05 September 2010

Listen to the Miami Ohio State Game LIve on WQAM.com

This week’s huge matchup between Ohio State and “The U” will be televised, but if you want the best coverage in the land, tune into WQAM.com starting at 11:30am with the most informative pre-game show broadcasting live from Columbus, Ohio. It’s the only pre-game show that’s “All about the U!” Click here to Listen Live!

Bookmark and Share

Bryant McKinnie Injurs Finger

Vikings LT Bryant McKinnie was carted off the sideline with a finger injury early in the fourth quarter of Thursday's game.

McKinnie's was done for the night with less than 10 minutes remaining. Ryan Cook entered with Phil Loadholt taking over on Brett Favre's blindside as the Vikings try to mount a comeback.

Click here to order Bryant McKinnie’s proCane Rookie Card.

Bookmark and Share

Derrick Morse Released

Offensive guard Derrick Morse was released by the Sacramento Mountain Lions of the UFL.

Bookmark and Share


Jimmy Graham Inactive

Rookie TE Jimmy Graham was declared inactive for the New Orleans Saints’ first game of the 2010 season. Graham has been nursing a high ankle sprain and missed to preseason games because of it.

Bookmark and Share

Ravens tried out Joe Joseph

The Baltimore Ravens auditioned two free agent defensive linemen this week, taking a look at Ra'Shon Harris and Joe Joseph, according to a league source with knowledge of the situation.

Neither was signed.

Joseph was signed by the Tennessee Titans as an undrafted free agent in April.

In four seasons at the University of Miami, appearing in 37 games with 25 starts.

He totaled 71 tackles, 1 1/2 sacks, 13 tackles for loss, eight quarterback pressures, one pass defensed and one fumble recovery.

As a senior, he started 11 games and posted 29 tackles, 5 1/2 for losses and one fumble recovery. He was named All-Atlantic Coast Conference honorable-mention.

Bookmark and Share

Ray Lewis says Jets have 'no excuses'

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Ray Lewis sounded like he's fed up with the amount of hype surrounding the New York Jets. Join the ever-expanding club, Ray.

Managing to out-talk the trash talkers, the Baltimore Ravens linebacker unloaded Thursday on Rex Ryan, Darrelle Revis and Mark Sanchez, suggesting the Jets -- Ryan, in particular -- yap too much for a team that hasn't won anything.
"We're talking about the Jets like we're talking about the Saints," Lewis told reporters in Baltimore. "Those are the only people that can be dethroned: Drew Brees and the Saints, not Mark Sanchez and the Jets."

Earlier, on a conference call with the New York media, Lewis said his former defensive coordinator, Ryan, is making it tough on his team by delivering brash predictions.

"The only danger is writing a check you can't cash," Lewis said. "That's pressure on his players. Rex can talk all he wants to, but Rex ain't putting on the pads. ... At some point, you put that bull's-eye on your head. They're doing all this talking, like they're in the Super Bowl. OK, do what you do, but come Monday night, the whistle is going to blow and somebody is going to get hit."

On Monday night, the Jets and Ravens meet at the new Meadowlands Stadium in what Ryan described as "a game people will remember." It's the season opener, but it's also open season on the Jets. In recent weeks, Tony Dungy, Rodney Harrison, Tom Brady and Terry Bradshaw have criticized the Jets for their big-talking, hard-knocking attitude.

Ryan claimed his bravado puts the pressure on him, not his players, because he's the one making the bold statements. As for Lewis, whom he called the greatest linebacker he's ever coached, Ryan said he took no offense to the remarks.

"It doesn't matter what he says in a negative light, because I still respect him," Ryan said. "But we're going to try to smash him, I can tell you that much."

Most Jets players took Lewis' comments in stride, although some thought it was funny that he compared the Ravens to the Los Angeles Lakers. That came in response to cornerback Antonio Cromartie, who compared the Jets to the Miami Heat.

"If y'all are the Miami Heat, we've got to be the Lakers, because we're looking for multiple rings," Lewis told the Baltimore media.

It has been 10 years since the Ravens won the Super Bowl, a not-so-small fact that seemed to undermine his Lakers analogy. That prompted some snickers in the Jets' locker room.

Of course, the Jets have gone 42 years without a title, but they talked Super Bowl all summer -- and that was before Revis ended his holdout. With Revis back, they feel whole, raising the confidence needle to an all-time high.

That's fine by Lewis.

"I'm glad he signed, so there are no excuses," he said. "Don't come and say, 'Oh, we didn't have Revis.' Have everybody y'all need to have. Whoever y'all need to sign, bring them out of retirement, whatever you need to do. ... Stack your deck and let's play football."

Lewis seemed chagrined by all the attention Revis has received.

"Revis puts his pants on one leg at a time," he said. "He's not a machine. He's a simple man, and he has to deal with everything we're willing to bring to the table as well. Hopefully, he's ready to play. Hopefully, his 35-day layoff didn't hurt him.

"But we don't need no hope. Y'all can keep your hope because we've got enough hope over here. We're packing our bags, and we're not packing our bags to come play water polo."

Lewis also took aim at Sanchez, claiming he "struggles" when the Jets' running attack is slowed and he's forced to throw. Ryan took issue with that, claiming his second-year quarterback plays well in big games.

This is all hot air, of course -- meaningless talk. On Monday night, talk is cheap.

"I know he doesn't like us," guard Brandon Moore said of Lewis. "I know he wants to bash our heads in. That's nothing new. We feel the same way about him."

Click here to order Ray Lewis’ proCane Rookie Card.

Bookmark and Share

Sam Shields out to prove he's no weakest link

Philadelphia Eagles coach Andy Reid has looked at the preseason game tapes and seen undrafted rookie Sam Shields line up as the Green Bay Packers’ third cornerback in their nickel defense.

He looks to his own roster at a dangerous group of receivers in wideouts DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin, and tight end Brent Celek.

So is there any doubt where the Eagles plan to attack Sunday when the teams meet at Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field in the regular-season opener?

“(Shields) understands how the league works,” Packers receiver Greg Jennings said. “He knows he has (cornerback) Tramon Williams on the other side, and nobody wants to pick on (Charles Woodson). So he’s the guy that’s left.

“The only way you can approach it is that’s more opportunities for (Shields) to make plays. As a receiver I shared that with him; they’re going to attack you, it’s up to you to make plays, you’ve got to show them, ‘I’m not the weakest link, so don’t throw my way just because you think (so).’”

Shields is one of two rookies starting in the Packers’ secondary, along with third-round draft pick Morgan Burnett. The Eagles probably will target Burnett as well, though he’s had the advantage of working as a starter from the first day he joined the team last spring, and is a little easier to protect at safety.

Shields, on the other hand, is more raw than most rookie cornerbacks because he didn’t play the position until his senior season at the University of Miami. That helped make him the surprise of the Packers’ training camp, because despite his brief time at the position, Shields kept make attention-grabbing plays, including several interceptions in practice and two more in the preseason games.

Shields was beaten on his share of plays in camp also, occasionally in bunches. But his playmaking convinced defensive coordinator Dom Capers to move him up from the bottom of the depth charts at the start of camp to the important No. 3 job after second-year pro Brandon Underwood injured his shoulder in the Packers’ Aug. 26 preseason game against Indianapolis. Underwood is unlikely to play this week.

As the No. 3 cornerback, Shields will play starter’s minutes — last year the Packers used their nickel package on almost 60 percent of their defensive snaps — and it’s a given he’ll have some bad plays Sunday, whether giving up catches for some first downs or touchdowns, or getting hit with a big penalty or two. Reid will try to get Jackson and Maclin matched against him as much as possible.

Shields’ charge will be not letting the bad plays break him mentally and inhibit him from making a key drive-ending play or two. Williams, who also entered the league as an undrafted rookie, went through a similar baptism when he became the Packers’ No. 3 corner in Week 14 in 2007, his first season on the 53-man roster after spending ’06 on the Packers’ practice squad.

“From what I saw of (Shields) in the preseason, he made plays,” Williams said. “The regular season is going to be a different thing, they’re going to find ways to attack. I can remember when I first played nickel, I made plays. When you’re young you’re still learning things and you’re going to give up some plays too, but throughout it all I still made plays.”

Shields and Burnett might have caught a break in facing an inexperienced starting quarterback, Kevin Kolb, rather than the man he replaced, 12-year pro Donovan McNabb. Kolb has only two career starts, both last season, though he served a three-year apprenticeship to McNabb to get ready for this season.

But if Kolb might not have a veteran’s nose for exploiting a rookie to the maximum, the Eagles still have a strong group of receivers.

Jackson is one of the NFL’s premier playmakers and tied an NFL record by scoring eight touchdowns of 50 yards or more last season and finished with 12 — nine receiving, one rushing and two on punt returns. Maclin caught 55 passes as a rookie last season, and Celek led the team in receptions with 76, including eight touchdowns.

When Shields plays in the nickel, he’ll normally line up as the left cornerback, with Woodson moving into the slot, where he can be a threat to both cover and blitz. The Eagles often line up No. 3 receiver Jason Avant in the slot, so Woodson will be on him, and Shields could see a good dose of Jackson and Maclin.

“My focus is to play ball, play my assignment, play fast, make some plays,” Shields said. “I can’t really think about, ‘Oh, they’re going to keep coming at me because I’m a rookie.’ I’m in there with a whole bunch of vets, so I’ve got to think like I’m a vet.”

Burnett will provide help in deep coverage and probably will match up some with Celek.

“I look forward to it,” Burnett said. “It’s been a dream of mine since I was young, it’s finally here now and I look forward to learning and being better from the good and the bad.”

Underwood looked like the front-runner for the No. 3 corner job until he got hurt, though he’d given up enough completions in preseason games that Shields at least was pushing for the job. Underwood could be a couple of weeks from returning, and if Shields holds up he has a chance to keep the job when Underwood returns. But Shields or Underwood would have to be a revelation to keep the job for long after long-time starter Al Harris is eligible to come off the physically unable to perform list after the sixth game.

