Ray Lewis' Chat Wrap From Verizon's PlayMaker Mobile

Former Cane Ray Lewis is one of the elite athletes using Verizon’s PlayMaker Mobile to connect and share experiences with fans. He joins fellow Canes Ray Lewis and DJ Williams on the platform and chatted with fans on Friday about this week’s opponent, the Miami Hurricanes and much more!

Welcome to The PlayMaker Chat
MobileUser-4969 Ray I'm a Die hard Steeler fan but I give u much respect. Can u tell us about the Steeler Ravens rivalry?
MobileUser-4926 Ray, who will be the biggest playmaker when play the bengals...besides yourself!
administrator1:  Any keys to beating Cinci this weekend?
MobileUser-4969 Ray, Joe Flacco is the man. Do u see Balt switching offensive style and becoming a high scoring passing team?
raylewis:  Ray Lewis in the house!
MobileUser-5615 How did the team embrace Mark Clayton after the New England game?
raylewis:  Hi to all my fans, except the Steelers fans!
raylewis:  Two great teams in the same division. Great rivalry. We know each other so well. Such great competition. That's what makes it so fierce.
raylewis:  The biggest Playmaker this weekend? Besides me?
raylewis:  Hmm. We have a crew of guys. Haloti Ngata. Ray Rice. Joe Flacco. Derrick Mason. Sizzle. We have a diverse team and we have MULTIPLE playmakers.
raylewis:  To beat Cincy we just need to be WHO WE ARE. Play the best football we can play. Everything happens and you've got to deal with it and be comfortable with who you are. And we are a GOOD football team.
MobileUser-5615 Bengals could be 4-0, what challenges do they pose
raylewis:  People are confused about our offense. We have balance. We just don't win through the air. And Mark Clayton? We embraced his EASY. That's the nature of the game. He's my brother. He's our brother. You don't turn your back on a brother when they go through something. No way.
MobileUser-4969 That's cold! U got our respect but Steelers have the rings!
MobileUser-5625 but their games were decided in the last 14 seconds. if we dnt give them that chance, which we wont, we're good.
raylewis:  Haha, we're one play away from being 4-0 too!
raylewis:  The bottom line is that each team has what it has. There are no threats. No secrets. Just games. That's the nature of how we deal.
raylewis:  To all the Bengals fans who think they can win on Sunday, hey, enjoy a good game. We're coming ready to play.
MobileUser-5615 Mason, Rice, McGahee, Clayton, Heap, Flacco, talk about the weapons on O to balance the D
MobileUser-4969 What is Joe Flacco like? Much respect for that kid!
raylewis:  We watched a lot of film this week. We're ready to correct our mistakes. Adapt to different formations. We're gonna be ready.
raylewis:  What is Joe Flacco like?
raylewis:  He is HUMBLE. Humble humble humble VERY humble. Cool. A great guy.
raylewis:  Joe is FUNNY too. He's the locker room clown.
MobileUser-4969 Has he surpassed your expectations?
raylewis:  He always comes with jokes. He's imitating everybody. You can't do anything around him without him imitating you. He's got that confidence plus he's humble.
raylewis:  He has NOT surpassed our expectations. From day one I knew it would be a high level.
raylewis:  He's still getting BETTER. Joe can be—our team—it's gonna go the way Joe goes.
MobileUser-4969 How do you stay in shape and on top of your game at your age? You are as good as ever- no signs of decline at all.
raylewis:  Joe Flacco has the presence of Joe Montana. He makes guys better.
raylewis:  Yes, MONTANA!
raylewis:  4969- thank you!
raylewis:  it's a combination of things.
raylewis:  Always respect life, honor God, always work, NEVER take a break from work. Day one, I said I'd treat my body right, do all the right things so I can prolong this great ride that I've been on.
raylewis:  The ride has been great and it's even better now in 2009 than it was in 1996. When you're a rookie you're running around with your head cut off.
raylewis:  You don't know what's going on.
MobileUser-4969 You must have incredible discipline, dedication and focus.
raylewis:  But now as a player and as a man I can enjoy it all more. But you can't EVER stop working and can't ever stop honoring GOD.
MobileUser-4969 Any surprises in the NFL this year? Maybe the 9ers?
MobileUser-5617 Any difference to the way you prepare for a game now then when you were a rookie?
raylewis:  Besides discipline dedication and focus you need great teammates. You need God. All of the above. Especially a relationship with your Maker despite what religion you may be. Why? Why are we here? What is your legacy?
raylewis:  Surprises this year? No.
raylewis:  Everybody who's gonna be what they're gonna be is gonna be what they're gonna be. Every team is growing up. Making their mark.
raylewis:  I study WAY more now than when I did as a ROOKIE.
MobileUser-5625 Ray I just want to say you are soooo much more than a great athlete. You're an inspiration. I couldn't be more proud to be a Ravens fan. You are without a doubt my favorite player.
MobileUser-4969 How about Favre? Were u surprised he came back? Or surprised how well he is playing?
raylewis:  In addition to watching game film I pay attention to demeanor, body language. I study everything about the game. You can't outwork me. I love football more than you. Bottom line.
MobileUser-4969 Do u ever see yourself coaching, like Singletary?
raylewis:  5625: Thank you. Thank you thank you thank you. Making plays on the field is easy but hearing what you just said, that's not easy. That makes me feel good. Life is more than football.
raylewis:  I love football but that's not to say I want to coach like Singletary because my family has sacrificed so much. I think it might be time to give back. But we'll see. And you know what, I'll take wisdom before talent any day.
raylewis:  That's why I'm not surprised that Brett Favre is playing so well. He's got the knowledge. And of course some talent too! I mean, he's Brett Favre!
MobileUser-5625 I know. Im only 23 but Ive been watching football since I was 2 and have been awed and humbled by you since you joined the league.
MobileUser-4969 Do u follow any other pro sports besides NFL?
raylewis:  I've got so many great fans, thank you.
raylewis:  From my heart, thank you all for being here. Thank you times like 100. Every time you hear that it's a reminder that God uses you to encourage and give hope to others.
raylewis:  Other sports besides the NFL?
raylewis:  I love college football!
raylewis:  NBA!
raylewis:  Miami Hurricanes in college and in the NBA I love the Lakers!
raylewis:  I used to live in LA and that's when I became a Lakers fan. My whole life.
MobileUser-4969 What teams? Any Laker love?
raylewis:  I love Kobe and I respect how young he was when he came into the game.
MobileUser-4969 Have u and Kobe ever connected?
raylewis:  You're gonna meet a lot of Lakers fans and a lot of Ravens fans, but Ravens fans, they are DIE HARD.
raylewis:  Oh yeah, I've met Kobe a bunch.
raylewis:  We have a great respect for each other.
MobileUser-5565 What do you think of the young Canes QB Jacory Harris?
MobileUser-4969 Not as die hard as Steeler fans!
raylewis:  Anytime you can hang with Kobe it's cool. Just chill and let him know I'm checking him out.
MobileUser-5615 What do you think about the job coach shannon is doing at the U?
raylewis:  Three more questions, guys! Then I gotta watch film.
MobileUser-4969 Kobe has that focus and wisdom and love of the game like u do.
raylewis:  Jacory Harris: He's a younger version of Randall Cunningham. He has ability. Cool and collected. The kid can throw a ball. Eagle-eye accuracy.
raylewis:  It's beautiful to watch.
MobileUser-4969 Playmaker is awesome. I'm curious what u like about it...
MobileUser-5625 You're amazing. Good luck Sunday I'll be wearing your jersey and cheering you on. Love u Ray!
MobileUser-5617 Who do you think will play in the college national championship this year?
raylewis:  Ravens fans vs. Steelers fans: I don't know if you can compare. You have a deeper legacy because you've been around longer, but we've only been around 14 years. But I'm telling you, we've got great fans.
raylewis:  College championship: Florida and Miami. Why not?!
raylewis:  In-state rivalry. Maybe I'm a little biased. HAHA.
raylewis:  Miami would win of course!
raylewis:  OK. I gotta go. But first...
raylewis:  Thank you. I want to leave you with a message to WASTE NO TIME. Help somebody who needs hope, understanding, direction. GRAB SOMEBODY. Have a reason to live and make connections and share more than just conversation. Share life.
raylewis:  I'm out. I love you all. God bless.
MobileUser-4969 Much respect to u from Steeler Nation!

Lewis is one of 12 playmakers using PlayMaker Mobile to connect with fans through live chats and exclusive text updates, photos and videos. Other athletes on the PlayMaker Mobile roster include Jonathan Vilma Lewis (New Orleans Saints), Yao Ming (Houston Rockets), Jeremy McGrath (Supercross Champion), Donovan McNabb (Philadelphia Eagles), Steve Nash (Phoenix Suns), Antonio Pierce (New York Giants), Gretchen Bleiler (Snowboard Champion), Lolo Jones (American Track star), Greg Oden (Portland Trail Blazers), Adrian Wilson (Arizona Cardinals) and Rajon Rondo (Boston Celtics).

Thank you again proCane fan Kirk with sending us the transcript!

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Could Ravens' Gooden play safety?

I wonder if the Ravens ever considered moving linebacker Tavares Gooden to safety? He has great football instincts and hustle, but after watching him in the first four games, he isn't very physical.

It's a good move by the team to use Gooden as well as Dannell Ellerbe and Jameel McClain in a rotation. Ellerbe is a bull and McClain is a good pass rusher. Gooden has to spend more time in the weight room and become stronger. Or, the switch to safety might not be a bad idea.

Physically, I'm not sure he can hold up as a linebacker for a year.

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Portis Isn't Winning Any Fans Among Teammates

I just received a few more texts and calls from league sources about the Mike Sellers-Clinton Portis incident, and this is not good for the Redskins.

Some people in the locker room wouldn't have been too upset if Sellers had landed a couple of blows (no punches were thrown), because Portis's act has worn real thin with some of his teammates, according to the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity. His teammates long ago accepted that Portis holds himself to a different standard and often has simply chosen not to practice, and that Portis's chummy relationship, at least in prior seasons, with owner Daniel Snyder is what it is.

Through a team spokesman, Portis and Sellers declined comment.

But for Portis to actually go to coaches to request/demand that a teammate be removed from a game? As word emerged about Portis's effort to essentially have Sellers demoted during Sunday's16-13 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, many players were upset that Portis even felt emboldened enough to attempt to make such a play.

