07 September 2008


[Editor’s note:  Panthers linebacker Jon Beason will share thoughts with us each week via text message.  Beason was a first-round pick in 2007, and has started every game since arriving.  We communicated with him after the Panthers beat the Chargers, 26-24, on a last-second touchdown pass to Dante Rosario.] 

Q:  How did you feel when the ball was in the air on the last play?
A:  I just told myself to keep faith in my teammates and in God.  I knew we played well enough to win and a miracle was possible.

Q:  What did you say to Dante Rosario after he made the catch?
A:  I told him “you saved me.”  I was very emotional because I missed the tackle on LT on a third-down run that would have forced the Chargers to kick a field goal.  Had we lost I would’ve blamed myself.

Q:  Do you think the Chargers took you guys lightly?
A:  I don’t think that’s possible based on our preseason performance from a first-team standpoint. 

Q:  Did Shawne Merriman seem to be limited?
A:  Not sure but I know going into it we didn’t want to play soft on him because he’s hurt.  I think our offense did a great job moving the ball on one of the top defenses in the league.  I’m sure our offense will build on it.

Q:  Have you talked to Steve Smith?  Is he itching to get back?
A:  He’s proud of our team and ready to come back.  He wants to be part of it, he’s one of our leaders and we’re that much better with him on the field.


Sapp Rips Meyer

Ex-Canes star Warren Sapp, on a Showtime conference call Tuesday for Inside the NFL, called UF coach Urban Meyer ''a classless dirtbag'' for kicking a field goal late in Florida's 26-3 win against UM. ''But it's coming back in a big way'' when the teams meet in 2013, he said. Plantation's Brandon McGee, a senior who has committed orally to UM (as a cornerback), said UF's late field goal ''wasn't necessary at all.'' Canes coaches are privately steamed about Meyer's move, and UM people hope to get a chance for revenge in a bowl game.



Though the University of Miami football team has seen better days, the program still rules the NFL.

The NFL announced Wednesday that The U has the most players in the league, for the third consecutive season. Miami has 44 players on NFL rosters, following 42 in 2006 and 46 in 2007.

And Florida colleges continue to dominate the NFL landscape. Florida State is second on the list with 37 players, and Florida is 10th with 30.
The top 10 most-represented schools in the league:
1. Miami — 44
2. Florida State — 37
3. Georgia — 36
4. Michigan — 36
5. Ohio State — 36
6. LSU — 35
7. Tennessee — 34
8. Texas — 34
9. USC — 32
10. Florida — 30

The league also breaks it down by position.

Not surprisingly, Miami has the most tight ends in the NFL (four) and linebackers (nine).

Florida State has the most running backs (five), offensive tackles (five) and defensive tackles (five).

What is a bit surprising is that Ohio State produces the most skill players. The Buckeyes have the most receivers (six, tied with LSU) and defensive backs (nine).

Michigan and USC have the most quarterbacks in the league (four apiece).

Georgia leads in defensive ends (nine), tied with Miami in tight ends (four) and tied in kickers (two).

And little Louisiana Tech, whose team hasn’t exactly been nationally relevant since the days of Terry Bradshaw and Fred Dean, also appears on this list. The Bulldogs are tied for the most kickers in the NFL, with two.


McGahee falling out of the running

In the Ravens' new running scheme, the joke could end up being on Willis McGahee.

Criticized for not showing enough commitment to the Ravens, McGahee might have to learn about the concept of "team" the hard way - as in, a running-back-by-committee situation.

From all indications, it seems as if McGahee, the Ravens' featured back last season, will have to split time with two upstarts, Ray Rice and Le'Ron McClain.

McGahee is expected to make his first appearance against the Houston Texans on Monday after missing the entire preseason with a knee injury. He said he could handle his usual 20 to 25 carries.

"I want a full workload, but that's something the coaches have to figure out," McGahee said.

A "full workload" doesn't appear to be in the Ravens' game plan. It's uncertain whether McGahee will even start.

"As of today, he's got a role in this game," offensive coordinator Cam Cameron said yesterday. "We ultimately aren't going to know until he's practiced through the end of the week."

McGahee was active and dressed in full uniform Sunday, but the Ravens didn't put him on the field for one play. Coach John Harbaugh explained that the Ravens wanted to be cautious with McGahee and his knee.

But one could read an underlying message from Sunday: The Ravens don't need McGahee to establish a dominant running attack.

The Ravens have gone out of their way to embrace McGahee. The coaching staff has repeatedly talked about how McGahee is a "special back" and how he could see increased touches as an every-down back.

McGahee reciprocated by falling into the same bad habits that forced him out of Buffalo.

He was the only offensive starter not to show for a majority of the voluntary minicamps this offseason. He reported to training camp in not-so-stellar shape. And he was one of the last to arrive to the first practice of training camp.

