Colts sign RB Javarris James to active roster

INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts have signed running back Javarris James to their active roster and ended the contract of linebacker Tyjuan Hagler.

James is the cousin of the Colts' career rushing leader, Edgerrin James, and spent the entire preseason with Indy. He was released during the team's final cutdown Sept. 4.

Two days later, James joined New England's practice squad where he stayed until this week's whirlwind.

James was released by New England on Tuesday night and was immediately signed to Washington's practice squad. After practicing with the Redskins on Wednesday, the Colts signed him to the active roster. That's three teams in three days.

The Colts had cut Jamesa while back, and have seen him with the Patriots and on the Redskins practice squad since. Bill Polian doesn't sign a lot of players off of other team's practice squads. He feels a bit as if it's poaching. When he does it, it's usually a big combination of need and like.

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In defense of Clinton Portis ...

Washington Post columnist Sally Jenkins has read the opinions that Clinton Portis (groin) won't be missed that much in the Redskins' offense, and she thinks that's ridiculous. Jenkins came up with some interesting numbers regarding the punishment Portis has absorbed for the Skins. She thinks we shouldn't be so quick to dismiss the 29-year-old running back.

"Portis has earned some criticism for divalike behavior, like his occasional ingratitude to his linemen and quarterbacks, and for playing overweight," writes Jenkins. "But lack of toughness isn't one of his failings. Overall, he's probably given as much to the Redskins physically as he has taken financially. If you're inclined to resent his salary of almost $7.2 million this year, try to remember that. Even former coach Jim Zorn, who was often frustrated by him, said that when Portis is on the field, 'Your head better be on a swivel. Somebody is gonna get knocked down.'

"Remember that in four seasons, he has had at least 320 carries. Remember that he ran for a club-record 1,516 yards in 2005, alternately avoiding tacklers with suave cuts and knocking them down like bowling pins. Remember how he dislocated his shoulder in a preseason game with the Cincinnati Bengals, when launched into a tackle, trying to stop an interception return. Remember how just two weeks ago against the Houston Texans he raced half the length of the field to explode on a block and open a pathway for Fred Davis, resulting in a 62-yard play."

The only thing in Jenkins' column I disagree with is the part where she says Portis was "smart" to miss a lot of practice. I don't think players take a lot of punishment in practice these days, and all those absences sort of caused Portis to lose standing in the locker room. And it also doesn't help when you call out teammates.

Click here to order Clinton Portis’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Santana Moss: Redskins' offense not comfortable

With 22 catches for 290 yards through four games, Redskins receiver Santana Moss is on pace to have one of his best NFL seasons. But he says the Redskins' offense still has plenty of room for improvement.

"We, as an offense, are not comfortable with everything yet," Moss said, per Mike Jones of "People look at it as, 'OK, you got Donovan [McNabb], you got this new offense, but why aren't we seeing more from the offense?' Because we're still learning. We're still trying to get in that zone where we know everything from A to Z without having to think about it, and it takes time and the only way you can learn it is by playing. . . . Every week is a work in progress, like on the job training type of thing."

Moss has combined for 16 catches and 213 yards in the two games the Redskins lost, but just six catches and 77 yards in the two games the Redskins won. McNabb says the Redskins are going to be better off if they do more on the ground and less through the air.

"We just don't want to come in and be an air-it-out-throw-40-to-50-times-a-game, although I wouldn't mind," McNabb said. "But the thing about it is, we're working to establish that run because we know that you can do so much off of the run. If it calls for us to throw 15 times and we win, then that's all that matters to me."

Click here to order Santana Moss’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Kellen Winlow Practicing Without Limitations

Kellen Winslow (knee) is practicing without limitations this week.

The bye week did his surgically repaired knee well. Winslow is a low-end TE1 against a Bengals defense surrendering the 12th most fantasy points to opposing tight ends.

Click here to order Kellen Winslow’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Clinton Portis's life as a running back: Time and punishment

It's not as if Clinton Portis can extend his career with plastic surgery, a facelift like one of those actress-creatures who look like they sleep in crypts. There is no tricking up his sore legs with cosmetics. Time treats NFL running backs more cruelly than arguably any other professionals. How would you like to be "aging" at 29?

It's not over for Portis, who celebrated his 29th birthday Sept. 1, but it's getting there. A groin injury has forced him to cede his starting job to Ryan Torain, the 24-year-old with the hydraulic pumps for knees, and it may be difficult for him to get it back. Coach Mike Shanahan said Wednesday that Portis will be out four to six weeks.

But anyone who thinks Portis is easily replaced, who thinks this isn't a huge loss, is forgetting just how much he does for the Washington Redskins, not only as a runner but a self-sacrificing blocker. At the bottom of the conundrum that is Portis - the absurd charm, the apparent casualness, the uneven practice attendance - is one of their most physically fierce players.

NFL statistics suggest just how disposable backs are. Their average career span is just 2.5 years, and even the great ones seldom last a decade. In the 90-year history of the league, just 25 men over the age of 30 have run for 1,000 yards in a season. There is no mystery as to why. It's a simple matter of physics: mass times acceleration, and the damage those forces do to a body. Portis is in his ninth season. By my count that means he has taken somewhere around 6,500 hits. Scientific study suggests they're the most severe blows any player on the field suffers.

We often talk about the pounding that NFL running backs take, and recognize it viscerally, but we don't quantify it. A look at hard numbers explains why Portis has been banged up these last couple of years, and why he has broken fewer long runs than he used to. It also perhaps explains his famous reluctance to practice every day, which now seems more smart than lazy, given what researchers are learning about long-term health risks from repetitive blows.

A defensive back's speed, say 4.5 seconds in the 40-yard dash, combined with his mass can produce up to 1,600 pounds of tackling force. Recently scientists have begun attaching sensors to players' helmets and equipment, to measure the effects of such impacts on their bodies, especially concussions and repetitive brain injuries.

The Simbex Corporation, funded by the National Institutes of Health, has conducted four studies of college football and hockey players, including some at Virginia Tech. Data showed players' heads accelerated inside of their helmets from 30 to 60 Gs, with some blows up to 150 Gs. It also revealed that running backs suffered the most severe hits in terms of magnitude.

"Running backs take a lot of impacts to the front of their heads," says Simbex President Rick Greenwald. "Their exposure and the severity of the impacts are the highest of all positions."

Greenwald refused to extrapolate on what that means for even bigger and faster NFL players, because thus far, none have worn sensors. Simbex researchers hope to wire them for data in the next year.

But anyone can do some basic math and estimate how much punishment Portis has absorbed. He has played in 112 regular season games in his NFL career. There are conservatively 60 offensive snaps in an average game. He has carried the ball 2,225 times, and caught 246 passes, and that doesn't count his blocking assignments. Add weekly practices - though his attendance to those has sometimes been light - as well as minicamps, and training camps, and don't forget his college career at Miami, either, where he had 440 carries.

According to Bob Stern, a neurologist and co-director of the Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy at Boston University, some players may be enduring up to 1,000 or more hits per year, between games and practices. Running backs don't experience "the frequent sub-concussive blows" that linemen do, but "when they get hit, they get really hit," Stern says, and as a much-used blocker, Portis has been hit both ways.

In that context, it's a wonder Portis was still the Redskins' leading rusher before he got hurt, and a credit to him. At one point in 2008 Portis had injuries to his knee, hips and ribs, as well as scabs on his elbows and his shins.

"If you take common folk and hit them across the arm with a bat, they're going to take the proper time to rest," he said at the time. " . . . You get four days to recover being hit by a bat. And then you get hit by another bat. Common folk get hit by a bat, they might not go to work for two weeks."

Portis has earned some criticism for divalike behavior, like his occasional ingratitude to his linemen and quarterbacks, and for playing overweight. But lack of toughness isn't one of his failings. Overall, he's probably given as much to the Redskins physically as he has taken financially. If you're inclined to resent his salary of almost $7.2 million this year, try to remember that. Even former coach Jim Zorn, who was often frustrated by him, said that when Portis is on the field, "Your head better be on a swivel. Somebody is gonna get knocked down."

Remember that in four seasons, he has had at least 320 carries. Remember that he ran for a club-record 1,516 yards in 2005, alternately avoiding tacklers with suave cuts and knocking them down like bowling pins. Remember how he dislocated his shoulder in a preseason game with the Cincinnati Bengals, when launched into a tackle, trying to stop an interception return. Remember how just two weeks ago against the Houston Texans he raced half the length of the field to explode on a block and open a pathway for Fred Davis, resulting in a 62-yard play.

For us spectators, the violence of the NFL is inevitably abstract, no matter how close our seats are to the field or how vivid the telecast. We view and feel the game at a remove, with small sense of what the men on the field experience.

Ever been rear-ended and hit your head on a windshield? Try enduring it 60 times in a row, once every minute or so.

"It can be the equivalent sometimes of driving a car into a brick wall," Stern says. "We're talking about 50 to 100-plus G force."

If Portis is able to return to the field this season, remember that. And appreciate every last yard he gives you.

Click here to order Clinton Portis’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Biggest Loser list: Huff coming off

When the first pitch of the Atlanta Braves-San Francisco Giants game occurs around 9:40 EST tonight, the monkey will officially leap off the back of Giants’ first baseman Aubrey Huff.

For a day, Huff Daddy, as he was jokingly referred to for three years in the Orioles clubhouse, is the second active biggest loser in baseball heading into tonight's game. Huff had played 1,479 games without appearing in a playoff game. He’s certainly aware of it. When his Detroit Tigers lost in a one-game tiebreaker last season, Huff joked with friends that it was obviously his presence that killed the Tigers’ playoff chances.

Huff was third on the list behind St. Louis outfielder Randy Winn (1,717 games) and Texas infielder Michael Young (1,508). But Young escaped infamy Wednesday when the Rangers beat the Tampa Bay Rays.

Three of the top four should shed biggest loser status this postseason. No. 4, Philadelphia’s Mike Sweeney, is on the Phillies’ active roster and likely will get into a playoff game at least as a pinch-hitter.

If and when he does, the Orioles will then have three biggest losers in the active Top 10, though two may not be with the team in 2011.

With the departure of Young, Huff and Sweeney, Brian Roberts will move up to sixth with 1,194 games played without a playoff appearance. Corey Patterson (who wasn’t active when the Cubs made the playoffs) will be ninth with 1,097 and Ty Wigginton will be 10th with 1,060.

Thanks to Bill Arnold of Beyond the Box Score for helping me with the list.

Assuming Huff and Sweeney are out, the new Top 10 is: Randy Winn, 1,717; Adam Dunn, 1,448; Vernon Wells, 1,393; Frank Catalanotto, 1,265; Jack Wilson, 1,251; Brian Roberts, 1,194; Felipe Lopez, 1,137; Lyle Overbay, 1,138; Corey Patterson, 1,097; Ty Wigginton, 1,060.

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Pat Burrell, a Boulder Creek native, makes most of second chance

SAN FRANCISCO - Much like the bases Pat Burrell rounds during his home run trots, his professional baseball career has come full circle.
The 33-year-old slugger - a Boulder Creek native who shined at Bellarmine College Prep in San Jose - is back in the San Francisco Bay Area, where his career started, and heading back to the playoffs.

This time, he's with the National League West-champion Giants, who face Atlanta in a best-of-five division series beginning today in San Francisco at 6:37 p.m.

Six months ago, the postseason wasn't even a blip on Burrell's radar. He was unemployed, a broken-down, slower-than-average outfielder with a cold bat. Not the type of player who is in high demand.

