team play in a bowl game that in my opinion is a very minor bowl. When I was there we played on New Year’s Day every year and that was just a given. We were going to play in one of the four or five major bowls and that was it. I’m not happy with where we are and if you ask Randy he will say the same thing. There is too much talent at their disposal to not win at least 10 games every year in my opinion.

Now, the reason it got that way? From everyone I talked to, after Butch left Coker took over because the core group of guys that were returning and real successful the year before wanted Coker as a head coach. So they kind of forced the hand a little bit and got him to be the head coach. Larry, as much as I know him, love him to death, what a nice guy he was, he really was a nice guy, I am not so sure that he was in the long-term the best guy to take over after Butch was the coach. He did a good job running the offense and had great years with Kenny Dorsey and those guys and they were very dominant at that time but I think recruiting slacked off a little bit and just replenishing the talent was lagging behind and the team started to lose their luster. Right after the Ohio State game I think that is where the program started to turn. You now have to dig yourself out of that hole. You have to get the talent back in. Randy did a great job last year in recruiting. A lot of those guys played and he obviously did a good job. If he keeps recruiting and getting the players in there he can get them back up. It doesn’t take 4 5 years to get back on top. Butch took us back up after Erickson left and we were on probation. We had some down years there because of the probation but Butch got the program right where it was a few years prior. It can be done, and I think it will be done. You just have to get the players there and coach them up.

pC: What's a crazy Story from your days back then?
FC: There were some crazy guys down there that I played with. Some crazy dudes man. I don’t know. Everyday was crazy. Something different would happen. Unbelievable. I can’t think of anything off the top of my head that you could actually put on your website.

pC: Donnell Bennett is now a head coach of a HS team down here. Would you ever think about going into coaching yourself?
FC: Not at this point. I don’t have the time to make a living coaching. If I were to get into coaching, I would have to start at a lower level and my income would not be there. My wife is a stay-at-home mom and for me to support three other people and probably have to pick up and move, I just couldn’t do it. If I was a single guy, maybe, but at this stage of the game, I am 36-years old and been at my company for nine years and I manage a lot of people’s money and thankfully my business has done very well. I couldn’t just toss it out the window. With my competitive nature I would love to do it. I don’t have the time to do that and it wouldn’t be fair to my family to just take my income and get rid of it and take a severe pay cut and be a GA somewhere. As much as I think I would enjoy doing it and this point there is no way.

pC:I say a word and you tell me the first thing that pops in your head:
Randy Shannon: Dedicated
Coker: Good guy
The Orange Bowl: Crazy
Dolphins Stadium: It’s the Dolphins’ stadium
The Ibis: John Routh
Art Kehoe: That’s my man
Erickson: No comment
Coral Gables: Beautiful
Fiesta Bowl: Nightmare

pC: Do you pull for the Eagles as your NFL Team?
FC: I had a personally dealing with them that didn’t go so well. Long story short, one thing was said and another thing was done which kind of gave me a sour taste. I don’t really have an NFL team. I watch the NFL very closely, actually more closely than the college game, believe it or not. I am very much in tune to what is going on in the NFL. I don’t have a particular team I watch, but there are particular players that I love watching play, obviously quarterbacks.

pC: Who’s your favorite QB playing now?
FC: My favorite QB that I like watching play is Peyton. The way he prepares for a game. The mental part that he has going into games and the way he is so in tune to with what is going on, mentally. He is not the most physically gifted quarterback. He is real good at just going to the right place with the ball, making good decisions, getting his team into the right play, making adjustments. I do love watching him. Obviously Brady, hopefully he comes back healthy, because he is such a great competitor. He is so accurate and tough as nails. Kurt Warner, say what you want, if you keep that guy upright he can throw the football as good as anyone who has played the game. Warner throws a beautiful ball. He has a quick release. He doesn’t have a canon for an arm but man can he throw it. I like watching Ben and a lot of these guys but I can watch Brady and Peyton play all day long. They are just so damn good. My favorite of all-time though is Montana. As much as I love Danny [Marino]. Marino is my boy. When I was down there I got a chance to play some golf with him and meet with him. I like Dan personally and no offense to Dan because he could deliver the rock, but Montana in my opinion is a little bit above everyone else.

pC: Do you follow the NBA or Major League Baseball?
FC: I follow baseball more closely than the NBA. I used to be a huge NBA fan but to be honest with you, the way the game gets played now. I don’t love watching the NBA until the playoffs come. I used to watch it religiously but not anymore. I’m a Phillies fan. We finally had a very nice year winning the title and that was great. We had a great ride here with that.

pC: I was pulling for the Phillies because of Pat Burrell.
FC: Pat! He’s not there anymore and down in Tampa now. I pulled for him though. He had ups and downs when he was here. He took a lot of heat. Some of it was warranted. He was very streaky. When he was good, he was real good and when he was bad, he was embarrassingly bad. He would have plate appearances where you would cringe. Trust me, you are talking to probably his number one fan. I would literally almost get into fistfights when people would come down on him. I would back him to the hills. He was here for about 9 years. He had a nice run and his last at-bat was a monster at-bat in World Series. He almost hit it out of there and it ended up being the winning run of the World Series. They really took care of him when they did the parade. He was at the very front of the parade. The fans gave him standing ovation after standing ovation. They kind of knew he was on his way out and they really showed him a lot of appreciation. To be honest with you, as tough as the Philadelphia fans are, they really gave him a free pass for most of the time he was here. They didn’t kill him. I have seen them kill Mike Schmidt and he is arguably the best 3rd baseman to play the game and they would just kill him. They killed everybody. They hate everybody. They took it easy on Burrell. I don’t know why? You always have people with their opinions, but they weren’t tough on him. They didn’t sit and boo him. Here and again they would. For the most part they gave him a free pass. Even people in the media were like why is he getting a free pass? Why aren’t the fans murdering this guy. They really didn’t. Whenever he did something right they always jumped on his back and got behind him. Kind of funny. You don’t hear that about Philadelphia fans. They are brutal. They want Andy Reid and McNabb out of town.

pC: Favorite Food?
FC: Crabs with spaghetti. My wife is an excellent cook. She is Italian as well and she can cook her butt off. She makes a crab sauce with spaghetti that is out of this world. That’s my favorite dish.

pC: Favorite Band or Group?
FC: It’s funny. Being the old man I am at 36, I listen to the financial channel when I am in my car because it is what I do. I try to keep up on things. I listen to a lot of sports radio because I am obviously a sports fan. That consumes most of my radio time. When I am listening to music, I am usually listening to the old bands. Led Zepplin is probably a band I will sit and enjoy the most.

pC: Movie you could watch over and over?
FC: The Good the Bad and the Ugly.

pC: TV Show other than Dancing with the Stars?
FC: [Laughter] The Office

pC: What do you do in your spare time?
FC: My spare time, when I have it, I love being with boys and my wife. I am very fortunate to have a healthy and happy family. We’re close, so if I’m not at work or with my clients I am with the kids and my wife just watching the kids grow. I can have the worst day in the world and when I walk in that front door and see my kids’ face, I forget about it.

pC: Websites you check daily?
FC: Obviously I go on my company’s website and the financial websites and check that boring stuff out, nothing that would be too interesting. I always check out ESPN.com and your news channels and things like that. YouTube is a great site! They’ve got some funny stuff on there.

pC: Back to your college days for one more question.Is there one play that sticks out? One you reminisce about or one you remember as one of your best plays?
FC: One of my best plays? Oh, I don’t know. To be honest with you, it’s funny. This conversation we are having right now is probably the most football I’ve talked about myself in ten years. I really don’t talk football a lot about myself. I don’t talk about my own career hardly at all. Not with my wife, not with my friends. Because, although there are good memories and it was a great experience and I had the opportunity to play with guys that are future Hall of Famers and got a chance to be on national TV and the front cover of magazines, there was also some unfulfilled dreams of playing in the NFL and my experience in Miami wasn’t all good. I never watch any of my old games. They’re on tape, my parents taped them. It’s hard, it’s not easy for me to go and watch my old games. I would rather just live in the now. Not the past. To be honest with you, I don’t think about my own career or talk about it at all. Sometimes it can be a little bit depressing. I had expectations of going on and playing in the NFL, having success and I felt like a lot of those things were taken from me for whatever reason. The opportunities to pursue I felt were taken away from me and it was a hard pill for me to swallow. It was a very tough transition for me after I had decided that football was over, to move on. I know it is for a lot of athletes. I know I am not the only one in that boat but it was tough to pick myself up and figure out what to do with the rest of my life. I have gotten past it and thankfully I have a great job and have been successful and moved but it’s something I don’t think about it anymore.

Click here to read Part I

We at proCanes.com would like to thank Frank Costa for giving us his time to do be the first interviewee for our new feature "Tracking proCanes." Stay tuned to next week when we will have an interview with another former QB from the U who not only won a national championship but had a long career in the NFL.

James pleading to be released from Cardinals

Edgerrin James spoke with Cardinals GM Rod Graves and pleaded to be cut. James knows that he will eventually be cut and he is missing out on other teams right now.




(nfl.com)

Gino Torretta, Hard Rock set charity poker, golf events

Former Heisman Trophy winner and University of Miami quarterback Gino Torretta will host an exciting weekend of poker, golf and festivities on March 7-9 to raise money for his foundation, The Torretta Foundation, which benefits ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis a.k.a. Lou Gehrig’s Disease) Research, the Hard Rock said in a press release.

