NFL U Weekly Matchup Guide: Week 5


Bookmark and Share

Vince Wilfork's 'vacuum cleaner' hands

OAKLAND -- The Patriots' defense gave up another 300-yard passing game Sunday against the Raiders, but here's a far more sobering statistic for the New England secondary: Through four games, the team leader in interception return yards is 325-pound defensive lineman Vince Wilfork ... and it's not even close.

For only the second time in his eight-year career -- but the second time in three weeks -- Wilfork produced another highlight-reel interception, snaring a Jason Campbell offering in the fourth quarter of Sunday's 31-19 triumph at Coliseum.

After rumbling 19 yards with the interception, Wilfork now boasts 47 return yards on his two picks. That's essentially double the yardage produced in the team's five other interceptions by Kyle Arrington (3 INT, 27 yards), Sergio Brown (1 INT, 2 yards) and Patrick Chung (1 INT, 0 yards).

After suggesting that his interception against San Diego in Week 2 might have been a once-in-a-career moment, was Wilfork baiting Campbell this time around?

"No, to be honest with you, I don’t know what I did," he said. "I have to go back and watch the play. One thing with a lot of quarterbacks is, when it comes to passing it, they want to go deep then come back to their security, that’s their checkdowns or cross or whatever it may be. I was just happy to be in the right place at the right time."

Even still, Wilfork showed his athleticism by stepping in front of an offering for Darren McFadden on a crossing route. Wilfork then stiff-armed an offensive lineman to get in the open, before dragging a few more bodies on the return.

"Vince has got great hands," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. "People don't realize that because he's not a skill player, but he can catch the ball, catch punts and everything else. When he gets his hands on it, he's like a vacuum cleaner. He sucks it right in there. It was a big play for us and great awareness on Vince's part. He's a hard guy to bring down. You have to gang-tackle him."

Funny, that was the scouting report on McFadden all week. But there was Wilfork thwarting the league's top running back.

"The most important thing, we got the W," Wilfork said. "It wouldn’t have meant anything if we wouldn’t have got the W. I think it was a good team win. I think this whole week we challenged each other. Bill challenged us, we challenged each other. We were very competitive in practice. This was like one of the best weeks of practice we had, ot a lot of mental errors in practice. We had a good week of preparation and it showed. We went out and played ball."

Bookmark and Share

NFC South loaded with proCane tight-end talent

Back when Randy Shannon was attempting to talk basketball player Jimmy Graham into trying football, the former University of Miami football coach used a very powerful recruiting pitch.

“He said, 'We are Tight End U,'" Graham said. “He said, 'Look at the guys who’ve been through here -- Greg Olsen, Kellen Winslow and Jeremy Shockey. Look where they are now. They’re in the NFL. You can do the same thing.'"

Shannon’s out at Miami, but he turned out to be a prophet. Graham, now with the New Orleans Saints, is doing a lot of the same things Olsen and Shockey are doing for the Carolina Panthers and Winslow is doing for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Throw in Atlanta’s Tony Gonzalez, who didn’t go to Miami but has another common bond with Graham, and you can make a pretty strong case that the NFC South has the league’s best collection of pass-catching tight ends.

"None of those guys are guys you want to end up covering," said New Orleans linebacker Jonathan Vilma, who played at Miami. "I had to do it in college and thought I was getting away from it and I did for a few years. But now I've got to deal with it in this division and I've got to deal with it every day in practice. It’s not a lot of fun."

It’s not mere coincidence that the NFC South, once a wasteland for tight ends, is suddenly filled with some of the best pass-catchers in the league. And it’s no coincidence that most of them came through the Miami pipeline.

When one team has success with something, other teams tend to follow. And when you’re looking for good tight ends, you look for the guys who come from the best factory.

The Saints started this trend back in 2008 when they traded for Shockey. The next offseason, the Falcons traded for Gonzalez and the Bucs traded for Winslow. In 2010, the Saints used a third-round pick on Graham, who played only one year of college football. He showed them so much potential that the Saints released Shockey after last season.

He didn't stay unemployed for long. Before the lockout started, the Panthers scooped up Shockey. They later made a trade with Chicago to get Olsen. There was some very strong logic behind both moves.

Ron Rivera had just taken over as Carolina’s coach and he brought Rob Chudzinski as his offensive coordinator. Yep, you guessed it. Chudzinski once was the tight ends coach at the University of Miami.

"We’re caught up in the same boat to a degree, but we’re young at a couple positions and we have enough playmakers at tight end that you have to account for both of them," Rivera said.

The Panthers, who pretty much ignored offense in the John Fox days, found their franchise quarterback in Cam Newton. And now they're using their tight ends as frequently as the other teams in the division.

Watch an NFC South game these days and you’ll think you're on the practice field in Coral Gables.

"As soon as I made the decision to play football, they started showing me tapes," Graham said. "I watched tapes of Olsen, Winslow and Shockey. I guess that was pretty much like reading a textbook on how to play tight end. Heck, even when I was getting ready for the draft and my combine workout and pro day, I watched a tape of Olsen's pro day over and over because everybody told me that was like the greatest workout ever for a tight end. It’s pretty amazing because I didn't have a lot of football experience, but I feel like those guys cleared the way for me. I learned a lot by watching tape of them and I think the reputation they created for Miami tight ends also helped me a lot."

But the commonality Graham has with Gonzalez might have played a role. Like Graham, Gonzalez played some college basketball. There are people who say Gonzalez could have played in the NBA, but he chose football. That turned out to be the right move because Gonzalez has been the most prolific pass-catching tight end in the history of the NFL.

It also didn't hurt that San Diego's Antonio Gates, another former basketball player, has probably been the closest thing to Gonzalez.

"I think when someone has success like Antonio Gates had and the league sees that, I think all of us pay attention to another area to scout than just the college football field," New Orleans coach Sean Payton said.

Payton’s having fun drawing up plays for the former basketball player. In Sunday’s victory at Jacksonville, Graham had the best game of his career -- 10 catches for 132 yards and a touchdown.

"He’s a guy that is going to give you headaches if he can stretch your team vertically," said Rivera, who will face Graham and the Saints on Sunday. "He has enough athletic ability and route-running ability and good hands to cause you problems underneath. And if you’re not careful and you try to match him up with the wrong guy, he could take advantage of that."

But it’s not just Graham that Rivera and the other NFC South coaches have to worry about. Every time an NFC South team takes the field these days, you have to worry about the tight ends.

They’re a huge part of every passing game. Graham is second in the league with 36 targets. At 35, Gonzalez hasn’t slowed a bit. He has 21 catches for 229 yards and is tied for second among the league’s tight ends with four touchdown catches. Winslow and Olsen each have been targeted 27 times, which ties them for seventh in the league among tight ends, and each have 17 catches. Shockey’s been targeted 19 times and has 11 catches.

"All those guys are like wide receivers playing tight end and they can block too," Vilma said. "As a defense, you have to account for them on every play. It's not really supposed to be like that. But, in our division, that’s the reality now."

Bookmark and Share

Brandon Meriweather gets $20,000 fine for hit on Smith

Chicago Bears safety Brandon Merriweather was fined $20,000 for his helmet-to-helmet hit on Panthers receiver Steve Smith last Sunday, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Merriweather was not penalized on the field for the hit on Smith, who continued running for a 22-yard gain after the pass completion.
The Bears’ safety told the Tribune he planned to appeal the fine.