But the Giants gave the free-agent outfielder a second chance and Burrell never looked back - until Sunday's regular-season finale.

"For me, it's very special," Burrell said after the Giants beat the visiting San Diego Padres to win the West Division for the first time since 2003. "I wasn't sure where things were going...."

Burrell's voice doesn't trail off in reflection, but rather because his locker room interview was interrupted by three celebrating teammates emptying cans of beer on his head. Normally stoic and tight-lipped with the media, Burrell's emotions were hidden by the beer gushing down his face.

"I'm just thankful for the opportunity," he continued, "to the organization. ... Hell, let's get this party going."

Burrell, who played one year at San Lorenzo Valley High and has donated to the Cougars' athletics program, has been at these baseball bashes before. He's also been exiled from a clubhouse with a winning mix.

Burrell was the starting left fielder for the 2008 World Series-champion Philadelphia Phillies.

A month after the season, the Phillies decided to go another direction and signed speedier free-agent outfielder Raul Ibanez to a three-year, $30 million deal. The transaction signaled the end for Burrell, who played nine seasons with the Phillies after the team made him their No. 1 pick in MLB's First-Year Player Draft in 1998.

A month after the season ended, though, Burrell - coming off a 33-homer, 86 RBI campaign - had found a new employer. He signed a two-year, $16 million deal with the Tampa Bay Rays. The Rays, the '08 World Series runner-up, planned to use him as a designated hitter.

The plan flopped. Burrell, nicknamed "Pat The Bat," hit a career-low 14 homers in 122 games.

He got off to another slow start with the Rays this season.

Instead of waiting for similar sub-par results, the team released the struggling hitter, who was batting .202 with two home runs in 24 games. He remained unemployed for 14 days.

Enter the Giants, who were in dire need of some offensive pop. They signed Burrell to a minor-league contract on May 29. Within a week, Burrell joined the Giants a new man, seemingly, and with new life.

Burrell was one of the first of several players added by the Giants to give their stellar pitching rotation some support. In August, they acquired outfielders Jose Guillen and Cody Ross and infielder Mike Fontenot and promoted infielder Emmanuel Burriss from Triple-A Fresno. They called up top prospect Buster Posey just days before he arrived in San Francisco.

Burrell liked what he saw in the Giants.

"We've got a bunch of guys who are here to win and are serious," he said. "I think it's a good mix of old and young. We have a group of stars in the making, like Buster, and a couple old guys like [Aubrey] Huff and I."

Unlike the player who had slumped with the Rays, Burrell found his stroke in San Francisco. He manufactured several momentum-changing at-bats. Five of his 18 home runs for the Giants have come in the eighth inning or later and seven of them have been go-ahead shots. He finished the regular season with nine game-winning RBIs.

Patient at the plate, he also didn't mind drawing a walk to jump-start the offense. He reached base safely in 73 of 88 games.

"Pat's a pro," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said after Burrell had two walks and a homer against Milwaukee two weeks ago. "He gives you a great at-bats, quality at-bats. He'll take his walks and that's what you need. I wish he ran better, I'd lead him off."

Burrell's rejuvenated bat was a godsend for the Giants' lineup. But Burrell added to his stock, Bochy said, by the way he has carried himself in the dugout and clubhouse. He said Burrell has a calming influence on the younger players.

In Tampa Bay, Burrell was rumored to be a negative influence on the Rays' younger stars, such as Evan Longoria. He quickly showed that wouldn't be the case with the Giants.

Just weeks after Burrell joined the team, San Francisco lost a 15-inning heartbreaker to host Colorado, 4-3. The loss dropped the Giants to a season-worst 7.5 games behind the San Diego Padres in the National League West standings. It was then Burrell addressed his teammates in the clubhouse.

"Pat Burrell says - he's been there before - and he says, 'One game a week,'" recalled Huff, the Giants first baseman who has remained close friends with Burrell since their days of playing together at University of Miami. "And we went on a nice run there and got within striking distance. We got close to the Padres and nobody gave up."

Now when the camera pans to the dugout, Burrell is often the first to emerge with a high-five, butt smack or loud cheer after big hits from teammates.

"He's been huge for us," said Posey, a catcher in the running for Rookie of the Year honors. "It's hard to put into words. He's been in this league 10 years and he has fun. He enjoys competing and that rubs off on guys."

Burrell is playing with the heart and enthusiasm of a rookie trying to earn his keep. In Sunday's regular-season finale, he actually sprinted out an infield pop-out.

Given his unemployed situation six months ago - yes, all 14 days of it - perhaps Burrell recognized the game can be torn from his batting gloves in a heartbeat.

Burrell looked around the NL West champions' clubhouse Sunday, which smelled like a frat house the day after a party. Drenched from head to toe in beer and champagne, he let out a few hoots.

"The whole experience has just been incredible," Burrell said. "Our fans are incredible. We wanted to give the people what they wanted. Granted, it took a couple of days, but we delivered. This city's going to be rocking."

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NFL U Week 4 Photos

Check out photos from Week 4 of the 2010 NFL U season of all of our proCanes. Click here or above on the proCanes Gallery link.

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Reggie Wayne Closing In On 10,000 Yards

Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne is just 151 yards shy of 10,000 receiving yards in his career. Wayne will look to break the historic milestone this week against the Kansas City Chiefs.

The Chiefs defense have only allowed one wide receiver, Chargers’ Legedu Naanee, to break 100 yards against them this season.
Wayne is on fire right now after his 15 catch, 196 yard performance against the Jaguars last week.

Wayne is leading the NFL in catches and receiving yards with 33 receptions and 456 yards.

Click here to order Reggie Wayne’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Clinton Portis Out For 4-6 Weeks

Washington Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan told reports Wednesday that starting RB Clinton Portis will miss four to six weeks with a third degree groin separation.

Portis was injured during last week’s win at the Philadelphia Eagles. RB Ryan Torain, who took over for him, will start this week’s game against the Green Bay Packers. Recently signed RB Chad Simpson will back him up.

Click here to order Clinton Portis’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Redskins Add Javarris James

Addressing a their most pressing roster need now that Clinton Portis is expected to be out for Sunday’s game against Green Bay, the Washington Redskins have brought back rookie running back Keiland Williams, adding him to their practice squad. The Redskins also have added rookie back Javarris James to the practice squad.

James, who is first cousins with Edgerrin James and like the former Colts’ star as well as Washington’s Portis, Santana Moss, Rocky McIntosh and Phillip Buchanon went to Miami, went undrafted in April.

He spent the preseason with Indianapolis and had a team-high 26 carries for 85 yards. But he was released and later signed to New England’s practice squad.

The Patriots cut James yesterday, and he said that 90 minutes later, he received the call informing him Washington had picked him up.

“Any time you get an opportunity to come on any NFL team, it’s a great opportunity. They haven’t really told me anything, so I’m just going to come out and try to practice as hard as I can and just play my role,” said the 6-foot, 215-pound James, who in 2009 played in 12 games for Miami and had 103 carries for 492 yards and six touchdowns. He also had 13 catches for 85 yards. “We got a family at UM, so it definitely made the transaction a lot easier, having a lot of Miami guys here.

“I feel like I can block good, catch the ball real well,” James added. “I just bring a complete game. I feel like I can do everything.”

James, whose plane touched down at Dulles late Tuesday night, had yet to be told how the Redskins envisioned using him.

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Kubiak pleased with Andre Johnson's progress

Texans coach Gary Kubiak was pleased with the way Andre Johnson (ankle) looked off to the side of Wednesday's practice.

"Andre actually ran pretty good here today," said Kubiak. "I watched him. ... I liked the way he ran around and we’re hoping tomorrow he takes some of his normal routes." A limited practice, as Kubiak anticipates, would be a good sign for A.J.'s progress. For now, he's considered questionable for Week 5.

Click here to order Andre Johnson’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Falcons Release Shawnbrey McNeal

The Atlanta Falcons today signed linebacker Robert James to the practice squad and terminated the practice squad contract of running back Shawnbrey McNeal.

McNeal, 5-10, 190 pounds, was signed by the Chargers as a rookie free agent on May 10, 2010. He was signed to the Falcons practice squad on September 21, 2010.

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Sherko Haji-Rasouli to Make Debut

After a couple of false starts because of knee pain, Haji-Rasouli is finally ready to make his 2010 season debut in Game No. 13. Problems in both knees have kept him on the sidelines since training camp. Projected to replace departed Jason Jimenez as the starting right tackle, SHR assumes his regular starting position from last year. Current right tackle Joe McGrath was Haji-Rasouli’s backup at guard in their days with the Miami Hurricanes.

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Kenny Phillips misses practice to avoid injury

Kenny Phillips says he isn’t hurt and just sat out practice today to make sure he didn’t get hurt.

“I haven’t played ball in a long time, so if anything the legs might get a little fatigued and that’s when injuries can occur,” said the Giants’ safety, who missed the last 15 weeks of last season after undergoing microfracture surgery on his knee. “That’s what we’re trying to avoid.”

Phillips was held out of action due to his knee being, as Tom Coughlin phrased it, “tired and sore.” Phillips, though, said there’s “no pain or anything” in his knee and even clarified that it wasn’t his knee that was injured when he went down briefly against the Titans.

Asked if he’s holding himself out or if it’s the trainers who held him back, Phillips replied, “A little bit of both. They’re just trying to make sure I don’t have any setbacks or anything like that. We’re just being safe right now.”

Click here to order Kenny Phillips’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Tavares Gooden gets good news on dislocated left shoulder

A second opinion on his dislocated left shoulder confirmed what Tavares Gooden had already been told.

“Basically, it was the same thing that was said here, just giving me an opportunity to be able to come back this season,” the inside linebacker said Wednesday. “That’s a blessing. Now I’m just working hard with [trainer] Bill T. [Tessendorf] and trying to get that done. Now it’s time to get it done.”

Gooden, who suffered the injury in the Ravens’ 15-10 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals on Sept. 19, declined to get into specifics about his shoulder, but he had just returned from a workout and was not wearing a sling in the locker room.

Gooden said his return will depend on the overall strength of the shoulder, which is one of the objectives of his rehabilitation.

Gooden, who was not present during the portion of Wednesday's practice open to the media, said he can’t get back soon enough.

“I’m really anxious to get back,” he said. “I miss playing the game. I miss hearing my name called. So I’m trying to make it back as soon as I can.”

Click here to order Tavares Gooden’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Kellen Winslow becomes quiet leader behind scenes

TAMPA - Kellen Winslow does everything his own way and everybody on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers has learned to adapt to his methods of game preparation, leadership and playmaking.

Mostly, teammates and Tampa Bay head coach Raheem Morris are in awe of Winslow's playmaking, those scintillating moments when he reminds the organization why it paid him $20.1 million guaranteed, as part of a six-year, $36 million contract extension when the Bucs acquired him from Cleveland before the 2009 season.

"He brings energy to our football team, like no one else," Morris said. "He brings a different type of energy and a different type of flow and different type of playmaking ability."

That's why one of the team's top priorities is to make sure that the veteran tight end with a bad right knee is going to make it through the entire season.

Winslow is given days off from practice during the week, so as to reduce the risk to his right knee, which has been repaired six times by surgery.

When he's not around, his absence from practice is noticed by young players like linebacker Geno Hayes, who has Winslow's route-running routine down pat.

"We all joke about him a little bit," Morris said. "I saw Geno out there doing the Kellen routes today, because we missed him on the practice field."

Winslow does not like to say much about how the team regulates his practice schedule.

