Saints & Steelers Have Talked to Orlando Franklin

University of Miami OL Orlando Franklin said he has spoken with the New Orleans Saints and Pittsburgh Steelers in the last week, reports Omar Kelly, of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Bookmark and Share

Pro Day notebook: 'Canes RB Berry runs 4.45 before rains hit

The Miami Hurricanes have five players among's Top 100 in the 2011 draft, but the school's pro day was cut short by showers and lightning and will be concluded March 25.

Wide receiver Leonard Hankerson, defensive lineman Allen Bailey and linebacker Colin McCarthy did not plan to participate in athletic testing after strong showings at the NFL Scouting Combine, but weren't able to do positional drills in front of personnel men scheduled to be on hand from 29 NFL teams that included coaches Bill Belichick (Patriots), Jack Del Rio (Jaguars), Raheem Morris (Bucs) and Mike Tomlin (Steelers).

Before the weather brought a halt to the session, running back Damien Berry helped his effort to sneak into the late rounds by running a 4.45-second 40-yard dash after posting a best time of 4.58 seconds at the combine. Fellow running back Graig Cooper equaled his 4.6 from Indianapolis. Cornerback DeMarcus Van Dyke, who posted a combine-best 4.25, stood on that number and did not run.

Cornerback Brandon Harris, who is trying to stick his name in for first-round consideration, posted a disappointing 34½-inch vertical while trying to improve on his 35½ at the combine. He's the No. 4-rated cornerback by and projected as a late-first- or early second-round prospect, but better athletic testing had been expected from the 5-foot-10, 191-pounder.

Bookmark and Share

Relative says Brandon Meriweather was trying to break up fight

The gunshots narrowly missed Meriweather, one bullet striking his cousin, Quentin Taylor, near his mouth and another grazing the head of Taylor's friend, Nico Stanley.

The witness, who requested anonymity for fear of retribution, said the incident began at the Blue Jeans Lounge in Meriweather's hometown of Apopka, Fla. As a melee erupted around closing time, Stanley's sister became involved in a physical confrontation with another of Meriweather's cousins, Cedric Payne, their relative said.

After the melee, a number of patrons, including Meriweather, rode to Payne's residence in Orlando to continue the party. In the meantime, Nico Stanley went elsewhere to pick up Taylor, then rode to Payne's house to confront him over the incident with Stanley's sister, according to the witness.

"When Quentin came full force at Cedric, Brandon jumped in the middle to try to break up the fight," their relative said. "Brandon had no influence on the fight and didn't have a gun on him."

As Meriweather jostled between his two cousins, one of Taylor's friends, whom the witness identified at Anton Massey, drew a handgun and fired at Payne, mistakenly striking Taylor and Stanley. The witness said Meriweather played no other role in the incident but peacemaker.

"It was very scary," Meriweather's relative said. "Once the gunshots went off, everybody took off running. I was the only person still there because Quentin fell directly at my feet."

The witness recalled screaming, "Help him, help him, pick him up."

"That's when another guy came over and threw Quentin in the car and rushed him to the hospital," the witness said.

By then, Meriweather was gone, having headed for home, his relative said. The alleged gunman was not a friend of Meriweather, according to the witness.

A Florida lawyer was the source of a story this morning that accused Meriweather of being involved in a shooting in Florida, but despite initial reports to the contrary, the lawyer said he did not know if Meriweather was the shooter.

The Orange County sheriff's department this afternoon confirmed that Meriweather was present during the shooting.

"William Brandon Meriweather, among others, has been identified as being present during a shooting... being investigated by this office," Capt. Angelo Nieves said in part of a written statement.

The sheriff's department has stated it is not ready to "characterize" Meriweather's status in the case, but would like to interview him. According to the sheriff's department, a lawyer claiming to represent Meriweather called the department on Wednesday to facilitate an interview.

According to the Sentinel, Meriweather has retained south Florida lawyer Adam Swickle, who told the Orlando newspaper this afternoon that he is aware of the circumstances involving his client.

"I am aware of the investigation," Swickle said. "We are doing our own investigation."

Swickle said would have no other comment because a criminal investigation is ongoing.

John Morgan, who claims he represents the two victims, was asked by sports radio WEEI this morning if he had any doubt that Meriweather was the shooter of his clients.

"I have a lot of doubt about that,' Morgan said. "That's what these fellas told me, but I don't assume that to be true at all. I assume nothing to be true until we get an investigation completed. Their allegation to me is …
one of the fellas was in a fight with someone else out there and their allegation is that Meriweather shot him. That bullet grazed that fellas head and hit the second client, went through the cheek and head…
the cops have had this case for two weeks.'

The Globe's Greg A. Bedard reported via Twitter that a source close to Meriweather said it "wasn't him."

The Patriots released a statement on the matter: "We are aware of the reported allegation, but do not have any additional information." NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said the league is aware of the report and "looking into it to determine the facts."

According to the Sentinel reportreported on Feb. 28

The story began to spread when reports on the shooting surfaced Wednesday on the Twitter page of Florida radio personality Dan Sileo, who, like Meriweather, is a former University of Miami football player.

A report on the website Deadspin this morning attributed the details of the case, including naming Meriweather as the shooter, to Morgan.

"I became involved when two clients came to our firm, referred to me, who had been shot at a party two Sundays ago outside a home in Apopka,' Morgan said on WEEI this morning. "There's an ongoing investigation. The only thing that I can tell you today that's indisputable is that our clients were shot.'

Morgan was asked if his clients knew Meriweather.

"Yes, they went to high school together,' Morgan said. "One played football there, and one knew him there. I spent a lot of time speaking to them about that, they said, 'Yeah, that's who pulled the gun. That's who shot us.' '

Morgan was asked about the progress of his firm's internal investigation in terms of confirming Meriweather's whereabouts on the night of the shooting.

"We have a lot of things that we believe happened, about where he [Meriweather] was then, and when he left, and when maybe he even came back,' Morgan said. "So, I don't want to comment on that, but we're working on that.'

Morgan was asked if he would back out if he found out his clients were lying to him.

"Hell yes. If my clients are lying? Hell yes," he responded. "That's why if I was representing Meriweather, I would get out in front of this and if I'm innocent I'd get out in front of this [Thursday] morning."

In 2006, the summer before his senior year at Miami, Meriweather was involved in a gun controversy when he and teammate Willie Cooper went to check out a suspicious car parked outside their residence when a man next to the house shot at them, hitting Cooper. Meriweather returned the gun fire and the shooter ran away. No one was seriously injured in the exchange.

Meriweather, who had a permit for the gun, was not charged as it was determined he was acting in self defense.

As a senior at Miami, Meriweather was part of a group of Hurricane players who were seen stomping on several Florida International players that were on the ground during an on-field fight. Meriweather was suspended by Miami and the ACC for his participation in the melee.

Meriweather was the Patriots' first-round draft choice in 2007. He is currently the team leader with 12 career interceptions and is a two-time Pro Bowl selection.

Click here to order Brandon Meriweather’s proCane Rookie Card.

Bookmark and Share

Brandon Meriweather offers to speak with OC Sheriff’s department


The Orange County Sheriff's Office confirmed Thursday afternoon that Pro Bowl NFL player Brandon Meriweather was present during a shooting in Apopka last month, but law enforcement officials made no other characterization of his role.

The Sheriff's Office said Meriweather, a former star at Apopka High School and a safety with the New England Patriots, was present when two men were shot on Feb. 28.