At 4:30 p.m. Saturday is an invitation-only meet-and-greet for casino players attending the weekend festivities.

Later that evening, Passion Nightclub in Seminole Paradise will host live performances by Steve Azar, Keith Burns, and the USO Liberty Bells. There will be a silent auction and Torretta will also host a live auction. Tickets cost $100.

At 2 p.m. March 8, Torretta will host a charity poker tournament in the Poker Room at Seminole Paradise. The buy-in for the Texas Hold’em Charity Tournament is $1,100. First prize of up to $30,000 (based on 100 entries) will be awarded to the winner with the rest of the proceeds benefiting The Torretta Foundation.

There will be a super satellite tournament at 7:30 p.m. March 6. Buy-in is $150.

The fundraiser wraps up with a celebrity golf tournament at Jacaranda Golf Club in Plantation on on Monday. Registration starts at 9 a.m. with a shotgun start at 11 a.m. Bacardi drinks, a buffet and gift bags are included. Foursomes can be purchased for $6,000 and individual play cost $1,500.

Past celebrity guests include Mike Rozier, Johnny Rodgers, Keith Byars, Steve Walsh, Kijana Carter, Jim McMahon, John Friesz, Mike Eruzione, Keith Burns, Steve Azar, Ken Dorsey, Pam Fletcher, Steve Lundquist, John Congemi, Chris Wienke, Ty Detmer, Kelly Pavlick, Rich Waltz, Tom Hutton, Craig Erickson, Jeff Cross, Brad Culpepper, Lamar Thomas, George Rogers, Reggie Givens, Troy Drayton, Walter Briggs, Bennie Blades, Shaun Hill, O.J. McDuffie, Bernie Kosar and Darryl Williams, according to the casino.

To participate, contact Kevin Pickard at 954-985-5701 ext. 10613 or kevinpickard@semtribe.com

(sun-sentinel.com)

Theismann: Few options for free agent Ray Lewis

Have Ray Lewis' contract demands priced him off the free-agent market?

Former QB and Monday Night Football analyst Joe Theismann said Lewis, 33, may be demanding dollars that teams just aren't going to give him.
Theismann to the Carroll County Times:

"As a player of Ray's stature, you don't maintain a sense of reality. There are few places for him to go in the first place, economically. In Ray's situation, you look at some of the numbers that lesser known, less accomplished younger players are getting and you think, 'Why can't I get a piece of that?'

"In Ray's case, the reality is that there aren't a whole lot of options for him. The way you drive up the price is to have a lot of suitors for your talent. That's the only way to get that done is to negotiate with other teams. Truthfully, Ray Lewis has made more money than he can spend in his lifetime."

Lewis may be a 10-time Pro Bowler and a two-time Defensive Player of the Year, but at his age he's not as sound an investment. Consider that the Jets signed his former teammate, ex-Ravens LB Bart Scott, who's five years younger.

(usatoday.com)

Anthony Reddick trying to show he is ready for NFL after rocky college career

CORAL GABLES - Miami safety Anthony Reddick spent Friday morning showing two dozen scouts from around the NFL how he could run.

Run left. Run right. Run straight ahead.

Maybe even run away from his past, too.

Reddick's time with the Hurricanes will be best remembered by things he wishes people would forget. The St. Thomas Aquinas alum blew out the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in 2005 and played in only one game. Blew out the ACL in his left knee playing pickup basketball in the spring of 2007 season and missed that entire season, too.

And most notably, there was the unforgettable scene of him running across the field, wielding his helmet high and swinging it wildly during the infamous on-field brawl between Miami and Florida International in 2006, drawing a four-game suspension.

"I learned from all those things," Reddick said, "Made me a better person, a better man."

That's the message he has for the 17 teams who sent staff to the Hurricanes' practice field Friday for the annual pro day, where departing Miami players get poked, prodded, tested and measured by scouts evaluating talent ahead of the NFL draft.

In past years, pro day has been a circus at Miami. Not anymore; Friday's session was relatively low-key, and even the players running around under the hot South Florida sun realize that the Hurricanes' record streak of 14 straight years with a first-round draft pick will end.

"It's disappointing to be a part of that," said linebacker Glenn Cook, another of the Miami players who worked out Friday. "But it doesn't take away from our school, our program."

Reddick didn't mind, either. All he wants is to catch the eye of some team -- and convince those people that he deserves a shot at the NFL.

He was an All-American at the South Florida superpower high school St. Thomas Aquinas, and was wooed by Ohio State, Florida State and Georgia before signing with Miami. As a true freshman in 2004, Reddick played in 11 games, and by year's end was one of only three true freshmen in the starting lineup. He blocked punts, made interceptions, defended passes, whatever the Hurricanes needed.

"Anthony could do a little of everything," former Miami coach Larry Coker said after that season.

Reddick was Miami's starting strong safety for the 2005 season-opener at Florida State, got hurt in that game, and the downward spiral began.

The fight against FIU -- the one where 18 Golden Panthers and 13 Hurricanes drew suspensions for their actions -- was rock bottom.

"The person that everyone saw ... it's truly not me and that wasn't a good reflection of my character," Reddick said days later, looking into a horde of television cameras as he walked onto the same practice field Friday's pro day took place upon to make a public apology.

After getting hurt in that 2005 opener, Reddick had to wait three full years before starting another game for the Hurricanes, but redeemed himself with 75 tackles this season, playing in all 13 Miami games.

The brawl, the knee surgeries, everything negative was finally behind him.

He worked his way into Miami's good graces again, and knows he'll still likely have to answer for those actions when interviewed by NFL clubs.

"I put myself in those situations, especially the NFL fight. The injuries, I can't do anything about those, but I'll tell them the truth about what happened," Reddick said. "I made a mistake. What I did was wrong. There's nothing else about it. I'm not going to let it bring me down at all. I'm sorry for it, I owned up to it and I moved on with my life."

Reddick has nothing to hide, and that includes how his knees are feeling. He insists he's never been stronger, even making a facetious offer to jump from a two-story-high balcony after all the scouts trudged off the pro day field.

He's not listed highly on any draft boards. He isn't listed at all on many of them.

Somehow, someway, he just wants a shot to get inside an NFL camp this summer. If that happens, Reddick insists he'll take care of the rest.

"All I need is an opportunity," Reddick said. "I'm a football player. I know I am. I'm a great one at that. Opportunity is all I need, and I'll go from there."

(sun-sentinel.com)

Impact Analysis: Kellen Winslow, TE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

After requesting a trade last year from the Cleveland Browns, tight end Kellen Winslow has finally had his wish granted. The Browns dealt the enigmatic tight end to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for a second-round pick in 2009 and a fifth-round choice in 2010. 

Winslow, who has a storied history of injuries and missed time, finds himself entering a rebuilding team that may be no closer to a Super Bowl berth than the Browns are. That may be the truth, but fantasy owners don't really care now do they? What we care about is how many passes Winslow will catch, how many touchdowns he'll score and what his fantasy value is.

Those questions are going to be tough to answer, but we'll try our best. For the Buccaneers, a plethora of familiar faces are no more, starting with the general manager and working down to veteran players. New faces have entered, but a few recognizable names still call Tampa home.

The supporting cast
The man expected to be tossing the rock to Winslow is quarterback Luke McCown; the Buccaneers re-signed him to a two-year contract. In his five-year career, McCown has started a mere seven games and has seen action in 12. The 6-foot-3, 212-pounder played collegiate football at Louisiana Tech. In his 12 appearances, he has compiled 1,617 passing yards, has thrown nine touchdowns and 10 interceptions. McCown has shown to possess modest accuracy as evidenced by his 59.7 percent completion rate. His most extensive experience came in 2007 for the Bucs, completing a very respectable 67.6 percent of his throws. He averaged 201.8 yards per game and hurled more touchdown passes (five) than interceptions (three). Barring some collapse during training camp or an injury, it appears as though he is the Bucs' starting quarterback.

At running back, the Buccaneers recently reached an agreement with free-agent running back Derrick Ward (New York Giants). He is expected to pair with Earnest Graham (ankle), who suffered a season-ending ankle injury that landed him on Injured Reserve in 2008.

Oft-injured tailback Cadillac Williams (knee) remains in the fold, but his durability issues have forced the Bucs to look elsewhere for regular production. He should be available to play a complementary role in 2009, and it wouldn't surprise us to see the Buccaneers model their backfield after the Giants' 2008 three-headed monster.

All things considered, Tampa Bay's ground game should be at the very least competent and as good as dynamic in '09.

Looking at the wide receiver position, the Buccaneers used their franchise tag on last year's breakout performer, Antonio Bryant. His 83 receptions for 1,248 yards and seven touchdown catches in 2008 led the team. Bryant was consistent and made spectacular catches throughout the year after sitting out the 2007 season without a team. However, he doesn't have much of a track record, and he didn't even find a home for the 2007 season.

Veteran receiver Michael Clayton re-signed with the team and is coming off his best season since his rookie year in 2004. It's no secret that Clayton hasn't lived up to his rookie season, having scored only twice since his seven-touchdown showing in '04.

Pass catcher Dexter M. Jackson is a speedy deep threat but struggled to make any noticeable contribution in 2008. The Appalachian State product was inactive from Week 8 through the rest of the season. He'll get a shot to contribute on offense this year, most likely as a slot receiver. The Bucs burned a second-round pick on him in 2008, so it's likely they will give him every shot to succeed.

