Ravens' Lewis still going strong

Ravens linebacker Jarret Johnson was having a conversation with several others about NFL veterans when linebacker Ray Lewis' name was mentioned.

And Johnson, like the others in his group, started shaking his head in disbelief.

"What is this, his 13th year or something?" Johnson said. "He is still explosive and still has great instinct. He is going strong when other players his age are slowing down. I don't think he is ever going to slow down. I hope not."

He hasn't slowed down this year. In fact, he looks a lot like the Ray Lewis who was about to enter his prime in 1999. Lewis, 33, had a great season last year when he had 120 tackles and earned a ninth trip to the Pro Bowl.

Right now, he looks better than last season. He looks better than he has the past five years. What gives?

"It's getting to the point with Ray where it's almost ridiculous," Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan said. "He's a phenom. His contact and tackling is as crisp and as good as I can remember. He is still flying around and is always in the right spots. If I had to describe one thing about Ray that stands out I couldn't because he is the total package."

In four games this season, Lewis has 30 tackles, including 21 solo. He has knocked down four passes and forced one fumble. If you're thinking about throwing a pass in the flat, forget it because Lewis is eating up everything.

Draws don't work, and neither do screens. Lewis is even putting running backs in the hospital again (see the Pittsburgh Steelers' Rashard Mendenhall) like he did in 2000 when he train-wrecked Jerome Bettis, Corey Dillon and Eddie George.

"When I first got here, I was star-struck by Ray," said Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, the team's first-round pick in 2006. "You see him on TV, and it's exciting because he plays with so much passion. And since I've been here, he hasn't changed. He plays with so much emotion, and everybody else just follows him."

On the field, though, it's Lewis who sometimes follows Ngata. The former University of Oregon standout has been a major reason Lewis' play has improved the past three seasons. Ngata is a defensive lineman who plays like an offensive lineman.

Ngata doesn't just hold up offensive linemen, keeping them away from Lewis. He also moves them out of the way and creates lanes for Lewis, who looks like a running back coming through gaping holes.

No wonder Lewis lobbied Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome for a big defensive tackle several years ago.

"That big old rascal is just coming into his own," Ryan said of Ngata. "He just doesn't move people; he moves them with one hand."

Lewis is better with Ngata, but we're still seeing the vintage Lewis, as well. He is running sideline to sideline stalking running backs and tight ends (see the Cleveland Browns' Kellen Winslow). His fast pace on the field is matched by his intensity in the huddle.

"Ray talks a lot on the field," Ngata said. "He is always trying to find the pulse, whether we're too calm or too excited. He has a way of ramping us up each day, getting us ready for Sunday."

Lewis' workouts are legendary. He still runs that hill at Oregon Ridge with a log on his back. He is constantly in the sauna or whirlpool and always is stretching, which helps to cut down on injuries.

It's amazing he has suffered few major injuries throughout his career. It's just as incredible that he hasn't slowed down much despite his reckless style and the way he abuses his body.

But a major part of Lewis' game is intimidation. Psychologically, he can scare opponents before the game starts.

"I was pretty intimidated by him, and I was on his team," Johnson said.

So far, it has been a near perfect season for Lewis. During training camp when new coach John Harbaugh was trying to establish a presence with his players, there were veterans who were slow to believe in him. Lewis could have been one of them and led a small revolt. After all, he was a veteran, and he didn't need long meetings and a lot of contact in practices.

Instead, Lewis didn't balk and was always one of the first on the field. He didn't complain, and he even scolded some of those who did.

"It's great to have the opportunity to coach a football team that Ray Lewis is on," Harbaugh said. "Just watching practice, you see why he is one of the all-time greats, why he's a first-ballot Hall of Famer and why he believes he has a lot of football left in him. Because he does."


Winslow to spend another night in the Clinic

Browns tight end Kellen Winslow will remain in the Cleveland Clinic for a second night tonight with an undisclosed illness, according to a Browns spokesperson.

Winslow is still listed as questionable for Monday night's game against the New York Giants, meaning there is a 50 percent chance he will play.
The Browns had hoped he would be released on Friday and possibly return to practice on Saturday.

Returning from the bye week Winslow had appeared healthy at Monday's workout, but missed practice Wednesday and Thursday, then was hospitalized Thursday evening.


Parrish has firm hold on recovery from surgery

Buffalo Bills receiver Roscoe Parrish is busy this week carrying a Nerf football.

The Bills hope it won’t be too long before he’s grabbing a real pigskin.

Parrish said he is recovering well from the torn ligaments in his thumb, which he suffered in the Bills’ win over the Oakland Raiders on Sept. 21.

“Everything went pretty good with the surgery,” Parrish said after Bills practice this week. “The surgery was only 20 minutes, so it wasn’t a long process. We have everything going pretty good right now, and I’m just taking it day-by- day.”

After his surgery, it was estimated he would be out of the lineup for four to six weeks. So he is expected to miss the Bills’ next game, against San Diego, on Oct. 19. The four-week mark is Oct. 21. So there’s a chance he could be ready for the game in his hometown of Miami on Oct. 26. If Parrish were to miss six weeks and have no setbacks, he would return for the game at New England on Nov. 9.

“I don’t want to say I’m going to be back on this day, I’m just taking everything day-by-day and I’m going with my rehab every day,” Parrish said. “This bye week is helping me out a lot.”

Parrish was watching practice inside Ralph Wilson Stadium this week. He suggested he might try to do some sort of limited practice work in the coming week.

He was walking around the locker room this week squeezing an orange Nerf football to build up strength in his left thumb.

“Each day I’m feeling better about it,” Parrish said. “I’m squeezing the Nerf ball to get the strength back. As far as the movement of it goes, I have that back.”

Parrish adds an explosive element to the Bills’ offense and special teams. He had seven catches for 60 yards and a touchdown in the first three games. The TD came on a 14-yard pass in the fourth quarter of the Oakland game. Parrish actually had injured the thumb before the touchdown play. But it wasn’t too painful so he went back in the game.

On punt returns Parrish is averaging 15.2 yards on 11 returns, with a 63- yard score, which came in the season-opener against Seattle.

Parrish broke his left wrist during training camp of the 2005 season. He came back and played with a cast on his wrist over the final 10 weeks of the regular season. Parrish said he’s expecting an easier adjustment this time.

“It’s a much different process than the wrist injury,” Parrish said. “If you look at it, I still finished the game with the injury against Oakland and caught a touchdown pass. It’s not as difficult this time. With the wrist injury, I was in pain when it happened and wasn’t able to do anything.”


Three Dolphins fined $10,000 each for end-zone dance

Ikechuku Ndukwe's dancing days are over.

Ndukwe, a second-year guard, can't afford to get carried away the way he did Sunday during the Dolphins' 17-10 win against San Diego.

Ndukwe joined running back Ronnie Brown and offensive tackle Vernon Carey for an end-zone dance - the Cupid Shuffle - to celebrate Brown's touchdown run.

The NFL slapped each player with a $10,000 fine for unsportsmanlike conduct. It was a stiff fine for each player, but especially for Ndukwe, who makes a base salary of $370,000.

"It hurt me badly," he said. "I think it's a lot of money for anybody, but it's a lot of money for me."

The fine is a huge cut of Ndukwe's next game check. He makes a little less than $22,000 before taxes each week of the NFL season.

When he heard the news, he said, "I was shocked by it."

