07 August 2011

proCanes Stats From Week 1 of the 2011 NFL U Pre-Season

Vince Wilfork (Patriots): DID NOT PLAY

Brandon Meriweather (Patriots): 5 tackles, 1 solo tackle

Darnell Jenkins (Patriots): 2 catches 20 yards

DeMarcus Van Dyke (Raiders): 2 tackles, 1 solo tackle

Calais Campbell (Cardinals): 1 solo tackle

Jared Campbell (Cardinals): 2 tackles

Kelly Jennings (Seahawks): 3 tackles, 2 solo tackles

Willis McGahee (Broncos): 2 carries, 17 yards and 2 catches, -10 yards

Shawnbrey McNeal (Chargers): 2 carries, 5 yards

Damien Berry (Ravens): 1 carry, 3 yards and 1 catch, 19 yards

Graig Cooper (Eagles): 2 carries, 7 yards and 2 catches, -5 yards

Ray Lewis (Ravens): DID NOT PLAY

Ed Reed (Ravens): 1 solo tackle,

Tavares Gooden (Ravens): DID NOT PLAY DUE TO INJURY


Sinorice Moss (Eagles): DID NOT PLAY DUE TO INJURY

Allen Bailey (Chiefs): 2 solo tackles, 1 sack, 1 QB Hit, 1 tackle for loss

Matt Bosher (Falcons): 4 punts for 193 yards. 48.3 average with a long of 63 yards.

Dedrick Epps (Dolphins): 1 catch for 17 yards

Spencer Adkins (Falcons): 1 solo tackle

Baraka Atkins (Steelers): 1 solo tackle

Rocky McIntosh (Redskins): 2 solo tackles, 1 pass deflection

Santana Moss (Redskins): 7 catches 64 yards, 1 TD

Leonard Hankerson (Redksins): 1 catch, 8 yards

Jimmy Graham (Saints): 0 catches

Frank Gore (49ers): 4 rushes, 20 yards

Jon Vilma (Saints): 1 solo tackle

Bookmark and Share

NEW FREE Sam Shields Wallpaper

Check out our new wallpaper featuring Sam Shields. Click here to download our Sam “Sticky” Shields Wallpaper and many other ones or click above on proCanes Wallpapers. Enjoy and stay tuned to more wallpapers in the near future.

Bookmark and Share

DeMarcus Van Dyke Baptised Under Fire

Rookie third-round draft pick DeMarcus Van Dyke had a rough first series as Oakland sat starting corners Stanford Routt and Chris Johnson on the second series, and things got even worse just before halftime.

Pro Bowl receiver Larry Fitzgerald immediately hauled in a 43-yard pass from Kevin Kolb down the left sideline, a play in which Van Dyke actually had good coverage.

At least, Van Dyke showed that he could stay with one of the most potent receivers in the league. Matching Fitzgerald’s speed wasn’t an issue for Van Dyke, but matching his experience and hands was another story.

Against strong coverage the former Madden cover boy hauled in a spectacular 41-yard grab giving DVD his “welcome to the NFL” moment. The rookie matched Fitzgerald step for step down the sideline and got his hand up, but the veteran receiver would not be denied.

A short time later, Beanie Wells broke a high tackle attempt by Van Dyke running to his left and gained 15 yards.

With 25 seconds left in the half, quarterback John Skelton found Stephen Williams in the middle of the end zone with Van Dyke trailing the play, giving Arizona a 7-6 lead.

Bookmark and Share

Sam Shields Hurt

Green Bay Packer Sam Shields went down awkwardly when he collided with undrafted rookie wide receiver Tori Gurley over the middle. Both players got their hands on the pass and, as Shields ripped it away for an interception, he went down and stayed down for a while.

Initially, there appeared to be a lot of concern for Shields before he limped off under his own power. After practice, McCarthy called the injury a “bruised hip pointer,” and didn’t sound overly alarmed, but it might throw a wrinkle into the cornerback plans for Saturday’s game.

Bookmark and Share

Matt Bosher Battling

Matt Bosher and Ken Parrish. Bosher was selected in the sixth round of the draft (192nd overall) by the Atlanta Falcons and is set to handle the punting, kickoff and holding duties. Parrish averaged 40.7 yards per punt in the UFL in 2010. Bosher has shown off a big leg in camp. The club wants to see how he operates under pressure.

Bookmark and Share

Drew Brees Throws a nice pass to Jimmy Graham

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

Bookmark and Share


Andre Johnson focused on Texans reaching playoffs

HOUSTON (AP) — On his 30th birthday last month, Andre Johnson didn't spend much time thinking about football or the fact that he has yet to reach the playoffs.

Still, the Houston Texans' star receiver said he never thought he'd reach the milestone birthday before making the postseason.

"Like I said before, that's something I think about every day," Johnson said of making the playoffs. "I'm just trying to do whatever I can to hopefully stand up on that podium one day and hold that trophy. That's my goal."

Johnson has long been considered one of the top receivers in the NFL. He's had more than 1,000 yards receiving in five of his eight seasons in the league, including the last three straight.

But as the Texans prepare for their 10th season and Johnson for his ninth, he's prepared to do even more to help Houston reach the playoffs for the first time.

"You just have to turn your play up another notch," he said. "That's just the way I look at it so hopefully, the way I've been playing, I can just take it and turn it up a whole other level. That's what I'm going to try to do."

It would be difficult for Johnson to do much more for this team. He followed up two straight 1,500 yard-plus receiving seasons by catching 86 passes for 1,216 yards in just 13 games last year.

"He means everything," coach Gary Kubiak said. "I was just telling the guys a while ago that I was putting pressure on him. When he practices good, we practice good as an offensive football team; same thing with the quarterback. Andre goes all day, works all day. You don't find many guys that are nine-year pros and work like that. That's why he's a great player."

Johnson missed four days of camp with a dislocated left index finger, but has looked good since returning on Sunday. He's not 100 percent, but knows it's important to practice as much as possible with the first preseason game with the Jets coming up on Monday.

"I feel pretty good," he said. "The finger is still sore. I just keep it wrapped up with a splint ... just trying to see how fast it can heal up, but I've been getting treatment and stuff on it every day just trying to get it fully healed."

Johnson doesn't talk publicly about personal goals and says he doesn't care where people rank him among the top receivers. The only goal he shares with the media before each season is the one he hasn't reached, but he's grown weary of talking about that one, too.

"It's like beating something dead," Johnson said of talking about the playoffs. "We hear it over and over so we know what we have to do to get to where we want to go."

Texans owner Bob McNair said he isn't even considering the possibility of not making the postseason.

"It's the playoffs," he said. "That's what we expect and have no reason to believe we won't be there. We're going to do whatever we have to do to win, period. Of course, that means you're going to be in the playoffs ... but it's all about winning and we've had adequate time to get there and we've been very close. We just need to make that determination that we're going to make it happen."

As one of the longest tenured players on this team, Johnson's leadership is something McNair believes will be key in helping the Texans reach their goal. Johnson signed a contract extension before last season that should keep him in Houston for his entire career.

"You just couldn't ask for anybody to be a better teammate than Andre because not only is he a great player but he goes out there and plays as hard or harder than anybody, he never complains, he does his job, he's willing to sacrifice and he doesn't complain about how many balls you've thrown to him," McNair said. "That's what you're looking for. This is a team sport and a lot of what happens depends upon the chemistry of that team. Andre helps set the right chemistry for us."

Click here to order Andre Johnson’s proCane Rookie Card.

Bookmark and Share

D.J. Williams misses game

Denver Broncos LB D.J. Williams (hip) did not play in the team's first preseason game Thursday, Aug. 11, and he has been dealing with a hip injury.

Click here to order DJ Williams’ proCane Rookie Card.

Bookmark and Share

Jon Beason to return next week?

Coach Ron Rivera believes MLB Jon Beason (Achilles) will be back in practice next week.

Beason is a four-year vet that just signed a $50 million contract extension. There's no need for him to rush back. IDP owners can safely target Beason as the tackle machine will almost certainly be ready for Week 1.

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

Bookmark and Share

Roscoe Parrish will miss Saturday's game

Buffalo Bills WR Roscoe Parrish will miss the team’s first preseason game Saturday at Chicago with an injured left hamstring.

Parrish missed two practices earlier in the week with the same injury, then re-aggravated it Wednesday night. The Bills don’t want to take any chances with Parrish, who’s coming back from a fractured wrist last season.

Before he was hurt, he proved to be a valuable piece to Chan Gailey’s offensive puzzle. He set a career high with 400 receiving yards in just eight games, providing the Bills with a speed option at slot receiver.

Parrish came up limping after running a fly pattern. Don’t expect to see him back at practice until he’s fully healthy, so that the injury doesn’t linger.

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

Bookmark and Share

Despite drops, Redskins’ Leonard Hankerson is catching on

As the Miami Dolphins‘ all-time leader in receiving yardage, No. 2 in receptions and No. 3 in receiving touchdowns, Mark Duper knows about playing the position. So when some of Leonard Hankerson’s uncles learned that their employer was a close friend of Duper‘s, they asked if the three-time Pro Bowler would tutor the young wideout, a rising junior at Miami.

“When I first started working with him, the talent, mentality and the ability to play football was there,” Duper said recently. “But an athlete needs guidance. He needed to learn how to practice properly. He needed to learn how to position his hands. He learned how to develop himself as a ballplayer.”

Hankerson, the Redskins’ third-round draft pick in April, was underwhelming during his first two years with the Hurricanes. But after working hard with Duper and youth coach Jack Doucett - his uncles’ employer - Hankerson departed among Miami’s top five receivers in career yardage, receptions and touchdowns.

Entering Friday’s preseason opener against visiting Pittsburgh, Hankerson yearns to prove he belongs among names such as Andre Johnson, Reggie Wayne, Michael Irvin and now-teammate Santana Moss.

Eight receivers were drafted ahead of Hankerson. The Redskins selected two more after him, Niles Paul and Aldrick Robinson. Then came the addition of two veterans, Jabar Gaffney and Donte Stallworth. And just to be safe, the team also signed undrafted wideout Issac Anderson.

“That’s part of the NFL,” said Hankerson, who has dazzled at times during training camp. “Everyone wants to win and everyone’s going to do what it takes. As soon as you sign, they go out and try to find someone better.”

Hankerson’s determination to improve was a driving factor after he totaled 17 catches for 203 yards and three touchdowns - and developed a reputation for untimely drops - entering his junior season. Duper and Doucett put him through concentration drills and workouts that were posted to YouTube. Whenever Duper couldn’t make it, Hankerson insisted on continuing the program with Doucett. A breakout junior year convinced Hankerson to bypass the draft and redouble his effort.

“We had a goal of catching 10,000 balls over the summer before his senior year, and he did it,” said Doucett, a lifelong Redskins fan who hosted Hankerson’s draft party and adorned him in the Redskins’ cap and Joe Theismann jersey that appeared in photos.

“We worked even harder, sometimes twice a week,” Doucett said. “The Miami coaches invited me in to work out with him as much as we wanted. We set goals of 60 catches, 1,100 yards and nine touchdowns, and he surpassed them.”

To be precise, Hankerson capped his college career with 72 receptions, 1,156 yards and a single-season record 13 TDs. He finally was maximizing the athleticism and potential displayed at Fort Lauderdale’s St. Thomas Aquinas High, where another noted wideout - Cris Carter - was his position coach.

“When I first got to college, I thought it was going to be a lot easier than it was,” said Hankerson, explaining his slow start. “It was tough going up and competing against everyone. I wasn’t really staying after practice for extra work. I had the ability, but I had to catch a lot of extra balls.”

Hankerson typically stays on the field with others after practice to work with Redskins receivers coach Keenan McCardell. He used to hang around after the Redskins’ voluntary training sessions during the lockout. Duper said Hankerson’s work ethic is the receiver’s most-impressive trait, adding that there’s nothing wrong with his rather large mitts.

“He has the opportunity to lock onto a football if his hands are positioned properly,” Duper said. “He was taught all those things in our two years and did a great job. Leonard doesn’t have bad hands; his hands are great.”

Nonetheless, several balls that Hankerson should’ve caught have hit the ground in practice. The perception that he’s unreliable, in addition to his lack of blazing speed, helped him fall to the ninth receiver drafted. But McCardell said Hankerson’s physical attributes - 6-foot-2 and 205 pounds with long arms - will help him overpower cornerbacks and overcome perceived weaknesses.

“He’s a big target and has a big catch radius,” McCardell said. “Sometimes balls maybe are not on target, but with his big catch radius he’s on target.”

As far as Duper is concerned, there’s no question where his former pupil is headed: “I think Leonard Hankerson was a steal in the third round,” Duper said. “I think he’s going to be a star in the NFL and do great things in the NFL.”

If not, the reason won’t be lack of effort.

Bookmark and Share

Bears won't be hasty with Devin Hester

BOURBONNAIS, Ill. — Chicago Bears wide receiver-returner Devin Hester blazed down the sideline, leaving late-arriving safety Chris Harris resembling a man stuck in mud. Hester's warp speed ignited an electric, 60-yard touchdown connection with quarterback Jay Cutler that delighted the 3,000-plus fans attending a practice at Olivet Nazarene University this week.

For all the weapons added to spark a 30th-ranked offense — receivers Roy Williams and Sam Hurd and running back Marion Barber III — Hester's potential breakout entering his fourth season at receiver is the talk of Bears camp.

"Devin is primed for a big year," Harris said. "He's grown a lot as a route runner. This team is primed to take the next step after coming so close to the Super Bowl. We added some good pieces.

