Familiar faces returning for Firecats in 2009

The arenafootball2's Florida Firecats announced the return of quarterback Chris Wallace, receivers Magic Benton, Brent Burnside and Chris McKinney today. The quartet is among the first players to come under contract for the 2009 season.

“All four guys have been a big part of this team in the past and bring a lot of veteran experience to the table,” Firecats coach Kevin Bouis said. “They give us a tremendous nucleus to build our team around.”

Benton remains the only player to have played with the Firecats every year since their inception in 2001. After a brief retirement in 2008, he rejoined the team in Week 14 and still managed to find the end zone 13 times in five games. Already Florida’s record holder in nearly every receiving category, Benton holds af2 career records with 630 receptions, 8,293 receiving yards and 178 touchdown catches. He holds the all-time scoring record, accounting for 1098 points as well.

2009 season tickets are on sale now, with eight-game season-ticket packages starting as low as $108. Call 239-390-CATS (2287) or visit the team online at www.FloridaFirecats.com


Linebacker Morgan reinstated by NFL

Linebacker Dan Morgan, who retired last season because of injuries, was reinstated Thursday by the NFL three weeks after expressing interest about making a comeback.

Morgan, 30, signed a one-year deal with New Orleans last season and is on the Saints' roster.

Morgan had a partially torn Achilles' tendon in 2007. He had also had concussion problems throughout his career.

After sitting out last season, Morgan felt healthy enough in January to file reinstatement papers. Morgan was drafted by the Carolina Panthers in 2001 and was the 11th player taken in that draft. He earned rookie of the year honors with the Panthers and earned one trip to the Pro Bowl.

The Saints signed him last season to compete for a job at outside linebacker.


Derrick Crudup Hired

Stillman College: We hear former Miami (FL) quarterback Derrick Crudup Jr. will accept the offensive coordinator / quarterbacks job at Stillman College. Crudup has served as Forest Park HS in Atlanta.

Thanks WashigtonCane for the heads up!

NFL Superstar Ray Lewis Acquires Property in Rum Cay, Bahamas

Miami Beach, Florida (PRWEB) February 13, 2009 -- Ray Lewis, former two-time NFL defensive player of the year, acquired oceanfront property in the Paradise Is Mine development of Rum Cay in the Bahamas. Lewis, a ten-time Pro Bowl linebacker for the Baltimore Ravens and an avid fisherman and sportsman, selected Rum Cay, which is famous for its fishing boasting world record Wahoo, yellowfin tuna, snapper, bonefish and dolphin. Rum Cay provides Lewis the perfect venue to continue to catch dolphins and other fish fresh off the heels of his team's 27-9 victory over the Miami Dolphins in this year's NFL playoffs.

Rum Cay, located 345 miles southeast of Miami, is in close proximity to where Lewis played his college football for the University of Miami Hurricanes. Rum Cay is a quiet Bahamian island known for its untouched natural beauty, scenic harbors and spectacular oceanfront views. It has earned the moniker as the "unspoiled jewel of the Bahamas." The Paradise Is Mine lots on the eastern shore of Rum Cay are regarded by many people as one of the prime locations in the Bahamas and the Caribbean for future development. "Paradise Is Mine even named my street after me, 52 Lewis Lane," Lewis went on to say.

Lewis further states, "Rum Cay is truly a tropical paradise and is a great place for me to kick back and relax after a long NFL season. My corner of paradise is right on the ocean and it's very peaceful. I love it." Lewis, a former Superbowl MVP, recently off his busy schedule of off-season activities plans on building a house on Rum Cay in the near future. "Paradise is Mine couldn't be more descriptive of my oceanfront lot. There are few places in the world like Rum Cay. It's quiet, tranquil and very beautiful," Lewis recently stated. Lewis is joining the ever growing ranks of celebrities and athletes who are purchasing property on Rum Cay. "Who wouldn't want to live in paradise. Rum Cay is like discovering paradise before anybody else does."


NFLU Pro Bowl 2009 Pictures

Check out Pro Bowl 2009 photos from around the the NFL of our proCanes. Click here to see the photos.

Cardinals high on Calais Campbell

The Cardinals may let Antonio Smith walk in free agency because second-year DE Calais Campbell is waiting in the wings.

The 50th pick overall last year, Campbell is better built at 6'8/280 to play end in the 3-4 than Smith at 6'4/280. Campbell also has more upside as a pocket pusher. Smith was solid against the run last year, but he's probably gone.


Carey Could be Franchised

If the Dolphins cannot work out a multi-year deal with tackle Vernon Carey, they'll likely use the franchise tag on him, the Miami Herald reports.

Our View:Carey is a solid right tackle who creates a nice bookend with Jake Long on the opposite side. He's not extraordinary, but considering the need for tackles around the league, he would have likely gotten a hefty contract somewhere.


Bucs hire Roberts to coach tight ends

We've confirmed former Chiefs, Cowboys and University of Miami tight end Alfredo Roberts will be named the Bucs' new tight ends coach.