But, really, why should they have been surprised? In an excellent piece on Portis written by my guy, Barry Svrluga, back in August Vinny Cerrato, Washington's executive vice president of football operations, said former coach Joe Gibbs referred to Portis as an assistant general manager. On Wednesday, Potis jokingly said he got "fired. They released me from that duty. Right now, I'm just a part-time running back."

Asked about the incident after practice, Zorn played down the argument.

"These guys love each other. They absolutely love each other," Zorn said. "This is just how a team goes. I thought it was great. There's no fisticuffs. There's no shoving and pushing. These guys just, you know, ah, 'You didn't say hi to me.' 'No, you didn't say hi to me.' You know? I don't know really what the discussion was.

"In reality it's just a lot of nudging and posturing. It's just something that goes on. These guys are like brothers. And they care about each other. Seriously, it's not an issue."

Zorn was asked whether the events of the week at Redskins Park -- which in addition to the Sellers-Portis incident also included the hiring of a consultant, Sherman Lewis, to help Zorn on offense and the decision of defensive coordinator Greg Blache to reduce his involvement wit the media -- have created a perception that things aren't going so well.

"Only if you [reporters] create that perception," Zorn said. "There's nothing in our locker room that would cite that:"

To be sure, Portis has been a productive player throughout his career with the Denver Broncos and the Redskins. He hasn't attained the type of superstar level, however, that leads some players to set themselves apart from their teammates, sources said. Portis had played through pain, runs hard in games and has been effective in blitz pick-up -- but so what? All these guys have some form of pain.

Middle linebacker London Fletcher also has been among the most productive players at his position in the league, and he continued to practice hard last season while dealing with various injuries. Left tackle Chris Samuels takes practice reps despite a knee problem that could eventually cut short his season. And right guard Randy Thomas also continued to apply himself during practice while dealing with, well, pain from many areas on his body until his season ended because of a triceps injury.

Sellers has been an effective blocker for many years. He has opened many holes that have helped Portis become the league's highest-paid running back at the moment.

Granted, Sellers did mess up on that goal-line play. He blocked the wrong guy and acknowledged he did, but no one is perfect.

Apparently, though, Portis believes differently.

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Photo of the Week - Hurricane Love

Brandon Meriweather lays a hit on Willis McGahee in Week 4 during the Patriots win over the Ravens. McGahee scored a touchdown on the play though Meriweather got the last laugh as the Patriots won.

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4 Week NFL U Roundup

We’re almost a quarter of the way through the NFL regular season and proCanes.com will take a look at NFL U’s top performers, biggest disappointments, top plays and much more. Read below to get your 4-week NFL U recap.

Who has had the greatest impact overall? I think it has to be Reggie Wayne. Reggie is in his first season without Marvin Harrison. There were many people that doubted Reggie and whether he could shoulder the load of being the official #1 receiver and the double teams that come along with it. He has more than proved himself especially with the Colts having a rusher top 50 yards only once in their first 4 games (4 wins) and no true #2 receiver with the injury to Anthony Gonzalez. Yes Peyton Manning is the quarterback, and yes they have Dallas Clark and the up-and-coming Pierre Garcon, but Reggie Wayne’s one handed grabs and big plays have led the Colts and made it very difficult on opposing defenses. Wayne is averaging 15.3 yards per catch and is second in the league with 399 yards, only 12 yards behind the Giants’ Steve Smith with 8 fewer receptions. He is converting 80% of his receptions for 1st downs and has 21 first downs to his name. Look for Reggie to continue his fine play and go on to his 4th straight Pro Bowl.

Best plays so far?
Week 1 Bills @ Patriots: With less than 2 minutes left the Patriots had just scored a touchdown to cut the lead to 5 points. On the ensuing kickoff Leodis McKelvin returned the kick from out of his own end zone and was met at the 31-yard line by Brandon Meriweather who stood McKelvin up and stripped the ball. The Patriots recovered the fumble and scored a few plays later to take a 25-24 lead and win the game.

Week 2 Ravens @ Chargers: 4th and 2 the Chargers have the ball on the Baltimore 15 yard line with a little over 30 seconds to play with Baltimore leading by 5 points. Philip Rivers hands the ball off to Darren Sproles and low and behold Ray reads the play perfectly and drops Sproles for a 5-yard loss. Game over.

Week 2 Cardinals @ Jaguars: The Cardinals were leading 10-0 in the 2nd quarter when the Jaguars’ Josh Scobee lined up to attempt a 46-yard field goal. Scobee’s field goal was blocked by Calais Campbell and recovered by Antrel Rolle who caught the ball before it hit the ground at the 17-yard line and returned it 83 yards for a touchdown. The Cardinals went on to win 31-17.

Biggest Surprises:
Bruce Johnson: Bruce was supposed to be Miami’s only draft pick in the ’09 draft and ended up not being drafted and being picked up by the NY Giants in free agency. He impressed the Giants from the beginning and has played in each of the first four games recording a forced fumble, an interception for a touchdown, 3 pass deflections and 8 tackles. He’s become the regular nickel corner on the outside for the Giants and has really taken advantage of his opportunities. Click here to read our exclusive interview with Bruce: http://www.procanes.com/files/category-tracking-procanes.html

Willis McGahee: Willis lost his starting job to Ray Rice in the off-season but that seems to have added fuel to his fire. He showed up in better shape than he ever had in the past to training camp and has accepted his #2 role with grace while actually outperforming Rice leading to Willis starting the last game versus the Patriots. McGahee scored 2 TDs in each of his first 3 games and has 7 TDs total along with 201 yards rushing with a 5.4 yard per carry average. If he keeps this up, look for him to start some more games for the Ravens.

Starting to Heat up:
Santana Moss: In his first two games Santana had 5 receptions for 41 yards and no TDs. In his last two games he has had 12 receptions for 252 yards and 2 TDs. Look for him to be Campbell’s go-to-guy for the rest of the season and if he keeps this up he could even squeeze into the Pro Bowl.

Comeback Player:
Jeremy Shockey: Shockey was traded to the Saints last season to add another weapon to their high powered offense. Unfortunately, Shockey battled injuries all season and didn’t even record a TD. This season he has been a consistent threat for Drew Brees in the middle of the field recording at least 4 catches in each of the first 4 games along with 2 TDs. As long as he stays healthy, he will continue to excel in the Saints offense.

Biggest disappointments so far?
Greg Olsen:
With Jay Cutler in his first year under center and a host of unknowns at WR for the Bears, Olsen figured to get a lot passes thrown his way, especially at the beginning of the season, but so far he has been very quiet. He has had two 1-catch performances and has only scored two touchdowns. If the Bears receivers continue to improve look for the middle of the field to open up a little for Greg which should result in some more touches.

Clinton Portis: Clinton isn’t playing badly, but I think everyone had high expectations for him this season. He has yet to break 100 yards in a game and he has also yet to score a TD. He is averaging 3.9 yards a carry despite the Redskins offense being abysmal, but I expected him to carry more of the load and reach the end zone. He has also been battling injuries which have slowed him down, but he is supposed to be the leader of that offense.

Tavares Gooden: Many think Tavares will eventually replace Ray Lewis as the Ravens’ MLB when Ray retires and because of that, there were high expectations going into this season. He was supposed to make the Ravens forget about Bart Scott but unfortunately Tavares has only recorded 7 tackles in 3 games and did not play in the Ravens’ last game versus the Patriots because he was still feeling the effects of a concussion from the previous week. Look for him to pick it up, or he could be replaced permanently.

Phillip Buchanon: Phillip was signed in the off-season by the Lions to be one of their starting corners and to say he has been a disappointment would be an understatement. He did not play in the first game because of a very last minute scratch that seemed to irritate the coaching staff and in his last two games he hasn’t shown up on the stat sheet and has been beaten out for the starting spot by Will James.

Who Can Book A Ticket to Miami for the Pro Bowl?
Frank Gore:
If Gore can make a healthy return in 2 weeks and play like he did before his injury he should be a lock.
Ray Lewis: Ray is the leader emotionally and physically of the Ravens defense, and each week makes big plays. He’s a lock.
Andre Johnson: If it weren’t for Matt Schaub and the Texans offense being so inconsistent, Andre Johnson would be getting a lot more publicity, but regardless he’s the best receiver in the league and shows it each week.
Reggie Wayne: No Marvin Harrison, no problem. We knew Reggie Wayne was unofficially the #1 receiver for the Colts the last couple of seasons, but now there is no question. He is Manning’s go-to-guy and without a doubt one of the top 3 receivers in the league.

Top 3 leading rushers:
Clinton Portis: 281 yards, 0 TDs rushing
Frank Gore: 241 yards, 3 TDs in 3 games
Willis McGahee: 201 yards, 5 TDs

Top 5 receivers: Reggie Wayne: 26 catches, 399 Yards, 3 TDs
Andre Johnson: 20 catches, 336 yards, 2 TDs
Jeremy Shockey: 18 Catches, 162 yards, 2 TDs
Santana Moss: 17 catches, 293 yards, 2 TDs
Devin Hester: 14 catches, 189 yards, 2 TDs

Top Tacklers: Ray Lewis: 35 tackles
Jon Beason: 21 tackles, 1 sack and 1 interception
DJ Williams: 31 tackles and 1 sack
Rocky McIntosh: 24 tackles and 2 forced fumbles

Most TDs: Willis McGahee: 7 TDs
Reggie Wayne: 3 TDs

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Watch Leon Searcy, Gerard Daphnis & Maurice Crum Talk About the Canes Big Win Over Oklahoma

Click here to see the episode at Canes4Life.com

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Bibla Injured in his UFL Debut

It’s the first UFL injury. Las Vegas right guard Martin Bibla has suffered some sort of head injury. Sideline reporter Anita Marks tells us that with all the material being published about concussions, Bibla is done for the night just to be safe. To which the football viewing public responds by asking “What kind of sissy league is this anyway?”

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Portis stays off injury report this week

Clinton Portis (calf, ankles) has not been listed on the Redskins injury report this week.

Portis didn't practice at all last week and still saw 25 carries. He's in line for a full workload against a Panthers defense that has yet to stop anybody on the ground. We rank Portis No. 10 among running backs this week.

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Is Gooden still a starter?

Tavares Gooden might return after being sidelined last Sunday, but there’s no guarantee that the inside linebacker will return as a starter.