Last season, Merriweather was fined $50,000 for two helmet-to-helmet hits on Baltimore Ravens’ tight end Todd Heap.
Smith said the hit forced him to the sideline not because his helmet had been damaged.

“One of the hits he did lead with his helmet and it kind of bent my facemask. So I had to switch my helmets,” Smith said.

“Like I told him, he was talking about, ‘I’m going to be here all day.’ And I just told him, ‘So will I.’ So I just take that, eat it, spit it out and that’s what I thought about it. Just keep it coming.”

Bookmark and Share

AllCanes Radio With Ethenic Sands

Every week joins All Canes Radio to bring the latest news on not only current Hurricane football but also proCane news and exclusive interviews with current and former proCanes. Click here to listen to this week’s show and hear our exclusive interview with former proCane WR Ethenic Sands who is currently making a big difference in the community through various efforts.

Bookmark and Share


Sam Shields Gets His First INT of the Season

Defensive Coordinator DOM CAPERS On Sam Shields: “It was nice to see him get that interception. Sam’s still working as we are. We have some areas from a coverage standpoint that we need to shore up and continue to improve. But again, you saw his ability to go up and get the ball and run with it after the catch. A lot of guys, you’re telling them to stay in the end zone on that but you pretty much knew with Sam that if he had any daylight, he was going to bring the thing out. And then he ended up taking into their territory and our defense ended up converting it into a touchdown.”

Bookmark and Share

Richard Gordon: TE/FB? Showing Us Something

ALAMEDA – Little was known about tight end Richard  Gordon when the Raiders selected him in the sixth round of April's NFL  draft.

Gordon had just six catches as a senior at Miami and 10 for his career.

But the Raiders saw enough in Gordon to draft him and have found various ways  to use his skills on offense and special teams.   

The latest position is fullback. Gordon is filling in for injured starter  Marcel Reece, who injured his ankle during Sunday's win over the New  York Jets.

"(Gordon is) a very smart, bright young man," said Raiders coach Hue Jackson.  "I feel very comfortable with him. He does a lot of things well. He'll go back  there if that's what we need to do, and he'll go back there and do well. I  really believe that."

Gordon said blocking from the fullback position is a slight adjustment from  blocking as an extra tight end.

Gordon was the lead blocker on Michael Bush's one-yard touchdown run in the  fourth quarter Sunday against the Jets.

"You've got to just hit them before they get to you," Gordon said. "That's  the biggest thing, beating them to the punch."

The Raiders use Reece in the passing game to create mismatches. Gordon isn't  sure if he'll be used in that scenario this weekend.
And if he has any questions about his assignments, Gordon trusts his  teammates to help him.

"I've got a lot of vets back there helping me out, so it's not as hard as it  seems," Gordon said. "Mike (Bush) tells me, you got this one or this one. I just  listen to the vets."

Bookmark and Share

Jerry Angelo recognized Devin Hester's passion to be great

DevinHester senior writer Larry Mayer speaks with general manager Jerry Angelo about the most pressing issues involving the Bears every week during the season.

LM: Devin Hester continued to cement his place in NFL history last Sunday, setting another league record with the 11th punt return touchdown of his career. What do you remember about the process that led to the Bears selecting him in the second round of the 2006 draft?
JA: “Devin was pretty prolific in college as a returner. He came out early, and he really didn’t have a defined position. If he did, he probably would have been a first-round pick. Saying that, there were teams that were going to take him in the second round. The Titans, who were picking ahead of us, had him on the phone and were making flight arrangements, and then they changed their mind literally at the last minute. So it wasn’t like he wasn’t coveted by other teams. Even though he was a bit of an enigma, he still was a tremendous talent. We felt the worst we would get was a top returner. We really had no idea he would become the best returner ever to play the game as he has. He had such a passion to be great, and that’s the one thing a lot of people don’t know about Devin. Devin’s a great worker. He has a tremendous passion to be a great player and that’s one reason we drafted him. We felt like he was going to do everything he could do to be the best he could be and that he had too much talent not to become a very good player.”

LM: What did the Bears’ area scout think of Hester?
JA: “Mark Sadowski really did a great job of evaluating Devin. Mark comforted all of us—Lovie [Smith], Dave Toub and certainly myself—that there was no bust factor with Devin. Devin was going to be a special player. We couldn’t say for sure where or when. But he felt strongly about it. That’s what I go on; what our area scouts tell me, and Mark was very adamant about that even though there was some gray area.”

LM: What stands out most about your personal evaluation of Hester?
JA: “Lovie and I were at an owners meeting in Florida and we decided to go down to Miami and work out Devin and Kelly Jennings. I remember going into the weight room and talking to the strength coach, who was revered down there and still is. He said the one thing about Devin is that you will always know where he is because he’s always around the football facility. He said Devin is a great worker and wants to know what he needs to do to be a great player, and that stuck with me. He told me Devin was the best athlete on a great team with a lot of great athletes, and there was no bust factor with Devin because he was a great kid and a great player.”

Bookmark and Share

Saints reaping benefits of project Jimmy Graham's play

Rapidly developing into one of pro football's most exuberant and lethal receivers, the second-year New Orleans Saints tight end waits for his teammates — or perhaps ESPN's Chris Berman — to bestow upon him an unforgettable moniker.

"The Graham Reaper" perhaps?

"I like it,'' Graham said when someone suggested it Sunday after his 10-catch, 132-yard, 1 TD afternoon in a 23-10 victory in Jacksonville.

After all 6-6, 260-pound tight end and former Miami Hurricane basketball enforcer is slaying NFL secondaries. In his second season, he is first among tight ends in yardage (367), second in receptions (24) and tied for third in touchdowns with three.

Incredibly, Graham didn't play in high school, only played one year of football at Miami and has the equivalent of one pro season under his belt.
An edgy competitor who enjoys trash talking, Graham has averaged six catches and 91.7 yards while scoring touchdowns in three of four games.

His knowledge and confidence are building — and he only has scratched the surface of his potential.

"It seems like the game has slowed down to a crawl for me," said Graham, referring to his quick recognition of defensive schemes designed to thwart him.

An extremely edgy competitor who enjoys trash talking,

He said, "even close friends are shocked" by his outbursts. "I kind of black out a bit and just start saying stuff. I just love the game, man."

No tight end has racked up more 20-yard-plus plays (seven) as Graham has emerged into a downfield target for quarterback Drew Brees, who said "the sky is the limit for him." His early-season performances are a prime reason why the Saints (3-1) are tied for first in the NFC South with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Not so long ago, Graham was merely trying to survive. Discarded by family and living in foster care at 14 in Goldsboro, N.C., Graham was adopted by a single mother named Becky Vinson.

Before the nurse's aide rescued him, Graham carried his clothes in a plastic garbage liner, foraged for food and cried himself to sleep, he said.
Graham did not play high school football because Community Christian High in Wilson, N.C., did not have a team. Miami offered him a scholarship to play basketball.

The power forward was better known for his hacking prowess and intimidation tactics than for point production — he ranks fourth on the school's all-time foul list with 290.