His addition will be among several staff moves the Bucs are expected to announce soon. Roberts replaces Bob Casullo, who departed after two seasons on the job.

Roberts most recently was the Browns' tight ends coach, charged with working with Kellen Winslow and others. Roberts was pushed out when Cleveland's new coaching staff took over last month.

Among the other moves the team is expected to announce is a change in job title for receivers coach Richard Mann. He apparently will have more influence as he now will be an assistant head coach, too.


Real 'change' in Dallas means bringing in Ray Lewis

IRVING — Now that the Dan Reeves deal is dead, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones needs to do whatever it takes to get Baltimore Ravens free agent linebacker Ray Lewis to Dallas.

If Jones is going to keep coach Wade Phillips and bring back combustible wide receiver Terrell Owens, then Jones needs to add Lewis to the mix. Now that would be a change Cowboys fans can believe in.

Forget all this change that the Cowboys have been talking about since the end of what was the most disappointing and underachieving season in team history. Phillips said he was going to change his ways and get tougher. Jones said he was going to re-examine how he goes about his business. And just the other day in an exclusive interview with CBS 11’s Babe Laufenberg, quarterback Tony Romo said he would be a different leader next season. He also said the entire team was focused on digging inside to make amends for last season and build something special in 2009.

Let’s be honest, based on their history and personalities, it’s hard to buy what the three are selling. Remember, they also made promises of Super Bowl grandeur following the 13-3 regular season and first-round playoff exit in 2007 only to reward the fans with last season’s downright criminal finish.

If the Cowboys really want to take a cue from the best change agent going today -- President Barack Obama -- and his "it’s about time, it’s about change" motto, then they need to do something bold and bad.

That means making a run at Lewis, who has put the Cowboys on the short list of teams he’d consider leaving the Ravens for. Even though Lewis will be 34 in March, he is still a highly-productive player and would make a nice fit next to Bradie James at inside linebacker.

But more importantly, the 13-year veteran brings leadership. He is the quintessential fiery team leader the Cowboys need. He is not afraid to say what’s on his mind and hold his teammates accountable. There are few players in the league respected more than Lewis for his leadership. He is the veritable E.F. Hutton of the NFL. When Lewis talks, players listen. That was never more evident than in last Sunday’s Pro Bowl when Lewis gave a fiery pregame speech that was more fitting for a Super Bowl than this meaningless exhibition game. Yet, big money and big-time stars from all over the AFC listened as Lewis passionately implored them to do something special out there.

Full disclosure here, I wasn’t initially on board with the team going after Lewis primarily because of his age and the exorbitant price tag he comes with. Plus, his celebrity status would seemingly add to the circus atmosphere already surrounding this team. But as the days have passed since the end of the season and the more the Cowboys talked (and said nothing) and the more others haven’t talked, I’m now convinced getting Lewis is a must, especially if the team decides to keep Owens on the roster.

Right now, Owens is the biggest, baddest and most dominant personality in the Cowboys locker room and it’s not even close. The scope of his power and influence goes unchallenged.

Now I don’t believe Owens is the antichrist and the source of all that ills the Cowboys. Jones gave you a little insight into his opinion on the subject when he tried to bring in Reeves to help oversee the Cowboys offense in addition to helping Phillips bring some discipline to the organization.

And Owens’ mouth had little to do with Romo’s penchant for turnovers and poor play in December or the offensive line breakdowns.

Still, the lack of leaders can’t be overlooked. Safety and special teams ace Keith Davis is arguably the team’s best leader. He talks the talk and walks the walk and will challenge anyone at any time.

Ask rookie tight end Martellus Bennett.

But Davis’ sphere of influence is too small. He is a primarily a special teamer and he might not be back next year.

Romo is the one who should be the team’s undisputed leader but, according to teammates, he is too non-confrontational to take on Owens.

That’s why the Cowboys need to bring another big dog into the locker room. That’s why they need Lewis. He will give the players someone else to look up to, someone else to follow. And if need be, he would provide the hammer to take back control of the locker room.

Financially speaking, it’s going to take a pretty penny to get Lewis out of Baltimore, but it won’t be impossible. The Ravens are unlikely to put the franchise tag on him and guarantee him $11.3 million next year. But the Ravens have said they are ready to pay a lot of money to keep Lewis.

But the facts are he is open to coming to the Cowboys. And it’s an idea that is growing legs within the Cowboys complex. Of course it will take some salary-cap magic. The key is how many years and trying to make it work in an unfavorable economic climate.

And then there’s the little matter of the Cowboys already making the signing of DeMarcus Ware to a contract extension their first priority of the off-season. Ware will surely get the richest contract in team history and one of the richest in NFL history.

But the Cowboys have worked magic before. And as of now, this is something the Cowboys must do to win back the fans and generate some excitement for next season. It’s especially necessary if they choose to bring back Owens.

The Cowboys promised change in hopes of finally and desperately making a Super Bowl run next season or at least a playoff win. Well, if the Cowboys want change the fans can believe in, then they need to sign Ray Lewis for 2010.


