Ray Lewis has caught the acting bug

Ray Lewis joined "The Dan Patrick Show" to discuss whether he will go into acting when his NFL career is over and whom he'd like to star with in a romantic comedy.

When this is all done, are you going to get into acting? Are you going to be like "The Rock"? What kind of actor will you be?
"I'm not going to be like The Rock. I'm going to be like me, but yes, I'm going into it [acting]. I think I'm very versatile. I'm very versatile. I mean, I could definitely go into action, but action is probably the easiest one. But you know drama, suspense, things like that ... I don't like nothing about horror. I don't like nothing about that mess. But when you talk about acting, that's kind of what I do, you know. I sit at home the way people read books. That's the way I watch movies. I get the same lessons that people get because I'm a visual person. That's why I watch so many movies because I like being in the producer's head before they give you the plot of a movie, whether it's suspense, whether it's whatever. That's kind of from a kid, you know, I always used to act out whoever it was and imitate all these different people. Then when I got older, I started to realize that I was very comfortable with the camera. ... With the Pepsi Max thing with Drew [Brees], that was hilarious to create that sense of humor. This sense of horror from a Pepsi bottle that's created all this drama you know going on. You know me and Drees Brees, we had a good time. We had a real good, good, time doing it."

Are you going to be in a romantic comedy? Who's going to be your co-star?
"I would like those. I like those. Who would be my co-star? Oh, see I don't know. Just let that person pop up. Ugh. I don't know. I like a lot of actresses, like a lot of them. I like, you know, Salma Hayek. She's a great actress. Yeah, that would be awesome. Can you imagine?"

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

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Detroit Lions mock drafts: Miami's Brandon Harris more popular than UCLA's Akeem Ayers

Did you see on Thursday that ESPN draftnik Todd McShay has the Lions taking Colorado offensive lineman Nate Solder? I have the feeling many Lions fans believe the brain trust in Allen Park should be thinking defense.

After digging up a few more mock drafts, we find a few other "experts" have Detroit going with a defender in the first round.

Wesley Bunting, the director of college scouting for the National Football Post, published his predictions for the April draft on Yahoo! Sports. He has the Lions passing on Nebraska cornerback Prince Amukamara and taking Miami (Fla.) DB Brandon Harris.

Adding talent to the secondary has to be objective No. 1 for the Lions’ front office. Harris is a fluid, balanced kid with good speed and impressive ball skills. He has the ability to develop into a very good starting NFL corner.

Bunting isn't alone in his thinking. CBSSports.com's Pete Prisco, who's mock was published Thursday, has the Lions taking Harris, too.
The corner position is a big problem in the Lions defense. They have to upgrade this offseason. Harris makes sense, although there are some other possibilities at the position.

OK, OK, we get it. The Lions need some help in the secondary. But what about the linebacking corps? Foxsports.com's Peter Schrager recently posted his post-Super Bowl mock and thinks Detroit will take UCLA linebacker Akeem Ayers.

He can play either the defensive end or outside linebacker spot, is a highlight waiting to happen and has no ceiling. Julian Peterson likely won’t be around much longer and the Lions could use a young, versatile linebacker to add to the unit. Ayers on that Ford Field carpet? It could be the perfect match.

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Ryan Hill snubbed of NFL Combine invite

CORAL GABLES – It was somewhat surprising that Hurricanes CB Ryan Hill didn’t receive an invitation to the Senior Bowl last month.

It’s completely baffling he wasn’t invited to the NFL Combine.

The names of more than 300 college players appeared on the official list received Monday, including nine Miami Hurricanes. 

Hill wasn’t among them.

Either there’s some bias against Hill for some strange reason, or the selection process is straight up stupid.

He wasn’t worthy enough of an invite? Really?

DeMarcus Van Dyke, who Hill supplanted as starter opposite Brandon Harris last season, received a late invite to the Senior Bowl and will also be at the Combine Feb. 23 in Indianapolis.

Van Dyke had 20 tackles, five pass-breakups and two INT last season. Hill, who started 11 of 13 games, had 51 tackles, eight pass-breakups and a team-high tying three INT.

I’m not trying to hate on Van Dyke, who deserves to be there. I’m just trying to understand why Hill was left off the list. [Note: I've gotten some emails/comments about this, so I wanted to clarify: I by no means gave this example to try to disparage DVD for the sake of building a case for Hill. As I wrote, DVD, who I personally like a lot, deserved the invite. And Hill's comments weren't related to DVD. I simply asked him about not being invited. We didn't discuss the invitation of DVD or any other player]

When I called him up, he was less upset about it than you might expect him to be.

“Initially, I was kind of shocked,” Hill said of not receiving an invite from the NFL. “There’s a lot that goes into making the list, I guess. I don’t know if it was predetermined as far as preseason hype or whatever, but you know…there are going to be guys that go to the Combine and don’t get drafted and some guys that don’t go to the Combine and get drafted.”

Hill did play in the Eastham Energy All-Star Game in Tempe, Ariz., last month and had an interception and three tackles. He said he spoke to every team, and was encouraged by several of them expressing interest. 

Hill, who is training in Boca Raton, said he’s focused on “trying to surprise a lot of people” during UM’s Pro Day March 10. He said three NFL scouts told him if he can run the 40 in 4.4 seconds at his weight, he can be a second or third-rounder. Hill is shooting for the second round.

“There are always guys who fly under the radar…a lot of people don’t know who I am, but hopefully if I run this 4.4 like I plan to do, or maybe even 4.3, the sky’s the limit,” Hill said.

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Did You Know We Have a proCane in NASCAR?

Did you know Tim George Jr who is competing full time in the 2010 ARCA Racing Series presented by RE/MAX and Menards in the No. 31 Richard Childress Racing (RCR) Development Chevrolet Impala is a proCane? We sure didn’t until George Jr. contacted us via Twitter to let us know! Below is his bio and go ahead and check out his site at: http://www.timgeorgejr.com/

George was born and raised in the New York City area. Having grown up around the high energy and commotion of the city, he feels at home around excitement and often finds himself seeking high-octane experiences. However, being raised by a father from mid-western Ohio and a mother from Nashville, Tenn., Tim still experienced the laid-back pace of life outside the city and appreciates taking it slow, except in a race car, of course.