"I (was allowed) five fouls, so I was going to use every one of them," Graham said with a smile.

As a fifth-year senior, the notion of "running through the smoke at Miami" to play football was too tempting, so he turned his attention to football.
Graham's athleticism — including 4.53 speed and a 38½— inch vertical jump — make him a matchup nightmare for defenses, particularly in the red zone where his leaping ability gives him a decided advantage. Against linebackers, he is a load and nearly unstoppable in one-on-one coverage.

Like former basketball players-turned-star tight ends Tony Gonzalez and Antonio Gates, Graham's transition has been swift. In only 16 games, he has caught 55 passes, averaging a touchdown once every 6.8 receptions.

Still, the Saints took a calculated risk by selecting the raw prospect with the 95th overall selection in the 2010 draft. He remains a work in progress.

"Usually, I am chippy after I have caught the ball and after I am down,'' he said. "(But) I don't want to get a 15-yard (penalty). If I get chippy, Sean will get chippy with me. That little guy is fierce, man.''

Two weeks ago, Saints coach Sean Payton ripped into him after Graham fouled up a route that resulted in a fourth-quarter interception in Houston. Instead of pouting, he rebounded and made three crucial fourth-quarter catches. Afterward, Brees called the young player "mentally tough, physically tough — he wants to be great."

Said Payton: "I am hard on him because we — all of us, himself included — think he is a special player."

Graham's intensity is unmistakable. He often will quickly jump up after a catch and flex his biceps at his opponents or the opposing sideline. He could draw a penalty flag for taunting, but Graham said his gyrations are nothing more than a reflection of his excitement, love for the game and the passion necessary to excel.

"I never will get physical with anybody," he said. "But it is football. You have to play with your heart on your sleeve."

Bookmark and Share

The Streak Is Extended to 143 Straight Weeks

Did you know that a former Miami Hurricane/current proCane has scored at least one touchdown in 143 consecutive regular season NFL weeks? Dating back to Week 15 of the 2002 season where Clinton Portis scored 4 TDs, at least one proCane has scored a TD in each regular season week since then. We have chronicled every touchdown since 2002. See below:

Week 4 2011:
Frank Gore - 1 TD - San Francisco 49ers
Jimmy Graham - 1 TD - New Orleans Saints
Greg Olsen - 1 TD - Carolina Panthers
Devin Hester - 1 TD - Chicago Bears
Santana Moss - 1 TD - Washington Redskins

Week 3 2011:
Willis McGahee - 1 TD - Denver Broncos
Jimmy Graham - 1 TD - New Orleans Saints
Greg Olsen - 1 TD - Carolina Panthers

Week 2 2011:
Santana Moss - 1 TD - Washington Redskins
Willis McGahee - 1 TD - Denver Broncos
Andre Johnson - 1 TD - Houston Texans
Frank Gore - 1 TD - San Francisco 49ers

Week 1 2011:
Jimmy Graham - 1 TD - New Orleans Saints
Andre Johnson - 1 TD - Houston Texans
Reggie Wayne - 1 TD - Indianapolis Colts

Click below to see the rest of the list:

Bookmark and Share

Saints game personal for Jeremy Shockey

Jeremy Shockey is still trying to figure out the NFL’s concussion protocol, which allowed Michael Vick to play the week following his concussion last month but has kept other players on the sideline.

But the Panthers’ first-year tight end knows this: He doesn’t plan on missing Sunday’s game against New Orleans, the team that cut him after last season.

Shockey returned to practice on a limited basis Thursday after experiencing post-concussion symptoms following last weekend’s loss in Chicago. He did not participate in contact drills, but indicated he would be on the field against his former team.

“I expect to play this game,” Shockey said. “And I know the Saints expect me to play this game, as well.”

Shockey talked about the importance of the Panthers climbing out of their 1-3 hole against the NFC South-leading Saints (3-1). But Shockey also made it clear this game is big on a personal level.

Shockey, 31, spent three injury-plagued seasons in New Orleans and helped the Saints win a Super Bowl in 2009. But with Shockey coming off a season in which he posted career lows in catches and receiving yards, the Saints cut him in February rather than pay his $4.2million salary.

“I know the personnel. I know everyone from the owners all the way down. Have a lot of respect for everyone in that organization,” Shockey said. “But that’s the first time I’ve ever been cut or released in my life. So I’m not going to sit here and say I’m not going to have a bitter taste in my mouth about being pushed off to the side and say, ‘See you, good luck,’ and everything like that.”

Saints coach Sean Payton, the offensive coordinator in New York when Shockey played for the Giants, credited Shockey with grooming Jimmy Graham, who ultimately took Shockey’s spot. Graham, 24, who attended Charis Prep in Goldsboro, leads NFL tight ends with 367 receiving yards on 24 catches, with three touchdowns.

Told that Payton called him one of his favorite players, Shockey smirked and said: “If I was one of his favorite players, I’d still be there.”

Shockey said Payton offered to fly to his offseason home in Miami to tell him about his release in person.

“I understand. They have a young guy I helped last year to develop,” Shockey said. “I’m not done. I’ve played this game for a long time. As far as being there, I had a great experience and a great time. We won a Super Bowl and a lot of games. It’s a business, I know that. I don’t hold anything personal – that long. But I do hold things personally.”

Shockey, who has a one-year deal worth $3.8million, has caught 11 passes for 178 yards. He has yet to miss any time with injuries, despite breaking his finger in a Week 1 loss at Arizona.

Teammates don’t expect Shockey to miss this week, either.

“He seems fine. He seems like he feels pretty good,” tight end Greg Olsen said. “Shock’s a pretty tough guy, so if he says he’ll play, he’ll be fine.”
Panthers coach Ron Rivera said Shockey felt better Thursday, but added Shockey would have to be cleared by an independent doctor.

“Michael Vick got a concussion and I think he practiced the next week. Now they’re not letting me practice. So I don’t really know,” Shockey said. “I’m just doing, and I know the Panthers are doing, what’s best for me after football. I’m at the tail end of my career here and I’d rather walk away (than) crawl away.”

Besides his physical skills, the Panthers believed Shockey’s exuberant style would be good for a young team. But Rivera said Shockey also leads in less obvious ways, offering encouragement to a young player.

“He’s got that kind of infectious personality that people tend to gravitate to. He leads by example more so than anybody I’ve been around in a long time,” Rivera said.

Bookmark and Share

Coach Fox: Willis McGahee is our guy 'right now'

Coach John Fox confirmed that Willis McGahee is the Broncos' feature back after clearing 100 rushing yards in two of the past three weeks.

"We're in a week-to-week, or a 'What have you done for me lately?' league, so right now, I think it's fair to say that Willis is that guy," Fox said. "I think his performance has kind of been the proof." McGahee has earned the job by the mere fact that he can handle the heavy workload without hitting the trainers' room. Just don't expect that to be a long-term gig in Fox's "What have you done for me lately" world.

Bookmark and Share

Kenny Phillips feeling good for Giants

Two years almost to the day after microfracture knee surgery, Kenny Phillips is looking like the Kenny Phillips of old.

That's great news for the Giants and even better news for the former first-round draft pick, who said yesterday he wondered if his NFL career was in danger of extinction barely after it began.