"And Devin is very motivated."

Hester was held without a reception by the Green Bay Packers secondary in the NFC Championship Game loss.

The explosive playmaker who set the NFL record of 14 combined kickoff and punt-return touchdowns in 76 career games spent six weeks in May and June working three days a week with Cutler and the other Bears' skill players.

The former Miami (Fla.) Hurricane caught 40 passes last season after recording 50-plus catches the previous two seasons. Hester's regimen of honing his strength and stamina coincides with coach Lovie Smith's concession that the "Windy City Flyer" needs to be a bigger offensive focal point starting opposite Williams. Hester's longest reception was 39 yards last season.

That works for Cutler, who sees a more polished receiver than last year, when Hester was swimming in offensive coordinator Mike Martz's voluminous system.

"He's so much more comfortable," Cutler said. "In this system, if you think, you're not going to be very effective."

Where Hester stands is on the cusp of realizing assistant head coach-defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli's motivating comparison.

When the former Detroit Lions head coach joined the Bears in January 2009, he presented his former NFC North tormentor a DVD tribute.

"I gave Devin the movie Jim Thorpe to show him the tradition, history, a guy Devin can identify with," Marinelli said. "Devin's a great athlete just like Jim Thorpe."

Hester was intrigued.

"Coach Marinelli handed me the movie and said, 'You're the modern-day Jim Thorpe,' " Hester said.

Hester wasn't familiar with Thorpe's legendary athleticism as a Football Hall of Famer and 1912 Olympic pentathlon-decathlon gold medalist. "I learned how great Jim Thorpe was at everything," he said.

Smith's challenge is balancing his cornerback-turned-receiver's offensive touches in an effort not to diminish Hester's impact as a returner.
"I said, 'How about punt returns?' " Smith said. "Devin continues to talk about returning kicks, too. It's hard to say no to a Hall of Famer when he wants to do something."

Last Saturday, Hester watched the speeches by newly enshrined Hall of Famers Deion Sanders, Shannon Sharpe, Marshall Faulk and former Bear Richard Dent. He especially connected with Sanders' moving tribute to his mother Connie's hard-working sacrifice.

Hester's parents divorced when he was an infant. His mother was severely injured in a car crash. He lost his father to cancer as a teenager.
"I broke down in my dorm room watching those speeches," Hester said. "I want to join them in the Hall of Fame."

Smith says he'll get there if Hester continues channeling his inner Thorpe. "There will be a place for the greatest returner of all time in the Hall of Fame one day," he said.

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

Bookmark and Share

Reggie Wayne on Watch for Big Season

ANDERSON, Ind. — Reggie Wayne paused Tuesday to meet with the media and answer one of the burning questions of the Indianapolis Colts’ 2011 training camp.

Why, exactly, has the Pro Bowl wide receiver been wearing a garish red watch throughout practice?

“Like I told you, man, to make sure I’m right on time before I run right by you,” Wayne told the media at Anderson University to a chorus of laughter. “If I run in there and score a touchdown, I want to make sure what time it is. I want to make sure I’m right on time, right on schedule. That’s what it’s about.”

Wayne certainly has been on schedule so far.

He said he hasn’t felt this good since his rookie season, and he’s looking forward to Saturday’s preseason opener at St. Louis.

But his best timing Tuesday was comedic.

Wayne said he has four or five “colorful” practice watches that he’s worn over the years. But he’s developed a bit of a superstition around the red model this time around.

“I normally rotate them,” he said. “But this camp, there’s something about this red watch that’s been standing out. I’m keeping it going. I’ve had a good camp so far. So if it’s not broke, don’t fix it.”

Does that mean Wayne might be tempted to continue wearing the watch once the regular season begins?

“Nah,” he said. “As much as I want to, I don’t want Mr. (NFL commissioner Roger) Goodell to give me a little letter. But if I could, I would.”

He’s found a far more effective accessory anyway.

New wide receivers coach Frank Reich was a quarterback for 14 NFL seasons, primarily with the Buffalo Bills. He’s best known for leading the largest comeback in league history, erasing a 35-3 second half deficit to beat the Houston Oilers 41-38 in overtime during a playoff game following the 1992 season.

Reich also completed the first touchdown pass in Carolina Panthers history in 1995. The recipient was current Colts offensive line coach Pete Metzelaars.

And Wayne already has fallen under his spell.

“Him being a quarterback, he understands a lot of things,” Wayne said. “He understands what’s kind of tough to do as a receiver and what’s not tough to do, and a lot of coaches aren’t able to display that or give you that. But I love Frank. He’s come in and really helped me get better, already, and once again I’ve got to make him look good. That’s what it’s all about.”

Reich has a quote, “Plant the seed for speed,” that already has become something of a motto for Wayne during this camp.

And he said he’s not going to allow the absence of quarterback Peyton Manning to slow him down.

The offense has a job to do no matter who is under center, and Wayne’s not about to look for reasons not to get the job done.

“This is not my first rodeo,” he said. “So if it’s Peyton in there or (Curtis) Painter or Coach (Jim) Caldwell, it doesn’t change. I know where to line up. I know what to do. I know what’s expected of me. We just need to gel together and just play together. Just play Colts football, that’s basically it.”

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

Bookmark and Share

Andre Johnson talented, but often overlooked

HOUSTON — Andre Johnson awoke in Dallas on Super Bowl Sunday after spending a festive weekend with friends in February. By kickoff, he was nearly 250 miles away, not a party bowl of guacamole within reach, lollygagging alone at home in his annual playoff funk.

Voted by peers as pro football's consummate pass catcher, not even Johnson's phenomenal exploits have been able to steer the Houston Texans to the playoffs. After slumping to a 6-10 record in 2010, Houston remains the only NFL franchise not to have advanced to the postseason since beginning play in 2002.

"This is what eats at me every day," says the soft-spoken wide receiver in a baritone voice. "I knew when I was drafted (in 2003) I was coming to an (expansion) organization. I knew it would not happen overnight. But I did not think it would take this long. I think about it every day. When I say every day, I mean … every … single … day."

That makes eight interminably long years for one of the NFL's most highly accomplished — yet underappreciated and understated — assets. Johnson is no diva, tweeter or brand builder, just "hands-down the best receiver in the league," says cornerback Melvin Bullitt of the rival Indianapolis Colts.

The highest-paid receiver in history "has done everything for the (Texans) franchise; no one knows his name," says Baltimore Ravens fullback Vonta Leach, a former teammate.

Defenses do. Johnson, 30, is a fearless playmaker with freakish athletic ability, including a high tolerance for pain. Johnson is not the least bit queasy regarding the real possibility of violent, rush-hour-like collisions in the secondary. As he reasons, "You are going to get hit anyway. So you might as well catch it."

Johnson played with a high-ankle sprain most of last season and was voted to his fifth Pro Bowl and fourth all-pro honor. Injured in Week 2, he finished with 86 catches for 1,216 yards and eight touchdowns despite missing three games — including the last two when doctors advised him to shut it down.

"Putting up those numbers, on one foot, tells (you) what he is all about; he is a phenomenal player," Texans coach Gary Kubiak says.

Texans quarterback Matt Schaub says there were many occasions when Johnson's ankle "was tweaked, and he would get a (pain-numbing) shot and go back out. Andre is a tough guy who sells out for his team."

The reason: His determination to be the greatest. Ever.

Maybe that's one reason, as a prep player at Miami Senior High, his first tattoo was of a lion with a football in his mouth underscored by “Hungry.”

"(Hall of Fame receiver) Jerry Rice has set a plateau that probably never, ever will be duplicated," Johnson says. "But when I walk away from this game, I want people to say that Andre Johnson was the best receiver to ever have played."

Big numbers, low profile
Only Rice and Johnson have led the league in receiving yards in back-to-back seasons since 1960. This summer, NFL players voted the big Texan the league's seventh-best player overall.

Respected? Unquestionably. Chad Ochocinco-like, over-the-top personality? Sorry, wrong dude.

In 2010, sales for Johnson's No. 80 jersey ranked 44th among NFL players and, incredibly, No. 8 among receivers. The Texans' playoff drought is one reason. So is Johnson's indifference to personal outlandishness and a lack of self-promotion. He'd rather attend a high school football game or spend time with daughter, Kylie, 2.

"I don't think the guy even has a touchdown dance," marvels Hall of Fame receiver James Lofton of CBS Radio.

He sometimes spikes the ball, but mostly hugs his teammates and beelines for the sideline. Not that he is anti-flamboyant.

"Sometimes," he says, "I look forward to going home and watching ESPN to see what someone does (outrageously), so I can laugh. But it isn't me."

It was his shocking slugfest with Tennessee Titans cornerback Cortland Finnegan in 2010 that earned him unwanted notoriety. The players were kicked out of the game and each fined $25,000. Johnson apologized.

"More people know him more for the Finnegan fight than the play of Andre Johnson," Leach says. "He doesn't say much. He just goes about his business, a true professional. He chooses to make noise with his play."

Johnson is a rare, defense-sapping combination of a powerful, 6-2, 228-pound receiver who, Bullitt says, "has the size of a (pass-rushing) defensive end, the speed of a cornerback and the hands of a wide receiver."

The Atlanta Falcons' Roddy White, the NFL's leader in catches in 2010, jokingly says Johnson is "so big, so strong and runs so fast, that it's kind of unfair."

Johnson's 79.7-yard per-game career average is best in NFL history among players with at least 100 games. The only player in league history with 60 or more catches in each of his first eight seasons, Johnson often confronts sticky double coverage and brutal hits. His toughness and explosiveness enable him to turn routine catches into wide swaths of real estate.

Texans receivers coach Larry Kirksey, who coached Rice and Terrell Owens in San Francisco, calls Johnson a mixture of them.

"He is smart, and he understands the game. And he plays the game the way it is meant to be played," by playing all-out.

A prime example came in Week 13 at the Philadelphia Eagles. Four days after the Finnegan fiasco, Johnson displayed the right kind of playoff fight for a desperate team. With Houston trailing before halftime, he reinjured his ankle, telling trainers, "I think I'm done for the season." Johnson got a painkilling injection at halftime.

"He came out (because he) knew we needed him; it was do-or-die for us," Schaub says.

With the Texans trailing 20-10, Johnson returned in the second half and finished the game with six catches for 149 yards. The Texans rallied to take a 24-20 lead but lost 34-24.

"Yeah, I hate to say it, but there are some guys who (play just for money)," Johnson says. "They really don't care if they win or they lose. They just want to collect a check. If I ever got to that point, I would retire."

Keeping his head high
While he appears years from that eventuality, the injury bug stung Johnson in training camp. Leaping for a pass, the ball deflected off his left hand and dislocated the index finger.

"When I looked at it, it was kind of ugly, so I popped it back into place," he said. "But when I took my glove off, the blood started running out," because the bone broke the skin. "If I were able to play on a bum ankle, there is no way a finger is going to keep me down."

A day after the injury, Johnson found humor in his plight. As he strolled down a hallway, his tender, heavily bandaged finger was caught up in a pair of sandals carried by third-year running back Chris Ogbonnaya.

"He started pulling me along, and I was like, 'Whoa, whoa!' " Johnson says. "He said, 'Sorry, man, my bad.' We just laughed."
Johnson has had too few days to smile about since the Texans drafted the ex-Miami (Fla.) star with the third overall pick. At Miami, Johnson was accustomed to playing after the regular season. He was a Rose Bowl MVP. But it would take until 2009 before Johnson played on another winner: the 9-7 Texans.

Last summer, the Texans rewarded Johnson with a two-year, $23.5 million contract extension, including a guaranteed $13 million that keeps him in Houston until 2016. But at what price to a very determined man?

"I hate watching the postseason," he says. "I think, 'Man, when is our time coming?' "

Click here to order Andre Johnson’s proCane Rookie Card.

Bookmark and Share

Jon Vilma happy about two new DTs

New Orleans fans, you’ll hear plenty more from Jonathan Vilma when we run our Camp Confidential segment on the Saints on Friday.

Matter of fact, I just finished writing that after spending a good chunk of the morning and early afternoon transcribing tape of interviews with Vilma and some others. There were several quotes I didn’t get to use, including some that will appear in some upcoming theme stories about the NFC South.

But there was one particular Saints-related item from Vilma that I thought I’d share that with you now. I asked him about two of the newest additions to the defense -- tackles Shaun Rogers and Aubrayo Franklin.

“One of the first things I noticed when we got into camp was how much bigger we are on the defensive line,’’ Vilma said. “As a linebacker, you want that. That’s every linebacker’s dream to have guys like that in front of you.’’

Rogers, a veteran free agent who previously played in Detroit and Cleveland, is listed at 6-foot-4 and 350 pounds. Rogers also comes with a reputation for not always keeping himself in great physical condition. I didn’t get to see Rogers on a scale, but I did get to see him on the practice field and I was pleasantly surprised.

I know what 350 pounds -- or more -- looks like. Back when Kris Jenkins and Maake Kemoeatu were with the Carolina Panthers, they sometimes let themselves get well over 350 pounds. Rogers didn’t even look close to what Jenkins and Kemoeatu looked like in those days. Yes, he’s big, but he also appears to be in pretty good shape.

Franklin, who came as a free agent from San Francisco, isn’t quite as big. He’s listed at 6-1 and 317. The plan is to pair those two veterans in a rotation with Sedrick Ellis.