At a news conference this afternoon, the Sheriff's Office said it wants to talk to Meriweather about the shooting of Nico Glendale Stanley and Quentin Louis Ramone Taylor.

Meriweather has not spoken yet to detectives, who told the player's south Florida lawyer, Adam Swickle, that they want to question him about the shooting, Capt. Angelo Nieves said.

Meriweather’s lawyer, Adam Swickle, reached out to the sheriff who stated he was looking to “facilitate an interview with his client. We are receptive to this overture (opportunity) and detectives are seeking to further this interview if it can b arranged.”

The police also refused to “characterize or disclose Mr. Meriweather’s status in this case, though we do seek to interview him.”

Thursday evening, sheriff's crime scene technicians were in Apopka scouring the front yard of a home at the corner of Marvin C. Zanders and 17th Street, identified on Thursday as the suspected location of the shooting.

As night fell, investigators had placed almost 100 evidence markers in the grass. A technician was scanning the area with a metal detector, and two others were working on an area of the driveway. Detectives said they have yet to find the gun or guns used in the shooting.

Taylor, 24, who had been shot in the face, spoke to detectives on Wednesday for the first time. Stanley, 23, who was grazed by a bullet in the face, spoke to detectives on Monday, according to the sheriff's office.

Investigators believe the shooting followed an earlier confrontation at the Blue Jeans Lounge, a nightclub near Apopka

Stanley hung up on a reporter who tried to reach him on his cell phone Thursday afternoon. However, he and Taylor say Brandon Meriweather shot them, their lawyer told the Orlando Sentinel.

"I represent the victims who say they were shot by Brandon Meriweather," Orlando attorney John Morgan said. "I don't know if it happened or not. I am presuming him [Meriweather] innocent until proven guilty."

No charges have been filed in the shooting. Swickle told the Orlando Sentinel he is aware of the circumstances involving his client.
"I am aware of the investigation," Swickle said. "We are doing our own investigation."

Swickle said he would have no other comment because a criminal investigation is ongoing.

"William Brandon Meriweather, among others, has been identified as being present during a shooting . . . being investigated by this Office," Nieves said in a written statement.

Meriweather's agent, Joby Branion, declined comment on any potential criminal matters.

Meriweather, victims know each other

Stanley and Taylor attended Apopka High School with Meriweather, who graduated in 2002.

Meriweather was a star athlete for the Blue Darters and later a star football player at the University of Miami. He was a first-round draft pick by the Patriots in 2007.

"We are aware of the reported allegation, but do not have any additional information," the Patriots said in a statement.

Sheriff's records show there was a fight at the Blue Jeans Lounge in Apopka on the night of shooting. Deputies were later dispatched about 2 Marvin C. Zanders and 17th Street in Apopka in reference to a shooting, according to a four-page report released Thursday.

Deputies arriving on scene didn't find any victims or a crime scene. But as they checked the surrounding area, Apopka police alerted the Sheriff's Office that officers were at Florida Hospital Apopka with two shooting victims.

Meanwhile, Apopka police pulled over a car with four people inside at the intersection of 7th Street and Central Avenue. Three women and a shirtless man were inside the car, reports show.

Officers said they found an unloaded Smith & Wesson handgun wrapped in a sweaty black T-shirt inside a black, nylon backpack inside the car.
None of the four people in the car claimed to know the bag or gun was inside the car, according to the report. However, investigators identified the shirtless man, 23-year-old Theo Sean Peterson, as the suspected owner of the gun.

The group told the officer they were at the Blue Jeans Lounge when a fight broke out. Two people in the car told the officer they are related to one of the gunshot victims who was at the hospital, the report states.

Meriweather is not mentioned anywhere in the four-page report.

Stanley and Taylor were driven to Florida Hospital Apopka where Taylor was listed last week in critical condition.

Officers spoke to Stanley in the emergency room. He signed a 'declination of intent' to prosecute, which states he did not wish to pursue charges. He also claimed to not know who shot him, according to the Sheriff's office.

Taylor suffered a possible seizure while an officer tried to interview him and was taken into surgery, the report states.

Former Player of Year
Meriweather was the Orlando Sentinel's 2001 Central Florida high school player of the year after leading Apopka to a 14-1 season and Class 6A title. He was recruited to college as a safety, but also played other positions for the Blue Darters, including quarterback during the second half of the state championship game after starter Kenard Bradford was injured.

He played at the University of Miami from 2002-06 and was an All-ACC selection his final two seasons.

His college career also included some controversy. In 2006, the summer before his senior season, Meriweather and teammate Willie Cooper saw a suspicious car parked outside their residence. When they went to check it out, a man next to the house shot at them, hitting Cooper in the rear end.

Meriweather returned fire and the man ran away. No one was seriously injured.

Meriweather had a permit for the gun, and it was determined he was acting in self defense. He was not charged.

As a senior, Meriweather was seen stomping on several Florida International players on the ground during a fight. He was suspended by the ACC and Miami.

In 2007, he was drafted No. 24 overall by the New England Patriots.

During his four-year career he has played in every regular-season game, recording 261 tackles including two sacks, with 12 interceptions and five forced fumbles. He has been named to the last two Pro Bowls.

Click here to order Brandon Meriweather’s proCane Rookie Card.

Bookmark and Share

D.J. Williams Loses Driver's License For Year

DENVER -- Denver Bronco D.J. Williams lost his driver's license today for refusing a blood test after he was arrested by Denver police in November on suspicion of driving under the influence.

Williams, whose real name is Genos Derwin Williams, was driving a Hummer Nov. 12, when he was pulled over at 2:50 a.m. at Broadway and 9th Avenue for not having his headlights on.

Williams, 28, was arrested at the scene, and initially agreed to a blood test, according to testimony at Division of Motor Vehicles hearing. But once at Denver Health, Williams decided not to take the test and was advised by a police officer that he had to take the test or the refusal could be evidence to take his license. Under state law, a driver gives implied consent to a drug test just by driving.

Williams' Attorney Harvey Steinberg argued that repeated delays in the hearing and the fact that Steinberg did not receive the back page of one of the police reports should result in dismissal of the hearing.

Steinberg said today was the first he knew that his client asked what would happen if he refused the blood test.

"I want to be prepared but how can I be when I get the report as I walk into the hearing," he said.

But Hearing Officer Andrew Stone said the missing discovery was not significant and the delays were necessary as the officer was in court one day and running a training session where police observed people who are drinking to look for signs of intoxication. "I don't think there is unfair surprise to lead to a due process violation," he said.

Williams also told the officer he had three drinks, and the manager of the club did not want him to drive, Stone said, citing the police reports.

Williams just finished his seventh season with the Broncos and is the second highest paid player on the team, making $8.6 million this year, trailing only cornerback Champ Bailey.

This is the second DUI incident for Williams. Williams was previously arrested for a DUI in Douglas County in 2005. He pleaded guilty in that case.

A plea hearing for the November DUI is set for April 15, according to the Denver County courts database.

Williams can appeal Stone's decision in District Court, but Steinberg said that decision has not been made. Steinberg also declined to say if Williams was in Colorado or in Florida where he lives part of the year.

Click here to order DJ Williams’s proCane Rookie Card.