"Whenever they say the words 'career ending,' that bothers you and really scares you a lot," Phillips told The Post yesterday.

Threatening Phillips' NFL future was arthritis in his left knee that forced the young safety from Miami to the injured-reserve list less than one month into his second season while prompting the microfracture procedure in October 2009.

The surgery calls for small holes to be drilled into the affected area so clotting can take the place of missing cartilage, and not all athletes who have that operation make it back with their careers intact.

But Phillips looks to be a happy exception for the Giants. He has been so disruptive during their 2-1 start that normally measured defensive coordinator Perry Fewell used the playground term "just balling" to describe Philips this week.

"We're very pleased with how he is breaking on the ball or when he's tackling," Fewell said.

Phillips is averaging seven tackles a game this season going into tomorrow's visit to Arizona. He also has broken up five passes and forced a fumble thanks to defensive game-plans that have had him playing closer to the line of scrimmage and covering tight ends more often.

"Getting in the box [near the line] has really boosted my confidence," Phillips said. "I like having those responsibilities again. It makes me feel like a big contributor."

That's a far cry from last season, when the Giants asked Phillips to play deep center field in the hope of protecting his recovery process. His individual numbers were middling as a result, and the lingering memory of Phillips' year was a missed fourth-quarter tackle on Eagles tight end Brent Celek last December that ignited Philadelphia's devastating comeback win at the Meadowlands.

"I feel like I had a solid season [in 2010], but there were things I saw that I wanted to break on but couldn't get there as fast as I wanted to," Phillips said. "I wasn't as explosive or as quick as I wanted to be."

But all that changed this offseason, when Phillips noticed during his workouts the strength had returned to his knee and it no longer needed to be babied.

Phillips made his return to form evident from Day 1 this season, leading the Giants with nine tackles and two pass breakups in the opening road loss to the Redskins, and he hasn't slowed down since.

"He's looking great," fellow safety Deon Grant said. "I mean, he's healthy. Last year, he was rushed in there and made the best of it. But he's comfortable now, the chemistry is there, and he's looking like the Kenny they drafted."

The Giants will need that tomorrow, considering the Cardinals boast the potent Pro Bowl receiving tandem of Larry Fitzgerald and tight end Todd Heap to balance Beanie Wells' power running style.

Phillips plans to be right in the thick of it once again, thanks to a left knee that he said gives him no pain or problems two years after it was repaired.

"They told me I could make it back, and that's exactly what I feel like I've done," Phillips said. "I'm just having fun out there again."

And he's balling, too.

Bookmark and Share

Andre Johnson injury will change Houston’s game plan

The Houston Texans will be without wide receiver Andre Johnson(notes) when they host the Oakland Raiders on October 9. That is a huge loss for the Texans as they continue their drive toward a division title and the first playoff berth in franchise history. Houston still has a lot of talent on offense. However, it won't be easy to play without one of the three best wide receivers in the league.

Johnson was knocked out of the October 2 game against the Pittsburgh Steelers with a hamstring injury. The team confirmed that he had a minor procedure on his right hamstring. The team said that Johnson will miss the Oakland game and could be out longer. They didn't offer a specific time frame for his return but based on the procedure the Texans could be facing the prospect of losing Johnson for several weeks. The team doesn't have a bye week until Week 11. That means that Johnson won't get a free week of rest. He won't be out that long but Houston will likely have to handle the situation carefully each week.

The good news is that Johnson didn't have major surgery. He might be out a few games but he doesn't have to worry about long term recovery. That is good for both him and the team. Johnson is the leading receiver on the team in terms of yards and catches. Only tight end Owen Daniels(notes) has caught more touchdown passes. Kevin Walter(notes) and Jacoby Jones(notes) are decent receivers but they don't scare defenses the same way that Johnson does. Houston also has a strong running game. However, there is a real possibility that the lack of Johnson could encourage defenses to focus more on that instead of the passing attack.

I don't expect Houston to fall apart without Johnson. However, I don't think they will be able to count on the passing attack being as strong. Houston is strong in other areas and should be able to weather the loss of Johnson. If this really is a playoff team they can afford a short term loss even if it is a player of that caliber. But Houston is going to need to game plan a little differently. They won't get Johnson's production from another receiver. That means they will have to be creative in terms of putting points on the board.

Bookmark and Share

Jarrett Payton inspires Joliet West freshmen

JOLIET — Jarrett Payton, professional athlete and son of football legend Walter Payton, gave a little history lesson Thursday at Joliet Township High School.

“For some of you young kids out there who might not know who my dad was, my dad was the greatest player to ever play the game of football,” he said.

Hundreds of freshmen erupted in cheers and applause in the West Campus auditorium. It was an inspiring sight, given that Walter Payton retired in 1987, before any of these students was born. The Chicago Bears running back was inducted into the National Football League Hall of Fame in 1993, also before any of these freshmen was born.

The students were very young when Walter Payton died in November 1999.

Nevertheless, Jarrett’s history lesson stuck, and the freshman crowd gave him round after round of applause Thursday.

They laughed at his jokes; they listened to a song, played on YouTube, that the younger Payton wrote for his father and family; and, at the end of the presentation, a couple of students even got to dance with him on stage.

Payton came to Joliet West on Thursday to discuss another kind of history — the life stories of these freshmen.

His message to them was simple: These four years are big years. Enjoy this time, study hard and build friendships.

Payton listed his own football accomplishments — particularly at the University of Miami and for the NFL’s Tennessee Titans. However, he emphasized his own high school days at St. Viator in Arlington Heights.

“I’ve played in national championships, I’ve played for the World Bowl Championship, I’ve played in Tennessee. But the one thing that I think about the most is high school,” he said. “I think about my last game in high school. We lost against Marmion Academy in the first round of the playoffs my senior year.”

Specifically, he compared his college years to high school: “We beat Nebraska (in the 2001 national championship). And then we lost to Ohio State the next year in the Fiesta Bowl. But I still think about high school. I still have the same friends from high school. This is the time when you really, really start to shape yourself and you get to know who you are as a person.”

“Don’t take it for granted, because it goes by so fast,” he said.

Freshman Jordan Siebers said, “He knew what he was talking about. He wanted us to be successful. He didn’t want us to be put down by what other people think of us.”

Freshman Ismarie Deeter’s favorite part of the speech was Payton’s tribute to his father as the greatest football player ever. He also credited his father for not pushing him to play football. Jarrett played soccer till his junior year in high school, when he switched to football.

“My dad understood; he loved anything that I loved,” he said.

Jarrett also emphasized the importance of academics.

“It doesn’t matter what your last name is. It doesn’t matter who you are. It really doesn’t matter how much money you have. The biggest thing that it comes to, when you’re at this age right now, is your education,” he said.

Payton declined to comment on the controversial new book written about his father. “Sweetness: The Enigmatic Life of Walter Payton,” by Jeff Pearlman, alleges that Walter Payton had extramarital affairs and told friends he wanted to kill himself.

After the presentation, Payton commended the Joliet West audience. He recalled the moment when he filmed the crowd screaming and cheering. He was here to motivate them, but their energy caught him as well.

“To be able to be around kids — they inspire me,” he said.