When Harris is ready, the Packers probably will ease him back as the No. 3 cornerback, and decide later whether to start him or keep Williams there based on their play.

Either way, the Packers will have played probably seven or eight games before then.

“I don’t think (Shields) knows (what he’s in for) because he hasn’t played a real NFL game yet,” Williams said. “But he’ll figure it out sooner (rather) than later.”

Bookmark and Share

Bucs' Kellen Winslow not looking back

TAMPA - When he came here last season, we didn't know much other than the blinding talent and all the old stories, Miami stories, Cleveland stories. Kellen Winslow promised we'd get to know him.

"It'll come," he said.

A year later it still hasn't come. That's partly why Bucs fans haven't truly embraced him, that and 3-13. The highest-paid tight end in NFL history lives on the other side of the country, has his own training regimen and was hardly used in preseason, as approved by Bucs coach Raheem Morris. Winslow politely avoids media.

Does it matter?

Kellen Winslow delivered last season. He was the Bucs' best offensive player, setting franchise tight end records with 77 catches and 884 yards. He was driven. He was all the Bucs wanted when they traded with Cleveland for him.

Those same Browns come into Raymond James Stadium for the season opener Sunday. Maybe there'll be extra motivation for Winslow given his up-down years in Cleveland, highlighted by some great performances, low-lighted by a motorcycle accident that nearly ended his career and a staph infection and beyond-nasty feud with Cleveland management.

Winslow isn't biting. In a short chat with media Wednesday (key word: short), he mostly avoided the past. He knows it's the Browns, but that's about it.

"Everything that went on up there with Cleveland was a growing process with me," he said. "I really grew up and matured. It was hard up there because we weren't winning a lot and it was just frustrating at times. But I'm here now and I'm having fun."

But if there's any extra jam this week for No. 82, Bucs coach Raheem Morris will take it.

"… I'm sure he does have some fuel," Morris said. "I'm sure he has something hidden away, he has some articles stowed away, something that was said negative about this young man. But that's what gets him going. That's who Kellen is. He's a soldier."

Did he just say "He's a soldier?"

Morris can get away with that, twitting and poking at K2. Their relationship is that good, enough for Morris to have a separate set of Winslow rules, allowing for Winslow's keen sense of his own body, what with six knee surgeries, and because of the intensity he brought to every Sunday last season. Morris likens Winslow to another Buc, veteran cornerback Ronde Barber. Only …

"Ronde smiles more," Morris said with a grin.

Morris said, "He had limited preseason action last year, and all he did was go out and become our all-time leading tight end in receptions, set an all-time record … I can go and tell you guys I'm going to treat everybody the same … that wouldn't be realistic. When we brought (Kellen) in here, we knew what we were getting into and we accepted it and it worked out pretty good for us."

This Browns game might have meant more for Winslow if it was in Cleveland, where he bonded with many Browns fans who appreciated his work ethic after the motorcycle accident.

He wanted a new deal from the Browns, but he also gave everything he had even as his body broke down, even as he blew the whistle on Cleveland management in 2008 for trying to cover up a staph infection that ravaged the team. Some Browns had their careers ended by the infection, including a name you'll remember: Joe Jurevicius.

Kellen Winslow had it right.

"You just move on, and I'm here now," he said.

No. 82 practiced Wednesday. But it's really about Sundays. The man delivered last season.

That we know.

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

Bookmark and Share

Kenny Phillips says he's 'penciled in' as New York Giants starting safety over Deon Grant

It's been a "long, long, long, long" road to recovery for Kenny Phillips. But there's no longer much doubt that he's back.

A few minutes after Tom Coughlin told the media Wednesday that "the easing part, I think, is over" for the former first-round pick, Phillips was inserted back into the Giants' starting lineup, nearly a year after he first injured his left knee. He said he's "penciled in" to start at safety alongside Antrel Rolle in the season opener against the Carolina Panthers on Sunday.

And while it may not be a surprise that he took his old job back from veteran safety Deon Grant, not many people believed it would happen this soon.

"It was my goal," Phillips said after his first practice with the first team. "It was my goal when I first came in here. I knew it was going to take some time. They wanted to see where I was at and make sure I didn't have a setback. I think it worked out for the best."

Not for everyone. Grant, a 10-year veteran who played the last three seasons with the Seahawks and signed with the Giants in the spring, was admittedly surprised by the move and while he promised to support Phillips, he also said "I'm not going to sit up here like it's just all peaches and cream." When Grant signed, he knew he was just holding a spot for Phillips, who was recovering from microfracture surgery to repair damage from a degenerative condition in his knee.

Clearly, Grant didn't expect Phillips' return to the starting lineup to happen in Week 1.

"To be honest with you, that whole situation was something I didn't think was going to happen this early," Grant said. "So was I surprised? Definitely.

"I know in my mind I'm not a backup safety. That might be the position I'm going to have to play, but I'm not a backup safety. But I'm going to support Kenny because Kenny's like a little brother to me."

Still, Grant wasn't happy that his streak of 144 consecutive NFL starts will come to an end on Sunday. Even though he knew the situation when he signed with the Giants, he also felt he didn't do anything to lose his job, making it a difficult decision to take.

"My goal was to come into the league and to play and to start until it gets to the point where I can't start anymore," Grant said. "I've been doing that up to this point. If it doesn't happen, yeah, it's going to be hard to swallow, especially when I know I'm not a backup."

But he is a backup now for the Giants, reduced to roles in the nickel or dime defenses. Phillips wasn't sure of how much he'll play on Sunday and he hasn't taken more than 25 snaps in any of the Giants' four preseason games. But he said he feels capable of handling a full-time job and said there are no limitations on or worries about his knee.

"I had three preseason games to get ready for that," he said. "I was running into people, tackling, falling on the ground. So I'm not worried about that at all."

Phillips has looked increasingly good this summer, despite the dire nature of his injury. He has patella femoral arthritis in his knee, which some doctors warned at the time had the potential to be a career-ending condition. That was a prognosis that Phillips never believed.

"It's been a long, long, long, long offseason for me," he said. "I missed it. I really did."

Click here to order Kenny Phillips’ proCane Rookie Card.

Bookmark and Share

Clinton Portis Fine Being In Background

Clinton Portis held court with the media Thursday for 15 minutes, his first extended session since early in training camp. And that’s Exhibit A of how much things have changed for the Redskins.

Portis has taken a backseat to Mike Shanahan’s hiring, Donovan McNabb’s arrival and the ongoing Albert Haynesworth mess.

“That’s a good thing,” Portis said before practice. “I don’t mind. For me, [in previous years] it was all negative attention, everybody complaining about me not wanting to participate in the preseason. To have all the other stuff going on, it took the attention [away] from me and allowed me to come out and work and get myself ready.”

Concentrating on his work has paid off – Portis entered training camp as the starting running back ahead of fellow former Pro Bowlers Larry Johnson and Willie Parker, and is expected to start Sunday night against Dallas.

On a roster full of players looking to redeem themselves, Portis leads the pack. He struggled during the second half of the 2008 season and was average when he sustained a season-ending concussion that forced him to miss the last eight games of the 2009 debacle.

Portis has reached 100 yards just twice in his last 17 games, but if praise from Shanahan is any indication, he is poised to return to the form that allowed him to reach 1,200 yards in six of his eight NFL seasons.

Still, Portis said he’s not embarking on a Redemption Tour.

“I don’t think it’s having something to prove,” he said. “I feel good and I think I know what I’m capable of doing.”

If Portis does play at a Pro Bowl level, he will be able to credit his offseason as a prime reason.

Instead of being an uninterested observer who spent more time in Miami than Ashburn, Portis accepted Shanahan’s challenge to lose 15-18 pounds and stop the Florida-to-Virginia shuttle.

“The first thing we talked about was him being in excellent shape and paying the price in the offseason; he’s done that,” Shanahan said. “He’s in good football shape. You can see the way he practices and goes about his business; he looks like a young player.”

Portis benefited like most veterans from Shanahan’s training camp philosophy of saving his players for the regular season. Portis was limited to nine preseason carries but did not miss any practice time.

“I actually feel younger at this point than I have in a long time,” he said. “You usually come out of the preseason beat up from two-a-days and your body is tired, but coming into this week, I feel fresh.”

While Portis occasionally caused controversy in his first six years with the Redskins by complaining about the preseason and criticizing teammates, he’s kept his mouth shut so far this year. It’s a nod to how he treated his injury last year.

“Honestly, I don’t feel like I was doing nothing wrong, but at the same time, I got to the point where I could have had been a better teammate,” he said. “I could have hung around. …I made it a goal this preseason to make sure I was never going to be a topic of conversation and in the headlines for missing practice. I wanted to show my teammates I was dedicated to getting myself right, to push through all the little aches and pains and get back as soon as possible. I think I did that.”

Portis could develop little aches and pains if he has to carry the load within the Redskins’ offense. If he starts, it means first- and second-down work. But he’s also the team’s best third-down back from a protection standpoint, so the Redskins have to figure out ways to get Portis through an entire season.

Portis has a fan in new offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan.

“I didn’t know Clinton before I came here but talking to him, he’s intelligent and competitive and been great for us,” Shanahan said. “He’s hungry.”

Portis’ outlook has changed in one other area: His pursuit of the Redskins’ rushing record. He needs 304 to reach 10,000 and is 875 away from tying John Riggins’ franchise mark of 7,472 yards. Whereas last year he brought up his desire to break Riggins’ record, it’s not as urgent this year.

“I don’t really pay attention to it,” Portis said. “Every time I look forward to doing something, something negative happens. The milestones will matter the most when all is said and done and I walk away from football and actually get a chance to look back and say, ‘Wow, I did that.’”

Click here to order Clinton Portis’ proCane Rookie Card.

Bookmark and Share

Greg Olsen stays in the plans

One could almost feel Bears general manager Jerry Angelo beaming in the press box Thursday night after tight end Greg Olsen shook a defender and hauled in a 15-yard touchdown toss from Todd Collins.

As offensive coordinator Mike Martz has insisted all preseason, Olsen appears to be a big part of the offensive plans — even if rumors persist about the former first-round pick being trade bait.