Brown was, too.

"I was surprised by the amount more so than getting fined," he said. "Rules are rules and I figured there would be some kind of disciplinary action, but I didn't think $10,000 worth for a little shuffle."

But Brown and Carey are former first-round picks making millions. Ndukwe, who making his third NFL start, wasn't even drafted and is making the NFL minimum.

The players are appealing the fine, but if it sticks, Brown - who has a base salary of $3.66 million - said he would pay half of the fine for Ndukwe.

Carey, who was the instigator for the dance and makes $2.57 million, is getting off relatively easy.

"I figured Vern was going to give me some money, but nah," Ndukwe said.

Next time, Ndukwe will know what to do.

"No more dancing for me," he said. "I'm running straight for the sideline."


Phillies’ Pat Burrell turning jeers into cheers

PHILADELPHIA - There is a guy who sits 12 rows back in the leftfield bleachers who has, during the years, embraced Pat Burrell like a brother, kicked him around like a dog, and now loves him like an old army buddy again. Anyone who has sat back there on Sunday afternoons has heard him, has laughed with him and now, laughs at him.

Because he is us. In a nutshell. And we are, in this town, very much like the stuff inside those nutshells. We love our stars here, we hate our stars here, we argue the degrees of their worthiness and we are as nutty about it as that green thing that dances atop the dugout.

That said, there has never been a player like Pat Burrell in this town. No one has been loved, loathed and loved again the way he has, at least while wearing a hometown uniform the entire time.

And so there they were again Thursday night, as Burrell trotted to his spot after his sixth-inning laser of a home run into those very seats provided the winning run in the Phillies’ 3-2 victory over the Dodgers in Game 1. Some were cheering. Some were downright worshipping. The guy 12 rows back was probably doing what he always does, cracking funny.

"You see that?" asked Jimmy Rollins, laughing. "They’ve been doing that for a while. They get the Pat Burrell standing ovation going every time he does something spectacular. But at the same time when he isn’t doing something spectacular, I turn around. Because some of the things they say make me laugh."

"And he’s just sitting there putting his hands up like, ’What can I do?’ "

Here’s what Burrell didn’t do. He didn’t demand a trade. He didn’t lash out at the fans, call us names back, names like "front-runners." He never spoke obscenely about our relationships with cousins and siblings. Recalling his famous blow-off of manager Larry Bowa after that home run at Shea, it was funny to see the two men shake hands and embrace before Thursday night’s game.

Columnist Bill Conlin, sitting to my right, said Del Ennis was loved and hated before he was dealt to St. Louis, and that Dick Allen went love-hate, love-hate in his two stints here. There have been many others who have started out loved and ended up hated, and there have been many, many, many who were shipped out once it got ugly.

See Scott Rolen.

Largely because of that big contract he signed after Rolen’s exit, Burrell has hung around long enough to change our minds. And maybe his mind warmed to us a little, too. For the second playoff game in a row, he did something else that he didn’t used to do. He let us in, he let us share his joy, he seemed genuinely appreciative of the towel-waving love that cascaded down from the 45,839 at Citizens Bank Park.

Real emotion poured from him in the Milwaukee clubhouse the other day, and you could see the glee as he rolled past third base Thursday night.
"I don’t know if I feel it with him but I’m definitely happy for him," Rollins said. "It’s a situation where he’s going to have to do that. And he knows that."

Said Burrell: "These games get so magnified. One at-bat can change things."

The Phillies will face an interesting decision in the offseason. That, in itself, is remarkable, as remarkable as the fans’ turnaround, and not unrelated to it. But it starts with the bat, starts with a poise that has been forged through some tough times here. It would be amazing to think, really, that he could play in this uniform his whole career.

"He’s showing that he’s a big-time player," Rollins said. "And that always helps when teams are deciding whether to bring you back. How are you at crunch time."

Yeah, well, it’s more than that. There is talk that the Dodgers will let Manny Ramirez [stats] walk after this season, rather than risk the deterioration of popularity he underwent in Boston and Cleveland before that. There was once that sense with Pat Burrell, too, and not too long ago.

But to watch the towel-wavers out there Thursday night, he’s reversed that dynamic in a way that some famous homegrown stars never could.
Charles Barkley walked. A.I., too. This? This is something we’ve never seen in this town before. And thankfully, it’s denting our reputation as unforgiving souls.


Rookie Report

Kenny Phillips, FS, Giants - While currently a second-team player, Phillips is getting extensive action in the Giants base defense.  He has responded well and played the run well against the Seahawks. He can be slow to react, like on Julius Jones’ 13-yard reception in the second quarter, but once he commits to the ball carrier, he takes few false steps.


McGahee healthy

Ravens offensive coordinator Cam Cameron indicated Thursday that Willis McGahee (ribs) is as healthy as he's been all season.

"You know, he's healthy," Cameron said. "And he was healthy last week. He’s not 100 percent, but probably there aren’t many backs at this stage who are. I think he’ll have a heck of a ball game" in Week 6. It would be a surprise if McGahee didn't go over 100 yards against the banged-up Colts.


Colts' Reggie Wayne's latest catch now greatest

INDIANAPOLIS - Enough people have gushed about Reggie Wayne's game-winning catch against the Houston Texans, he's willing to rank it No.1 in his career.

It'd be hard to find a more important one. If Wayne didn't catch it, the Colts would be 1-3 today and gasping for air in the AFC South race. At 2-2, they still have a climb to catch 5-0 Tennessee.

“That (catch) was just me working,” Wayne said Wednesday at the Colts practice complex. “My number was called and I had to try to find a way to make something happen. We made a nice little surge, so why not be the guy that gets the winning touchdown?”

Wayne's catch - a falling one-hander that required an officials' review - gave the Colts a 31-27 win over the Texans and completed a climb back from a 17-point deficit.

The Colts will try to build on that momentum when they play the Baltimore Ravens (2-2) at 1 p.m. Sunday in Lucas Oil Stadium.

Much has been made about the timing of the Colts' passing game, and the fact it hasn't looked as consistently sharp as usual. Part of that can be attributed to the high standards set by quarterback Peyton Manning and friends, and the fact Manning missed training camp.

But, with the game in the balance, Manning put the game-winning pass where only Wayne could reach it, and Wayne pulled out a catch that shows why he's a Pro Bowl receiver and in the argument for best receiver in the NFL.

Wayne was asked if he ranked his best catches and where Sunday's fell in the ranking.

“The way everybody's talking about it, it's kind of hard not to put it at the top,” Wayne said. “I do have some catches in my career that a lot of y'all haven't seen. I made some good catches in high school, but the way everybody's talking about it, it's pushing toward the top.”

Wayne sold the catch with his body language afterward as the official signaled touchdown, but he says he wasn't quite as sure as it looked.

“I was a little shaky, a little bit,” he said. “I knew I had the ball, but I wasn't sure about my feet. At the same time, it's never good to leave it in the referees' hands. I was praying like everybody else. Then, once I saw the replay, I knew it was good.”

Wayne said Colts receivers practice one-handed catches near the sideline or in the end zone every day in practice.

Colts coach Tony Dungy knew the catch looked familiar.

“I hate to say ‘routine,' but it's what we see a lot in practice,” Dungy said. “Our guys do that. They have very, very good concentration. Catching the ball, getting it secured with one hand and getting his feet down - it was a very, very athletic play, but it's one we see a lot.”