Veteran wideouts Joey Galloway and Ike Hilliard were both released in the recent roster purge.

Tight end Jerramy Stevens, who is an unrestricted free agent and is unlikely to return, led the position for the Buccaneers in receptions (35) and yardage (385) while playing in 13 games.

Tight end Alex Smith played in 14 games. He recorded 21 receptions for 250 yards and led the position with three touchdowns for Tampa Bay.
Stevens and Smith combined for 94 total targets last year. By comparison, Winslow received 150 targets in 2007 alone!

Winslow's game
"K2," as he is known as, is a rangy, athletic, play-making tight end who relies on his smooth routes, impressive speed and soft hands to excel. He makes for a major mismatch against slower safeties and most linebackers.

Winslow is one of the most fluid tight ends in the league when he has the ball in his hands, and at 6-foot-4, 250 pounds, he has the size to come down with most jump balls. His best season to date was 2007. Winslow caught 82 passes for 1,106 yards (a healthy 13.5 per catch) and five touchdowns. Despite his size, he hasn't developed into a big red zone threat. Part of this can be blamed on the offense he was in with the Browns, though.

Injuries have slowed the talented second-generation star. A motorcycle accident cost him the entire 2005 season after he played in only two games his rookie year following a broken fibula. He dealt with a six-week staph infection after the motorcycle accident.

Winslow returned with a vengeance and completed his first full season in 2005. He hauled in what is still a career-best 89 passes. He scored three times and posted 875 yards (9.8 yards per reception).

Last season wasn't so kind to Winslow, or the Browns for that matter. He caught just 43 passes for 428 yards (10.0) and three touchdowns in 10 games. He was hospitalized for what was later learned to be another staph infection, and the entire ordeal ultimately soured his relationship with the organization, primarily general manager Phil Savage. Winslow was suspended one game for comments detrimental to the team, but the suspension was later rescinded; Winslow still sat out Week 8. To top off all of that, Winslow battled a high ankle and shoulder sprains as the season winded down.

The writing was on the wall for Winslow's departure from the Browns; it was just a matter of when and to whom.

Look for Tampa Bay to make him one of the primary focuses in the offense. He should end up as the second-most targeted player on the team behind Bryant. As long as Bryant is on par with his play of last season, and Clayton is capable of keeping defenders honest, Winslow should be free up the middle of the field. The addition of Ward and the return to health of Graham should only open it up further.

Fantasy football outlook
You always have to worry about the injury risk that comes with drafting Winslow. He has shown that regardless of the quarterback he is capable of producing. Winslow will need to learn a new playbook, adapt to a new quarterback and surroundings, but we're confident he is able to make a successful transition.

View Winslow as a strong No. 1 tight end in all fantasy circles, and he is slightly more valuable in point-per-reception formats. Don't bank on him in touchdown-heavy leagues, but his athleticism should win out in the red zone if given enough chances. He is a classic high-risk, high-reward player.

(kffl.com)

Salmons starts, but quiet in 33 minutes

John Salmons got a start over injured Luol Deng on Tuesday but hit just 4-of-13 shots and one 3-pointer for nine points.

He played 33 minutes, but was just 1-of-7 from downtown and added just four rebounds and one assist for one of his worst lines in recent memory. And, of course, it came on a week where expectations were high with Deng dealing with a leg injury. Salmons should bounce back in his next one.

(rotoworld.com)

Tracking proCanes - Frank Costa - Part I


proCanes.com is kicking off a new “Tracking proCanes” feature where we will talk to stars from the past about their days at the “U,” the pro’s and what they are doing now. To kickoff the new feature proCanes.com spoke with former starting quarterback Frank Costa. Costa started the ’93 and ’94 seasons for the ‘Canes finishing with a 19-3 record as a starter. His career included a quarterback controversy in ’93 but was also highlighted with wins over Colorado and a memorable win over top-ranked Florida State in ’94 in front of a raucous crowd at night in the Orange Bowl. Read below as Frank talks about his high-school days, days as a Hurricane, pro and more!.

Part I: Where is Frank now? His days as a Hurricane and more!.

proCanes: Could you first let the fans know what you have been up to since you left UM?
Frank Costa: Well I’m originally from Philly, and after Miami, I just kind of bounced around while still calling Miami home-base. I graduated in ‘94 and after that, I came back home to Philly and got ready for the draft and everything else. For whatever reason it didn’t go as well as we wanted it to and I ended up going to Cleveland briefly. Things weren’t working out there, so I went to the Miami Dolphins briefly and then to Philly to the Eagles. I just kind of kicked around but never really got anything going with any of those situations. None of those situations were actually very good for me in regards to having a legitimate chance to compete for even a 3rd string position.

I then went over to Europe, played in London for a couple of years. Then I came back here and played for the Regional Football League, which was around just for one year. I played for the Mobile Admirals. It had a regional concept. There were 6 teams to start off in the first year and they had a regionalized draft so if you went to school in Florida, or Georgia, or Alabama, you would play for that team. It was actually a really fun league, the competition was good. I mean half of our roster had ex-NFL players on it. We had some decent players on our team and we ended up winning a championship and that was really fun. I totally would have gone back for a second year. At that point I had some endorsement deals and everything lined up but the league folded because we couldn’t secure some TV deal, so that kind of hurt.

After that I was just traveling so much, I was getting ready to get married, I really needed something more stable and trust me if football was working out for me I would’ve pursued it, but I was spinning my wheels. I needed something more stable so I moved back to the Philadelphia area for good and I got into financial planning back in October of 2000. I’ve been a financial advisor since then. I’m in my ninth year now. I’m with AXA and I got married in December of 2000. I’ve been living in Jersey for a while. So that’s kind of where I am now.

pC: Have any kids?
FC: I’ve got a couple of boys. A four-year old boy and a one year old.

pC: Is the four year old throwing a football yet?
FC: He played flag football this year. It was his first year playing and he’ll play tee-ball in the Spring. He enjoys it. He likes to run around. Typical boy. I mean they’re both big kids. My one year old, he’s huge. He’s like in the 99th percentile. He’s a big bruiser. It will be interesting to see.

pC: Do you come down at all to any games?
FC: You know I haven’t been down for a couple of years. The last time I was there was for the home opener when they played Colorado. I was at that game and I haven’t been down since. It’s kind of hard with the kids. Just taking them on the plane. I do follow from afar. I watch them on TV. But I don’t travel to games.

pC: Do you keep in touch with any former team-mates or coaches?
FC: Well, to be honest, I used to keep in touch with Art Kehoe, who was the offensive line coach down there forever. He’s from the Pennsylvania area and he recruited me. I had a good relationship with Art and through a couple of the coaching changes he stuck around. Erickson left and he was there with Butch, and then when Butch left he was there with Coker, and I would always give him a call and see what’s going on. He ended up getting fired, and going to Ole Miss and I haven’t spoken to him in about a year or so.

pC: So Art Kehoe recruited you, were you a Miami fan growing up? Were they always on your list?
FC: I was always a Penn State fan. I grew up in Philly and I always rooted for Penn State growing up since it was our local team, but I always did admire Miami as much as anybody. They were really, at the time in the 80’s, revolutionizing the quarterback position at the college level. They were doing things that just weren’t being done. Coming out of the 70’s most teams were pounding the ball and running the power sweep and pro-passing style offense wasn’t really happening in most colleges. When Bernie Kosar was there and they won the first national title that’s when they really started implementing that and when you’re a quarterback you really admire those things; throwing the ball, spreading the field, they had their quarter back making a lot of decisions. So I was a Miami fan and because my appearance, physically, a lot of people compared me to Vinny Testaverde. My high school friends would tease me and call me CostaVerde and all that stuff. The Miami thing was always there. When I was getting recruited my senior year of high school there were a lot schools recruiting me but it really came down to Miami and Penn State at the finish line. Those were the two schools for me.

pC: When you got down there, you were behind Gino, who won the Heisman. He was a tough act to follow. What would you say was the toughest thing about playing here at UM?
FC: I was kind of young, I was still 17 years old, turning 18 in that September. So it was great to get a chance to red-shirt and sit and see Craig Erickson play his senior year and then get a chance to back up Gino for two years. I never really played any meaningful games during that time but got the chance to be around someone who won the Heisman Trophy and just got to pick his brain. He had a ton of success doing it the right way and I learned a lot from him. And then, when it came time for me to start playing in ‘93, really the toughest thing was the expectations b/c we were so competitive every single year being top 1,2, or 3 team in the country.

We had a tremendous turnover in our roster that year. We only had one offensive lineman returning, the other four guys graduated. We had no receivers coming back; we had no tightends coming back so they were all new. Our running back, Donnell Bennett, had played the year before so we essentially had one or two starters coming back on offense and I was obviously new as well. Our defense had a lot of turnover as well. We went from having an extremely talented group of wide-outs with Lamar Thomas, Horace Copeland, Kevin Williams, Darryl Spencer, and Coleman Bell to all new guys stepping in. We didn’t have any playing experience, so the expectation level was very high for us to continue the success that was there for so long, but we were all getting in and getting our ears wet at the same time, so it was hard. We weren’t an experienced group, and we all made mistakes kind of becoming acclimated to the college game. So that was probably the toughest part and the expectations were extremely high. When they weren’t seeing it on the field the fans weren’t real happy with us and neither were we. We didn’t go to Miami to not play well and not compete for a National Championship.

pC: Talk about the '93 season.
FC: We were a very inexperienced group in ‘93 and we actually started off pretty well that season. We won our first game in Boston College. BC was top 20 that year. We went up there opening game and beat them pretty handily and then we came back and played Virginia Tech at home and we beat them like 21 to nothing [21-2] and at the time the game was ugly, we didn’t play well but we did beat them 21 to nothing. That was really the first year Frank Beamer had that team going. They ended up finishing in the top 20 as well so at the time it looked like we only beat VT who had been a doormat for so long 21-0. But looking back, in hindsight, that was when they really started becoming a program.