Asked if Gooden would come back to the starting lineup, Ravens defensive coordinator Greg Mattison said Gooden, rookie Dannell Ellerbe and Jameel McClain would all play. Ellerbe played in Gooden’s absence against New England and made six tackles.

“It gives us the luxury where we want to have the ability to have a lot of linebackers,” Mattison said. “It’s a physical league and we got to have guys that step up. I think Ellerbe did a great job in his first playing experience.”

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Vilma gets call from Sanchez

Former Cane Jonathan Vilma is one of the elite athletes using PlayMaker Mobile to connect and share experiences with fans. He joins fellow Canes Ray Lewis and DJ Williams on the platform (Williams just signed up). Vilma's latest post was about the hit he took and subsequent phone call from Jets QB Mark Sanchez. I thought you might be interested - the post to his PlayMaker Mobile page is below.

“The Sanchez hit was a perfect example of me putting the team before myself. I could have easily gotten up and gone over there and pushed him, or did something to react, and then, I’d get in trouble, get a penalty that would hurt the team. I had no idea he was gonna do it. When he did it, I was ready to get up and sock him one, but I restrained myself. I saw the flags come out and I know it’s a long game so I said let’s just take the points and get the victory. He did call me and apologize today. I'm not mad. He’s a rookie who didn’t know any better. He said himself he saw six guys coming at him and he didn’t know what to do. He sees Sharper running down the sideline and six guys running at him, and I guess that’s just one of those rookie mental errors for him.”

Vilma is one of 12 playmakers using PlayMaker Mobile to connect with fans through live chats and exclusive text updates, photos and videos. Other athletes on the PlayMaker Mobile roster include Ray Lewis (Baltimore Ravens), Yao Ming (Houston Rockets), Jeremy McGrath (Supercross Champion), Donovan McNabb (Philadelphia Eagles), Steve Nash (Phoenix Suns), Antonio Pierce (New York Giants), Gretchen Bleiler (Snowboard Champion), Lolo Jones (American Track star), Greg Oden (Portland Trail Blazers), Adrian Wilson (Arizona Cardinals) and Rajon Rondo (Boston Celtics).

We thank proCane fan Kirk for emailing us this message and encourage all fans to email us any news we may miss!

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Frank Gore: On Track for Oct. 25 Return

Gore (ankle, foot) is on track to return for the 49ers' game at Houston on Oct. 25 following the team's bye week, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

"I won't know until I get out there. Right now, I feel all right," Gore said. He said he will begin running this week to test the ankle. Glen Coffee will continue to serve as the team's primary running back in place of Gore.

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Weekly Fantasy Freakout: Kellen Winslow

Things started off well for Kellen Winslow. He posted 12 catches, 120 yards and two TDs in his first two games with his new team. All those owners banking on a bounce-back season were being rewarded.

Then Week 3 came along and Winslow was held to 14 yards on three catches. The Buccaneers made a QB change during that game, going from veteran Byron Leftwich to second-year man Josh Johnson. That didn't help Winslow in Week 4, as he caught just two passes for 21 yards.

And, naturally, owners started freaking out.

Winslow was dropped in one of my leagues, and I quickly snatched him up. I don't plan on using him, as I have Chris Cooley, but TE isn't exactly a position overflowing with talent. A player as good as Winslow is always a threat, especially in an offense that lacks playmakers and reliable receivers.

So, it's an easy decision to hoard Winslow if you don't need his services any time soon, but what if you're counting on Winslow to supply quality, starting-caliber production right now? Should you be freaked out then?

Short answer is no, you shouldn't. Winslow is still the top receiving option on the Bucs, and it's only a matter of time before Johnson gets him the ball more. The next week or two might be rough, but as long as Tampa sticks with Johnson, he'll learn to trust Winslow. He has to.

Of course, there are some worries with Winslow, aside from the Bucs' anemic offense. He's routinely shown a bad attitude wherever he's been, and he still has to be considered injury-prone. Plus, the Bucs don't exactly have a favorable schedule. Only two teams remaining on the schedule (Miami and Carolina) rank in the top 10 in fantasy points allowed per game to tight ends. The Jets, Seahawks and Saints -- the three teams Tampa faces in the fantasy playoffs (Weeks 14-16) -- are all ranked 19th or lower in FPPG to TEs.

Ultimately, it doesn't look like Winslow will be as good as he looked in Weeks 1 and 2, but he likely won't be as bad as he was in Weeks 3 and 4. He's still a borderline TE1, and he should still be owned in most formats -- especially during the bye weeks.

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Birds' Dixon making the most of what he has

Antonio Dixon played 16 snaps at defensive tackle for the Eagles the Sunday before last, in their victory over Kansas City.

Not much, but something. Something to savor. Something to build on.

“I was real happy about that,” he said of his workload Wednesday, as he sat in the locker room of the team’s practice facility.

The 6-3, 322-pound rookie, acquired Sept. 6 after he was waived by the Redskins, has grown accustomed to making the most of things, because for so long he had so little.

He didn't have a dad; he was in prison from the time Antonio was 7 until six months ago.

Nor did he have a mom; she was strung out on drugs for a year or two when Antonio was young.

And not a home, either; when he and his four siblings weren’t shuttling between the homes of relatives in Miami and Atlanta, they were staying in homeless shelters. They also spent time in foster care, when their mother’s substance abuse was at its worst.

Antonio, who once estimated that he attended 15 elementary schools, was found to have dyslexia when he was in the sixth grade. He didn’t learn to read until four years later, and along the way developed a severe stuttering problem, something he still battles. When he can’t quite produce the correct word, he slaps himself on the thigh or midsection.

But things are getting better, he said. His dad, Frazier Hawkins, was released in April from federal prison after serving 17 years on a drug-trafficking charge. He is now back in Miami, working at an LA Fitness. Antonio’s mom, Corenthia, is also in Miami, working in the kitchen of a homeless shelter.

And Antonio has been given an opportunity by the Eagles.

“I’m grateful,” he said. “I’m real happy. I’ve just got to stay focused.”

Here he slapped his thigh once, twice, a third time.

“I can’t be satisfied with where I’m at right now,” he said. “I’ve got to be real mature. I’m hungry right now. I’ve just got to get better and better every day.”

Dixon was on the field for a handful of plays in the Eagles’ first two games, against Carolina and New Orleans. But against the Chiefs he and Trevor Laws frequently rotated into the game in place of starters Mike Patterson and Brodrick Bunkley.

Dixon has no idea if that will remain the case Sunday, when the Birds host Tampa Bay. But as always, he is grateful for the opportunity. As always he will try to make the most of what he has.

Looking back, he said, “There were a lot of low points.”

Too many to count, almost. His parents’ travails. The rootlessness. His struggles in school.

Things would slowly improve. Corenthia got herself straightened out. Antonio reestablished contact with his father when he was a teenager. And while Dixon has admitted that he lashed out when his peers made fun of his stutter, his mom has said he managed to avoid many of the other problems that ensnare so many kids.

Instead, he found football. And at that, he said, “I did my best.”

“I never quit,” he added. “There were times I wanted to quit, help out my mom and get a job. But she’s like, ‘You’re not going to quit. You’re going to stick to football and you’re going to graduate. You’re going to get your degree.’ I did that, so I’m real happy about that.”

He finally learned to read his sophomore year at Miami’s Booker T. Washington High, and on the field excelled as a two-way lineman. After a year at a prep school in New York State – to which he traveled by bus, because the family’s finances were so tight -- he landed at the University of Miami.

He started only 10 of the 40 games he played for the Hurricanes, but was dogged about the books, spending hours on end in study hall while his teammates were exploring South Beach. And in the end he not only earned his degree in liberal arts, just as Corenthia said he would, but also became one of six athletes nationwide to be presented the Wilma Rudolph Award, given to those who, according to the award’s entry form, “have overcome great personal, academic and/or emotional odds to achieve academic success while participating in intercollegiate athletics.”

Dixon went undrafted in April, but was signed by the Redskins as a free agent. The preseason saw him make eight tackles in four games, which was not enough to earn a roster spot.

But now he’s here, making the most of what he has.

“It’s been rough so far,” he said of his life, “but it’s getting better.”

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Bulls get big lift from Mount Vernon

For about five painful minutes Thursday night, the inside of Miami Northwestern's locker room felt a lot more like the waiting area in a dentist's office.

Players sat motionless on benches, staring off into space as if the answer to their 14-2 deficit against rival Central was going to walk in through the door and drill it into them.

Then, Godzilla stormed in.

``All I heard was somebody go in there and start yelling and screaming, knocking things over, breaking things,'' said Northwestern coach Billy Rolle, who along with his assistants were in the next room diagraming plays to slow down Rockets quarterback Jeffrey Godfrey from killing them.

``I sent one my guys over there to check it out and he came back saying, 'Coach it's Vernon.' I said `Ok. Did he piss them off?' Good. Now, let's go get 'em.''

Mount Vernon -- known to the rest of us as Dolphins offensive tackle Vernon Carey -- came out of his fiery five minute speech with his former high school team looking like a different man.

The white t-shirt he was wearing on the Bulls sideline was now grapefruit purple, the same color of the Gatorade cooler he flipped over and tossed to startle the room full of teenagers he invaded.

The Bulls? They got the lift they were looking for.

``Big Vern scared the hell out of me,'' said Todd Chandler, a 6-foot, 300-pound defensive tackle. ``He said 'Rarrrrrr.' I was like 'Ok Big Vern, whatever you say.' I was kind of scared. I just backed up out of his way. But I thank Vernon Carey for giving us what we needed. He came in and let us know what it means to be a Bull.''

Northwestern stampeded right past the Rockets with 20 unanswered points in the second half. Bulls quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and receiver Michaelee Harris played catch up and down the field while a defense led by Chandler, a future Hurricane, harassed and bullied Godfrey, the county's leading passer. It was Northwestern football once again at its finest.

Carey wasn't the only 'West alumnus to provide a lift. The Bulls who won the mythical national title in 2007 and now live down in Coral Gables were all back on the sideline, too.

Quarterback Jacory Harris was coaching up Bridgewater. Aldarius Johnson and Tommy Streeter were talking to the receivers and defensive backs. Brandon Washington and Todd Chandler were teaching the offensive linemen who replaced them how to handle the Rockets' tough defense.

Say what you want about Northwestern, what they have in tradition has become pretty special.