McIntosh Tries to Let His Play Do All the Talking

As he prepared to leave the locker room at Redskins Park the other day, weak-side linebacker Rocky McIntosh was in no mood to answer reporters' questions. McIntosh was not upset; he would just prefer never to be interviewed.

"Nah man, can't do it," he politely repeated several times in a scene that has become familiar at the complex. "You know that's not me. I'm not that guy. Why do you want to talk to me? I haven't done anything, anyway."

Actually, McIntosh has done a lot. He played well again in Sunday's 23-17 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles, continuing his impressive return to the lineup after reconstructive knee surgery ended his 2007 season.

McIntosh's strong performance helped Washington limit Philadelphia to 254 yards of total offense -- including only 174 yards after the game's opening possession -- in its fourth consecutive victory. With strong-side linebacker Marcus Washington slowed by recurring hamstring problems again this season, McIntosh and middle linebacker London Fletcher have provided the group's foundation.

In his third season, McIntosh has emerged as a leader on defense, coaches and players said, especially during the winning streak. Washington (4-1) hosts the St. Louis Rams (0-4) on Sunday at FedEx Field.

McIntosh is respected in the locker room for his selfless approach and dedication during his offseason rehabilitation from the knee surgery. Of course, he would rather not talk about that.

"I'm just out there to help my teammates," said McIntosh, who each week declines many interview requests. "We all work for each other. It's like a chain: Everybody's got to work or the chain is going to pop or break down. We all got to work together. That's the way I see it."

Credited with 31 tackles, including 25 unassisted, McIntosh ranks second on the team to Fletcher in both categories. He also has two of the team's three forced fumbles (Fletcher has the other).

He was solid against the run and in pass defense in the victory over the Eagles, recording five unassisted tackles and breaking up one pass. The Eagles had hoped for a bounce on offense because of the return of All-Pro running back Brian Westbrook, who sat out the previous game after spraining his right ankle.

With McIntosh winning many of his individual battles on the edge, the Eagles struggled to run wide. Philadelphia had only 58 yards rushing on 18 carries, and Westbrook finished with 33 yards and a 2.8-yard average. "We practiced the whole week like he was going to play 100 percent," McIntosh said. "He got in the game, he made some plays, but we didn't make no adjustments. We just stuck to our game plan out there and executed."

Washington ranks 13th in the league in total defense, giving up an average of 303 yards per game. The Redskins are ninth in rushing defense with an 85.4-yard average.

"Rocky is becoming a very, very fine football player," defensive coordinator Greg Blache said. "In the run game, he's always been a big hitter, but his pass coverage is starting to improve. He's becoming much more confident, and not just as far as assignments.

"He's always been [solid] assignment-wise, but the nuances and the subtleties of the game are starting to become second nature to him. You see growth taking place, but also his ability to be a leader. Not necessarily a 'rah-rah guy,' but just a supportive guy out on the field. So there's a lot of growth in Rocky."

McIntosh also was among the Redskins' defensive catalysts during a 24-17 victory over the Arizona Cardinals in Week 3. He led Washington with 10 tackles, including seven unassisted, and was credited with half a sack. Although McIntosh reluctantly acknowledged that "it feels cool" to contribute to the Redskins' early success, he strongly believes "everybody on defense is a leader in some sort of way. There's certain things guys admire about each other."

Many Redskins players admired McIntosh for the tireless work ethic he displayed in rehab after he was injured Dec. 16. McIntosh tore the anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in his left knee in a 22-10 victory over the New York Giants at Giants Stadium. He had surgery shortly after the swelling subsided and began the long recovery process.

Despite sitting out the last two games in 2007 because of his damaged knee, McIntosh finished second on the team in tackles with 105, including 70 unassisted, according to statistics compiled by the team. Fletcher finished with 128 tackles.

In training camp in July, McIntosh impressed at times when the first-team offense and first-team defense competed in 11-on-11 drills, but, on the recommendation of the Redskins' medical staff, Coach Jim Zorn and Blache exercised caution. They held out McIntosh from the team's first two preseason games, and McIntosh returned to the lineup on Aug. 16 against the New York Jets at Giants Stadium.

"Obviously, the first couple of preseason games, it took him a little bit just to get the confidence back in his knee, but he's been playing well for us now," Fletcher said. "He's playing the run real well, making plays in the passing game and creating turnovers. He's definitely a big part of our success."

McIntosh, who had a history of right knee problems while at the University of Miami, has put his most recent procedure behind him. "The injury, that's a long time ago," he said. "You can't worry about that. The NFL [stands for] 'Not For Long.' You can't worry about that."

And McIntosh also cannot focus on his individual success in previous games, he said, because "I don't really go by that. I'm going to go out there and do what I've got to do each week; the past doesn't matter. However, [the coaches] want me to do it, special teams, defense, wherever they want me to go, I'm going to go do it."

McIntosh has not disappointed, linebackers coach Kirk Olivadotti said. "Rocky's doing the things that we expect of him, and he's taking steps every week and getting closer to being the guy he wants to be," Olivadotti said. "It's not about our expectations as coaches; Rocky wants to be a good player.

"He'll continue to prepare and he'll continue to get better. Rocky's going to play physical for you, and he's going to do good things, but he's like anybody else. We need to work on some stuff, but he's playing at a level that can help us win. It's just kind of been a progression the whole way."
McIntosh intends to continue climbing. "Some little part of the brain, you could say, 'I'm happy,' " McIntosh said. "But the rest is just not satisfied."


Saints' Shockey back at practice

New Orleans, LA (Sports Network) - New Orleans tight end Jeremy Shockey and star wide receiver Marques Colston appear close to returning to the playing field as each participated in practice during the week.

Shockey, who underwent sports hernia surgery after Week 3, was to miss three- to-six weeks with the injury but took limited reps on Wednesday before sitting out practice on Thursday.

The off-season acquisition from the New York Giants has recorded 16 catches for 151 yards in New Orleans' first three games this season.

Both Shockey and Colston's status for Sunday against the Raiders remains uncertain.



Nolan took his lumps about his defense Monday and Tuesday but he wasn't shy about mentioning the lopsided time of possession and the lack of action for Frank Gore. Nolan talked about this at his Monday news conference and more stridently on his radio stint Tuesday on KNBR's Morning Show with Murph and Mac.

Along with saying his defense had to stop the opposition on third down, Nolan also said, "The offense needs to stay on the field longer. We were able to run the ball better than we thought we would be able to going into the game. If we had had more opportunity we would have been able to show it."

He's right. I don't see the Patriots enough to know if they use their goofy two-lineman, three-linebacker and six defensive-back alignment all the time. They used it a lot against the 49ers, even against the 49ers' two-receivers looks. This defense is basically begging the 49ers to run. It would be interesting to see if Miami's "wildcat" formation was used against this defense two weeks ago when the Dolphins upset New England. The wildcat puts three (or four receivers out there if you count the quarterback) with a direct shotgun hike to the running back who then takes off. The 49ers used the wildcat once against the Patriots 2-3-6, and Frank Gore gained an easy 7 yards. Why not keep using it until the Patriots prove they can stop it?


Sick Winslow misses practice again

BEREA, Ohio (AP) -- The Cleveland Browns sent tight end Kellen Winslow to the doctor for tests after he missed his second straight day of practice with an unspecified "illness."