George was drawn to racing in 2004, during his time at University of Miami, where his passion for cooking led to an internship catering racing events at Lime Rock Park in Connecticut. The sound, smell, and rush of the race cars were enough to make him want to pursue a career in motorsports. In 2005 and 2006, he was able to strengthen his driving skills and experienced much success at the Skip Barber Racing School. He capitalized on his successes and began racing in the GRAND-AM Road Racing Series in 2007.

This brought new challenges and much excitement as George was part of a championship team capturing three top 10-qualifiers and five top-10 finishes. In his second season racing the GRAND-AM Series, he rolled into familiar territory with much confidence. 2008 was action packed, including a win at New Jersey Motorsports Park, seven podium finishes, and third-place at the Rolex 24 at Daytona. George also took home the 2008 Rolex GT Bob Akin Award and the 2008 MESCO Rookie of the Year. He returned to race a GT in the 2009 Rolex 24 at Daytona, finishing second in his class.

2009 brought new opportunities and put George behind the wheel of his first stock car. He competed in the entire season in the ARCA Racing Series, which draws some of the most talented stock car drivers around. George showed how his talent had flourished by finishing a respectable seventh at Daytona International Speedway, and fifth at New Jersey Motorsports Park. His rookie season wrapped up with a total of eight top 15's, and he finished 11th overall in the ARCA Racing Series Championship point standings.

George is looking forward to celebrating his first ARCA victory during the 2010 season. Teaming with RCR, racing the full schedule, and using the stock car experienced he gained last year will also make him a strong contender to compete for this year's ARCA Racing Series Championship. He is currently ninth in the point standings, with one top-five and three top-10 finishes, after seven of 20 races on the 2010 schedule. George posted his career-best finish of third at Talladega Superspeedway with the ARCA Racing Series.

As a Richard Childress Racing Development driver, Tim George Jr., made his NASCAR Nationwide Series debut driving RCR's No. 21 Chevrolet Impala in the June 19 Bucyrus 200 presented by Menards at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis.

"The goal of RCR's driver development program is to enhance and strengthen the skills needed to compete at NASCAR's top levels," said Mike Dillon, vice president of competition for Richard Childress Racing.

This season will be another significant step towards achieving his goal of being a successful NASCAR driver.

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James Jones Eager for All-Star Shootout, Labor Talks

MIAMI -- Though he's a role player off the bench for the Miami Heat, James Jones will be quite a busy man at the All-Star Weekend in Los Angeles.

Not only has he become the fifth Heat player ever to be invited to participate in the Three-Point Shootout, he's also the treasurer and the secretary of the NBA Players Association and will be an important part of CBA labor negotiations.

After the Heat's 117-112 victory over the Indiana Pacers on Tuesday night, Jones was looking forward to putting on a shooting display but was also optimistic there would be progress to avoid a potential lockout.

"I'm hopeful. I'm very excited," he said. "Being involved in the collective bargaining sessions is a privilege for me. Our sessions have been tough sessions. Not very much has been done, but I'm always hopeful that at some point in time eventually a true dialogue can start, and we can get on our road to figuring something out."

Jones graduated with a degree in finance from the University of Miami with a 3.41 GPA and as a member of the National Honor Society. He chose his major because of his love for numbers, so he's probably aware that he's already connected on 93 3-point field goals this season, surpassing his second highest single-season career total with 30 games left in the regular season.

He earned his spot in the shootout because of his 42.5 percent shooting (39.5 career) from 3-point range this season. In just the second game of the season, Jones already equaled his career high in 3-pointers made in one game with six.

Jones certainly sounded confident about his chances in the contest, even while noting he had never been in a shooting competition in any level of his basketball career.

"None of the racks are scary," he said. "You go up there and you shoot the ball. Evidently, within this system, I shoot a lot in the corners but every day when you're in the gym, you're shooting from all the spots. For me, it's just taking it one shot at a time, but you're not trying to rush through them because the shot that you rush and miss isn't worth anything. You're better off just taking your time and making every one that you shoot."

His team is certainly excited for him as well. Jones quickly dismissed any talk of having a lot to live up to since three of the four Heat players invited to the shootout have won (Daequan Cook in 2009, Jason Kapono in 2007 and Glen Rice in 1995). Nonetheless, LeBron James left little doubt great expectations would be placed on Jones to make a good showing for their team.

"Absolutely, he will have pressure," LeBron confirmed. "We haven't talked about it yet, but I've had a few teammates be a part of All-Star Weekend. He's a great shooter and we're looking forward to it."

With Mike Miller lost to injury, Jones stepped up and relished the role of shooting specialist with plenty of open looks playing next to the Big 3. His role on offense is so clearly defined, he's tried just one shot at the rim this season and attempted only 38 two-point field goals out of 257 total field-goal attempts. With a supporting cast put together to complement the star trio with an array of shooters, the Heat, as a result, rank in the top five in the league in three-point shooting percentage, precisely because of all those open looks they're enjoying.

"This team is tough," James said when asked if any of his teammates would be worthy competitors if they faced off in a shootout. "Eddie House is one of the streakiest and hottest shooters I've ever seen. Mike Miller is like a machine and he's really consistent. I'm just a streaky guy. You could throw in a guy like LeBron and D-Wade. They're scorers so they have the ability to just lay it on and make multiple shots.

"It's a very unique team because normally there's one guy that you'll (think) will be a tough battle, but here you have four or five guys."

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Aubrey Huff a first baseman for now

The Giants head into spring training with Aubrey Huff tentatively penciled in at first base. However, the team will take a long look at prospect Brandon Belt, who could be ready for the majors. If Belt takes over at first, then Huff is likely headed to left field.

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Scott Maine Set for 2nd or 3rd Left Role?

If James Russell doesn't make the rotation, he and Scott Maine give the Cubs some good left-handed depth behind Marshall. Maine impressed the Cubs enough late last season that they feel he can handle the second or third lefty role if Russell is moved into the rotation. John Grabow, returning from knee surgery, hopes to be the quality left-hander that he was in Pittsburgh. Minor leaguers Chris Carpenter and Jay Jackson will get a long look, too. Both have strong arms and can either start or relieve.

As spring training begins, the Cubs have a lot of pitching depth. The question is how deep does the quality run and will the staff have what it takes to contend with the Reds, Brewers and Cardinals in 2011?

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Jon Jay Facing an Uphill Battle?