“I’ve been real impressed with both of them so far,’’ Vilma said. “Shaun looks great and looks like he’s really excited to be here. I’m excited to have both of them here. When you’re a linebacker and you have guys like that in front of you, it can really free you up to run all over the field and make more plays.’’

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

Bookmark and Share

'Keep or Kick’: James Jones

Contract status: Unrestricted free agent.

Case for keeping: Whether it was draining 3-pointers, creating 4-point plays or drawing charges, Jones maximized his limited skill set last season. He is a specialist who accepts his role and remains a positive presence in the locker room. His height allows him to thrive as a zone-buster.

Case for kicking: By the latter stages of the postseason it was clear that a healthy Mike Miller would be the choice moving forward when it came to the role Jones held earlier in the season and earlier in the playoffs. With Jones opting out of the final year of his contract, the question becomes whether money could better be spent elsewhere.

We say: It all comes down to the degree in faith in Mike Miller. If Miller is viewed as recovered from last season’s ailments, it would reduce Jones to an end-of-bench existence. But gambling on Miller’s health simply might be too risky. At the right price, Jones stands as reasonable insurance.

Bookmark and Share

Jemile Weeks continues to produce

Oakland 2B Jemile Weeks continues to produce from the top spot in the A's order as he went 2 for 4 on Sunday in Tampa Bay. Weeks helped the A's win in extra innings as he tripled in the game and scored a run. Weeks added a walk and is batting .293 on the year since his recall.

Bookmark and Share

Ryan Braun resting; part of "The Plan"

St. Louis -- Just spoke to Ryan Braun in the clubhouse here at Busch Stadium and there's nothing nefarious going on with regard to his night off.

"I'm good. Just a day off," he said. "We talked about it last night. It's still kind of part of our plan with this hamstring thing to just try to stay as close as possible to 100 percent."

With regard to the timing -- the Brewers eyeing a possible sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals -- Braun said the focus is on the bigger picture. Specifically, keeping him healthy the rest of the way.

"The goal is to be as close to 100 percent for as many games as possible," he said. "If taking one game now allows us to do that, then I think it's in my best interest and the team's best interest.

"Plus, whenever (Mark) Kotsay plays, it seems like he does well, so I have plenty of belief in his ability to go out there and contribute and help us win."

Kotsay, as Braun mentioned, will take Braun's place in left and in the No. 3 hole in the lineup. With right-hander Chris Carpenter going for the Cardinals, Kotsay's left-handed bat should help.

Braun entered Thursday 1 for 9 in the series (.111) and 6 for 23 (.261) with one RBI on the road trip.

"Overall, I feel great. But I think the timing of the day off works -- the last couple nights I haven't swung the bat too well," he said. "Sometimes when you go though something like that, you get a day off, you feel better physically. And mentally, it's nice to get a break once in a while."
Braun, by the way, is 4 for 18 (.222) with a home run and two RBI career against Carpenter.

"I've done OK. Not great," he said. "I don't think anybody has really done great against Carpenter. He's obviously been one of the tougher pitchers in the league his entire career."

Interesting to note that Carpenter is 0-2 with an 8.18 ERA in two starts against the Brewers this season.

Bookmark and Share

Pat Burrell seeking 2nd opinion

According to MLB.com, Giants OF Pat Burrell is seeking another opinion on his injured foot. He's been on the shelf since June 15 with a right mid-foot strain, missing 23 games. 'It'd be nice to have him, and he's very disappointed that this thing has not come around like he had hoped,' manager Bruce Bochy said. Burrell is flying out to North Carolina on Wednesday to meet with another specialist to seek a different type of treatment.

Bookmark and Share

Allen Bailey Puts on a Show

Wallace Gilberry and Allen Bailey put on a show durin the pass rush session.  Both of their bull rushes are absolutely beast!  I personally am enjoying what I am seeing out of Bailey every practice. 

Bookmark and Share

Kenny Phillips Practicing Well

The Giants' secondary was the unit of the day on Wednesday, as it looked outstanding -- particularly the first-teamers. Safety Kenny Phillips had an interception of Eli Manning on a pass intended for Bear Pascoe in 1-on-1 drills. Later on, during an 11-on-11 session, Phillips had a nice breakup of a pass to Victor Cruz.

Click here to order Kenny Phillips’ proCane Rookie Card.

Bookmark and Share

DeMarcus Van Dyke Says If He Listens To Coach Woodson He Will Be Fine

Bookmark and Share

Roscoe Parrish injures left leg

Buffalo Bills wide receiver Roscoe Parrish left practice Wednesday night after an apparent leg injury and was ruled out of the team's first preseason game this Saturday in Chicago.

Parrish was running a fly pattern during a full-field drill when he came up limping and grabbing his left leg. Buffalo Bills head coach Chan Gailey expects him to miss extended practice time.

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

Bookmark and Share

Jimmy Graham on not having Jeremy Shockey

27CDB6E-AE6D-11cf-96B8-444553540000" codebase="http://download.macromedia.com/pub/shockwave/cabs/flash/swflash.cab#version=9,0,47,0">

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

Bookmark and Share

DeMarcus Van Dyke A Standout For Raiders

The Oakland Raiders have a young roster that Hue Jackson is banking will not only bring success in the future, but can also handle business in 2011.

Jackson and the Raiders coaching staff have been challenging their younger players during camp, many of whom have responded well.

DeMarcus Van Dyke stands out in Jackson’s mind. The rookie cornerback was the first player mentioned by the coach when asked of other young players who have stood out thus far.

“I’m looking forward to watching him play,” said Jackson. “I truly am looking forward to watching this young man play football.”

Bookmark and Share

Matt Bosher Will Be A Triple Threat Friday Night

Matt Bosher, who was selected in the sixth round of the draft (192nd overall), will be a busy against Miami.

He’s set to handle the punting, kickoff and holding duties.

“I can assure you, he’s going to be a little bit nervous this Friday night for his first real test,” Smith said. “He’s done a nice job up until this point.”
Bosher is in a battle with Ken Parrish to replace Michael Koenen, who signed with Tampa Bay during free agency. Parrish was in camp with San Francisco in 2007 and was signed as a free agent on March 3. He last punted in the UFL in 2010.

“Everybody knows when the punter or the holder or the kickoff guy doesn’t do his job,” Smith said. “I’m anxious to see how he handles the pressure.”

Bookmark and Share

No Surprise Jon Vilma locked in as starting MLB

The Times-Picayune confirms that Jonathan Vilma remains locked in as the Saints' starting middle linebacker.

Vilma hasn't missed a game in three years with the Saints, and has over 100 tackles in each season. He's now 29 and his solo tackles dropped to 70 last year, but the cliff isn't too steep. Vilma is a low-upside, but safe IDP pick who will benefit from the additions of 330-pound man-children Shaun Rogers and Aubrayo Franklin at interior tackle. Vilma will be backed up by Jo-Lonn Dunbar.

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

Bookmark and Share

Frank Gore likes what he sees in new 49ers offense

Running back Frank Gore not only likes the 49ers revamped offense, he envisions quarterback Alex Smith thriving in the detail-oriented scheme.

"You can tell the (offense's) energy is different. You can see it in Alex," Gore said Tuesday. "He looks really confident. He's able to go. ... Alex is going to be really good in this offense."

Smith also expressed optimism a day earlier about the 49ers' return to the West Coast offense system. One reason: Having a capable running back like Gore.

Said Smith: "Checking the ball down is kind of the epicenter of the West Coast offense -- hitting backs quick, getting them the ball in space and letting them run."

Gore has not played in an exhibition opener since 2008, but he might do so Friday night when the 49ers visit New Orleans. Coach Jim Harbaugh has said he wants Gore to get a few touches in the opener, and Gore is willing to partake in the offense's unveiling.

"I know Coach doesn't like me saying this, but on the offensive side of the ball, everybody is on the same page," Gore said. "When you watch the film, man, it just looks different. Everybody knows what they're doing. They're flying around, motioning fast. It's not boring."

The 49ers offense ranked 24th last season during a 6-10 campaign.

Click here to order Frank Gore’s proCane Rookie Card.

Bookmark and Share

Darryl Sharpton filling in well for Cushing

The horde eagerly anticipated the self-analysis of Texans linebacker Brian Cushing, who on Wednesday practiced for the first time during training camp after battling a protracted recovery from knee surgery.

Meanwhile, several moments earlier, second-year linebacker Darryl Sharpton slipped away under the cover of broad daylight, almost too inconspicuously given how critical a role he might play this season.

Though Cushing expressed pleasure with the progress he's made over the course of a week, going so far as to reveal that last Wednesday he wouldn't have predicted that he would have practiced in seven days, there are no guarantees Cushing will be prepared to reprise his 2009 Defensive Rookie of the Year performance by the opener against the Colts. That is the sobering reality for a team under the stewardship of a new defensive coordinator (Wade Phillips) installing a new scheme (the 3-4) with a corps of starting linebackers either new to the position (former end Mario Williams) or returning from catastrophic injuries.

Whereas DeMeco Ryans (Achilles) and Connor Barwin (ankle) have been full participants throughout, Cushing is returning at a gradual pace. That has Sharpton in the mix alongside Williams and Ryans and Barwin, heady position for the fourth-round pick out of Miami, Fla.

"Honestly, I'm the type of person no matter where I am on the depth chart I'm just going to play my game, which is go all out as hard as I can," Sharpton said. "Whether I'm going with the 1s, the 2s or the 3s, I'm going to still have the same game and mindset, and I'm going to just leave it to God. Like my old (position) coach (Michael Barrow) in college used to tell me, 'If you're doing your best, don't worry about the rest.'"

That simplistic mantra has paid dividends for Sharpton, 23, whose athleticism and physicality have been hard to miss. As a rookie, Sharpton recorded 34 tackles and one sack while participating in 12 games, including six starts. His season was cut short by a shoulder injury in the penultimate game against the Broncos in Week 16, but Sharpton returned healthy and clearly ready to embrace opportunity.

Also clear: Sharpton was undaunted by the challenge of switching to the 3-4. Only one year removed from first learning the rigors of the NFL, Sharpton has absorbed the schematic changes taking reps with the first-team defense. Having Phillips at the controls has eased that transition.

"Wade Phillips is a guru," Sharpton said. "He has a great track record for what he does. I'm getting information and coached up from a very good source, so I have 100 percent confidence and faith in what he's saying."

Texans coach Gary Kubiak needs to feel as confident in his reserves at linebacker as Sharpton is in Phillips, especially considering the hurdles strewn about the path of the projected starters returning from injury or unfamiliar with formulating an attack without one hand on the ground.

If the Texans are to rebound from putting the third-worst defense in the league on the field last season, their search for security extends to fourth-year pros Xavier Adibi and Stanford Keglar, as well as rookie Brooks Reid.

"I think Sharpton's had a very good camp," Kubiak said. "We brought the new guy in, (Tim) Dobbins, so we're trying to take a look at him. I think Xavier has had a good camp. That's very important. The depth at that position is very important.

"It's been a process of a bunch of young players getting reps with the first group. With Cheta (Ozougwu), it's the same type of deal. I'm pleased up to this point of where we're at, but at the same time we got to get DeMeco and Cush up to full speed. That's why we're here working."

Much of the progress displayed on the practice field by Sharpton has come via establishing himself as a pro. Having spent his entire life in Miami prior to the 2010 draft, Sharpton had a lot to juggle as he settled in for a new life in Houston, both professionally and personally. Now there is serenity present, an aura of comfort that has allowed Sharpton to move beyond being star struck by some of his teammates last season to tackling with greater ease the responsibilities presently on his plate.

Sharpton has embraced that he belongs. Whatever comes next will be part of the game that isn't as complicated as some make it out to be.

"There's only so many ways you can play football," Sharpton said. "At the end of the day you've got to tackle the man with the ball and defend passes. There are slight differences in how things are called and how you line up, but at the end of the day football is football and we all have the same goal: make tackles."

Bookmark and Share

Jimmy Graham's TD shows bright future for tight end

METAIRIE, La. ― If you’re one of the Saints coaches, you likely never know what's going to happen when you see a pass going to Jimmy Graham.

You absolutely have no idea what you’re going to get.  But we’ve got to remember he’s only in his second season in the NFL and played only one year of college football.

And yet, you see how he ended team drills Wednesday and realize that the good is way more worth remembering than the bad.

The Saints were in second-and-10 at the 11 with 1 second left in the two-minute drill. Quarterback Drew Brees scrambled to his left, buying time as the buzzer rang.

Brees spotted Graham in the end with cornerback Patrick Robinson in coverage and lofted a pass toward the end zone.

Graham leapt high, with Robinson tumbling to the ground beneath him and nickel back Leigh Torrence behind him. He clutched the ball, coming down in the end zone for a touchdown and adding a highlight, albeit in practice, to his reel.

Graham emphatically spiked the ball even as the defensive backs claimed that the tight end came down out of bounds.

“I’m just hoping that the DB coach sees that on film tonight and can rehash those memories again,” Graham said afterward.

So, sure, he has dropped easy passes throughout camp. But he also has come through with some acrobatic and athletic catches this camp that whet the appetite for what is assuredly a standout career.

Click here to order Jimmy Garaham’s proCane Rookie Card.

Bookmark and Share

Andre Johnson Still Fighting Through Effects Of Finger Injury

It's been a little over a week since Andre Johnson left practice with a dislocation to his left index finger. Fans of the Houston Texans were relieved to learn that the injury wasn't too serious -- as in no surgery would be required. But that doesn't mean the five-time Pro Bowler isn't dealing with the effects of the painful injury since returning to practice this week. Johnson gave KILT in Houston an update on his finger injury during a Tuesday interview, and from the sound of it, Johnson is still in quite a bit of pain and is in an adjustment period as he tries to put the injury out of his mind while catching balls.