Bookmark and Share

Jon Jay Leads Cards' Win Over Braves

Jon Jay had a two-run triple and a sac-fly to lead the Cardinals to a 6-1 Grapefruit League win over the Atlanta Braves at Champion Field.  David Freese went 2-for-3 with a two-run homer as St. Louis improved to 7-and-4 on the spring.  Kyle Lohse pitched four innings of one-run ball for the win.  Kyle McClellan starts today as the Cards play the Braves again.

Bookmark and Share

Chris Perez projected as highlight for struggling Tribe

Stan McNeal of the Sporting News noted that last season, Indians closer Chris Perez had a 1.71 ERA, compared to the 1.80 of the Yankees' Mariano Rivera, whose inclusion into the Hall of Fame is only delayed by every year he returns.

Perez will be an All-Star this year, McNeal predicted in his preseason preview.

Good thing, right?

Bookmark and Share

Mel Kiper Has Leonard Hankerson going to the Patriots

At No. 28 in the first round, Kiper has the Patriots selecting Miami receiver Leonard Hankerson.

"The Patriots have the underneath options, but could use a threat that can stretch defenses and cause matchup problems against smaller corners, and Hankerson provides that," Kiper writes.

The Hankerson pick is interesting, as the Patriots’ need at receiver was highlighted in the playoff loss. The thought is that the Pats need speed, and Hankerson had a fourth-best 4.43 40-yard-dash at the Combine.

Bookmark and Share

Rumors Are That Brandon Meriweather Is Accused Of Shooting Two Men During Brawl

New England Patriots safety Brandon Meriweather allegedly shot two men, one of them in the head, during a fight on Feb. 27 outside a house party in Apopka, Florida, according to John Morgan, attorney for the victims.

The trouble started at the Blue Jeans Lounge in Apokpa when a friend of Meriweather's allegedly beat up a woman, according to Morgan. The woman's brother arrived later with his own friend, and the conflagration shifted to a nearby party, where the brother soon got the better of Meriweather's friend in a fight. That's when Meriweather allegedly pulled out his gun and fired at the brother, grazing the man's face and hitting the other victim in the head, according to Morgan.

"He's extremely lucky to be alive," Morgan said.

Both victims attended Apopka High School with Meriweather, who later played football at the University of Miami. Detectives from the Orange County Sheriff's Office are investigating the case but have made no arrests, Morgan said. The public information officer at the sheriff's office did not return phone calls yesterday.

Former Hurricane and current sports talk radio host Dan Sileo appears to be the first to mention the shooting. Until we hear back from the cops, however, these are all just allegations. But we'll keep you posted.

Click here to order Brandon Meriweather’s proCane Rookie Card.

Bookmark and Share

Leonard Hankerson, Not Smith, Is 3rd-Best WR

Many mock drafts have University of Maryland wideout Torrey Smith coming to the Ravens with their 26th-overall selection, but ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper said Smith isn’t even a first-round talent.

Behind Georgia’s A.J. Green and Julio Jones of Alabama, Smith falls behind Miami’s Leonard Hankerson, according to Kiper.

“[A]fter the first two [receivers], Green and Jones, find me the third receiver,” Kiper said Wednesday in a conference call.  “There’s no consensus there. I have Leonard Hankerson from Miami at that point right now. Torrey Smith from Maryland is in the second round. Tandon Doss from Indiana is in the second or third round.

“There are a lot of other guys in the second or third round, but the third receiver after the top two? Good luck trying to figure out who it’s going to be.” 

The 6-foot-2, 205-pound Hankerson could fit what the Ravens want in a wideout. Ravens Director of Player Personnel Eric DeCosta said that he wants to get younger and faster at the position, and Hankerson meets that mark, having run a 4.40-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine.

Last year, Hankerson led Miami with career-high 1,156 receiving yards on a team-high 72 receptions.  He also scored 13 touchdowns.

Kiper noted that drafting a receiver is a tough science to master, however.

The Ravens have been bitten in the past with first-round picks like Travis Taylor (2000) or Mark Clayton (2005), both players who were solid but not the game-breakers many thought coming out of college.

Kiper said the reasons receivers are difficult to judge are myriad.

“It’s a hard position because you’re dealing with guys at the quarterback spot in college where you don’t have to be precise in your routes,” said Kiper.  “The route tree is not there, so they have to adapt mentally, making those adjustments on the move. They have to be more precise with their routes. Timing is everything, and you have to get your head around.  You have the cushion in college, you can double-clutch or bobble.  It doesn’t matter.

“The NFL is a big adjustment for a receiver, a huge adjustment for a receiver.”

Bookmark and Share

Edgerrin James' Summer Job That Led Stardom

Edgerrin James, Watermelon Loader
Some summer jobs have had unexpected benefits that lead on to successful careers. For Edgerrin James, NFL running back, the physically demanding work of loading watermelons one summer was to help him save money for a car. However, all that muscle-building had extended benefits; maybe handling the watermelons helped James easily keep a grip on the football, as well. And even the intensity of pre-season training camp probably looks easier when James thinks back to the 16-hour days of watermelon loading.

Read about more celebrity summer jobs here

Click here to order Edgerrin James’s proCane Rookie Card.

Bookmark and Share

Brandon Meriweather's pay increases by $1m

Patriots safety Brandon Meriweather reached escalators in his contract that increase his base salary from $650,000 to $1.65 million for the 2011 season. His contract included up to $2.75 million in escalators for 2011.

Meriweather, the team's first-round draft choice in 2007, leads all current Patriots with 12 career interceptions. He is a two-time Pro Bowl selection, although his up-and-down play is often a lightning-rod topic among those who follow the team.

At one point during the 2010 season, vs. the Bears on Dec. 12, Meriweather was relegated to special teams and playing in the dime package (6 defensive backs). Yet by the end of the season, no safety had logged more playing time and he finished with 66 tackles.

Meriweather enters the final year of his contract in 2011.

Click here to order Brandon Meriweather’s proCane Rookie Card.

Bookmark and Share

Kiper gives thoughts on Canes Before Pro Day

CORAL GABLES — Hurricanes CB Ryan Hill, who wasn’t invited to the NFL Combine, will need to really show something special at Thursday’s Pro Day if he wants to garner any interest from NFL teams.

“Pro Day is a chance for everybody, it’s an opportunity for everyone to at least get some last looks, but unless there’s a collective bargaining agreement, the NFL won’t have undrafted free agency, which is the category he’d [Hill] fall into,” ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. said on a conference call Wednesday. “I’d be shocked if he was drafted.”

During his training, Hill has focused on running the 40-yard dash in 4.4 seconds.  

Kiper Jr. said CB Brandon Harris raised his draft value at the NFL Combine, but he still considers Harris, who decided to skip his senior season, a second-round pick.

“He tested better than he played last year, I’m sure he would have liked to have had a better season,” Kiper Jr. said.   

Another Hurricanes CB, DeMarcus Van Dyke, posted on Twitter Wednesday he will not run the 40 at Pro Day, but he plans to do every other drill. Van Dyke ran the fastest 40 at the Combine – 4.28 seconds. Like Harris, he tested better than he played last season, Kiper Jr. said.

Even with Van Dyke’s time in the 40, Kiper Jr. predicts he will be drafted in the fifth or sixth round.

Here’s what Kiper Jr. said of some other Hurricanes:

— On DE Allen Bailey: “He gives some scheme versatility. He’s probably a second or third-rounder right now.”
Omar Kelly, the Sun-Sentinel’s Miami Dolphins writer, predicted in a mock draft the Jets might take Bailey with the 30th overall pick.  