It'll be interesting to see how the Ravens handle McGahee in the future. He is signed through 2013, but only the next two seasons are manageable salaries ($605,000 this season and $620,000 in 2009).

In the short term, it's not about earning more money. It's about earning more playing time.

"If we have a group of guys that we know that can help us win," Cameron said, "we'll play them all."

Martz emphasizes that Gore is key to offense

SANTA CLARA — Offensive coordinator Mike Martz has a number in his mind.

He would like to get the ball in the hands of his playmakers, such as tight end Vernon Davis and receiver Isaac Bruce. But he believes he must get the ball repeatedly to one player, in particular: running back Frank Gore.

Bruce was shut out in his 49ers debut on Sunday, a 23-13 loss to the Arizona Cardinals. Meanwhile, Davis caught three passes for 51 yards, including a 37-yard reception, which is longer than any play in which he was involved last season.

“How much he gets the ball will be predicated on what’s happening offensively in terms of the defensive structures and match-ups,” Martz said Thursday. “If we have the opportunity for him to make a play then we’ll do that, but don’t worry about anybody but Frank on how many touches they get.

“Frank has to touch the ball, He’s got to be one of the very, very elite in this league. We know we have to feature him and find ways of getting him the ball. Isaac and Vernon and all the other guys, they’re all good players and they’ll have their opportunities. But (Gore is) the only guy that you go into a game and say, ‘You know what? This guys needs to touch the ball X amount of times.’ ”

When asked if Martz has a number of plays he wants his running back’s hands on the ball for every game, he answered, “Yes, I do, (but it’s) nothing that I would ever share with you guys.”

Gore figures to be play an integral role against the Seattle Seahawks when the teams meet on Sunday at Qwest Field. Gore has enjoyed two of his top four rushing games against the Seahawks, including a club-record 212-yard performance in 2006.

He opened the season in a big way, rushing for 80 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries in the first half against the Cardinals. But in the second half, when Gore usually gets stronger, the 49ers were held to just 14 offensive plays. Gore carried just three times in the second half for 16 yards.

“It was frustrating, coming back out we went over everything we had to do,” Gore said. “It was so frustrating that we couldn’t get back out there. The passing game was starting to open up.”

There should be more opportunities for the passing game to open up against the Seahawks, as clearly their No. 1 goal is to slow down Gore.
“In my mind, if they bring eight men in the box, we’re going to throw the ball,” 49ers quarterback J.T. O’Sullivan said. “That’s the way the majority of offenses would work. I’m all for it.”

Martz generally liked the way the 49ers’ offense worked in the opener, though he did notice that the receivers were lacking some crispness — a possible result of Bryant Johnson, Arnaz Battle and Bruce being held out of so many practices during training camp.

“With our starters together, that was their first outing together and we weren’t always on the same page,” Martz said. “That will get a lot better each week. Having those guys all together, is a big deal.”

Martz said some routes weren’t run properly, as they did not get the proper depth on some of their patterns. Martz said O’Sullivan had a strong game, and shows a good command of the offense. In fact, he said O’Sullivan was not to blame for his interception on a pass intended for Battle.

“We had a broken route,” Martz said. “We didn’t run the right route. The ball was thrown where it needed to be thrown. So obviously that wasn’t his fault.”

Said Battle, “We have to be able to make adjustments on the move. We have to play fast, and everybody has to be thinking the same thing that the quarterback is thinking.”


Parrish Named AFC Special Teams Player of the Week

Bills receiver Roscoe Parrish was named AFC Special Teams Player of the Week for his performance against Seattle in which he returned a punt 63 yards for a touchdown. Parrish said he heard from his college buddy, Chicago Bears star return man Devin Hester, after Sunday’s game.

“We’re always calling each other throughout the week,” Parrish said. “He actually called me because they had the night game. He texted me, saying, ‘Good play, good play, I play tonight so don’t forget about that.’ We just feed off of each other, and that’s a good thing. . . . I always enjoy watching him.”

Parrish sat out practice with sore ribs and a sore knee but is expected to play Sunday. Also sitting out practice was linebacker John DiGiorgio (back). Reserve tackle Matt Murphy, who injured his shoulder last month, returned to practice. The Bills worked out on the grass field behind the stadium. Jacksonville has a natural- grass field.


Santonio Thomas Update

The Boston Globe reports the Atlanta Falcons worked out DL Santonio Thomas earlier this week.


Ryans looks forward to seeing fellow LB Lewis

In two years DeMeco Ryans has developed into one of the best young linebackers in the NFL.

Now the 2006 Rookie of the Year will play the Baltimore Ravens and Ray Lewis, one of the top linebackers of all time.

"When you talk about middle linebackers, he's the guy," Ryans said. "He's the guy that everybody looks up to. Everybody wants to be the Ray Lewis of their team. The type of leader that he is, the way he has all his guys rallied around him, that's the template for every other middle linebacker on his team."