Last week, after Harris led UM to its biggest victory under Randy Shannon by beating the visiting Oklahoma Sooner, he was told his beloved Bulls had lost to Booker T. Washington.

``You're lying,'' he shouted to a room full of reporters. ``You just ruined my whole weekend.''

Northwestern alumns -- who haven't seen its favorite football team lose back-to-back games in five -- can rest easy for now.

Order in the neighborhood has been restored.

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Charlton Jimerson Named Batting Champ

Veteran outfielder Charlton Jimerson, playing for Newark, was this year's Atlantic League batting champ, hitting .335 with 21 homers and 62 RBIs.

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Milton Bradley For Pat Burrell Rumors Heating Up

Chris DeLuca of the Chicago Sun-Times is reporting that the Cubs want to move Milton Bradley quickly, and that the Rays are the team they are targeting.

Sources say the Cubs have been pushing the Tampa Bay Rays for a quick deal. The Rays were one of Bradley’s top suitors last winter until the Cubs let the world know they had a three-year, $30 million offer on the table. The Rays loved Bradley’s on-base magic and manager Joe Maddon is so self-assured — to a fault — he believed he could handle Bradley’s unique personality as deftly as Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington did in 2008…Burrell, 32, is officially owed $9 million next season, though $2 million of his salary was paid in advance. Bradley is owed $9 million next season and $12 million in 2011. So the Cubs could repay the Rays some of the $2 million advanced to Burrell and pay some or all of the 2011 Bradley salary to get off the hook relatively cheaply.

If the Cubs are willing to give the Rays $13 million, this deal is going to happen, but there are still questions to be answered…

The Cubs already have one terrible defensive outfielder in Alfonso Soriano (-11.6 UZR). Are they really going to take on Pat Burrell’s glove and put both players in the same outfield?

Can Bradley stay healthy? In 9 seasons, Bradley has missed at least a month’s worth of games 8 times. Even as the Rangers most-days DH in 2008, he still missed 36 games. And 15 days on the DL for most teams is about 25 with the Rays. They never let a player come back at anything less than 100%.

If Joe Maddon is such a perfect manager for Bradley-types, then why did he have so many problems with Delmon Young and Elijah Dukes?

If Bradley is better suited to play for a small-market team, then why were the Rangers recently so quick to dismiss the idea of bringing Bradley back? Oh yeah.

We love the idea of Bradley’s bat in the Rays’ lineup at half the cost of Burrell. But if the Rays want that great wOBA and OPS, we all better be prepared for at least one extended stay on the DL and at least one incident during the season that will make us all shake our heads in disgust.

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Rookie surprise: Giants CB Bruce Johnson

Former Miami Hurricanes cornerback Bruce Johnson had to endure the frustration of not being drafted after once being projected as an early- to mid-round prospect. He didn't wow anyone at the combine and he was barely a top-30 corner heading into the draft.

But when I arrived in Albany, N.Y., in August, Johnson was constantly making plays in training camp. You could tell right away that he was better than sixth-round draft choice DeAndre Wright -- and Tom Coughlin found a spot on the 53-man roster for him. With Kevin Dockery slowed by a hamstring injury, Johnson became the nickel corner to start the season. He had a forced fumble in his first regular-season game against the Redskins and he followed that up with a pick-six against the Cowboys the following week.

On the interception against the Cowboys, he lured Tony Romo into thinking he was in one-on-one coverage with Roy Williams and then he bailed out at the last second and jumped underneath an out route that Patrick Crayton was running. It was a veteran move by an undrafted rookie -- and he raced to the end zone for a 34-yard touchdown to give the Giants a 10-7 lead in the first quarter.

The Eagles have a fifth-round draft pick named Victor "Macho" Harris who's already cracked the starting lineup at free safety, but I think Johnson had made the bigger impact early in the season. Dockery has returned to the lineup, but I don't think he'll be able to hold off Johnson for long. Johnson's just a very heady player who Coughlin already has a lot of faith in.

The only thing I've seen him do wrong is get confused on a route the Chiefs ran near the Giants' goal line. On that play, Michael Boley raced back and broke up the pass. Johnson already has eight tackles, three pass deflections, a forced fumble and an interception. I don't think this is beginner's luck.

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Gooden Getting Better

Inside linebacker Tavares Gooden, who was sidelined Sunday with head and shoulder injuries, said he is starting to feel like himself again.

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Neck injury was a concern for Devin Hester

Bears receiver Devin Hester said his neck -- not shoulder -- was a concern after he went down with an injury against the Lions.

Hester suffered a strained muscle in his neck after getting crunched by two Lions defenders. He left the game in the first half and did not return.

"Anything dealing with your neck, you're pretty much nervous," Hester said. "But the results came back and it's just a little strained muscle in my neck. It's nothing major."

The injury was listed as a shoulder on game day.

"It was my neck," Hester said. "I don't know where they got (shoulder) from."

Hester, who sat out Wednesday's practice, will be ready to go when the Bears face the Falcons (Oct. 18) after the off week.

"I'm good," Hester said. "... I'll be ready for this next game coming up."

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Sanchez says NFL fined him $5K for hit on Vilma

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — New York Jets rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez said Wednesday that he was fined $5,000 by the NFL for his low block on New Orleans linebacker Jonathan Vilma last weekend.

During Darren Sharper's 99-yard interception return for a touchdown in the second quarter Sunday, Sanchez dived at the legs of Vilma, who was blocking on the play. Sanchez was assessed a 15-yard personal foul penalty for the hit.

Vilma took exception to the block, saying after the game the league should fine Sanchez. The league offices don't confirm fines until Friday.

"Yeah, I got a little fine for that," Sanchez said.

Sanchez said he called Vilma on Tuesday and apologized.

"I'm running down the field and I'm upset after the pick, and I said, 'Hey, dude, I don't know what I was doing,'" Sanchez said. "I was just trying to create a pile, just push somebody into a boundary because I don't want to be the guy on film who's quitting on the play. At the same time, I don't want to take the guy on head-on and get in trouble for putting myself in danger.

"I just told him I've got to be smarter than that."

Sanchez said the former Jets linebacker told him, "No problem at all. I understand. Good luck."

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D.J. shining more than ever

Denver Broncos linebacker D.J. Williams is a beast. But we already knew that, right? 

Sort of, because Williams has been a bit underappreciated during his tenure with the Broncos. 

He played in the shadow of Al Wilson for a couple seasons, and then was criticized over the past several seasons for not being able to lift Denver’s defense out of mediocrity — even after leading the team in tackles over that span.
But things have certainly changed this season, and not only is Williams shining in head coach Josh McDaniels’ new 3-4 defense, he is playing at a Pro Bowl level.

“D.J. could be a very good player in any system, I think,” McDaniels said yesterday at Dove Valley. “He has blitzed some and created some problems in the background. When he has a chance to run and get to the ball carrier where it is tough for somebody to get a body on him, he usually makes the tackle. That is a sign of a good linebacker.”

Surprisingly, Williams is still only 27 years old — with quite of a bit of tread left on his tires, too. Still, he told the Denver Daily News that he and Denver’s defense were tired of getting their [peep’s] kicked, and he loves the new defensive scheme.

“Losing doesn’t feel good, and we were sick and tired of getting beat. I really love this defense — it gives all of us a chance to make plays and that makes the game fun,” Williams said. “Elvis [Dumevil], Andra [Davis], we are all playing well right now and we’re having fun.”

Williams may play like his hair is on fire, but off the field he is incredibly mellow and easy to talk too. A team captain, Williams quietly leads by example, and he is a coach’s dream.

“His teammates listen and respond to him — great player to coach, too,” said defensive coordinator Nike Nolan. “He understands what we are trying to do and buys into it and does his role to the best of his ability each week.”
Williams nearly scored a touchdown after a Renaldo Hill forced fumble vs. Dallas on Sunday, and Williams also recorded a sack.

But the play Williams will be most remembered for on Sunday was a hit he made on receiver Roy Williams — at least it was memorable for Roy Williams.

“Never in my life have I been hit like that, from Pop Warner through my six years in the league,” Roy Williams said. “I was obviously hurting.”

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Clinton Portis & Co. Fight Violence Via Fashion

When hometown teams come together to aid the fight against domestic violence, people definitely pay attention. The bulbs were flashing last night as the nonprofit group Becky's Fund, Clinton Portis and Eric Finn Clothiers joined forces for "Walk this Way," a fashion show aiming to end domestic violence.

The event was held at the Liasion Hotel's rooftop pool, and the space was definitely filled to capacity. Some notable names also lent their support for the Becky's Fund, which has been raising awareness about domestic violence since 2006. The show was MC'd by NBC sports anchor Lindsay Czarniak atop a chic over-the-water runway.
Washington Redskins Clinton Portis was joined by teammates Jason Campbell and Stephen Hayer as they graciously posed for cameras and strutted down the runway for an enthusiastic crowd.

They were joined by D.C. United players Bryan Namoff, Devon McTavish and Santino Quaranta.

Guests were treated to a selection of different mini-burgers, SmartWater and cupcakes along with some entertaining performances that included fire and dancing.

D.C. Council members Vincent Gray, Kwame Brown, Michael Brown and Harry Thomas sat poolside and watched what one observer described as "more than your your ordinary fashion show." 

Models performed vignettes on the runway, each detailing different aspects of domestic violence. When the last model came out bound and blindfolded, we watched as Becky's Fund founder Becky Lee untied the model's wrists, removed her blindfold and embraced her as if to free her.

The powerful finale had spectators on their feet. Clinton Portis and Becky Lee closed the show with a few words about how this was an important cause to him and how all victims of domestic abuse, regardless of sex, should be given an opportunity to heal.

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Salmons receives votes for league's best perimeter defender

NBA.com this week announced the results of a poll conducted amongst NBA general managers, asking their opinions of the league's best defenders, broken down (loosely) by position. In response to the question "Who is the best on-the-ball defender in the NBA?," John Salmons received 3.6% of the vote, and he also recevied at least one also-ran vote for the question "Who is the best perimeter defender in the NBA?"

(No, it wasn't either of Foxson. You can't vote for your own team's players.)

This is kind of unexpected. Salmons' offensive breakout has been duly documented, and his defense has never been thought of as bad. His size is a great asset on the perimeter, and even though he's a bit slow (particularly for the shooting guard position) he does a reasonably good job of staying in front of quicker people and fighting through screens.