Ravens, Lewis negotiations expected to begin next week, More Cowboys Rumblings

There has been a lot of bantering and posturing between the Ravens and Pro Bowl inside linebacker Ray Lewis, whose contract is about to expire allowing him to become an unrestricted free agent.

But the two sides aren't expected to enter serious negotiations until somewhere between Feb 18-24, dates for the annual NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis.

Lewis' agent will be there as will Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome, and that's when the two sides can hammer out a deal, if they agree to one.

There haven't been any serious negotiations between the two sides.

During the AFC championship game, I posted a blog entry about Ray Lewis possibly signing with Dallas during the offseason.

Of course, some people thought I was making it up. But Monday, The Dallas Morning News' beat writer Calvin Watkins, a former Sun employee, confirmed on Fox Sports 1370 AM that Cowboys receiver Terrell Owens had told him Lewis called Owens last summer, and wanted the receiver to speak with Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.

Watkins also said that he believed that Deion Sanders was also involved in the Cowboys' recruiting of Lewis.


Wilfork is wondering just what the deal is

The unexpected rise of Matt Cassel and the Patriots' need to place the franchise tag on him may be having unintended consequences for the team's plans for the future and for prospective 2010 free agents seeking new deals such as Vince Wilfork.

Wilfork, one of the top nose tackles in the game and a pivotal piece of the Patriots' 3-4 defense, is entering the final year of the six-year deal he signed as a rookie in 2004, when the Patriots took him with the 21st overall pick. That deal averages $1.5 million per season.

He is due for a hefty raise, considering that 3-4 nose tackles Casey Hampton of the Steelers and Kris Jenkins of the Jets both made more than $5 million last season.

But whether it's because of the Patriots being consumed by the Cassel situation, or coach Bill Belichick dealing with turnover in the front office and coaching staff, or just a simple lack of interest in doing a deal, the team has not contacted Wilfork about an extension.

"Last year at this same time - that was the last time I heard from them," said Wilfork yesterday from Florida.

The 27-year-old Wilfork, who made the Pro Bowl in 2007 and this past season, wasn't making like Ty Law and accusing his coach of dishonesty or bemoaning an inability to feed his family.

He merely was being blunt about the lack of progress on a new contract that in an offseason without the Cassel saga probably would rank as one of the team's top priorities.

"The ball is not in my court right now," said Wilfork, who will carry an $800,000 base salary and a $1.44 million cap charge in 2009. "Nothing has happened. No progress has been made.

"I thought maybe there would be some sort of move forward, but everything is at a standstill. I'm sure they'll do whatever they have to do. I have that last year, and I'm preparing to play and play well. It's not going to change me. But they know the longer it takes the more it costs."

With $14.65 million dedicated to Cassel via his franchise tender and nearly a quarter of the $123 million salary cap ($29.27 million) currently devoted to two quarterbacks (Cassel and Tom Brady), the Patriots are not in an ideal position to negotiate with any of the 22 players who will be free agents after the 2009 season.

That is a group that includes Wilfork, guards Logan Mankins and Stephen Neal, defensive ends Richard Seymour and Jarvis Green, tight ends Benjamin Watson and David Thomas, linebackers Tedy Bruschi and Mike Vrabel, running back Kevin Faulk, placekicker Stephen Gostkowski, and cornerback Ellis Hobbs.

Take the quarterbacks' combined cap hit and throw in wide receiver Randy Moss's $10.5 million charge, Seymour's $9.79 million, and the $6.4 million that linebacker Adalius Thomas is slated to count and you potentially have nearly $56 million - or 45 percent of the cap - tied up in just five players.

Although none of the team's current free agents - a group headlined by safety James Sanders and wide receiver Jabar Gaffney - figures to break the bank, it might take a trade of Cassel or Brady to free up the money to do new deals with the would-be free agents.

"I hope whatever they have going on gets cleared up sooner rather than later," Wilfork said. "I'm looking forward to a new deal, and I'm looking forward to the 2009 season. We have unfinished business as a team, and myself, I have unfinished business as an individual.

"But you know me, I'm going to play hard regardless of the situation. One thing they don't have to worry about is me preparing hard, working hard and playing my tail off, with or without a contract."

Wilfork also made it clear that he didn't begrudge Cassel for cashing in while he could.

"I'm happy for Cass," said Wilfork. "He proved a lot of critics wrong. He raised expectations throughout the year, and he deserved everything he got. I don't look at him no different. He's one of my teammates, and I'm happy for him.

"I'm very happy for a guy like that, a guy that a lot of people wrote off in the preseason. He put up numbers that a lot of the so-called 'good quarterbacks' didn't. It was a steppingstone season for him. He deserved everything he got."

Now the question is, when will Wilfork get what he deserves, and will it be from the Patriots? Or will he be the next Asante Samuel and end up in a contentious stalemate with the team and eventually play somewhere else?

For now, Wilfork will sit tight and prepare to play out the final year of his contract.