Ryans remembers first watching Lewis when the Ravens won the Super Bowl in 2001. He was impressed with the way any shot of him would just show him and a running back because he was so fast.

Lewis and Ryans spent time together at the Pro Bowl this year. Ryans said the 13-year veteran has an aura about him.

"You see him and he's that guy," Ryans said. "That's Ray Lewis, that's the man. That's the guy every other middle linebacker looks up to. So being out there and playing with him, it was great for me. It was a great inspiration to be out there playing with a guy you watched go out and dominate guys."

Ryans had 283 tackles in the two seasons and Lewis has 223 in the same span. Lewis said he hasn't seen Ryans play much, but that from the little he has seen he thinks he has a "bright future" in the game.

"I just like the way he hustles to the ball," Lewis said. "He really loves to play the game and he understands the game. When you come into the league that young and understand the game like that, I think you have a head start."

Ryans hopes he can become the kind of leader for the Texans that Lewis is to the Ravens. He also wants to one day have his name mentioned alongside Lewis as one of the game's elite linebackers, but knows he'll have to help the team improve to get to that point.

"It's going to take getting to the big game," Ryans said. "What Ray has done, he's done it on a big-time level in the Super Bowl. He's led his team in the playoffs."


NFL U Week 1 Video Highlights

Check out the return of our NFL U Video Highlights. Like we did back in 2006, proCanes.com will provide our fans every week video highlights of all of our NFL U stars along with pictures from the current NFL Week. Click here to check out our Week 1 Video Highlights or click above on NFL U Video Highlights. Enjoy this week's highlights which feature a Roscoe Parrish punt return, a Frank Gore TD and more!

NFL U Week 1 Photos

Check out Week 1 photos from around the the NFL of our proCanes. Click here to see the photos.

Ten Texts With Kenny Phillips

Here’s our first set of text messages to and from Giants safety Kenny Phillips.  He was a first-round pick in the 2008 draft, and he is being counted upon to help fill the void created by the departure of Gibril Wilson.

Q:  How did that first game, in prime time, feel?
A:  It felt pretty good to be playing in my first NFL game especially since we were the only game on that night so that meant everyone was watching.

Q:  Have the guys been showing off their rings?
A:  LOL not at all.  To be honest with you a lot of the guys don’t even wear them.

Q:  Did you feel extra pressure because you’re on the defending NFL champions?
A:  No I wouldn’t say that.  When you are a first round pick there’s an automatic pressure to play well ASAP but so far I haven’t felt any and that’s thanks to the guys and coaches around me because they are making sure I know what I’m doing before I step out on that field and I feel as long as you know what your doing there’s no such thing as pressure.

Q:  Has the team recovered from Osi Umenyiora being done for the year?
A:  I think so.  Even though having him this season would have probably made winning a lot easier, we couldn’t focus on who we didn’t have.

Q:  Did Strahan seem like he wanted to suit up on Thursday night?
A:  I didn’t get a chance to see him.

Q:  Did you worry in the second half that you guys were letting the Redskins hang around too long?
A:  No the offense played very well and even though they didn’t put up a lot of points they controlled the game clock which helped us out a lot.

Q:  The Rams [New York’s next opponent] looked rough.  Are you already being warned not to take them too lightly?
A:  It was the first game of the season so no team looked perfect.  I do expect them to bounce back and play us very hard especially at home.

Q:  Is the pro game a lot faster than what you were used to in college?
A:  No sir.  I think the game only becomes fast when you are not sure what you are doing.  When you know your assisngments football is still football, no matter what level.

Q:  There’s a lot of talk about you becoming a starter soon.  Are you anxious to break into the starting lineup?
A:  Yes.  The goal in camp was to compete for the starting job and I’m going to continue to do so until that happens but right now both safeties are playing well so I’ll play my role until I earn another one.


Johnson recognized

Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson is being honored this season as one of the Home Depot’s NFL Neighborhood MVPs. The program will honor 17 players who are making positive impacts in their communities through charitable programs and contributions.

Each of the players honored, including Johnson, will have a playground built in his local community and receive a donation to the charity of his choice. One of those players also will be honored at the Super Bowl as the Home Depot NFL Neighborhood MVP. The overall winner will receive a $25,000 donation to the charity of his choice.

Fans can log on to www.nfl.com/homeDepot and cast their votes for the most deserving player starting Nov. 1.


Wilfork passionate about Pollard's hit

FOXBOROUGH – Nose tackle Vince Wilfork spoke passionately today about the Bernard Pollard hit that knocked Tom Brady out for the season.
Wilfork was fined last season for a hit on Bills quarterback J.P. Losman, and he was asked how fine a line it is between trying to make a play, and being fined for an illegal hit.