Bookmark and Share

Pat Burrell on his emotions during his last game

Bookmark and Share

Giants say Aubrey Huff was out of shape this season

Giants manager Bruce Bochy said Thursday that Aubrey Huff not do enough to get in shape for the 2011 season.

And it showed on the field, as Huff batted just .246/.306/.370 with 12 homers and a .676 OPS over 579 plate appearances. The Giants expect him to work harder this winter and have told him to be prepared to play the outfield. "Aubrey knows it’s going to be different," said Bochy. "That can’t happen again or you’ve got to make changes." Huff would likely be one of the worst defensive outfielders in baseball, but it could finally give Brandon Belt a chance to play everyday.

Bookmark and Share

Devin Hester wins special teams award

The Chicago Bears' Devin Hester was named NFC Special Teams Player of the Week after returning an NFL-record 11th career punt for a touchdown against the Carolina Panthers.

Hester's 69-yard touchdown punt return was his 11th in 182 career punt returns, breaking a tie with Eric Metcalf for the league record.

Hester also had a 73-yard kickoff return against the Panthers but was forced out of bounds by Carolina kicker Olindo Mare.

"It feels good," Hester said Sunday of his touchdown. "I knew my teammates were thirsting for a return, and I'm just glad and pretty honored to be on a team like this where we have 10 other guys out there that want a return just as bad as me."

Hester now has 39 punt returns of 20 yards or more in his career, which is the most in the NFL since the veteran entered the league in 2006. He is also the all-time leader for combined touchdowns on kick returns with 15.

Hester also surpassed Dante Hall (2,261) for 23rd in career punt return yards. Hester now has 2,300 punt return yards.

Hester won the award for the 10th time, the most ever by a return specialist.\

Bookmark and Share

Emily Maynard dating NFL star Jeremy

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Emily Maynard, who recently split from "The Bachelor" star Brad Womack, is now dating Carolina Panthers tight end Jeremy Shockey, Us Weekly reported Wednesday.

"They were set up on a blind date," a source told the celebrity magazine.

"They've been out five times. Emily thinks Jeremy is nice, but she's just having fun," the source added.

The NFL player, 31, recently hinted that thoughts of love were on his mind in a Twitter message this week quoting Aristotle.

"Love is composed of a single soul inhabiting two bodies," he tweeted Monday.

Earlier this year, the southern belle from Charlotte, N.C., beat out the bevy of single ladies looking for love on season 15 of the ABC reality show.
Womack, 38, proposed to Maynard, 25, on the last episode of the show and the Austin, Tex.-based bar owner declared he had found his true soul mate.

But Maynard, who has a child from a previous relationship with the late NASCAR driver Ricky Hendrick, eventually dumped Womack due to the strain of their long-distance relationship.

"I just doubted he was still gonna want to be with me," she said about her doubts regarding Womack's commitment-level.

Bookmark and Share

Ed Reed Forces Fumble, Jameel McClain Scores On Return For Ravens

Bookmark and Share

Kenny Phillips is "ballin"

Perry Fewell said at the start of training camp that he hoped safety Kenny Phillips was ready to take a quantum leap this season in his second year back from knee surgery.

But at the end of camp, the defensive coordinator expressed some disappointment saying Phillips had not taken that step forward yet.

Now, after the first three games of the season, Fewell is giddy about what he has seen so far out of Phillips in the regular season.

“Yes, I think Kenny Phillips is playing really, really good football,” Fewell said when asked about if he likes what he has seen. “Very pleased with how he is breaking on the ball or when he’s tackling.”

Phillips is second on the team with 16 combined tackles. He has an interception and five PDs, matching last year’s totals in both categories. Phillips, who also has a forced fumble, looks faster and is hitting harder.

“We have a term, he’s just ballin',” Fewell said. “And he really is. I think he’s ballin' out there for us.”

Bookmark and Share

Greg Olsen has been key part of Panthers' offense

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Tight end Greg Olsen has played an integral role for the Carolina Panthers' offense so far this season.

The Bears traded Olsen, a four-year starter, to the Panthers in July for a third-round draft pick in 2012 because he no longer fit in Chicago's offensive scheme. Olsen has been productive in Carolina, where tight ends are a featured part of the passing game.

He has 140 yards on 13 receptions, including a game-winning 16-yard touchdown reception last week against the Jacksonville Jaguars that gave the Panthers their first win of the season. He also scored on a two-point conversion.

On Sunday, he makes his return to Soldier Field, where he caught 194 passes for 1,981 yards and 20 touchdowns in four seasons.

"Of course I want to go up there and play well and I would be lying if I said I didn't," Olsen said. "But you don't want to try to do too much and make it more than it is. It's not the Super Bowl. We want to continue to get better and that's the approach we're going to take."

It's been reported that Olsen asked for a trade to leave Chicago, something that he vehemently disputes.

"I didn't ask for a trade, it's about as simple as that," Olsen said. "They will say what they want to and protect themselves so people won't make them out to seem, you know, whatever. But it's over and I'm glad I'm here."

So are the Panthers.

When the Bears informed other teams that Olsen was on the trading block, it took only minutes for the Panthers to respond with an offer.
"We moved immediately," coach Ron Rivera said.

It took some bargaining on the part of both sides, but eventually a deal was struck. General manager Marty Hurney described Olsen as a "perfect fit" in coordinator Rob Chudzinski's offense.

Olsen and fellow tight end Jeremy Shockey have been huge safety valve outlets for young quarterback Cam Newton, combining for 25 receptions for 306 yards.

They've also freed up the outside for four-time Pro Bowl receiver Steve Smith, who's enjoying a renaissance of sorts in his 11th season.

"The big reason we wanted (Olsen) is because of what we were familiar with in San Diego," said Rivera, who was the Chargers defensive coordinator last season. "I'd seen what we did with Antonio Gates under coach (Norv) Turner. Knowing how valuable a tight end was going to be in our offense, we made the move."

Bookmark and Share

Rocky McIntosh off to strong start

This past offseason, Rocky McIntosh was a free agent, coming off of a career year despite having to learn a new position on the fly as the Washington Redskins switched to the 3-4 defense.

And despite the uncertainty caused by the NFL’s labor dispute, the Miami product always maintained a desire to remain with the team that drafted him in the second round of the 2006 draft.

After the new CBA was reached and free agency began, McIntosh had to wait eight days before the Redskins signed him to a one-year deal, but once his signing was complete, he promptly nudged aside second-year pro Perry Riley (his main competitor) to retain his starting “Jack” inside linebacker spot.

Through three games, McIntosh leads the Redskins both in total tackles (22) and solo tackles (12) and also has a sack.

I’ve been here forever and since the first day I got here, I wanted to come here and do the best I can to win, so I’m glad I’m back for another year, go out there and just keep producing.

McIntosh spent the first four years of his career playing weakside linebacker, so moving to the inside last season required him to adjust his techniques and learn new responsibilities for the Redskins. McIntosh recorded a career-high 110 tackles, but didn’t always feel the most comfortable.

But now with a full season under his belt, McIntosh feels more at home at the inside linebacker position, and is able to play at a higher speed rather than being slowed down by having to think through things while on the field.

“It’s great. It’s the second year, and just like anything else, you get more repetitions under your belt and you feel looser and you can make more plays,” McIntosh said. “We’re doing the same things, but we’ve just tightened up things. We know the scheme more and disguise more, but still get to our responsibility. So it’s great, and I like it and it’s showing on the field.”