Then we played the big game up in Colorada, they were like #5 in the country at the time with the big fight, Kordell Stewart, Johnson the wideout, Westbrook and Rashan Salaam. They had a really good team and we ended up beating those guys up there. It was a huge win for us. As inexperienced as we were and as ugly as it looked at times we were playing pretty well. We were 3-0 and we beat three pretty good teams, 2 were on the road. We came home against Georgia Southern. I played very poorly in that game and still don’t have an explanation why. Probably took them a little too lightly since they were a 1-AA team and we had Florida State coming up the next week, kind of a sandwich game between Colorado and Florida State, typical look-over game. Obviously it is stupid to do that but that’s what happened and I didn’t play real well in that game and ended up getting benched for the second half. Then we went to Tallahassee and played Florida State who ended up winning a national title that year. We hung in there for the first 3 quarters. We had more first downs, more total yards and time of possession. We just didn’t execute real well in the red zone and they ended up scoring a touchdown on us to make the lead 11, I believe. Then it came down to the 4th quarter. I started pressing and trying to comeback and threw an interception returned for a touchdown and then I got benched and that was it for my junior year. They started Ryan Collins for the rest of the way.

pC: What would you say was your toughest memory of your entire career, would it be that FSU game or the Washington game?
FC: The Florida State game was a tough pill to swallow, but in all honesty they were just a better team than us and they had us at home. You have to remember going into that game they were a 14-point favorite. They just had a better team than us that year. They had more experience. We had beaten them something like 4 years in a row. You know eventually a team like Florida State, they are going to get you once and again. They caught us at a real good spot; the game was closer than the score indicated. So, I wouldn’t say the Florida State game was such a bad memory. We got beat, and that sucks but the subsequent benching was the most difficult time I had at Miami and mainly because I felt like the finger was getting pointed at me. It was all my fault, it was no one else’s fault. I was very clear with Coach Erickson at that time, that I was unhappy with the decision he made because I felt I was being made the scapegoat. We led the nation in dropped passes at that point. We were averaging 5 drops a game but none of the receivers got benched. The schedule got real soft after that. Four out of our first 5 games were against top teams and then after that we played some really weak teams. He benches me, Ryan comes in and he played well. In my opinion I felt it was against some weaker competition, so Coach Erickson looks like a genius because he now makes the QB change, we’re winning games, except for the West Virginia game which we ended up losing up there, which I didn’t even play in. We then went to the bowl game and we got whipped against Arizona and then I had a long talk with Coach Erickson after that game basically saying you have to let me compete for this job, or I have to go somewhere else.

pC: So, you did think of transferring at some point?
FC: Absolutely. At that point I was very much frustrated with my situation. I waited a really long time, very patiently, for three years to get an opportunity to play and I felt like the way it shook out I wasn’t given the opportunity that I thought I deserved, so I just flat out told him: I do have a decision to make, but if you give me the opportunity in the spring to compete for the job and if at the end of spring you can tell me I don’t deserve the start then that’s fine. I don’t think that will be the case but I need it to be fair. And he promised me that, that would be the case. We went into the spring and I ended up winning the job and got a chance to play my senior year.

pC: What about the Washington game?
FC: The Washington game, that was tough. It was more fluky than anything else. I think if we played Washington ten times that year we beat them 9 times, they weren’t better than us, if you look at that game a five-minute span is what changed it. We were up 14-3 at halftime and we had all the momentum in the world on our side and then some strange things happened in a 5-minute period.

pC: Including the coin toss…
FC: We kicked off both halves. You know Warren Sapp made a real nice decision before the game to elect to kickoff and not defer when we won the toss so we ended up kicking off both halves. They get the ball and they run a screen pass to their fullback of all players and he goes for like 80 yards. They kickoff to us, we get the ball back, I throw an out-route to Jammi German and he falls, so the corner sitting there he takes it for six. We fumbled the next kickoff, I think, and they got the ball at the 5 yard-line and scored again. They scored like 20 unanswered points in like 4 or 5 minutes span. It changed the game. They ended up beating us and that was hard. We had the streak going and that is obviously one that lasts forever and you didn’t want to be the guys to lose that streak but that didn’t hurt as much to me, personally, as the Nebraska Game. The Nebraska game was the toughest loss to deal with, because there was so much on the line at that time.

pC: How Was Erickson as a coach? Many say he ran a loose operation? How was your relationship with him since he was an offensive guru at the time?
FC: The program was run loosely by him. He was by no means the strict disciplinarian. He wasn’t your Tom Coughlin-like coach. Coming on the heels of Jimmy, I don’t think Jimmy was either. Miami had that rebel kind of aura about them and I don’t think that changed a whole lot. I think it changed when Butch got there, but I didn’t play for Butch but I just know from talking to some of the guys. Dennis let a lot of things go. Say what you want about Dennis and he has flaws just like we all do, but he was good at game planning. Attacking weaknesses in the defense and creating mismatches. That was one thing that he was good at. I think his people skills and dealing with college kids is probably where he wasn’t as strong. And particularly in my situation, we would go at it. We didn’t see eye-to-eye on a lot of things, obviously the benching we didn’t see eye-to-eye on. And that kind of hit me square between the eyes. My senior year we got along well enough to compete for the National Championship on New Years Day but my relationship with Dennis when it’s all said and done; we haven’t talked to each other since New Year’s Day in 1995. Let’s put it that way.

pC: Who is the toughest guy to go up against in practice that you had to face on a daily basis and who was the best player on your team at the time?
FC: Ray Lewis was still younger. Ray was a freshman in ‘93 and sophomore in ‘94. Not that he wasn’t a good player because he was, but he wasn’t quite the man that he became. Let’s put it that way. But you could see he was going to be that type of guy. But Warren was closer to my year. Sapp could be real dominant when he felt like it in practice and most of the time he did feel like it and he was real hard to go up against. There were times at practice where they had to take him off the field just so we could get some stuff done on the offense because we couldn’t block him. He was the best player that in practice I would go up against but I’m not really going up against him and I don’t block him but I just have to go up against the defense. He was the best player on our team by far. He really was probably the best defensive player in the country that year. I know he didn’t get the Outland trophy, which that was really a robbery, but he was dominant. He was dominant that whole year and if it wasn’t for the incident at [NFL] Combine then he would have been a top five pick. He was just so quick and so strong and just a great athlete and that’s why he was so successful at the NFL level. The guy has some great athletic ability and for him to be that big and move that well. He could even dance. I didn’t watch the show [Dancing with the Stars] but I heard he did a pretty good job on the show too.

pC: So who would you say you were closest to on the team in terms of teammates? Who was your best friend or guys that you really hung out with a lot?
FC: I was close with Gino when he was there. Obviously after he graduated he moved on with his life so that was it, but he was one of my closer friends my first couple of years. A couple of offensive lineman, some nondescript guys who I still stay in touch with were my friends. One guy wasn’t even on scholarship the other guy didn’t play a whole lot. But of the guys that were on the field and playing, to be honest with you, I didn’t have a real tight relationship off the field, for a number of reasons. For me personally once football was over, because it was such a huge part of my life, I would remove myself from it on a personal basis and kind of hang out with the people that weren’t on the team just to get an outlet and get away. The other thing is in ‘93, I felt like most of the team sided with Ryan. When Ryan took over he was the player of choice on the team. And that kind of hurt too, so I didn’t have a super close relationship with most guys on the team. It was more of a working relationship. I respected them, they respected me. I got along with the guys, it’s not that I didn’t get along with them, but as far as personal relationship, there was nothing real super close with those guys.

pC: You went through a lot in terms of the time with Ryan. What did you think about the quarterback situation this past year with playing both Robert Marve and Jacory Harris?
FC: Well that’s a hard thing. I think if you talk to any quarterback they are not in favor of that. Just from being competitive, for one. But two, it’s tough to get in a rhythm. Quarterback is very much a rhythm position and you need to get a feel for the game and it’s real hard to do that if you’re coming in and out of the game. Very seldom will you see an offense be consistent when they have more than one quarterback playing the position. It’s very, very seldom. I don’t agree with it. I never have and to say at the beginning of the game we’re going to put a guy in these situations. I would never like that as a starter. And it’s hard for the back up too. The guy has to come in cold off the bench to try in and get into the flow of the game in a couple of plays of the game or a couple of series of the game. It’s not easy to do. Listen, Randy has a reason why he’s doing it and obviously he is the Head Coach and knows a hell of a lot more than I do, but I don’t know of any quarterback that would be okay with that. Then you’re looking over your shoulder you never feel real comfortable with your situation that if you make a bad throw and you’re going to get yanked and maybe yanked for good in the games. I wouldn’t like it. That’s not something I could see how you could be 100% comfortable as a quarterback if you have that lingering on your shoulder.

pC: Who was the most influential person in developing your game and becoming a very good college quarterback to say the least?
FC: I had influences from a couple of people along the way. My dad always helped me in any way he could. In athletics period. Not that my dad was a quarterback because he was not, he was an athlete. He was not a quarterback so he would find out who was the best or smartest guy around in the Philadelphia area as far as quarterbacks were concerned or quarterback knowledge and go pick that guy’s brain and have me work with that person. If he didn’t know the answer, he would figure it out and he always instilled a lot of good things as far as qualities are concerned: hardwork, outwork the other guy, if your team goes out and practice that great go practice with them but when they’re not practicing you can go out there and get better them. So, he instilled a lot of qualities that not only translate to athletics but also in the world. I was gifted by being 6’4” and having a good arm but the other stuff all came from just busting my rear end. He was a huge influence.