— On LB Colin McCarthy: With this year’s draft considered weak for inside LBs, Kiper Jr. says McCarthy helped himself during the Combine and could be drafted in the third round.

— On WR Leonard Hankerson: “He had to prove he was more than a possession guy and he helped himself with the way he did [at the Combine],” Kiper Jr. said. “He may be the third receiver taken, even in the late first round by Atlanta or New England, possibly.”  

— On RB Graig Cooper: “I liked Graig Cooper before he got hurt. He just wasn’t the same after the injury, but he’s an interesting guy,” Kiper Jr. said. “They’ve also got a couple of guys who probably go undrafted like [RB Damien] Berry and [Matt] Bosher, their kicker.”

Bookmark and Share

Could Ravens trade McGahee for a fifth-round pick?

Sports Illustrated's Peter King speculated on Tuesday that the Ravens might be able to get a fifth-round pick in exchange for running back Willis McGahee.

The Ravens are expected to release or trade McGahee, who is due $6 million this season. But the Ravens can't trade the veteran running back until a new collective bargaining agreement is reached.

Answering a reader question on what the Ravens could receive for McGahee, King wrote: "Maybe a fifth-round pick. Maybe. He's going to be 30 this year, he hasn't rushed for 1,000 yards since 2007 and he gets hurt. I'd rather use a good draft choice on a running back of the future. Especially in a season with so much uncertainty about how players can be acquired, draft picks are going to be gold. One last point: If you ask me if I'd trade a 2012 fifth-rounder for McGahee when the games actually start and there's a new CBA, I'd be more inclined to do it."

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

Bookmark and Share

Ed Reed Could Play 4 or 5 More Years

The Ravens have a couple of aging defensive stalwarts in safety Ed Reed and linebacker Ray Lewis.

Luckily, both are coming back to play in 2011. But what about beyond that?

Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh gave an encouraging timetable on Reed. As far as Lewis, nobody knows after playing 15 years in the league.

“Ed’s still got plenty of good football left,” Harbaugh said during a Ravens Fan Forum with approximately 6,000 season ticket holders Wednesday night.

“I’ve talked to Ed a number of times this offseason. He feels he can play four or five more years.”

Reed, 32, missed the first six games of the 2010 regular season due to offseason hip surgery, but finished with one of the strongest campaigns of his career, including an NFL-high eight interceptions.

As opposed to the previous offseason, Reed didn’t speak of retirement after Baltimore’s playoff exit. He finished the year with the usual minor nicks and bruises, but nothing serious.

Then there’s the ageless Lewis. His bio says he’s 35 years old, but Lewis once again led the Ravens in tackles with 145 and was still a defensive playmaker.

He made two interceptions, including one to seal a win in Pittsburgh and another that he returned for a touchdown. Lewis forced two fumbles, including one in overtime against Buffalo, and recovered three.

Harbaugh gave a “resounding yes” that Lewis will be returning for the 2011 season. Beyond that, who knows?

“It’s going to be up to Ray,” Harbaugh said. “We’ll have to see. He’s at that stage where he’s in uncharted territory. There’s no middle linebacker that’s played anywhere close as long as he’s played at the level he’s played. We do have to think about that.

“It’s tough because we’ve got great players still playing well. But you’ve always got to be thinking in football about getting younger. That’s just the way it works. It’s the cycle of football.”

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

Bookmark and Share

Lauryn Williams Tweeting

After much contemplation, I have decided to join the social networking tool I swore I would never use.

It is official I am a twitter or am I am tweeter?...oh whatever you know what I mean!

I have just been on 7 days and am still very overwhelmed by it all. You have people who say things just to invoke shock, those who literally tell you their every move and those who converse with just one person but instead of texting privately go back and forth in a forum the world can see. And, how in the world do they expect me to convey a complete thought in just 160 characters that is nearly impossible for any good communicator!

I am still not completely sold on it usefulness as it seems to be more of a deterrent from caring on with things in life that could be considered productive. However, I have enjoyed reading some NFL Players bantering with one another and the continuous updates about the looming lockout.

As I type I have 109 followers and have tweeted 15 times. After doing some research my competitive spirit got he best of me and I decided I needed to set a follower goal. I see President Obama has 6 million followers and Oprah is right behind with 5 million. Not wanting to set such a lofty goal I have settled on trying to surpass the infamous ‘Usain Bolt' in followers.

I figure since I can't compete with him on the track why not challenge his 81,000 followers. I do realize that he as an advantage as he probably
literally has a whole country following him however I think I can take him. If for some reason I fail at this my secondary goal would be to always have more followers than my mother (@blondimomma) who coincidentally joined Twitter the same day as me.

I have given myself 2 simple guidelines so as not to get sucked into the world of unproductiveness cause by becoming consumed with this apparatus.

• No more than 3 tweets a day.
• I will not follow more people than I have followers.

Coming up with a name was the hardest part as all the cool names I came up with had been taken. So I am simply @laurynCwilliams.

Follow me Happy

Bookmark and Share


According to multiple sources, Miami defensive lineman Allen Bailey has a meeting and workout with the Patriots scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday of this week.

Bailey is a 6-foot-3, 285-pounder who played defensive end and defensive tackle with the Hurricanes, and recorded 19 sacks in his college career, including seven as a senior. He recorded 31 tackles for a loss in with Miami, including 11 in 2010.

His physical measurables are off the charts — he’s been timed at 4.77 in the 40, and has posted 27 reps on the bench at 285. As a result, many mock drafts have him as a possible late first-round or early second-round pick in next month’s draft, which would mean he could be available to New England with either the No. 28 or No. 33 overall pick.

In an interview at the NFL scouting combine last month, Bailey — who stayed at Miami for all four years, playing 50 games, just two shy of Brandon Meriweather for most in school history — talked a little but about his ability to play both defensive tackle and defensive end, as well as how the transition went as a collegian.

“It was an adjustment. I’d played strictly outside the last three years, so it was an adjustment going inside,” Bailey said, “[But] I got the swing of everything and adjusted pretty well.”

Bookmark and Share

Brian Billick’s Blog: LB COLIN MCCARTHY FROM “THE U”

Colin McCarthy is another in a long line of NFL prospects coming out of the U.  He played most of his career at Miami on the outside, but his skill set will translate better in the NFL on the inside.  I had the opportunity to watch him perform at the Sr. Bowl and he was surprisingly agile and quick making plays on the defensive side of the ball as well as special teams.  During the Sr. Bowl, Colin showed great instincts and an aggressive yet under control style of play.  He attacks the LOS and brings his hips well when making tackles.  He can improve on his backpedal and man technique in pass coverage, but he looks extremely comfortable in zone coverage and always has his head on a swivel.  Going into the combine, it was important for McCarthy to run a good 40-yard dash time and show explosion in the vertical jump.  He didn’t disappoint with a 4.65 dash and a 36.5″ vertical leap.  I believe Colin McCarthy can be an excellent special teams contributor from day one, and he will provide solid depth at the linebacker position.  He will challenge Quan Sturdivant (UNC) to be the 2nd middle backer to be selected in the draft - late 2nd round to 3rd round prospect.

Bookmark and Share

Jason Geathers Ready For Another Season of Arena Football

The Arizona Rattlers are in game mode after two weeks of training camp, as they head back to US Airways Center on Saturday night for an Arena Football League opener against the Jacksonville Sharks and ageless quarterback Aaron Garcia. It will be the first of 18 regular-season games, a two-game increase from last year.