"It doesn't really matter," Winslow said. "The only thing that matters is what you do on Sunday. Nobody cares about practice. It's what you do when that game is on the line. Are you going to make the play or not? So it doesn't matter what you do during the week.

"I'm ready anyway, either way," Winslow said. "I'll be ready every Sunday."

Winslow, who led the team in catches last season, is Tampa Bay's second-leading receiver (11 catches) this season behind Mike Williams (12).
But he is still the player who has made two of the Bucs' most outstanding plays this season -- the one-handed stab, tip-toe inbounds catch against the Pittsburgh Steelers, and his 40-yard grab of a dart throw by quarterback Josh Freeman in the road win against the Carolina Panthers.

Winslow is tied for second in the NFL and tied for the lead in the NFC with in third-down receptions with 10 catches for 135 yards. Nine of the catches have gained first-down yardage.

"He's a freak, there's no other way to put it," Morris said. "He makes plays that I don't coach. He makes plays that he just has that innate ability to make."

Winslow appears much more comfortable playing for the Buccaneers than he did with his original team, the Cleveland Browns.

That's because he draws inspiration from Morris.

"Man, there's so much I could say about him. He's so easy to play for. You just don't want to let him down," Winslow said about Morris. "So, when he speaks, people listen. We ride for that dude, like no other.

"It's just easy to have a relationship with that guy. He knows how to get guys going," Winslow said. "He'll tell you to your face if you're not doing good. If you're doing good, he'll pat you on the back. But he always wants you to get better and he's always going to be on your butt."

Winslow likes to stay near Morris on the sideline during games, subtly making sure he knows to remind offensive coordinator Greg Olson to feed him balls, as much as possible.

"I love him on the sideline, because usually he's talking to me, or just talking in the air. 'They can't hold me,' or 'they can't see me,' things of that nature," Morris said. "He's awesome."

Winslow said Morris is most responsible for the team's improbable 2-1 start.

"It's all him," Winslow said. "It's been a plan, Mark (Dominik, general manager) and Raheem, and these 61 guys, however many players we have. It's been planned a long time ago. We're only (2-1), we have a lot of work to do. But it's not by accident."

Behind the scenes, Winslow does try to mentor young skill-position players on offense, like second-year wide receiver Sammie Stroughter, and Williams.

"I will say he tends to attach to certain players," Morris said.

But what's most important to Morris is what Winslow does on Sundays.

Click here to order Kellen Winslow’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Brett Romberg waiting to hear from NFL club

He's out of football right now but Brett Romberg still has options.

The six-foot-two, 293-pound centre had a recent workout with the Baltimore Ravens and says the door remains open to a potential return to the Atlanta Falcons, the team that released the eight-year NFL veteran prior to the start of the 2010 season.

But the Windsor, Ont., native admits it's tough waiting for the phone to ring.

"Yeah, you kind of feel like a waste of skin a little bit," Romberg said in an interview from Atlanta, where he lives with his wife Emily. "It is a little discouraging but I think basically my whole career has kind of been a little discouraging so it's a little bit more of the same.

"I'm just waiting for an opportunity now but with what's going to happen next year and everything, a lot of decisions this year are going to be based upon business rather than ability."

The NFL Players' Association remains convinced the league's owners will lock the players out next year. The collective bargaining agreement between the union and league expires after this season and while the two sides are talking they remain far apart on a new deal.

Romberg, who turns 31 next week, was entering his second season with the Falcons. After a stellar college tenure at Miami, he began his NFL career signing as an undrafted free agent with the Jacksonville Jaguars, spending time on the practice roster before being promoted to the active roster.

Romberg remained with the Jaguars until 2006 before joining the St. Louis Rams. In all, he has appeared in 42 NFL games, starting 18.
While Romberg would rather be playing, the down time has helped.

"Having had the last four weeks of working out and running and not banging my body, it feels a lot better," he said. "(The Ravens' workout) was my first time doing intense football drills like running and pulling and hitting bags and going against somebody and I moved really well, I felt real good on my feet. I'm sure I'd get back into it and after two weeks my body would feel like I just got into a car accident again, that's just the nature of the business."

In college, Romberg helped the Hurricanes reach two NCAA title games, winning one, and also received the Rimington Trophy as the NCAA's top centre. He was a finalist for the Outland Trophy, given annually to the top lineman, and was named a consensus firs team all-American in 2002.

He started his final 37 games at centre for the Hurricanes and never surrendered a sack.

But Romberg enjoyed rock star status at Miami for his punchy anecdotes to reporters, flashy vehicles and willingness to do just about anything once, including pinching an opponent's bottom during games. In fact, prior to Ohio State's 31-24 double overtime win over Miami in the NCAA title game Jan. 3, 2003 in the Fiesta Bowl, Gene Wojciechowski of ESPN The Magazine called Romberg "the best Canadian import since a case of Labatt's Blue."

Teammates weren't immune, either, as Romberg earned a well deserved reputation of being a practical joker.

Romberg admits he leads a calmer, quieter lifestyle now that he's married. Sort of.

"The wife has me on a leash, you know what I mean," Romberg said with a chuckle. "But when I get off, watch out.

"She cages me as much as possible. I've become a little bit more civilized. Not much but I kind of realize now in order to be somewhat of a professional person and maybe possibly hold down a job or career I kind of have to straighten up a little bit but I still go on my tirades."

Life in college, Romberg says, was so much simpler than it is in the pros.

"The kids now, they don't have a clue," Romberg said. "They're pretty naive when it comes to the outside world and how things work. It's such a great place in life right there that they have to make sure they look around when you're in it . . . because when it's over it's over and it's over quicker than you think.

"You're living off campus on whatever is relative to the cost of living in that town and you're making it work. Now looking back I don't know how the hell I did it. I don't know but it takes all the (crap) out of life. It's just attend class, have a great time and enjoy your youth and play some football while you're doing it."

That's not the case in the NFL, where life is much more regimented and the business side of the game often rears its ugly head.

"The relationship you have in college with your teammates, generally they're friends and that's something that is a life long bond because of the stuff you go through in college, the emotion and the time together is unbelievable," Romberg said. "For example, this weekend I'm going back to Miami and a giant group of us are going to the Florida State game.

"But in the NFL you go to work in the morning, the guy that sits beside you in the locker-room you complain to each other a little bit and then once the day is over you go home to your wife and kids or your wife or some guys go home by themselves. It's a brutal league."

Many people see football players living a glamorous life filled with money, expensive jewelry, exotic sports cars, huge homes and celebrity status. There is no denying the financial benefits of pro football but Romberg says looks can be deceiving because what fans don't see are the long hours of work and preparation — on and off the field — that are required daily, that the vast majority of contracts aren't guaranteed and don't offer long-term security. The threat of being released and losing a paycheque is very real.

As a result, players are often forced to play hurt to not only continue receiving a paycheque but also because there is no shortage of players available eager for a shot at playing in the NFL.

"Now, there are consequences," Romberg said. "It's a total performance-based league generally 95 per cent of the time. If you're not performing . . . then they start bringing in other guys to work out and possibly replace you.

"It (playing in the NFL) thickens your skin a few layers and definitely matures you a lot faster than you think. As I get older I can see the young kids coming into the league and granted I was there one time too, but coming out of college you are just so green, you don't know. And granted a lot of the kids that are drafted are guaranteed a spot on an NFL team that invests a lot of time, research and money into you. But you really don't have much longer than that first year, maybe two if you're a first-rounder to basically pick up the speed of what's going on and mould with the other guys."

Still, Romberg has a deep love for the game and feels he can play for another two years.

"My slogan was 'Eight would be great and 10 would be unbelievable,'" Romberg said. "To tell you the truth, going into this season I was thinking this might be my last year, especially with the lockout. If it lasted to October (2011) I'd be a 32-year-old man who hasn't played football in a year, year and a half and is going to try to get back and bang with kids who are 22, 23 or 24 year olds and I don't know if that would've worked out too well . . . but I do think I do have a couple of years in me. That's what I was told when they (Falcons) let me go.

"I love Sunday, I love the relationship and bond you have with the guys. That's what makes a lot of guys want to go to work everyday. Obviously anything you want to be good at and value you have to put in a lot of time and effort into. Yeah, I still do love it. But as much as I did in college? Nah, probably not."

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Rookie Anthony Reddick amps up his play

The area is called Tatertown, and to Anthony Reddick it is still home.

It is a suburb of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., that brings a smile to the face of the B.C. Lions defensive back and it is a place where he will return upon completing his first CFL season.

It is not, however, a place where an easy life is made, especially if it is done without either of your parents. But the 24-year-old made it out of Tatertown, just as he is picking his way through the potholes represented by playing a strange game in a foreign country for the first time.

Getting to the point where Reddick has become an increasingly valuable piece in the array of Lions defensive packages this year ultimately arose because he was able to overcome surgical procedures on both knees during a six-year stay at the University of Miami.

It also happened because the smallish back stayed focused on finding a way out of Tatertown through the aunt and grandmother who raised him. Reddick's mom only recently re-entered his life, as did his father, returning from a Mississippi jail.

"I learned from them and from their mistakes. I made up my mind I wanted to go a different route," he said. "I realized there are other paths. But it's not something that happens suddenly."

It certainly didn't happen when he started playing football at age six, when the only way his grandmother got through to Reddick was when the game was taken away from him as punishment or when he continually got suspended from school.

"I just did some of the things teenagers do, but I always was a good listener; if I didn't listen I wouldn't be here right now," he said. "My aunt and grandmother know what it would do if they took me away from football. It's my everything."

The passion also once showed itself in a less-beneficial way when Reddick was suspended four games in 2006 for a helmet-throwing incident while at Miami. It may have played a part in why he went unclaimed in the NFL draft, but it was the same toughness which attracted the Lions.

Reddick would definitely be placed behind Solomon Elimimian and Yonus Davis on a list of players to be considered for the club's top rookie nomination. But in a season where so much about the Lions has been reformed by coach/GM Wally Buono with rough-around-the-edges recruits, Reddick has more than played a marginal role.

Though railbirds at training camp in Kamloops thought he was a natural to start at safety, given that he played the position at Miami, defensive coordinator Mike Benevides was also aware he played dime linebacker in college. The hybrid position has become his role with the Lions, who didn't have an obvious replacement for Jerome Dennis when they traded him to Hamilton in the offseason.

"A lot of things are not easy for that position," Benevides said. "In one package you're a linebacker, the next you're a blitzer. I don't take that for granted when you look at what he's done.

"He's got an edge to him. He's tough-skinned. But the biggest thing I've learned about him from Week 1 to now is how he's developed as a professional and how he's taking care of his body. He's also diligent. Practice can be over for four or five hours and he's still watching film."

There is a slowly maturing sense to a player who was called "Amp" as a kid because he could only pronounce his name "Ampony." A lot comes with his approach.

Reddick was admonished by Buono after a game against Calgary earlier this year when he came free on a blitz, but whiffed trying to take down Stampeders quarterback Henry Burris.

However, given a second chance two weeks ago in the same situation, Reddick put a hit on Burris that may have been one of the best from a Lions defender all season by slightly changing his angle of attack.

A lot more maturing, Reddick said, took place in Tatertown simply because he had no other choice.

"It's not the best area," he admitted. "It's an environment where not all the people are fortunate, but it's a community that sticks together. There's crime, but there's crime throughout the world. It's a great place to live and I love my neighbourhood."

It's OK to have two homes. It's slowly working out that way for one of the large handful of Lions rookies this season.

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Giants' Aubrey Huff in playoffs for first time in 11-season career

Aubrey Huff is in his 11th major league season and 33 years old. San Francisco's first baseman also is a playoff rookie.