I worked with Rich Ganonn. Rich and I went to the same high school. So Rich and my head coach in high-school were classmates. In the summertime before my junior year and also before my senior year I did work with Rich throwing the ball and he taught me a lot. He was influential.

When I got to college, Gino was very instrumental in helping me learn about the college game and Bernie Kosar would call. I did speak with him [Bernie] a lot and he was a good guy. When I was going through my tough times I spoke to him quite a few times. He was actually going through a similar situation in Cleveland at the time with Vinny and Belicheck. He didn’t have to do that but as I’m sure you’ve heard in the past Bernie is just that kind of guy. He was a guy that I had looked up to prior to getting to Miami. He was just a great guy to talk to. He gave me a lot of good solid advice through some tough times in my life. I will always be grateful to Bernie and what he did for me.

pC: Why the #11?
FC: I was 14 in high school not because of the CostaVerde thing. The whole CostaVerde thing stemmed from me wearing #14, being the Italian guy, being dark hair, 6’4, kind of looked like him a little bit, our playing styles were similar so that was always my number. When I got to Miami it was retired because Vinny had won the Heisman, so I wasn’t able to get that and my two choices were #11 because Dale Dawkins had just graduated or #15. I didn’t really like #15, so I took #11 because basically it was available.

pC: When you were at UM, how was it in terms of film study as the QB. I hear Kyle Wright wasn’t big on studying film. How much time did you spend in the film room? How important is that?
FC: My studying of film began at a young age. Even when Gino was playing, I did a lot of film study. You always had to be prepared as a backup but also it’s a good habit to get in to. Personally, I watched a lot of film, just to get an idea of what the other team is trying to do.

pC: Were you ever able to call your own plays?
FC: As far as calling my own plays. I always had the liberty to check at the line. Dennis would send in the plays unless it was the 2-minute drill. When you come to the line of scrimmage and see something he would have no problem with me calling my own play. If he calls a play and you were going to run directly into the blitz he would prefer you to check out of it into a better play. There was always the liberty to do that.

pC: Who was your favorite target?
FC: Chris T. Jones. He played for a couple of years for the Eagles but then got hurt and bounced out of the league. Chris was my best receiver at the time, and probably my favorite target.

pC: Where was the toughest place to play?
FC: The toughest places I went to, other than playing Temple at the Vet and playing on that field. That field was like playing on concrete. Thank god that place has been imploded and mind you I grew up about 2 blocks from that stadium. What a *hit-hole it was. In Tallahassee is not an easy place to play. It is loud there, a lot of fans, they play that damn song the whole game. Syracuse is just a really loud place because of the dome [Carrier Dome]. We went up there in 1992 and that was actually the year before I started playing and we almost got beat up there. Then we played up there in 1994, in fact they broke a record for attendance that game. You couldn’t hear yourself think. That’s probably the loudest place. That was really a loud stadium. To be honest some of the games we had at the Orange Bowl, when we had Florida State my senior year at night that place was rocking. That place was crazy that night. I don’t know if I have been in a stadium that crazy. We played at Penn State with 100,000 people but they weren’t as loud as the 80,000 in the Orange Bowl. No way.

pC: What do you think about the move to DS?
FC: I know why they did it. You talk to any of the old ‘Canes and the Orange Bowl is our home. The stadium isn’t even in Miami. It’s hard and I know why they did it and they had to do it. I completely get it, but to me it’s not home. When they started playing the Orange Bowl game there, to me it wasn’t the Orange Bowl anymore. It is what it is and until they build something else, that’s where we’ll be playing. I don’t particularly like it. The Orange Bowl wasn’t a nice place, it was old, outdated but it had a lot of charm to it and the people in the city liked the place. I know why they did it, but I just don’t like it.

Click here to read Part II.

Romberg Visits Falcons

Center Brett Romberg, who has spent the past three seasons with the Rams, made a free-agent visit Thursday with Atlanta. The Falcons are looking for depth at center, and Romberg has an ally in Atlanta in former Rams offensive line coach Paul Boudreau, who joined the Falcons in 2008.

(stltoday.com)

Orien Harris Signs

On Monday the Bengals officially announced the re-signing of defensive tackle Orien Harris, a second-year exclusive rights free agent. He played in 14 games in '08 and had 22 tackles and three QB hurries.



(bengals.com)

Buchanon To Visit Lions

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have started lining up player visits at One Buc Place, and now at least one of their own free agents is scheduled to make a trip.

Bucs free agent cornerback Phillip Buchanon is scheduled to visit with the Detroit Lions on Monday night, according to ProFootballTalk.com.

Buchanon, 28, has spent the past three seasons with the Bucs. The former first-round pick with the Oakland Raiders has notched 18 career interceptions and is a player Tampa Bay is interested in re-signing.

Tampa Bay has expressed interest in other free agent cornerbacks, including Cincinnati's Jamar Fletcher, Buffalo's Jabari Greer and Baltimore's Corey Ivy.

(pewterreport.com)

John Salmons: Expected to Start Tuesday

Update: Even though Luol Deng has a bruised right shin and not a stress fracture as originally feared according to an MRI Sunday, Salmons is expected to start at small forward in place of Deng Tuesday against Charlotte, the Chicago Sun-Times reports.

Recommendation: Salmons, who has averaged 15 points in five games since the Bulls acquired him from Sacramento on Feb. 19, has seen an increase in playing time since playing 25 minutes in his first game as a Bull. He gives Chicago a solid scorer and defender at the two- and three-spot.

(rotowire.com)

Impressive rookie Jay to start in outfield today for St. Louis Cardinals

JUPITER, Fla. Rookie Jon Jay, who has hit in four straight exhibition games and has impressed St. Louis Cardinals brass with his quick bat, has earned a start today in right field for the exhibition game here against the American League champion Tampa Bay Rays.

The lefthanded-hitting Jay, a stocky 200-pounder who is faster than he looks, has had five hits in 12 at-bats so far this spring. Brian Barton, who knocked in six runs on Sunday when he was playing the outfield, will serve as the designated hitter in the game to be started by righthander Adam Wainwright, who will be making is first appearance of the spring.

(stltoday.com)

Burrell to be part of Ring Ceremony

Hidden in Scott Lauber column on Pat Burrell moving on past the Phillies is a gem that should make all those who manged to get into the April 8th ring ceremony game happy: Pat Burrell will be in the building.

[Burrell] even met with team president David Montgomery and finalized plans to participate in a pregame ceremony April 8 during which he will be presented with his World Series ring.

Burrell wouldn’t miss it.

“It works out to where we are going to be in Boston,” Burrell said. “The Phillies have a day game. We play at night. So, I’ll be able to shoot on over and jump right back on a flight. It’s just a coincidence. Fortunately for me, it worked out.”

Classy move by the Phillies for trying to ensure this went down, Bait for being flexible with his schedule, and the Rays for allowing one of their players to be part of a moment that obviously is going to mean a lot to him.  Even with all the current stars on the team, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if Burrell managed to take home the loudest ovation.

(sportscomplex.com)

Cards’ Perez has look of closer

JUPITER — His hair is long enough to brush his shoulders and his cheeks haven’t seen a razor in a few days. Chris Perez has that unkempt look of a closer; of the gunslinger called on to blow his fastball by over-matched hitters and nail down the final outs of a game. It’s as if Perez is channeling Rich Gossage or Al Hrobosky.

“That’s what everybody says. But that’s just a coincidence,” Perez said Monday morning while standing outside the St. Louis Cardinals clubhouse behind Roger Dean Stadium.

Actually, Perez has the mid-90s fastball of a closer, and if he can learn to throw his slider from the same arm slot as his fastball, he might very well have the job as the Cardinals closer this season.

“It’s the job I prefer, but I just want to be on the team,” Perez said. “Any role would be fine with me.”

Perez, the 23-year-old Bradenton native who played at Manatee High and Pendleton School and starred at the University of Miami, served as the Cardinals closer last season, converting seven of his 11 save opportunities.

“He’s got an electric arm. The ball jumps out of his hand,” said Trever Miller, the former Ray reliever who is in his first season with the Cardinals. “He’s got a long future in this game as long as he keeps his head where it needs to be and stays grounded.”

Perez reached the major leagues last season, joining the Cardinals on May 16. It was a Friday night and the Rays were in town for an Interleague series. The game was televised so Perez’s family watched him make his big league debut. He pitched a scoreless seventh inning.

“A long day,” Perez said of his first day in the big leagues. “I was excited. Sitting in the bullpen, watching a big league game. Being on the team is what I dreamed about as a kid. I remember going to McKechnie Field with my dad. That was the best thing in the world. We had season tickets for spring training. He still has them. Even in high school, I would go to every game.”

Perez picked up his first big league victory two days later when he pitched a perfect ninth inning. The Cardinals scored the winning run in the bottom of the inning, making a winner out of Perez.