But he's never been thought of as a particularly good defender, not in his time with the Bulls nor before he got here, and so his presence on any list such of this is an eye-opener. Particularly on one voted for by the NBA's chief executives.

Then again, it can't exactly be a flawless poll, as Kobe Bryant won the 'best perimeter defender' question. And even though Kobe can play very good perimeter defense, he often doesn't. So it's a flawed system, if there indeed any system to it.

Interesting, though.

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Aubrey Huff: Still not a winner

When they were traded to contenders this summer, former Orioles Aubrey Huff and George Sherrill looked like they were shoe-ins for a playoff appearance. 

But as Sherrill prepares to don a Dodgers uniform for a divisional series game against the Cardinals, Aubrey Huff is headed home to watch the playoffs for the 10th consecutive season.

Huff was traded this August for pitching prospect Brett Jacobson.  The 32-year old vet hit just .189 in 40 games with the Tigers.  The Tigers hoped Huff would bring left-handed power to the lineup, penciling Huff into the 5 spot as the designated hitter.  But as his season-long slump continued in Motor City, his playing time decreased.

Huff didn’t start Tuesday night’s tiebreaker against the Minnesota Twins.  He made a pinch hit appearance in the late innings, earning a walk when a low pitch barely brushed his shoe laces.  After trotting to first base, Huff was lifted for a pinch runner. 

To date, this is the closest to playoff experience Huff has ever been.  Huff has 1391 hits and 203 career homers in 10 seasons but has spent most of his time in the middle of a cellar-dweller’s lineup. 

After 6 full seasons with Tampa Bay, Huff was traded to Houston in August 2006.  Houston missed the playoffs that year and Huff watched as his former teammates went to the 2008 World Series.

After 2 ½ seasons in Baltimore, Huff praised the young prospects in the Orioles organization but said he was looking forward to playing for a winner.

He’ll have to look long and hard to find a winner to play for next year.  After hitting .304 with 32 home runs in 2008, Huff hit a paltry .241 with 15 dingers in 2009, fading badly when the Tigers needed him late in the year.

It would be unfair to blame a late-season pickup for the Tigers woes.  This is a club, after all, that has been in-fighting with the season on the line.  But when the team needed wins to keep the Twins from nipping at their heals, Huff was 3-26 with no doubles or homers. 

A free agent this offseason, Huff will probably have to sign a relatively small and short-term deal.  As for playing for a winning franchise, he had that chance in 2009, and he couldn’t uphold his end of the deal. 

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Ed Reed looking hesitant

Ravens FS Ed Reed has appeared "hesitant" on the field and "late on tackles" in the first four weeks, according to beat writer Mike Preston.

Reed has been dealing with a neck injury for sometime, and it is probably affecting his usually aggressive play. The 2008 interceptions leader, Reed has just one pick, 13 tackles (11 solo), and one pass breakup on the year.

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Bucs check out Baraka

Though upheaval at the kicker position has gotten most of the headlines in the recent past, the Bucs also have been kicking tires on defensive ends.

Per a league source, the Bucs worked out four of them Tuesday.

They are Baraka Atkins, Larry Birdine, Rodrique Wright, and James Wyche.

Unless a guy as good as Reggie White in his prime were available, it's not going to help a bad team get any better.

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Texans try out Leon Williams

The Houston Texans auditioned six linebackers today and are expected to add former Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker Thomas Williams to the practice squad, according to a league source.

The former USC player tried out today along with several other players.

That included Leon Williams, Torrance Daniels and Kris Griffin, among others.

The Texans cut tight end Clark Harris from the practice squad today and placed linebacker Khary Campbell on injured reserve, promoting defensive end Tim Jamison from the practice squad to the active roster.

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Greg Olsen Off To Slow Start

Q: What would you attribute Greg Olsen's slow start this year to?
A: Olsen's slow start (10 catches, 94 yards, 2 TD) is probably due to a combination of things. He's dropped at least two passes. He's gotten extra attention from some defenses, particularly Green Bay. The Bears have not run him vertical as much as maybe some people expected. He's probably not going to the Pro Bowl this season, but Olsen should still have a fine year and he's proving to be a great force in the red zone, especially at the goalline.

Roach did well filling in at middle linebacker for the second straight week, and I would say there is a chance he remains there, yes. We'll get a better indication at Atlanta. I don't think Williams will get a shot to start on a regular basis unless an injury happens, but the Bears can't seem to stay healthy at linebacker so you never no. Tinoisamoa will have his turn again when he is healthy, and Williams is in a contract season. He had not played well until the Detroit game.

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Zorn expects Portis to practice this week

Redkins coach Jim Zorn expects Clinton Portis (ankles, calf) to practice at some point this week.

Portis didn't practice at all last week but got 25 carries Sunday. He has a good matchup against Carolina, but couldn't capitalize on easy games against the Rams, Lions, and Bucs. Trade Portis if he picks it up in Week 5.

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No fines for Ravens

NFL executive Ray Anderson said Tuesday the comments made by the Ravens after the New England game did not warrant fines.

Several Ravens were critical of the officials following their 27-21 loss at the Patriots on Sunday. Middle linebacker Ray Lewis repeatedly said the roughing-the-passer penalties were "embarrassing." Outside linebacker Terrell Suggs insinuated that the officials protect Tom Brady more than other quarterbacks. And safety Ed Reed disputed how the officials spotted the ball throughout the game.

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D.J. Williams "instrumental" to our success

There's something different about D.J. Williams, and not just the fact that for the first time in his NFL career, he has hair on his head.

Williams is the proud owner of an increasingly long Mohawk, and the new 'do makes him "wish I could fly," he said.

A flying D.J. Williams? Now that's a scary thought, because a grounded Williams has been terrifying enough this season, especially in the Broncos' 17-10 victory over Dallas on Sunday.

Champ Bailey might have been a defensive star, with his third-quarter interception and two goal-line pass deflections in the game's final seconds, and it may have been Brian Dawkins who made a touchdown-saving tackle in the fourth quarter, but few could argue against Williams being Denver's best all-around defensive player.

Williams, one of Denver's two inside linebackers, had nine solo tackles, a sack and two pass breakups, and recovered a fumble deep in Dallas territory to set up Denver's first touchdown.

Williams is tied for the team lead with 31 total stops in a 4-0 season.

"He had a good game (Sunday)," coach Josh McDaniels said. "D.J.'s just a very good linebacker and could be a good player in any system I think."

Williams is one of only two draft picks remaining from before the class of 2006 and one of only two defenders left who started the last time the Broncos went to the playoffs in the 2005 season. The other is Bailey.

Williams has been a star throughout his career in Denver, with 74 starts, 170 tackles in 2007 and a team-high 86 tackles last year before injuring his knee in the Broncos' eighth game, despite an annual game of musical chairs with his position. He played all three linebacker positions in Mike Shanahan's 4-3 defensive scheme and is now the "Jack" linebacker — on the weak side, away from the opponent's tight end — for McDaniels and defensive coordinator Mike Nolan.

"I'm everywhere. I don't even call it a position," Williams said. "I'm deep, I'm blitzing, I'm on the line, I'm doing a lot of things. It all has to do with the other guys on the field. They're allowing me to roam, do the things that I do."

That showed against Dallas, when he was at times sent at Tony Romo in a blitz package and at others asked to fall back into pass coverage. The result was a sack — his first of the year — and also two pass breakups, including a brutal hit on Dallas receiver Roy Williams, who later called the hit the hardest he's ever taken.

"That's why it's great to have him, because I couldn't have made that play," said Andra Davis, Denver's other inside linebacker, who also has 31 total tackles this season.

Williams on the inside and Elvis Dumervil on the outside are the two Denver linebackers who remain in the game on both running and passing downs, and it is Williams who makes the defensive calls for the linemen and linebackers.

He's no longer officially a team captain, but his leadership role has not diminished on the revamped defense.

"D.J. is very instrumental in what we do defensively," McDaniels said. "Guys listen and respond to him every day."

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Portis Gives Hoo-Rah Talks

A week ago, Clinton Portis was asked whether he was becoming a more vocal leader. He seemed to say that no, he was not.

"We've got twenty people walking around the locker room with 'Hoo-rah' talks," he said. "You know, pumping guys up saying, 'let's do it, we can do it baby.' It's Week 3. I don't think it takes a hoo-rah talk, I don't think it takes pumping up a guy."

And then Week 4 comes around, and what do you know, there was Clinton Portis on the sideline, walking around and giving Hoo-rah talks. I mean, what gives?

"Pretty much it was the energy," Portis explained today on ESPN 980's John Thompson Show. "I think our energy level been down. And having the opportunity to get guys into the game, to encourage guys, I think that was our talk before the game, just encouraging guys that no matter what, stick with it and let's go out and play team ball. Every time somebody came off the field or while the defense was on the field, trying to be into the game, congratulating guys for making plays, getting stuff done. I think it was just up to me just to keep guys into the game and hoping that it picked up."

Thompson asked if that was unusual behavior for Portis, and the back confirmed that yes, it was.

"I think my normal demeanor is more sitting over to the side, relaxing," he said. "I think people began to feed off that demeanor, and all of the sudden everybody's to the side relaxing. So it was pretty much just trying to find a way to get guys into the game, to keep guys believing and to let 'em know, if we make a mistake, it don't matter. We're gonna go out and we're still gonna get it done."

If that's not a Hoo-rah talk, then I've never heard one. Actually, I don't think I have ever heard one. My editor sure as heck never gives us Hoo-rah talks, although he occasionally provides donuts.

But wait! There's more! Turns out Larry Michael also noticed the Hoo-rah talks, and took a break from his full-time job as media critic to ask Portis about his demeanor during the post-game coverage.

"Man, we just needed the energy," Portis told the radio crew. "I think overall our energy in our first three games has been lackadaisical. You know, we get behind and everybody get down. I think it was just the energy level, to get it up, no matter what was going on, to continue. I told the guys before, no matter what happens, egg on the guys. Don't walk past a man that's on the field, everybody up and keep fighting."

So let that be a lesson to you in your own place of employment. Egg on your colleagues. Don't be off to the side, relaxing. Give Hoo-rah talks. They work, people.

(Here was the other best Portis bit, when he was asked where the pressure on this team is coming from.