“Last year, I was there, I was tripped up and falling and I still got fined and flagged for the same exact thing. But I was tripped up. I didn’t dive at anyone’s legs, I didn’t cut a running back getting to a quarterback. And when I got fined last year, they said I got flagged because you’re not allowed to hit a quarterback below the waist,” Wilfork said.

“You take it for what it’s worth. I’ve been in that same position and been flagged and fined for it, so whatever happens, happens. I’m very interested to see what happens.”

Wilfork was then informed that the NFL ruled the hit legal.

“Well, it’s a problem. It’s going to be a problem,” he said. “Like I said, I’ve been there.”

Wilfork’s emotions were building a bit, perhaps due to the scrutiny he faced last year.

“You saw what I had to go through, hitting the quarterback below the waist last year. It wasn’t my fault … but I got flagged, a 15-yard unsportsmanlike for hitting the quarterback and I got fined, no if’s, and’s or but’s about it. Like I said, it’s very interesting to see what the NFL is going to do. They know they got me last year. I’m going to be on this one.

“Fair should be fair. They got me, point blank. I don’t want to get singled out. Don’t make me feel like I’m getting singled out. If you’re going to do a job, be consistent at what you do. This falls into the same category as mine, no if’s, and’s or but’s. He hit the quarterback below the waist. I hit a quarterback below the waist. I got fined. I got flagged. He didn’t get flagged. And from what I’m hearing, he didn’t get fined.

“It’s a problem. So the NFL can do what it wants to do, but it’s a problem. If you're going to make that call, be consistent with that call. He was there. He could have thrown the flag. ... We'll see where it goes. I'm [upset] about it because I've been through this."


Phillip Buchanon Wants to Make More Splash Plays

The St. Petersburg Times reports Tampa Bay Buccaneers CB Phillip Buchanon said he wants to make more "splash plays" this season, turning turnovers into touchdowns like he did in his days at the University of Miami. Buchanon's 26-yard score on a interception return in the first quarter Sunday was the fifth of his career but first since 2004. "It felt normal," Buchanon said with a grin. "It definitely felt like I belonged (in the end zone). After me missing the 2005, 2006 and 2007 years without scoring a touchdown, it just didn't really feel right because I'm so used to scoring."


Hundreds bid on Sean Taylor’s estate

From bedroom furnishings to a bottle of Febreze, there was no item too insignificant up for auction from the late Sean Taylor’s estate last week in Bealeton.

The former all-pro Washington Redskins’ safety, who was murdered in his Florida home in November, also owned a home in Ashburn. About 200 people — many in Redskins T-shirts and hats — packed into the Brooks Auction House in Bealeton on Sept. 5 for a chance to own a piece of Taylor’s Ashburn estate.

“I’m interested to see his stuff and what it was going for,” said Jimmy Brooks of Locust Grove, nephew of auctioneer Tom Brooks. “And the way he lived, I guess.”

Some came out of curiosity, some came out of Redskins loyalty, others were simply weekly auction regulars who grabbed a juicy hot dog from the snack bar before settling into one of the folding metal chairs. A few items of interest up for bidding included a set of custom Redskins/Cowboys pool balls and a signed Redskins football.

Bealeton resident Jeff Bland said he came specifically for the Sean Taylor items. Bland said he is a diehard Redskins fan, and was really depressed from the opening game, during which the Redskins lost to the New York Giants.

Bland called himself a true fan.

“…I’m really interested in one particular item, which is the cue balls,” he said. 

And how much was Bland willing to bid on the coveted pool set?

“I don’t know, I hadn’t really discussed that with the wife yet,” Bland said. “It all depends on the crowd. I may go as high as 100 bucks.”

Aside from the pool balls, there was not much Redskins memorabilia up on the auction block, though bidders browsing the rows of tables inferred Taylor’s family kept many items of significance.

Other lots — all marked with a “21,” Taylor’s jersey number — ranged from power tools to plastic toys, cologne to kitchen accessories. One lucky bidder won the Febreze, a stainless steel coffee cup and a wooden candlestick, all for $7.50. For $90, another became the proud owner of a wooden statuette of a nude woman, whose exposed breasts the auctioneer modestly covered with his hand while displaying her to the crowd.

One auction regular expected a lavish seven-piece wooden bedroom set to sell for at least $5,000. Redskins fan and Culpeper Middle School student Kyle King said his parents were eyeing a champagne-colored loveseat for their house.

“I’ve never done this before,” said Kyle’s mom Kristi King, who goes to the Redskins’ games every Sunday with her family. “I’ve never been to an auction. We’ve found a couple pieces we’d like to bid on, a couple sofas, some memorabilia that would be fun for the kids to have.”