How his finger feels:
“It’s a little sore. It’s in a splint for most of the day. The only time it’s not in a splint is when I’m out here. We’re still waiting for the wounds to close up but it’s not stopping me from practicing so that’s a good thing.”

Whether or not he was scared to try and catch a ball with his finger at first:
“I wasn’t scared. I think the biggest thing was I looked at my finger and said ‘wow that looks kinda ugly.’ I popped it back into place and once I popped it back into place I really didn’t think nothing of it. I just went to get buddy tape and when I went to take my glove off blood was just running down my hand.”

How tough it has been to gain back his confidence in that finger:
"At times you’re kinda hesitant about sticking your hands up there rather than body catch it. That’s just part of it because you have to gain the confidence back. My first day at practice I caught myself doing that at times and actually one of the balls popped off my facemask. One of the first few passes I tried to catch I was just getting that confidence back and getting used to catching the ball. You know I wear a splint now on my finger so I have to get used to catching the ball with that on also. It’s been a little different. Like I said I’m just excited to be back out here.”

Click here to order Andre Johnson’s proCane Rookie Card.

Bookmark and Share

Watch For Sinorice Moss on Thursday Night for the Eagles

Without Jackson and Maclin, you’re starting Philadelphia Eagles wideouts will be Jason Avant and Riley Cooper, with Johnny Lee Higgins and Chad Hall coming on wide sets. Sinorice Moss should also get some work, while the rest of our undrafted free agents battle it out for the practice squad.

Andy Reid, who held a news conference this morning at Lehigh University following a short walk-through, said receiver Sinorice Moss will "give it a shot" against the Ravens. Moss, who was signed by the team in January after spending five years with the Giants, is dealing with a groin injury.

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

Bookmark and Share

Devin Hester Listed as Starting WR on Depth Chart

There are few if any surprises on the Bears’ first unofficial depth chart, which was released to the media Wednesday in advance of Saturday’s preseason opener against the Buffalo Bills.

Roy Williams and Devin Hester are listed as the starting receivers ahead of Johnny Knox and Earl Bennett, respectively. Of course, all four wideouts figure to see significant playing time in a Mike Martz offense that’s known for its multi-receiver sets. Rookie Dane Sanzenbacher and veteran Sam Hurd are both third on the depth chart.

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

Bookmark and Share

Zach Railey Currently 9th

Another great performance from the Olympic Champion Ben Ainslie (GBR) on the fourth day of racing for the Finns at the Weymouth and Portland International Regatta moves him into a narrow, but significant, seven point lead at the top of the fleet after posting a first and second on Wednesday. Pieter Jan Postma (NED) moves up to second place after winning the second race of the day while Jonathan Lobert (FRA) drops one to third, with just two more races to sail before the medal race split.

What was initially supposed to be a lighter day on the waters of Weymouth Bay turned into a tough day's sailing as the wind once again treated the Finn fleet to physically challenging upwind sailing and sleigh ride sailing downwind. For the first race of the day the Finns were racing on the Nothe course, the proposed course area for all the medal races. In an offshore wind, with the high land at the top of the course it can be a shifty, fickle nightmare for the sailors.

Zach Railey (USA) didn't have the best day with a 16, 11. He said, “Not a good day results wise. My lack of body weight was really exposed today. But I am becoming more comfortable with te wind shifts.”

Result after eight races (one discard) 1 GBR Ben Ainslie 15 2 NED Pieter Jan Postma 22 3 FRA Jonathan Lobert 26 4 ESP Rafa Trujillo 38 5 CRO Ivan Kljakovic Gaspic 39 6 EST Deniss Karpak 41 7 DEN Jonas Hoegh Christensen 46 8 NZL Dan Slater 56 9 USA Zach Railey 62 10 SLO Gasper Vincec 70

Bookmark and Share

Gaby Sanchez Has Hit a Cold Streak

Gaby Sanchez, Florida - The number pre- and post-All Star break are stunning. Sanchez batted .293 with 13 HR, 50 RBI and had an OPS of 0.846 before the "Summer Classic" and he's batting just .213 with three homers and 12 RBI since the break. I'm not sure whether it is related to the Marlins' change of hitting coaches or his battling a tight hamstring, but something has happened. You should not be starting Sanchez at this point.

Bookmark and Share

Aubrey Huff Breaks Out

In Game No. 117 of the Giants' season Tuesday night, Aubrey Huff may have sent a significant signal that he is ready to come out of his long hitting hibernation.

Huff, the Giants' offensive leader last season with 26 homers and 86 RBIs, finally flashed some of his 2010 form at AT&T Park with three hits, including a run-scoring double and a solo homer, to lead the Giants past the Pittsburgh Pirates 6-0.

"I'm starting to get my timing a little bit better now," said Huff, whose big night raised his average to .249, the highest it has been since April 19. "Hopefully, we'll run off these next two months, and nobody will remember the first four."

Huff wasn't the only hero on a night when the Giants needed a victory to remain in first place in the N.L. West. Madison Bumgarner tossed seven shutout innings and struck out 10, and light-hitting catcher Chris Stewart slammed his first career homer in his 140th major league at-bat, dating to 2006.

But the breakout performance of the Giants' veteran first baseman was surely the most welcome sight for manager Bruce Bochy, who has been exceedingly patient in waiting for Huff to find his stroke.

With Carlos Beltran missing a second straight game because of a hand injury, it couldn't have come at a better time.

"We have a lot of baseball left, and even if you're still having your struggles this late in the season, you can't give up," said Bochy. "You have to keep grinding, keep working,and he's doing that."

Except for his three-homer game in St. Louis on June 2, Huff has failed to serve as much of a power-hitting run producer. Even though he had shown signs of life by hitting .327 over his previous 17 games, he had just one homer and three RBIs during that span. Worse yet, he had just three hits in 21 previous at-bats with runners in scoring position coming into Tuesday's game and was hitting just .233 for the year in such situations.

That changed in the fourth inning of a scoreless game when, one out after Jeff Keppinger's double to center to lead off the inning, Huff slammed an opposite-field double to left-center that brought home the Giants' first run.

Huff struck again in the sixth, when he whacked a 1-1 pitch from Pittsburgh starter James McDonald (7-6) into the right-field arcade. It was his 11th homer, but just his third at AT&T Park this year.

So what has Huff figured out of late?

"Just laying off bad pitches, getting myself in hitter's counts and giving myself a chance," he said. "In the struggles I've had, especially when we're not scoring any runs at all and our pitchers are going out there every night giving everything you got, you're going up there and just trying to do too much."

In between Huff's RBI hits was Stewart's personal milestone blast, a well-struck missile to left field leading off the fifth. It touched off a big party in the dugout because most of the players knew how long the catcher had waited to get his first homer.

"Luckily I lifted weights this morning where that extra curl may have given me just enough to get it out," Stewart said. "I'd expect myself to be the happiest guy, but my teammates proved me wrong. There was a lot of excitement going, so it was fun to get back to the dugout and celebrate with everybody."

Those three runs of support were plenty for Bumgarner (7-11), who limited the Pirates to four hits and a walk over his seven innings. Bumgarner now has a 13-inning scoreless streaking from his past two starts.

Bochy said Bumgarner just keeps getting better as the season progresses.

"He's just getting smarter, and he'll continue to get wiser out there and pitch with more savvy," the manager said. "The thing about Madison is he's aggressive, and he's starting to use all four quadrants of the strike zone."

Bookmark and Share

Warren Sapp Cool With Coach Golden

Former UM great Warren Sapp, who had criticized Al Golden's hiring, told WQAM's Sid Rosenberg that he's now cool with Golden and will go to lunch with him.

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

Bookmark and Share

Damien Berry Returning Kicks

From the latter portion of the Baltimore Ravens’ Tuesday’s session special teams was on the docket and they were practicing kickoff coverage and returns, as well as their squib and onsides kicks. With WR David Reed still not practicing, CB Lardarius Webb, rookie WR Tandon Doss and undrafted free agent rookie RB Damien Berry returned the kicks.

Bookmark and Share

Allen Bailey At the Top of the Depth Chart

DE Allen Bailey - With the absence of Tyson Jackson, who spent most of the day on the sidelines watching practice, Bailey took all the reps with the first team defense. And for me if the season started today, he’d move up the depth chart ahead of Jackson. That means the rookie from Miami will be the teams new starting left defensive end.

But I wouldn’t say that’s a done deal. I fully expect after the Chiefs failed to land Ty Warren, that when more vets get cut, that he’ll battle for playing time. At the moment, Jackson appears to be the odd man out.

Bookmark and Share

Willis McGahee proving a tough tackle at running back

Have the Broncos ever had a running back like Willis McGahee?

Terrell Davis was 210 pounds.

Clinton Portis was 220. Mike Anderson was 230 with fullback speed.

McGahee is a powerfully built 235 who moves like a tailback.

He had two of the most impressive runs in camp during the full-pad practice this morning. Not bad for a guy who is getting $3 million this year ($2 million signing bonus; $1 million salary) on a year-to-year, $9.5 million contract.

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

Bookmark and Share

Ray Lewis narrated the new Under Armour commercial, 'Footsteps'

Under Armour gave a sneak peek at its latest advertising campaign during last Thursday's season debut of "Jersey Shore," and you might have seen a 30-second "Footsteps" spot on TV or the Internet this week.

The company's latest commercial, which is embedded at the bottom of this post, was directed by Peter Berg of "Friday Night Lights" fame. It features cameos by NFL quarterbacks Tom Brady and Cam Newton, and though Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis isn't seen in the ad, he narrates it in a very Ray-like manner.

“Do you hear footsteps,” Lewis whispers in the stirring spot, “or are they hearing yours?”

The Baltimore-based apparel company went all-out with the campaign, which pushes its footwear hard.

“This is our biggest footwear campaign, and when you see it you know immediately that it is Under Armour,” Under Armour’s vice president for brand Steve Battista recently told The New York Times.

Click here to order Ray Lewis’ proCane Rookie Card.

Bookmark and Share

Leonard Hankerson yet to cure case of drops

Rookie wide receiver Leonard Hankerson continues to show coaches mixed results -- which is why he slipped to the third round of the 2011 Draft. His biggest problem remains a penchant for dropping passes.

Hankerson had that problem at Miami (Fla.) during his college career, and he has yet to solve it.

Coaches say Hankerson sometimes turns his head upfield before catching the ball. But too often, he simply drops it. Yet he has made difficult catches in traffic, using his body well and showing strong hands.

Bookmark and Share

Jason Fox gets good news, should return soon

ALLEN PARK - The once-dire situation at offensive tackle for the Detroit Lions is starting to improve. Jason Fox, who suffered a foot injury last Saturday, received good medical news and, according to Lions head coach Jim Schwartz, is just week to week. Fox did not suffer a fracture or require surgery on the left foot he injured on Saturday.

Bookmark and Share

Kellen Winslow having superb camp

Tight end Kellen Winslow is having one of the better training camps of his career. It’s no coincidence that it’s coming in the wake of one of the few offseasons in which Winslow did not have surgery on his knees.

Winslow has shown very good speed, hands and, best of all, mobility. He’s not skipping any workouts right now either, but that will certainly change once the regular season begins.

The Bucs know Winslow needs to be ready for Sundays, so he’ll get a day off once a week when the season gets under way. For now, though, there’s little reason to believe he won’t be quarterback Josh Freeman’s top target once again this year.

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

Bookmark and Share

Tavares Gooden Misses Practice

Ravens cornerback Domonique Foxworth missed his second straight day of practice. He has expressed frustration over his knee, which was surgically repaired last year.

With Foxworth sidelined, the Ravens' starting cornerbacks have been Chris Carr and Lardarius Webb.

Others not practicing are: tight end Ed Dickson (hamstring), center Matt Birk (knee), wide receiver James Hardy (hamstring), linebacker Tavares Gooden (undisclosed) and running back Matt Lawrence (undisclosed).

Click here to order Tavares Gooden’s proCane Rookie Card.

Bookmark and Share

Tick-tock: Reggie Wayne talks time

ANDERSON, Ind. -- Some people think the clock is ticking on Reggie Wayne. He had a few more drops last year, but considering the coverages he saw based on the lack of other threats, he had a remarkable season in 2010.

He’ll be every bit a featured guy this fall as the team considers a new contract for him going forward.

Today he talked about a different ticking clock, the bright red one on his wrist.

He’s a watch guy, and would wear one on game days if it was allowed.

He’s always got one on at practice.

“At practice I wear a watch,” he said. “I’m not policing the practice or anything. I don’t mind work. But when they ask me what time it is, I tell them it’s time to go deep.”

Wayne was in a great mood and the watch conversation was a clever one, with several of us taking turns trying to get him to reveal a bit more about why he wears one and how many he’s got and what they’re worth, as if the next nugget would really expose something about him.

It didn’t, I don’t think. But it was fun. So I'll share though some of you will ask why I did.

Why does he wear it?
“Make sure I’m right on time before I run right by you. If I run that nine route for a touchdown, I want to make sure I know what time it is. I want to make sure it’ll be right on time, right on schedule, that’s what it’s about.”

Does he wear it in games?
“No, as much as I want it, I don’t want Mr. Goodell to give me a little letter. But if I could, I would. Always in practice. A lot of players ask me what time it is. I’m like Father Time.