"I think probably the locker room most definitely, because I think every guy in the locker room know that we're capable of being better and playing better than we're showing," he said. "[Also] of course the fans and the media. When your fans booing, you can't help but hear it. And at the same time, every media outlet that you see or get in touch with is against us, you know, Fail to the Redskins, The Redskins Suck. Yeah, we're 2-2, a lot of teams sitting in the same position right now. I think we control our destiny and we've got the opportunity to do something special, and that's what we've got to do. We can't worry about the pressure from outside, we've just got to keep from exploding inside."

I actually did see the large "Fail to the Redskins" headline in The Post. I can only guess that means The Times went with "The Redskins Suck.")

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McClinton Released Again

Jack McClinton's second chance didn't turn out to be much of a chance at all.

Signed by Minnesota on the eve of training camp after being cut a week earlier by the San Antonio Spurs, the former University of Miami guard was released Tuesday by the Timberwolves.

Selected at No. 51 in the second round of last June's NBA Draft by San Antonio, McClinton requested his release from the Spurs when it became apparent the team was looking for veteran depth.

But after being held out of the Timberwolves' exhibition opener, McClinton was released along with guard Alonzo Gee, reducing Minnesota's roster to 16, one above the regular-season maximum.

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NFL U Week 4 Photos

Check out Week 4 photos from around the the NFL of our proCanes. Click here to see the photos.

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What did Former Canes Think About The Win Over Oklahoma?

Many former Canes tweeted their thoughts after the huge 33 - 17 win by the University of Miami over Oklahoma on Saturday night. You can see each players twitter screen name if you want to follow them as well as their comments. Read below to see their thoughts:

rockym52 (Rocky McIntosh): The Canes win also so glad I'm apart of that "U Swag".

QBKILLA (Warren Sapp): Take That Sooner Scooter Back Across the STATE LINE!!!

bigmacvikings (Bryant McKinnie): YEEEEEEEAAAAAAAHHHHHH! The Canes pulled it out! Phil and A.P. can't say nothing 2 me. im bout 2 text them now.

ericwinston (Eric Winston): So happy for my team and especially Javarris James. He has had an up and down career but that will be a night for him to remember forever

TheLAMARkable36 (Lamar Thomas): Its great to be a miami hurricane! Its great to be a miami hurricane- go canes!

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Lovie Smith said Devin Hester should be fine from shoulder-area injury

Bears coach Lovie Smith said receiver Devin Hester suffered a shoulder-area injury against the Lions and should be fine.

Hester got sandwiched between two defenders following a 2-yard catch in the second quarter. Hester immediately went to the sideline then dropped to his knees. He then went to the locker room and was out for the rest of the game.

Smith was asked if he expected Hester to play against Atlanta on Oct. 18.

``Right now, two weeks away, am I expecting Devin (to play)? Yeah,'' Smith said. ``I'm expecting all of the guys to play right now. We haven't ruled anybody out. I'm pretty excited about having all our guys ready to go the next time we play.''

The Bears have an off week, giving injured players a time to rest. Receiver Johnny Knox injured his right shin and Adrian Peterson suffered an MCL strain in his right knee.

Smith said Knox should be fine. Peterson is out at least 2 to 3 weeks.

Defensive lineman Israel Idonije had his left knee scoped Monday and Smith called it a minor procedure.
"We feel pretty good about him coming back quickly,'' Smith said of Idonije. ``We'll see how it goes. Pretty tough guy. He'll be back out there before long.''

Idonije and Peterson are key figures on special teams. Smith did not announce any immediate plans to fill their roles.

``We have a little bit of time before we play,'' Smith said. ``We're not saying that either guy is out right now. We have a couple of weeks to heal up and go from there.''

Peterson also is an important part of the running game as a short-yardage back. If Peterson is out, Garrett Wolfe would be the primary backup to Matt Forte. The only other running back around is practice squad member Kahlil Bell.

``It would be hard to just go into a game with two running backs on our roster,'' Smith said. ``I'm hoping that we won't get to that point. If we get to that point, you always keep your options open. We have different options at every position right now, so we should be OK.''

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D.J. Williams is leading the way for Broncos' improved defense

DENVER - There's something different about D.J. Williams, and not just that for the first time in his NFL career he has hair on his head.

Williams is the proud owner of an increasingly-long mohawk, and the new 'do makes him "wish I could fly," he said.
Even Williams on the ground has been terrifying enough this season, especially in Sunday's 17-10 victory against Dallas.

Champ Bailey might have been a defensive star, with his third quarter interception and two goal-line pass deflections in the game's final seconds, and it may have been Brian Dawkins who made a touchdown-saving tackle in the fourth quarter, but few could argue against Williams being Denver's best all-around defensive player.

Williams, one of Denver's two inside linebackers, had nine solo tackles, a sack, two pass breakups and recovered a fumble deep in Dallas territory to set up Denver's first touchdown.

Williams is tied for the team lead with 31 total stops.

"He had a good game yesterday," coach Josh McDaniels said. "D.J.'s just a very good linebacker and could be a good player in any system, I think."

Williams is one of only two draft picks remaining from before the class of 2006 and one of only two defenders left who started the last time the Broncos went to the playoffs after the 2005 season. The other is Bailey.

He's been a star throughout his career in Denver, with 74 starts, 170 tackles in 2007, a team-high 86 tackles last year before injuring his knee in the Broncos' eighth game, despite an annual game of musical chairs with his position. He played all three linebacker positions in Mike Shanahan's 4-3 defensive scheme, and is now the weakside linebacker - away from the tight end - for McDaniels and defensive coordinator Mike Nolan.

"I'm everywhere. I don't even call it a position," Williams said. "I'm deep, I'm blitzing, I'm on the line, I'm doing a lot of things. It all has to do with the other guys on the field. They're allowing me to roam, do the things that I do."

That showed against Dallas, when at times he blitzed Tony Romo and at other times fell back into pass coverage. The result was his first sack of the year and two pass breakups, including a brutal hit on Dallas receiver Roy Williams, who later called the hit the hardest he's ever taken.

"That's why it's great to have him, because I couldn't have made that play," said Andra Davis, Denver's other inside linebacker, who also has 31 tackles this season.

Williams on the inside and Elvis Dumervil on the outside are the two Denver linebackers who remain in the game on both running and passing downs, and it is Williams who makes the defensive calls for the linemen and linebackers.

He's no longer officially a team captain, but his leadership role has not diminished on the revamped defense.

"D.J. is very instrumental in what we do defensively," McDaniels said. "Guys listen and respond to him every day."

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Portis Hosts Fashion Show to Raise Awareness on Domestic Violence

Chris Brown, this one’s for you! Just kidding because domestic violence is unfortunately, so prevalent in our society and for a while it was brushed under the rug.

Washington Redskins, Clinton Portis and Eric Finn Custom Clothiers have partnered up with Becky’s Fund to host “Walk This Way”, an over-the-pool fashion show to raise awareness against domestic violence and benefit Becky’s Fund.

This signature event will be an evening to remember – bringing together the best of D.C. fashion, sports, and philanthropy, including NFL players Jason Campbell and Stephen Hayer; DC United players Bryan Namoff, Devon McTavish and Santino Quaranta; along with DC Council members: Vincent Gray, Kwame Brown, Michael Brown and Harry Thomas.

The event will be held on Tuesday, Oct. 6 at The Liaison, an Affinia Hotel (415 New Jersey Avenue, NW) from 6-10 p.m. To purchase tickets click here.

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Salmons skips London trip

Here’s some news from London as the Bulls prepare for Tuesday’s preseason game against Utah. A sellout is expected at the O2 Arena for this contest.

John Salmons did not make the trip because his wife is due to give birth to the couple’s second child. Center Aaron Gray, not surprisingly, stayed home to start recovery from a stress fracture in his left fibula.

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proCanes Stats from Week 4

Andre Johnson: 2 catches for 66 yards

Vince Wilfork: 2 tackles 1 solo tackle, 1 tackle for a loss and 1 pass deflected

Brandon Meriweather: 9 tackles, 4 solo tackles and 2 passes deflected

Jeremy Shockey: 4 catches for 34 yards.

Jonathan Vilma: 6 tackles, 3 solo tackles

Santana Moss: 2 catches for 74 yards 1 TD

Clinton Portis: 25 carries for 98 yards

Rocky McIntosh: 6 tackles, 4 solo tackles 1 pass deflected

Calais Campbell: NO GAME, Arizona Bye Week

Antrel Rolle: NO GAME, Arizona Bye Week

Edgerrin James: 4 carries 16 yards, 1 catch for 6 yards

Kelly Jennings: 3 tackles, 3 solo tackles

Frank Gore: DID NOT PLAY due to ankle injury

Kellen Winslow: 2 catches 21 yards

Roscoe Parrish: 6 kickoff returns for 147 yards & 2 punt returns for 47 yards

Greg Olsen: 1 catch for 1 yard 1 TD

Devin Hester: 1 catch for 2 yards left the game early with a shoulder injury

Willis McGahee: 5 carries for 11 yards, 1 catch for 13 yards and 1 TD

Ray Lewis: 14 tackles, 7 solo tackles

Ed Reed: 5 tackles, 4 solo tackles

Tavares Gooden: DID NOT PLAY due to injury to the head

DJ Williams: 9 solo tackles 1 tackle for loss, 1 sack and 1 pass deflected

Sinorice Moss: 3 punt returns for 19 yards

Jeff Feagles: 4 punts for 171 yards with a long of 48 yards

Bruce Johnson: Played but did not record a tackle

Reggie Wayne: 6 catches 74 yards 1 TD

Jon Beason: NO GAME, Carolina Bye Week

Damione Lewis: NO GAME, Carolina Bye Week

Phillip Buchanon: Played but did not record a tackle

Antonio Dixon: NO GAME, Philadelphia Bye Week

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Vilma unhappy with Sanchez block

NEW ORLEANS -- Mark Sanchez may have taken the NFL by storm, but don't count Jonathan Vilma among his biggest fans. The Saints middle linebacker said he hopes the NFL fines the Jets rookie quarterback for the chop block he executed on Vilma during the course of Darren Sharper's 99-yard interception return for a touchdown in the second quarter of New Orleans 24-10 win over New York.

Sanchez threw a cut block at Vilma's knees near midfield on Sharper's team-record interception return, trying to take out the Saints linebacker, who was out ahead of Sharper and attempting to block. Sanchez was penalized for a personal foul on the play.