As the Brooks auctioneer solicited bids in what sounded like gibberish, occasionally pausing to poke fun at the variety of items, clerks marked the lucky bidders’ winnings with masking tape and permanent marker. The proceeds from the auction, minus commission, will go toward Taylor’s daughter’s trust fund.

“So far it’s going pretty good,” said auction clerk Tanya Ring. “It’s pretty packed. It was a big tragedy when it happened — still think it’s a big tragedy. He’d just started his career, so hopefully we’ll make a lot of money for his daughter.”


49ers’ Gore shines in loss

Last weekend, the San Francisco 49ers opened up the regular season against NFC West rival Arizona Cardinals for the third consecutive year. Unfortunately for San Francisco, for the second time, it's 0-1 to start the season. And again, much like last season, the offense is to blame; this time, the unit didn't do enough during a 23-13 defeat.

Quarterback J.T. O’Sullivan’s first NFL start was nothing to write home about. He completed 70 percent of his passes but turned the ball over three times (two fumbles), was sacked four times, and never seemed comfortable. The 49ers’ offense, under the direction of new coordinator Mike Martz, only mustered 13 points against a Cardinals defense which finished 27th in the NFL last season.

At times, the offense was able to move the ball, but turnovers ultimately killed any momentum it had built up. Remarkably, the Cardinals only scored seven points off five 49er giveaways, four of which the offense was responsible for.

On the bright side for the Niners, third-year linebacker Parys Haralson -- who racked up four tackles and 2 1/2 sacks -- was all over the field. Defensive end Justin Smith, who signed a big-money contract with San Francisco in the offseason, applied constant pressure on Cards QB Kurt Warner; what's more, he was terrific against the run in racking up a game-high seven tackles, including a half-sack.

The one positive on offense was running back Frank Gore. As usual, No. 21 punished the opposing defense, giving 49er fans and coaches alike something good to take from the loss.

Midway through the first quarter, Gore gave the 49ers their only lead of the game, 7-3, when he dashed 41 yards for a touchdown. He finished the game with 151 total yards (96 rushing); unfortunately, most of his teammates didn't join the party.


Huff plates four as Orioles roll over Tribe

Aubrey Huff went 3-for-5 with a grand slam as the Orioles crushed the Indians 14-3 on Monday night.
The Orioles trailed 3-2 after five but broke out with a seven-run sixth inning that culminated with Huff's slam. He and Adam Jones both drove in four runs in the lopsided win. Huff is having an unbelievable season and is now hitting .316/.372/.581 with 31 bombs and 102 RBI, and has driven in 38 runs in his past 35 games.


Struggling Burrell Gets Another Night Off

Long before the fans filed into Citizens Bank Park just as the Phillies were strolling onto the infield grass to begin the pre-batting practice calisthenics, a video edited into a loop to play and re-play over and over again greeted the club from the Phan-a-vision hulking over the field.

And each time the video played, the laughs got harder and louder. Heck, even the guy shown in the replay enjoyed the silliness of watching himself dive in vain for a sinking line drive in left field only to have his glove fall off. Rather than pick up the glove, the outfielder dived from a crouching position like a cheetah on top of the ball as it trickled away. Finally, he calmly rose to his feet after all that hurried motion and chucked the ball back to the infield.

Needless to say, when the play was seen dozens of times over and over again, hilarity ensued.

According to manager Charlie Manuel, that kind of relaxed and fun-time attitude is exactly what Pat Burrell needs right now. At least that’s what he said in explaining why he gave the left fielder the night off on Monday as the team descends deeper into the throes of the pennant race.

“I’m trying to get him going,” Manuel said. “I just want him to sit down and relax. Take it easy – get away from things.”

Lately it appears as if Burrell has had difficulty getting out of his own way. During the 10-game road trip that wrapped up on Sunday night at Shea Stadium, Burrell went 5-for-33with no extra-base hits, just two RBIs, and 12 strikeouts. He hasn’t gotten a hit since Sept. 3 and hasn’t homered since slugging his 30th of the season on Aug. 23.

Obviously, things aren’t going well for Burrell.

Manuel says Burrell is off-balance and “too early” with his swing.

“It’s a timing, rhythm and a feel,” Manuel said about hitting. “[Burrell] needs to get it back.”

Arguably one of the team’s offensive MVP’s during the first half of the season – a start in which Burrell nearly received his first All-Star appearance – the outfielder’s fortunes began to flip in early August. He went six games without a hit from Aug. 6 to 11, snapped out of the funk briefly, but then dived back in with a jag in which he did not get a hit in 14 straight at-bats. Mixed in there was an 0-for-7 performance against the Mets where Burrell whiffed four times.

Burrell is scuffling through a similar patch now, having gone hitless in six straight at-bats with three strikeouts. So after an August in which he hit .181, Manuel decided to sit Burrell down for the third time in the last seven games.