Browns coach Romeo Crennel said Winslow, who has been plagued by injuries throughout his NFL career, has been sick for two days. Crennel would not say if Winslow would play in Monday night's game against the New York Giants.

"He's a valuable piece to the puzzle we have," Crennel said Thursday. "I know that he'll want to play, so he'll do everything he can to be able to play."

Crennel would not elaborate on Winslow's condition or disclose any medical problems.

"Not until after doctors take look at him and see if they can know what it is," he said.

Team spokesman Bill Bonsiewicz said the team would have no further update on Winslow until Friday, when Crennel holds his daily news conference.

Winslow's agent, Drew Rosenhaus, did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

Winslow caught 82 passes and made the Pro Bowl last season, his fourth as a pro. So far this year, he has 19 catches and one touchdown for the Browns (1-3).

Winslow was kept out of practice last week when the Browns had a bye. He practiced on Monday and was at the team's training facility on Wednesday but did not participate in the club's workout. This past offseason, Winslow had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee.

He has had other procedures on the knee, including one to clean out a staph infection he got while recovering from injuries sustained in a near-fatal motorcycle accident that caused him to miss the entire 2005 season.


Burrell comes up big again

Manny Ramirez never moved, just watched it go.

Pat Burrell's sixth-inning shot landed just past the flower bed in left field, in the front row. Ramirez had no doubts about its resting place. Neither did Derek Lowe, cursing to himself, again. After leaving a pitch up to Chase Utley, the Dodgers' starter had left another up to Burrell. It was his last pitch of the game.

"Oh, yeah, they were up," Phillies batting coach Milt Thompson said in the clubhouse last night after the 3-2 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series.

"Tonight I'm facing a guy, he's a great pitcher, great sinker," Burrell said. "I'm not sure I've had a whole lot of success against him. And if I did, I don't remember. I really just told myself to grind it out. Stay in there on him. Make him throw some pitches. Make him work."

So Burrell's crazy Phillies ride continues. He's slumping. He's hitting. He's lunging. He's waiting . . . Fans tolerate him, are thankful for him, are patient with him, can live with seeing him go after this season . . .

All of that just this season, a microcosm of his career.

"I'm just glad they love him right now," Thompson said.

The odds were good that a leftfielder would provide last night's game-winning hit, and going into the sixth inning, Ramirez had it. His first-inning double was holding up.

Before the game, Phils manager Charlie Manuel had been asked about which team had edge in power. Manuel noted that the Dodgers had Ramirez but said, "I would give power to our team." Five games into the postseason, Burrell has three home runs. Ramirez actually had to hustle to keep Burrell to a single in the second inning.

"I think Pat is seeing the ball better," Manuel said afterward. "He's staying back, getting a better look at the ball. He's not getting out over his front side. And, like I said, his bat's quicker now."

The manager talked about the slumping late-season Burrell.

"He was getting out, striding too soon, getting out over his front side and just kind of swinging with his - just his upper body. What do I call it, somebody who swing swith his hands and arms. Right now, he's staying back behind the ball and driving the ball."

Dodgers manager Joe Torre knew Burrell was capable of hitting a pitch that was left up.

"Burrell's a good hitter; he's had a hell of a year," Torre said. "He just stayed with that pitch."


Portis Earns NFC Weekly Honors

Washington Redskins running back Clinton Portis, Minnesota Vikings cornerback Antoine Winfield and New Orleans Saints running back/punt returner Reggie Bush were named the NFC's top players for Week 5 of the NFL season.

Portis was named Offensive Player of the Week after running for 145 yards on 29 carries and a touchdown in the Redskins' 23-17 win at Philadelphia. The seven-year veteran led a rushing attack that gained 203 yards on the ground against what had been the top rushing defense in the NFL. Portis rushed for 88 yards in the third quarter alone and sealed the victory on a three-yard run on 4th-and-1, allowing the Redskins to run out the clock.

It was the third weekly award for Portis, who is the only running back in franchise history to be named Offensive Player of the Week twice in a career.


Seahawks demote Jennings

RENTON -- Sunday's blowout loss to the New York Giants came with a price for at least two Seattle Seahawks.

Cornerback Kelly Jennings and wide receiver Billy McMullen appear unlikely to start Sunday's game against Green Bay.

"We've talked to the players, and my point of emphasis was that they try not to take those things personally," coach Mike Holmgren said. "As disappointed as (they) might be, it's our job to try and win the football games and put the best group out there. And you kind of have to earn that every week. And so that's why we did a couple of things."

Jennings, who will be replaced by Josh Wilson, said that he understood the decision.

“I feel like I have a job to do on the defense, and right now I don’t feel like I’m getting it done," said Jennings, who gave up a long touchdown on the Giants' first drive Sunday. "It’s a coaches’ decision, and if I was a coach, I would do it the same way. For me personally, I can only try to get better. I can only do what I can do.”

Koren Robinson is likely to replace McMullen in the starting lineup.

Strong start has Portis thinking up new tricks

ASHBURN, Va. (AP) _ Off the best start of his NFL career for a team that's won four straight, Clinton Portis was in back in rare form Wednesday with a few one-liners, an interesting compliment for former coach Joe Gibbs and a brand new idea: the "let's pretend I'm calling the play" trick.

To explain: Portis was the one who suggested the fourth-and-1 draw that put the game away in last week's victory over the Philadelphia Eagles. New coach Jim Zorn has proven to be receptive to taking advice from players during games, and Portis said he's successfully lobbied for a few carries already this season.

Therefore, Portis figures, teams will now be expecting him to get the ball whenever he's seen on the sidelines speaking with Zorn. Thus, it's time to pull off the double-cross.

"The whole world's going to think I'm around him calling my number, so we've got to go and fake them out a couple of times," Portis said. "I'm going to huddle up with Coach Z, probably at midfield, get him to come out to the 50 and tell him to just draw it up in the dirt so the cameras can get it and everybody can see it. Hopefully they call down from the box and tell the coordinator, 'Whoa, we got the play!'"

Then real play, of course, would be a play-action fake and a deep pass over the middle. Touchdown in the bag.

Ah, that Portis. Pure genius.

The funny thing is that Zorn might actually listen. It's hard to ignore someone who is having such a good season.

Portis has run for 514 yards, a better five-game start than he had even in his breakout seasons with the Denver Broncos. He's second in the NFL in yards rushing behind Atlanta's Micheal Turner (543), and his 145 yards on 29 carries against the Eagles earned him NFC offensive player of the week honors.

So, might Portis do something special for his linemen this week? Ha!

"That's the job that they're supposed to do," Portis said. "They're supposed to block, so I can have some running lanes. I don't want them to get used to every time they do something good, we hand them a little envelope with some money in it. 'Hey, here's a plasma TV.' That's what they looking for. Randy (Thomas), he's been talking about plasmas and Rolexes. Randy asked for a Rolex this morning, so I cannot lead them into thinking I'm capable of doing that."

Portis was considered on the verge of becoming an all-time great when he came to the Redskins in 2004 after back-to-back 1,500-yard seasons with the Broncos, but four seasons of Gibbs' conservative, grinding offense took its toll. His average per carry plunged from 5.5 to approximately 4.0, and the breakaway runs that so thrilled the Mile High City virtually disappeared in the nation's capital.

Now Portis is again making a case to be one of the top two or three backs in the league. And, to hear him talk, those four tough Gibbs years were worth it — even if they only helped build character.