Vikings quarterback Brett Favre was fined $10,000 earlier this season for an illegal crackback block against Texans safety Eugene Wilson in a preseason game. Sanchez could be in for a similar penalty.

"Actually, I was surprised he (cut me)," Vilma said in the Saints locker room. "I was very surprised. I don't know what he was doing, to be honest with you. I saw him, and thought he was just trying to buy time, and then he goes and cuts me. It was kind of dirty, and he got the penalty for it."

When it was suggested to Vilma that the league might fine Sanchez for the low block, the Saints veteran said: "Good. I saw the flags, and I let it go. There was no reason to go try and get in his face over it. I hope he gets fined for it. Like that guy, oh, yeah, Brett Favre.''

Vilma said Sanchez did get his knees with the block, but did no damage. "It didn't hurt," he said. "But, oh, yeah, he got 'em."

On the Jets sideline after the play, New York offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer appeared to be informing his young quarterback, perhaps for the first time, that throwing such a block was not allowed in the NFL. Sanchez responded by looking duly chastised.

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Ray Lewis calls protection of quarterbacks "embarrassing"

Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis doesn't like the extent to which the league protects quarterbacks. 

And, after a pair of roughing-the-pretty-boy penalties kept first-half touchdown drives alive for the Patriots in Sunday's 27-21 win, Lewis has sounded off about the situation.

"Without totally going off the wall here, it's embarrassing to the game," Lewis said, per Albert Breer of SportingNews.com.  "You can't do that.  [Tom] Brady's good enough to make a play.  Let him make his own play.  You can't end the play like that, and then throw the flag.  No, man.  The embarrassing part is when he understands that, and he walks up to one of us and says, 'Oh, that was a cheap one.'

"That's not football," Lewis added.  "And that's the embarrassing part about it.  Two great teams going at it, like them go at it.  But you can't stop drives like that, you can't throw flags and say, 'Oh, you touched the quarterback.'  Put flags on them.  Put a red buzzer on them, so if we touch them, they're down."

Look, the rules are the rules.  And the quarterbacks of every team have the same protections (except when scoring a touchdown and a 300-pound defensive tackle runs across the goal line and dives on his back).

The candor from Lewis could result in a fine.  But he's not really calling out the officials as much as he's complaining about the league-wide protection of the guys who throw the passes.

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James enjoys his homecoming

The game decided, it was time for a sentimental journey across the field for the Indianapolis Colts.

Edgerrin James had to be the most hugged man in America on Sunday. The running back's No. 32 jersey has switched to the Seattle Seahawks, but Sunday was a reminder of how the Colts' all-time leading rusher is still beloved by his old team and its fans.

And Edge, still keeping it cool, loved them right back after the Colts stuck it to the Seahawks 34-17 at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Colts center Jeff Saturday grabbed him with an extended bear hug in an emotional embrace. Quarterback Peyton Manning and James chatted like two buddies alone, amid a flickering shower of camera flashbulbs.

Defensive end Dwight Freeney made sure he got a picture with James. Lastly and somewhat fittingly, old University of Miami buddy Reggie Wayne walked up.

"Man, you see how clean I am?" James said of his rather unused uniform, prompting an amused Wayne to buckle in laughter.

"He didn't play enough to get dirty," Wayne said of James, "his homey," who rushed four times for 16 yards and caught one pass for 6 yards and a first down.

The Colts had this one put away, ahead 28-3 late in the third, when James caught his only pass. At the end of the third quarter, stadium video screens showed a series of James highlights. At the end, the blue screens read: "Thank you for the memories." And then: "See you soon in the Ring of Honor."

Then there was James, sitting on the bench. He saw himself on the screen, smiled as usual, and raised his left hand to acknowledge a sellout crowd that cheered him from the first of five touches to his last.

"That was sweet," he said of the video. "A lot of guys on this team didn't know I could move like that."

Manning also was moved by the touching tribute.

"I kind of got a little choked up watching the highlights tape," the three-time league MVP said. "I've never forgotten how great he was, and I truly use the word great."

James nudged his 11-year rushing total to 12,180 yards, just 64 behind Marcus Allen for 10th in NFL history. His first carry Sunday was his 3,000th.

From his first rushing attempt in 1999, the dude with dreadlocks endeared himself to the Colts. The fourth overall pick won a rushing title as a rookie, then another in his second year. Through 2005, James ran for 9,226 yards on 2,188 carries, both team records.

"What a pleasure to watch," Manning said, referring to how he used to prefer to watch James run as opposed to finishing the play. "The coaches were always on me, 'You've got to carry out your fakes. You've got to carry out your fakes.' And I kept saying, 'I want to watch.' "

James signed as a free agent with Arizona in 2006. The Colts won the Super Bowl that next year. Colts owner Jim Irsay thought enough of James to give him a ring.

After two more years that were less than stellar in the desert, James was released with one year to go on his contract. He signed with Seattle in late August.

James, 31, no longer starts. He's in a three-man rotation behind Julius Jones and Justin Forsett.

By his own admission, he will always be a Colt.

The hugs didn't end on the field. Outside the locker room, James shared a word and another embrace with the man who drafted him. Colts president Bill Polian said he hoped the next time their paths cross, it would be when James joins the Ring of Honor.

"I hope I'm here to see it," Polian said.

It's not often a game can be remembered for what happens outside of the outcome. But this was one of those games.

"I'll always look back at this day," James said. "This day right here will always be special to me."

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Redskins' Moss shines through with big play

The Washington Redskins were staring at another dark, gloomy outcome Sunday -- in this case an upset loss to the woeful and winless Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Then the clouds suddenly parted.

A week after ending the Detroit Lions' 19-game losing streak, the Redskins again were sputtering on offense before quarterback Jason Campbell connected with Santana Moss down the sideline for a 59-yard touchdown pass. It put the Redskins ahead for the first time with 1:22 left in the third quarter, and they wound up winning 16-13 before a restless crowd at FedEx Field.

Moss took advantage of rare single coverage on the play. Buccaneers cornerback Aqib Talib intercepted three passes in the game to tie a club record, but this was not one of them. Campbell faked to running back Clinton Portis, and Moss put a double move on Talib, beat him soundly and caught the pass in stride.

"You've got to be ready," said the veteran Moss, the Redskins' only big-play wide receiver. "They showed me kind of like a cloud all game. They were gonna cloud me and have a safety over the top. And just when they didn't, we had the perfect play dialed up."

Tampa Bay is where the cover two defense was refined and became known as the Tampa 2. It's designed to take away the big play, especially down the middle of the field.

"It's what they do," Moss said. "And they do a good job of it. They've been doing it ever since I've known about the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

"I'm just glad we got something out of it because it's hard to be a receiver in a game like this when they play a cover two all game and all you have is outside routes."

This time, though, the Bucs weren't in it.

"The first thing I told the offensive line is this will be a touchdown," Campbell said.

Added Moss: "That's all I need, single coverage here and there. When you're getting doubled, you can't throw to somebody. I thrive to get a chance to be singled, but it seems like when I get those chances, I do stuff like that, but it gets me doubled again.

"But it all comes with the territory. I appreciate it that when I'm not covered we get opportunities like that. When I'm covered, I tell Jason all the time, 'Hey, somebody else has got to be open, so let's not force anything.' "

But if any other wide receivers were open, Campbell either failed to notice or could not accurately deliver the ball. Moss was the only wideout with a catch, and he had just two total. Tight end Chris Cooley caught five passes for 65 yards. Running backs Ladell Betts and Mike Sellers combined for four receptions.

Last week against the Lions, Moss caught a 57-yard touchdown pass as part of a career-high 178 receiving yards. With his catch against the Buccaneers, he became the first Redskins receiver with touchdown grabs of at least 50 yards in successive games since Gary Clark in 1987.

Moss didn't know this. Not that it would have mattered. In light of the pessimism and ill feelings swirling about the team, he was just relieved not to talk about another ugly loss.

"We're getting a lot of criticism from anywhere you can call it," he said. "But at the end of the day, if you sit back and worry about what somebody's telling you about what you do, then you're not in it for the right reasons. It's tough to be the quarterback of this team. It's tough to be the head coach of this team. It's tough to be the owner of this team. D.C. wants so much, and we want to do that for them.

"Particularly today, we wanted to get a win here, just to show the fans that, yeah, we hear y'all. Yeah, we understand what y'all are feeling and what y'all are going through. But just believe -- we're going through the same thing. You think we want to be in this situation? You think we want to play the way we've been playin'? No. The only way for us to come out of it is to come out and do what we do."

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McGahee finds the end zone again in loss

Willis McGahee was held to 11 yards on five rushes Sunday against the Patriots, but redeemed himself with a 13-yard fourth-quarter touchdown catch.

McGahee had trouble getting past the line of scrimmage on running downs, but was yet again involved in most of the Ravens' goalline plays. Ray Rice is clearly the better all-around back in Baltimore, but it appears McGahee is going to remain a mainstay in the team's red zone plans. He's on pace for an astounding 28 touchdowns this season.

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Vince Wilfork huge lift

FOXBORO - Nose tackle Vince Wilfork [stats] was on the Gillette Stadium field two hours before the game, testing out his sprained left ankle and consulting with team doctor Thomas Gill. Turns out, the Pro Bowler was healthy enough to play.

It provided a huge boost for the Patriots [team stats] in their 27-21 win against the Ravens yesterday. Wilfork had two tackles, one for a loss, with a pass deflection.

“Nothing fazes that guy,” said fellow defensive lineman Mike Wright, who had two sacks and three quarterback hurries. “He’s a tree stump so you can pretty much count on Vince being there. He’s a presence, the core of the defense.”

Wilfork was not available for interviews, but his wife, Bianca, sent out a Tweet before the game joking about his playing status.

“Not sure if i like u playing today,” said Bianca, under the Twitter moniker, Mrs75. “but its not like u have your phone so we can talk about it Sad

The Patriots allowed the Ravens 116 yards on the ground, with 50 coming on one run by Ray Rice. When Baltimore attempted to run the same play on fourth-and-1 in the fourth quarter, Wilfork clogged the hole and Gary Guyton made a stop.

“It looked like there were a lot of bodies in there,” coach Bill Belichick said, “and there wasn’t a lot of movement on the line of scrimmage.”

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Colts pay tribute to Edgerrin James in his return to Indianapolis

INDIANAPOLIS — Edgerrin James couldn't help it.