"Nothing to it,'' Angelo said, referring to a recent report that Olsen remained on the market. "(The rumor) doesn't bother me. It doesn't bother him.
"Have we talked to people? There have been people that have called us, not just about him but about other players. And we always listen. But that's the one guy that everybody wants to make the story about.''

In fact, Angelo sees no reason to get rid of Olsen or any of the other tight ends on the roster: veterans Desmond Clark and Brandon Manumaleuna and third-year player Kellen Davis.

"We could easily carry four tight ends and not have a fullback and use our tight ends like a fullback,'' Angelo said. "So, that's going to be a position that is going to evolve as the season goes on. But I see us keeping four tight ends.''

Angelo was asked if the offensive line's struggles might dictate how the tight ends are used throughout the season. He shut down that theory and said the distinct abilities of the four should result in all of them dressing on Sundays.

That was consistent with how the tight ends were used early Thursday. Clark was in the backfield as a blocker and Olsen lined up outside on the first play, a 5-yard run by Chester Taylor. On the second play, Olsen and Manumaleuna lined up next to each other on the right side and cleared a path for Taylor's 10-yard run. Clark returned on third down and was used as a blocker along with Olsen as Taylor picked up 6 more yards.

Olsen did pick up an early false start but made up for it with the touchdown. Some tend to forget he led the team with 60 catches last season. And Angelo previously mentioned plans to split Olsen out wide more as a receiver.

Manumaleuna signed a five-year, $15 million deal ($6.1 guaranteed) for his blocking skills and finally has recovered from offseason knee surgery. Clark was unsure about his role after the Bears signed Manumaleuna, but he continues to be used in an H-Back role. And Davis' contributions on special teams make him valuable.

Olsen was asked if he is going to have fun growing in an offense not supposed to be friendly to tight ends.

"I think I am,'' he said. "I've had a great time this offseason with the different things that we've implemented, the things that we've played in and during practice moving around and such. I've had a great time learning the offense and I think everyone else has too."

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

Bookmark and Share

Vince Wilfork talks charity work

Vince Wilfork of the New England Patriots spoke today about being named the winner of the 2010 Ron Burton Community Service Award.

Q: Give us a sense of what is going through your mind? Making a difference in the community, what does that mean to you?
VINCE WILFORK: That’s the only way you can give back. The first thing I thought about was my parents and it was like I was looking right at them in the crowd. We all do things not expecting to get anything in return. There are a bunch of guys on this team that deserve this award and I am just happy … but everybody does a lot of things in the community for the Patriots or for their own [charities]. It is not just me, it’s everybody and I am going to accept the award on all of our behalf.

Q: Was this a surprise to you?
VINCE WILFORK: Yes, I never look for anything in return. Things I do and my wife does, we do out of the kindness of our heart and we do it for the community. I knew what it was like growing up to not have anything and to be struggling and to grow up poor. I had both parents, but I know how it feels to grow up with both parents out of work and not knowing where your next meal is going to come from. I was forced to live without two parents for my grownup years. Ever since I’ve been 20 or 21 [years old], I haven’t had a parent. I deal with that every day.

Q: Being able to give back has to be rewarding on the inside…
VINCE WILFORK: It’s priceless. It is more than money. All it is, is time. We are blessed to be in the situation that we are in, being able to give back even if it is financial or even just a face. A kid looking at us as a celebrity or a famous person, to brighten up kids and even parents, to brighten up their faces is my gift, not an award, but this is a hell of an award. I think anybody on this team would want to have this award because it is a big deal. Like I said, I do things out of the kindness of my heart because I know how hard it is for poor people to grow up the way that they are. That’s why I do this.

Q: Is winning this award kind of making the best out of a bad situation?
VINCE WILFORK: My parents always pushed me to be the best I could be. Even if they were still here I think I would be doing the same thing. Diabetes runs in my family. High blood pressure runs in my family. That’s something big in African American families. I always wanted to do something about it. Even if my father was here, I would still be in the same [place] I am in now. I am trying to find a way to him.

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

Bookmark and Share

Buccaneers tight end Kellen Winslow receives utmost security

TAMPA — Life is not bad for Kellen Winslow.

It is so not bad.

The Bucs don't mind the tight end spending most of the offseason working out in San Diego, skipping several training camp practices and being handled like a family heirloom in the preseason.

"There is no doubt about it. He is definitely treated differently than a lot of other players," Bucs coach Raheem Morris said.

King James wasn't the only one eager to abdicate the throne in Cleveland for palm trees and sunshine. But the decision for Winslow was made for him in February 2009 when the Bucs dealt two draft picks to the Browns and made him one of the NFL's highest-paid tight ends.

Winslow, 27, responded last season by leading the Bucs in receptions (77), receiving yards (884) and touchdowns (five).

Also, knee surgeries (six).

After a minor procedure in the spring on his right knee, which was severely injured in a motorcycle accident in 2005, the Bucs' goal this offseason was to get their biggest offensive weapon to the starting line.

The fact that the season opener Sunday comes against Winslow's former team is like throwing Delmonico steaks to Dobermans.

"I'm sure he has some fuel. I'm sure he has something hidden away," Morris said. "He has some articles stowed away somewhere or something that was said negative about this young man. But that's what gets him going.

"That's who Kellen is. He goes out. He prepares. He practices. He plays. He loves the game. He'll use anything for motivation. He gets motivated to practice against my defense every day because he loves and enjoys playing the game."

Of course, Winslow has learned to contain his flame.

Despite the broken right leg in Week 2 of his rookie season, the crash that left him with a lacerated liver, bruised kidney and torn ACL and being hospitalized with the staph infection the Browns asked him not to discuss, Winslow said Wednesday he's treating it like another game.

"It's really just another team," said Winslow, who played in just one preseason game — and one just one series in that one. "It's a blessing to be here. It's where I want to be, and I'm fortunate.

"Everything that went on up there with Cleveland was a growing process for me. I really grew up and matured. It was hard up there because we weren't winning a lot, and it was just frustrating at times. But I'm here now, and I'm having fun."

According to Morris, nobody in Tampa Bay's locker room — or anywhere for that matter — has questioned Winslow's passion for the game or willingness to do whatever it takes to win.

"I don't think a lot of our guys look at him as trying to get over or not wanting to come to training camp or not wanting to be able to do something," Morris said.

"I think they know it's a legit deal. I think most of them know if he could go out there and practice twice a day, he would."

Quite simply, the 6-foot-4, 240-pounder might be the best player on the Bucs roster. He's too fast to be covered by linebackers and too physical for most cornerbacks and safeties.

Morris watched a lot of tape of Winslow before the Bucs traded for him but was even more amazed by his supple hands and body control after he arrived.

"When you see some of that stuff in practice — the guy jumps up somewhere near the goal post and grabs it near the net and land down inbounds and taps his feet down in front of you — that's pretty impressive," Morris said.

Quarterback Josh Freeman knows if everything else breaks down, Winslow is always his best option.

"It might not be the conventional way, but Kellen is going to get open," Freeman said. "He's going to be where he needs to be when he needs to be there. He brings such a passion, such intensity to the game. He can't help but lift people around him."

Winslow is shy away from the field and mostly a homebody. No matter how hard he tries to run from the past, something like Sunday's opponent provides another reminder.

"When he's out on the practice field … he goes as hard and as fast as just about anybody that I've coached," Morris said.

And no matter what anybody says, Winslow can't wait to turn the Browns' eyes blue Sunday.

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

Bookmark and Share

Ryan Braun continues hot streak

Milwaukee Brewers OF Ryan Braun singled and had a three-run homer Wednesday, Sept. 8, according to The Associated Press' Colin Fly, in an 8-1 win over the St. Louis Cardinals. Since Aug. 2, Braun is hitting .403 with four homers and 20 RBIs after being mired in the worst slump of his career for most of the summer. Braun joined 1B Prince Fielder (30), OF Corey Hart (27), 2B Rickie Weeks (26) and 3B Casey McGehee (20) as the fifth Brewer with at least 20 homers.

Bookmark and Share

Phillies Claim Cesar Carillo

The Philliess grabbed RHP Cesar Carillo off waivers from the San Diego Padres. The righthander has a 5.60 ERA in 27 Triple-A starts so he should be quite an addition.

Bookmark and Share

Pat Burrell wants to return in 2011

Pat the Bat has thought about being Pat the Giant again in 2011.

Pat Burrell, who owns some of the team's biggest hits since he arrived in early June, said he is open to returning as a free agent next season even if he would not play every day.

"I came here from being on the couch doing nothing. It wasn't like my phone was ringing off the hook," said Burrell, who turns 34 next month. "For me, I got a lot of appreciation for this club giving me a chance. I'd be thrilled if they wanted to have me back."

The Giants signed the South Bay and Santa Cruz product for practically nothing after Tampa Bay released him in May. Since his Giants debut he has started 65 games in left field and shown he can play the position adequately.

The Giants must sort through a packed outfield at season's end. It could get more crowded with the return of Mark DeRosa and the emergence of prospect Brandon Belt. However, general manager Brian Sabean and manager Bruce Bochy like experience. Odds are Bochy would find plenty of work for a guy who has 14 homers in 222 San Francisco at-bats this season.

"This is the one place I really wanted to come," Burrell said. "Fortunately it worked out for the club that I got a chance to play."

Bookmark and Share

Ray Lewis Stars in Old Spice Commercial

Click here to order Ray Lewis’ proCane Rookie Card.

Bookmark and Share

Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson message for The U

Bookmark and Share

Antrel Rolle wants revenge over Ohio State

Want to know how badly former Miami players want revenge on Ohio State for the loss in the 2003 National Championship Game?

Each time they went to work out at Miami this summer, they told the younger players how much they wanted the game back. Cornerback Brandon Harris recalled Andre Johnson, Jonathan Vilma and Ed Reed all talking revenge. Olivier Vernon says he feels like he played in the game because he has been told so much about it.

Giants safety Antrel Rolle played in that game. ESPNNewYork.com Giants writer Ohm Youngmisuk caught up with him Wednesday and asked for his thoughts on getting revenge.