"I'm going to have to be cool with playing out the year," he said. "It seems [a new contract] hasn't happened yet. I see a lot of guys getting deals in my position. There are guys in my draft class in the last year or two who got a deal. If I don't, I'll play out the contract and see what happens."


Hot Button: NFC South

New Orleans Saints

Primary issue: Linebacker Jonathan Vilma was one of the few bright spots on the defense last season, but he can become a free agent. Vilma has said he wants to return and the Saints have said they want him back. But there is no deal in place yet and the Saints are waiting until the start of free agency to keep down the cost of draft picks they owe the New York Giants and Jets in trades for Vilma and tight end Jeremy Shockey.

It's a little risky to let Vilma hang out there because another team could swoop in and steal him away. But you have to believe the Saints will make sure they keep Vilma. They need him to be the centerpiece of the defense for new coordinator Gregg Williams to succeed.

Solution: Hope they've already got a handshake deal in place with Vilma. The Saints have a bunch of other needs and they can't afford to let their one certainty get away.


Report: Ray Lewis would be pricey to tag

NFL.com's Adam Schefter reports that it would cost the Ravens $11.3136 million to franchise tag free agent Ray Lewis.

It would give Lewis the highest salary of any linebacker in history, at age 34. Schefter points out that the franchise tag must be either 120% of a player's last year salary or an average of the top five players' salaries at the position, whichever is greater. For Lewis, the 120% raise is greater.


Ravens-Ray Lewis contract chatter

March 31, 2008: Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti tells The Baltimore Sun the franchise is in an "open dialogue" with Ray Lewis about his contract situation. "If he becomes a free agent next year, I think the Ravens would probably outbid other teams," Bisciotti said. "We know Ray's value more than the other teams. We know the leadership he brings to the team. We know the commitment and the effort he gives to winning."

November 2008: In the week leading up to the Nov. 30 game against the Cincinnati Bengals, Lewis tells The Sun he hopes the Ravens don't use the franchise tag on him. ""If the season ends and I'm a totally free agent, for the first time in my life I will be totally free," Lewis said. "You know what that feels like for a man? It's one thing to deal with a contract. It's one thing to deal with life without a contract. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel to make my own decision."

Jan. 21, 2009: Bisciotti tells the media he isn't planning on using the franchise tag to keep Lewis in Baltimore for the 2009 season. "Ray is not going to settle for something that he thinks is way below" his market value, Bisciotti said. "If he wants to go out there and maximize his money and somebody is desperate for that kind of leadership, then there may be a big gap. And I'm not going to say to Oz [general manager Ozzie Newsome]: Go do it under any circumstances."

Jan. 25, 2009: Linebacker Terrell Suggs suggests to Sirius NFL Radio that he, Lewis and Bart Scott give the Ravens a discount so all three free agents can return to Baltimore. "We've already seen one of our other brothers [linebacker Adalius Thomas] walk," Suggs said. "We really don't want to see too many more of us walk away from the city of Baltimore. Hopefully we all can stay, definitely, on a home discount."

Jan. 28, 2009: Former Ravens tight end Shannon Sharpe tells The Sun he advised Lewis to re-sign with the team. "I told Ray: 'Consider returning. You're like [John] Elway in Denver and [Dan] Marino in Miami. They should erect a statue of you next to Johnny Unitas. That's the kind of impact you've had in Baltimore. That should mean something to you.'"

Jan. 29, 2009: Lewis is noncommittal about his return to Baltimore in his first comments to the media since the Ravens' 23-14 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC championship game. "What I'm thinking, nobody needs to know," Lewis said. "I've given my prayers to God. It's between me and him. It's nobody else's business. That's between me and God."

Feb. 4, 2009: Lewis tells the NFL Network that he won't offer the Ravens a hometown discount for his services. "I don't play less," Lewis said. "If you don't play less, you don't take less. That's just life."

Feb. 8, 2009: Ravens coach John Harbaugh tells USA Today he's optimistic about the team's chances to re-sign Ray Lewis. "Steve [Bisciotti, team owner] said he thinks we'll be willing to pay more than anybody else," Harbaugh said. "I know Ray has to take a look around. But I'm definitely convinced that Ray wants to finish his career a Baltimore Raven. And there's no question the Baltimore Ravens definitely want Ray."


Will Jonathan Vilma return to the New Orleans Saints?

Q: Jeff, do you think the Saints will resign Jon Vilma? If they can't, will they pick up a mid-level free agent or draft a linebacker to take his spot? Finally, I'm a big fan of Illinois corner Vontae Davis. Do you think there is a chance the Saints could take him at 14? I think Davis and Tracy Porter together would be a great tandem. Matt, New Orleans.