Edmonds' arrival would seem to further lengthen the odds for two youngsters to make the team. Allen Craig and Jon Jay began the winter as the projected starting tandem in right field. Now, neither is even a sure thing to be on the roster. Craig may have a better chance as a right-handed hitter and potential platoon partner for Berkman. It also helps that he can play the infield in a pinch.

Jay, though, could be facing an uphill battle. Although he's able to play center field, his left-handedness could cost him. That's because La Russa recently said that he's considering infielder Tyler Greene, a speedy right-handed hitter, as a potential backup option in center.

"One of the things you would look at would be a right-handed-hitting center fielder," La Russa said. "Because there's going to be a day or two where Colby, or anybody, is going to sit. And it probably makes sense for that day to be against a left-hander who's really difficult. So a right-handed-hitting center fielder. So we talked about Tyler maybe getting some at-bats out there. Spring Training, we're kind of creative about what we try down there, with a point to make. Nothing crazy. In Tyler's case, you may see him play some center field."

That would be bad news for Jay, whose strongest argument for being on the roster may be his ability to play center. Then again, if Edmonds isn't able to go, Jay might be in fine shape. It's all to be determined in what should be a very interesting camp for Redbirds outfielders.

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2 proCanes eligible for the HOF in 2013

Two Hall of Fame caliber proCanes will be eligible in 2013 to be inducted into the NFL Hall o Fame. Here is a short list of notable eligible players. 2013: Quarterback Vinny Testaverde, offensive linemen Larry Allen and Jonathan Ogden, defensive tackle Warren Sapp, defensive end Michael Strahan.

Warren Sapp is a lock. We personally think Vinny should be inducted as well as though it may take a few years.

Click here to order Warren Sapp’s or Vinny Testaverede’s proCane Rookie Card.

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How Devin Hester's contract compares to other #2 WRs

Without question, Devin Hester returned to form this past year to take sole possession of the return touchdown record from Brian Mitchell, and if we were paying him solely to be a returner, it would still be money well spent. However, there are often undercurrents and discussion about Hester's worth as a receiver, specially in relation to his contracted salary. We're going to take a quick look at not only how much Hester is set to make, but how much he has already made, and what his salary looks like in relation to other number two receivers in the league.

First things first, courtesy of Rotoworld, a quick overview of his contract signed in '08

Signed a four-year, $40.975 million contract extension through 2013. The deal contains $15 million guaranteed, including a $5 million signing bonus and $5 million roster bonuses in both the second and third years. Another $18.939 million is available through performance-based escalators. $250,000 annual workout bonuses are also available. 2011: $1.5835 million, 2012: $1.646 million, 2013: $1,857,523 (+ $10 million "deescalating" roster bonus), 2014: Free Agenten

To help us get a better grasp on exactly what that all means, and what it looks like actually applied to the cap, USA Today helps us along.







Chicago Bears

$ 550,000

$ 6,885,833
$ 5,750,000

Wide Receiver


Chicago Bears

$ 445,000

$ 5,000,000
$ 1,628,333
$ 5,492,500

Wide Receiver

So, taking a look at all these numbers, what can we take from them just from these glances? Those performance-based escalators that are mentioned were wide receiver based escalators, so if he is having number two caliber seasons, it's incredibly unlikely that he will be hitting many, if any of them. This past year was the last year for his five million a year roster bonus, so if we have football next year he'll be effectively making 1.6 million dollars a year, plus whatever bonuses he's earned. Now lets take a look at his receiving stats last year, and see exactly where he ranked.

2010 Stats From ESPN

Devin Hester, WR

Considering the lack of ability to throw the deep ball, generally seen as Hester's strongest asset, his numbers were in line with what I would expect. These are the numbers earned though, so that is what we will work with in determining his worth. I'm going to just pick three guys that have some form of name recognition, and have fairly comparable stats from last year.

First up, Jerricho Cotchery.

Jerricho Cotchery, WR

So, we've got one more reception with about 15 more targets, less yards, lower average, fewer touchdowns, but about the same. His salary info?


2011: $1.8 million, 2012: $2 million, 2013: Free Agent

Roughly the same yearly salary now, and with the balance of the difference in their overall contracts are fairly negligible because they are almost entirely in incentives that aren't hittable for Devin as long as he stays at his current level of production.

Next up on the hit parade? Roy Williams.
Roy Williams, WR        

Fewer receptions, but fewer targets, and more overall yards. Higher average, more TD, and more yards per game. I'd say Roy was more productive than Hester. Now, how much is he making?


2010 base salary. 2010: $3,452,629 (+ $9.5 million guaranteed option bonus), 2011: $5,109,971, 2012: $6.802 million, 2013: $8.498 million (Voidable Years), 2014: $9 million, 2015: Free Agent

Wow, this is probably the worst example of a guy actually being overpaid that I will show. Even without drilling down to figure out the numbers including the guaranteed option bonus he's making almost double what Hester is, for a slight amount more production. 
Last up, Lee Evans.

Lee Evans, WR

Lee Evans, also known as one of the only reasons to pay attention to the Bills the last few years, is here in all of his glory. Less receptions, on more targets. More yards, for a higher average. One more TD, with a higher average per game. I'd say Evans is probably a better receiver than Hester in most years, so what does his contract look like?


Signed a four-year, $37.25 million contract extension through 2012. The deal contains $18.25 million guaranteed, including a first-year salary of $11,730,770 and a $3 million roster bonus in year three. Another $3 million is available through incentives. 2011-2012: $3.275 million (+ $1 million roster bonuses), 2013: Free Agent

Again, his yearly salary without taking into account bonuses is almost double what Devin Hester's is, even without the bonuses being taken into account. Suffice to say, Evans isn't nearly the rip off that Williams is, but he's still more costly than Hester or Cotchery.

So without even taking into account what an asset Hester is on special teams, he's actually a fairly respectable bargain in the high dollar world of wide receivers in the NFL. The next time someone starts screaming that Hester is overpaid and needs to produce more, be sure to tell them that he might need to produce more, but he sure isn't overpaid. 

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

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Hurricanes Send Nine Players to NFL Combine, More Than All But One Other School

It may not being showing too much on the college field lately, but the University of Miami still has a knack for sending its players to the NFL. In fact, nine former 'Canes have been invited to the NFL scouting combine. That's more than any other school except for North Carolina. They're sending 12.

DE Allen Bailey, RB Damien Berry, K Matt Bosher, RB Graig Cooper, OT Orlando Franklin, WR Leonard Hankerson, DB Brandon Harris, LB Colin McCarthy, and DB DeMarcus Van Dyke have all been invited to the combine according The Palm Beach Post.