Ohm Youngmisuk: Is this a revenge game for the Canes?
Antrel Rolle: Hell yeah. Hell yeah it is a revenge game for the Hurricanes. Absolutely it is a revenge game and we are definitely going to go out there and bust their ass.

OY: How much did the loss stick with you afterward?
AR: It is something you will never forget. It will stick with me for the rest of my life until we meet them again for the national title and reclaim that victory, then it is going to stick with me until then.

OY: What do you think of the pass interference call at the end of the game?
AR: It was definitely a BS call. It was obvious to everyone watching the game but that is why you have to take it out of the hands of the refs.

OY: How much do these current Canes know what you guys went through?
AR: They might be aware but they will never understand or feel what we went through. So they can go in and play with a chip on their shoulder representing the older Canes that went through it, but this is for them to go out there and play for their season, not to worry about revenge or anything else, go out there and establish who they are.

Click here to order Antrel Rolle’s proCane Rookie Card.

Bookmark and Share

Kenny Phillips returns to his role as the Giants' starting safety

Kenny Phillips believed he was back to form after the third preseason game against the Ravens.

Today, he was truly back … as a starter, that is.

The Giants’ third year safety, almost a full year removed from microfracture surgery on his knee, was the starting safety opposite Antrel Rolle in the first practice to prepare for Sunday’s regular-season opener against the Panthers.

"It's been my goal. It was my goal when I first came in here,” Phillips said in the locker room after practice. “I knew it was going to take some time. I knew we got a schedule that we'd have to keep up with. … For them to already have me listed as a starter, I must be doing something right. I need to go out there and continue to get more reps and work on my technique."

Deon Grant, the starting safety all through training camp and the preseason as Phillips rehabbed from a knee injury, was supportive of Phillips but admitted he might not handle being a backup very well.

“On this level, it’s about establishing yourself, winning that ring and any personal goals you have,” Grant said. “My goal was to come into the league and to play and to start, and to start, and to start until it gets to the point where I can’t start anymore. I’ve been doing that up to this point. If it doesn’t happen, yeah, it’s going to be hard to swallow.”

Still, Grant knew the deal when he signed with the Giants in the spring: if Phillips showed he was recovered from surgery and fit to be a starter once again, he would be the guy. Once Phillips returned to practice about a week into training camp, he showed immediate and steady progress. With each preseason game, he looked more comfortable and rangy.

In the preseason finale against the Patriots, Phillips covered good ground and was able to deliver a few hits. After doing so, his body language indicated he was pleased with those plays and the way his knee was responding.

“I had a few preseason games to get ready for that – running into people, tackling, falling on the ground,” Phillips said. “So I'm not worried at all."
This morning, coach Tom Coughlin indicated the reins had been taken off Phillips. When the team went out to practice, Phillips was told to work with the first team in place of Grant.

"Me and him talk, and there's no problem between me and him,” Phillips said. “He's still coaching me up today, and we're still the best of friends."
Grant, who has started 144 consecutive regular-season games, vowed to continue to coach up Phillips and provide a veteran knowledge of the game both on the sideline and in the meeting room. But Grant has yet to resolve his own issues with being a backup.

Grant said he would gladly accept such a scenario only if he believed his skills had diminished to the point of being a backup. In fact, he said he’d rather retire than to play as a shell of his former self.

“If I was a backup, it wouldn’t be hard to swallow because I know, ‘Okay, I have a leg problem, I got a groin problem, I lost a step, I can’t run with the guys no more, I can’t cover no more…’” Grant said.

Asked if he’s healthy and in top form, Grant replied, “Oh yeah. All you have to do is look at the preseason tape.”

The regular season tape apparently will show Grant playing behind Phillips. The 10-year veteran said he’s not sure how he’ll handle that situation if things stay on track for Phillips to start on Sunday.

“All I can tell you is I’ll support my man,” Grant said. “I’m going to make sure he’s out there getting the best look he can. But as far as me personally, we’ll see. I’m real. I’m 100 percent a … I can’t say I can give you a genuine answer because I’ve never been in that position. I can sit here and lie to you and make it sound good, but that ain’t me.”

Click here to order Kenny Phillips’ proCane Rookie Card.

Bookmark and Share

Jon Beason Named Team Captain

Jon Beason was named a 2010 Carolina Panther captain. Beason was named a captain along with Steve Smith, Jordan Gross, Tyler Brayton, John Kasay.

Click here to order Jon Beason’s proCane Rookie Card.

Bookmark and Share

Vilma listed as 'probable' for Thursday night

Saints MLB Jonathan Vilma (groin) is listed as probable for Thursday night's opener versus Minnesota.

Tracy Porter has been slightly hobbled by a lower-body injury, but is listed as probable. The "P" tag means the team considers the players virtually certain to be available for normal duties. Vilma won't come off the field against the Vikings. Porter will be on Bernard Berrian for most of the night.

Click here to order Jon Vilma’s proCane Rookie Card.

Bookmark and Share

Bills sign Dajleon Farr to practice squad

The Buffalo Bills have signed tight end DajLeon Farr to their practice squad, the team announced in a press release.

Farr was released by Dallas on Sept. 5 after signing with the Cowboys on Aug. 10. The 6-foot-5, 256-pound Memphis product entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent with San Diego on May 10.

The Bills also announced that TE Derek Schouman has been waived from injured reserve.

Bookmark and Share

Bryant McKinnie says his mission is to protect Brett Favre

The Vikings play 16 regular-season games, but tonight's opener in New Orleans against a Saints team that ended its 2009 season in January in the Superdome is anything but only one of 16 games.

"It's a little more than that," offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie said with a smile. "(Last season), it was like you're in a fight with somebody and you're winning the fight, then one knockout blow just takes you out."

This time, the 6-foot-8, 335-pound McKinnie said the Vikings' offensive line needs to do a better job of protecting quarterback Brett Favre from late hits by the Saints. Favre took a merciless beating in the 31-28 NFC title-game loss.

"They had a lot of late hits last year and some things that probably didn't get called," McKinnie said of the Saints. "So we've got to protect him all around."

McKinnie said he wasn't aware of the beating that Favre absorbed until he saw it on TV.

"When you're in the game, you're not really paying attention to that because you're blocking or doing something else," he said.

McKinnie said, because of the crowd noise in the Superdome, he'll probably wear earplugs for the rematch, as he did in last year's game.

Click here to order Bryant McKinnie’s proCane Rookie Card.

Bookmark and Share

Playing the role of Ochocinco … Darnell Jenkins

FOXBORO — Darnell Jenkins isn’t going to be watching “The Ultimate Catch,” but when it comes to doing what he can to imitate Chad Ochocinco, he’s willing to do almost anything else.

The 27-year-old practice squad receiver and former Miami product has been asked to serve as a decoy version of Ochocinco this week in practice to help the New England defense do as much as it can to prepare for No. 85. Jenkins, 5-foot-10 and 191 pounds, is three inches shorter than Ochocinco, but is roughly the same weight, and will be running the same routes as the Cincinnati receiver as part of the scout team.

Jenkins, who said he spent time around Ochocinco when the two were younger, said dealing with his own responsibilities as well as handling the work that goes into being Ochocinco isn’t that hard.

“It’s not really difficult — I study my plays day in and day out,” he said on Wednesday morning. “I concentrate and focus more in meetings and everything to get the basics down. I’m still learning the fundamentals of what we go over because they emphasize it daily. That’s basically what you have to do and what you have to know.

“Just know our system and what we have to do and everything else will take care of itself,” he added. “As far as practicing, showing the defense a good look … that’s nothing compared to what we have to learn.”

Bookmark and Share

Ray Lewis visits city school to inspire, give supplies

Ray Lewis met some of his smallest but biggest fans on Tuesday.

The Ravens linebacker entered the Abbottston Elementary school gym to the screams of 200 students, including sixth-graders from the nearby Stadium School, to hand out free backpacks full of supplies for the new school year.

Lewis was joined by his youngest daughter, 11-year-old Raven, and his mother, Sunseria Smith, to help hand out the supplies from his charity, The Ray Lewis 52 Foundation, for the school in the Northeastern Coldstream Homestead Montebello neighborhood. Others from the foundation and City Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young also attended.

Upon arrival, Lewis walked up and down the rows of kids, shaking hands, patting heads and chatting.

"I'm never washing my hand again," said Legacy Forte, 11, a sixth-grader at the Stadium School, over the load roar of students.

Her best friend, Jasmyn Howard, also 11, was able to snap a quick picture of Lewis on her cell phone.

"It's not a very good picture, but it's still a picture," Howard said.

After Lewis weaved in and out of the rows, reaching nearly all the students, he gave them advice for the new year.

"You gotta understand what your teachers are telling you," Lewis said. He reminded kids to be quiet when their teachers talk, to listen to their instructions and to be respectful.

"There is no limit; you guys are our future," he said.

He also stressed what is important off the field — helping others. He said he brought his daughter to show "what really drives me" — that there's more outside of football, he said.

Lewis' mother said children need to "respect parents, respect teachers," and received applause from parents around the perimeter of the school's gym. She also told them Lewis "is a giant, but he is a teddy bear."

Yusuf Jenkins, 30, who came to pick up his daughter Naija, a second-grader, called the visit awesome. "It's a nice gesture. I like the message he put out," he said. "And he's a lot bigger than I thought."

After Lewis spoke, the students formed a line to receive their supplies. When Naija grabbed her new bright pink backpack, Jenkins made her pause for a quick picture. "At first she tried to walk away. I said 'oh, no,'" he said, pulling out his cell phone to show off the photo.

"It shows he cares," Jenkins said, saying Lewis could have dropped the stuff off and left. But Lewis waited to hand out the backpacks to each kid, shaking hands and posing for pictures.

Dale Byrd, an 11-year-old at the Stadium School, was sitting in the back and didn't get to reach Lewis when he first greeted the students. But Byrd was able to get close when he went to get his black backpack. "He touched it!"

"They were so excited," said Denise Mabry, managing principal. "We're so blessed."