A: Matt, there's no reason to think Vilma will not be back with the Saints next season. He and his agent, Mitch Frankel, have indicated their desire to return to New Orleans. Saints officials, including new defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, have made no bones about their desire to get him back. When both sides are motivated, a deal usually gets done. If Vilma truly is not just practicing lip service then I don't see why he wouldn't sign early in the first week of free agency because I think the Saints are prepared to make him a viable contract offer. Remember, while the Saints can't sign him until after the start of free agency there's nothing saying they can't work out a handshake deal behind the scenes. Trust me, it happens all the time in this league. As for Vontae Davis, I've heard mixed reports. Like his older brother, 49ers tight end Vernon Davis, Vontae has tremendous physical skills and the ubiquitous "great upside." Also like his bro, he's been labeled raw, inconsistent and lazy. Not sure that scouting report fits the Saints M.O. However, Gregg Williams has had success tapping such talents in the past so his selection would not be out of the question. He's projected as a mid-first round selection and would likely be on the board if the Saints stay at No. 14.


Olsen honored at annual Comcast sports awards dinner

LAKE FOREST, Ill. – Tight end Greg Olsen was honored as the Bears player of the year Monday night at the 21st Annual Comcast SportsNet Sports Awards at the Hilton Chicago.

Olsen’s 54 receptions this past season were the most by a Bears tight end since Hall of Famer Mike Ditka had 75 in 1964. And with five touchdown catches, Olsen became the first tight end to lead the Bears outright in that category since Emery Moorehead also had five in 1982.

“This is a great honor for me to be here tonight to accept this award,” said Olsen, who was selected by the Bears with the 31st pick in the first round of the 2007 NFL Draft.

“I’m very fortunate to play in Chicago. It’s a great city to be an athlete. They treat us really well. The Bears thankfully drafted me when they did. I couldn’t be happier. My teammates and coaches have been great to me, and hopefully I’ll be here for a while.”
Other Chicago athletes who were honored included Reed Johnson (Cubs), John Danks (White Sox), Patrick Kane (Blackhawks), Drew Gooden (Bulls) and Brian McBride (Fire).

The athletes chosen all made considerable contributions to their teams as well as the Chicago community. The dinner, which benefits the March of Dimes, was emceed by Chicago radio personality Steve Dahl.


Heat expects big things from James Jones after All-Star break

PHILADELPHIA — Soon, school will be out for Heat forward James Jones.

"I'm expecting big things out of him in the second half of the season," forward Udonis Haslem said.

That means Jones, Miami's angular, 6-foot-8 sixth-year small forward, has to become proficient in the Heat's unusual system of defensive rotations. He also has to get comfortable offensively alongside ball-handling guards Dwyane Wade, Mario Chalmers and Chris Quinn. And Jones has to do it quickly.

For the past few weeks, Jones, who has played in 11 games for Miami, has been cramming. Pre-season wrist surgery put him way behind and he's been watching extra film and doing other homework to catch up.

But the Heat (26-22) needs him now, as in today's 7 p.m. game at Philadelphia (24-24). With guard Daequan Cook home nursing a bruised left thigh, the Heat has an opening for a long-range shooter. Jones, who tied for third in three-point percentage (.444) last season with Portland, was signed as a free agent for that purpose.

"I'm anxious to get involved and have a bigger role and do more," Jones said.

But first, there's the defense. Almost every first-year player struggles with it because of the Heat's system of rotating and helping.

"Because we force the ball baseline and not to the middle, a lot of times we' re not guarding our guys straight up," Jones said. "We're influencing them one way, so they have a slight half-step on you. That half-step means your defensive reaction time is sped up so much faster. It's unnatural, but you get used to it."

It helps that Jones, who seems to have moved past Yakhouba Diawara in the lineup, is a smart player.

"He's got a great understanding of the league tendencies and really pays attention to the game plan," coach Erik Spoelstra said.

Offensively, Wade is trying to fast-track Jones' learning.

"I want him to shoot it every time he touches it in practice just so he can get the feel of it," Wade said.

Wade has also told Jones he'll try to give him the same shots he gave Cook, who ranks sixth in three-pointers made at 105.

"Hopefully after the All-Star break he'll be where we need him," Wade said.

Once that happens, it's on, Haslem said.

"I even envision lineups where we can put him at the four (power forward) and maybe me at the five (center), or whatever the situation might be, and we can put an all-shooting lineup on the floor," Haslem said. "There are a lot of different things you can do with a guy like James."


Could Edge be bound for the Buccaneers?

Edgerrin James, expected to be released by the Cardinals, reportedly wants to finish his career in Florida.

The Tampa Tribune reports a "piping hot" rumor about Edge joining the Bucs, but it turns out to be simply an ESPN analyst suggesting Tampa as a sensible landing spot. The Bucs should be rebuilding on offense instead of throwing money at aging mediocrities.


Cleveland Browns QB Ken Dorsey

BEREA -- Linebacker Antwan Peek and quarterback Ken Dorsey were among the seven players released by the Browns today.

Dorsey started three games last season after injuries to Brady Quinn and Derek Anderson, but suffered a season-ending knee injury December 21 against Cincinnati.


Report: Edge reiterates he wants to be cut

Edgerrin James reiterated Monday to the Cardinals that he wants to be released, according to Profootballtalk.com.