The late punter Reggie Roby was big on wearing a watch.
“That’s what I’ve heard. I heard he was a big watch guy, maybe it’s something with the Reggies, I don’t know.”

How many does he have, does he rotate them?
“I normally rotate them, but this camp there is something about this red watch that’s been standing out. I keep it going, I’m having a good camp so if it’s not broke don’t fix it.”

“I’ve got about four or five watches, they’re all nice and colorful.”

Then you’ve got different ones for when you are dressed up?
“Oh definitely, I can’t wear a practice watch with a nice suit. It don’t roll that way.”

How much money have you spent on watches?
“Let’s not talk about that … Let’s just say for every dress watch I have, I probably can buy 30 pair of shoes.”

OK, thank you for playing along. I’ll try to dig back into my stuff and give you some football.

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

Bookmark and Share

Antrel Rolle Restructures His Contract

With the NFLPA website now up and active, a few contracts have changed and it looks like Corey Webster and Antrel Rolle both restructured their deals to help the Giants’ cap situation.

Webster was slated to make $8 million but that number has been reduced to $5 million this season in base salary. Rolle also has a base number of $1.25 million compared to the $5.25 million he was scheduled to make originally.

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

Bookmark and Share

Frank Gore eager to play for real under Harbaugh

SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Frank Gore grabs the handoff from Alex Smith snap after snap, charges up the middle and adds a few extra yards to each carry as is his customary routine on the practice field.

He treats every carry as if he were in a game. Always has.

"Watcha think?" Gore said, chuckling, when asked if he's his old self again.

A week into training camp after his four-day holdout, the star running back is eagerly looking ahead to San Francisco's Sept. 11 season opener against Seattle. No. 21 isn't sure he needs many touches in the exhibition games to be ready, even this year coming off a fractured right hip that sidelined him for the final five games of 2010.

Gore seems as good-natured and geared up as ever to play under new coach Jim Harbaugh.

"I love it. I've been here a week and half. I like what Coach Harbaugh and the coaching staff are doing with the offense," he said. "You can tell the energy is different. You can see it in Alex (Smith), man. He looks really confident, like he's ready to go. I like what we're doing on the offensive side of the ball."

If Gore has any hard feelings about his unsettled contract situation, you can't tell. He obliged when a female fan asked for a hug during Tuesday's open practice.

Gore said he will get with Harbaugh soon to discuss the plan for him this preseason.

Harbaugh said he "would like to see Frank get some touches." Gore typically plays only a handful of snaps - last year, it was one series in one game with two carries for 58 yards.

"I'm used to not playing. I'll see," Gore said. "It's all about what coach says. He wants me to play, then I'll play."

Harbaugh has been encouraged by his team's progress, calling Monday's practice the best yet. The 49ers have been filling out their roster with new acquisitions left and right leading up to Friday's exhibition opener at New Orleans. That will be the first true test of how the players are grasping Harbaugh's complex system.

Gore isn't concerned about being up to speed in the West Coast offense. He doesn't feel behind despite missing the first four days of training camp, including three practices. In the final season of his contract, Gore is hoping for a big year and a big-paying new deal as he tries to become San Francisco's all-time leading rusher. The two-time Pro Bowler begins the year third on the list, needing 931 yards to be No. 1.

"I just want to continue and be the player I've always been, knowing they're going to get 110 percent from me every time I touch the field on Sundays, the practice field," Gore said. "And I can be myself. If I can be myself, that's great. So far I've been feeling good in practice, trying to give it my all and trying to get this offense down pat and get ready for Seattle - get ready and get going."

Gore fractured his hip at Arizona on Nov. 29. He's fully healthy again now.

Gore showed it to a couple of thousand people Tuesday as he plowed through the defensive line in one of a series of open practices for fans on a perfectly clear summer day in the South Bay.

"Makin' it look too easy, Frank!" one man cheered during 11-on-11 drills.

"He looks pretty damn good to me," defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said afterward. "He seems like a guy who is out here and loves football, competes hard. He's got great vision. He's an elite running back."

Click here to order Frank Gore’s proCane Rookie Card.

Bookmark and Share

Eric Winston Talks Training Camp

Bookmark and Share

Ray Lewis wants another ring for career wrap

OWINGS MILLS, MD. -- Ray Lewis is asked about his legacy, and it's not an easy question to answer considering his legacy is thick and palpable and historic. Then he answers by pulling out two big notebooks.

Lewis doesn't like the schedule-keeping gizmos. He goes old school with pen and datebook. Both are full, but it is the second one that's most interesting. In it is Lewis' workout schedule, and it's this insane level of physical preparation that, to me, has allowed Lewis to pass Dick Butkus as the best middle linebacker of all time and challenge the legacy (there's that word again) of Lawrence Taylor as the most impactful linebacker period.

Almost every day of the book is filled with something ... many somethings. Wednesday: two hours of workouts including 10 150s in sand.

Thursday ... more hours, including squats. The incline benches, the 20 miles on the bike, and more 150s. Even for an NFL player, Lewis' workouts are intense, reminiscent of what Jerry Rice used to do.

Lewis has at least 20 or 30 of these books chronicling his workouts dating back years. They are representative of his dedication as well as his attempt to beat back time as a 36-year-old player in his 16th season.

"When you're still chasing something," Lewis explains, answering the legacy query, "it's hard to look back. I don't look back. At least not yet. I'm chasing the greatest of all time. Period."

When I ask the Ravens star how long can he keep up his frenetic pace the response was highly intriguing.

"My son will be a junior this year. I only play this game for another ring. If we can win it this year, and I'm being brutally honest with you, if we win it this year, I'm gone to then spend as much time as I can with him," Lewis said. "I'm gone to be with my son. And I feel like now we have enough pieces in place to make a good run at the Super Bowl."

So if the Ravens win a title this season -- and they have a definite shot to do so -- Lewis may not come back. Is that set in stone? No, but Lewis made it very clear that while he isn't consistently pondering retirement, a championship would likely lead to the end of one of the top five greatest defensive careers the sport has seen.

Lewis is only getting started in his conversation. The motor is beginning to warm, and when Lewis gets going it would take something atomic to stop him.

"I don't know when it will all be over for me," he says. "People want to use my age against me. They say I'm too old. People fear getting old. I don't fear that because now I have wisdom and a tough body to go with that wisdom.

"I don't ever want to be 24-year-old Ray Lewis again. I made too many bad choices. Now I have the maturity and I take care of my body. I haven't eaten fast food in 13 years."

Lewis next threw down a league-wide challenge.

"If people think I'm slow let me say this," he said. "Sideline to sideline there still isn't a 'backer in this business that can beat me. Sideline to sideline. Not one. I challenge you to find one.

"There are fast guys in this league but it's also not just about the speed. Young guys make a lot of money at the combine from running the 40 [-yard dash]. But then you put on the film and they don't play with heart."

Lewis inspires great emotion. Some love him, others hate him. But it is undeniable that we have watched a player who is only surpassed in effectiveness by names like Deion Sanders and maybe even Taylor -- and Lewis' legacy is giving Taylor's track record a serious run.

When Lewis is asked to specifically address his legacy, he pauses and shows me his cell phone. On it is a fresh text from a young kid named Darious who lives in Baltimore and needs a heart transplant. Part of the text to Lewis read: "You've done so much for me."

Lewis argues that watching Darious face such a horrible situation with courage has done more for Lewis.

Lewis has befriended Darious as Lewis has many young inner-city children around the country.

"If I had a legacy," Lewis says, "maybe that would be it."

Click here to order Ray Lewis’ proCane Rookie Card.

Bookmark and Share

Tim George Jr. making first NNS start at WGI

Tim George Jr. will make his first NNS start at Watkins Glen this weekend in Saturday's 82-lap main event.

Although, he has never raced in the series at The Glen, George has two previous starts there in the NASCAR Grand-Am Rolex Sport Car Series where he earned an average starting position of 20.5 and an average finishing position of 24.5 at the upstate NY road course. In addition, George claimed victory at WGI in the 2006 Skip Barber Racing Series Sportsman division event.-Richard Childress Racing

Bookmark and Share

James Jones Hangs With Middle Schoolers

"He's tall," said 13-year-old Iyonna Knight when she first spotted the Miami Heat's hometown star.

Knight is one of 57 foster kids at the James Jones Legacy Foundation Summer Youth Enrichment Camp.

It's a partnership with the state's Department of Children and Families, which runs 'Camps for Champions.' Florida International University and other volunteers also make it possible.

For two-days, Knight will meet new friends, learn new athletic games, and hear from motivational speakers.

"We want them to know we support them," said Jones, who shared pointers with kids on the court. "It's a great opportunity to have fun with your friends."

Organizers plan to make the experience an annual self-esteem building event for middle schoolers.

Before Knight leaves, there is one thing she wants from Jones.

"His autograph," she said.

To learn more about Jones' foundation and Camps for Champions go to http://www.campsforchampions.com/JJones.shtml.

Bookmark and Share

Aubrey Huff delivers in SF Giants' 6-0 win

Who can we get?" was a common question among Giants fans before Carlos Beltran was acquired, and it kept being asked after the trade deadline as the team piled up losses - as if some magical move could be made to breathe air into an unresponsive offense.

One of the common answers was "the 2010 Aubrey Huff," and that's exactly who emerged Tuesday night in a 6-0 victory over the Pirates - the Giants' third win in 12 games, which maintained their National League West lead over Arizona by a half game.

Huff, a .233 hitter with runners in scoring position, smoked an RBI double to left-center to score Jeff Keppinger from second base and also homered, but he wasn't the only man who filled the Giants' "haven't done it in a while" file.

Madison Bumgarner enjoyed his first scoreless outing since Game 4 of the World Series, striking out 10 batters in seven innings, and Chris Stewart hit his first home run since ... well, his first home run, period. At least in the big leagues, covering 140 at-bats.

Huff contributed so much more in the championship season than he has the year after. The team's 2010 leader in homers, RBIs and clubhouse pranks, Huff entered Tuesday's game hitting .244 with 10 homers and 49 RBIs, prompting some fans to wish for a Brandon Belt sighting. At the same time last year, Huff was at .304, 20 and 67.

He had hit safely in seven of eight games, but just one of the hits went for extra bases.

"The singles, last year I was lifting for doubles and homers," he said. "My swing has been so bad for so long. At least they're hits. Now I'm starting to get my timing a little better. Hopefully, we'll run off these next two months and nobody will remember the first four."

According to manager Bruce Bochy, Huff pressed early in the season. "Buster (Posey) and Freddy Sanchez went down, and he put too much on himself to carry this club," Bochy said. "You can't do that. I don't care how good you are. Hopefully, this'll get him to keep the line moving."
With Beltran shelved with a wrist injury a second straight night, Huff batted cleanup and had three hits, including an eighth-inning single that set up a three-run rally. A rare dose of situational hitting took place, with Huff moving Pablo Sandoval to third and Sandoval scoring on Nate Schierholtz's fielder's choice grounder to the right side.

Yes, the Stewart and Huff homers were solo shots (off James McDonald), but that was OK on this night. The Giants' last 18 homers have come with nobody on base - one shy of the major-league record set by the 1914 Phillies.

"I woke up this morning and did an extra curl," said Stewart, proudly displaying the home run ball at his locker, having given a signed bat to the fan who retrieved it. "I know I got all of it. If it didn't get out, I was going to start bunting every at-bat."

Stewart's homer made the score 2-0, and Huff's made it 3-0, giving Bumgarner and reliever Sergio Romo - whose streak of batters retired ended at 31 on Andrew McCutchen's eighth-inning double - some breathing room.

The game ended when Santiago Casilla struck out McCutchen with the bases loaded, clinching the Giants' most one-sided shutout victory since they beat the Dodgers 10-0 in L.A. for their first win of the season.

Bookmark and Share

Yonder Alonso left in positional limbo

The moment Yonder Alonso was drafted by the Reds in the first round of the 2008 draft, the questions about where he'd play began. Alonso played first base at Miami and looked like he'd be limited to first base.

That's fine and good, except for when you have the reigning MVP at first base already and that player's just 27. 

Last spring the Reds started trying Alonso in left field and he played 30 games there in 2010 between Double-A Carolina and Triple-A Louisville, but still played the bulk of his time at first base, logging 96 games there. This season with his bat ready for the big leagues, he was given more time in the left field, where he played 62 games in left compared to 21 at first base.

Since the left-handed hitting prospect was called up to the big leagues when Jonny Gomes was traded, he's started three games in left and none at first. The first part is going to change, the second may not.

Alonso's latest position may be third base after he struggled in two games in left at Wrigley Field this past weekend, playing one ball into an inside-the-park home run for Cubs rookie Tony Campana and then misplaying another ball for a crucial error in Saturday's loss.

When asked on Monday when Alonso would play left again, Reds manager Dusty Baker told reporters, "not in the near future," according to John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer.

Alonso took ground balls at third base -- his main position growing up, he's said -- but Baker said he doesn't expect Alonso there anytime soon.

"You don't want to do it in the big leagues," Baker said, according to Fay. "But that's the position he started at. It's a mirror image of first base, really. You get more plays. Most first baseman are at first because they're left-handed or they don't have the arm to play third.

"We'll see. We're trying to find the best place to get his bat in the lineup."

While Alonso's looked shaky in the field, he's been locked in at the plate, where he's started the season 8 for 16 with two doubles and a homer. The Reds called up another prospect, Dave Sappelt, on Sunday when Chris Heisey went on the disabled list and Sappelt will likely get a chance to play quite a bit in left and center. Sappelt had a hit leading off in his major-league debut on Sunday. Fred Lewis is starting in left on Monday.