Good thing he's got a couple of former World Series winners surrounding him in the Giants' clubhouse: Pat Burrell and Aaron Rowand. It's still sinking in for Huff that he's about to play more meaningful games in October. San Francisco opens its best-of-five NL division series at home Thursday night against the wild-card Atlanta Braves.

Huff lived it up after the Giants beat the Padres on the season's final day to clinch their first playoff berth and NL West title since 2003.

"It was weird, when the champagne was done it never really kicked in," Huff said of what he'd just accomplished. "Once the hangover wears off and you have a day to reflect on it, you realize it's real and you cherish it."

Huff has provided a key boost for the Giants, who signed him to a $3 million, one-year contract in January. He had 26 home runs and 86 RBIs while playing 157 games — 100 of those at first base, 46 in left field and 34 in right.

While the majority of the Giants are in their first playoffs like Huff, they have played more than their share of close games to get here.

"We don't have a lot of playoff experience, but this team is battle-tested," Huff said. "All year long, almost every game came down to the eighth inning."

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Michael Irvin and Warren Sapp get excited about 'The U' on NFL Network

Click here to order Michael Irvin’s or Warren Sapp’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Comments Sports Minute: Week 4

Hey! Each NFL week we will be doing a Sports Minute Update on the Canes4Life Show which airs every Saturday morning on CBS 4 at 11:30am. If you’re in the Miami area, you can head over to Harrison’s Sports Grill (1674 S Red Rd Miami, FL 33155) this Thursday Night at 6pm and watch the Hurricanes take on the Pitt Panthers followed by the live taping of the show where you’ll be able to hear former Hurricanes’ opinion on the current state of Miami Football and also meet those former players after the taping. Each week we will be posting our Video update on the site. Though a little delayed this week, we still wanted our fans to check it out!

Thanks for watching!

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Patriots release RB Javarris James from practice squad

Once the Patriots signed RB Thomas Clayton off the Browns practice squad, you had to figure the days were number for current Patriots practice squad running back Javarris James.

Today, his number is up.

The Patriots released the former University of Miami star today, giving themselves an opening on the practice squad. The 6-foot, 215-pound James signed with Indianapolis as a rookie free agent but was waived on Sept. 4.

He’s been on the Patriots P-squad ince Sept. 6. His claim to fame is being the subject of an erroneous report that said he was getting promoted. Of course, he did not.

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Willis McGahee romantically linked to reality TV star

Ravens running back Willis McGahee, who rushed for 39 yards and a touchdown against the Steelers on Sunday, made a cameo on Bravo's "The Real Housewives of Atlanta" on Monday night.

(And don't accuse me of going all soft on you by watching an episode of "Real Housewives," because I was watching "Gossip Girl" "Monday Night Football." So there.)

Anyway, according to, McGahee is romantically linked to cast member Kandi Burruss, a singer from the '90s R&B group Xscape, thus explaining his appearance on the show. Here's a snippet of what I missed, according to AOL's Black Voices:

Cameras show the two on their date discussing the idea of having sex. The Atlanta native tells McGahee that she made a bet with a friend that she could be celibate for one year. To which, he asks "Is oral sex eliminated?" and she said, "No." And he replied, "That's cool" with a sly smile.

Oh man. I definitely need to tune in next week.

In all seriousness, best of luck to Willis. It can't be fun having camera crews interfering with your love life.

Click here to order Willis McGahee’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Brett Romberg Works out for Ravens

The Ravens brought in six offensive linemen for workouts on Tuesday, including three centers.

The centers included former second-round draft pick Jake Grove, Nick Leckey and Brett Romberg. Grove was drafted by the Raiders in 2004 and signed a five-year, $29.5 million free-agent contract with the Dolphins in 2008, but lost his job to less expensive Joe Berger last summer.
Also brought in by the Ravens were tackles Kirk Chambers and Scott Kooistra, and guard Kynan Forney.

Obviously, there is a concern about center Matt Birk's health. Neck and shoulders issues sidelined him for most of training camp. His backup, Chris Chester, is starting at right guard.

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Reggie Wayne Has a Career Day

Reggie Wayne had a career day on Sunday in Jacksonville.

But for the 10th-year veteran wide receiver, it wasn’t enough.

“I would have much rather have had five catches for 90 yards with a ‘W’, than what I had today,” Wayne said in the locker room after the game. “That’s the ultimate goal, to win.”

Wayne set a franchise record with 15 catches and had a career-best 196 yards in a losing effort at Jacksonville Sunday afternoon, as the Jaguars took a 31-28 last-second victory on a 59-yard Josh Scobee field goal for their fifth win ever over the Colts.

Wayne’s previous marks were 12 catches and 184 yards.

“Obviously, he is a great player for one thing,” Peyton Manning said. “They were giving some looks to throw it to him. (Jacksonville) was playing some off coverage and those were good looks to throw the ball to him.”

Manning and Wayne also moved up in the record books, as the duo surpassed the former Buffalo pair of Jim Kelly and Andre Reed (9,538) for second all-time in passing yardage between a quarterback and receiver combination with 9,703.

The Manning-Wayne duo already ranks second in NFL history in completions with 701 and tied for fifth in touchdown connections with 63. Manning and former Colts receiver Marvin Harrison lead each category. Wayne collected his 700th career reception late in the second quarter, becoming the 31st player in the NFL to reach that mark. Wayne now has 709 career receptions for 9,849 yards and 65 touchdowns.

Wayne recorded his 12th career 10+-reception game and 32nd career 100+-yard game.

Click here to order Reggie Wayne’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Hobbled by groin injury, Clinton Portis does not expect to play in Redskins' game against the Packers

Running back Clinton Portis does not expect to play against the Green Bay Packers because of a groin injury but hopes to return to the Redskins' lineup soon, he said in a radio interview Tuesday.

During his weekly appearance on The Mike Wise Show with Holden Kushner on 106.7 The Fan, Portis said he had not yet received the results of an MRI exam of his groin, which he injured Sunday in the Redskins' 17-12 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field.

Despite repeatedly leaving the game because of the injury, Portis was effective against the Eagles, rushing for 55 yards (with a 5.0-yard average) and catching two passes for 26 yards. While addressing reporters Monday afternoon, Coach Mike Shanahan said that the Redskins "should find something out within the next couple of hours, one way or the other. The MRI will come in and we'll see what happens."

But Portis said he expects to be sidelined for the Week 5 matchup against the Packers at FedEx Field. "I don't think the team would even let me attempt to go and try to play on Sunday," he said.

Portis said this is the first groin injury he has suffered in his career, but he quickly dismissed speculation he could be sidelined for several weeks. "It's bothering me," Portis said. "It's stiff and moving and rolling around hurt. . . . I'll take my time to make sure I'm healed and I'll try to get back out and help my teammates."

A week after Portis stirred criticism for going down without being touched on a 27-yard run against the St. Louis Rams, he was widely praised, including by Shanahan, for running hard against the Eagles.

"I don't worry about my toughness, man," Portis said. "I stand in the hole, week in, week out. D lineman, linebackers, secondary blitzers, or anybody else that's coming through there, and [I] put my head up in there. So I wasn't worried about my toughness."

Young back Ryan Torain, who finished with a game-high 70 yards rushing, did an outstanding job, Portis said. "He ran over a safety in the hole. . . . He lowered the boom to him. Once you get going, I think the team feed off of that. When Ryan scored that touchdown and made that play, I think that ignited our team."

In his Monday meeting with the media, Shanahan said little about Portis's injury, but in an interview later that day with Comcast SportsNet, he expressed his worries.

"Any time he goes out like he did and puts street clothes on during a game, I'm concerned," Shanahan said. "I know him. I've been around him too long. He's going to play hurt. Hopefully, the MRI is not as bad as I think it might be. Just have to keep our fingers crossed."

Click here to order Clinton Ports’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Ray Lewis to Open Art Gallery/Real Estate Office in Fort Lauderdale

On Sunday, linebacker Ray Lewis had a game-clinching interception to help the Ravens beat the Steelers. On October 27, he'll be opening an art gallery/real estate firm in downtown Fort Lauderdale.

The company opening the Las Olas Boulevard store, RL52 Realty, is said to be the linebacker's retirement plan for whenever he finishes his 15-year NFL career. The real estate firm already has an office in Boca Raton, and its second office on Las Olas will double as a gallery featuring sports-based art.

Considering Lewis is busy playing football and doing Old Spice commercials, he won't be too involved with the business yet. But partner Sol Kandel says RL52 was a shared idea he had with Lewis, who will be active in it during the offseason and after he retires. "He's got his vision and his creative hand in all aspects of the business," Kandel said.

Just what that means isn't clear -- Kandel declined to say what Lewis will be doing specifically for the company. "Well, I think you should ask Ray about that personally," he said. Kandel also passed on explaining how he got hooked up with Lewis. But he said, "This isn't one of those ventures of a sports star that just slaps his name on a business."

Lewis' stout image already adorns a website and signs for RL52 Realty, including on a piece of vacant land in the 200 block of NE Third Street in downtown Fort Lauderdale.

According to this news release, RL52 will use the retail space at 1034 E. Las Olas Blvd., next to SoLita, as a real estate office during the day and a sports-themed art gallery that will stay open late. The art will include photography by Marc Serota of athletes including Lewis, Dwyane Wade, and Dan Marino. A grand-opening celebration is planned for October 27.

Lewis, a University of Miami graduate, may be the best defensive player in the game today, but these days, picking off Charlie Batch may be easier than busting into Florida real estate. Kandel says a downturn may be the best time to enter the market. "You can look at it as a glass half empty or a glass half full, and we choose to look at it as half full," he said.

Click here to order Ray Lewis’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Vince Wilfork didn't like the picks

Vince Wilfork didn't feel like answering many questions after last night's 41-14 victory against the Miami Dolphins. The media has all the answers he quipped as he left the locker room.

Today, he explained a little more about his frustration on WEEI's Dale & Holley Show. The source of Wilfork's anger was centered around hearing that a number of media members picked against the Patriots for last night's game, he said.

The transcript is courtesy of

"From what we've done and where we've been; this is seven years for me here," Wilfork said. "I don't think I've ever seen everybody like that go against us. I'm not living in the past. That's reality. That's real. I'm the last one to pay attention to the media and what the media says and all that, but you know what? At some point, [the game predictions] will come by my desk, or it will come by with me, somebody will put it up around the facility.

"At first I saw it, but I really didn't pay it no attention. I was like, 'OK, some stats they're putting up.' When I actually walked by and saw it, and I saw everybody — like I said, our own people going against us, it was like 'Hmm, that's pretty interesting.' So, you know what? I could sit here and be pissed off all day and all morning, but I'm not going to do that. it's OK."

Wilfork went on to explain his comments.

"It's kind of hard to come to work in your own back yard and have your beat writers for your own team that they see you every day, and every last one of them go against you. They have a job to do, I understand that. At the same token, you wonder why [players] act that way they act sometimes with them, because of stuff like that. So, you know what, last night. like I told them, 'You guys have all the answers. We're going to keep doing what we do.'

"This team that we have here, I'm very, very happy with this team. We responded this game. It meant a lot. Not just because a division win. It was set up for us to either fail of move forward. And I think everybody knew how to approach this game."