James, who rushed for 236 yards in four playoff games, is overvaluing himself. He wants to be a feature back again and won't get that opportunity as a free agent. Edge's best course of action would've been to take a pay cut with incentives giving him a chance to earn the money back in Arizona. Instead, he'll likely find himself as the lesser half of a committee elsewhere.


Why should Ray stay? Let me count the reasons

Preakness organizers recently announced live musical performances would replace allowing fans to bring their own liquor store as the primary way to sell tickets to the illustrious horse race. Since the only Buckcherry songs I know I learned at Night Shift, I decided to delve deeper into the band's musical library.

It was during my personal listening party that I heard a little ditty titled "Don't Go Away."

Here's a snippet:

"All the things you said

And all the games we played

Will come back to you

See the look in your eyes

Ooooh, don't go away

Please don't go away

You're making a mistake

You and I were meant to be

Please don't go away

You're making a mistake"

Besides making me long for my days at Night Shift, it made me think of ol' No. 52, and all the reasons why Ray Lewis should stay a Raven:

52. You had us at "hello."
51. Your baby mommas always will know where to find you.
50. If you leave, how do we know the team won't pack up and move to Terre Haute, Ind., in the middle of the night?
49. Like steamed crabs, Berger Cookies and a high murder rate, you are entrenched in this community.
48. When Mr. Ray of Mr. Ray's Hair Weave died, you filled our entertaining-guys-named-Ray void. We have no successor if you leave.
47. Good luck finding another team with not one, not two, but three mascots.
46. No other defense is good enough for you.
45. Now that The Examiner is going out of business, you'll only have to deal with reporters from The Sun -- and you know that'll be a cakewalk.
44. Matt Stover admitted he would say "darn it" if you left.
43. I've heard what opposing fans say about you at road games. We would never say those things about your momma. Ever. Unless you leave.
42. Because of you, I no longer think fur is murder.
41. Trying to spot you in the crowd is the only reason to watch Maryland Basketball.
40. Keon Lattimore still has some unpaid parking tickets at Mount St. Joseph that need to be addressed.
39. It's not a great time to put a mansion with purple-painted walls on the market.
38. Your departure may cause business at Ray Lewis' Full Moon BBQ to suffer. Oh, wait.
37. You would earn about $9.4 million this year if you get slapped with the franchise tag. In this economy, that's a pretty good wage. It's like making 15 bucks in 1779.
36. No one is going to rename Martin Luther King Boulevard after you with that attitude.
35. Next to the Aquarium and Duck Boats, you are our biggest tourist attraction.
34. Who is going to keep rapper Nelly relevant, while at the same time make me get my freak on during pregame introductions?
33. A couple more Pro Bowl seasons and that spot in the Great Blacks in Wax Museum is yours, baby.
32. Steve Bisciotti thinks you're neat.
31. I can't afford to shell out another $100 for a new Ravens Fathead.
30. There is so much unfinished business at Eastern Motors.
29. No one gives glory to God like you.
28. Shannon Sharpe told you to.
27. I'll have to buy a new Ravens jersey. (Don't be selfish, Ray. I just lost my job.)
26. You are the best bowler in town - and that's saying something around these parts.
25. Dallas Cowboys?
24. Terrell Owens has mocked you -- on more than one occasion.
23. Tony Romo is a sissy.
22. I heard the roof on the Cowboys' new stadium is structurally unsound.
21. Ed Reed doesn't play in Dallas.
20. The Mayor of Dallas doesn't just hand out gift cards on a whim.
19. Miami Dolphins?
18. Do you really want to share a locker room with Joey Porter?
17. You think wearing purple is bad -- have you seen the Dolphins' uniforms?
16. Anita Marks will probably follow you to South Beach.
15. Haloti Ngata doesn't play in Miami.
14. The Mayor of Miami doesn't just hand out gift cards on a whim.
13. New York Jets?
12. Rex Ryan told me he never wanted to see you again.
11. Good luck finding a one-room co-op in Manhattan in your price range.
10. The media doesn't play in New York.
9. The Mayor of New York doesn't hand out gift cards on whim, but he does hand out million-dollar gifts to Johns Hopkins.
8. Cal Ripken Jr. stuck around -- even after the Orioles' dogged his dad.
7. When Adalius Thomas, Jamie Sharper and Edgerton Hartwell left, they were never the same. If you leave, we will never be the same.
6. The person in charge of placing the 2x4 piece of grass on the field for your introduction will probably be out of a job.
5. Purple and black brings out the black and blue in your eyes.
4. Johnny U didn't look right in another uniform and neither will you.
3. You finally have a quarterback.
2. The job here is incomplete.
1. What's your name? Ravens.


Ravens ready to pay big to keep Ray Lewis

HONOLULU — Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, 33, says his best football is ahead of him and he will "be buckling up a chin strap for someone at the beginning of next season. Whatever happens, happens."

Though the impending free agent talked on the NFL Network about the possibility of reuniting with ex-Ravens defensive coordinator and new New York Jets coach Rex Ryan as well as saying flattering things about the Dallas Cowboys, Ravens head coach John Harbaugh is convinced a deal can be struck to allow the two-time defensive player of the year to end his career as a Raven.