"Don't jump on my bandwagon," Portis said. "I think I've always been the same way. I think I'm back to having the opportunity of showcasing my talent. I think Coach Gibbs is probably the greatest thing to ever happen to me — because he taught me to be humble. He taught me the appreciation of the every yard. I think the humbleness and appreciation came out of Coach Gibbs.

"Now you get to this point with Coach Z, where all of a sudden, it's 'Whoa, Clinton could still do it!' I always could do it. I just wasn't in position to do it. When you're the focal point and everybody knows you're getting the ball and they're sticking 10 people in the box, there's not much I can do."

Portis loves Zorn's unpredictable play-calling style that spreads the ball around the field. With Jason Campbell playing solid quarterback, teams are having to respect the pass on any down, so Portis finds the lanes are wider. Last year, he had a run of 20 yards or more in only three of 16 games. This year, he's already had 20-yard runs already in three of five games for the Redskins (4-1).

"Exciting, if you ask me," Portis said. "When somebody calls a play and starts smiling like, 'This is it, this is the play right here, I'm telling you, this is going to happen, and this is where we're going,' and its happens? It like he really knows his stuff."

Portis also said his extra offseason work is paying off. Also, Zorn has frequently used Portis as a slot receiver, adding another dimension to the offense.

"I would say that transformation is just to an all-around back," Portis said. "You can't label me a scat-back or a third-down back. Now you see I can grind. You know I can break the big ones, so I would say 'all-around back.'"

Portis is still missing that length-of-field highlight run — he hasn't broken one for more than 50 yards since the first game of the 2004 season — but he responds to that by saying: "People are always going to want more."

That's the same answer he gives when asked about the costumes he wore every week during the 2005 run to playoffs. Fans are always hoping he'll reprise that routine.

"It was three years ago, and people still talk about it like it just happened," Portis said. "When things are going well, they'll pat you on the shoulder for everything. I'm sure they'll have my high school highlight film out soon."


Andre Johnson Breaks Out

The Houston Chronicle reports Texans WR Andre Johnson had the break-out game he needed against the Colts, catching nine passes for 131 yards and a touchdown.


Davenport likely to stay on Steelers' roster

Katmandu: Ed, what is the love affair with Najeh Davenport? Fast Willie will be back next week, Moore is solid, and Gary Russell is more than competent. Why not sign a kick returner instead of a big back who plays small like Davenport? Do you anticipate Davenport getting released? I'd much rather have Patrick Baily back on the roster anyways.

Ed Bouchette: Davenport is more than a kick returner. He is insurance in case another RB goes down. With Mendenhall on IR, I would expect Davenport to stick the rest of the season. And, if there's a kick returner out there who is all that good he would not be unsigned.


Buck Ortega Waived

The Saints signed kicker Taylor Mehlhaff, tight end Sean Ryan, defensive end Jeff Charleston and defensive tackle Montavious Stanley on Wednesday to replace several injured players.

Kicker Martin Gramatica, cornerback Tracy Porter and fullback Olaniyi Sobomehin have been placed on injured reserve, and tight end Buck Ortega has been waived.


Huff's Key To Success: Kick Back, Chill Out

As the Orioles head into the offseason with twice as many questions as they have answers, one problem they do not have for 2009 is cleanup hitter Aubrey Huff.

Huff was named winner of the Louis M. Hatter award as the Most Valuable Oriole on the final weekend of the season. It was well deserved as Huff finished the season hitting .304 with 32 home runs, 48 doubles and 108 RBIs. 

Not bad for a guy who was booed on Opening Day for some controversial comments he made about the city of Baltimore during the offseason. “Maybe it motivated him,” said Orioles manager Dave Trembley. “Maybe it was his way of trying to do things a little better. Maybe it was his way of trying to undo some of the things he wishes he could take back. That’s the way I look at it. He certainly didn’t let anything bother him.”

That’s because Huff set goals for himself before the start of the year, and those goals were no different this year from what they have been in the past.

“I go into spring training every year wanting to hit .300 and hit 30 homers and drive in 100, that’s usually a goal I shoot for,” Huff said. “You know, I was fortunate enough to get those numbers this year, and it makes it a little sweeter when you consider what I went through in the offseason with the fans and everything. Hopefully all is forgotten, and we can go into next year and try to do it all over again.”

Part of Huff’s success came in the early part of the season. A notoriously slow starter, he wasn’t hitting for average in April and May, but he was being productive in the middle of the lineup.

“The average wasn’t there early on, but the satisfaction was that late in the game I was getting big hits,” the 31-year-old veteran said. “I was driving in some runs and winning games. I don’t think I was over .240 or .250 before the first two months of the season, but there were good power numbers and RBIs, so that was definitely a confidence builder going into the rest of the year.”

Now Trembley doesn’t have to go into next season wondering who is going to provide power in the middle of the order.

“He has put up incredible offensive numbers,” Trembley said. “Total bases, I mean every category, runs scored. He has been a legitimate No. 4 hitter. That’s what he’s been.”

For the first time in years, Huff said he did very little in terms of heavy workouts in the offseason.

“Whether I started earlier than December, later than December, lifting harder, running harder, nothing ever worked,” he said. “Then this year I did absolutely nothing except for maybe stretching and cardio. I didn’t pick up a ball or a bat until spring training, and I guarantee that’s what I will do again.”

Huff credits his season to the success of guys at the top of the order, leadoff man Brian Roberts and right fielder Nick Markakis.

“If it wasn’t for those two getting on for me all year, I’m not driving in 100 runs,” Huff said. “I mean, these guys are the on-base guys. Nick has a .400 on-base percentage, they both play spectacular defense, [are] great hitters, and they are definitely the key to this team.”

“He was tremendous,” Roberts said. “That’s the kind of player and hitter we saw in Tampa for so long. … I think that the way he swung the bat this year was for a long time just fun to sit and watch. There was probably a handful of us in there watching his video and trying to figure out how we could hit like him.

"It’s fun to watch guys have years like that, and I think he’s capable of repeating it. It’s not like this is the first time he’s had that kind of year. If you look back on his numbers, he’s had years like this before, so we’ll expect nothing short of that next year.”

In fact, Roberts may just try the Aubrey Huff offseason conditioning program.

“Sit and eat donuts," Roberts said. "That’s what he did. I might try the donut plan this winter.”


NFL U Week 5 Video Highlights

Check out the return of our NFL U Video Highlights. Like we did back in 2006, proCanes.com will provide our fans every week video highlights of all of our NFL U stars along with pictures from the current NFL Week. Click here to check out our Week 5 Video Highlights or click above on NFL U Video Highlights. Enjoy this week's highlights which feature a Brandon Meriweather INT, a Jon Beason INT, a Reggie Wayne TD, a Devin Hester TD and more!

NFL U Week 5 Photos

Check out Week 5 photos from around the the NFL of our proCanes. Click here to see the photos.

Roscoe Injury Update

Receive Roscoe Parrish provided an update as he appeared in the locker room for the first time since his thumb surgery.

“Right now I’m just taking it day by day and everything is going pretty good," said Parrish. "I don’t want to say I’m going to be back on a specific day. I’m just taking it day by day and going with my rehab every day.”