Click here to order Ray Lewis’ proCane Rookie Card.

Bookmark and Share

Catching Up With: Jim Kelly

Miami fans will remember Jim Kelly as the quarterback who helped Howard Schnellenberger kick off his infamous five-year national championship plan at the U, knocking off no. 1 Penn State in his first college game.

They will also remember him as Dan Marino's AFC foil, rewriting the record books in Buffalo while leading the Bills to four straight Super Bowl appearances in the early '90s. 

The first of the stellar signal-callers who turned Miami into "Quarterback U," and the Orange Bowl's original fashionista, Kelly was inducted into UM's Hall of Fame in 1992. The NFL Hall of Fame followed a decade later, and Kelly, who retired in 1996, has spent most of his time working with Hunter's Hope, the foundation he began in honor of a son who was stricken with Krabbe Disease and died at age 8.

We caught up with Kelly to talk 'Canes, Dolphins, and dudes as he helped roll out the Depend Campaign to End Prostate Cancer, a four-month long initiative aimed at informing men of the risks of the disease and the importance of early detection. Seeing as he spent his whole career staring at mens' backsides, it seemed only natural.

You were at the U during Howard Schnellenberger’s first years, helping build a program that would later dominate college football. Your class certainly had its moments with big wins over Penn State and Miami's first bowl win since 1967, but was there a particular period when you watched the 'Canes later and thought, 'Man, I wish I could have been there for that?'
I’ve never really thought that, and my junior and senior years we were on probation, so I never really had the luxury of going to [another] bowl game. I never really looked back and though that. Maybe I did with some of the offensive systems. The wide open offenses I would have enjoyed, because in my day if you threw 20-25 times a game that was normal.

But those were just great years. The honor of getting to play for the great Howard Schnellenberger -- incredible. He was a drill seargeant.

You’ve long been an advocate for other medical and health causes through your work with Hunter’s Hope and other charities. What drew you to the Depend Campaign?
When they started to explain to me how so many men are scared to take a PSA (Prostate-Specific Antigen) test, I knew I had to get involved. I just turned fifty, and my buddies, they don't want to take the test. And if you have anyone in your family, even around the age of 40, they should be taking it: 1 of every 6 men will have prostate cancer, and the risks are even greater for African-American guys. It's around 40%.

And it's beatable! The test is just having your blood taken. You just go in for your annual physical, and have them do the PSA test with your bloodwork. My buddies who are super macho, guys my age, they say, 'Oh, I play basketball. I run. I'm healthy. I keep fit.' But it has nothing to do with that.

While you’re busy with worthy causes, some of your contemporaries are off Dancing with the Stars or appearing on Survivor. Do you ever see them on TV, feel those competitive juices start to flow, and become tempted to demand a dance-off with Dan Marino?
[Laughs] No way! I’ve got two left feet. Actually, I'm not that bad of a dancer. But you could not pay me enough money to do that. It's a lot of work! I’ve got a bad back, my knees hurt...I play basketball all the time, but what they do is tough. I'll leave that to those guys.

Speaking of Dan Marino, the Bills and Dolphins kick off the season against each other on Sunday, with both teams trying to grapple their way back to where the two of you left them. What’s it going to take for the Bills?
Stay healthy, first of all. Last year they had 21 players on the injured reserve; at one point, 4 of 5 offensive lineman were out. We cannot afford injuries, we don’t have the luxury of depth other teams do.

But it's a new system, with a new coordinator and a new head coach. I think the Bills might surprise a few people. The first month is key. We start out with the Dolphins, then head to Green Bay, and then face the Patriots and the Jets. The first month is gonna dictate how our season’s gonna be going. It’s very important to start strong.

There’s a lot of young quarterbacks in the league now who grew up watching you run that incredible offense in Buffalo. When you look at the current crop, is there anyone that stands out to you, anyone you particularly enjoy watching?
I still like watching the older guys. Peyton [Manning] and Tom Brady. And of course, my boy Brett Favre. I still can’t believe he’s out there playing so many games in a row! 

There's a lot of good guys, but no matter who's out there, the key today is protecting the quarterback. People say they focus on that too much, but if you look at the teams left standing at the end of last season, it was those with quarterbacks who were protected really well.

Finally, who’s going to win in Columbus this weekend when the Canes take on Ohio State?
27-17, Canes! No question. And 27-17 is going to be the score when the Bills beat the Dolphins, too.

Click here to order Jim Kelly’s proCane Rookie Card.

Bookmark and Share

Chris Perez riding hot streak in save situations

ANAHEIM -- Indians closer Chris Perez has simply been lights-out recently. The right-hander has posted a 0.65 ERA and 13 saves over his past 27 appearances dating back to June 28.

His ERA is the lowest among American League relievers over that span and he's struck out 31 batters in 27 2/3 innings. Over his past 27 appearances, 26 have been scoreless.

"I feel confident and it's been a good month or so," Perez said. "I've been there in the eighth with jams and the ninth with a clean inning. But I don't really pay attention to that. I'm just trying to do my job and get hitters out and throwing quality strikes."

His work hasn't gone unnoticed by Indians manager Manny Acta, who has marveled at Perez's poise on the mound.

"Our guy has been good in any type of situation over the last months," Acta said. "His demeanor out there is to not allow anybody to get on and he's just been out there trying to dominate people and it's worked for him."

Bookmark and Share

How good is the Twins' Danny Valencia?

Two things are undeniably true about Danny Valencia's rookie year. The first is that he's been incredibly good, hitting .343/.382/.454 in 63 games while delivering key hits and playing strong defense. The second is that he's been incredibly lucky, posting a .385 batting average on balls in play that's 30 points higher than the rate sustained by even the best ball-in-play hitters and massively outperforming his minor-league track record.
The second thing doesn't take away from the first thing, but understanding and accepting that both things are true is necessary before rationally and objectively trying to figure out what the future holds for Valencia. In other words, Valencia is not going to hit .340 forever, but that fact doesn't wipe away the last three months of hot hitting or mean he won't still be a good player even after the inevitable trip back down to earth.

The question is how good, and the answer involves more than the last 65 games.

When the Twins called up Valencia in early June, the expectation was that he'd stick around for just a handful of days while Michael Cuddyer was away from the team on bereavement leave, but when J.J. Hardy injured his wrist and Nick Punto replaced him by moving from third base to shortstop, there was suddenly a spot in the lineup for the 25-year-old rookie. Valencia drew 11 starts in 13 games, but that changed when interleague play in NL ballparks began.

Ron Gardenhire moved Cuddyer to third base for the first time since 2005, leaving Valencia to start just four of the next 17 games, and by the time interleague play ended, Hardy was off the disabled list and Punto was back at third base. Punto started over Valencia eight times in 12 games but then injured his hamstring in late July. That cleared the way for Valencia to grab hold of the job, and he did just that, hitting .359/.387/.503 while making 38 consecutive starts.

Valencia's performance isn't a fluke in the same sense that, say, the random, completely out of character good stretch from Ramon Ortiz in 2007 was, because he's not a rotten player bound to implode. Instead, he's a good player — placing eighth in my ranking of Twins prospects coming into the season — and is simply playing above his head for now. Here's a look at how his hitting with the Twins compares with what Valencia did at Double-A and Triple-A:


Majors 233 .343 .383 .454 .111 6.4 12.4 .385

AA/AAA 1023 .288 .338 .453 .165 6.5 17.7 .329

Valencia has been a much more productive hitter in the majors than he was in the high minors, but he's also been a much different hitter. Valencia showed merely average power at Double-A and Triple-A, with 13 homers and 37 doubles per 500 at-bats, yet he's lost 33 percent of that pop in the majors. Denard Span, Jason Bartlett, Carlos Gomez, Cristian Guzman, and Adam Everett all have an Isolated Power between .105 and .115 for their career. Valencia is at .111.

Along with a 33 percent drop in power, he's also cut his strikeouts by 30 percent, which makes some sense given that decreased power and increased contact typically go hand in hand. He's never walked much, and Valencia's walk rate has remained almost exactly the same. And then there's the 56-point jump in batting average on balls in play from .329 to .385, which is nearly identical to his 55-point jump in batting average from .288 to .343.

If you adjust Valencia's batting average on balls in play from .385 to .329, his overall line in the majors drops from .343/.383/.454 to .287/.327/.398, which shows just how much of his great production has been driven by unsustainably amazing ball-in-play success. And even the .329 batting average on balls in play he had in the high minors would be in the upper-echelon for the majors, so something in the .300-.320 range is more likely long term.

That's the bad news. The good news is that he can also be counted on for more power long term. His pop in the minors clearly doesn't project to make him a slugger, but should translate to more than a .111 Isolated Power and his size suggests the same. Instead of sitting in the low .100s with Span, Bartlett, Gomez, Guzman and Everett, rising to the .140-.160 range with Joe Mauer, Orlando Hudson, A.J. Pierzynski, and Delmon Young seems doable.

Add it all up and Valencia seems to be something like a .280/.325/.430 hitter, which, while quite a letdown from his current production, would make him almost exactly average at third base, where the position as a whole has hit .267/.334/.428 over the past three years. Average may not be exciting, especially for a guy hitting .343 at the moment, but from a 25-year-old making the minimum salary and under team control through 2016, average would be plenty valuable.

And that's just his offense. Valencia has looked very strong defensively so far, showing quality range, solid hands and a great arm. His good glove has come as a pleasant surprise, because both last season and this season the Twins were relatively open about questioning Valencia's defense. For instance, when they declined to call up Valencia for September roster expansion last year, LaVelle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star Tribune wrote:

Others with the organization indicate that Valencia, 24, has to tighten up his defense, his positioning in particular.

At the start of spring training five months later, Neal quoted a Twins scout who'd also managed Valencia in winter ball as saying he'd been working specifically on his defense and also wrote:

The Twins say they believe he can be a prototypical third baseman, but he needs to smooth out rough spots in his game, especially defensively.
And then in June when the Twins called up Valencia, the Star Tribune article by Joe Christensen quoted Gardenhire as saying:

The reports said he's laying back on too many balls right now, so we'll talk about being aggressive and getting the ball. You can't trust your arm all the time because the game's pretty fast up here.