That's more players than the two most recent National Championship teams Auburn and Alabama, and more players than any other school in Florida.

Not everyone who's heading to the NFL attends. Cam Newton, for example, is having his own private Pro Day, but most draftees do show up. A good performance at the combine can rocket a player up the draft selection ladder even if their college career wasn't spectacular.

The combine will be held in Indianapolis between February 23 and March 1. We'll find out how much the former 'Canes impress NFL teams when the draft starts on April 28.

It just makes you wonder though: if the team had that much potential NFL talent, how come it never really amounted to much?


Ray Lewis confirms he will return to Ravens

Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis has confirmed he will play at least one more season.

The aging Lewis said on The Dan Patrick Show that rumors of him retiring are not true.

“I heard that they gave me a front office job,” Lewis said in the interview. “I have never heard of that in my life.”

Lewis racked up 139 tackles last season as the Ravens finished the regular season 12-4 before losing to eventual AFC champion Pittsburgh in the second round of the playoffs.

Rumors immediately surfaced that Lewis would step down, although many of his teammates – most notably running back Ray Rice –said they expected him to be back.

“We do not listen to what everyone writes,” Lewis said. “No way.”

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

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Warren Sapp urged Bucs to hire Kevin Millard

Before hiring Kevin Millard as one of two co-defensive coordinators, Millard received an enthusiastic endorsement from someone the Bucs have a little bit of history with.

Former Tampa Bay great Warren Sapp, now an analyst on the NFL Network and Showtime, said he gave a strong recommendation to general manager Mark Dominik and coach Raheem Morris, having played for Millard.

"They put me on the phone with Dominik and I told him to hire this man," Sapp told my colleague Rick Stroud. "You'll never have a problem with him. He's not looking to become a head coach. He's nothing but a workaholic. You think he doesn't know the Cover 2 (defense) or the three technique? He is the original. It's always been him, John Randle and me. I was with the man. I know a hard worker. I worked for (Rod) Marinelli."
Sapp played under Millard at the end of his career when Millard was an assistant with the Raiders. Sapp credits the coach for much of his late-career success.

"I told Raheem, I don't know what you're thinking, but if you've got a defensive line position open and want somebody to work with a young guy like Gerald McCoy, Millard is the guy," Sapp said. "I've done everything I can, but I don't have the time to really teach the kid. This man I played under, and he gave me 10 sacks with the Raiders as a 32-year-old. This is the man you got to hire."

Anyone whose had at least a 30-second conversation with Sapp knows he can be, um, persuasive. Seeing as how he's so passionate about Millard, we can only imagine how compelling a case he made to Dominik.

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

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DraftMetrics.com Puts The U At Top of NFL Heap

CORAL GABLES, Fla. -- As any Canes fan knows, It's All About The U and nowhere is that more evident that in the NFL.

Another example of the proCanes influence on the next level came from Draftmetrics.com, who announced the results of its study of National Football League Drafts from 1991 through 2010. Among the information released was the list of the top ten colleges in terms of both the number of players drafted and the number of NFL starts by those drafted players.

The top-10 colleges in order of number of players drafted were:
1. Miami (FL) 2. Tennessee 3. Ohio State 4. Florida State 5. Southern California 6. Florida 7. Notre Dame 8. Nebraska 9. Penn State 10. Michigan

The top-10 colleges in order of the number of NFL starts by drafted players were:
1. Miami (FL) 2. Florida State 3. Ohio State 4. Tennessee 5. Michigan 6. Notre Dame 7. Florida 8. Georgia 9. Nebraska 10. Southern California

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Saints' TE Situation with Jimmy Graham and Jeremy Shockey

Shockey is technically under contract for one more season at about $4.21 million. He missed three games this season with rib injury and a groin injury. He finished this season with only 41 catches for 408 yards and only three touchdowns. He has missed 10 of 48 regular season games in his three seasons with New Orleans. While his blocking is still excellent, the Saints have a mismatch in a younger and cheaper Jimmy Graham. We see him coming back for one more season.

D. Thomas is a free agent who has proven in the past two seasons that he might mean more to the team than the big sticker Shockey does. He’s a sure-handed receiver, a better-than-average blocker and plays the fullback role when needed. Thomas’ stats weren’t as good as Shockey’s, but Thomas does a lot more. We think he, too, will return.

Graham entered 2010 with a lot of question marks –How would he react to the professional game after only one year of collegiate football? Was the athleticism he showed on the basketball floor transferrable to the football field? He exited 2010 as one the bright young players in the NFL with a big upside and good future. He finished the season with 356 yards and five touchdowns on 31 catches.  But four of those five scores came in the final three weeks of the season. He was inactive in the playoffs but after a full season learning the offense, the sky is the limit. He’s back.

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

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What will happen with Willis McGahee?

Over the last couple of years, the Ravens have been able to bring Willis McGahee off the bench in red zone or short-yardage situations, or when starting running back Ray Rice needed a breather.

That's a luxury not many teams can afford - having a Pro Bowl running back waiting in the wings - ready to give the offense a boost when he's called upon.

Going forward, the Ravens probably won't be able to afford that luxury, either.

McGahee is set to make $6 million this upcoming season, which is simply too large a number for a back who got just 100 carries last season, and only topped 50 yards rushing in a game three times.

That's not to say that McGahee hasn't been valuable the last few years. The former Bills first-round pick has been a big red zone presence, rushing for 12 touchdowns in 2009 and five more this last season, and he's ripped off a handful of huge runs in the last three playoff runs.
(Remember the 77-yard postseason-clincher in Dallas two years ago? Remember the 77-yarder in Oakland that featured the stiff-arm/slap/punch heard 'round the world?)

McGahee has also been a complete pro in Baltimore despite seeing his opportunities dwindle.

Since rushing for 1,207 yards and seven touchdowns in his first year with the Ravens in 2007, McGahee has seen his rushing yardage and carries drop every season since.

How many players in this day and age would be cool with that, at least publicly? The eight-year veteran has lost playing time to Rice and fullback Le'Ron McClain, but instead of venting through the media, he's taken the two younger backs under his wing and created a family atmosphere in which each back seems legitimately happy when another succeeds.

Unfortunately, despite all the positives he's brought to the team the last few seasons, the Ravens can't keep McGahee around with his current contract.