Finding a spot for Alonso is tricky. The Reds thought he was the best hitter available when they took him with the seventh overall pick in the 2008 draft and he's shown it in the minors, where he's combined to hit .293/.370/.466. He was hitting .296/.374/.486 with 12 homers when he was called up. Although he's 4 for 7 as a pinch-hitter so far this season, going forward he's going to be too valuable for filling just that role.

The Reds and Blue Jays reportedly talked about a blockbuster sending Joey Votto to his native Toronto in exchange for Jose Bautista, opening a spot for Alonso. Although that deal didn't go down, it does show how much the team values Alonso and feels he can be an impact player in the big leagues.

Votto is under contract through 2013, so he's in the team's immediate future but could be too expensive when he reaches free agency. Alonso would be a lower-cost alternative.

Alonso could also finish the season strong and be a more valuable trade piece in the offseason because of his early success in the big leagues. 

Physically, Alonso looks more like a first baseman -- or DH -- than third baseman, but he says he feels comfortable there. He didn't play third at Miami because current Twin Danny Valencia was at third base when he got there. The Reds have a need at third base. With Scott Rolen on the disabled list (and at 36), the Reds are using a combination of rookie Todd Frazier and veteran Miguel Cairo to man the position. Rolen is under contract through next season and the team's top prospect at the position, Juan Francisco, has been hurt this season and unproductive in a couple of big-league stints.

Bookmark and Share

Pat Burrell not close to returning

Giants manager Bruce Bochy said Pat Burrell will fly out Wednesday to get another opinion on his foot injury.

Bochy added that Burrell is not close to returning. The veteran is dealing with a bone spur in his foot, an issue that he's battled for a good chunk of the season. We should know more about his status following Wednesday's exam. Burrell will go to North Carolina to get a second opinion on his injured foot, manager Bruce Bochy announced before Tuesday's game against the Pirates.

Bookmark and Share

Yonder Alonso Taking Grounders at 3rd

CINCINNATI -- Early arrivals at Great American Ball Park on Monday were surprised to see rookie first baseman Yonder Alonso on an empty field taking grounders at third base. Alonso, a first baseman by trade, struggled in left field this past weekend at Wrigley Field.

Reds manager Dusty Baker would like to have his bat in the lineup and with reigning National League Most Valuable Player Joey Votto ensconced at first, Baker is looking for other ways to insert Alonso.

"You don't want to do this in the big leagues, but that's the position he started at," said Baker before the Reds opened a four-game series against the Rockies on Monday night. "[Third base] is a mirror image of first base, actually. Most first basemen, if they're not left-handed and have the arm, can play third. We'll see. We're trying to figure out the best place to get his bat in the lineup."

Alonso, 8-for-16 with a homer and four RBIs in the 10 games since he was brought up from the Minors on July 26, said he's played third base before and was certainly game to make the move.

"It's kind of natural to me," Alonso said about playing third base. "Let's say it's not as new as left field. I played there all my life. It's something I can do. Left field is tough and I'm trying to get better at it and first base is locked down. As long as I'm adequate out there at third -- and I think I am -- hopefully they'll give me a shot."

Alonso added, though, that he'd been given no indication by Baker when he might play third base in a game. With incumbent Scott Rolen on the disabled list after left shoulder surgery, the position is wide open at least for the time being.

"If you do [find out], let me know," said Alonso, the seventh overall pick by the Reds in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft. "They haven't really told me. They just told me to work. Come in early every day and obviously I do. That's one thing I'm going to do. No question I'm going to work hard. Hopefully, I can get it done and play."

Baker, though, said there were no immediate plans of running Alonso back out there, during a game in left field.

Bookmark and Share

Orlando Franklin Tops the Depth Chart

Rookie Von Miller, the No. 2 pick in April's draft, is listed as the starter at strong-side linebacker, and second-round pick Rahim Moore is starting at free safety. Orlando Franklin, selected a pick after Moore in the second round, is listed as the starter at right tackle for the Denver Broncos.

Franklin is a 6-foot-7, 330-pound mauler as a run blocker, but his baptism as a pass protector has been difficult. Like the time in practice Monday when rookie Von Miller blew in to sack Orton as if Franklin wasn't there.

"He's a young guy who didn't have OTAs (organized team activities)," Orton said of Franklin. "It's not a problem until you play the games. Practice is where you want the young kids to make mistakes so they'll learn from them. If you see him get beat two or three times, that means he's doing it right on 20 to 25 plays."

Bookmark and Share

Chiefs Training Camp Coverage: Allen Bailey

Bookmark and Share

First Eagles Depth Chart Released

Sinorice Moss is listed as the third string WR Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper.

Antonio Dixon is listed as the starting right defensive tackle.

Graig Cooper has made his way up the depth chart and is currently listed as the 3rd string running back. He is behind LeSean McCoy and Ronnie Brown and sharing the third spot with Dion Lewis. Many are surprised to see Cooper in front of Eldra Buckley.

Bookmark and Share

Tervaris Johnson Not Practicing Again

Tervaris Johnson
Tervaris Johnson did not participate in practice. He previously came off the PUP list last Wednesday night and hadn’t missed any additional time until today.

Bookmark and Share

Leonard Hankerson is quite a catch

Leonard Hankerson bought himself a 2011 Infiniti FX50 shortly after being selected by the Washington Redskins in April's NFL draft.

Otherwise, it's all business for the rookie receiver.

The 6-foot-2, 205-pound third-round pick out of Miami is a virtual lock to make the Redskins' roster despite the team's plethora of receivers. But that hasn't prevented him from doing everything he can to give himself an advantage when the cuts start coming.

"If you don't know the playbook, you're not going to play," Hankerson said after yesterday's practice. "If you don't know what you're doing, you're not going to play. You've got to understand the playbook.

"A coach is going to like that guy, or a coach is going to like that guy, but you can't worry about how many guys are on the field. You've got to do your job."

Hankerson has one obvious advantage: his height. Aside from the oft-injured Malcolm Kelly, who's out of practice with a bruised foot, Hankerson and Jabar Gaffney are the tallest receivers on the team.

And while Hankerson has large hands, they've not been much of a blessing thus far. Not only has he had trouble catching passes in team scrimmages--including a wide-open drop over the middle from about 10 yards away on Friday--he's also demonstrated issues catching them in position drills.

When Hankerson made a long catch Saturday afternoon, coach Mike Shanahan walked up to him and briefly praised him before reminding him to tuck the ball away.

"He's got big-time ability," Shanahan said. "If you've ever evaluated wide receivers, his size, his ability to cut, one-on-one--he's got all the physical attributes you look for in a wide receiver. He's got a chance to get to the next level.

"[But] there are going to be some growing pains. There are always going to be that with a rookie wide receiver."

Hankerson, 22, was a touchdown machine at Miami, where he caught 13 scoring passes last fall to top Michael Irvin's school single-season record. The all-ACC selection also joined elite company when he caught 72 passes for 1,156 yards, becoming only the third player to surpass 1,000 yards in a season and first to also have 2,000 in his career.

That performance earned high praise from Santana Moss, who also played at Miami but never reached those marks himself.

"I mean, he's one of the best in college in what he did, and one of the best at UM," Moss said. "The level he's coming off of, that level prepares you to play over here. I feel like all he can do is just be a sponge to everything around him--to the guys around him, to the offense, to everything that's telling him something, and take that and be able to lean on that and be his crutch for the season or whenever it's time for him to be that guy."

Little has been decided with regard to the Redskins' offense. The team has 10 other receivers in camp and is likely to keep five or six, though Moss and veterans Gaffney and Donte Stallworth are on the roster.

The end of the lockout just two weeks ago doesn't help either, with Hankerson missing a summer's worth of conditioning and acclimation and only recently obtaining a copy of the playbook.

He said it's similar to the pro-style offense Miami ran last season under offensive coordinator Mark Whipple. To learn the plays, Hankerson has been equating the concepts and names he already knew to the Redskins' terminology.

"It's a whole lot of stuff, a whole lot of information being thrown at us now," Hankerson said. "I'm just saying, 'Oh, this is this play, and this is this play.' I'm learning it all. I'm not trying to wait, because if I wait, it's going to hurt. I'm just trying to learn everything now."

When Moss was first breaking into the NFL with the Jets in 2001, he relied upon veterans such as Wayne Chrebet to help him pick up the concepts. Moss said Hankerson hasn't yet asked him for help, and that he'd be wise to watch other similar receivers around the league--Houston's Andre Johnson, or Detroit's Mike Williams--for pointers.

Until then, it's about business--and a little enjoyment.

"Just get everything down, learn the offense, try to [know] it like the back of my hand and have fun out there," Hankerson said.

Bookmark and Share

Dwayne Hendricks competing for job in New York Giants training camp

Dwayne Hendricks, a Millville High School graduate, is competing for a job as a defensive tackle with the New York Giants.

The 6-foot-4, 300-pound Hendricks is among seven defensive tackles at the team's training camp in East Rutherford.

The Giants announced Thursday that they had re-signed Rocky Bernard, whom had been cut last week after having spent the 2009 and 2010 season with the team. With Bernard back in the mix, the Giants' interior defensive line corps also includes Chris Canty, Linval Joseph, Gabe Watson, second-round draft choice Marvin Austin and Ibraham Abdulai.

Hendricks, 25, was undrafted out of Miami. He first signed with the Giants in April 2009 but was released that June. New York signed the 6-foot-3, 295-pounder again in October 2009 for its practice squad. At the time, Hendricks had been coaching the defensive line at Millville.

He signed a futures contract with the Giants in January 2010 and played in four preaseson games for them before being released last Sept. 4. The Giants signed him again to their practice squad in November 2010 and to a reserve/futures contract this past January.

Hendricks graduated from Millville in 2004. He was a two-time Press All Star. During his senior year for the Thunderbolts, he made 82 tackles, 13 of them for losses. He also had 6 sacks and caused four fumbles.

Bookmark and Share

Bears plan for Devin Hester to play bigger offensive role this season

BOURBONNAIS, Ill. — When he arrived at Olivet Nazarene University, Devin Hester didn’t know what role coaches had in store for him.

“They haven’t really told us,” Hester said July 30, a day after players reported for training camp.

Now he knows — and he couldn’t be more thrilled.

During the unusually long offseason, Bears coaches evaluated film of the 2010 season and recognized ­Hester wasn’t used enough.

“He played even ­better than I thought he did,” ­offensive coordinator Mike Martz told the Sun-Times. “He’s an outstanding wide receiver. He’s very quiet and understated, and we had trouble getting him the ball, but I don’t foresee that being an issue this year.”

Added coach Lovie Smith, “He’ll be a huge part of the offense.”

In 2010, Johnny Knox had more catches (51), ­receiving yards (960), receiving touchdowns (five) and even offensive snaps (864) than any other receiver. Hester, meanwhile, had 40 catches for 475 yards and four touchdowns. But receivers coach Darryl Drake said the film showed that Hester consistently did what was asked of him.

“[Hester] played so much better than people imagined,” Drake said. “Sometimes you don’t realize some things until you really sit down and you look and see what you asked of him, and he was ­always where he was ­supposed to be.

“He really was our best receiver last year, even though the numbers didn’t show it.”

Bookmark and Share

Ravens' new No. 23 hopes to fill some of the void left by old No. 23

The way Damien Berry explains it, the fact that he's wearing No. 23 is purely a coincidence.

Berry is a running back out of the University of Miami. Willis McGahee, who wore No. 23 the last four seasons with the Ravens before being released two weeks ago, is also a running back from "The U".

But Berry, an undrafted rookie, insists that he's not trying to make a statement with his jersey number or assume McGahee's role in the Ravens' locker room.

"I mean, it was a total surprise. I came in and they had No. 23 in my locker," Berry said. "I'm proud to wear it. I'm definitely going to represent for Willis and try to build on what he left here."

Berry knows it's too soon for him to talk about replacing the production that McGahee - a Pro Bowler in 2007 - brought to the offense, but he would love to take on some of the former Raven's responsibilities.

With McGahee's release and subsequent signing with the Broncos and fullback Le'Ron McClain joining the Chiefs via free agency, the Ravens have a need for a backup running back, someone who can come in on third downs and take the load off of Ray Rice.

Berry has been working with the second-team offense so far in camp, and has shown an impressive burst and the ability to keep his legs moving after first contact. Berry might be behind veterans like Jalen Parmele and Matt Lawrence on the depth chart at this point, but he hopes to make a name for himself as training camp goes on.

"I have a great opportunity ahead of me," Berry said. "Getting a lot of reps. Just trying to do what I can. Stay after (practice), catch punts, do whatever I can to make this team. Then, once I'm on the team, I want to contribute to the team."

Running backs coach Wilbert Montgomery says that Berry, a second-team All-ACC performer last year after rushing for 899 yards and five touchdowns on 190 carries, doesn't lack in the confidence department. The Miami product has run hard so far in camp, and while his touches have been somewhat limited early on, Montgomery likes what he's seen out of the undrafted rookie.

"Damien, you know, he has to come in and earn his spot," Montgomery said. "Damien is a tough kid, hard-nosed kid, and that's the way he was in college. And so far, he has shown some of that toughness here, so I'm looking forward to what he really can do once we start going at it."