Only seven players from last year's team, which lost to eventual champion Spokane in the playoffs, return for the Rattlers. Leading the way are quarterback Nick Davila; receiver Trandon Harvey; defensive back Riley Swanson; offensive linemen Brennan Carvalho, Devin Clark and John Booker; and defensive lineman Anttaj Hawthorne.

The key will be how much chemistry is developed between Davila and receivers Nate Forse, Jason Geathers, Justin Evans and Glen Fox.

Bookmark and Share

Reggie Wayne a Top 2011 Fantasy Prospect

Reggie Wayne, WR. Fantasy owners love to complain about Wayne, but before you do, check the stats. He ranked second in the NFL with 111 receptions (a career high) and third in receiving yards (1,355). Yes, it would be nice to see him score more than six TDs like he did last year, but he's just one season removed from getting in the box 10 times. Wayne has a tendency to be a boom-or-bust player, but he ranked tied for 11th in our WR per-game consistency rankings through Week 16 last season, which isn't bad at all. At 32, Wayne isn't a young pup, but, like Manning, he's showing no signs of slowing down, and he figures to have at least a couple more good seasons in him. He's a solid WR1 in all formats.

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

Bookmark and Share

Statistics bear it out: TE Greg Olsen under-utilized

One of the big questions for the Chicago Bears when Mike Martz was hired as offensive coordinator was what would become of the tight ends?

General manager Jerry Angelo had invested a 2007 first-round draft pick in Greg Olsen, who seemed to be coming into his own as a receiving tight end. But Olsen wanted to know where he stood and met with management shortly after Martz's hiring to express concern about his role moving forward.

Olsen wanted out and the Bears actively worked to trade him, believing they had a deal in the works with the New England Patriots during the second day of the draft involving a second-round pick. That didn't materialize and Olsen and Martz remained together to make the best of the situation.

That is what they did for the most part, but consider Olsen had 41 receptions, only three more than Ernie Conwell had playing for Martz in 2001 with the St. Louis Rams. While Conwell was a fine player, he didn't possess nearly the same skills as a receiver that Olsen does, and that illustrates one of the ways the offense was dysfunctional in 2010. Olsen was used, but statistics indicate he wasn't used well enough. Olsen was on the field for 82.1 percent of the offensive snaps, nearly identical to the 84.1 percent he had in 2009 under Ron Turner.

The Bears simply didn't get the ball to Olsen enough. Whether it was a function of him having to play different roles, like lining up in the backfield, is hard to say. The use of the tight end actually went up in 2010 when you consider the four tight ends combined for 1,522 snaps. That is 85 more than they had under Turner. As mentioned in a previous post, the tight ends picked up many of the 359 snaps fullback Jason McKie had in 2009. The Bears also had 24 fewer offensive snaps in 2010 than in the previous year.

Here is how the playing time broke down for the tight ends last season:

Greg Olsen:  805 snaps, 82.1 percent
Brandon Manumaleuna:  553, 56.4 percent
Kellen Davis: 148, 15.1 percent
Desmond Clark:  16, 1.6

Manumaleuna got about the playing time that was expected after being a significant free-agent addition. He underwent arthroscopic knee surgery last month and is expected to be fully healthy before the summer. His role doesn't figure to change much moving forward, but the team has been complimentary of Kellen Davis and his playing time could increase after dipping from 22.6 percent in 2009. He's becoming more well rounded and could be in line for more action.

Clark will be an unrestricted free agent and is not expected to return. He was used sparingly and wound up being inactive for 11 games. The veteran handled his demotion with class.

The biggest question moving forward remains whether Olsen can carve out a bigger niche for himself in the passing game as he heads into a contract year. He could make himself attractive in free agency with a big season, and it's unknown whether the Bears will want to approach him early. The two sides might have different views on his value, especially after the team came close to trading him.

We've already posted playing-time breakdowns on the defensive line, wide receiver, linebacker, cornerback and running back positions. Check back throughout the day as we analyze playing time at every position.

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

Bookmark and Share

Jason Michaels battling minor back spasms

Astros outfielder Jason Michaels has missed two straight games while battling mild back spasms after a solid 1-for-3 performance, including a solo home run off New York Yankees right-hander Phil Hughes, in Houston's 10-8 loss Sunday afternoon.

The 34-year-old Michaels, one of the most popular players in the Astros' clubhouse, is hitting a stellar .375 (6-for-16) with a homer, RBI, double, 10 total bases and two runs scored this spring.

According to manager Brad Mills, it's a minor concern and something that hasn't been a lingering issue for the veteran outfielder.

"Jason is alright," Mills said. "He's got that back spasm. It's been acting up on him a little bit. Hopefully, he'll be okay. We'll see what he's like tomorrow. I hope it doesn’t stem from kind of favoring his shoulder. He’s been in the DH role for us so far this year, so we’ll see."

The Astros exercised a $900,000 club option on Michaels for 2011 back in early October after he hit .253 with eight homers and 26 RBI last season.

Out of his 47 total hits in 2010, 23 of them (49 percent) were for extra bases -- eight home runs, 14 doubles and one triple.  

Bookmark and Share

San Diego Chargers Looking At Hankerson & Franklin?

For their Number 50 and 61 picks are the San Diego Chargers looking at two future proCanes?

Orlando Franklin, OT: A reach at 61? Maybe. But he’s got the frame, toughness and upside.

Leonard Hankerson, WR: Broke Andre Johnson’s school record for receiving yards at Miami. Fast, physical at line.

Bookmark and Share

Willis McGahee not expected to return to Ravens

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Due to his high salary, the Baltimore Ravens are still expected to eventually part ways with running back Willis McGahee via release or trade.

A pay cut is unlikely to be accepted, and McGahee is due $6 million next season. Plus, the Ravens have former Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice as their featured back.

"We don't expect to be back unless they'll pay him his contract," agent Drew Rosenhaus said during a television appearance.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh recently said the team won't make a final resolution on cutting or keeping the former Pro Bowl running back until the collective bargaining agreement and salary cap situation are resolved.

Harbaugh was noncommittal on whether the team will retain him.

"I don’t think we know anything along those lines because we don’t have to yet," Harbaugh said at the NFL scouting combine. "The way it’s all set up there’s no reason to make any decision before you have to. What the salary cap is going to be, how those numbers factor in, are important."

McGahee rushed for a career-low 380 yards and five touchdowns on 100 carries last season. He averaged only 3.8 yards per carry.

"Willis McGahee can play," Harbaugh said. "He’s a good person, a hard worker, a leader on our team. I’m a big fan of Willis McGahee."

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

Bookmark and Share

Jeremy Shockey's one-year, $3M Panthers deal includes $1M guarantee

Tight end Jeremy Shockey's one-year deal with the Carolina Panthers is worth $3 million, with $1 million guaranteed, a league source said Monday.

The deal also includes a $812,500 roster bonus and no signing bonus, making it team- and salary-cap-friendly.

Shockey, who was released by the New Orleans Saints last week, also received interest from the Miami Dolphins. He signed the contract with the Panthers on Thursday.

Shockey will be reunited with Panthers offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski, who was his position coach at the University of Miami.
"Time for the Next chapter," Shockey wrote on his Facebook page after signing. "This is a great opportunity for me, and I am excited to play football."