In what was an otherwise glum Seahawks locker room following a 34-17 loss to the Indianapolis Colts Sunday, James flashed a few wide smiles as he thought about an afternoon he said would be one of the more memorable of his career.

James spent the first seven years of what will be a Hall of Fame career with the Colts before leaving following the 2005 season as a free agent and signing with Arizona. Now in his first season with the Seahawks, Sunday was his first game in Indianapolis since leaving town, and he was greeted with a huge ovation the first time he carried the ball, and later with a video montage of some of his Colts' highlights to more applause.

"I'll always look back on this day," he said of a game in which he gained just 16 yards on four carries. "This day right here will always be special to me."

Among the highlights shown of James was a long run against the Seahawks at Husky Stadium in 2000, a day when he gained a career-high 219 yards.

"A lot of guys on this team didn't know I could move like that," said James, who is the leading career rusher in Colts' history with 9,226 yards.

One who did was former teammate Peyton Manning.

"I got a little choked up watching that highlight tape today," said Manning. "I have never forgotten how great he was. Truly use the word great, not just good."

James, signed after the Seahawks let go of T.J. Duckett, has just 59 yards on 21 carries this season and at age 31, is nearing the end of his career.

But standing 11th on the all-time rushing list with 12,180 yards, he said he'd like to keep moving up those rankings before calling it quits. Asked if he saw the ring of honor and envisioned his name being on there, he said "not just yet. I've got to play a little bit more. Got to move up that chart a little bit more."

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McGahee starts in place of Rice

Willis McGahee came out with the Ravens' first-team offense at running back today in place of Ray Rice, who had started the first three games.

McGahee was out there for the first two plays against the Patriots before Rice came in on third down and long.

Both saw action during the first drive.

Entering the game, Rice had rushed for 192 yards in three games and McGahee had rushed for 190.

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Bears' Hester injures shoulder

CHICAGO (AP) - Bears receiver Devin Hester left Chicago's game against Detroit on Sunday after hurting a shoulder during the second quarter.

Chicago's Tommie Harris had just intercepted Matthew Stafford deep in Lions territory, and Hester was apparently injured after catching a short pass on second down with about 12 minutes left. He tried to shake the Lions' Louis Delmas and William James but took a hard hit instead. He got up showing no obvious signs of an injury, and it was not clear which shoulder he hurt.

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Vilma makes obvious impact as leader of New Orleans Saints' defense

It didn't take long to reduce the obvious storyline of Sunday's New Orleans Saints-New York Jets war to capsule form.

"Drew's O vs. Ryan's D a Must-See, " said one Manhattan headline.

Welcome to a chess game between the Mad Bomber and the Mad Scientist. You'll be hearing all about the Xs and Os right down to kickoff time.

You'll be hearing how Rex Ryan,  the beefy,  free-spirited coach who has made the Jets defense the talk of the NFL,  is planning to make life miserable for bomb-throwing Drew Brees,  a quarterback wearing jersey No. 9.

You'll be hearing the story of the Saints 35-22 loss to Baltimore in 2006,  when Ryan was the Ravens defensive coordinator,  the day Brees was pressured into three interceptions,  the day the Ravens scored 28 points off five turnovers.

Ryan vs. Brees is a big story all right. But not the whole story.

That's because the Saints have two quarterbacks.

Jonathan Vilma will be wearing jersey No. 51.

Some of the defensive calls,  some of the last-second,  on-field adjustments Vilma will be making from his inside linebacker position,  could have as much of an impact on who wins as a Brees audible.

Coach Sean Payton doesn't mince words. He calls Vilma the "quarterback of the defense."

Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams calls Vilma,  "a rare gem,  the kind of player whose smarts,  whose fast-thinking,  lifts the level of play of those around him."

In Sunday's showdown between two 3-0 ballclubs,  Vilma will be matching wits against a team that made him its first-round pick in 2004,  then watched him live up to his press clippings as Defensive Rookie of the Year. That was followed by three years of quality play,  until the Saints made him their top free-agent acquisition in 2008.

To get an idea of what makes Vilma "a special teammate, " just pose the question to Jeremy Shockey,  who shared a roster spot with Vilma in college at Miami.

"When I think of Jonathan, " said Shockey,  placing a finger to his temple,  "I think of smarts. He's the same guy now he was in college. No one knows the game any better.

"I'm a tight end,  we're going against one another in practice,  and he's telling me,  in a nice way,  about running routes. 'Don't give your route away, ' he'd say. 'Do this,  don't do that.' Jonathan was into all the little things that make you a better player. He not only had the talent,  he had the drive to keep getting better and help his teammates."
Ask defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis,  last year's first-round pick.

"Jonathan helped make my rookie year a happy memory, " said Ellis. "Little tips. It was like he knew all positions,  what to look for. He gets so much from watching film. A real student of the game."

Ask Scott Shanle,  who plays alongside Vilma.

"Last week in Buffalo, " Shanle said,  "he's coming up with all kinds of hand signals to overcome the crowd noise,  to make sure everyone's on the same page,  linebackers,  corners,  safeties. A real coach on the field."

Outside linebacker Scott Fujita got a quick read on Vilma.

"From Day One,  I was blown away by his work ethic,  his passion. Jonathan wants to become recognized as the best at his position. He plays like he's on a mission."

Less than a month after undergoing arthroscopic abdominal surgery in the offseason,  Vilma was on the practice field the first day of training camp,  thanks to 100-percent attendance at voluntary workouts.

"Stuff like that tells you a lot about someone's qualities as a team leader, " Payton said.

So how will it be playing the role of a leader against a bunch of former teammates?

"I have some great friends on the Jets, " Vilma said. "Am I surprised they're 3-0? Not at all. I'm happy for them. I look at that offense,  and I see more than a rookie quarterback (Mark Sanchez) who has done a fine job managing the game. I see an excellent offensive line and a dynamic duo at running back (Thomas Jones and Leon Washington). They have balance on offense,  and they have an outstanding defense. The Jets are the real deal."

So far,  so are the Saints.

And keep this in mind: Whoever loses will still be in Super Bowl contention.

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Kosar files plan to liquidate; ex-wife wants a trustee to take over matters

Bernie Kosar, the former quarterback for the National Football League's Cleveland Browns, filed a plan to satisfy creditors’ claims by liquidating his bankrupt companies and investments, while retaining some assets.

Kosar’s lawyers called the proposal a “hybrid” plan in which his companies’ assets would be liquidated to repay creditors and he would keep assets including his NFL pension and a vehicle, according to court documents filed Sept. 30.

Kosar’s ex-wife, Babette J. Kosar, wants the court to appoint a trustee to take over the case and liquidate his assets to distribute to creditors, saying in court papers “he has demonstrated no ability to manage his affairs,” and his “conduct constitutes gross mismanagement and/or fraud.” Babette is owed about $3 million from a divorce settlement.

In Chapter 11 documents filed June 19 in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Fort Lauderdale, Kosar listed debt of as much as $50 million and assets of less than $10 million. Three of Kosar’s companies, KHOC LLC, BJK LLC and Mantua Land Co., also filed for bankruptcy.

Born in 1963 in Boardman, Ohio, Kosar started his 12-year career with the Cleveland Browns in 1985. He finished second in almost all statistical categories for quarterback in the team’s history, according to the Cleveland Browns Web site. He earned a Pro Bowl selection in 1987, and set a league record in 1990 and 1991 by completing 308 passes without an interception. He led the Browns to the playoffs in each of his first five seasons.

‘The Drive’
Kosar played opposite Denver Broncos’ Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway in the 1986 American Football Conference Championship game, made famous by “The Drive,” which ended in a 23-20 overtime defeat for the Browns. At the University of Miami, Kosar led the team to its first National Collegiate Athletic Association championship, beating the Nebraska Cornhuskers, who had won 22 consecutive games.

Under his bankruptcy plan, Kosar would seek to hire CB Richard Ellis Group Inc.. to help auction and sell Mantua Land and BJK properties and repay their creditors.

Mantua Land owns four parcels of developed and undeveloped land totaling 315 acres in Mantua, Ohio. KeyBank NA holds a $3.1 million claim against Mantua Land for a mortgage on the assets.

BJK owns 140 acres of land in Fort Pierce, Florida, that was part of a proposed development called Creekside. National City Bank, BJK’s lender, is owed $4.3 million, and Creekside Community Development District is owed about $4.9 million from a bond offering.

Florida Panthers
KHOC owns a 6 percent interest in the National Hockey Leagues’ Florida Panthers valued at $14.4 million, according to court documents. After paying creditors KeyBank and Panthers Hockey LLP, which owns the Panthers, the proceeds of a sale would be used to pay Babette Kosar’s claim. The rest would be split among unsecured creditors and Kosar, court papers show.

Kosar expects to make about $24,000 a month from radio and personal appearances, and from providing services to companies such as Longaberger, court papers show. Kosar, who owes at least $15,000 a month for child support, estimates his monthly expenses at $13,800, leaving him about $11,000 to divide among his ex-wife and unsecured creditors.

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Perez to have ankle surgery Wednesday

BOSTON -- Reliever Chris Perez will finally be relieved of some discomfort in his left ankle.

Perez will have surgery Wednesday to remove an extra bone that has formed in the back of his left ankle and affected his conditioning this season. The bone, known as an "os trigonum," is present in a small portion of the population, and the surgery to remove it is not considered serious.

"I've been dealing with it the whole year," Perez said. "It doesn't really affect me at all on the field. It's more off-the-field stuff -- running, weightlifting, stuff like that. It's not serious. It's like two weeks of keeping off of it [after surgery], and then another two or three weeks of rehabbing, and I should be good to start up again."

The surgery will be performed by Dr. James Sferra at the Cleveland Clinic.

Perez was acquired in the June trade that sent Mark DeRosa to the Cardinals, and he's emerged as a key contributor in the setup role in the second half. It has already been speculated that Perez could eventually move into the closer's role, if the Indians try to trade Kerry Wood, whose $10.5 million contract won't exactly fit in on a rebuilding ballclub next season.

"I feel like I had a pretty good second half," said Perez, who went 1-1 with a 4.18 ERA in 29 appearances out of the Tribe's bullpen. "There's always room for improvement. I had a couple outings where I gave up a couple runs. But I feel good about throwing strikes and getting strikeouts. I feel good about next year, competing for a job, and hopefully next year we can turn it around a little bit."

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