Although early in the season, McIntosh already is on pace to top last season’s career-best numbers, but he quickly points out that his only concern is helping the team win – not to ensure his stats look good.

“I’ve been here forever and since the first day I got here, I wanted to come here and do the best I can to win,” McIntosh said. “So I’m glad I’m back for another year, go out there and just keep producing.”

When asked what kind of goals he set for himself this season, revealed a rather short list.

“First of all beat the Giants, which I finally did,” he said with a laugh. “But just to go out there and win the division, man. All my goals are team goals, and all the individual goals will come later. Just team goals. I’ve been that way since Day 1.”

Bookmark and Share

New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham is a star

Jacksonville, Fla. - It's time to stop talking about Jimmy Graham's potential and start acknowledging his arrival. The future for the New Orleans Saints' second-year tight end is now. Right before our eyes he is blossoming into a bona-fide star.

If the NFL didn't know Graham's name after his 100-yard game against the Texans they undoubtedly do after his breakout performance against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday.

Graham's 10-catch, 132-yard manifesto not only sent the Saints to their third consecutive victory, it sent reporters scrambling to the record books.

It's been a long time since a Saints tight end had as prolific a day. His career-high catch and yardage totals ranked among the best efforts in club history. In fact, only one Saints tight end has ever had a more productive day, and that came 31 years ago when Henry Childs had 144 yards in a 38-35 loss to the 49ers on Dec. 7, 1980.

It's been even longer since a Saints tight end recorded consecutive 100-yard receiving games. The only other time it was accomplished was 1979, when Childs had 121- and 117-yard games against the Seahawks and Falcons.

"He continues to get better every week," said quarterback Drew Brees, who threw for 351 yards. "Today, he got rolling."

Indeed, from the Saints' deep and talented corps of playmakers, Graham has emerged as Brees' primary receiver. On Sunday, Brees targeted him 14 times, double that of any other player.

The Jaguars had no answer for Graham. He was too fast for their linebackers and too big for their safeties. He beat linebacker Paul Posluszny down the middle seam of the Jaguars' Cover-2 defense for a 29-yard gain early in the fourth quarter. Later, he raced past linebacker Clint Session for a 59-yard catch and run.

You can count on your hand the number of 6-foot-6, 265-pound men with that kind of athletic ability.

"It's awesome," Graham said. "Being such a young player, and the confidence he (Brees) has in me. I'm getting more and more confident, but I'm still not as confident as he is in me right now. He's always talking to me, telling me you're a viable option on every play. Just know no matter where it is, I'm going to be looking at you."

When the Saints drafted Graham out of the University of Miami last year, Payton said he'd one day be considered one of the steals of the draft. Four tight ends were taken before the Saints called his name in third round with the 95th overall pick.

The 2010 class of tight ends was a stellar group that included Jermaine Gresham, Rob Gronkowski, Ed Dickson, Tony Moeaki and Aaron Hernandez. Graham has emerged as the best of the bunch.

His 24 catches trail only Dallas' Jason Witten (27) among NFL tight ends. His 367 receiving yards lead all tight ends and rank fifth overall.
"His upside is limitless," said John Gilmore, a 10-year veteran who has played with the likes of Greg Olsen, Kellen Winslow Jr. and Heath Miller. "This guy is a special athlete."

Graham is on pace for the best season by a tight end in Saints history. He's also on pace to become just the third Saints tight end to make the Pro Bowl. The exclusive fraternity consists of Childs (1979) and Hoby Brenner (1987).

Yet, you won't hear such talk from the humble and hard-working Graham. Teammates laud his attitude and he's too busy trying to improve his all-around skills to consider his place in the game.

But that doesn't mean he isn't enjoying every second of the ride.

"This is greatest time I've ever had in a sport," Graham said. "I'm just kind of figuring things out out there. I've got to keep moving forward and hopefully keep getting better."

Graham's considerable skills and considerate nature have quickly made him a fan favorite. Some have even started a campaign to grant him with a nickname commiserate with his ability. Even his teammates have joined the cause. So far, none has stuck among the long list of candidates, including Golden Graham, The Graham Reaper, Graham Cracker, Graham Slam, Money Graham and Gimme Graham.

Saints radio play-by-play man Jim Henderson even hit Graham with a couple of his own suggestions, including "Graham Funk Railroad," which sparked a big laugh from the red-headed big man.

"I haven't heard that one," Graham said. "It's too long. It's hard to put on a T-shirt."

Not to mention a Pro Bowl jersey.

Bookmark and Share

Orlando Franklin Grades Out Well

Denver Broncos OT Orlando Franklin and LB Von Miller graded out well after the Week 4 loss against the Green Bay Packers. Franklin struggled in pass protection during training camp and the preseason, but he didn't allow a sack to Packers LB Clay Matthews. Miller has four sacks through four games after dropping QB Aaron Rodgers twice in Week 4.

Bookmark and Share

Willis McGahee talks about being in Harbaugh's doghouse

It was only a matter of time until former Ravens running back Willis McGahee, who has earned a big role in the Denver Broncos backfield, spoke out publicly about his relationship with his former coach, John Harbaugh.

McGahee carried the load for the Ravens in his first season in Baltimore, but after Harbaugh replaced Brian Billick, his role diminished. (The emergence of Ray Rice as a Pro Bowl back was also a factor.) In his final three seasons here, McGahee averaged 8.6 carries a game, though he did score 14 total touchdowns in 2009.

"In Baltimore, me and the coach didn't get off to a great start when he first got there," McGahee told The Denver Post. "I couldn't do this or the other. But there wasn't any doubt in my mind that I couldn't play football."

The Ravens released McGahee shortly after the NFL lockout ended in late July and he inked a deal with the Broncos a few days later. (The Ravens later brought in veteran back Ricky Williams to replace McGahee.)

McGahee, 29, took over as the Broncos’ lead running back when Knowshon Moreno injured his hamstring in Week 1. He has rushed for 259 yards and a touchdown this season, including 103 yards on 15 carries in Sunday’s 49-23 loss to the Green Bay Packers. He also has 11 catches for 49 yards and a touchdown.

McGahee told The Denver Post that he now looks at his time in Harbaugh’s doghouse as a blessing.

"That's part of it, the longevity, being in the league longer,” he said. “Being a backup, I got to rest my body."

Bookmark and Share

Jets coach says Ravens' Reed is best safety 'ever'

Jets coach Rex Ryan does not downplay how highly he thinks of Ravens safety Ed Reed.

“A first ballot Hall of Famer, in my opinion. The best safety that’s ever played,” Ryan said this week.

Ryan watched Reed up close as a Ravens assistant for seven seasons. Now, it’s up to Ryan to gameplan against him. Last season, Reed was injured when the Ravens and Jets met in the season opener. In that 10-9 Jets loss, quarterback Mark Sanchez could do nothing. He finished with a 56.4 passer rating and didn’t complete a pass longer than 13 yards.

This time, Sanchez has to contend with Reed, who always is looking to turn a bad pass into a defensive TD.