Berry isn't just in a battle with Parmele and Lawrence for playing time, he's also got Anthony Allen, a seventh-round pick out of Georgia Tech, and fellow undrafted free agent Walter Sanders to compete with.

While there's a constant battle for jobs at play, the dynamic among the young running backs seems to be a strong one, with the rookies pushing each other and picking the brains of the older guys throughout practice.

"I think we're a talented group that came in - myself, Walter, Ant," Berry said. "Ant is doing a great job stepping up. He's even helping me out, learning the offense, learning the plays. Ray's a great leader. He's also helping us learn the plays.

"Hopefully we will step up. Not hopefully - we will step up. Both of us ACC guys, we came out of big programs, and we know what it takes to try and get the job done."

Bookmark and Share

Cardinals Calais Campbell 25th Birthday & Fundraiser Dinner

Arizona Cardinals Calais Campbell turns 25 this Labor Day and would like YOU to help him celebrate by supporting his charity dinner.

Campbell will be joined by an entourage of Cardinals teammates who are expected to be guest celebrity servers, along with over 200 guests to a secluded evening with around the clock entertainment, exceptional food, networking and fundraising support of the CRC Foundation, Campbell’s non-profit that seeks to empower and provide self-awareness for future leaders.

Bookmark and Share

D.J. Williams returns to Broncos practice after injury

Broncos linebacker D.J. Williams has returned to practice after missing more than a week with a thigh injury.

Williams has participated only in walk-through sessions since suffering a strained muscle — head coach John Fox has described the injury as both to the quadriceps and hamstring — early in camp.

Bookmark and Share

Jason Fox Visiting Specialist In North Carolina

Detroit Lions offensive tackle Jason Fox is in North Carolina visiting Dr. Robert Anderson, the man who performed surgery on Nick Fairley's foot last week. Fox hurt his foot during a drill on Saturday morning and was seen wearing a walking boot and using crutches after practice.

Considering they both injured their foot and visited the same specialist, the obvious conclusion to jump to is that Fox also broke his foot. However, Lions head coach Jim Schwartz says Fox's injury is something different, although he declined to expand on that statement.

Bookmark and Share

Bryant McKinnie's Agent Offers Tackle's Services For $2.5 Million

Bryant McKinnie still wants to play football in 2011 following a murky exit from the Minnesota Vikings due to his friendly physique. According to NFL.com's Jason La Canfora, McKinnie agent Drew Rosenhaus sent an email to teams putting the player's price tag for the upcoming season at $2.5 million. 

Bonuses included, McKinnie hasn't made that little (little!) in a season since 2003, when his cap figure reached $2.48 million.

Free agency isn't yet over by any means, and teams are finding out that their players are arriving for camp with, shall we say, injury-prone tendons and whatnot. Should a club suddenly find itself in need of a seasoned tackle, Rosenhaus might just find himself with a brand new Re: in his inbox.

Bookmark and Share

Valencia did not start in Sunday's loss to the White Sox

Valencia did not start in Sunday's loss to the White Sox, but later entered the game as a pinch hitter and flew out. There are growing concerns about his defense and some in the organization don't view him as the long-term answer at third base and would rather see Joe Mauer get more time at third base, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports.

Bookmark and Share

Yonder Alonso done in left, on to third

It sounds like the Yonder Alonso experiment in left field is over and the Yonder Alonso experiment at third base is about to begin.

Asked if Alonso would play left again, Dusty Baker said: “Not in the near future.”

Alonso had a rough time of it in his three starts in the left field on the road trip. He missed played three balls and made an error.

Alonso was at Great American Ball Park early taking balls at third base. He may eventually play there, but, again, not in the near future.

“You don’t want to do it in the big leagues,” Baker said. “But that’s the position he started at. It’s an mirror image of first base really. You get more plays. Most first baseman are at first base because they’re left-handed or they don’t have the arm to play third.

“We’ll see. We’re trying to find the best place to get his bat in the lineup.”

Alonso played third base in high school.

“I’ve always taken groundballs there,” he said. “It’s not as new as left field to me. I’ve played infield all my life. They’re trying to get my bat in the lineup. As long as I’m adequate there, they’ll give me shot. I’m going to work hard to get it done.”

Bookmark and Share

Jon Jay struggling in wake of Rasmus Trade

Cardinals’ centerfielder Jon Jay became an interesting option for fantasy owners when St. Louis unloaded Colby Rasmus to the Blue Jays before the trade deadline.

Unfortunately for Jay owners, the lefthander has struggled since taking over the starting job.

He’s 7-of-34 in his last 10 games and is batting .206 during that stretch. Eight of those games have been starts, with Corey Patterson getting the nod in the other two games.

I’d expect Jay to continue to get most of the playing time, with Patterson there to spell the up-and-comer every fourth or fifth game.

As for Rasmus, the new Blue Jay has picked it up of late, despite suffering a finger injury Saturday.

Rasmus has nine hits over his last 28 at-bats, including a home run and three doubles.

And don’t let the finger worry you, he should stay in the lineup.

Bookmark and Share

Summer Vacation With Andre Johnson

Click here to order Andre Johnson’s proCane Rookie Card.

Bookmark and Share

Brandon Harris Talks About All the proCanes at Houston

We’re almost through the first week of camp, and the transition has been good. I’ve had some good help from Coach (Vance) Joseph and some of the veteran guys in the defensive back room. But man, it’s a lot of information. It’s tough when you’re coming in from doing nothing in a year like this year. I was working out back home in Miami and doing different stuff, but it is so much different when you’re organized and when you get into team training camp and have to learn the playbook and things like that. It moves really, really fast, so that’s been the biggest adjustment every night with all the studying.

I was in the weight room lifting weights with Roc Carmichael in the morning yesterday, and I was like, ‘Man. It really just hit me that we’re in the league now. We’re in the NFL.’ He was like, ‘Yeah, man, it just hit me, too.’ When you get drafted it’s exciting, but until you actually get out here and put that uniform on, that’s when you feel it.

I’m roommates with Roc at the team hotel. It’s pretty cool over there. You get a chance to bond with the other rookies and just hang around everybody. We don’t really have a lot of time off, so usually it’s here, back to the hotel for a nap, come back and then go in for the night. I spend a lot of time in the playbook when I’m here, but I’ve also found it successful for me, when I’m away, to peek at it for a little bit every now and then but let it sink in. Don’t overcrowd yourself with information. Watch TV, call home, talk to your family, talk to you girlfriend and stuff like that. That’s been helping me stay level and stay humble and ready to play.

We’re definitely getting the ‘carry pads’ treatment from the veterans. Especially on a day like yesterday. Hundred-degree weather out there, those guys, they don’t want to carry their own equipment back inside. But it’s all in fun. We do that and then every night we have rookie entertainment where different guys have to get up there and perform and do that kind of stuff. I haven’t gone yet, though. I’ve been dodging and trying to hold out, but I know they’ll get me soon enough.

Coming to a team with so many guys from ‘The U,’ it’s special. It feels good. As a rookie coming into camp, you have guys you can lean on, guys you can talk to who just understand where you’re coming from, who’ve been there where you’ve been. Guys like Andre (Johnson) and Darryl (Sharpton) and Damione Lewis and all those guys. You walk around in the building and see those guys, you see a smiling face, a guy you know, you give them a handshake and it just makes you feel good.

I’ve known Andre since I was about seven or eight years old, just running around in Miami watching him play, hanging up under him at the parks and stuff like that. Even before I got here, we were back at home in Miami training. He was schooling me on what to expect from the city, what to expect from the team and the staff and how different guys were in the locker room. He’s been doing a pretty good job since I’ve been here, too, of just making sure I’m OK. Just the simple things like asking me, ‘How you feeling today?’, ‘How you feeling out there?’, ‘Everything alright?’ Coming from a guy like that who you’re close to, it’s like having a family member here.

My locker is right next to Johnathan Joseph and Danieal Manning’s. They’ve been giving me tips about playing in the NFL, the good and the bad and monitoring that with your family and stuff like that. They’re guys who have a lot of experience and they give me a lot of good information. I also get a lot of information from even younger guys, like Kareem Jackson who was a rookie last year, who knows what it’s like coming in the league as a rookie, coming from a big-time school, a big-time program and being expected to play and perform early. Some of his insights on that have been really helpful.

Right now in camp, I just want to grasp the information – get to the point where I can play comfortable and know what I’m doing, playing fast, and once the season comes, get on the field. Get on the field the best way possible. Nickel, dime packages; special teams is a big part of our game here. That first step is just getting on the field.

I’ve been excited about getting to Houston for a long time. I hear the fans are great here. I’m excited to go out there and play for you guys; excited to run out of the tunnel for the first time and look up and hear all the fans screaming and yelling. They always told me since I’ve been in high school, Texas football is some of the best football in the country. I’m excited to get to experience it.

Bookmark and Share

Jason Geathers Scores 4 TDs

The Arizona Rattlers have advanced to the ArenaBowl after narrowly defeating the Chicago Rush, 54-48 on Saturday night at the US Airways Center in downtown Phoenix.

Jason Geathers had ten receptions for 150 yards, scoring four touchdowns as the main target for quarterback Nick Davila.

This game was not an easy victory for the Rattlers, as it came down to the final seconds of the contest. The Rush, down six with seconds to play, feigned an onside kick and went after the ball in the opposite end zone.

The Rattlers failed to put a man back, as they were more concerned about the onside kick. The Rush nearly recovered the ball, but fortunately for the home team, they were able to escape this game with the victory. 

The Rattlers are hosting the ArenaBowl for the third time in the history of the Arena Football League, and at 18-2 will face either the Jacksonville Sharks or the Georgia Force to take home Arena Football's most illustrious award.

ArenaBowl XXIV kick offs Friday, August 12 at 5:30 PM Pacific time.

Bookmark and Share

Bears excited about what Hester can do this year

The addition of veteran free agents like wide receiver Roy Williams and Sam Hurd, along with running back Marion Barber has piqued interest in a Bears offense that was essentially along for the ride last season during the journey to the NFC title game.

But it’s Devin Hester’s improvement at wide receiver in his second year in offensive coordinator Mike Martz’s scheme that has teammates and coaches psyched.

“Devin Hester is having an unbelievable camp,” quarterback Jay Cutler said. “He’s so much more comfortable in the system.

“In this system, if you think, you’re not going to be very effective. He’s not thinking, he’s just out there reacting, and he’s running super fast like he always does. I’m happy with him, and I think he’s happy where he’s at right now, too.”

In 2009, Hester posted career bests with 57 catches for 757 yards. But his production dipped last season, when he finished with 40 receptions for 475 yards, averaging a career-low 11.9 yards per grab.

Now he could be on the verge of a bounce-back season.

“He’s a lot more fluid and really distinct in his routes,” wide receivers coach Darryl Drake said. “He’s just playing, and that’s what you want your guys to do, just let it flow.

“He understands things a lot better as far as the system. And it should be that way the second year. He works extremely hard, and as long as he continues to do that, everything else will take care of itself.”

Hester clearly seems more at ease in the offense, and he says he’s enjoying the luxury of being able to run routes and make adjustments instinctively without having to think about what to do in every situation.

“It was a new system for all of us (last season),” he said. “A lot of guys through the first half of the season were doing more thinking rather than going out and just playing. This year, with another year under our belts with the playbook, that really helps. It allows us to play fast, whereas last year we were doing more thinking.

“Now, it’s more about just going out and having fun.”

But no matter how valuable Hester becomes as a receiver, he will never equal his accomplishments as a return specialist. Both he and the Bears realize the importance of balancing those two phases so as not to detract from what he contributes on special teams. In just five seasons, Hester already owns the all-time NFL record with 14 combined touchdowns on kickoff and punt returns.

It probably isn’t a coincidence that while Hester was establishing himself as a legitimate NFL receiver in 2008 and ’09 with a combined 108 catches for 1,422 yards, he failed to score a single return touchdown. In his first two seasons (2006-07), Hester had 11, not counting a kickoff-return touchdown in Super Bowl XLI and a 108-yard return TD of a missed field goal.

Last season, Hester’s workload as a receiver was scaled back, and he scored 3 more return TDs.

“Like any guy, when you’re playing 65-70 snaps, it may have an effect on you,” Drake said. “So I have to be careful with how much I ask him to do because he’s the best returner in the game, and there has to be a balance.

“I also think he’s a really good receiver, contrary to what a lot of people think. But there’s got to be a balance. Last year we talked about it, and I kind of took some of the reps from him, and the return game picked up.”

It seemed like anytime Hester’s numbers as a receiver were down last year they spiked in the return game.

• In the first Packers game, he was limited to 1 catch for 16 yards, but he scored on a 62-yard punt return.

• In the second Vikings game, he caught just 2 passes for 23 yards but scored on a 64-yard punt return and added a 79-yard kickoff return.

• The Seahawks limited Hester to 2 receptions for 23 yards, but they couldn’t prevent an 89-yard punt-return TD.

• In the first Vikings game, Hester’s 4 receptions totaled just 38 yards, but he had a 68-yard kickoff return and brought a punt back 42 yards.
With Williams and Hurd added this year, the Bears have the depth to use Hester judiciously in the passing game and still keep him fresh for returns.

“It does give us some flexibility,” Drake said, “and an opportunity to get those guys involved a little bit more, too, and not have to panic when Hester’s not in there.”

With Hester well rested for the return game, it’s more likely that the opponents’ coverage teams will be panicking.

• Follow Bob’s Bears reports via Twitter @BobLeGere and check out our Bear Essentials blog at dailyherald.com.