Owner Steve Bisciotti has said he's putting his wife on a budget to be able to afford Lewis, fellow linebackers Terrell Suggs and Bart Scott, center Jason Brown and safety Jim Leonhard, who all become free agents Feb. 27.

"Ray Lewis is going to be a guy we're going to pay a lot of money to in order to keep," Harbaugh said before coaching the AFC in Sunday's Pro Bowl. "Steve said he thinks we'll be willing to pay more than anybody else.

"I know Ray has to take a look around. But I'm definitely convinced that Ray wants to finish his career a Baltimore Raven. And there's no question the Baltimore Ravens definitely want Ray."


Braun Save Us from A-Roid

I think back to The Empire Strikes Back when it comes to A-Rod admitting to using performance enhancing drugs.  Specifically the scene where Luke stops his Jedi training and faces Vader.  As Luke runs off, Obi-Wan claims in a defeated tone that there goes the only hope and Yoda responds that there is another.  Today, baseball lost its only hope to wash away the taint that Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Roger Clemens, anybody else named in the Mitchell Report and 103 unnamed players who failed drug tests in 2003 have left on the game (the run-on sentence is on purpose). 

Alex Rodriguez got to see himself live long enough to be villain.  He will now be booed at every enemy venue and possibly never voted into the Hall of Fame unless he drops 80lbs and still socks 50 home runs.  Even then that might not be enough.  Instead of restoring luster to the home run record when or if he passes Bonds, A-Rod and Bonds can compare which grade of synthetic testosterone helped them get to the record.  Rodriguez was supposed to be the white knight of the game.  He was going to break the home run record Barry Bonds had no business owning and this steroid era could be forgotten any time a Hall of Fame vote was not being conducted.  Instead, he is now the dark knight and not in the Batman way.  He is a cheater, a spinster, an A-Fraud.

He duped us all, and just like Tom Hicks, we can not demand our money back.  What makes this worse is the game's integrity will continue to limp along until another wunderkind arrives and avoids injuries without the help of HGH.  That other hope that Yoda would speak of might be in our own backyard.  Ryan Braun has the tools, moxie, and the humble arrogance to restore peace and fair play to the game.  The guy is just cocky enough to prove he can break records without the help of science.  Plus, he claims to see the ball in HD.  The guy has already put up some monster numbers in just one and half seasons (71 home runs, 203 RBI, and 320 hits in just 264 games).  The issue is the numbers have to get bigger in a hurry as Braun has father time in his way with Braun being 25.  A-Fraud had similar numbers to Braun's by the time A-Fraud was 23.  Bonds had to allegedly do enough steroids to kill small animals and break the single season record just to get within a sniff of Hank Aaron.  The pace has to pick up if he is to even dream of 500 home runs let alone passing the all-time home run fraud.

There are some other new hopes out there.  Other candidates to maybe put up record numbers to clean up the Bonds taint include:
-Matt Holliday (although he is no longer playing at hitter friendly Coors Field),
-Mark Teixeira (he would have pound a lot of home runs to even get close to 500 home runs and he shares a locker room with A-Roid)
-Albert Pujols (who knows how long that elbow will let him continue to play at a high level)
-Prince Fielder (although he is an ice cream sandwich away from eating himself out of the league)
-Ryan Howard (a legit contender but does that big bat have enough power to hit 763 home runs?)
-Josh Hamilton (too bad home run derby homers do not count)

Either way baseball's hero is now a villain.  A-Rod may be sorry but he is forever a cheater.  He is a player that has now tainted the game.  You would never expect the janitor to leave a mess but in this case that is what A-Rod did.


ProBowl NFL U Stats

Clinton Portis: 5 carries for 18 yards and 2 receptions for 18 yards

Reggie Wayne: 4 receptions for 45 yards

Andre Johnson: 2 receptions for 29 yards

Ray Lewis: 3 tackles

Jon Beason: 4 tackles

Jeff Feagles: 4 punts with a 48.5-yard average

Clinton and Shark Interview

Clinton and Shark from Tanner Cooley on Vimeo.


KAPOLEI, Hawaii - Andre Johnson can’t stop smiling.

He’s had the red carpet rolled out for him twice before in Hawaii, but he never was able to share his enjoyment with teammates.

“It’s always fun to come to the Pro Bowl,” Johnson said. “I think this year is much better than the ones in the previous years because I have teammates here this year. It’s a lot more fun to have two teammates here with me.”

Seeing how much fun defensive end Mario Williams and tight end Owen Daniels are having reminds Johnson of his first Pro Bowl trip.

Reflecting on a productive season in a tropical setting like Oahu may be the best incentive for a player to return to the Pro Bowl.

“Just from talking to them and seeing them in practice, they really enjoy this Pro Bowl and they definitely say it’s something that they would never ever want to miss again,” Johnson said.