That leaves two options: McGahee could choose to take a drastic pay-cut to return to the team, or the Ravens would almost certainly release him.

The former option seems unlikely, both because of money and playing time. McGahee - a Pro Bowler in 2007 who has twice rushed for over 1,200 yards in his career - could probably find a bigger role and more carries elsewhere (the Dolphins might be a nice fit), and such a situation would provide him a nice salary.

It's possible McGahee is truly happy with his current role and the team dynamic here in Baltimore, and would be interested in staying around and making another push at a Super Bowl.

But while he's avoided any off-field conflicts recently because of a lack of playing time, it would be a surprise to see McGahee stick around Charm City next season.

Players aren't often excited about forking over the majority of their salary, and McGahee still appears to have a good bit left in the tank. If he wants a shot to prove himself elsewhere, he deserves that, and I'll be rooting for him regardless of what uniform he ends up in next season.

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

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Why hasn't UM developed the football talent?

Allen Bailey’s body is sculpted as if he’s been chiseled in the image of what the football Gods envisioned for their ideal player.

Problem is this former University of Miami standout is all physique, and little technique. And this defensive lineman’s been that way since arriving in Coral Gables as a over-sized linebacker.

I’ve consistently pointed out one of the biggest limitations of the Randy Shannon era was their failure to develop the talent on the roster. Going all the way back to Calais Campbell and Kenny Phillips, who are now solid NFL starters, very few players got better during Shannon’s tenure.
Bailey, who entered 2010 as the fifth best senior prospect in the nation, had a respectable senior season, but he didn’t dominate. And the fact Bailey only has one pass rush move to accompany his effective bull rush (which is all power) had plenty of scouts scratching their heads at the Senior Bowl.

In this video Bailey, who most project will become a 3-4 defensive end in the NFL, admits going back and forth from defensive end to defensive tackle stunted his development.

But it’s not just Bailey whose technique failed to get better during their college career at UM.

Leonard Hankerson’s one of the few players we can say CLEARLY got better during his career as a Hurricane, and the truth is former Dolphins receiver Mark Duper had plenty to do with his progress considering he mentored Hankerson for most of his career.

Javarris James, Randy Phillips, Antonio Dixon and Sam Shields all had lackluster careers at Miami before catching their footing in the NFL, where teams harvested their talents and made them regular contributors, if not starters.

UM linebacker Colin McCarthy, who had a strong showing in the Senior Bowl, is the EXACT SAME player I covered when he was a true freshman starter. No worse, no better. Why is that?

Fortunately for McCarthy the Hurricanes have a history of pumping out productive NFL linebackers, and he talks about being the next playmaker, following in the footsteps of Ray Lewis and Jon Beason, during this video.

I’d invest in Bailey and McCarthy because both possess plenty of upside with proper coaching, but Bailey doesn’t fit the Miami Dolphins’ needs, and McCarthy doesn’t fit their size molds for his position.

Despite playing four year at UM, cornerback DeMarcus Van Dyke still looks like he’s in high school. His wiry frame prompted one NFL inside to ask me, “Don’t they have a meal plan down there at Miami.”

Van Dyke hopes to follow in Sam Shield’s footsteps of becoming the next unheralded Hurricanes defensive back to come out of nowhere and become a solid NFL contributor.

UM strength and conditioning coach Andreu Swasey, who was retained by Al Golden, is well respected in his industry, but there are too many players like Van Dyke, who failed to make massive strength gains while a Hurricane.

I’ve been told this will be addressed under Golden, who has changed the weight lifting program.

The Dolphins haven’t selected or signed a Hurricane since taking Vernon Carey in the first round of the 2004 draft. Is there anyone in this UM draft class (Hankerson, tailback Damien Berry, offensive linemen Orlando Franklin, cornerback Ryan Hill) you think is worthy of ending that drought, and fits what the Dolphins are looking for?

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James Jones in All-Star 3-point contest

MIAMI — Heat forward James Jones has never participated in a 3-point competition in his life.

That changed Tuesday when he was selected to compete in the 3-point contest during NBA All-Star Weekend Feb. 19 in Los Angeles. Jones will join Ray Allen, Kevin Durant, Daniel Gibson, Paul Pierce and Dorell Wright in the event at Staples Center.

"It's an honor and a privilege," Jones said. "It's one of those things as a kid, and especially as a professional, that you relish. For me being a 3-point shooter, this is the ultimate competition. It'll be a lot of fun and exciting at the same time."

Jones is shooting 42.7 percent from 3-point range, ranking fifth in the league. His 91 3-pointers are just 19 shy from tying his career-high for a season (110). He is the fifth Heat player to participate in the competition, joining Daequan Cook, Jason Kapono, Glen Rice and Jon Sunvold.
Cook won the event in 2005 while Kapono (2007) and Rice (1995) also took home the title.

"We're happy about it," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "He deserved it. He's put in a lot of time on that shot. Because of his release and the way he shoots, he might have a shot at this thing."

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Texas vs the Nation - Damien Berry Highlights

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Brandon Harris to the Seahawks?

WalterFootball.com, which released it's mock draft late last week, has the Seahawks taking Brandon Harris (pictured in AP photo), a cornerback from Miami:

"The Seahawks need some help with their atrocious pass defense, especially with Kelly Jennings heading for free agency this March. Brandon Harris is a talented corner who had a great regular season, but struggled in his team's winter exhibition game against Michael Floyd."

The thought of drafting another Hurricanes cornerback likely causes some apprehension among Seahawks fans unsatisfied with the production Kelly Jennings, Seattle's first round pick out of Miami in 2006. For the record, Harris is listed at 5-feet-10 1/2 inches (or 5-11, depending on the source) and 195 pounds.

Position rankings: No. 3 by NFLDraftScout; No. 5 by Kiper.

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Roscoe Parrish had the pins removed

Bills WR/PR Roscoe Parrish had the pins removed from his wrist a month ago.

Parrish fractured his left wrist during Week 9 and was placed on injured reserve. He's confident that he'll be ready for full participation in whatever OTAs there are this offseason. Parrish was flourishing as a slot receiver under Chan Gailey before going down and will be fine to pick up where he left off.

Click here to order Roscoe Parrish’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Would Santana Moss Improve Raiders?

When the Washington Redskins hit the salary ceiling in 2009, they had to rewrite wide receiver Santana Moss' contract. And now that bill comes due, according to FootballNewsNow.com.