Clearly Burrell wants to finish the 2008 season the way he started it. In April the nine-year vet reached base in 30 straight games and broke the club’s all-time record for RBIs in the month with 24.

But during the second half Burrell has taken his name out of contention for the team’s offensive MVP with a .212 batting average, seven homers and a strikeout rate that grows by the game. Always prone to a higher-than-average whiff rate, Burrell struck out in 20 percent of his plate appearances during the first half. During the second half that figure rose to 24 percent.

“He tries too hard,” Manuel said. “Sometimes when he sits down he comes back better.”


Cards activate Barton from disabled list

ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals activated outfielder Brian Barton from the 15-day disabled list on Tuesday, the first day the rookie was eligible to return to active duty. Barton had been sidelined due to a strained right oblique muscle.

Barton, however, is still limited in what he is able to do on the field. Manager Tony La Russa said that Barton will likely not hit for the time being. Barton can run, so he may be used exclusively as a pinch-runner in the short term.

"I think he would just be used to run," La Russa said. "He is cleared for that."

When Barton arrived at Busch Stadium on Tuesday, it was not yet determined whether he would be activated. Following pregame activities, however, he was cleared for limited action.

When Barton is able to participate fully, it will be a boost for the Cardinals, who do not have an obvious starter in center field against left-handed pitching. Joe Mather is out for the year, Skip Schumaker has struggled against lefties and Rick Ankiel is limited to part-time duty due to an abdominal strain. La Russa prefers not to use Ryan Ludwick in center at this point in the season, given that Ludwick is reaching career highs in playing time.

Shockey pleases Superdome crowd

NEW ORLEANS -- All it took was for the New Orleans Saints' Jeremy Shockey to make one catch against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday for the Louisiana Superdome crowd to start chanting the tight end's name.

Although Shockey didn't find the end zone in the Saints' 24-20 win over the Bucs, his play brought life and enthusiasm to the offense, which coach Sean Payton said he loved.

Shockey caught only three passes for 10 yards in the first half. The third quarter, though, is where Shockey made his presence felt. He made three catches for first downs on grabs of 8, 26 and 10 yards with two of them coming on third down.

Shockey ended with six catches for 54 yards in his first time on the field since breaking his leg with the New York Giants.


Ravens’ Reed able to play well despite injury

BALTIMORE — In the wake of missing the entire preseason with a nerve impingement, Pro Bowl free safety Ed Reed made a last-minute decision to test out his neck and left shoulder Sunday and started for the Baltimore Ravens without incident.

Reed didn’t aggravate the injury during the Ravens’ 17-10 win over the Cincinnati Bengals at M&T Bank Stadium. He recorded three tackles, deflecting one pass to cornerback Chris McAlister for an interception.

Reed said he’s not in danger by continuing to play. He took precautions against the Bengals by only doling out a few hits and generally led with his right shoulder after not having any contact during the preseason.

"They told me that there’s not any catastrophic risk, but you’re always at risk playing football," Reed said. "It’s just about being smart and not getting too caught up in the game and banging too much. You try not to feel it.

"I got contact on both sides. I hit the ground on both shoulders. I was smart not diving on tackles and joining in on gang tackles. I felt good, and we’ll see how it goes going forward."

Reed’s injury will likely continue to be a concern and will be monitored throughout the season.

The Ravens didn’t use Reed in their blitz package. He stayed back deep, remaining away from the line of scrimmage for the majority of the game.

"Health is still very important," Reed said. "It’s still day to day. We were more concerned about conditioning than anything else. Everything worked out fine.

“It’s a blessing to be out there. No hesitation, none at all. I had a couple things where I was a little timid, but I think it kind of helped me."

Reed said doctors initially informed him that he was supposed to be out for the first four or five games.

"I’m still talking about it with the doctors about if there’s any soreness or pain," he said. "We’re just being smart about what we’re doing."

McAlister and cornerback Samari Rolle also missed most of the preseason with injuries, but both played well against the Bengals as they shut down wide receivers Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh.

McAlister recovered a fumble to go with his interception.

"When they started to call the starting lineup and I saw Ed was behind me, I said, ‘Oh, we good,’" linebacker Terrell Suggs said. "I told him early in the week, ‘You don’t have to hit nobody. You just get us lined up and tell us where we got to go and we’ll be all right.’"

Plan to shut down Winslow works to near-perfection

CLEVELAND — The Dallas Cowboys’ defense had a game plan centered heavily on one Cleveland Brown — Pro Bowl tight end Kellen Winslow.

Tight ends had been known to tear apart Cowboys defenses in the past. They found coverage advantages and took advantage. But the Browns couldn’t do so against the Cowboys’ defense Sunday.

Dallas kept Winslow and all his big-play Browns teammates from changing the game in a relatively easy-looking season-opening 28-10 victory at Cleveland Browns Stadium. Winslow scored Cleveland’s lone touchdown but was mostly harmless the rest of the game and finished with five catches for 47 yards.