It all happened so fast for Perez. One day he’s in Memphis with the Cardinals Triple A team, the next day his pitching at Busch Stadium.

“My third appearance we were in L.A. and I was facing Jeff Kent,” Perez said. “When I was in high school, he was in the World Series with the Giants. He was arguably a Hall of Famer and I was facing him. I’ve seen that guy on TV and doing ESPN commercials and here I am facing him. Another thing was walking in (the Cardinals clubhouse) the first time, and there’s Albert (Pujols). Welcome to the majors: Here’s your first baseman. He won the MVP last year and is a great player. To have him as a teammate is pretty much: You’re here. If I blow it, maybe he can hit a home run in the ninth.”

The shaggy look notwithstanding, Perez feels he is made to be a closer. He was used in that role as a junior at Manatee High and at Miami and during his climb through the minor leagues.

“I like being on the mound when the game is close and having it all on my shoulders,” Perez said. “I like that feeling. I like the back against the wall kind of a feeling. It feels even better when you get out of it and your guys win. That’s the best feeling.”

To experience that feeling in St. Louis this summer, Perez needs to add that slider. Right now, he’s working on his delivery so that hitters see the same arm slot whether Perez is throwing a fastball or slider.

Cardinals manager Tony La-Russa called Perez’s work on his slider “promising.”

“I need to get more consistent with my arm slot, Perez said. “Last year I was kind of dropping, and hitters could pick that up. That’s not a good thing. I’m just trying to keep it as the same arm motion and coming out of the same spot as my fastball, so it makes it better.”

Miller, who has been in the big leagues since 1996, said Perez needs that second pitch to survive.

“They aren’t many one-pitch pitchers who last in this gamer too long,” Miller said. “Mariano Rivera is about the only guy I know of who can dominate with one pitch, and he’s a hall of famer, so it’s not fair to compare anyone with him.”

Perez is competing with Jason Mott for the closer role. Mott had nine saves at Memphis and one with the Cardinals.

“(Perez) has to earn that” LaRussa told reporters earlier this spring.

That’s fine with Perez.

“Nothing for granted. You’ve got to earn it,” Perez said. “The worst thing a young guy could do is take something for granted, especially the way Tony likes to run the team. He likes competition, guys working hard and competing. He doesn’t want anybody to feel like they are on the team already It makes it fun.”

(bradenton.com)

Barton is star of offensive outburst

Cardinals at the plate: Hitting in the ninth spot, Brian Barton had a monster game. The left fielder belted two two-run homers, added a two-run double, and finished with six RBIs. Joe Mather added two RBIs. Ryan Ludwick, Yadier Molina and Khalil Greene each had multi-hit games. Tyler Greene added a two-run single in the ninth inning.

(mlb.com)

Graves’ journey continues

KISSIMMEE, Fla. — Danny Graves was too young to remember any of the events surrounding his evacuation of war-torn Vietnam with his parents near the end of 1974, about six months before the fall of Saigon.

Graves, who was born on a military base in Saigon to an American serviceman and Vietnamese mother who worked at the U.S. Embassy, was 14 months old at the time and years away from understanding the horrors of war.

The family settled in Florida in pursuit of the American dream, which often has baseball woven as part of its fabric. Things were no different in the Graves household, where Danny developed a love for the game.

Making his pitch
More than 20 years later, Graves made history by becoming the first Vietnamese-born player to appear in the major leagues. And thanks to a plea to owner Drayton McLane, Graves is in camp with the Astros trying to squeeze another year out of his career.

“I do believe I’ll be the only Vietnamese player to play in the majors,” Graves said. “Baseball is not very big over there. It’s definitely something special, and until the day I die I’ll be able to say I was the first Vietnamese player in the major leagues.”

Graves, 35, recently moved to San Antonio and cold-called McLane during the offseason, convincing the owner to give him a shot. A former All-Star closer with the Cincinnati Reds, Graves has a 43-44 record and 275 saves in 1,216 career appearances.

“The last couple of years I have been struggling, trying to get to the big leagues and I really don’t want to go that route again if it means being away from home too much,” Graves said. “I told them I have a desire to play for Houston, and if there’s not a spot for me in camp I’ll retire.”

Graves spent the 2008 season pitching in the minors in the Minnesota Twins organization but hasn’t appeared in a major league game since 2006. It was January of that year that Graves returned to Vietnam for the first time as part of a special delegation in conjunction with the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund.

The goal was to introduce baseball and promote healing and understanding between the United States and Vietnam, but for Graves it meant much more. He was accompanied by his mother Thao, who hadn’t seen her family in Vietnam in more than 30 years.

“It was pretty special, pretty emotional,” he said. “When we left, it was right before the fall of Saigon when things were really crazy and she said she would never go back, but I talked her into going with me. It was pretty emotional for her. Now she says, ‘I’m an American; I’m not doing that again.’ ”

Graves is thankful his father, who died in 1999, opted not to leave the family behind.

At peace with himself
Graves’ personal journey while in the majors is just as intriguing.

Known for his countless tattoos and lavish ways (he once owned a Rolls-Royce), Graves admits his life was going in the wrong direction. He wouldn’t elaborate but says he turned to religion and found peace.

Graves is facing long odds to make the club. The Astros’ bullpen is pretty much set, and Graves is more than five years removed from his glory days with the Reds, which included a 41-save season in 2004.

“I told Drayton, if God wants me to be here, he’ll put me here,” he said. “If it came down to it and they said they’d like to keep me and go to the minor leagues for a little bit I would do that.

“I really don’t have a desire to play anywhere else. I always liked going to Houston and had success going to Houston and this is a very Christian-based team, which is what I’m looking for.”

(chron.com)

"Saturday Night Live": Dwayne Johnson

Dwayne Johnson ('The Rock') will step up for hosting duties on the March 7 Saturday Night Live, with musical guest Ray LaMontagne. The appearance, his third as host, will help Johnson promote his new Disney movie, "Race to Witch Mountain."



Gooden Recuperating Well

Ravens linebacker Tavares Gooden is reportedly recovering nicely from a hip injury that sidelined him in 2008.  Gooden showed flashes in limited snaps during training camp last season and coaches are said to be anxious to put that burst he exhibited to work within the confines of the Ravens defense in ’09.

(ravens24x7.com)

Report: Pats likely to extend Vince Wilfork

ESPN's John Clayton reports that the Patriots will make extending NT Vince Wilfork a priority with their new found salary cap space.

New England cleared up $14.651 million by trading Matt Cassel to the Chiefs. Wilfork, entering a contract season, is only 27 and is quietly the most important piece of the Patriots' 3-4. He may target a deal like Jared Allen's.

(rotoworld.com)

Moss Brothers Host "Dare To Dream" Charity Event

Santana and Sinorice Moss are doing their part to give back to the community. On Sunday the brothers hosted their 9th Annual "Dare to Dream" event at the Eden Roc Resort in Miami Beach.

Several NFL players and University of Miami alumni were on hand for the event including: Edgerrin James, Reggie Wayne, Andre Johnson, Clinton Portis, Quinn Grey, Dwayne Bowe Glenn Sharpe, and Kenny Phillips.

There was a silent auction were several pieces of NFL memorabilia were sold to raise money for the Moss Foundation. The Moss Brothers joined Dade County Public Schools in order to raise funds for a tutoring program that will help nine failing schools make the grade. A portion of the proceeds will go to benefit these Dade County Public Schools.

(cbs4.com)

Lions offensive line coming into its own

VANCOUVER — If you're a member of the B.C. Lions' offensive line it's easy to identify the low point of the season.

Molson Stadium, Aug. 29. The Lions with a first down on the Montreal Alouette one-yard-line with time running out and a glorious chance for victory. Counting an extra down due to a Montreal penalty, four chances to punch it in.

And they couldn't get it done.

Fast forward to Wednesday as the team prepares for Friday's encounter in Toronto against the Argonauts. For the team: four straight victories since that demoralizing loss in Montreal. For the offensive line: a string of four games in which they have yielded a total of just six quarterback sacks.

"It's never just one thing," said centre Angus Reid. "It's a multitude of things. The better we play the better the team plays. And the better the team plays the better we play."

Reid basically subscribes to all the popular theories on the reasons for the line's improved play.

"Things are coming together for the whole team," he said. "Yeah, our stats are better. Yeah, our continuity is better. Yeah, (left tackle) Rob Murphy is finally getting into season form after missing training camp. So there are a lot of things and it's not fair to attribute it to any one factor."

Head coach Wally Buono also believes there's more than one factor involved. After the Montreal game he personally challenged this offensive line to re-establish the aggressive approach that worked so well last year when, as a group, they turned what had been become a chronic weak link (two straight seasons where B.C. gave up the most QB sacks) into a team strength (the second-fewest sacks allowed in 2007). However, if he were to pick a favourite reason he'd come down on the side of continuity.

In particular, he points to Sherko Haji-Rasouli's return from a hamstring injury to reclaim his starting right guard spot for the last five games.

"Sometimes you have to hit bottom before you can begin the climb to the top," says Lions' coach, sounding a bit like an Alcoholics Anonymous counsellor. "And that Montreal game was the bottom for our O-line. Since then, I think they've put their minds to what they needed to do to get better."

While Haji-Rasouli was out, third-year Canadian Dean Valli assumed a starting role. Buono says the difference is not so much talent but experience.