On Friday, Moss will be a free agent. And the Oakland Raiders (or at least blog sites like BleacherReport.com) have their eyes on this deep-threat prize.

Moss played in all 16 games last season, setting career-best numbers in receptions and yards, with six touchdowns.

He's an 11-year pro, who would provide a little leadership for a younger receiving corps.

And if Moss does migrate West, it'd be like getting the band back together: quarterback Jason Campbell was last with the Redskins, as well.

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

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Cortez Kennedy falls short in Hall of Fame vote again

Try again next year, Tez.

Former Seahawks defensive tackle Cortez Kennedy was denied entry into the Pro Football Hall of Fame for the third consecutive season, making the cut as one of 10 finalists before falling shy in the final voting.

This year's inductees are Marshall Faulk, Deion Sanders, Shannon Sharpe, Richard Dent, Ed Sabol, Les Richter and Chris Hanburger.
Other finalists who fell short were Curtis Martin, Dermontti Dawson, Andre Reed and Willie Roaf.

Sanders, Faulk and Sharpe were pretty obvious choices, and their shoo-in status figured to make it difficult for Kennedy to gain the recognition necessary to garner enough votes.

Kennedy was an eight-time Pro-Bowler during his 11-year NFL career -- all of it as a Seahawk -- and was a selection on the 1990s All-Decade team.

Kennedy wasn’t flashy, but he got the job done for the Seattle Seahawks during his 11-year NFL career. In eight of those years, Kennedy made the Pro Bowl while also being named a first-team All-Pro three years and a second-teamer two years. Yet Kennedy fell short for the third-straight year when the NFL Hall of Fame announced its class of 2011 on Saturday, a victim of a loaded crop of skill players.

Look at Kennedy’s 1992 season — a year that the Seahawks were abysmal, finishing 2-14. Kennedy, however, led his position in sacks that year, and took home the AP Defensive Player of the Year award for an excellent body of work. He’s one of only five players on a losing team to bring home the award, a testament to an outstanding year.

In five other years, Kennedy registered 6.5 or more sacks, peaking in that 1992 season with 14. Kennedy finished with 568 career tackles, 11 forced fumbles, six recoveries and — wait for it — a defensive touchdown. He was a force to be reckoned with in the middle of the Seattle defense, and a more than worthy candidate for enshrinement in the Hall of Fame.

Kennedy suffered from a Hall of Fame class that was overflowing with talent this year, and it won’t get any easier. Though he made the first cut, narrowing the candidates from 15 to 10, he didn’t make the second, falling just short again. It’s an encouraging sign, but with players such as Warren Sapp and others up for induction in the next few years, his chances remain long.

It’s a long road ahead, but Kennedy took a step in the right direction today. For our sake, let’s hope the Hall of Fame selection committee comes to its senses and puts Big Tez where he belongs: enshrined in the hall.

Click here to order Cortez Kennedy’s proCane Rookie Card.

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'The ceiling on this kid is unbelievable': Cornerback Sam Shields' prospects exciting for Packers

IRVING, Texas – For the Green Bay Packers, Sam Shields is like found money.

The nickel cornerback has been the rarest of finds, an undrafted player who as a rookie has helped improve the Packers’ defense from 2009 and has all the makings of a playmaker in the not-too-distant future. All for the price of a $7,500 signing bonus plus some quick salesmanship in the immediate hours after last April’s NFL draft.

That kind of windfall is almost incalculable for an NFL franchise, because teams will always make mistakes drafting players, including in the high rounds. Landing an undrafted rookie like Shields, who probably would be a first-round pick if that draft were held over today, can erase any number of personnel mistakes. That makes him like found money.

“Clearly everybody made a mistake on him,” General Manager Ted Thompson said of Shields going undrafted. “Including us.”

The Packers were far from the only team that tried to sign Shields – he says about 20 teams showed interest – but they took an especially deep and thorough look at him in the months leading up to the draft.

It started with John Gutekunst, their scout for the Southeast, identifying him as a good prospect during the 2009 college season. Then at the Texas vs. The Nation all-star game, which is played the weekend of the Super Bowl, Thompson, college scouting director John Dorsey and assistant college scouting director Shaun Herock took a close-up view of him in the week of practice.

Shields later turned heads at Miami’s campus when he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.28 and 4.30 seconds. That helped him earn a draft grade in the fourth or fifth round for many teams even though he’d only moved to cornerback in the spring before his senior season in at the University of Miami and wasn’t even a starter as the No. 3 cornerback for the Hurricanes. Then in March of last year he was arrested on a misdemeanor charge of possession of marijuana – he never was charged – which injured his draft stock but put the Packers in position to use their Miami connections to evaluate his character and then recruit him.

Two Packers scouts have ties to the football program because they attended school there. Alonzo Highsmith, an area college scout, had a distinguished career at Miami as a player, was a teammate of then-coach Randy Shannon, and has a son, A.J., who’s a quarterback at the school. Also, one of their assistant directors of pro personnel, Eliot Wolf, went to college at Miami and worked in the athletic department while a student.

Those ties helped the Packers’ trust their evaluation of Shields’ character, which checked out fine. Then immediately after the draft, Highsmith’s relationship with Shannon helped sell Shields and his agent that the Packers were his best option. On the evening the draft ended, Shields was on the telephone getting a persuasive pitch from a Chicago Bears scout when he got another call.

“I was like, ‘I might be in Chicago,’” Shields said. “Then my agent, Drew Rosenhaus, called me and said, ‘Packers.’”

Said Joe Whitt, the Packers’ cornerbacks coach, who had given Shields a first-round draft grade earlier that spring: “They called me in there and said we’ve got Shields. I was happy.”

Though the Packers liked Shields, their hopes for him coming into camp were modest. He’d been a standout gunner and jammer on the punt and punt-return teams, and they thought he might make the roster for those roles and then possibly develop into a decent or better cornerback down the road. Maybe, just maybe, he’d contend for the nickel job as a rookie, but that seemed unlikely.

Shields then surprised everyone in training camp, and his ascension to the nickel role for the start of the regular season is well known to those who follow the team closely. He seemed to make an eye-catching play every other day in training camp, and in four weeks soared from near the bottom of the depth chart to the No. 3 cornerback job.

“Just a natural football player,” Thompson said. “Ron (Wolf, the former Packers general manager) noticed that in training camp, too -- said he was just a natural at it.”