"In the past tight ends have been our Achilles’ heel," linebacker Bradie James said. "Once you stop the run and stop Kellen Winslow, you can pin your ears back and try to make some plays after that."

In the second half, Winslow had only one catch for 9 yards and was the centerpiece of the Cowboys’ strategy of slowing the Browns’ stars. Dallas held Cleveland (eighth in total offense in 2007) to 205 yards of offense, Pro Bowl quarterback Derek Anderson to 114 passing yards and running back Jamal Lewis to a quiet 62 rushing yards.

Also, Pro Bowl receiver Braylon Edwards had just two catches for 14 yards and never got in sync with Anderson.

It was all about game planning to stop the son of legendary Hall of Fame tight end Kellen Winslow. When the Cowboys went to their new dime formation, Winslow was covered by cornerback Anthony Henry. That’s a change from last year, when safety Roy Williams covered tight ends.

The Cowboys also gave Williams help on first and second down with, get this, outside linebacker Greg Ellis in coverage keeping Winslow from a free release off the line.

"At times we showed what kind of defense we can be, but we can play better," Pro Bowl safety Ken Hamlin said.

Cowboys coach Wade Phillips believes his defense can be better this year after having another year in his 3-4 system with talent upgrades. Now, the Cowboys feel much better about their depth. Last year when cornerback Terence Newman was out, the rest of the Cowboys’ defense didn’t know what would happen.

"In the off-season we went out and got talent," James said. "Like, last year when T-New was out, it was like a panic. We have enough people to hold it down until he gets back, and that showed up today."

Adam "Pacman" Jones, starting in place of Newman, didn’t give up any big plays as he fought off the rust, and the Cowboys applied pressure despite only one sack, by DeMarcus Ware.

The Cowboys’ only real flaw was giving up a 16-play, 78-yard touchdown drive in the first half that consumed 8 minutes, 57 seconds.

Nose tackle Tank Johnson, who expects to make an impact on the improved unit this season, was already looking ahead to next week. He had more of a glass-half-empty look at the game.

"We’re not dominant; we’re not the best," Johnson said. "We were good and we won. A win is a win. We’re not putting too much stock into beating a team in Week 1."


Broncos LB Williams signs five-year extension

DENVER -- The Denver Broncos signed linebacker D.J. Williams to a five-year contract extension Sunday.

The deal was first reported by the NFL Network and Rocky Mountain News, which said that the contract is worth $32 million, including $13 million in guaranteed money.

Williams has played all three linebacker positions since being drafted by the Broncos in 2004. He lined up at middle linebacker last season for the first time in his career, and was credited with 170 tackles, the most by a Broncos player in five seasons. He also had a sack, three forced fumbles and an interception.

The 6-foot-1, 240-pound Williams was switched back to the weakside slot for this season, as Nate Webster inherited the middle linebacker duties.
Williams was recently voted a defensive captain by his teammates, along with Champ Bailey.

After starting three years at the University of Miami, Williams was taken by Denver with the 17th overall pick in 2004. He has started 62 games since he was selected.

The Broncos open the season at Oakland on Monday night.


Texans sign OT Winston to 5-year contract extension

Deal includes $10 million in guaranteed money

Before the Texans left Houston today for Sunday’s opener at Pittsburgh, right tackle Eric Winston signed a five-year, $30 million contract extension.

His deal includes a $6 million signing bonus and $10 million in guarantees.

Winston, the second pick in the third round of the 2006 draft — 66th overall — initially signed a three-year contract that was due to expire after this season.

A Midland native who played at Miami, the 6-7, 315-pound Winston started seven games as a rookie and all 16 last year. He’s on the verge of being recognized as one of the best in the NFL at his position.

General manager Rick Smith, who negotiated the deal with agent Drew Rosenhaus, wanted to extend Winston before his contract expired after the season, which would have made him a restricted free agent.


Everett presented Halas Award at half

The Pro Football Writers of America presented former Bills tight end Kevin Everett with the George Halas Award before Sunday’s game against the Seattle Seahawks.

“It’s a great honor and to be the first Buffalo Bill to receive this award is amazing,” said Everett. “The injury was bad, but there have been some great things that have come from it. We’ve been able to help a lot of people. It’s a real honor.”

Everett became the 39th recipient of the award, given to the NFL player who overcame the most adversity to succeed last season, in light of Everett’s rehabilitation from what was initially characterized as a life-threatening spinal injury suffered almost a year ago to the day in the Bills’ 2007 season opener.

Days after doctors stated Everett was likely to have suffered permanent neurological impairment, Everett showed movement in his arms and legs and walked prior to the end of the football season.