"Dean has made tremendous progress," he said. "But at this stage Dean is sometimes like a young puppy. He's so eager he sometimes gets himself out of position. Right now, Sherko knows how to position himself a bit better."

If there's still a bit of a cloud on the horizon it might be the running game. Despite the acquisition of the league's No. 5 all-time leading rusher in Charles Roberts the ground game continues to sputter  twice in the last four games failing to crack the 100-yard mark in team rushing.

"We have two backs (Roberts and Stefan Logan) that might look the same," notes Reid. "They might both be slash-type runners, but they don't run the same. One guy (Roberts) is still trying to figure out how we block things. But it's going to get better because we have a good run-blocking offensive line. It's going to peak at the right time."

(canada.com)

Talented, sometimes troubled, Kellen Winslow looks for a fresh start with Bucs

CLEVELAND - The spectacular moments were too few. The headaches, too many. Kellen Winslow's five-year run with the Cleveland Browns, a succession of stops, starts and setbacks, is finally over. Cleveland traded the talented and troublesome former Pro Bowl tight end to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Friday in exchange for draft picks new coach Eric Mangini can use to begin rebuilding the disappointing Browns following a calamitous 2008 season.

The Browns received a second-round pick this year and a fifth-round selection in 2010 for Winslow, whose stay in Cleveland was marked by brilliance, injuries and controversy.

An All-American at Miami, where his infamous postgame "I'm a soldier" rant shaped outside opinion of him, Winslow missed most of his first two NFL seasons with injuries. He nearly killed himself in a motorcycle accident, but came back and showed flashes of fulfilling his Hall of Fame pedigree.

Winslow squabbled with Cleveland's front office this past season. He was almost always hurt, but he almost always played.
Back in Florida, he's ready for a new beginning.

"Cleveland was great to me," he said in Tampa. "I had a great time playing with Braylon Edwards, Brady Quinn. I'm going to miss those guys. But it's also a new opportunity. I've played with some of the guys on this team — Jeff Faine, Antonio Bryant, Luke McCown. I'm as happy as can be. I'm healthy."

Winslow will be reunited in Tampa with Alfredo Roberts, his tights ends coach in Cleveland the past two seasons.

With the Browns, Winslow had 219 catches for 2,459 yards and 11 touchdowns. He matched Hall of Famer Ozzie Newsome's club record with 89 receptions in 2006 and made 82 in 2007, earning him a Pro Bowl spot. He played in 44 games, but he missed 36 because of injuries.

There had been speculation that Cleveland's new management team of Mangini and general manager George Kokinis would deal Winslow for draft picks — the Browns only had four in the '09 draft before the deal — so it was not completely surprising they cut ties with the 25-year-old in a blockbuster move on the first day of free agency.

"The Cleveland Browns thank Kellen for his contributions to this organization over the past five years," Kokinis said in a statement. "We appreciate his passion for the game and wish him success in Tampa Bay. The draft picks we have obtained through this deal will give us greater flexibility as we look to infuse more talent and create competition and depth on this football team."

Winslow's acquisition continues a busy week for the Buccaneers. Tampa Bay cut linebacker Derrick Brooks, an 11-time Pro Bowler and former NFL Defensive Player of the Year; wide receivers Joey Galloway and Ike Hilliard; running back Warrick Dunn; and linebacker Cato June in moves to save more than $10 million in salary cap space.

Winslow gives Tampa Bay a versatile offensive weapon. His size and speed make him difficult to defend, but it's unclear who will throw him the ball. Jeff Garcia is not expected to be re-signed, which currently leaves only Brian Griese and Luke McCown — drafted by the Browns the same year as Winslow — to battle it out for the starting job.

Winslow said he hasn't had a chance to speak with Tampa Bay's coaching staff about his role in the offense.

"We haven't gotten that far yet," he said. "I'm sure they'll find a way, though."

Winslow has never lacked confidence. The 6-foot-4, 250-pounder, who before his injuries and multiple knee operations could outrun most defensive backs, was arguably the most talented player on Cleveland's roster. But while he showed uncanny toughness and played through pain, Winslow was often a distraction.

The Browns traded their first-round pick in 2004 and a second rounder to Detroit to move up and select Winslow sixth overall. He broke his leg in just his second game while recovering an onsides kick and missed the remainder of his rookie season. He was rehabbing from the injury when he crashed his high-powered motorcycle while doing stunts in a parking lot.

Winslow was lucky to survive the wreck, suffering serious internal injuries and tearing a ligament in his right knee. He contracted a staph infection in the knee and had to undergo several clean-out procedures. Once healthy he produced, but following the '07 season, he hired agent Drew Rosenhaus and asked for a new contract.

The Browns appeared to be making plans for a future without Winslow when they drafted Martin Rucker in the fourth round last season.

Winslow's relationship with the team hit a low when he feuded publicly with former Cleveland GM Phil Savage in October.

Winslow was hospitalized for two days with an "undisclosed illness" and after being released he accused the club, which has had several players contract staph in recent years, of trying to hide his illness. Savage suspended him one game for making disparaging remarks about the team, but the penalty was later rescinded when it was learned that a team employee had sent Winslow e-mails urging him not to reveal the infection.

Winslow told Tampa reporters he is misunderstood.

"People don't really know me yet," he said. "Everybody makes mistakes, and the mistake I made was when I was 19 years old — I'm 25 now— was on national television. Everybody got to see it. I stand here before you now, I think I'm a changed man."

(sun-sentinel.com)

Agent: Lewis might return

As the options for Ray Lewis continued to dwindle, the agent for the Pro Bowl linebacker said Lewis would consider returning to the Ravens.

"He couldn't think more highly of Baltimore," agent David Dunn said yesterday. "He's played in that city for so many years. He's so symbolic of the team."

Although Dunn declined to comment on negotiations, it is believed the Ravens have offered a three-year, $24million contract, a deal that Lewis could end up signing tomorrow. Barring a surprising turn in free agency, the Ravens likely represent the biggest payday for the 33-year-old veteran and the best opportunity for him to win another Super Bowl.

The two teams most heavily linked to Lewis before the start of free agency - the Dallas Cowboys and New York Jets - are no longer in the market for inside linebackers. The Cowboys signed veteran Keith Brooking to a three-year deal yesterday, and the Jets locked up Bart Scott on Friday.

There have been questions about the demand for Lewis in free agency because he has no scheduled visits after the first two days. Dunn explained that Lewis had long decided to stay in Florida this weekend because of family obligations, which include attending his children's sporting events.

Dunn also dismissed any notion of a rift between Lewis and the Ravens.

The NFL Network and Yahoo Sports reported Friday that Lewis was upset with the progress on a new contract with the Ravens. According to the NFL Network, Lewis would contemplate retirement before returning to the Ravens.

But Dunn said Lewis is not angry with the team.

"Of course he has deep affection for them," Dunn said. "To indicate otherwise is absurd."

It appears Lewis' options beyond the Ravens are limited.

The Denver Broncos, whose defensive coordinator is former Ravens assistant Mike Nolan, immediately signed an inside linebacker, but it was Andra Davis, a former Cleveland Brown. Because Nolan plans to use a 3-4 defense, the Broncos could still use another inside linebacker, although they reportedly haven't contacted Lewis.

Another possibility could be the New England Patriots, who opened up salarycap space yesterday by trading quarterback Matt Cassel and linebacker Mike Vrabel to the Kansas City Chiefs. The Patriots might look for someone to replace inside linebacker Tedy Bruschi, who seems to be nearing the end of his career.

But the teams currenly seeking a middle linebacker are the Chiefs, Browns, St.Louis Rams and Detroit Lions.

Those teams are rebuilding this season and might look to the draft for a linebacker. And even if they wanted Lewis, they couldn't promise immediate success as the Ravens can (the Chiefs, Browns, Rams and Lions finished in last place in their divisions and combined for eight wins).

Lewis likely would intrigue only teams that felt they were on the cusp of a championship. At this point in his career, Lewis' best asset is leadership. According to ESPN analyst Merril Hoge, Lewis' weakness "lies inside the white lines."

"He doesn't turn and run like he once did," Hoge said. "He doesn't dominate like he once did. He doesn't get off blocks like he once did. He doesn't have the same range, the same speed, the same quickness."

Hoge suggested it's in Lewis' best interest to remain with the Ravens.

"Even though his skills have eroded, I think it would be much more magnified somewhere else than in Baltimore because of the familiarity," Hoge said. "Learning new players and a new system, I think those diminished skills would be more visible.
Former NFL general manager Charley Casserly agreed and said the "smartest move" for Lewis is to go back to the Ravens.

"They will pay him more money than anybody else because of his leadership ability and what he's done for the franchise," Casserly said in an NFL Network appearance.

While Lewis remained unsigned, four inside linebackers struck deals: Scott (six years, $48million), Brooking (threeyears, $6million), Davis (terms undisclosed) and the New Orleans Saints' Jonathan Vilma (five years, $34million).

Scott surprisingly received the largest contract even though he went to just one Pro Bowl (2006) and never led a team in tackles.

But Casserly said "it's not even a question" that he would pursue Scott over Lewis because Scott is 5 years younger.

When asked why the Jets chose Scott over Lewis, Ryan explained that Scott is younger and can play inside or outside linebacker.

"At the end of the day, both of them are outstanding players," Ryan told Jets reporters.

Dunn declined to put a timetable on when Lewis would make a decision, but he said the two were to talk last night and today.