The stitches were still in Parrish's hand from surgery, but he said it was a quick surgery. He's hopeful that he'll be able to practice next week. BuffaloBills.com


McKinnie Performs Well

Bryant McKinnie was back at left tackle following his four-game suspension and held up relatively well. "He got bulled maybe once or twice, but I thought stamina was good," Childress said. "I think I mentioned last night that I didn't have to call his name very much."


The Schein Nine: Portis the early MVP

2. There are three juicy storylines with the Redskins' sensational comeback win in Philadelphia.
Washington is one of the best teams in the NFL thus far.
The Eagles choked away a lead and got manhandled at home.
Clinton Portis is the league MVP through five weeks.

Color me surprised, impressed and totally dead wrong on this Redskins team and Jim Zorn.

In a season where the Skins have dropped New Orleans and Arizona and won in Dallas, I'll make this case this was the most impressive win of the year.

Washington was down 14-0 in a blink of an eye in the first quarter after a DeSean Jackson return for a touchdown.

But then Portis (who in the NFL has played better ball in the first five weeks?) just took over. Portis and the Washington offensive line shoved around the Eagles. Portis ran for 145 yards against a defense giving up less than 60 on the ground per game. The back was tough and fresh in the fourth quarter. Portis was the best player on the field and humiliated the Eagles defense.

Zorn, once again, called a brilliant game mixing up the run and pass. He even had Antwaan Randle El throw a touchdown pass to Chris Cooley. The tight end was unstoppable with eight catches for 109 yards.

Washington's defense was incredible once again under Greg Blache. The Eagles offense was totally inept. Philadelphia was helpless on third downs.

This was a killer loss for the Eagles, who fall to 0-2 in the division and 2-3 on the season. In the NFC East, that cannot happen.

And now the Eagles have to deal with Brian Westbrook's broken ribs for the San Fran game this weekend.


Kenny Phillips Update

Loved the play by S Kenny Phillips in the second quarter on an outside run by Julius Jones. He looked like he had a first, but Phillips came out of nowhere - finally, there's that closing speed we saw all summer - and knocked him out just short of the first down marker.


Tanard Davis Works Out

The Titans invited several defensive backs to work out, including safeties John Busing, Jerome Carter, Terrence Holt and safety/cornerback Atlon McCann. Also working out were cornerbacks Tanard Davis, Rashod Moulton, Jerome Perry and Tyrone Poole.


To the kids on his team, New York Giants punter is just Coach Feagles

His defeated football team kneeling around him, the head coach stood in the middle of a semicircle of muddied jerseys and grass-stained egos. He pulled off his cap and rubbed his bald head, searching for the right words, a message that would stick better than the missed tackles that had driven him crazy for the past hour.

He quickly and sternly silenced a groundswell of grumbling about the officiating, then started his speech.

"The difference between winning and losing comes from here," he said, tapping his chest and leaning in for emphasis. "It comes from the heart. You have to want it. Football is about desire and toughness. It's about reaching down and ... and ...

"Hey, is anybody listening to me?"

Uh, no, actually. Nineteen players were looking in about a dozen directions. Some were giving hand signals to their parents, who impatiently jangled car keys. Others were distracted by pony-tailed, giggling cheerleaders. Some glanced at the long line and wondered if the refreshment stand would be out of hot chocolate by the time this boring sermon was over. So, the coach did what he does best: He punted.

"Practice on Monday night," he said with a sigh. "See you then."

In just about any other setting, people would have been hanging on every word from Jeff Feagles. A Rotary meeting of Giants worshippers somewhere in New Jersey. A Big Blue Travel reception on the eve of a critical road game. A Super Bowl victory rally on the steps of New York City Hall.

But here, on a crisp Friday night, under the lights at scruffy Veterans Field in Ridgewood -- where there are no goalposts, only 80 yards between end zones, and a luxury box is a minivan pointed toward the field with the heater running -- one of the greatest punters in NFL history simply couldn't compete with the call of hot dogs and Kit-Kat bars.

"You have to remind yourself that they're 9 years old," Feagles said.

Translation: The kids are not impressed. They can tune him out like any other adult.

The guy is 42 and still playing in the NFL, and just about every time his right foot hits the ball, he sets a record. He has played in all 324 regular-season games since his career began, punting 1,596 times for 66,254 yards. And when he has to drop one inside the opponents' 20-yard line, Feagles hit punts like Tiger Woods hits wedges. If there weren't a bias against punters, he would be a Hall of Fame slam dunk.

But when it comes to his resume, this is what the kids hear: Blah, blah, blah.

"They know he's a professional football player," parent Mark Miller said. "But, to them, he's just 'Coach Feagles.' He's like their Little League coach or basketball coach."

On the eve of the season, Feagles invited the parents and players to his home and let them behind the velvet ropes of his 21-year career. They saw game jerseys from his days with the Patriots, Eagles and Cardinals, Seahawks and Giants. They held game balls. They caressed memorabilia from the unlikely Super Bowl triumph last February.

"Now, that was cool," running back Quincy Peene said.

But when they left the house, they left Jeff Feagles, NFL punter, in the basement. Out here, in the real world, where they see him every day in warmups and sneakers, he is one of them. With four sons (who are terrific athletes) and a thirst to coach, Feagles is a fixture at any local sports event.

"Ike Hilliard came here one day and everyone went nuts," high school student Ryan Ghaderi said. "Mr. Feagles is probably more famous, but he's just Mr. Feagles. He's not Jeff Feagles, Giants punter. Not to us, anyway."

And because he is just one of them, he is open to the ribbing. They still laugh about the time he volunteered to coach a seventh-grade lacrosse team. Feagles already had coached football, basketball and baseball in town. Did he know anything about lacrosse?

"Not a thing," Ghaderi said. "He would say things and we would go, 'Huh?' and laugh. He tried to sound like he knew what he was talking about, but he was ..."

"Clueless," Chris Ebert said.

On the other sideline of the peewee football games, they are usually clueless, too. Ken Crowley, a parent, was snapping photos for the Ramsey football website when someone pointed to the Ridgewood coach and suggested he might want to take a few shots of him.

"That guy?" Crowley said. "Why?"

Minutes after Crowley was told, Ridgewood was stopped for a 3-yard loss on a fourth-and-1. Crowley walked past with a smirk on his face. "I bet he wished he had punted that time," he said. (Incidentally, Feagles' team didn't punt once.)

During games, he paces the sideline. Coaches are allowed on the field, but Feagles sends his offensive and defensive coordinators. Once in a while, during a timeout, he'll sprint into the huddle, say a few words and scat. But mostly, he shouts from a distance: "Get the ball!" or "Make a play!" when his team in on defense, and "Block! Block! Block!" when his kids have the ball. But it's all under control.

"I don't want to act like an idiot in front of the kids," he said. "You can get your point across without ranting and raving."

We know what you're thinking: Maybe he could make that point to his excitable boss, Tom Coughlin. But Feagles smiles and insists he has learned a lot from his gruff coach -- organization, attention to detail, motivation and lists ... lots of lists, because Feagles The Coach has more jobs than Coughlin.

He is head coach (compiling the playbook), equipment manager (fixing chin straps on the fly), trainer ("Where does it hurt?"), parent (his son, Zach, is a running back and linebacker), team psychologist ("Don't quit! Don't ever quit!"), traveling secretary ("Does everyone have a ride home?") and head of security.