Everett won the award among a strong group of candidates including the Washington Redskins (Sean Taylor death), Plaxico Burress (ankle injuries), and Cowboys linebacker Greg Ellis (Achilles’ tendon) and Giants quarterback Eli Manning (media scrutiny).

The Bills’ training staff was honored as the NFL Athletic training Staff of the Year by its colleagues in part for its treatment of Everett’s injury. Eleven days prior to the season opener, the Bills training staff ran through a 90-minute spinal injury drill to prepare for an injury like Everett’s.
A combination of that training, aggressive treatment by doctors and Everett’s own courage and strength allowed Everett to walk less than a month after his injury.

Everett set the crowd into a frenzy after walking to the 50 yard line and thanking the fans of Buffalo, who Everett said he was accepting the award on behalf of.

“It’s always great to be back,” Everett said. “I can’t thank you guys enough for all the love.”


Vilma posts nine tackles

Saints MLB Jonathan Vilma recorded nine tackles (seven solo) and two QB hurries in Week 1 against the Buccaneers.
Vilma could do more blitzing than he's ever done in his career for aggressive coordinator Gary Gibbs this season, and eventually those hurries will turn into sacks. He's also a legit candidate to finish in the top 10 for tackles.


Ravens expect McGahee back for Week 2

Ravens coach John Harbaugh said Sunday that "we should have (Willis McGahee) ready to go next week."
McGahee was active Sunday, but didn't play. "We were concerned about the knee," Harbaugh admitted. "We were hopeful to get him into the game at some point in time, but the way the game shook out, we were unable to do it. He'll practice in a more physical manner this week." McGahee will have a favorable matchup at Houston if he goes. Track his practice workloads this week.


Panthers' Beason has power of personality

It’s not uncommon for the most talented University of Miami linebackers to be compared with former alums from the school known for producing greats at the position.

Ray Lewis, Dan Morgan and Jonathan Vilma are just a few the former Hurricanes who made a significant mark in the NFL.

But being compared to Martin Luther King, Jr. could well have been a first (and last) when it comes to singling out a football player.

Ken Lucas’ analogy was quite a testament to Jon Beason’s power of personality. Beason delivered a heartfelt pre-game address to the Panthers prior to last season’s final home game against Dallas.

“It was one of those Martin Luther King type of speeches,” Lucas said. “It had that type of feel. It was during a time when things were hard and we weren’t playing the way we expected. Our record wasn’t what we wanted, and it was about finishing the season strong.

“I’ve probably never heard a speech like that from a coach or player before. He’s just a natural leader.”

It wasn’t like Beason felt a sudden urge to inspire his teammates as he was, after all, only a rookie. He was asked to speak by head coach John Fox in one of the rare instances Fox didn’t call on a veteran to fire up the squad.

“For him to ask me, I was moved by it,” Beason said. “But I knew I had kind of arrived. As a rookie, you may have something to say, but you don’t say it because it’s not really your team, it’s not your place. It was an opportunity to let my teammates know how I feel about the game and it was just from the heart.”

It’s obvious to anybody who watched Beason play the amount of passion he has for football. The team’s first-round draft choice was initially insurance for injury-prone Dan Morgan, but when Morgan was again lost for the season, Beason flourished.

He began the year as the first Panthers linebacker to start as a rookie since Morgan in 2001, playing alongside the vet at outside linebacker. Once Morgan went down, Beason assumed the middle spot.

“(The middle) is definitely a comfort level,” Beason said. “You can go sideline to sideline, and you’re expected to make a play. There’s definitely a mystique about that position. You go out there with a swagger and almost a cockiness that you’re the man.”

He not only became the first rookie to lead Carolina in tackles, but his 160 was a team record as he led or tied for the team-high in tackles in 13 of 16 games. Following through on his own words, Beason had a season-high 17 with a forced fumble against Dallas.

The 6-foot, 237-pound Beason is regularly credited, along with safety Chris Harris, for bringing a level of joy and intensity to playing that uplifts the team as a whole.

“He just brings a certain type of energy to the defense,” quarterback Jake Delhomme said.

In just his second season, Beason has claimed ownership of that defense, something he earned both by his play and his abundant enthusiasm. With the retirements the past two years of long-standing leaders Mike Minter and Mike Rucker, coupled with the low-key demeanor of the team’s biggest star Julius Peppers, the Panthers need all Beason can give physically and verbally.

“I’m not one to bite my tongue,” Beason said. “I try not to be a hypocrite. I make sure I take care of home before I open my mouth. I think leading by example is the key. This year I want to do my job, do it well, and hopefully the defense follows me.”


Perez earns save Sunday

The Associated Press' R.B. Fallstrom reports St. Louis Cardinals RP Chris Perez earned his seventh save in 10 opportunities Sunday, Sept. 7, as he recorded the last two outs. He had blown his previous two attempts.