Click here to order Vince Wilfork’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Comments Talks To Willis McGahee About Keeping The TD Streak Alive, FSU Week & More

In 126 straight NFL regular season weeks a proCane has scored a touchdown, and out of those 126 weeks 12 times only one proCane has scored to keep the streak alive. This week Willis McGahee was the only proCane to score with his 9-yd TD run in the second quarter versus the Steelers. We caught up with Willis on Monday night to get his thoughts on the streak and keeping it alive, the upcoming FSU game and Hurricanes in the NFL in general.

proCanes: What does it mean to you to be the only proCane to score this week and keep the streak alive?
Willis McGahee: It means a lot to me, to keep the tradition going. Like you say we [Hurricanes] always try to find ourselves in the end-zone and you know that’s how we were taught, that’s how we were raised.

pC: Talk about the fact that you play with three other proCanes (Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Tavares Gooden) and the bond you guys share.
WM: You know it’s a great bond. It’s always good to have a lot of Hurricanes on your team because we share something in common. The way we were taught out there to always have that winning mentality and just have that swagger about us where, if you’re not a Hurricane, hey, [laughter] you just don’t understand.

pC: Talk about the tradition of proCane runningbacks.
WM: Oh yea. It’s called “Runningback U.” [Laughter] We had one of the best coaches to ever come to the University of Miami, and that was Don Soldinger. He did a great job, grooming us, getting us ready for the NFL. He taught from day one, if you’re not going to block, you’re not going to play. So we had to first take pride in blocking and the running will come.

pC: It’s FSU week, this week what do you think about this coming Saturday’s game?
WM: I’m not worried about it. [Laughter] We’re gonna get that game That’s one game we know we have to play and be ready to fight.

pC: You had one of your biggest games against FSU, there’s obviously no problem getting up for that game.
WM: No there’s no problem at all. I know those guys know what’s a stake. We’ve got somewhat of a veteran team out there so I’m pretty sure they’ll show up with the mentality they need and know the stakes that are on the line in this game.

pC: Thanks Willis for your time.
WM: No problem.

Click here to order Willis McGahee’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Detroit Lions add Randy Phillips to practice squad

ALLEN PARK -- Randy Phillips, a rookie undrafted free-agent safety who was cut last week, has been signed to the Detroit Lions practice squad. Phillips was impressive in training camp and got some playing time early in the season, but he didn't show the production he displayed in preseason.

The Lions still have high hopes for Phillips and think he can bounce back and be considered again for the 53-man roster. To make room for Phillips on the practice squad, Detroit released center Cody Wallace.

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Jimmy Graham Carries the Ball for 3 yards, still no recpetions

Jimmy Graham saw more time (eight snaps) this week as the Saints try to figure out how to get the most out of him (is an end-around from the tight end slot really the way?).

Click here to order Jimmy Graham’s proCane Rookie Card.

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proCanes Stats From Week 4 of the 2010 NFL U Season


Darryl Sharpton (Texans): DID NOT PLAY DUE TO INJURY

Vince Wilfork (Patriots):

Brandon Meriweather (Patriots):

Jeremy Shockey (Saints): 6 catches 58 yards

Jonathan Vilma (Saints): 3 tackles, 1 solo tackle, 1 pass deflection

Santana Moss (Redskins): 1 rush for 5 yards

Clinton Portis (Redskins): 11 carries 55 yards, 2 catches for 26 yards before being injured in the 3rd quarter.

Rocky McIntosh (Redskins): 8 tackles, 7 solo tackles, 1 pass deflection

Calais Campbell (Cardinals): 4 tackles, 3 solo tackles, 1 tackle for loss

Antrel Rolle (Giants): 2 solo tackles

Kelly Jennings (Seahawks): 4 solo tackles

Frank Gore (49ers): 21 carries 77 yards, 7 catches 60 yards to lead all 49er receivers

Kellen Winslow (Buccanneers): BYE WEEK

Roscoe Parrish (Bills): 1 catch for 7 yards, also had 4 punt returns for 50 yards

Greg Olsen (Bears): 5 catches, 39 yards to lead all Bears receivers.

Devin Hester (Bears): 3 catches, 16 yards, 1 rush for 11 yards. 2 punt returns for 6 yards.

Willis McGahee (Ravens): 14 carries 39 yards, 1 TD to lead the Ravens in rushing before being injured.

Ray Lewis (Ravens): 9 tackles, 7 solo tackles, 2 pass delfections and 1 interception returned for 2 yards which sealed the victory.



DJ Williams (Broncos): 10 tackles, 8 solo tackles, 1 sack and 1 tackle for loss to lead the Broncos defense.

Sinorice Moss (Giants): DID NOT PLAY on IR Will miss the entire 2010 Season

Bruce Johnson (Giants): DID NOT PLAY, INACTIVE

Kenny Phillips (Giants): 5 tackles, 4 solo tackles

Reggie Wayne (Colts): 15 catches for 196 yards to set a franchise record and career record.

Jon Beason (Panthers): 7 tackles, 5 solo tackles, 1 tackle for loss

Phillip Buchanon (Redskins): 3 tackles, 2 solo tackles

Antonio Dixon (Eagles): 1 solo tackle


Randy Phillips: Was RELEASED and signed to the Detroit Lions this week.

Jimmy Graham (Saints): 1 rush for 3 yards. Played on 8 offensive plays, his most involvement thus far this season.

Leon Williams (Cowboys): BYE WEEK

Spencer Adkins (Falcons): 1 solo tackle


Eric Winston (Texans): Offensive Lineman, did not record any stats.

Rashad Butler (Texans): Offensive Lineman, did not record any stats.

Bryant McKinnie (Vikings): BYE WEEK

Chris Myers (Texans): Offensive Lineman, did not record any stats.

Vernon Carey (Dolphins): Offensive Lineman, did not record any stats.

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Willis McGahee doesn't have concussion

Willis McGahee says he did not suffer a concussion in Sunday's win over the Steelers.

The injury is officially being called a "stinger." McGahee took a helmet-to-helmet blow from James Harrison and did not return. He says he was cleared, though, meaning Ravens doctors had no concerns about a concussion. McGahee's role next week will depend on how Ray Rice's knee responds.

Click here to order Willis McGahee’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Redskins awaiting MRI on Clinton Portis' injury

The Redskins are awaiting the results of an MRI exam on running back Clinton Portis, who injured his groin in yesterday's win over the Philadelphia Eagles, but are pleased with the play of backup Ryan Torain, Coach Mike Shanahan said at his weekly news conference Monday.

Despite a shortage of NFL experience, Torain has a lot of "upside," Shanahan said. "I'm looking for him to have a good NFL career," he added.

Shanahan said the team was certain Torain, who had 70 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries Sunday while alternating with Portis, would be brought up from the practice squad. "We would've been heartbroken" if another team had taken him, Shanahan said.

Shanahan also said that if quarterback Donovan McNabb "had to do it over again," he would have stayed inbounds on a late scramble that picked up a first down, rather than heading out of bounds and stopping the clock. The move gave the Eagles precious extra time on their final, unsuccessful drive.

He said McNabb has a sore quad and felt it on that run.

Shanahan said offensive tackle Trent Williams, who has missed the past two games with knee and toe injuries, should be able to return to practice Wednesday. Shanahan did not disclose the illness that sidelined offensive lineman Artis Hicks, but said he, too, would be ready for practice Wednesday.

And he said Sunday's game "by far" the best game played by defensive lineman Albert Haynesworth. "The more he plays like that, the more he'll play," Shanahan said.

Click here to order Clinton Portis’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Greg Olsen grabs five passes for 39 yards

Greg Olsen caught five passes for 39 yards in Chicago's 17-3 loss to the Giants Sunday night.

Our View: So much for not using the tight end in Mike Martz's offense. Olsen easily led all Bears with eight targets, and he probably would have put up better numbers had Jay Cutler not gone down with a concussion before the second half. He's a solid TE to own right now, but his stock will take a major hit if Cutler is forced to miss extended time. Stay tuned.

Click here to order Greg Olsen’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Ray Lewis training for second career as businessman


There will come a time — no one is sure when — that Ray Lewis will retire from the National Football League. When he does leave the grueling training and game schedule, he'll turn to running an eclectic collection of companies trading on the strength of his name and brand.

The 15-year Baltimore Ravens veteran, one of the most fearsome linebackers ever to play the game, recently launched a real estate firm and a clothing line. He's developing an entertainment complex in Hunt Valley, featuring bowling lanes and a sushi bar, that could evolve into a national chain. He's taken a minority ownership stake in a digital media company whose mission is to help athletes market themselves online.

He also has delved into the music production business with Chosen One Productions, a label focused on Christian hip-hop and gospel music. And he's been a pitchman for Old Spice deodorant, featured in two popular commercials that together have been viewed more than a million times online at YouTube.

Some of his closest business advisors say Lewis has been busily planning his business ventures for life after the NFL for the past several years. At 35, Lewis appears to be diversifying his time, money and energy while he's still in the spotlight, sports marketing experts say.

"Now's the time for Ray," said Spiro Alafassos of the Baltimore-based sports marketing and digital content company The Spiro Group, which does not work with Lewis. "While you're on the field is the time to build these relationships and start these companies, because afterwards, it's a lot harder to open doors."

It's not unusual for professional athletes, particularly those with star power, to prepare for life after the game by jumping into various businesses, often capitalizing on their name recognition, in restaurants, sports teams or leisure and entertainment ventures.

Cal Ripken Jr., the famous Baltimore Orioles player, owns a minor league baseball team, the Aberdeen Ironbirds, and runs a youth baseball league and a sports complex design firm. Just days ago, he teamed with a New Jersey company to sell a beef jerky snack called Ripken Power Shred.

Golfing legend Jack Nicklaus has several enterprises, including golf course design and apparel, and wine and golf travel excursions. Magic Johnson, a former basketball star who played for the Los Angeles Lakers, runs a company that owns or operates movie theaters and restaurant chains, and seeks to invest in urban areas across the country.

Lewis, frequently sought after by other younger NFL players for advice, offered echoes of Johnson when asked about his vision for his business entities. He said that he approaches his ventures "with the bottom line being community" and that the more money he makes, the more he invests in the community. He runs the Ray Lewis Foundation, which provides financial help to disadvantaged youth.

"We can't led the hoods run the hoods, and we can't let the hoods stay hoods forever," Lewis said through a Ravens spokesman. "That's unfair to the people who live there."

In a separate interview, Lewis said he has taken a hands-on role with his off-the-field ventures by seeking to build business relationships and has formed "a great business team."

"Don't let your agents do it; don't let all these other people do it," Lewis said. "You build your own relationships. … When you start to look at yourself as a partner, you start to look at yourself as a corporation."

Marc Rosen, a business adviser and partner of Lewis' in the Hunt Valley project, said the NFL star calls his family of companies the RL52 Group. (Lewis wears the No. 52 on his football jersey.) Lewis has incorporated his main company in Maryland under the name Ray Lewis Group.

"There's a lot more," Rosen said of Lewis' business plans. "There's as much unannounced as there is announced. … He's associated himself with experts in each of the ventures he's working on. He's been serious about it for the last four or five years."

One of Lewis' earliest business ventures was the Full Moon Bar-B-Que restaurant in Canton, which opened in early 2005, with hopes of growing into a national chain. But the restaurant closed in 2009, after Lewis said last year that he wanted to focus on the bowling lane and entertainment complex he's building at the Hunt Valley Towne Centre.

The Hunt Valley project, announced last September, exhibits the same ambitious scope from Lewis. Called MVP Lanes, it will feature tiered bowling lanes, a 100-foot-wide video wall, a 150-seat restaurant and sushi bar, private event rooms, a quick-service restaurant, golf simulators, an arcade, a radio broadcast center, and a sports memorabilia and bowling pro shop.