Early in the game, his defense stripped a running back and the ball was returned for a touchdown, but an official called a questionable penalty -- about 20 yards from the play -- and the TD was nullified. Some of the coaches and parents grew mouthy. Feagles calmed them. The controversial play turned out to be the difference in the game, but he wouldn't allow his players to blame the referees.

That's the message he was trying to deliver when no one was listening. Of course, like Coughlin, he could fine his players.

"They're 9," Feagles said with a laugh. "We run sprints instead. What am I going to do, take their lunch money?"

Hey, it might get their attention.


Marty Mac's World: Salmons spawns talk of domination

It'll be tough to find someone who is happier to have the Kings and pro basketball back than I.

It's an addiction I admit, and I'm not going to rehab.

Word on the street is John Salmons, despite a slight groin issue, terrorized his teammates during the first week of camp. Players and coaches seemed to agree that the small forward is ready to be a starter for the first time in his career.

Salmons played exceptionally well as a starter last season and stunk up the joint coming off the bench. There were no apparent reasons for the difference other than the mind is powerful.

It will be interesting to see if anyone can stop Salmons from going right. This is not a secret from North Korea. The man consistently goes that direction, and surely every scouting report indicates such.

Yet many players have made a nice career out of going one way. The one who stands out is Johnny Moore, a quick and fast point guard, who played at Texas and then nearly all of his pro career with the San Antonio Spurs.

Moore was going right even when he momentarily went to the left. He often dribbled up the court's left side just to give himself more room to go right. In fact, only contracting desert fever in 1985 ultimately kept Moore from going right. However, the man four times averaged 9.6 assists or more.

It'll be interesting to see if defenses go at Salmons any differently as a starter.


Denver's Williams is AFC West player of week

It's slim pickings this week since only one AFC West team won Sunday.

Denver's defense bounced back from allowing 113 points in the past three weeks and the Broncos beat Tampa Bay, 16-13. So, we're selecting a Denver defensive player for the AFC West player of the week: weakside linebacker D.J. Williams.

Williams was tremendous in Denver's solid defensive performance. Williams has been good all season and he kept it up Sunday. He had 11 tackles and one of Denver's three sacks. He also leapt high into the air to break up a long Tampa Bay pass play in the third quarter.

Williams is quietly one of the NFL's better linebackers. The 2004 first-round pick is making a strong case for his first Pro Bowl selection. Williams, who signed a long-term contract on the eve of the regular season, has preserved through some tough times. He has played all three linebacker positions. Williams is thriving now that he is back at his original NFL position.


ESPN Interview: Clinton Portis

Defensive Players of the Week According to Peter King

Ray Lewis, MLB, Baltimore. I know, I know. The Ravens lost Sunday, a painful defeat at the hands of the Titans in which they let Tennessee drive the length of the field in the fourth quarter to win. But the play of Lewis over the last eight quarters simply must be recognized. In the narrow losses to Pittsburgh and Tennessee, Lewis has 20 tackles, two sacks, two passes deflected, one tackle for loss and two quarterback hits. He still hits like Mike Tyson. The other night, he broke Rashard Mendenhall's shoulders, knocking him out for the year, on a simple tackle up the gut. These two great games have come in his 165th and 166th pro contests.


Portis Calls a Key Offensive Play

NEW YORK -- A really interesting Sunday. What do you want to hear about first? The origins of the Wildcat play, which has carried the woebegone Dolphins to wins over the two AFC Championship Game teams from last year? The future of Kerry Collins, who, in a month, has gone from a washed-up backup to one of the NFL's 20 most important players? The incredible case of Matty Ice? Plaxico Burress' future with the Giants?

None of the above, though I'll get to them all. My choice: The first play-call of Clinton Portis' life.

The Redskins are turning into one of the great stories of the year. They looked inept in a flaccid opener against the Giants. They've looked like the '67 Packers since. They won their fourth straight, 23-17, at Philadelphia Sunday, and afterward, I couldn't quite believe what Jim Zorn told me.

"Clinton called that fourth-down play,'' Zorn said.

Clinton Portis what?

Fourth-and-one at the Eagles' 38, 2:48 left, Washington up 23-17, Philly out of timeouts. Tricky call here. If Washington gets stopped, the Eagles take over with about 2:40 left and 62 yards to travel for the winning score. If Washington makes it on a running play and stays inbounds and plays its time-strategy cards right, the 'Skins should be able to run out the clock by kneeling three times and going home with a dramatic win.

Zorn had his thinking cap on, with Jason Campbell and Portis and a couple of the coaches on the sidelines. "I called the formation first,'' he said, "and then he called the play. He thought we should run a draw. I didn't say anything, and I looked at my plan. It was going to be very hard to run. But I thought about the play, and it was a good call. And he's a veteran. If a rookie had said anything, I'd have told him to shut up. But the call made sense. We ran it. He had to really hammer it out.''

The draw's a great call there, with the expectation that a strong back would either wham into the line, or the quarterback would throw a sure thing to either the back or tight end. The momentary element of surprise may have given Portis the sliver he needed to plow for three yards. Ballgame.

Portis was a monster in this game -- 29 carries, 145 yards -- against a D that had allowed 54 yards rushing per game in the first month of the season. Imagine how he felt, calling the last meaningful play of the game. Imagine the respect he felt from his coach. Imagine the ownership he feels in his team this morning, knowing the new coach, an offensive maven, thought enough of his brain and gut feeling that he could get the yard he needed.

There's a lot to like about these Redskins right now, and about their coach.


Frank Gore Needs More Touches

The Press Democrat reports 49ers HC Mike Nolan reiterated on Monday the importance of getting the ball in the hands of RB Frank Gore. Up until the 49ers fell behind by two scores and ended the game with 10 consecutive passes, the 49ers called 25 pass plays in the huddle,compared to 12 Gore runs. Gore had just 16 touches in the game, including four pass receptions.


Shockey staying very visible on Saints' sideline

NEW ORLEANS -- There's a very interesting scene on the New Orleans sideline.

Tight end Jeremy Shockey, who stayed away from the Giants during last season's Super Bowl, isn't steering clear of the Saints while he's recovering from hernia surgery. In fact, Shockey's keeping a very visible presence.

Shockey, in street clothes, has been bouncing around all game. He's been standing near coach Sean Payton most of the game and often has been the first to shake the hands of teammates as they come off the field.


Ortega Signed To the Active Roster

The New Orleans Saints have signed tight end Buck Ortega to the active roster and terminated the contract of quarterback Joey Harrington.

Ortega is a first-year player who initially joined the Saints as a member of their practice squad for the final month of the 2007 season. The 6-4, 250-pound tight end first has split time this season between the team’s practice squad and active roster, making three tackles on special teams in three games played.


Santana Moss: Couldn't Care Less About Not Making Catches

The Washington Post reports Redskins WR Santana Moss entered the game second in the NFL in receiving yards, coming off a huge performance against Dallas. He finished without a catch on Sunday. Moss received a healthy dose of attention from Philadelphia safeties in the game, with the Eagles committed to not letting the Redskins beat them with the deep ball. That helped open up the underneath patterns for TE Chris Cooley (eight catches for 109 yards and a touchdown), including on Washington's first touchdown of the game. Unlike Dallas WR Terrell Owens, who grumbled about his role in a loss to Washington in Week 4, Moss was all smiles after the game. "I couldn't care less about none of that," Moss said. "My whole goal is to do what I can to help this team win. Therefore, that's what I've done."