"I know he's certainly exited excited about the future," Dunn said.

Free agency found Vilma in high demand, but Saints' offer was "fair" and "reasonable"

The Saints sent their first official contract offer as soon as free agency opened late Thursday night, a negotiations with free agent Jonathan Vilma were off and running. Roughly 18 hours later, news broke and was shortly confirmed that the Saints had accomplished their top goal of the 2009 offseason.

Jonathan Vilma will return to the Saints.

Acquired for a pair of picks, one in the last draft and one in this draft, Vilma couldn't be re-signed by the Saints because of a clause in the trade that increased the price if Vilma was re-signed before free agency.

So the Saints nervously waited through February, preparing to strike quickly. No handshake deal was ever acknowledged by the Saints or Vilma's camp.

The new contract is a five year, $34 million deal that does not appear to be backloaded; initial figures see only $11 million of the total contract value in the final two seasons.

Vilma said in an interview with the Times-Picayune that the Saints' offer was "fair" and "reasonable", and said he agreed in principle to the deal at 6:30am.

Vilma, who will be 28 this year, started all 16 games and played every defensive snap for the Saints in 2008, triggering a clause in his trade deal that increased the compensation to the Jets from a fourth round to a third round pick in 2009, but also sends the Jets' fourth round pick to New Orleans in 2009. Vilma recorded 132 tackles, two forced fumbles, a sack and a game-winning interception in London.

Meanwhile, news reports indicated that during the day that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and their nearly $60 million in cap space were preparing a knock-out punch offer for Vilma. Agent Mitch Frankel fielded called through the day and Vilma said in an interview with neworleanssaints.com that while he was looking to make a move, he admitted it was a possibility. The NFL Network broke the news of his signing that afternoon.

The announcement comes days after charges of resisting arrent and obstruction were dropped against Vilma from an incident in Miami before the Superbowl.

(neworleansprofootball.com)

Bruce Johnson alone in Indy

Former UM cornerback Bruce Johnson is learning one is the loneliest number.

He is the only Hurricanes player in Indianapolis for the NFL Combine. He's been met by surprised faces since arriving Saturday morning.

"I never thought I'd be the only one here," Johnson said. "I thought it would be a whole bunch of us. Everyone here is shocked that I'm the only one. A lot of people are like, `You're the only Miami guy here? They're used to a bunch of us being here."

Seniors Eric Moncur and Randy Phillips were granted extra years of eligibility and the Hurricanes had no underclassmen declare for the draft. Johnson received UM's only invite.

Still, Johnson is enjoying the experience. He compared the way players are shuttled around to a cattle farm. On Sunday, he had to awake at 4:30 a.m. for drug testing and spent all day interviewing with representatives from the 32 NFL teams.

"You feel kind of like a piece of meat," Johnson said. "But I'm here to hold it down (for Miami). I'm going to do my thing."

Tuesday is when most of the performance testing takes place. It will decide whether Johnson is a late-round pick or has to take the free agent route. If Johnson isn't selected, it will mark the first time a UM player wasn't drafted since 1974.

"I'm getting a lot of good feedback," Johnson said. "They haven't really talked about my draft status just yet. I'm getting a lot of good interviews with some teams. I've had a lot of positive interviews. Some teams are spending a little more time than others. It's just been real positive."

(sun-sentinel.com)

Orioles' Huff drives in three runs

Aubrey Huff went 3-for-3 with three RBI as the Orioles defeated the Marlins 4-2 on Saturday.

Huff is expected to take over at first base for the Orioles with Kevin Millar gone. He'll probably be in the cleanup spot for what could be one of the game's best offenses. It's doubtful that he'll put up rate stats like he did last season, but he'll probably amass the run and RBI totals he'll need to remain a contributor in mixed leagues.

(rotoworld.com)

Barton may be ready to bust out power

JUPITER, Fla. -- Brian Barton's first season with the Cardinals made him look a bit like something from the "Whiteyball" years. Barton got on base at a respectable .354 clip and flashed impressive speed, but displayed very little power. That may have been misleading.

Barton hit as many home runs (two) in Sunday's Grapefruit League win over the Marlins as he did in 153 Major League at-bats last season, and it's possible that there's more power to come from him. Barton's .392 slugging percentage doesn't jibe with what he did before he reached the Majors. In four Minor League seasons, Barton slugged .475. In 2006, he cranked 19 home runs between Class A Kinston and Double-A Akron.

Best of all, he does it without getting pull-happy. Both of his long balls on Sunday -- which, admittedly, were wind-aided -- went to right field, and Barton is happy to keep slashing to the opposite field.

"[Power] is something that I know I have, especially to the right side," Barton said. "It's one of the things I'm not going to really worry about. Because whether I hit a ball out or I hit the ball in the gap, it's going to be helpful for the team. So I'm not going to really stress it. I'm just going to go out there and swing the bat and the numbers will show."

Manager Tony La Russa adamantly insists that his players not talk about or think about power. He maintains that once a hitter starts thinking about home runs, he'll stop hitting them. But La Russa acknowledged that extra-base pop is a part of Barton's game that the Cardinals could see more of in 2009.

"He showed flashes last year when he caught the ball with good timing," La Russa said. "The ball had good carry and he's got a live bat. The balls today, even though the wind was blowing out, it was blowing out for everybody and you had to hit it solid to get it out."

Barton will have to keep hitting to ensure his presence on the '09 Cardinals. He's in a scramble with several other players for outfield spots, though he has the advantage of being one of only two right-handed hitters in the bunch.

"We've got so many left-handed hitters. If you're a right-handed hitter you'll be looked at seriously," La Russa said. "We don't have a lot of right-handed hitters. So he's in a good position. If he can play."

(mlb.com)

Phil Sheridan: Pat Burrell faces the Phillies

CLEARWATER, Fla. - Pat Burrell has walked to home plate in front of Phillies fans thousands of times. He has been cheered and booed and everything in between.

This time was different in every way. In the first inning of a sold-out Grapefruit League game, Burrell started toward the batter's box wearing the blue, white and gray of the Tampa Bay Rays.

"You've got to be prepared for anything," Burrell said.

The fans in the grandstand stood and showered Burrell with a reception that was moving in its enthusiasm and warmth.

"The fans were pretty amazing," Burrell said. "They definitely made me feel appreciated today. That doesn't always happen. I've seen some players go back who haven't gotten that kind of response, so I'm pretty grateful."

Burrell talked with reporters in the visiting clubhouse of Bright House Field just after the Denver Broncos announced the stunning signing of Eagles safety Brian Dawkins.

They are very different, as players and as people, but there are some parallels. Like Dawkins, Burrell was the longest-tenured player on his team when his contract expired. Like Dawkins, he had to face the reality that the only team he'd known wasn't all that interested in bringing him back.

"In professional sports, things can change pretty quick," Burrell said. "I'm fortunate to be able to come to a team that's on the up. That doesn't always happen. . . . It's part of the business. We sign up for that. I'm not saying it's always easy, but that's part of it.

"I've known Ruben [Amaro Jr., the GM] a long time. He was very up-front with me about it. It wasn't a situation where I felt like I was mistreated or anything. I knew what was going on."

So when Burrell came to Citizens Bank Park for Game 5b of the World Series, he knew it might be his last night in a Phillies uniform. And when he went to the plate for the most important at-bat of his life, he was feeling the weight of it all - his years in Philadelphia, the championship drought the players were tired of hearing about, his own 0-for-12 up until then in the World Series. All of it.

"I didn't feel like I was really struggling," Burrell said. "Things get magnified, especially in that arena. It was about time for me to do something. Fortunately, I was able to contribute."

His double, which missed being a poetic-justice homer by a few feet, led to the game- and championship-winning run. Burrell basked in the moment, and he had time to register that this might be his last hit as a Phillie.

"When they pinch-ran for me and I was running off the field, I kind of thought, 'Well, you never know,' " Burrell said. "Might as well enjoy this. I thought about it."

There followed the swirly hours and days of champagne baths and celebration and the Halloween-day parade. Plenty of players have been run out of Philadelphia on a rail. Burrell is surely the first who rode out in a wagon pulled by Clydesdales.

"It was the first Halloween I didn't see a costume," Burrell said. "I never saw a costume. By the time we got home, we were drained and I honestly didn't see a single person in a costume. It was a special day and something I'll never forget."

The champagne was barely dry when Amaro set about the off-season work of retooling the team. He signed leftfielder Raul Ibanez and that was it. Burrell signed with the Rays, who plan to use him as their designated hitter. He said it didn't really sink in that his Phillies career was over until "probably on the flight to Tampa for the physical."

"Fortunately, the relationship is good," Burrell said. "From the beginning, I have nothing but good things to say about the organization and the way I was treated. I feel pretty fortunate in that regard. But the time's passed. It's a new season, a new team, and hopefully the same goal, to get to the World Series."

Burrell popped out in his first at-bat. In his second, he stroked a double down the third-base line. The fans cheered again.

Before the game, Burrell stopped by the familiar Phillies clubhouse behind the ballpark. He brought his dog Elvis, costar of the parade, to visit. Then he stopped in to see club president David Montgomery. Thanks to a happy coincidence in the schedule, Burrell will be able to receive his World Series ring with the rest of the Phillies before the April 8 game at the Bank.

There will be more cheers, more applause for a player who heard it all in Philadelphia and who left as a champion.

"It meant everything for me," Burrell said, and a few million fans would surely agree.

(philly.com)