Lewis has said that his plan for MVP Lanes is to open locations in various markets across the country. The opening for the Hunt Valley location is planned around the Super Bowl next year, according to Rosen, a co-owner.

In his real estate venture, Lewis has allied himself with Sol Kandel, a commercial real estate adviser and principal at USI Opportunities in Boca Raton, Fla. Kandel is the business advisor to Lewis' RL52 Realty. The firm has two offices in Boca Raton, where Lewis has a home.

Kandel said that Lewis' commercial real estate firm will be geared toward working with entrepreneurs and will provide investment opportunities in a range of real estate-related ventures. Lewis started the real estate firm in South Florida because it's one of the largest real estate markets in the country and he's familiar with the area, going back to his days playing football at the University of Miami, according to Kandel. He said they weren't deterred by the tough real estate market in a down economy.

"At this point, we think it's maybe one of the best times in the real estate cycle to jump into this kind of opportunity," Kandel said.

"What we're setting up here is an office that we expect to be a true meeting place for very successful professionals and entrepreneurs and leaders to come and see new business concepts and opportunities," Kandel said.

Lewis also has ties with Rockville-based Cormony Development, which has a deal with the city to develop a blighted waterfront stretch in South Baltimore into a $250 million office and sports complex. Cormony's managing director, Samuel Pokakoff, said in a recent interview that the project is "still on the table," though it was complicated recently by plans of putting a proposed slots parlor on the land.

Stretching his popularity onto the Internet, Lewis has taken steps to get involved in the business of digital marketing. It started with his desire to extend his brand online, through websites such as Facebook and Twitter, and mobile phone applications. He hired FusionSports Marketing Group of Texas, which designed for him an iPhone app that features instructional videos of Lewis' workout regimen.

Ashley DeWalt, the chief executive of FusionSports, said that Lewis was his second client when he launched his firm four years ago. But about 18 months ago, Lewis became more interested and serious about digital branding for athletes, becoming an investor in FusionSports, with a 15 percent equity stake, DeWalt said.

"His vision and my vision are pretty much the same," DeWalt said. "His playing days are coming to a close, but he always wants to have his pulse on athletes. He's real business-savvy."

Other projects that Lewis is involved with include a clothing line, RL52Style, which offers headware, hoodies and outerwear. The company's website says it plans to offer Lewis' clothing line through unspecified "high quality clothing stores" this fall. Some of the proceeds are going to Lewis' foundation, according to the official website.

His Chosen One Productions offers six songs, for 99 cents each, on a music website called He collaborated with a hip-hop musician called Hollaway to produce the album this year called "Chosen," and the songs have been distributed online. His songs have been listened to more than 13,000 times and drawn more than 115,000 online fans, according to

Whether Lewis' musical efforts are a hobby or a serious business pursuit remains to be seen. So far, only Ray Lewis has sung for Chosen One Productions, and it's unclear if he'll seek to attract other musicians.

His song lyrics can be personal and introspective, such as "A Tingle in the Brain," in which he contemplates good and evil, and implores God to guide him.

"Lord, all I ask for is, between me and you, can we spend a little time?" Lewis sings. "I've neglected you for so long, but now I've finally found my way back home."

Click here to order Ray Lewis’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Catch-23: Hester on right path

Many have tried, yet only a few NFL players achieved modest success switching to wide receiver.

Then there's Bobby Mitchell.

The former Illinois running back converted to receiver after he was traded from the Cleveland Browns to the Washington Redskins in 1962, then produced a Hall of Fame career.

Mitchell outlined to the Sun-Times the numerous obstacles of making the transition, but he's encouraged by what he has seen from Bears cornerback-turned-receiver Devin Hester.

''It's difficult,'' Mitchell said of learning to play receiver. ''But it's a lot easier when you have the skill set like Devin Hester has.
''He could probably play point guard for the Miami Heat.''

Mitchell gushed about Hester's speed, his ability to stop and start and his work ethic. But he's unsure of Hester's grasp on the most crucial -- and difficult -- function.

''Precise route-running,'' Mitchell said. ''All the speed guys, you can shut them out during a game. They give you a certain amount of yards, but all they want to do is make sure you don't get touchdowns.

''But it's hard to defense against guys who can run and cut. If Hester can control himself, and his coaches are training him to make precise cuts and not just sprinting him to death, he can become a tremendous force. If not, he'll never be as good as he probably could be at that position.''

Mitchell offered up a player with whom he is far more familiar as an example: Redskins receiver Santana Moss. Since 2007, in 49 games, two-time Pro Bowl selection Moss has averaged nearly five catches a game for 60 yards, but he has scored just 13 touchdowns.

''[Moss will] scare you to death, running to a spot,'' Mitchell said. ''But we can't get a lot of touchdowns out of him.''

Hester only has six catches for 110 yards this season, but he keyed the Bears' upset of the Dallas Cowboys with a remarkable nine-yard touchdown catch and a catch-and-run 38-yarder that set up the game-winning touchdown. Yet arguably the most encouraging play never officially happened. In the first quarter Monday night, on a third-and-seven, Hester deceived six-time Green Bay Packers cornerback Charles Woodson by pretending to run toward the sideline then cutting hard toward the middle of the field.

With his body heading toward the sideline, Woodson reached back and grabbed Hester with his right hand to prevent a potentially long catch and instead giving up just eight yards on a pass-interference penalty.

''When we initially moved [Hester to wide receiver], everyone wanted him to be Isaac Bruce the first day he was there,'' Bears coach Lovie Smith said. ''But Isaac Bruce wasn't Isaac Bruce right away. It takes some time. We like everything he's been doing.''

The long road
There's no shortage of ''athletes'' who have attempted to play receiver in the NFL.

Many of them are speedy quarterbacks, like Antwaan Randle El, Matt Jones, Brad Smith and Ronald Curry, yet none has completely panned out.

That's why former Redskins Super Bowl champion quarterback Joe Theismann didn't expect much from Hester.

''I didn't think he could do it,'' said Theismann, an analyst for the NFL Network. ''I didn't think it would work because there are simply so many aspects of the game. If all you can do is run down the field, the guys on the side of the ball can also run.

''But I take my hat off to him. He's worked himself into a position where he's understanding how to play receiver.''

Theismann said Hester is solid as a blocker, pass-catcher and route-runner.

Former Redskins and Houston Texans general manager Charley Casserly said players struggle because ''they don't have anything to fall back on.''

''You're learning on the run,'' said Casserly, an analyst for the NFL Network and CBS Sports. ''It's a challenge.

''Can a guy change directions? Not waste steps? Does he have good hands? Speed? Can he learn routes and coverages?''

A multifaceted running back in Cleveland, Mitchell was traded to the Redskins as part of the infamous Ernie Davis deal. Immediately, Redskins coach Bill McPeak told Mitchell he was going to move from running back to receiver because ''he didn't want me to get killed.''

The Redskins, coming off a 1-12-1 season, had a horrendous offensive line.

Still, Mitchell wasn't sure if he could play receiver.

Everything was different, from running, to catching to moving.

Remarkably, though, Mitchell earned Pro Bowl honors in his first season, catching 72 passes for 1,384 yards and scoring a league-high 11 receiving touchdowns. He also returned a kickoff 92 yards for a touchdown in his debut against the Dallas Cowboys.

For his career, he scored 91 touchdowns.

Hester has shown a knack for getting into the end zone -- he has 21 career touchdowns -- but his transition was far more complex.

''I had to start from zero,'' Hester said. ''Just the basic stuff: where to line up, how wide my splits were. That's the stuff kids learn in Pop Warner, but I didn't know because I didn't play it.''

Where exactly is he?

Bears receiver coach Darryl Drake told Hester to be patient.

''He knew it was going to take time from the jump, but I wanted it to happen overnight,'' Hester said. ''I'm not a patient person when it comes to playing football.''

Drake believes Hester would have reached 1,000 receiving yards last season if not for a calf injury that sidelined him for three full games.
''I'm proud of where he's at, but I'll be even more proud when he reaches the status that I know that he can reach,'' Drake said.

Hester reached out to Bruce, the former St. Louis Rams Pro Bowl receiver, who helped him in private workouts in the Miami area then also at training camp in Bourbonnais.

Bruce focused on fundamentals.

''What I was stressing to Devin, 'Do the little things well. Come off the line of scrimmage. Use your head. Use your eyes. Being crisp at the top of your breaks,''' Bruce said. ''Those things there, a lot of guys don't do.''

Another Hall of Fame receiver has noticed.

''He's starting to look like a receiver,'' said James Lofton, a Westwood One analyst who racked up 14,004 receiving yards and 75 touchdowns. ''When I watch Devin on tape, from where he was when he first was playing -- a guy who could just run down the field --he is real precise in running his routes.

''But the thing that's always going to be to his benefit is what he can do after the catch.''

Click here to order Devin Hester’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Jeff Feagles offers Giants advice

No, Jeff Feagles isn't coming out of retirement at age 44 to punt again for the New York Giants as young Matt Dodge's struggles continued in their 17-3 win over the Chicago Bears on Sunday night, but he did recommend that the team hire a sports psychologist to work with the rookie punter.

"I told Jerry Reese [Giants general manager] a couple of weeks ago that Matt has all the physical talent in the world but that maybe bringing in a sports psychologist can really help him," said Feagles. "Mentally, there's just a part of this game, especially with punters and kickers, that you have to overcome. This kid, I've seen him kick it to the moon on the side practice field and then you put him behind a line and sometimes he can't kick it out of a paper bag. That's too much talent to let go to waste so trying everything, including a sports psychologist, is worth it."

Reese confirmed that the Giants have taken Feagles' advice to heart, even as they have contemplated whether they need to get a more experienced punter and yet still utilize Dodge's leg strength on kickoffs.

"As great as [Feagles] was in his career, even he struggled early on in Arizona and he got some help [from a sports psychologist]," said Reese. "We really like Matt's talent but you know how it is kicking in that stadium with that crowd reacting [with boos] when he struggled with some things. And, he actually got a couple of good kicks off late in the game."

Feagles honored Reese's request to work with Dodge through training camp and preseason. The tutoring was expected to continue but when Feagles attended the regular-season opener against the Carolina Panthers, he admittedly had an emotional meltdown of sorts.

"I went to that first game -- I had a sideline pass but I decided to sit in the stands with my season tickets -- and when they were having pregame ceremonies and they had that fly-over right before kick-off, I just lost it [emotionally]," said Feagles. "It hit me like a ton of bricks and I called Jerry Reese and told him I couldn't do this [tutoring Dodge] anymore, at least not at this time. I just didn't feel I could be around it that much as I go through this transition of retirement."

Actually, Feagles did attend Sunday night's game against the Bears. As Dodge struggled in the first half, fans sitting around him started pleading with him to come back.

"I wore a sweatshirt with a hood but [fans] still knew it was me and they started yelling at me to come back, so I joked with them to start putting some cash in the hood of my sweatshirt and maybe I'd think about it," joked Feagles.

Realistically, there is little or no hope for Feagles to give it another kick.

"People ask me that all the time but I'll leave it to John Carney to carry the banner for the old kickers now that he's back [with the Saints]," said Feagles. "As much as I love football, as much as I'd love to do it, my knee is so shot I can't handle it. I mean, some days I wake up and it feels great and then two days later it feels like there's a knife sticking in my knee."

Feagles also cited his back as among his health problems when he conducted an April 30 news conference, less than a week after the Giants chose Dodge (East Carolina) with a seventh-round pick in the 2010 draft. Feagles played 22 seasons with 352 consecutive starts and earned a reputation as one of the NFL's most skilled punters, especially on directional kicking inside the opponents' 20 yard-line.