Shields won the nickel job by outplaying Pat Lee, a second-round draft pick in 2008, and Brandon Underwood, a sixth-rounder in 2009, but even at that point cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt had misgivings about playing him in such a prominent role. Though the nickel back isn’t officially a starter, he’s close to being a full-time player because the Packers have played their nickel a little more than 70 percent of their defensive snaps this season.

Going into the regular season it seemed a given that Shields would have some rough times, perhaps many, as offenses targeted him as a rookie and kept going back when it worked. Shields appeared especially vulnerable, even if gifted, because he’d only been a cornerback for one season his entire football career. Whitt wondered whether those rookie lumps would irreversibly damage the cornerback’s confidence. But Shields never took those lumps.

“You look at some of those young corners who got beat early on (in their careers), and they’re never the same later on,” Whitt said. “I didn’t want that to happen to him. And in that first game (at Philadelphia) we couldn’t protect him that much. We tried to put him to the quarterback’s off hand, little details we do, but through the year he continually got better. Now I don’t care where you put him, he can play.”

Shields’ surprising play this year has been no small factor in the Packers’ defensive accomplishments this season, which includes a No. 2 finish in the NFL in fewest points allowed. His two interceptions in the NFC championship game at Chicago made him famous nationally, but his ability to hold up in coverage over the course of the season has been more important to defensive coordinator Dom Capers over the long haul. He’s improved as much anyone on the team and has the ability to cover up many of his mistakes with superior speed.

The Packers have one of the NFL’s better cover men in cornerback Tramon Williams, but if Capers had to protect Shields on the other side in the nickel, he’d lose flexibility in play calling and blitz packages. Because Capers trusts Shields in one-on-one coverage, he can maximize Charles Woodson in the slot, where he’s as much a threat to blitz as to drop into coverage against a receiver, tight end or in a zone.

What matters for now is Shields’ performance in the Super Bowl on Sunday. His pure speed makes him a possible matchup with the Steelers’ top receiver, Mike Wallace, who ran the 40 in 4.28 seconds at the 2009 NFL scouting combine and is one of the league’s best deep threats, if Capers chooses to go that route.

But Shields’ long-term prospects have to excite the team also. Especially considering he’s been playing cornerback for less than two years, there’s reason to think he might one day be an elite player.

“This offseason I’m going to be very tough on him, because there’s a lot of growth ahead of him,” Whitt said. “But he’s rare, not only because of his ability but because of the man he is. He doesn’t let things bother him, he can take hard coaching. The ceiling on this kid is unbelievable.”

Click here to order Sam Shields’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Pat Burrell Changes Uniform Back To No. 5

Long before he became a media darling and fan favorite in his own backyard, San Francisco Giants outfielder Pat Burrell was a popular dude in Philadelphia. Fans there still adore him (even though he helped the Giants eliminate the Phillies in the NLCS last fall). Burrell wore No. 5 in his Philly days and now he's back to his favorite number in San Francisco.

Burrell, who attended Bellarmine Prep in San Jose, wore No. 9 with the G-men last year because No. 5 was taken by Juan Uribe, who bolted for the Los Angeles Dodgers during the offseason. During a television commercial shoot today with Brian Wilson and Bruce Bochy, Burrell unveiled his "new" jersey.

Members of the Giants were in town today to film some promos for the upcoming season. No word on what the marketing campaign will be for 2011. Last year's "It's Magic Inside" -- though it was greeted with mostly snickers and giggles -- did the trick, as the team went on a magical run to win its first World Series title in SF.

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Sam Shields Get his Super Bowl Victory, knew he had to get back in the game

Arlington, Texas - The secondary situation was as bleak as it has even been in a season where injuries have been the Monday morning story for the Green Bay Packers.

Just before halftime, cornerback Charles Woodson was out with something that looked very painful, and as it turned out he had a broken collarbone. Safety Nick Collins was fading fast so he headed in to the locker room early before halftime for an IV. Sam Shields had hurt his shoulder as well. All three were out.

"When somebody goes down, somebody has to step up," said Shields.

That somebody ended up being Shields.

Though the shoulder was hurting, he returned to the game to finish. He did it without treatment.

"No they just put me back out there," said Shields. "When I fell, it felt like something popped out. I mean, it wasn't feeling right."
Collins, who has played hurt all season, also returned.

Shields finished the game with 2 solo tackles, and though got beat on one touchdown had another solid game for the Packers and contributed a lot to their Super Bowl victory.

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Colin McCarthy wants to conitnue "Linebacker U" Tradition


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DeMarcus Van Dyke: Miami's "got ballplayers"


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Vernon Carey has weight clauses in contract

Miami Dolphins OT Vernon Carey has weight clauses in his contract that would significantly reduce his salary if he does not lose some weight this offseason, according to Omar Kelly, of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

Click here to order Vernon Carey’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Kenny Phillips to Receive Ed Block Courage Award

Giants S Kenny Phillips has been named the team’s Ed Block Courage Award recipient for 2010.

In some ways, 2010 was a remarkable season for Phillips, one of the biggest question marks heading into the year. Coming off major knee surgery that many figured would be career-altering, if not career-threatening, Phillips made it all the way through, playing 16 games at safety for the Giants.

“It’s a blessing to get through the season healthy, especially when there were people saying I wasn’t going to play football again,” Phillips said. “I thought it was a big achievement.”

Phillips’ return to the football field earned the respect of his teammates.

“I know what it took for him and I’m extremely impressed,” fellow safety Antrel Rolle said of Phillips’ comeback. “It was a lot of hard work, more than any one of us can really put our hands on. That’s a very serious surgery to overcome and to play the amount of plays he played and be in the game as much as he was in, it took a lot of effort. It took a lot of heart.”

Phillips plans to give his knee some time off before focusing on 2011. Conventional wisdom is that it’s the second season after knee surgery when a player regains his form, and Phillips wants that to be the case.

The Ed Block Courage Award Foundation will celebrate the 33nd annual Ed Block Courage Awards March 8 at Martin’s West. One player from every NFL team will be honored for his commitment to the principles of courage and sportsmanship while serving as an inspiration in the locker rooms and community. In anticipation of the big night, PressBox is profiling each award winner.

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

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Report: Redskins "Don't Plan" On Offering Santana Moss A Contract Extension

Other outlets are now reporting on the impending free agency of Redskins receiver Santana Moss. ESPN reports from a source that Moss’ contract expires five days after the Superbowl, making him an unrestricted free agent.