I'm not sure how Valencia used to look, but I've certainly loved his defense so far and Ultimate Zone Rating agrees, pegging him as 5.8 runs above average in less than a half-year of action. Like with his inflated hitting, the odds of Valencia being that amazing defensively long term are unlikely, but if he's truly an above-average defender to go with an average bat, the Twins will have a very nice all-around player even after he returns from the ball-in-play stratosphere.

Bookmark and Share

September 7th NFL U Roster Update

Check out the latest update to the 2010 NFL U Rosters. There are several new additions and subtractions since our last update. You can also check out the MLB, and CFL rosters. Click here to see the proCane rosters.

Bookmark and Share

Check out WQAM's interviews with proCanes This Week

Daniel Stubbs, Alonzo Highsmith and Lamar Thomas were guests on Michael Irvin’s show on WQAM this week. Additionally Randy Shannon was also a guest on WQAM this week. Click here to listen to the interviews.

Bookmark and Share


Brett Romberg To the CFL? Doubtful

Brett Romberg: Adam Rita drafted Romberg, a native of Windsor, Ont. who lives in Florida, in 2002 but the Lions still hold the rights to the 30-year-old. Because he has eight years of pensioned NFL service and is an offensive lineman there was sufficient reason to ask whether the BC Lions have interest in a player cut by the Atlanta Falcons on the weekend whose price tag because of his NFL bank account would figure to make him affordable for a CFL team.

But we're going to put the coach down as doubtful on that one. Buono: "Brett Romberg said that if the club was for sale he might consider buying it." And with that the office door was closed.

Bookmark and Share

Calais Campbell talks about life off the field

Outside The Huddle

Each week, The Republic spotlights a Cardinals player for a series of on-the-spot, off-beat questions.

Today: Calais Campbell, Defensive End

Question: What's one place in this world you are dying to go visit?
Campbell: Maybe the pyramids in Egypt, just because of all the history behind them. That, and Larry Fitzgerald went and showed me a bunch of pictures, told me all about it, and now I'm dying to go.

Q: What NFL team and player did you enjoy watching the most as a kid?
A: The Denver Broncos. And my favorite player growing up was Shannon Sharpe.

Q: Shannon had a bit of big mouth, didn't he?
A: Yeah, he definitely did. (laughs) But because if him, I wanted to be the best tight end in the world when I was like 6. But then I realized it was better to hit then to be hit, so I chose to play defense.

Q: What hobbies do you have and if you don't have any, which ones might you like to pursue?
A: I've tried to pick up golfing and it's definitely a hard sport. I'm very competitive, so it's been a real challenge for me. But I also like to play pool and I'm a big cards player. But I'm also from Denver, so I've done some rock climbing and I've been snowboarding.

Q: Seeing you on a snowboard seems kind of scary. I mean, you're 6 feet 8, right?
A: It's definitely a sight to see. I'm not the best snowboarder, but I have fun with it."

Q: Do you play any musical instruments?
A: Growing up I played the trumpet from like fourth to eighth grade. But I gave it up in high school because you couldn't play football and be in the marching band, so I chose football.

Q: Good career move. So have you checked yourself out on Madden 2011 yet?
A: Yeah, but I'm a little disappointed. I thought I'd have a better rating in the game. They made me a lot better than they did the year before. But I want to be higher, especially on their Swagger Scale. (Darnell) Dockett is a 90 and mine is 87, so I can't live that down. I want to be even or higher than him.

Q: What sort of things did you do for fun as a kid besides sports?
A: I was on the chess club growing up so we always used to play in chess tournaments. I'm a big movie guy and I did a lot of that. And my dad put us in this outdoors club in the summertime to keep us busy. It was a lot of fishing, hiking, camping, rock climbing, a lot of outdoor stuff and it was fun.

Q: What dream car do you want in your garage right now?
A: I told myself if I get 10 sacks this year, I'm going to buy myself a nice little Jaguar XA. It's nothing too crazy. It costs like $110,000 with all the extras.

Q: Your favorite meal of all time?
A: My mom makes the best fried tilapia with sweet potatoes and maybe some mac and cheese. And she makes this amazing pie. It's kind of like a banana-cookie cream thing and it's the greatest.

Q: Now name me one teammate I should watch this Sunday when you guys play the Rams and why?
A: I think Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie always has a big game against the Rams. He creates problems out there and with the pass rush we're going to be putting on (Sam) Bradford, I think he's going to make some plays.

Click here to order Calais Campbell’s proCane Rookie Card.

Bookmark and Share

Belichick speaks on the release of Damione Lewis

Here is what Patriots coach Bill Belichick had to say about the team's surprising releasing of veteran defensive lineman Damione Lewis.

"I like a lot of things about Damione," Belichick said. "He's a solid guy. He's a good player. He's smart. He works hard. Just in the end we felt like we had some other people ahead of him. Really that's what it came down to."

Lewis is a veteran of nine seasons and is a former first-round pick (drafted 12th overall out of Miami by St. Louis).

"There isn't anything I don't like about Damione Lewis, I just think that there are other players we like just a little bit better for one reason or another," Belichick said.

Click here to order Damione Lewis’ proCane Rookie Card.

Bookmark and Share

If you believe CNNSI, the end is near for Ed Reed

Sports Illustrated got pretty in-depth with its 2010 NFL predictions, making educated guesses about which good teams will miss the playoffs, which coaches will get canned and which players will retire at season's end. When it comes to predicting their "player who won't be back in 2011," three of SI's eight panelists picked Ravens players.

Don Banks thinks Ed Reed will ballhawk off into the sunset at season's end: "I wish I could take the easy way out and pick Brett Favre for a second year in a row, but alas that would be weak-willed. Give me Reed because even though he'll only turn 32 next month, his body has taken more than its share of abuse and may be close to the breaking point."

Click here to order Ed Reed’s proCane Rookie Card.

Bookmark and Share

Three-hundred pound tackle Joe McGrath ready to win for Lions

They didn't call him 'Mean Joe' in Edmonton.

Joe McGrath, cut after the Eskimos accused him of playing soft, will start at right tackle on Friday night in Montreal, less than two weeks after joining the Lions.

“It's exciting because it's a new opportunity, but I have 100 starts in my career in the CFL,” McGrath said.

He was an NCAA champion with Miami (and Sherko Haji-Rasouli) in 2001, the second-overall pick (Calgary, 2003) in the CFL and the Eskimos' 2006 nominee for outstanding offensive lineman.

Yet the Esks, perhaps looking for a player-scapegoat to accompany the firing of GM Danny Maciocia, accused the 29-year-old native of Moose Jaw, Sask., of being a softie.

McGrath is 6-foot-5, 300 pounds - you try asking him if the accusation is true.

“That's what they said, but I'm just going to go out there and play my game,” McGrath said on Wednesday. “If I play outside myself, that's when I'm prone to making mistakes.”

Because Haji-Rasouli's knee still can't pass muster, McGrath slots in to a position that's been filled by committee.

Yes, he has been flagged for major fouls.

“But you don't want that,” McGrath said. “I mean, it looks great for the fans and the media picks up on it, but it hurts your team because you get a 15-yard penalty.”

In one of those sweet CFL vignettes, Davis Sanchez is donating Thursday night's paycheque to the Tony Proudfoot Foundation.

Proudfoot, a one-time Lion and an all-star Canadian defensive back with the Montreal Alouettes, has Lou Gehrig's Disease.

- Buono, in a nod to his stubborn side, acknowledged he should have used Yonus Davis earlier as a special teams returner, but the coach was wed to having a receiver do the job, going back to last season.

Once Davis finally got a shot at returning kicks, he churned out total yardage of 111, 161 and then 225.

Despite dropping a missed Calgary field-goal attempt last week, leading to a 7-0 Stampeders lead before fans had found their seats at Empire Field, Davis was named special-teams player of the month.

“He's been a very, very exciting player and I'm glad the voters have seen that,” Buono said. “I think the best is yet to come with him.”

Bookmark and Share

Danny Valencia likely out until at least Friday

MINNEAPOLIS -- Third baseman Danny Valencia won't likely return to the Twins' lineup until at least Friday, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said.
Valencia's tight right hamstring has been feeling better, but it's still not good enough for the Twins to take the chance of putting him back out on the field. So Matt Tolbert got the start at third base for a fourth consecutive day in place of Valencia.

"He says he can hit," Gardenhire said of Valencia. "We know that. But after you hit, you've got to do something. You've got to run and we're not quite there yet. He wants to play. He's dying [to play]."

Gardenhire said his best guess is that Valencia will be back on Friday. But he's going to listen to the training staff and the team's strength coach in order to make sure that Valencia doesn't try to come back too quickly from this and risk further injury.

"I don't want this to turn into something where he goes out there and pops it and we're done for the year," Gardenhire said. "Because he could be, and I don't want to get into that. So we're going to give him the days we need here."

Bookmark and Share

proCane Cuts and Practice Squad Signings

Eric Moncur: was cut by the Philadelphia Eagles.

William Joseph: was cut by the Oakland Raiders.

Damione Lewis: was cut by the New England Patriots.

Orien Harris: was cut by the Cincinnati Bengals.

Joe Joseph: was cut by the Tennessee Titans.

Dwayne Hendricks: was cut by the New York Giants.

Brett Romberg: was cut by the Atlanta Falcons.

Baraka Atkins: was cut by the Denver Broncos.

Glenn Sharpe: was cut by the Indianapolis Colts.

Dajleon Farr: was cut by the Dallas Cowboys.

Shawnbrey McNeal: was cut by the San Diego Chargers.

Javarris James: was cut by the Indianapolis Colts, but was signed to the New England Patriots Practice Squad.

Darnell Jenkins: was cut by theNew England Patriots, but was signed to the New England Patriots Practice Squad.

Dedrick Epps: was cut by the San Diego Chargers, but was then Signed to the Chargers Practice Squad.

Kareem Brown: was place on the Tennessee Titans’ IR.