Giants coach Tom Coughlin has described Feagles as one of the players and individuals he has admired during his coaching career.

In turn, Feagles said criticism of Coughlin after a 1-2 start before Sunday's win over the Bears was "ridiculous" and referred to the words he expressed at his retirement news conference when he spoke of the Giants coach.

"I admire the way that he coaches on Sunday and more importantly the kind of person that he is," said Feagles. "Tom has always been there for me. He has been such an incredible role model and a huge presence in my life for the past six years, little things that he has said -- we have a great relationship. I have always been able to walk into Tom's office and talk to him about anything -- football, family, whatever it is."

Feagles said Coughlin's coaching and character are traits that Dodge, and "all the players" can take advantage of.

Click here to order Jeff Feagles’s proCane Rookie Card.

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proCanes Extend TD Streak to 126 Regular Season Weeks

Did you know that a former Miami Hurricane/current proCane has scored at least one touchdown in 126 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 2010:
Willis McGahee - 1 TD - Baltimore Ravens

Week 3 2010:
Jeremy Shockey - 1 TD - New Orleans Saints
Santana Moss - 1 TD - Washington Redskins
Greg Olsen - 1 TD - Chicago Bears
Devin Hester - 1 TD - Chicago Bears

Week 2 2010:
Greg Olsen - 1 TD - Chicago Bears
Devin Hester - 1 TD - Chicago Bears
Clinton Portis - 2 TDs - Washingon Redskins
Andre Johnson - 1 TD - Houston Texans
Reggie Wayne - 1 TD - Indianapolis Colts
Frank Gore - 1 TD - San Francisco 49ers

Week 1 2010:
Reggie Wayne - 1 TD - Indianapolis Colts
Roscoe Parrish - 1 TD - Buffalo Bills
Willis McGahee - 1 TD - Baltimore Ravens

Click below to see the rest of the list:

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Extent of Clinton Portis' injury is undisclosed

Coach Mike Shanahan said in his post-game press conference that the Redskins won't know more about Clinton Portis' groin injury until Monday.

It's an indication that Portis is scheduled for an MRI. Ryan Torain flashed at least the capability of handling a significant load Sunday with 70 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries. Despite his mediocre talent, Torain is a good fit for Shanahan's system, and it appears the Redskins wouldn't be any worse off with him in place of Portis. The Redskins play Green Bay in Week 5.

Portis rushed for 55 yards on 11 carries and added two catches for 26 yards in the Redskins' Week 4 win over Philadelphia.

Portis got every first down carry before injuring his groin early in the fourth quarter. He ran with authority and looked like the Clinton Portis of old. The severity of his injury will determine his upcoming role, but there's no denying that the Redskins now have a committee backfield.

Click here to order Clinton Portis’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Willis McGahee says he could have come back in

Willis McGahee said he could have come back into the game after taking a shot to the head against the Steelers Sunday.

McGahee got lit up by James Harrison and stayed down after fumbling. The trainers told McGahee to sit out two series, but he didn't come back in because Ray Rice and LeRon McClain were running well. McGahee said he thinks he'll be available to play against the Broncos next week.

McGahee rushed 14 times for 39 yards with a touchdown before leaving Sunday's game.

McGahee started in place of Ray Rice (ankle) and was the workhorse.

Click here to order Willis McGahee’s proCane Rookie Card.

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'White Shoes' says Hester could have 20 career return TD's

When Billy “White Shoes” Johnson says the sky is the limit for Devin Hester and the NFL record books when it comes to returns, we’re talking the SKY.

Hester ended a more than two-year drought without a score last Monday night with a 62-yard punt return for a touchdown at Soldier Field in the Chicago Bears’ victory over the Green Bay Packers. It gave Hester 12 return touchdowns in his career (not counting a 108-yard return of a missed field goal and the opening kickoff of Super Bowl XLI) and leaves him just one return score away from tying Brian Mitchell for the all-time lead.

“The way he is going, I wouldn't be surprised if he ends up with 20 touchdowns," said White Shoes, the return man for the NFL’s 75th Anniversary Team."He's at a peak now where he just goes and he is in a zone. I'm sure he will be viewed as the best of all time, and rightfully so."

Hester is feeling confident about his return abilities again. He had an amazing beginning to his career with 11 touchdowns in his first two seasons but when the Bears developed him into a starting wide receiver, his production as a returner diminished. He was lacking confidence. Now, he’s feeling good about his role in Mike Martz’s scheme. He said he’s been in a groove since training camp. That’s good news for the Bears. Hester, who has scored a touchdown every 21.3 returns in his career (third best in NFL history for returners with eight or more touchdowns), had gone 102 returns without a score (64 punts, 38 kickoffs).

“Everybody who moved from being a returner to a receiver, two or three years later, they never go back to the return game," Hester said. "I am still doing it. I thank God for that. I am figuring out how to prepare myself for game situations. I know I am going to have to do some extra conditioning here and there so when I am out there I am ready. Being a returner, you have to have fresh legs. It's not easy.

"You can see from (Carolina's) Steve Smith to Santana Moss, who came into the league being great returners. When they mastered the receiver bit, it's hard to do returning. It's a tough process I hope I will get better at. I am starting to grasp the offense, and I can start giving a little bit back to the return game."

Click here to order Devin Hester’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Greg Olsen is growing into a big-time target

Although he grew up about 20 minutes from the old Giants Stadium, Chicago tight end Greg Olsen never got a chance to play there.

Now, the Giants are playing in a dazzling new venue, and Olsen, a key component of a dazzling new Bears offense, will finally get his chance Sunday for a proper homecoming.

The undefeated Bears are coming off a huge victory over Green Bay in which Olsen caught five passes for 64 yards, including a touchdown and a vital 21-yard reception that helped set up the winning field goal.

"[Opponents] haven't really stopped him yet, so it's going to be a great challenge this week," Giants safety Antrel Rolle told the Record of Rockaway, N.J., last week. "Olsen is a great tight end, one of the better tight ends in the league, in my eyes. He can definitely hurt you in every phase."

The tight end hasn't typically had a huge receiving role in schemes devised by Mike Martz, the Bears' new offensive coordinator. But Chicago, which has the league's fifth-ranked passing game, is doing a good job of spreading around the ball.

Olsen has 10 catches for 140 yards and two touchdowns, and he's a sure-handed target for quarterback Jay Cutler, who has won five consecutive starts.

Cutler led the league with 26 interceptions last season — six more than rookies Mark Sanchez and Matthew Stafford — yet has made a remarkable turnaround so far. He has completed 60 of 91 (65.9%) for 870 yards for six touchdowns with two interceptions.

He and Olsen have forged a friendship off the field, and often hang out together for dinner and nightlife.

"I think it can't do anything but help," Olsen told the Chicago Tribune. "At times you can get to talk about things and get used to each other.

"You kind of can adjust on the fly a little bit and make some things [happen] that aren't exactly how they are scripted. … At certain times, that is definitely an advantage."

Click here to order Greg Olsen’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Sam Shields expected to return Week 5

Packers nickel back Sam Shields (calf), ruled out for Week 4, is expected to return Week 5 against the Redskins.

Shields unsuccessfully tested the calf on Friday in practice, and will be needed at full strength next week against QB Donovan McNabb moreso than against QB Shaun Hill in Week 4. CB Jarrett Bush is slated to replace Shields in nickel packages, while DBs Brandon Underwood and Pat Lee could also fill in.

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Darnell Jenkins Calls Out Reporter

FOXBORO - So Friday, I was standing in the Patriots locker room when practice squad receiver Darnell Jenkins -- as nice a guy as you could want to meet -- comes up and says to me, "Hey, I saw your show last night. It was great. I didn't like your prediction, though."

Jenkins might have been lying about liking the show but he definitely didn't like the pick. Tom Brady, sitting nearby said, "Why Darnell, who'd he pick?"

"I picked the Dolphins," I said, as if confessing would lessen the great man's disappointment in me, a media pissboy. "Until you guys win on the road, ya know..."

I won't quote directly what Brady said next but he wasn't irritated and he wasn't unsure. He believes the Patriots will not lose Monday night.

Sick of getting this stuff wrong, I stick to my water pistols.

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Santana Moss fined for hit on Atogwe

Washington wide receiver Santana Moss was fined $5,000 by the NFL for an illegal crack-back block against St. Louis Rams safety Oshiomogho Atogwe in last Sunday's game.

The block, which came on a first-quarter running play, aggravated a thigh injury for Atogwe, who could not finish the game. Atogwe's status is uncertain for this week's home game against Seattle.

There was no fine, however, for what looked like late and flagrant contact by a Redskins defender on the play that resulted in running back Steven Jackson's groin injury.

Click here to order Santana Moss’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Tavares Gooden progressing from dislocated shoulder

It's now been almost two weeks since Tavares Gooden suffered a dislocated shoulder against the Bengals, and the third-year linebacker says he's starting to feel a little better.

"I've just been working hard," Gooden said. "Been working out with the training staff, just trying to come back as soon as I can."

After being diagnosed with the shoulder dislocation last week, Gooden went down to Florida to get a second opinion from Dr. John Uribe. Gooden says that diagnosis confirmed what he had originally been told.

"What coach Harbs released to the media, it's the same thing basically that Dr. Uribe said," Gooden said. "So right now, it's just strengthening and getting back. Just getting stronger each week. [There's some] general soreness. It feels good, it's been a week out, but now it's just working hard and trying to get back and doing everything the trainers are telling me to do."

Gooden had been playing mostly on third downs in passing situations, and he had posted four tackles in two games. The Miami product also was a big contributor on special teams.

The Ravens prefer players not to talk about their timetable for a return from an injury, but outside of that, Gooden says that he doesn't have any personal expectations for when he'd like to return.

"I just want to be back as soon as I can, because I miss the game," Gooden said. "Just going to meetings every day and being myself, it's not the same because I'm not able to go out there and do the same things I do. But I'm just praying and hoping that everything heals up as quick as it can so I can get back out there. There is no time limit as of now, but that's what we're doing, working to get me back on the field."

Is it tougher having to sit out this week against the Steelers?

"All of 'em, man. All of 'em," Gooden says. "I was having a decent season this year, and it's tough when everything's starting to fall into place, then an injury like this happens. I was looking forward to having a hell of a season this season, but like I said, now it's just up to me to work hard and pray and let the trainers get me back on the field as fast as they can."

Click here to order Tavares Gooden’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Kenny Holmes helps himself financially in Indian River Commission race

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — Former NFL player Kenny Holmes picked up the pace in the last two weeks in the race for the County Commission District 4 seat — by making a second $10,000 loan to himself.

That’s according to the most recent campaign finance reports, filed Friday with the county Elections Office, covering the period from Sept. 11 to 24.

The self-loan brings the nonpartisan Holmes’ latest collection to $11,532, the greatest among all county candidates, giving the multi-millionaire political newcomer a total campaign chest of $23,126 before expenses. It’s just shy of Republican District 4 incumbent Peter O’Bryan’s $26,727 running total — but O’Bryan didn’t have to make loans to himself.

The third candidate in the District 4 race, Democrat Stevne Deardeuff, clocks in with a $525 total. That includes $140 he loaned himself earlier plus his only contribution in the last two weeks — $25 from Ashley Chatfield, aide to defeated District 2 Republican Charlie Wilson.

Wilson’s primary rival, District 2 incumbent Joe Flescher, maintains the largest total of all county races with $41,299 before expenses, thanks to $1,606 in new money.