Moss restructured his contract in 2009 and included a clause that said his contract will automatically void five days after Super Bowl XLV.

The 31-year-old Moss had a career-high 93 receptions in 2010, his first season with coach Mike Shanahan. He also had fourth career 1,000-yard season (1,115) and six touchdowns.

However, there is now some speculation that the Redskins may not approach Moss to talk a contract extension. NFL.com's Jason La Canfora is reporting that the Skins may go into 2011 without Moss:

The Redskins don't plan to offer a contract extension to Moss, who had a career-high 93 catches this past season.

If true, this is a very interesting development about what the Redskins roster could look like in the future. Moss led the team in both catches and receiving yards in 2010 and was excelled in Kyle Shanahan's offense. Choosing to let Moss go in free agency would be an interesting decision for Mike Shanahan and Bruce Allen, as there is no one on the current roster who looks to replace him. 

Either way, Redskins fans will learn of the team's true intentions for it's receiving corps once the new collective bargaining agreement gets completed.

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

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No truth to Ravens buying out Ray Lewis' contract

There have been a lot of rumors swirling about the Ravens offering linebacker Ray Lewis a financial package to retire, but Lewis laughed about that option, and Newsome also said it wasn't true.

"We just had our personnel meetings this week, and Ray hasn't told any off our defensive staff he was retiring," general manager Ozzie Newsome said. "The last I heard from Ray he stood up at the end-of-the-year meeting and told his teammates that he had already begun to prepare for next season."

At the Pro Bowl, Lewis did his usual recruiting for the Ravens to lure some free agents here to Baltimore.

Click here to order Ray Lewis’ proCane Rookie Card.

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Could Yonder Alonso Get More Playing Time in 2011?

1B Yonder Alonso: A budding left-handed power hitter, Alonso is blocked by Joey Votto but has a great attitude and desire to improve. He could get some chances in left field again, which he is willing to do.

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Twins hope revolving door ends with Danny Valencia

MINNEAPOLIS -- For the majority of his baseball career, Danny Valencia has felt like he's had something to prove.

The third baseman said he wasn't heavily recruited by colleges out of high school and the Twins drafted him in the 19th round in 2006 out of the University of Miami. Valencia was touted for a couple of years as Minnesota's third baseman of the future, but the road to the Majors included many bumps along the way as well.

So the 26-year-old admits it's a little strange to head to Spring Training this month being labeled as the club's third baseman for 2011.

"It feels nice -- don't get me wrong, it is flattering," Valencia said during TwinsFest this past weekend. "At the same time, you can't get complacent in this game. You have to go out and you have to perform. I'm going to go do that. I'm going to go play hard. It's nice to hear, but at the same time, it's the results that keep you on the field."

The Twins have certainly been looking hard to find a consistent solution at third base since Corey Koskie departed as a free agent after the 2004 season.

Before Valencia emerged in late July as the club's everyday third baseman, the Twins had 18 different players start at the position over the past six seasons. The hope is that the club has found a long-term solution following Valencia's strong rookie season in which he hit .311 with seven home runs, 18 doubles and 40 RBIs. He batted .386 at Target Field and finished third in American League Rookie of the Year balloting.

"We expect him to take the job and run with it," manager Ron Gardenhire said last Friday. "He goes into camp as our third baseman, and I'm pretty sure he's going to leave as our third baseman. He should be fine. I'm looking forward to seeing him out on the field again.

"He was pretty impressive. He deserves that."

Valencia said that his competitiveness and his drive to prove himself has sometimes come out the wrong way. He acknowledged that he wasn't exactly the model teammate early in his career as he was focused on himself. His brashness was occasionally a problem. In one instance, he was benched at Class A Fort Myers toward the end of the 2007 season for being what Twins director of Minor Leagues Jim Rantz called "a distraction."

Valencia credits former Twins general manager and current senior adviser Terry Ryan for helping him see that he needed to change some things before he got to the Majors. One piece of advice that Ryan gave Valencia was that he needed to be seen and not heard.

"He's one of those guys that I always felt was in my corner," Valencia said. "When I was young, when I first came in '06 and '07, I had a bit of an attitude, maybe a little chip on my shoulder. He told me I needed to get rid of that. I worked hard on that to try to be a better teammate, a better guy in the clubhouse and I think I've done that."

The rookie was well-liked in the Twins clubhouse, but he certainly took his share of grief last season. Valencia joked that he financed the team's party with all of his fines in Kangaroo Court. He was subjected to the traditional rookie hazing, donning one of the more embarrassing costumes, and his teammates had a little fun with Valencia wearing sunglasses during an interview in the clubhouse by playing Corey Hart's "Sunglasses at Night" when he came up to bat the next game.

Valencia has taken all of the chiding in good fun and he doesn't expect it to stop just because he's entering his second season with the team, although he joked that new teammate Tsuyoshi Nishioka will have the responsibility of toting the Kangaroo Court fine box around in 2011.

"I was the guy that got ragged on the most, but I think the way that I handled it, they respected that," Valencia said. "I looked up to a lot of those guys and I told them right from the get-go, 'I look up to you guys.' I may not have shown it the way I should have at the beginning but they knew that I genuinely cared and genuinely wanted to do what they wanted me to do."

While Valencia has worked hard to shed some of that brashness in the clubhouse, he acknowledges that he'll continue to carry that little chip on his shoulder while he's on the field and use it as motivation.

"On the field, I'm just as competitive as anybody else out there," Valencia said.

Valencia spent the early part of the winter working out in Boca Raton, Fla., but he recently headed down to Miami to work out with a few other Major Leaguers. That includes the Yankees' Alex Rodriguez and Jorge Posada and Royals outfielder Melky Cabrera.

In addition to picking the brains of some of the guys he's working out with now, Valencia has also been in constant contact with some of his Twins teammates -- including starter Carl Pavano. The two have talked quite a bit about Valencia's hitting approach and what Pavano sees in it from a pitcher's perspective.

For Valencia, it's all about trying to build off the success he had in 2010 to grow into an even better player in his second year in the big leagues.

"I've become more consistent," Valencia said. "I think I've always been able to play defense, but I have slacked a little at times. Consistency makes you a big league player. These guys up here are extremely consistent day in and day out. They stay out of those prolonged slumps and try to avoid those as much as possible. Consistency keeps you up here."

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