Bookmark and Share

Jeremy Shockey ready for Thursday

Saints TE Jeremy Shockey was not listed on the practice report for Monday as New Orleans prepared for Thursday's season opener against the Vikings. Shockey did not play in the preseason finale and was limited in practice that week but is no longer dealing with an injury at this time.

Click here to order Jeremy Shockey’s proCane Rookie Card.

Bookmark and Share

D.J. Williams Expected To Be More Effective In 2010

An injury kept ILB D.J. Williams out of the first two preseason games, but a Broncos observer expects Williams to be more effective this season. Williams is playing the same position he did last season after being bounced around at several different linebacker spots the past few years, which should be beneficial. He's also at his best when he has room to move in space, and Denver's defensive line should be better at keeping blockers off of him than it was in 2009.

Click here to order DJ Williams’ proCane Rookie Card.

Bookmark and Share

Ken Dorsey talks UM-Ohio State rematch, memories of 2002

CORAL GABLES — Ken Dorsey is going to have to settle for updates during Miami’s game against Ohio State on Saturday.

Unfortunately for the former ‘Canes  QB, who’s now backing up former Dolphins QB Cleo Lemon with the Toronto Argonauts of the CFL, his team will kick off against the B.C. Lions 20 minutes after UM-OSU.

It wouldn’t be easy to find the game on TV anyhow. The Canadians love pro football, especially the NFL. But as I learned the past five falls, you have better luck finding shuffleboard or junior hockey on TV than college football. 

Anyhow, I spoke to Dorsey on the phone today about UM-Ohio State.  But first, we talked about the CFL.

“I’m not the starter, but it’s been a great thing for me because I get to work with the coaching staff and be like an assistant coach,” said Dorsey, who signed with the Argos in late May. “I work a lot on game planning and different things, so I’m really enjoying it.”

Dorsey, who was with the 49ers for three seasons and the Browns for three more, said he viewed going to the CFL as an opportunity that’d help him become a future college/NFL coach.

“I got to know the staff before I signed and it was a great fit for me because they were going to let me do a lot of stuff that I’m going to do later on in coaching,” Dorsey said. “It’s perfect because I still get to go out and practice and prepare for games as a player, but also as a coach.” 

As for the ‘Canes game Saturday  in Columbus, Ohio, there would be a certain satisfaction for him beyond revenge for the 2003 Fiesta Bowl loss.
When he was played for the Cleveland Browns from 2006-08, he said, Ohio State fans brought up that ‘02 national title game to him a lot. Most were ”pretty respectful” about it. Then there were those that were “less than cordial to you.”

“Especially for those type of people,” Dorsey said, “you’d like to see Miami win.”

Like the rest of the ‘Canes, Dorsey was devastated by the 31-24 loss to OSU in two overtimes seven years ago.

But, he noted today, “I would rather have been in that game and had the outcome we had than not be in it at all.”

“It was a great game,” Dorsey continued. “No matter how the game ended, what the situation was or anything like that, it was a great game. I am just really proud to be a part of that team. It meant something.”

Dorsey said he doesn’t think about that 2002 national title game much anymore unless someone brings it up.

“I like to think about the Rose Bowl game a lot more,” he said. “Every once in a while, you think about it. You see Ohio State play or something like that and you think about that game. But as time went on, you remember the good times and all the things we were able to do as a group rather than just hang on the one unfortunate thing.”

Dorsey added, “We had a hell of a run with great players, great chemistry, great group of players as well as people. Nobody can ever take that away from you.”

All of this noted, a ‘Canes win Saturday still would ease some of the pain from eight seasons ago, Dorsey said.

“After what happened in the national title game, it would mean something. Yeah, it really would,” he said. “But for those guys [current 'Canes], this is a big step for the program, from where it was [a few years ago] to where it’s going. That’s the important thing for these guys.

“I don’t want them to get caught up in having to win this game for anybody but themselves. This is a huge game for them personally and one I hope they will always remember. It’ll be special if they can go in there and beat Ohio State up there.”

Bookmark and Share

Glenn Sharpe has moved past infamous '02 call

Coral Gables — Glenn Sharpe feels some sense of justice.

He can see it, too. It's big and blinding and encrusted with diamonds, just how he would picture a 2002 national championship ring would look on his finger.

Instead of a "U" as the centerpiece, though, this ring features a fleur-de-lis — the French symbol that's the logo of the New Orleans Saints.

Sharpe got a Super Bowl ring as a practice-squad player for the Saints last season.

"It's kind of funny because I told a lot of guys, 'Hey man, I feel like I deserve this ring because I was cheated out of my ring in college,'" Sharpe said, laughing. "This ring vindicates me."

Seven years have passed since that fateful pass interference call in the Fiesta Bowl. On fourth-and-3 from the 5 in overtime, Ohio State quarterback Craig Krenzel's pass to Chris Gamble in the end zone was broken up by the freshman Sharpe.

The Hurricanes rushed the field to celebrate their second consecutive national title. About three seconds after the play, Big 12 referee Terry Porter threw a flag: pass interference. Miami would end up losing 31-24 in two overtimes.

"I don't feel bad for [Sharpe] because he didn't do anything. He got victimized," said former UM running back Quadtrine Hill (2002-05). "It's like being upset at somebody for being shot at."

Sharpe, a Miami Carol City grad, says he hasn't spoken to Gamble, a Dillard grad, about that play. Was it pass interference?

"There's no doubt," said Sharpe, who was Ohio State receiver Michael Jenkins' teammate in the NFL. "I know he knows what happened because when I was first with the [ Atlanta] Falcons, Jenkins used to say all the time, 'Yeah man, Chris was like, "Man, you know that was no pass interference."' But he was going to take it 'cause the ref gave it to him."

Added Sharpe: "Even Jenkins said that [it wasn't interference]. He was like, 'Yeah, they got you.'"

Gamble, coincidentally, was a cornerback himself. He was occasionally used as a receiver. That night, Gamble was on the field for 107 plays. Fourth-and-3 from the 5 was the most pivotal.

"I don't hold any grudges against Ohio State or the refs," Sharpe said. "I just feel he made a bad call and in his heart he knows he made a bad call."

Publicly, Porter said otherwise.

He told reporters after the game, "I replayed it in my mind. I wanted to make double-sure that it was the right call."

Later, the Big Ten supervisor of officials, used by the NCAA to assign officials for bowl games, and Big 12 commissioner would support Porter's call. Referee magazine even deemed it one of the "Best 18 Calls of All Time."

Most of the country, though, sided with Miami.

Meanwhile, no one on Ohio State's team talked about the play the night of the national championship game or in the days after, former OSU running back Lydell Ross said.

"We could have cared less about the call," he said.

Four plays before the pass interference, Jenkins made a 17-yard catch on fourth-and-14 to keep OSU alive.

"That's just how much of an effect that call has had," Ross said. "Everything's overlooked — the catch by Michael Jenkins, the winning touchdown by Maurice Clarett, the strip that Clarett had in that game of Sean Taylor. Nobody wants to talk about that. Everybody wants to talk about the call."

Sharpe said he's watched the controversial play just twice in seven years: first to see if there was anything that would have warranted the flag, then to see if there's anything he could have done better.

"I would feel much worse if I actually did [commit] pass interference," Sharpe said. "But since I know I didn't, it kind of frees my mind."

Bookmark and Share

Ravens hopeful Ed Reed will be back by seventh week

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh said that it’s absolutely a strong possibility that star free safety Ed Reed could be activated from the reserve physically unable to perform list as soon as the seventh week of the regular season.

The Ravens had hoped Reed could be back for the first game, but Reed wasn’t comfortable coming back that soon. He'll be out for at least the first six weeks of the regular season.

“We were really hoping he could do it,” Harbaugh said. “He made the decision in the end. I think he feels with the team interest first that’s the best thing, but he’ll be ready to go soon enough. I know we can play well when he’s not there, and look how much better we’re going to be when he gets back.”

Tom Zbikowski will start in place of the former NFL Defensive Player of the Year.

A six-time Pro Bowl selection, Reed had surgery in April.

“This is my first surgery and I just wanted to make sure that I was 100 percent, and I didn’t feel 100 percent,” Reed said in a Sirius radio interview. “I still have some weaknesses. I probably could have went out there and kinda maneuvered my way around for a couple of weeks until I really got myself back together but I didn’t know if that was going to be fourth, fifth week or whatnot.

“And it wasn’t gonna do any justice to the team after they put in all that hard work this offseason and training camp for that one guy who we probably needed on the roster that was probably 110 percent and could have gave us a special teams play or maybe even a defensive play here or there.”

Click here to order Ed Reed’s proCane Rookie Card.

Bookmark and Share

Sam Shields Practice Hard For Week 1

Sam Shields has played a lot in the nickel cornerback position and he said he expected to continue along that role this week. He said he was excited about the opportunity. “It’s a blessing, I just have to keep going forward,” said Shields.

He’s especially confident in working on the field with his roommate, safety Morgan Burnett. The two of them have been testing each other on assignments and schemes all during camp and by now, know each other so well that on the field, they can communicate non-verbally.

“It helps, we quizzed each other almost every night,” said Shields. “We talked to some of the veterans who helped us out and then we kept doing it. Plus we’ve got that bond now, like we’re brothers. And that’s what I like about Green Bay, we all help each other out. There’s nobody that’s isolated.”

In preparation for the week ahead and the opener at Philadelphia, Shields had just asked Charles Woodson on Monday afternoon to accompany him to the film room so they could study together.

“Just getting with him, it’s really going to help me out, come game time,” said Shields. “I just went up to him and just asked him for help, and he was willing to do it.."

Otherwise, “Don’t get a big head,” is the advice he’s heard around the team so far. “Just keep working.”

Shields said his hard work and dedication landed him a job here. He is one of three new faces of undrafted free agents to make the team – Frank Zombo and Nick McDonald were the others. Tim Masthay could be considered the fourth, since he came out of Kentucky last year undrafted. Shields also has a job with the Packers because of his blazing speed.