“I wish I had another set of eyes,” Sanchez said. “He’s one of those guys who’s that good. He’s so smart and savvy in the back end there. He just kind of plays center field. Sure, he plays his scheme and knows his assignment, but at the same time, he has a real good feel for things.”

At 33, Reed has talked about retirement but still looks like the same player he always has. He intercepted the Steelers twice in the first week of this season.

Bookmark and Share

Orlando Franklin excused to deal with family tragedy

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Broncos rookie right tackle Orlando Franklin was excused Wednesday to deal with a family tragedy.

On Wednesday night, Franklin tweeted, “Thanks guys for all your prayers for my little brother. Its a shame that he had to die at 20.”
He didn’t provide any other details.

Franklin’s status for Sunday’s game against San Diego is uncertain. Coach John Fox had already addressed the media when Franklin apparently learned of the situation after practice.

“Orlando was excused from afternoon meetings to deal with a family matter,” team spokesman Patrick Smyth said Wednesday afternoon.
Chris Clark and Tony Hills are backup tackles who could replace Franklin in the lineup against the Chargers if he’s unable to play.

It’s not known when Franklin will return to practice.

Franklin was born in Kingston, Jamaica, but moved in with his older brother in Toronto while in high school before going to Florida to gain recruiting attention. He starred at the University of Miami and was selected by the Broncos with the 46th overall draft pick in April.

He has started all four games for Denver.

Bookmark and Share

Phillip Buchanon blames suspension on “an honest mistake”

Redskins cornerback Phillip Buchanon is back with the team following his four-game suspension, and he’s declining to say what substance he took to earn that suspension — other than that he didn’t mean to take it.

Buchanon said it was “an honest mistake,” according to

The NFL has strict privacy rules regarding drug testing, and so there’s no way to tell which players were busted for taking steroids and which ones merely took an over-the-counter supplement that had a substance on the banned list. Buchanon didn’t want to volunteer anything.

“Things happen,” he said. “I look forward to trying to make plays.”

The Redskins have their bye this week, and Buchanon is expected to start making plays in Week Six against the Eagles.

Bookmark and Share

Antonio Dixon Out For the Year

Antonio Dixon, a defensive tackle for the Eagles, landed on the injured list due to torn triceps. Dixon tore his triceps Oct. 2, playing against the 49ers. Dixon left Week 4 vs. the 49ers due to his injured triceps.

The triceps are on the back of the upper arm, opposite the biceps. Upon falling on your hands, it is possible to rupture the triceps tendon. You can also rupture the tendon by pushing something very heavy or by overworking during weight training.

Bookmark and Share

Devin Hester deserves being called best return man of all time

You want to call Devin Hester the best return man of all time?

I won’t argue.

In fact, I’m there leading the charge. And I watched Gale ­Sayers.

And Brian Mitchell and Eric Metcalf and Dante Hall and Deion Sanders.

Why, I even saw live-action from “Bullet Bob’’ Hayes and, yes, Walter Payton, who returned 17 kicks for the Bears for a 31.7-yard average in his first two seasons.

But when Hester caught a punt on the Bears’ 31-yard line in the second quarter Sunday against the Panthers at Soldier Field, you could see that which is unique exploding.

First, Hester took two quick steps to his right, enough to get all defenders committed a wee bit, then he jab-stepped and turned left so fast that he had to put his left hand down on the ground briefly, like a downhill skier stabbing his pole into the uphill ice, just so he didn’t go completely horizontal. Then he shook off a tackle and was gone.

Sixty-nine yards and a touchdown into the northwest corner of the field. And he was just building up speed. And pizazz.

Indeed, we’ll forgive him for doing one, then two, then three somersaults through the end zone and earning an unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty in the process. Why, for a moment it seemed he might continue his tumbles right down the tunnel and out to Lake Shore Drive.

“Three was the limit,’’ Hester assured all in the locker room.

Why not 11?

For that was Hester’s 11th punt return touchdown in his five-plus-year career, and it was the most in NFL history. He broke Metcalf’s record of 10, a record that took that little flier 12 years to achieve.

Now, we had said best “return man’’ at the start, and that ­includes kickoff returns.

So there was Hester on the Bears’ previous possession, taking the ball nine yards deep in the end zone on the kickoff, hesitating, and then carrying it out for 73 yards to set up Matt Forte’s 17-yard touchdown run.

All that in just three minutes of the second quarter on just two touches of the ball. And it helped put the Bears up 24-10 in a game that never should have been close.

So let’s do some quick math.

If the kickoff hadn’t been returned — and nobody but Hester should ever take out a ball kicked that deep — it would have been placed on the Bears’ 20. Instead Hester got it to the Panthers’ 36.

The average punt return in the league is maybe five yards, so the Jason Baker punt would have ended up, if an average returner had snagged it, at the Bears’ 36 instead of the Panthers’ end zone.

So on those two plays alone, Hester gave the Bears an extra 108 yards and a touchdown while setting up another TD.
Can you get more valuable than that?

Which brings up two more relevant questions.

Why does Hester play wide receiver at all? He’s not a great route runner or pass catcher. All he can do is get hurt. That return men don’t touch the ball very often means nothing. Getting yardage should be all that matters.

Hester said a couple years ago he wanted to get paid like a wide receiver, which he is. But how about some wide receivers wanting to get paid like great return men? What’s the prejudice? Aren’t they called special-teamers?

Second, why does anybody kick the ball to Hester?

Getting kicked to by Panthers coach Ron Rivera, said Hester, “a guy I’ve been around and he’s seen me grow as a player, it was a shock.’’
Dese coaches, ya know, sometimes dey ain’t so smart.

Then again, the Panthers tried to kick the ball out of the end zone on Hester’s 73-yard return. And when Jacobs finally punted out of bounds in the fourth quarter out of sheer Hester-phobia, he gave up maybe 10-15 yards to the Bears. How about adding that to Hester’s total?

At any rate, we’re talking about more than this game, about something transcendent, a Hall of Famer in our midst.

Hester already has been selected first-team All-Pro three times, and he has four kickoff returns for touchdowns in his career to go with those 11 punt return TDs. Oh, and he had a 92-yard kickoff TD against the Colts to open Super Bowl XLI in Miami.

Sayers was tremendous, but he broke down after seven seasons from the beating he took, because first and foremost he was a Hall of Fame running back.

Hester is not great at anything else but returning kicked balls. Which is enough.

I’d say way more than enough.

Bookmark and Share

Andre Johnson did have a surgical procedure

Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson did have a surgical procedure on the distal tendon of his hamstring and not Platelet-Rich Plasma therapy. Surgery done by someone very familiar with doing it. This is not confirmed with anyone from the Texans nor his agent as they do not publicly wish to talk about it. I was told that the procedure went well, and like what others have been hearing, that the anticipated recovery time is three weeks.

Don’t ask me to tell you what surgical procedures on the distal hamstring tendon result in a three week recovery time based on what information you can find on the interwebs, because I can’t find it. Doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist however. I am not a doctor, nor should I play one on the interweb.

As my last post demonstrates, it is hard to find details on subjects that people don’t want you to have information about.