Panthers coach Ron Rivera put an emphasis on acquiring a pass-catching tight end immediately after he was hired in January to replace John Fox following Carolina's 2-14 season. The flamboyant Shockey could be that guy, although the nine-year veteran has been slowed by injuries the past few seasons.

Shockey, who's 6-foot-5 and 251 pounds, made the Pro Bowl in four of his first five seasons in the NFL with the New York Giants, but he also was known for brash comments and feuds with coach Tom Coughlin.

Shockey was traded to New Orleans before the 2008 season and caught a key touchdown pass in the Saints' Super Bowl victory one year later. But Shockey labored through injuries in all three seasons in New Orleans, and the Saints cut him loose with $4.2 million due to him in 2011, the final year of his deal.

If he can stay healthy, Shockey, who had 41 catches for 408 yards and three touchdowns in 13 games last season, will provide a target at tight end not seen in years in Carolina.

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

Bookmark and Share

Damien Berry looks to improve stock at UM Pro Day

Among the nine UM players at the NFL combine last week, the most noise was made by Leonard Hankerson and DeMarcus Van Dyke.

Hankerson greatly improved his stock by running a faster-than-expected 4.43 seconds in the 40-yard dash while Van Dyke made national headlines by clocking the third-fastest 40-time (4.28) at the combine since 2000.

Damien Berry, the Hurricanes’ leading rusher last season, also helped his value by showing overall athleticism with solid showings in the 20-yard shuttle and the broad jump. Berry was timed in 4.12 seconds in the 20-yard shuttle (fifth among running backs) and his 10-foot broad jump was tied for sixth best in his position group. The dread-locked 5-foot-11, 212-pound Berry also reports that he didn’t drop a pass during drills.

Asked what he proved in Indianapolis, Berry responded: “That they can’t put me in a shell, that I’m just a power back who can only do certain things. I think I proved that I’m very athletic, very shifty, that I can move side to side.”

Berry has been working on getting himself ready for the NFL Draft since finishing his collegiate career on New Year’s Eve in the Sun Bowl. He played in the NFLPA-sponsored Texas vs. The Nation game and scored on a 72-yard touchdown run.

The Belle Glade native then moved to Nashville, Tenn., for a couple of months to train for the NFL combine.

“I wanted to get away,” said Berry, who worked out at D1 Sports Training in Nashville. “I’ve been around Miami all my life. I wanted to get myself ready for what was coming up the next few weeks so I thought it was best for me to move up there and get focused.”

Berry will get a chance to increase his stock further on Thursday at UM Pro Day. He ran 4.63 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the combine and is contemplating running the distance again for scouts.

“I know I can run faster than what I showed up there,” said Berry, who gained 899 rushing yards in 2010 for UM including four consecutive games in which he topped 100 yards. “I’m looking forward to proving myself because I didn’t think I did that up at Indy that well. I just want to show the world that I’m a superb athlete.”

Russ Lande, a former Cleveland Browns scout who now analyzes the draft for The Sporting News, said that Berry has an outside chance of being selected in the third round, but is more likely to be taken in the fourth or fifth rounds.

“You have to realize what you’re going to get with a guy like him,” Lande said. “He’s not going to be a starting tailback. He’s not that powerful kid that’s going to break tackles and he doesn’t have that explosiveness to run away from guys….but if he can pass block effectively, he will make his living in the NFL as a third-down back. He’s an athletic kid, he has very quick feet, he’s got good hands catching the ball out off the backfield and he’s a good runner in open space. There’s a lot to like about the kid.”

Bookmark and Share

Two proCanes Up For College Football Hall of Fame

CORAL GABLES, Fla. -- The National Football Foundation (NFF) announced today the names of 79 players and nine coaches who comprise the 2011 Football Bowl Subdivision Ballot for induction into the College Football Hall of Fame, and on the list are University of Miami greats Jimmy Johnson and Russell Maryland.

"It's an enormous honor to just be on the ballot when you think that more than 4.79 million people have played college football," said NFF President & CEO Steven J. Hatchell. "The Hall's requirement of being a First Team All-American creates a much smaller pool of only 1,900 individuals who are even eligible to be on the ballot, so being in today's group of 79 names means an individual is truly among the greatest to ever have played the game, and we are proud to announce their names today."

Johnson owned a 52-9 record during five seasons with the Miami Hurricanes from 1984-88. His landmark achievement was the program's second National Chamionship in 1987. Johnson coached nine players to 10 All-America honors and achieved legend status in Coral Gables before leaving for the Dallas Cowboys, where he won two Super Bowls.

In 1990, Maryland registered 96 tackles and 10.5 quarterback sacks for the Hurricanes and was the first 'Cane to win the Outland Trophy as the best lineman in college. He also was a concensus All-American in 1991 and finished his collegiate career with 279 tacles, 25 tackles for loss and 20.5 sacks before being drafted No. 1 overall by the Johnson's Dallas Cowboys in the 1991 NFL draft.

Both Johnson and Maryland are proud members of the UM Sports Hall of Fame.

Miami currently has four players - Ted Hendricks (1999 inductee), Don Bosseler (1990), Bennie Blades (2006) and Gino Torretta (2009) - and two coaches - Jack Harding (1980) and Andy Gustafson (1985) - in the College Football Hall of Fame. Former 'Canes greats Jim Otto, Jim Kelly, Michael Irvin and Hendricks are all in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Former Miami defensive tackle Cortez Kennedy was on the ballot for the Pro Football Hall of Fame this year.

The ballot was mailed this week to the more than 12,000 NFF members and current Hall of Famers whose votes will be tabulated and submitted to the NFF's Honors Court, which deliberates and selects the class. Chaired by Gene Corrigan, a former ACC Commissioner and NCAA president, the 13-member NFF Honors Court includes an elite and geographically diverse pool of athletics directors, conference commissioners, Hall of Famers and members of the media. The FBS Hall of Fame Class will be announced live in New York City during a noon press conference and inducted at the National Football Foundation's Annual Awards Dinner on December 6, 2011 at the landmark Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. The May press conference has been carried live on ESPNEWS for the past four years, and the same coverage is anticipated again this year.

To be eligible for the ballot, players must have been named a First Team All-America by a major/national selector as recognized and utilized by the NCAA for their consensus All-America teams; played their last year of intercollegiate football at least ten years prior; and played within the last 50 years and cannot be currently playing professional football. Coaches must have coached a minimum of 10 years and 100 games as a head coach; won at least 60% of their games; and be retired from coaching for at least three years. If a coach is retired and over the age of 70, there is no waiting period. If he is over the age of 75, he is eligible as an active coach. In both cases, the candidate's post-football record as a citizen may also be weighed.

Once nominated for consideration, all player candidates are submitted to one of eight District Screening Committees, depending on their school's geographic location, which conducts a vote to determine who will appear on the ballot and represent their respective districts. Each year, approximately 15 candidates, who are not selected for the Hall of Fame, will be named automatic holdovers and will bypass the district screening process and automatically appear on the ballot the following year. Additionally, the Veterans Committee may make recommendations to Honors Court for exceptions that allow for the induction of players who played more than 50 years ago.

Of the 4.79 million individuals who have played college football since Princeton first battled Rutgers on November 6, 1869, only 882 players have earned induction into the College Football Hall of Fame. From the coaching ranks, 190 individuals have achieved Hall of Fame distinction.

Bookmark and Share

Greg Olsen demonstrated versatility, improved blocking skills

LAKE FOREST, Ill. – Known primarily for his pass-catching skills prior to the 2010 season, Bears tight end Greg Olsen excelled in an expanded role that included more blocking assignments.