Kelly Jennings Injured

CB Kelly Jennings, who was victimized on Hixon’s TD catch that initiated last Sunday’s carnage, suffered a concussion that makes his status for the Packers this Sunday questionable. But he had been having a very rough time this season before the injury, and his replacement should he be unable to start this Sunday, Josh Wilson, also has been easy pickings for opposing receivers. 


Who will return next season?

Mike Jacobs had more than 30 home runs this year. He is a left-handed batter, and they are hard to find. Why wouldn't the Marlins keep Jacobs? -- Robin S., Orlando

Jacobs showed the type of power he is capable of, if he stays healthy and plays regularly. The primary first baseman the past three seasons, he had career-high numbers in home runs (32) and RBIs (93). By his own admission, his batting average was a bit low. He finished at .247 and his on-base percentage was .299. Cost is now a factor with Jacobs. He has 80 career home runs and 247 RBIs, which in arbitration means his salary will jump to anywhere from $3.5-4 million.

So I wouldn't be surprised if the team looks to make a change. Gaby Sanchez had a terrific season at Double-A Carolina, and he showed some flashes as a September callup. Another option is moving Cantu to first base, and using Dallas McPherson and Helms at third. Or the team could look outside the organization to bring in another first baseman.


Giants' Moss given opportunity, delivers in 44-6 victory over Seattle

Sinorice Moss was watching Seahawks safety Brian Russell and waiting for him to drift to his right. Moss knew he would, as the Giants had practiced the play all week long. All Moss needed was a pump fake from Eli Manning.

Moss got it. And as expected, Russell moved toward Steve Smith when Manning pumped in that direction.

"Here it goes. It's going to start," Moss said he was thinking. "It's really about to start."

Manning delivered a perfect pass into the area vacated by Russell for Moss' first NFL touchdown, which came three seasons into a career that began when the Giants traded up to select him in the second round of the 2006 draft.

But as Moss said, that 23-yard scoring pass early in the third quarter of Sunday's 44-6 victory over the Seahawks was only a "start." In the fourth quarter, David Carr hit Moss for a 5-yard touchdown.

After the game, with both footballs resting behind him in his locker, Moss said he never doubted a day like this would come.

"We have so many guys. You have to be patient," Moss said. "That's something that's hard for a lot of professional athletes and a lot of people in this world. They don't know how to be patient. And that really helped me out -- being patient."

Moss got his opportunity Sunday because Plaxico Burress was suspended for one game and Domenik Hixon left with a concussion after catching four passes for 102 yards. Moss caught four balls for 45 yards, including the quick slant from Carr.

"We're so used to going together, so when he called the play, he looked at me and said, 'I'm coming for you,'" Moss said.

Said Carr, "It was just unbelievable. Everything was going our way. It's not like a fluke. It's happening more and more often here. You never know when we are going to explode on someone, we have so many weapons."


Portis explodes as Redskins improve to 4-1

Clinton Portis rushed 29 times for 145 yards and a touchdown as the Redskins came from behind to beat the Eagles in Week 5. He also caught two passes for 13 yards.
The Redskins are now 4-1 on the season. Once QB Jason Campbell got going and spread out the Eagles' defense, it was off to the races. The 'Skins amassed 203 rushing yards on a defense that had allowed just 215 all season. The offensive line dominated and Portis simply refused to hit the turf. He should continue to roll against the Rams in Week 6.


James on scoreboard again

Edgerrin James ran for 57 yards and a touchdown and caught two passes for 21 yards in the Cardinals' Week 5 win.
James has now scored in consecutive weeks after going touchdown-less in Weeks 1-3. Still, he is an grinding runner without big-play ability and continues to lose goal line chances to Tim Hightower. Sell high if you can.


Wayne comes up big in Colts' Week 5 win

Reggie Wayne had seven receptions for 97 yards and a touchdown in the Colts' Week 5 victory.
Wayne made one of the best, and most important catches of the year when he snagged a Peyton Manning fade with one hand in the corner of the end zone. Manning found him a few more times with some on-the-money throws and should look his way a ton next week against the Ravens.


John Salmons recovering from groin injury

John Salmons participated in the Kings training camp despite suffering a strained groin muscle in early September.
Salmons stayed off his feet for two weeks prior to training camp and has been excused from the team-mandated conditioning test. The injury does not sound serious ("It's not torn, just more sore," according to Salmons) and owners just have to hope that it doesn't linger. Reggie Theus has named Salmons a starter, leaving Francisco Garcia in a reserve role...at least for now.


Burrell comes through in big way for Phillies

Left fielder Pat Burrell didn't quite guarantee he'd hit a home run Sunday and never pointed his bat toward the outfield fence, but generations from now, who knows how Philadelphia Phillies fans might choose to remember?

Burrell, who told teammate Jimmy Rollins before the game that he was going to do something special, hit two home runs and launched the Phillies into the National League Championship Series with a 6-2 victory against the Milwaukee Brewers.

"It took a while to get here," said Burrell, who has spent his entire 10-year career in the Phillies organization. "That just makes it all the sweeter now that you're here."

Burrell, whose bat disappeared the last two months of the season — hitting .215 after the All-Star break — was also missing in the first three games of the playoffs. He had yet to produce a hit and was teased by Rollins about his lack of production.

"He gave me some lip," Burrell said, laughing. "I told him, 'Why don't you do something?' "

Burrell, who has been bothered by a bad back, then dropped by Rollins locker Sunday and told him he was feeling good and the slump was going to end.

"Pat said, 'I'm going to get them today,' " Rollins said. "He said, 'I feel good. My back's all right. I worked some things out in the cage. It's going to be on me.'

"He said it. I was paying attention."

Rollins set the tone by hitting a leadoff homer in the first, and the score remained 1-0 in the third inning when Howard stepped to the plate with Shane Victorino on second base. Brewers manager Dale Sveum didn't hesitate. He ordered Howard to be intentionally walked.

"It's not that difficult of a decision," Sveum says. "Burrell came into the series hitting .170 off righties the last 30 days. … Unfortunately, it didn't work out."

Burrell slammed a 2-2 fastball into the left-field seats. He lowered his head. Started running toward first. And all he heard was the sound of silence from the crowd of 43,934 at Miller Park.

"There's nothing like silence on the road," Rollins said.

The Phillies had a 4-0 lead, and Burrell dashed any notions of a late Brewers comeback with another home run in the eighth. He joined Lenny Dykstra as the only players in team history to hit two homers in a postseason game.

"When you get into a situation like this, where the emotions are there, all the excitement and not to be a factor and not help your team win," Burrell said, "it gets old. It can really affect you. So I was just happy to be a factor and contribute."

Burrell wasn't even sure he was going to be in the starting lineup until batting practice. He saw his name was in the second group and figured Phillies manager Charlie Manuel was going to stick with him at least one more time. Manuel said he considered dropping Burrell in the lineup but not bench him.

"This is a time of year where you've got to go with who's hot, and I understand that," Burrell said. "The bottom line is you've got to find a way to win. I understand that. I don't know that anybody takes it harder when we don't come through than (Rollins) and I."

Now the two longtime friends who met when they were high school players in Southern California have helped bring the Phillies to the brink of the World Series. This could be their final month together. Burrell is a free agent at the season's conclusion and expects to be heavily courted by the San Francisco Giants.