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

Bookmark and Share

Andre Johnson returns to practice and impresses

Andre Johnson, ever the warrior, returned to practice Sunday and made a number of difficult catches, no matter that he's still dealing with a compound dislocation of his left index finger. Most impressive was a ball he pulled in despite solid coverage by new free safety Danieal Manning.

Click here to order Andre Johsnon’s proCane Rookie Card.

Bookmark and Share

Baraka Atkins Making An Impression

LB/DE Baraka Atkins who was the final cut from the Denver Broncos roster last season was signed by the Steelers in the offseason and so far in training camp is making a good impression with Steelers coaches. Atkins has been consistent in making plays from the LB position. It won’t be easy, but don’t be surprised either if Atkins makes the squad.

Bookmark and Share

Will Edgerrin James hear his name called for the Pro Football Hall of Fame

There was no press conference or no breaking news updates from national media outlets when Immokalee native Edgerrin James announced his retirement from the National Football League.

Just as he conducted himself on and off the field for the better part of his football career, James’ retirement was quiet but effective.

“I’m done playing football,” James told a small group of reporters at his annual youth football camp in Immokalee on July 25.

Unlike fellow Southwest Florida native Deion Sanders, who is officially being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday, James, who turned 33 on Aug. 1, plans to spend his post-football career in relative anonymity. The question now is whether or not Hall of Fame voters will remember Edgerrin in 2015 when he’s eligible to earn a spot in Canton.

Since James was not with a team in 2010 -- he last played with Seattle, which released James in the middle of the 2009 season -- James has to wait four years, instead of the usual five.

“I don’t know if he’s a Hall of Fame player, but he deserves to be in the room when we debate the final 15 guys each year,” said Mike Chappell, a Hall of Fame voter and the longtime Indianapolis Colts beat writer for the Indianapolis Star. “I think he had that kind of career and he deserves at the very least to be considered.”

Just based on statistics alone, James’ candidacy is hard to argue. The No. 4 overall pick in the 1999 NFL Draft out of the University of Miami finished his career with 12,246 rushing yards, which ranks 11th in NFL history. James accomplished most of that with the Indianapolis Colts from 1999-2005. He also played for the Arizona Cardinals from 2006-08, becoming the first Collier County high school player to participate in a Super Bowl when Arizona lost to Pittsburgh, 27-23, in Tampa in February 2009.

James left Indianapolis as its all-time leading rusher with 9,226 yards. James was given a Super Bowl ring from the Colts after he left the team in 2006, when they won Super Bowl XLI.

James also was the AP and Pro Football Writers Association Offensive Rookie of the Year in 1999, and a four-time Pro Bowl and All-Pro selection.

Besides New York Jets running back LaDainian Tomlinson, who currently ranks sixth all-time in rushing, the only active running backs within 2,000 yards of James on the all-time list are Fred Taylor and Tiki Barber. Taylor is on the verge of retirement, and Barber has come out of retirement after four years away from the game, but has yet to sign with a team.

Only two of the nine Hall of Fame eligible players above James on the all-time rushing list, Jerome Bettis and Curtis Martin, have not yet been inducted. However, both players were just in their first year of Hall of Fame eligibility.

Click here to read the rest of the story...

Click here to order Edgerrin James’ proCane Rookie Card.

Bookmark and Share

Punter battle between Matt Bosher, Ken Parrish

The battle for the Atlanta Falcons punting duties will come down to Ps Matt Bosher and Ken Parrish. "It will be a really good competition," special teams coordinator Keith Armstrong said. "We'll try to rotate them and control their reps. In the exhibition games, they will have to be warmed up in both halves."

Bookmark and Share

Bryant McKinnie weighed 386 pounds

Free agent LT Bryant McKinnie reported to Vikings training camp at 386 pounds before his release.

It's not quite the rumored 400 pounds, but still an unacceptably high number for a player whose playing weight is 335. The National Football Post's Dan Pompei reports McKinnie is "so grossly out of shape that he would endanger his health by suiting up." Unless he suddenly develops an affinity for fitness he's lacked his entire career, the 32-year-old's playing days may be over.

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

Bookmark and Share

Jon Beason Talks At Training Camp

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

Bookmark and Share

Ed Reed talks number switches, his health

Through the first week of Ravens training camp, one question has been bandied about by reporters more than any other.

That question has nothing to do with the Ravens' pass rush, the competition for the starting right tackle job or whether the team needs to go get another wide receiver.

So, what's been on reporters' minds while out at practice the last handful of days?

"Why the heck is Ed Reed wearing No. 3?"

Instead of seeing Reed running around in the secondary in his usual No. 20 the last week, we've seen the Ravens' All-Pro safety wearing a strange-looking single-digit uni during practice. Even though the change obviously won't be permanent (defensive backs have to wear a number between 20 and 49), we still questioned the rationale behind the switch.

Was it a tribute to former Ravens kicker Matt Stover? A way to try and confuse the offense? Turns out, the temporary change in jersey numbers was all about comfort.

"That's the smallest jersey they had," Reed told reporters yesterday. "That's the smallest jersey. I just like to be comfortable at practice. Coach (John Harbaugh) came in with, 'You have to wear game jerseys at practice,' and I just like to be comfortable."

Well, that's not a very exciting story.

With the exception of the change in jersey numbers, there has been very little reason to talk about Reed early in training camp, and that's a positive thing. In contrast to previous years, Reed has come into camp healthy and has been able to participate in full-team drills.

Despite being in good shape health-wise, Reed has still gotten a day off here and there, something which he says will be vital to remaining in good condition later in the year.

"I'm 32; I've been doing this for 10 years," Reed said. "Preserving this is the key."

Reed says he might be a bit bigger and stronger this year than years past, something which he also hopes will help him remain durable through the course of the season. The seven-time Pro Bowler has battled painful hip and neck injuries in the past, which have limited him to 10 games last season and 12 in 2009.

The Ravens' safety needed to start last season on the Physically Unable to Perform list due to offseason hip surgery, causing him to miss the first six contests of the year.

"This is a lifelong thing now," Reed said. "Anytime you have surgery, especially on your hip, you have to take care of your body. We all know football is a violent sport, a physical sport. Sixteen games is a long time. It's definitely a grind, and this is a grind. If I'm not smart about taking care of myself during training camp, then who is?

"So, it's also a business. That's part of being a good business man - taking care of myself and understanding that (my body) is my company."

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

Bookmark and Share

Looking at Greg Olsen's new contract

Shortly after being traded to Carolina, tight end Greg Olsen and the Panthers worked out a four-year contract extension.

We’ve got the complete breakdown here. Olsen was in the last year of his contract when he came from Chicago and was to make $900,000 in base salary. In the new deal, the Panthers knocked that figure down to $700,000. They also gave Olsen a $2.5 million signing bonus and added four years to his contract. His cap figure for this year is $1.2 million. The average per year of the new deal is $5.7 million.

In 2012, Olsen’s base salary jumps to $3 million and that’s guaranteed. Olson also has a $2.5 million option bonus in 2012. In 2013, Olsen’s base salary increases to $3.75 million and he has a $250,000 workout bonus for that offseason.

In 2014 and 2015, Olsen is scheduled to make $5.25 million in base salary each season. He also has a $250,000 workout bonus in each of those years.

Prior to the lockout, the Panthers signed Jeremy Shockey to a one-year deal that's worth $3.8 million. Olsen's new deal shows that the Panthers have a lot more money and time invested in him. Shockey will probably be used as a role player this season, but Olsen will be Carolina's main tight end.

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

Bookmark and Share

Jason Fox wearing boot, on crutches after Detroit Lions practice

ALLEN PARK — The hits just keep on coming for the Detroit Lions. Saturday's victim was second-year offensive tackle Jason Fox, who left the practice field early, and showed up in the locker room with crutches and wearing a boot on his left foot.

The Lions are now dangerously thin at the position with only four healthy tackles on the roster.

"Yeah, tackles, we've had a lot of guys drop," Lions coach Jim Schwartz admitted after practice. "With (Jeff) Backus before we started, (Gosder) Cherilus hasn't been ready for (daily) duty, and obviously, Jason.

"Jason was getting a lot of reps out there and was doing really well. Hopefully we'll get some good news on him, and he won't be too long."

Bookmark and Share

Joe Joseph Released

The Redskins released defensive lineman Joe Joseph and linebacker Kyle O'Donnell. Joseph played in one game last season for the Redskins.

Bookmark and Share

proCane Oakland A Jemile Weeks Hits a 2-Out Double vs. the Rays

Thanks to proCane fan JD Barbosa for sending us this video of Jemile Weeks’ double on August 6th in Tampa.


Blake Tekotte Called Up Again

Outfielder Blake Tekotte returned to the Padres Saturday afternoon in Pittsburgh less than 72 hours after he was optioned back to Double-A San Antonio.

Tekotte was promoted for the third time since May 23 because Chris Denorfia fell victim to the 15-day disabled list with a right hamstring strain.

Tekotte returned to San Antonio Thursday when left-handed reliever Joe Thatcher was activated from the 60-day disabled list.

Tekotte flew to San Antonio Thursday, played a home game for the Missions that night, made the five-hour bus ride the next day to Frisco and played Friday night before learning he was being recalled by the Padres.

“It feels good whenever they call on me,” said Tekotte, who is hitting .298 with 17 homers, 56 RBI and 32 steals for San Antonio this season and .250 in 24 at-bats with the Padres. He had a career-best three-hit, two-steal game for the Padres last Monday night against the Dodgers at Petco Park.

The stock of the 24-year-old Tekotte has climbed this season.

“I like the all-around game,” Padres manager Bud Black said of Tekotte Saturday.

“He’s a solid defender who can run with some pop.

“He projects to have a dependable, solid, all-around game. I think he likes to play. And there was a different look in his eye when he came back last week.”

Tekotte was previously recalled Aug. 1 after Denorfia suffered the hamstring strain and both Denorfia and Will Venable (back spasms) were listed as day-to-day.

Bookmark and Share

Yonder Alonso suffers ankle injury

Yonder Alonso suffered an ankle injury when he stepped on sprinkler head while chasing a fly ball in Saturday's game.

If you've watched Alonso try to play left field, it comes as no surprise that he managed to hurt himself. The good news is that while he's not in the lineup Sunday, it appears to be a day-to-day thing.

Bookmark and Share

Ryan Braun posts second 20-20 season in five years

Ryan Braun went 3-for-4 with a double, RBI and stolen base in Milwaukee's 8-1 win over the Astros on Friday.

The RBI was Braun's 74th of the season, while the stolen base was his 20th, giving him the second 20-20 season of his five-year career. He's sporting an elite .329/.400/.586 triple slash.

Bookmark and Share

Yonder Alonso hits 1st homer, but makes costly misplay

As much as Yonder Alonso might like to forget his first weekend at Wrigley Field, he may not have a choice.

Alonso hit his major league home run, but misplayed a ball in Wrigley Field's adventurous outfield that helped the Chicago Cubs beat the Cincinnati Reds 11-4 Saturday for their seventh straight win.

After a scary collision between second baseman Brandon Phillips and center fielder Drew Stubbs led to Reed Johnson's leadoff double in the fourth inning, Alfonso Soriano hit a routine flyball to left.

Alonso, playing for the injured Chris Heisey, stepped on a sprinkler in the outfield and was unable to track down the ball. Johnson scored and Soriano made it to second base.

The Cubs went on to score nine runs over the next three innings to put the game out of reach. The Reds matched their season high by committing three errors in the game.

"I stepped on a sprinkler ... I definitely should have caught that ball," Alonso said. "You have to learn with it. First time in this stadium, I've never been here. It's a little tough to play with the wind and the sun and all that. No excuses, really."

Alonso also misplayed a ball in the series opener on Friday that led to Tony Campana's inside-the-park home run.

The 24-year-old rookie then hit his first career homer in the sixth, a solo shot off Cubs starter Carlos Zambrano, but said the moment was bittersweet.

"Obviously you want to get that win," he said. "It's nice to get that home run so it's not a '0' anymore, it's a '11 in there. Just move with it, accept it and be positive with it. Shake it off because tomorrow we have to go at it again."

Bookmark and Share

Jon Jay relishes playing in hometown

MIAMI -- Traveling every three or four days can be pretty taxing on a baseball player over the course of a season.

But when those travels take a player to his hometown, like this weekend's series did for Jon Jay, it makes a trip much more exciting.

"It's always fun to come home," Jay said. "This is where it all started for me. I still live here and all of my friends and family come out and support me. It's nice to see."

It is the second time in his brief big league career that Jay gets to play in front of his hometown fans, and he has had plenty of them supporting him from the Sun Life Stadium stands this weekend.

A local star at Columbus High and the University of Miami, Jay has a large following in Miami. Along with his parents, Justo and Maria, and his sister, Janelle, Jay has been visited by a lot of friends, family and even his college coach, Jim Morris.

"I got to talk to him a little bit," Jay said. "It was nice to see him because he played a big part in my baseball career being my coach at UM. I'm around there a lot, too, so it was great for him to come out and see me."

The 26-year-old Jay was batting over .300 before his struggles on the current road trip brought his average down to .297.

Jay's success this season made it easier for the Cardinals to trade outfielder Colby Rasmus to the Blue Jays for Edwin Jackson, Marc Rzepczynski, Octavio Dotel and Corey Patterson.

With Rasmus gone, Jay is officially the Cardinals' starting center fielder, but that has not changed how he approaches each game.

"It's not any different," Jay said. "I still have to show up and be ready every day."

Bookmark and Share