“I was very pleased with how he played,” said tight ends coach Mike DeBord. “He really improved his blocking. We asked him to play multiple positions—wide receiver, tight end, fullback—and he did it all.”

DeBord was impressed with how determined Olsen was to improve as a blocker.

“He was very committed from Day 1 with it,” DeBord said. “I think he heard people talking about it and he wanted to prove a point, and in my opinion he proved it. 

"There are still little things he can continue to get better at and he will get better at. But I was really pleased with the improvement he made.”

Olsen had 41 receptions for 404 yards and tied for the Bears lead with five touchdown catches. He also showed his versatility by throwing key blocks in pass protection and on running plays.

“I take a tremendous amount of pride in it, the challenge throughout the course of the week of absorbing it and getting all the information and learning what our responsibilities are,” Olsen said during the season. “It’s a fun challenge.”

Offensive coordinator Mike Martz is aware that Olsen made sacrifices throughout the season.

“We don’t have a fullback on our team,” Martz said. “So the tight ends have picked that up and we’ve asked all of our tight ends to take turns at that position. That takes away from being the down-the-field type that we’d like Greg to do. But he’s done so many great things for us.

“Unselfishly, he’s lent himself over to do that so that we can run the ball so much better. He leads in there. He’s at the point-of-attack as a tight end. We put him out as a wide receiver. We can do everything with him.”

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

Bookmark and Share

Jemile Weeks comes up big against brother's team

The A's second-base prospect went 2-for-2 and scored twice, including the winning run in the eighth inning of Sunday's 5-4 victory over the Brewers, who also had a second baseman named Weeks (Rickie), who broke into the majors in 2003.

"It's not something people get to do, play against their brother," Jemile said. "It's something I'm thankful for."

By the time Jemile, 4 1/2 years younger, was entering high school, Rickie had graduated. By the time Jemile was entering college, Rickie had turned pro. A similar story played out Sunday. By the time Jemile, 24, entered in the sixth inning, Rickie was getting pulled.

Jemile hopes the trend ends, saying, "I'm trying to get to the big leagues before he leaves the big leagues."

The younger brother, the 12th overall pick in the 2008 draft, has been slowed by injuries. He played at Double-A Midland last season, and the natural progression would be Triple-A this season. So it's a key time for Jemile, especially considering second baseman Mark Ellis' contract runs out after this season.

"It's the organization's call," Jemile said. "Me, I'm going out there with the attitude of a guy they look at as somebody who could be an everyday player in the big leagues. Just wanting to show them my tools, so they'll know."

Rather than return to the Brewers' facility in Maryvale, Ariz., Rickie stayed the entire game to watch Jemile, and it was worth the wait. With two outs in the eighth, Jemile doubled Michael Choice to third. Both scored on a single to right by A-ball outfielder Rashun Dixon, with the speedy Jemile barely beating the throw.

He said he worked on strengthening his legs in the offseason to help his all-around game.

Bookmark and Share

Danny Valencia is Twins' lovable loudmouth

Early in spring training, Twins third baseman Danny Valencia tweeted, “My loungin’ shirt!” A quick click, and there was a photo of a t-shirt with the inscription “The ‘U’ invented swagger.”

The “U,” of course, is the University of Miami, Valencia’s alma mater. And swagger, of course, is about the last thing you’d expect from those bastions of Midwest sensibility and baseball humility, the Twins.

Needless to say, Valencia’s college roommate, Indians closer Chris Perez, was not surprised to learn that as a rookie, Valencia was the most heavily fined Twin in kangaroo court last season.

“I can imagine, especially with that team,” Perez said, chuckling. “They are exact opposites, (with) the way the Twins are. They don’t really rock the boat, and then to have him come along; yeah, it’s definitely a different style.”

The Twins are not as staid as they might appear — manager Ron Gardenhire has one of the game’s quicker wits, and right fielder Michael Cuddyer says “it’s a very light-hearted group in here, actually.”

But Valencia, 26, is indeed something of a novelty for the club, a combination of brass and flash from Boca Raton, Fla.

“You hear before you see him,” Perez says.

Cardinals outfielder Jon Jay, another former UM teammate of Valencia’s, describes him as “one of a kind.”

A third former Hurricane, Marlins first baseman Gaby Sanchez, nodded and agreed.

“When I first met him, I was like, 'Who the heck are you? What is wrong with you?' ” Sanchez said. “But once you start to talk to him, once you get to know him, he’s a good kid, he really is. He means well in everything he does. He’s just one of those guys who is very outspoken.”

The most outrageous remark that Sanchez can recall hearing from Valencia?

“He’s like a Yogi Berra,” Sanchez says. “I don’t think you can pick out just one thing.”

The Twins can’t, either.

Cuddyer, when asked why Valencia is such a popular clubhouse target — Is it his bright-lights personality? Is it for being a knucklehead? — grinned and said, “Those two go hand in hand.

“He definitely is learning, let’s leave it at that,” Cuddyer said. “He talks. He definitely talks. But he’s doing well.”

Valencia freely acknowledges that of all the Twins players, “I get the most heat.”

Why? He smiled broadly.

“Because they love me.”

Actually, Valencia is rather lovable. He might talk, but he backs it up. To the Twins, that is all that matters.

Valencia joined the club last June 3 and immediately stabilized third base, a position that the Twins had filled in recent seasons with players such as Nick Punto, Joe Crede, Brian Buscher and Mike Lamb.

In 85 games Valencia batted .311/.351/.448 with seven homers and 40 RBIs. However, Gardenhire was perhaps even more impressed by how Valencia handled himself defensively.

“I like that when he first came up and I was taking him out for defense late in the games, he got pissed,” Gardenhire said. “He started taking more groundballs. He made himself a good fielder. He just kept working. That says a lot about him.”

And Valencia’s persona?

“Obviously, the guys give him a lot of grief. They say, ‘You’ve just got to understand, Danny loves Danny,’” Gardenhire said. “But honestly, he fits in well.

“He doesn’t mind taking the grief. I think he enjoys it. I think he lives for it.”

Valencia says he didn’t mind when, just prior to his major-league debut, first baseman Justin Morneau hung a No. 79 jersey in his locker rather than his usual No. 19. He also didn’t mind paying repeated fines for his numerous convictions in kangaroo court.

“They were getting me for the little things, hitting me up for not wearing socks on the plane, little ticky-tack things,” Valencia said. “It was all in good fun. Me and (catcher) Drew Butera ended up financing the team party at the end of the year. It went to a good cause.”

Valencia was only a 19th-round draft pick in 2006, the 576th player chosen. Rays third baseman Evan Longoria was the third overall pick that year. The Royals’ Alex Gordon, Nationals’ Ryan Zimmerman and Brewers’ Ryan Braun — who was a year ahead of Valencia at Miami — went second, fourth and fifth overall in ’05.

Braun’s departure enabled Valencia to move from first base to third for his junior year. Valencia hit a grand slam against Mississippi to lift Miami into the College World Series, but still barely registered with major-league clubs.

“He always had a chip on his shoulder, not going as high in the draft as he wanted to,” the Cardinals’ Jay said.

Yet Valencia never lost faith in himself, even as it took him nearly four years to climb through the minors.