In today’s news, Texans coach Gary Kubiak provided a few additional details about his injury and said his procedure went well:

All the information that we’re getting moving forward is very positive, so that’s a good thing. He did have the procedure done yesterday. We’re not putting any timeline on anything right now. We just know that everything went well. The doctor feels good about it. Andre feels good about it. He should be back here sometime maybe this afternoon and we start our rehab and move forward. We’re going to miss him for a period of time. We’re going to have to have some guys step up and play well.

(on if there’s a timetable that usually goes with the procedure that WR Andre Johnson had) “No, Kap (Director of Sports Medicine/Head Athletic Trainer Geoff Kaplan) could probably give you more information on that. I just know that we had it done yesterday. Obviously, I’m in game-plan and stuff on Tuesdays. The biggest thing for me and for the team, me talking to the team is just how positive everybody feels about moving forward. I’m listening to the doctors, listening to Kap, listening to Andre. I had a great talk with Andre yesterday. We know we’re going to get our captain back and that’s a great thing. We’ve just got to go to work on getting that done.”

(on what happened with WR Andre Johnson’s injury) “I’m going to let Kap (Director of Sports Medicine/Head Athletic Trainer Geoff Kaplan) tell you. I really don’t know. It’s my understanding it has something to do with the tendon. That’s all I know.” (my emphasis).
That’s a lot of words to say wait and see.

Bookmark and Share

Dedrick Epps Signs

On Wednesday, the Indianapolis Colts promoted Ricardo Mathews, a seventh-round draft pick in 2010, from the practice squad to the active roster. They also signed defensive tackle Kade Weston, a seventh-round pick of New England in 2010, to the practice squad. Tight end Dedrick Epps to the practice squad.

Bookmark and Share

Frank Gore feeling better than week ago

Frank Gore practiced in an extremely limited fashion last week because of a right ankle injury, one he says feel better this week. “It’s alright. I’ll be good,” Gore said in anticipation of Sunday’s game against Tampa Bay.

As for how his 127-yard rushing effort looked upon film review, Gore responded: “The offensive line did a great job and the receivers did a great job down field. I do what I always do: run the ball.”

Coach Jim Harbaugh praised Gore’s ability to mentally prepare himself during the week and run plays in the game he didn’t even practice. Said Gore: “I feel that’s being a pro — when you’re not in, watch the play and see how it develops. It opened and I had a big run.”

Bookmark and Share

Jeremy Shockey unloads on game officials

Tight end Jeremy Shockey heard the whistle and saw the flag, but never could get an answer on why he was called for offensive pass interference, a penalty that negated his 22-yard touchdown catch Sunday in the Panthers' 34-29 loss to Chicago.

Shockey ripped the officiating crew for the call in post-game comments that likely will draw a fine from the NFL.

"Maybe the official saw something (different from) what I did," Shockey said. "I'd like the league to go back and look at that and give an explanation because it was a big play in the game. The momentum is on our side and it comes back. That's definitely hurts our team momentum-wise."

"I've been playing this game a long time and ... I don't know. I'd like to hear the explanation from the league and really understand why they would call something like that. He never gave me any explanation at all."

With the Panthers trailing 24-20 but driving on their first possession of the second half, Cam Newton fired a strike to Shockey in the end zone for an apparent score. But officials ruled he pushed off against cornerback Charles Tillman.

Replays showed Shockey with a hand on Tillman's back, but the contact seemed minimal.

Shockey certainly thought so.

"We pay their salary and can't get an explanation," Shockey said. "I'd like to see the explanation when they do get graded.

"They should be held accountable as well. They get paid a lot of money. They go around and hang out and do whatever they do before the game. Fly for free and do all kinds of (stuff) for free. Very disappointing, disheartening. I don't know what else to say."

Panthers coach Ron Rivera said he did not have an angle on the play from the sideline. Tight end Greg Olsen didn't see it, either.

"I was running a route on the other side. We were trying to ask for an explanation and nobody seemed to be able to get one. Everybody kept saying, 'Check with him. Check with him,' " Olsen said. "So I don't know. We'll have to see what it looks like on tape."

The Panthers failed to score on the drive after the penalty. Former Panthers defensive end Julius Peppers blocked Olindo Mare's 34-yard field goal attempt a few plays later.

Adding injury to insult: Shockey aggravated his broken finger on the catch.

"It is what it is," Shockey said of the injury. "It's been going on since Week 1. We'll look into that and see where we go from there."

Bookmark and Share

Richard Gordon Injured

Tight end/fullback Richard Gordon broke his hand but Raiders coach Hue Jackson said he should be able to keep playing with it. Jackson added “there’s a chance” fullback Marcel Reece (ankle) returns this week.

Bookmark and Share

Jeremy Shockey aggravates broken finger

Jeremy Shockey aggravated his broken finger and suffered a concussion during Sunday's loss to the Bears.
The original finger injury occurred during Week 1, but Shockey hasn't missed any time. Now he will need to get medically cleared from his concussion. After the game, Shockey was more upset about a phantom offensive pass interference call that cost him a 22-yard touchdown.

Bookmark and Share

Frank Gore defers, then delivers

PHILADELPHIA -- Frank Gore said he was "cool" with 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh's decision to start rookie Kendall Hunter at running back. In the end, it was Gore who finished off Sunday's 24-23 comeback win over the Philadelphia Eagles.

Gore overcame a right-ankle injury and ran for a season-high 127 yards, including a 12-yard touchdown run with three minutes left that was followed by David Akers' go-ahead, point-after kick.

"I just got in a zone," Gore said. "I told myself, 'I'm out here, let's go play.' The offensive line did a great job, and I just run the ball like I do."
Gore entered the game on the 49ers' third snap and delivered a 40-yard dash down the middle of the field. However, "I still wasn't sure I'd finish the game out," Gore said.

Once the 49ers recovered an Eagles fumble with 2:06 remaining, Gore helped run out the clock on five consecutive plays before Alex Smith took a knee on the final snap. Gore was extremely limited in practice last week because of his ankle.

"Being a captain of the team, the guys saw me all week standing around. I couldn't practice, couldn't be me," Gore said. "I was frustrated. Coach Harbaugh told me to keep my chin up, that everybody's watching me."

Bookmark and Share

Jeremy Shockey has concussion

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Tight end Jeremy Shockey could be the latest Carolina Panther to miss a game with a concussion.
Shockey was held out of practice Wednesday and coach Ron Rivera said he will be reevaluated Thursday. Since Week 2, the Panthers have had one starter each week out with a concussion.

"We're just going through the concussion protocol," Rivera said of Shockey, who took a shot to the head on a field goal attempt in Sunday's loss to Chicago. "We're getting to the point, and I hate to say it, but we've had one a week. We're concerned obviously but we won't know more until Thursday morning.

"That's probably the best time to judge because the last couple of weeks it's been Thursday mornings they don't feel good, they don't play; if Thursday morning is good, they play."

Offensive lineman Jeff Otah missed Carolina's second game, safety Charles Godfrey missed Week 3 and Sunday it was cornerback Chris Gamble.

Though Gamble returned to practice Wednesday, Otah and Geoff Hangartner missed practice with back injuries.

Shockey was not fined this week for comments he made about the officiating following the Bears game. Shockey was upset when he was flagged for pass interference, nullifying his 22-yard touchdown reception. He said after the game he wanted an explanation from the league's officiating office because he didn't get one on the field.

Bookmark and Share