Trailing Flescher financially are his own opponents, Florida Independent Carolyn Corum with $1,745 and Democrat David Snell, who cites $610 — with a $340 loan to himself.

Click here to order Kenny Holmes’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Aubrey Huff, Sanchez savor postseason trip

SAN FRANCISCO -- It was a moment that had been building in Aubrey Huff's mind for nine seasons. It was the top of the ninth, and the Giants had a three-run lead and were only one out away from a postseason berth.

Standing in the middle of a loud, orange-clad AT&T Park crowd, the Giants first baseman looked up toward the sky and told himself to remain calm.

Then, Giants closer Brian Wilson fired a 97-mph fastball past San Diego's Will Venable, who swung and missed.

After nine long seasons, Huff was going to the playoffs.

"Nine years has been a killer and the mental grind has taken its toll over the years," Huff said. "Today, to get in this position, especially on the last day ... it had to be this torturous for me. It can't be easy."

Of course it can't, because over the course of his career, wins have been the hardest thing for Huff to come by. After spending 6 1/2 seasons with Tampa Bay in the early 2000s, Huff spent 2 1/2 seasons in Baltimore.

Each of those seasons, Huff never came close to sniffing the playoffs. In 2006 and 2009, he came close after midseason deals sent him to Houston and Detroit, respectively, but, as was the case throughout his career, he came up short.

Now, he's not only going to the playoffs, but also is one of the key members -- offensively, defensively and in the clubhouse -- of why it is happening. Pat Burrell, who played with Huff at the University of Miami, said when he was popping champagne, it wasn't only for himself, but also for Huff.

"Huffy and I go back a long time," Burrell said "A player as good as he is, to play as long as he has, to have never been given a chance to get in the postseason, I was just as happy for him as I was for me."

Six innings before Huff was trying to relax in the ninth, Freddy Sanchez had his welcome-to-the-playoffs moment.

Another hard-luck veteran who spent 5 1/2 losing seasons in Pittsburgh, Sanchez had the chance to give the Giants early momentum, something they had been lacking in the previous two games. With one out in the third, Giants starter Jonathan Sanchez tripled. After Andres Torres struck out, Freddy Sanchez singled up the middle to score the pitcher and give the Giants a 1-0 lead.

After rounding first base, Sanchez fist-bumped Giants first-base coach Roberto Kelly. On the very next pitch, Huff doubled to score Sanchez. The 32-year-old second baseman ran across home plate, began screaming in excitement and didn't stop until reaching the Giants dugout.

"I've never been here before and you can't put into words what this feels like," a champagne-soaked Sanchez said afterward. "I'm a real energetic guy, I get fired up, and when we were able to go up when Huffy was able to drive me in, I was excited."

A few hours later, the champagne was finally uncorked and sprayed, and the Giants partied like National League West champions. Huff and Sanchez, drenched in tears and surrounded by teammates and family members, basked in the glory of finally going to the postseason.

Huff and Sanchez, like all those Giants fans out there, know torture. Also like Giants fans, they'd gladly go through it all again for days like Sunday.

"I'm not complaining," Huff said. "Ten years I've missed the playoffs, all those years, and it was worth the wait. I'd do it all over again if I could."

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Astros exercise Jason Michaels’ option

The Houston Astros told reporters (via’s Brian McTaggart) that they will exercise the $900,000 for outfielder Jason Michaels, but this was not confirmed by Wade.

Michaels, 34, hit .254/.313/.470 in 105 games for the Astros in 2010.

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Yonder Alonso Powers Reds Past Brewers

Yonder Alonso doubled in the go-ahead run in the seventh inning and Corky Miller followed with a two-run homer, as the Reds beat Milwaukee, 7-4, in the second-to-last game of the regular season.

Former Red Todd Coffey (2-4) took the mound for the Brewers in the bottom of the seventh, but Miguel Cairo singled to right with one out. Alonso then lined a ball off the wall in center field, and Miller followed by hitting one over the wall. It was his second homer of the year and just the 11th of Miller's career, which started in 2001 with the Reds.

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Chris Perez finishing off dominant second half

CLEVELAND, Ohio — For batters facing Indians closer Chris Perez since June 28, the weather has been cloudy with virtually no chance of meatballs.

Perez has allowed two earned runs in 34 innings of 33 appearances in that span. He has given up 16 hits, walked 16 and struck out 37. The 0.53 ERA is best in the majors since June 28.

"It comes down to paying attention to details and getting ahead of hitters," Perez told Will Burge from WKNR AM/850 late Wednesday. "When you do fall behind, you try to make good pitches and not come into them and give them meatballs."

Perez spoke after a four-out save secured the Indians' 4-3 victory over Detroit in the second game of a doubleheader at Progressive Field. The Tribe swept the doubleheader to conclude the home schedule with six straight victories.

Perez and his teammates tossed autographed balls into the stands as a sign of appreciation to those of the 12,227 paid attendance who remained.

On Aug. 6 against Minnesota, Perez gave up two runs on three hits in one inning and blew the save. Since then, he is 10-for-10 in saves and unscored upon in 18 innings of 17 appearances, batters having managed five hits and six walks while striking out 21 times.

"I've had good command, and a little luck's involved, too," Perez said, "but I just feel confident out there. When I'm down in the count, 2-0, or 3-1 or 1-0, I feel like I can throw the ball where I want and have them miss-hit. Whenever I get ahead, I believe I can finish them off.

"It's kind of like when a hitter's going well. Things come naturally. You're not thinking about it, you're not trying to do too much. You're just letting your abilities take over."

Perez, who became the full-time closer after Kerry Wood was traded July 31, is the anti-Joe Borowski. Instead of smoke and mirrors, he uses a mid-90s fastball and slider. The fastball features late life, in part because of his near-sidearm delivery. Perez's pitches get on top of batters quickly because he hides the ball well.

In 63 games overall, Perez is 2-2 with a 1.71 ERA and 23 saves in 27 opportunities. He has allowed 40 hits, walked 28 and struck out 61 in 63 innings.

Progressive Field was a fun place for Perez to be. The Twins' appearance accounted for half of the earned runs he gave up in 35 innings of 34 games.

Perez is part of a bullpen that has been especially stingy since Sept. 1. Tribe relievers have allowed 21 earned runs in 89 innings and held batters to a sub-.200 average. They worked six scoreless innings Wednesday.

"The bullpen's been pretty good the second half of the year," Perez said. "It starts with guys knowing their roles. Everybody's happy to be here. We don't have egos. We have a lot of good, young arms down there. I think we'll be even better next year with the experience we've gained."

Perez, 25, was acquired from the St. Louis Cardinals for Mark DeRosa on June 27, 2009. The Tribe also received reliever Jess Todd. If Perez keeps doing anything close to what he's doing, the trade will rank among the best of General Manager Mark Shapiro's tenure. DeRosa hit .228 in 68 games for the Cardinals in 2009 and has hit .194 in 26 games for the Giants this year.

Max effort: The Tribe is 6-0 since Perez's son, Maxwell Alexander, was born last Friday in Tampa, Fla.

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Danny Valencia has nailed down third base job for Minnesota Twins

One moment in spring training belied Danny Valencia's powerless minor league season to come, one at-bat and one swing that manager Ron Gardenhire remembers still. It happened in March, across the state from Fort Myers, Fla., in Jupiter, with former Twins ace Johan Santana on the mound for the Mets.

That day Valencia hit a home run off the two-time Cy Young winner so convincingly that it gave Gardenhire pause and later — when Valencia didn't muster a single homer in 185 at-bats with Class AAA Rochester — confidence that the 26-year-old could rediscover his slugging potential.

"I saw him in spring, I saw him hit a home run off Santana and that ball went forever," Gardenhire recalled earlier this week. "You know he's got the swing. It's just a matter of finding yourself. You never know what's going to happen, and you never can predict whether a guy's going to come up here and do well or not do well. You just have to let him play."

That's what Gardenhire did, and what Valencia did in turn is just what the Twins organization loves. He forced his way into the lineup and solidified his place as the team's everyday third baseman. Finally, after so many seasons without a consistent solution at Corey Koskie's old position, general manager Bill Smith won't have to search for a third baseman this winter.

"Danny Valencia certainly has stepped up and taken that position and I think given people a lot of confidence that he's ready to continue to play at this level," Smith said. "He has done a tremendous job this season."

Valencia is batting .323 with a .363 on-base percentage, .465 slugging percentage, seven homers and 18 doubles in 288 at-bats for the Twins this season. His batting average has been above .300 for all but five of his 121 days in the big leagues.

He has been better than expected at third base, and, though he's a long shot to win, he certainly deserves some votes for American League rookie of the year.

"I definitely don't feel complacent and feel like the job is mine," Valencia said. "I don't have the contract that guys have or the feeling or the sense of security that no matter what you do the job is yours. Obviously me being a rookie, I have to go out there and perform. I can't just relax and think that, proclaim it as mine. I can't do that."

The Twins called up Valencia from Rochester on June 3. Because Orlando Hudson, Alexi Casilla and J.J Hardy were injured, he played in 15 of his first 16 games with the Twins, batting .317 during that time with no show of power.

Despite Valencia's impressive start, Gardenhire remained tentative, taking his time to get a feel for the Twins' third baseman of the future. The manager fretted about Valencia's defense, occasionally taking him out in late innings of a ballgame in favor of a more trusted glove, explaining that in the minors Valencia had relied too heavily on his strong arm by sitting back on balls hit at him. He talked about Valencia's well-documented confidence and, perhaps related to that, didn't offer the rookie too much praise early on, more often rolling his eyes at Valencia's gaffes.

"At first he was getting a few hits, but he wasn't driving the ball. I was taking him out for defense because I wasn't sure yet," Gardenhire said. "Eventually, by the way he played, he just said leave me alone, just by the way he played. And that's what I've done."

Soon enough, Valencia's name turned up in the lineup daily. Hitting coach Joe Vavra worked with him on his balance at the plate, an adjustment that better distributed Valencia's weight and left him with more torque and momentum in his swing. Valencia absorbed the lessons and hit his first big-league homer in late July, one that outdid even that shot off Santana in spring training — a grand slam against 2009 American League Cy Young winner Zack Greinke in Kansas City.

He has seven homers this season but five in his past 13 games, his long swing effortlessly catapulting balls over left field fences.

"It's all on the player's shoulders. If they're not willing to watch or work or watch or listen, it doesn't do any good," Gardenhire said. "He's paid a lot of attention. And found a very nice swing."

Valencia's campaign to convince the Twins he could handle the third base job less than a year after the team deemed he was not ready for a September call-up never required convincing himself. His confidence is undisputed, unwavering and, maybe, essential to his success this season.

"I love being around him and talking to him because he does sometimes bring out my own confidence," center fielder Denard Span said. "I've never seen somebody that's more confident than he is."

Smith said Valencia has changed a great deal since the Twins drafted him in the 19th round in 2006, that he's grown up in the past few years, and Gardenhire lauded him for keeping "his mouth shut" during his first season in the majors. Maybe Valencia has tempered his confidence, but Span still sees it. He has a different perspective on his teammate, a player proud to wear a black T-shirt bearing the logo of his University of Miami that reads, "The U invented swagger."

"He hasn't changed. I wouldn't say he's changed. He's stayed true to himself, and that's part of the reason why he plays so well when he goes out there on that field," Span said. "He's come up big for us the second half of the season, especially with some of the injuries we've had. He's been just as valuable this second half as Delmon (Young) has been this whole year."

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