“You’ve got to think you’re the best,” Valencia says. “If you don’t have the confidence to believe that you’re the best, who’s going to believe?”
Perez, who recalls watching “Entourage” and playing video games with Valencia at Miami, said, “I don’t think Danny would be where he’s at without that personality.”

But even Perez’s tolerance has its limits.

“He would always tell me, ‘I hit a home run off this guy, off that guy,’” the Indians’ closer said. “Last year after he got called up, he said he was going to hit a home run off me, and I struck him out on four pitches. He talks the game always.”

Valencia volunteered a similar memory of the matchup, then said, “But you don’t have to write about that.”

Too late, but not to worry.

Valencia can take the heat, on and off the field.

Bookmark and Share

Photo of the Week: Jeremy Shockey on South Beach

Jeremy Shockey, the tight end, who recently waived bye-bye to the Saints, was seen skulking in fabulous Miami, where he is rumored to be pursuing a new career as a swimsuit model. Or pursuing a swimsuit model. We'll get back to you as soon as we have some reliable information.

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

Bookmark and Share

Demarcus Van Dyke to work out for Philly, Cleveland

Miami cornerback Demarcus Van Dyke ran the fastest forty-yard dash at last week’s Scouting Combine, clocking a 4.28 official time.  It was the third fastest forty since the year 2000.

Only Chris Johnson (4.24) and Stanford Routt (4.27) have been faster in the last decade.

Contacted by PFT on Saturday, Van Dyke revealed that he has private, on-campus workouts scheduled with the Eagles and Browns on the 14th and 17th of this month. The Eagles have a major need at right cornerback, while the Browns are pursuing help at the nickel position.

At the Combine, Van Dyke weighed in at 6-foot-1 and 176 pounds. In addition to the blazing forty time, “DVD” recorded a 33.5-inch vertical, 10-foot, 1-inch broad jump, and 4.09 20-yard shuttle time.

PFT also asked Van Dyke if he’s heard rumors that the stopwatch at the Combine was broken, resulting in inaccurate official times.

“Naw,” he said.

So add smarts to Van Dyke’s impressive height-speed combination.

Bookmark and Share

Ray Lewis Goes Beyond Hype To Get Powered By Twinlabs' Power Fuel

March 4, 2011: It seems as if products such as Gatorade's Prime are not productive enough for one of the toughest guys in the NFL.

Ray Lewis, a future Hall of Fame linebacker with the Baltimore Ravens, is putting his marketing efforts behind Power Fuel, which is described as a "pre-workout intensity supplement." Power Fuel, from New York-based Twinlab Corp., will feature Lewis on its packaging and "contain a powerful custom ingredient blend named in his honor."

“I was interested in a formula that could bring real results to the table and not just hype," Lewis said in a statement. "Anybody who knows me knows that if I’m going to do something, it’s going to be done right, and that’s exactly what we’re doing."

According to Twinlab, Power Fuel's "Fuel Management System works to help get you primed and ready for truly intense workouts [and] replenish vital electrolytes lost through perspiration, infuse B-vitamins to increase metabolism and help turn food into energy and patented Cinnulin PF.

Among its ingredients, Power Fuel contains "Formula52 [which is] packed with a proprietary blend of nitric oxide precursors and facilitators to help stimulate pump; clinically tested fatigue-fighting agents beta alanine, caffeine and a taurine to aid performance and focus; and creatine to help fuel strength and size gains.

Lewis, whose endorsement deals also include Old Spice, will do supporting marketing for Power Fuel, such as Internet and a personal appearance at the Arnold [Schwarzenegger] Sports Festival Expo on at the Columbus (Ohio) Convention Center.

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

Bookmark and Share

Aubrey Huff picks a new target

Now I think Bruce Bochy is just poking the cage.

Two days ago, Aubrey Huff played seven innings at first base – a rather long day for a veteran early in the spring – while rookie Brandon Belt started at designated hitter.

Belt hit his first homer in a Giants uniform that day, and Huff was quick to congratulate the kid in his own special way.

“Feeling good?” Huff said.

“Oh yeah. Exciting,” Belt said.

“Well, good. We’ve got to keep the rookies fresh around here.”

So this morning, when I looked at the lineup on the bulletin board, I immediately knew we were in for some rather loud, rather amusing complaints.

Huff was back at first base. And Belt was the DH.

When Huff saw this, he almost dragged Belt by the ear into Bochy’s office. Then he personally thanked the skipper for making sure the veterans were getting enough work in camp. That’s the blog-friendly version, anyway.

Yep, we’re in for another interesting year.

Bookmark and Share

Danny Valencia set to cool 'hot corner'

Danny Valencia spent part of his offseason working out with Alex Rodriguez. Now the Minnesota Twins third baseman hopes to play like him.
In the previous seven seasons, six different players have started at third base for the Twins on opening day. Barring injury or the unforeseen, Valencia will become the seventh opening day starter on April 1 in Toronto.

The 26-year-old said he hoped to end the trend of the Twins having turnover at the "hot corner" position.

"It's very important to me, and it's important for the team to have someone there," Valencia said. "I'd be happy to fill that role. Hopefully good things happen and we win."

Good things happened for Valencia, and the Twins won on Sunday. He went 1-for-2 with a first-inning double and run scored as the Twins defeated the Baltimore Orioles 3-0 in front of an announced, sellout crowd of 7,924 fans.

"It's a matter of time," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "The talent is there. Whether he was going to allow himself to do a few things and listen - it's all about learning. When he came up to the big leagues, he started listening and learning.

"That's what this game is all about. You go to the ballpark and try to learn something every day. You don't want to be content with being OK. You want to do higher things.

"He's done that."

Learning from Rodriguez and working out with him - both played at the University of Miami - helped, Valencia said.

"It was a good experience," he said. "It was very informative. It was fun, and it's nice to see a guy you grew up watching work hard."

Valencia hit .311 in 85 games last season after getting called up from Triple-A Rochester on June 3. He had 18 doubles, seven home runs, 40 RBI and two stolen bases. The batting average ranks ahead of Koskie for second place as best for a rookie hitter with a minimum of 300 at-bats. Only Tony Oliva fared better, hitting .323 in 1964.

"Wow," Valencia said. "That's nice to be mentioned with those guys. It was a great rookie year. I can't think of any way it could have been better unless we could have gotten deeper into the playoffs."

Valencia got an infield single in his first big-league game off a Cy Young Award-winning pitcher in Felix Hernandez on June 3. Valencia slugged his first major-league homer off another Cy Young winner, Zack Greinke, against the Royals on July 26 in Kansas City.

It was a grand slam.

"I got ahead in the count," Valencia said. "I got a fastball, and I was able to put a good piece of wood on it. I was pretty happy. At the time, I hadn't hit a home run the whole entire year. I kind of forgot how to run around the bases. It was a good feeling. I'm sure years from now I'll remember my first home run in the big leagues."

Gardenhire said Valencia has impressed him with his desire to learn.

"He's a very confident guy, probably overconfident," Gardenhire said. "There's nothing wrong with that as long as you continue to learn and listen and pay attention. Danny has done that. He has handled himself a lot better than most people would have expected. That says a lot about him."

It would say even more if Gardenhire writes Valencia's name in the lineup at third base when the calendar turns to 2012.

"I've said that about 10 times, and we'll wait and see," Gardenhire said of Valencia being a long-term solution. "That's why we drafted him. That's why we've tried to sell him as being our long-term solution at third base. He definitely has the ability to do that."

Bookmark and Share