His special teams work, however, may be limited to simply playing gunner in Week 1. He was given a shot at returner but a few muffs hurt his chances of earning that right now.

“Hopefully I do get an opportunity again but right now, they’ve got their guys,” said Shields. He said he wasn’t upset that he didn’t win a return job; he also added it will be up to him to put in extra work in catching and securing the ball to try to prove himself capable again.

Bookmark and Share

Hit on Clayton costs Antrel Rolle $7,500

Antrel Rolle's crushing hit on Ravens wide receiver Mark Clayton last week delivered a blow to the New York Giants safety's paycheck.

The NFL fined Rolle $7,500 on Friday.

Rolle's hit to Clayton's head came in Saturday's preseason game at M&T Bank Stadium and gave Clayton a concussion. Rolle was penalized for hitting a defenseless receiver, since the ball had already sailed past Clayton. That was a point of emphasis in the offseason.

A few days later, Clayton said Rolle shouldn't be fined. "It's football, stuff like that happens," Clayton said earlier in the week.

Click here to order Antrel Rolle’s proCane Rookie Card.

Bookmark and Share

Devin Hester says offense ready to go full-speed

Count Devin Hester among those unconcerned about the Bears struggles on offense.

Prepping for Sunday’s regular-season opener against Detroit, the Bears plan to streamline some of the offense and formulate a concentrated plan of attack. Hester says observers now will finally get a chance to see the full potential of Mike Martz’s offense.

“You can’t judge what we did in the preseason because we weren’t showing everything. That’s the way offenses are made,” Hester told ESPNChicago.com. “We can’t risk showing all our new stuff and show people what we’re capable of doing, because then, you have teams preparing for you. We want to show it when it’s time to play for real. So we’ve gone out with the basic plays in the preseason, and let them see that.”

Perhaps that’s the correct approach given the fact that scouts from NFC North squads attended each of the Bears’ preseason games to glean information. Hester said he’s excited to finally show the full range of plays in Martz’s offense. While the Bears weren’t wildly successful in the preseason, Hester said he’s confident in what the offense can accomplish this season.

“We’ve seen this offense work several times in practice against our defense. We’ve seen what we’re capable of doing,” Hester said. “Now it’s just a matter of us just opening it up. That’s what it is. We were conservative. We didn’t want to show everyone what we could do.”

But now, it’s time. Hester caught five passes for 64 yards and didn’t score a touchdown in the preseason, but the receiver insists that production isn’t indicative of what he’ll do once the games actually count.

“I’m gonna do my thing this year, man,” Hester said, smiling. “I’m focused and ready to play within myself. I’ve worked harder than I ever have before. I plan to stand out.”

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

Bookmark and Share

Trade rumors rile Bears' Greg Olsen

Greg Olsen bit his tongue, for the most part, all offseason as he was bombarded with questions about his projected role in Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz's scheme.

The tight end finally had enough after a recent report suggested the Bears remain willing to trade him.

"You mean the story that was made up? It doesn't bother me because I know there is no truth behind it," Olsen snapped. "But it does bother me that people take the liberty to just make up stories for their own personal benefit.

"There was no substance behind it. If there was, tell us. It's easy to say an unnamed source. That could be anybody."

Bears general manager Jerry Angelo told the Tribune there was nothing to the report, although Angelo admitted teams have inquired about Olsen. It would be hard to imagine the Bears parting ways with one of Jay Cutler's favorite targets, not to mention the quarterback's best friend.

"I haven't talked to Jerry lately, but I know where he stands," Olsen said. "I've talked to him a bunch of times in the past. I know where I stand here and the way they feel. So people who want to write this and that or whatnot … whatever."

Even if Olsen told friends he wanted out of town when Martz was hired in February, and even if the Patriots were indeed interested, those matters seem to be in the past.

The Bears kept four tight ends on the 53-man roster because each brings a unique ability to the team. Olsen, a former first-round pick, continues to be a reliable pass-catcher capable of emerging as a dangerous red-zone threat, as he showed in the exhibition finale with a 15-yard touchdown reception from backup Todd Collins.

Olsen led the team with 60 catches a year ago (eight touchdowns), and Angelo said he envisioned the fourth-year player lining up more as a receiver. At the same time, Martz's offense calls for much more blocking from the tight ends — particularly if the offensive line struggles — which is why the Bears signed free-agent blocking specialist Brandon Manumaleuna and shifted veteran Desmond Clark into an H-back role.

In the Bears' exhibition against the Cardinals, Olsen lined up at receiver on just seven of 34 snaps and did not see a pass thrown his way. He didn't exactly clear massive holes, but Olsen only whiffed on a middle screen to Matt Forte.

"Obviously, I have to continue to work at it, but I feel like my blocking has gotten better every year," Olsen said. "This year is no different."

But his staple is catching the ball, and the Bears would be wise to utilize his ability in Sunday's season opener against the Lions. Olsen's career-high 94 receiving yards came in last year's season finale at Detroit. And his longest career reception (52 yards) was against the Lions in 2008.

Regardless of how Olsen is used, his teammates don't expect him to be fazed by any rumors, even if such talk continues up until the Oct. 19 trade deadline.

"The thing that irritates a player in this situation the most is that it tries to take away from his focus on what he's trying to accomplish on the field," fellow tight end Desmond Clark said. "Now he has to answer questions about stuff he has no control over. Then when your boss tells you there is no validity to the story, it pisses you off because now it looks like people are taking unnecessary shots and creating controversy.

"(Greg) has been dealing with this as well as one can, but it comes to a point where enough is enough."

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

Bookmark and Share

Yonder Alonso's first-hit ball going to his dad

ST. LOUIS -- Reds rookie Yonder Alonso's stuff is all spoken for.

As a pinch-hitter in the ninth inning of Saturday's 6-1 win over the Cardinals, Alonso blooped a ground-rule double to left field. Matt Holliday attempted a sliding catch, but the ball bounced off of his leg and went into the crowd for Alonso's first Major League hit.

"I told [Cardinals second baseman] Aaron Miles, 'Hey, somebody better get that thing. If not, I'll go get it myself.' But I saw them try and go get it," Alonso said.

Alonso did get the ball and also received a lineup card autographed by the team. Those mementos, plus his spikes and bat, are going to members of his family. His parents were at Busch Stadium for all three games this weekend.

The coveted first-hit baseball is reserved for the 23-year-old Alonso's father, Luis, who was a professional ballplayer in Cuba. Luis and his family defected to the United States when Alonso was a 10-year-old boy.

"He's just done so much for me and has always been there for me," Alonso said. "I came here to the States because of him. He left his dream of playing baseball for me. I'm playing for him now. It's pretty emotional."

Alonso, the Reds' first-round Draft pick in 2008, batted .290 with 15 home runs and 69 RBIs in 132 games with Double-A Carolina and Triple-A Louisville before he became a September callup once rosters expanded on Wednesday. The first baseman struggled in the early part of the season but credited switching to a lighter model of bats before catching a spark.

With Joey Votto firmly cemented at first base for the Reds, Alonso is limited to mostly pinch-hitting duty. So far, he's had only two plate appearances but is learning how to handle the less-than-predictable role.

"It's tough if you've never done it, like me," Alonso said. "The veteran guys here have helped me so much with it -- like Miguel Cairo. I'm not saying it's easy, but I'm more prepared for it. I have a routine. In the fourth inning, I stretch. In the fifth inning, I go for a run and then hit off a tee. In the sixth, I'm taking BP or hitting soft tosses. I feel like I'm game-ready."

Bookmark and Share

Danny Valencia latest to be hobbled

Twins third baseman Danny Valencia left Friday's 4-3 victory over Texas in the seventh inning because of a tight right hamstring, moments after notching his 10th hit in the past four games.

Valencia is listed as day-to-day. Matt Tolbert replaced the rookie at third base. Valencia, who has started the past 39 games, is batting .343.

Bookmark and Share

Aubrey Huff Wearing a Red Thong as a Slump Buster

Aubrey Huff is in a 3-for-32 slump. He didn’t hit a ball out of the infield tonight. Before Juan Uribe’s huge homer in the ninth, it looked like Huff’s pop-up with the tying run at first base in the eighth would be a huge letdown.

Anyway, like most baseball players, Huff is superstitious. So he made a little, ahem, alteration to his uniform to help change his luck.

He’s wearing a red thong. And not the kind that Omar Vizquel used to wear. I’m pretty sure this one came from the lingerie department, not men’s furnishings.

“We’re 3-1 with it,” he blared after tonight’s raucous victory. “I might never get a hit the rest of the year, though.”

Speaking personally, the last thing we need is for Huff to go 4-for-4 with the thong. Then he’ll wear it the rest of the season. Ordinarily that wouldn’t be a problem, but he walks around the clubhouse in it. He conducts interviews wearing only his thong. I’m not sure about this, but I think he wears little else while in the food room, too.

That can’t fly with the health inspector.

Whenever the Giants get a huge victory, Huff’s reaction is the best. He’s waited a decade for moments like these. And he, along with Pat Burrell, also started a little tradition in the dugout: The slug-a-teammate maneuver.

When something remarkable happens on the field, you’ll see Huff punch guys in the chest. There was just one problem tonight.

“I really wanted to, but I think I was standing next to DeRosa,” Huff said. “He’s hurt. I didn’t want to punch a hurt guy.”

So I hear that Huff and Burrell got themselves matching yellow blazers with the University of Miami logo on the chest. They wore them on the team flight down to Los Angeles. They probably looked like bowl representatives.

No need to make a visit to watch USC, though. Bah-dum-dum.

Bookmark and Share

Rangers promote INF German, cut Cora

The Texas Rangers purchased the contract of infielder Esteban German from Triple-A Oklahoma City before Monday's game against the Blue Jays. To make room on the 40-man roster, the Rangers designated infielder Alex Cora for assignment.

Cora began the season with the New York Mets before being released and becoming a free agent. The 13-year veteran signed a minor league deal with Texas on Aug. 18 and was promoted to the majors on Aug. 24. He played in four games, batting .286 with no homers and no RBIs.

Bookmark and Share