Coming off a record-breaking season, Johnson is spending his Pro Bowl week exactly the way fans might expect: relaxing by the pool and enjoying the serenity after an eventful and hectic year.

Johnson rarely has escaped the spotlight after leading the NFL with 115 receptions for 1,575 yards (13.7 avg.) and eight touchdowns in 2008. He was named to the AP All-Pro first team and won the NFL Alumni Wide Receiver of the Year award last week in Tampa, Fla.

While he enjoys the accolades and attention, Johnson also cherishes his free time in a time zone four hours behind Houston.

“I really just use vacations to rest,” Johnson said. “This is a time you can get away, be away from your family and a lot of your friends and things like that. You can just keep to yourself because of the time difference.

“When (people) call you, it’s late where they’re at and it’s early over here, so the time doesn’t match up and you get a little free time to yourself.”

Quiet afternoons on the beach this week have given Johnson some perspective on his incredible season. By all accounts, his performance is the most impressive by any player in team history.

His yardage total was the most in the NFL since 2003, and his total catches were the third-most since 2000. During the course of the season, Johnson surpassed both the 5,000- and 6,000-yard plateaus for his career and topped 450 career receptions.

Yet Johnson talks about his stats in the same hushed tone as he might discuss what he ate for breakfast. Of course, that’s one of the most endearing characteristics of No. 80.

“I felt like I had a great season,” Johnson said. “It’s the best season I’ve had since I’ve been in the NFL. I’m going to continue to work and hopefully next year I go out and have a better season than I did this season.”

One can only imagine what type of offseason training regimen Johnson would have to endure to exceed his 2008 exploits. But that topic is for another conversation. Right now, Johnson is having too much fun.

“To be honest, I couldn’t tell you,” Johnson said about when he’ll begin again. “One day, I’ll just get up and say, ‘Hey, I’m ready. Let’s start getting ready for the season.’ I’m pretty sure it will be sometime soon. I couldn’t tell you how soon, but it’s coming.”

Carney, Feagles representing the 40-somethings

KAPOLEI, Hawaii: Pro Bowl week has been anything but routine this year.

For one, Arizona Cardinals players are getting praised for their Super Bowl run. Also, the younger players have taken over the role of pranksters, taking jabs at the most-senior Pro Bowlers — New York Giants kicker John Carney and punter Jeff Feagles.

Two months away from turning 45, Carney is the oldest player ever to participate in a Pro Bowl, according to Elias Sports Bureau.

"I'm a close second," said Feagles, who's a month away from turning 43.

Carney and Feagles are the only players here born in the 1960s. They are so old that some of their NFC teammates were still in diapers when they entered the league two decades ago.

Feagles, who has a child about to start college soon, said he doesn't have too much in common with the younger players — and they're not swapping iPods by the pool.

"Our playlists are a little bit different," he said.

And the players, especially the five other Giants, aren't pulling any punches in the dressing room of the team hotel.

"We've heard it all," Carney said. "They say, 'Don't forget your Depends and stuff like that.'"

"Depends. Tums. Maalox," Giants long snapper Zak DeOssie added as he walked by.

Carney and Feagles, however, are obviously taking it all in stride and actually consider it an honor. They are both making their second Pro Bowl appearances, and their first since the mid-1990s.

"It is what it is. We're the old men of the team," Carney said. "But we're enjoying playing with today's superstars in the NFL."

They even added to the fun, in one of the memorable moments of the week, that had the entire NFC laughing.

Carney and Feagles came out to the practice field wearing leather helmets, bearing the Giants' symbol and their numbers.

"It looked great," Giants center Shaun O'Hara said. "It looked like their rookie year."

Carney said he took it out of his closet and dusted it off. He and Feagles actually ordered them online and had the Giants equipment guys dress it up with the Giants logo.

"This game is real special because at our age, you really don't think you're going to get back here. For me, it was 13 years ago," Feagles said. "It's most likely our last time, but who knows. But this is one of the goals we wanted to make."

As much harassment they take, they understand there's an element of respect and admiration. DeOssie said what the two have been able to accomplish is incredible.

"They've been working hard all year long and they're the epitome of perfection," he said. "It's so good to have these guys out here."

Feagles said most players realize that after 20-something years in the NFL, they're doing something right.

"We've been able to compete all of our careers and there's always younger guys trying to take our jobs," he said. "John and I both understand there's no substitute for experience and a lot of coaches think that, too."

Usually after the joking is over, Carney said, the players ask them about the secret to their youth. O'Hara says he already knows the secret.

"As kickers, they don't hit, they don't get tackled, they don't do much," he said. "So they don't age in dog years like the rest of us. They probably get more sore from playing golf than they do at practice."

O'Hara and DeOssie said no one should feel bad for the old men.

"Feagles? I bust his chops all the time, but he gives it right back," he said. "He's a good prankster and I'm just working on getting better."

Also, O'Hara knows when to back off.

"One thing you learn in the NFL is you don't want to want to mess with the kickers too much because they're the ones with the most time, so they can always get you back," he said.


Irvin says he's cooperating with Dallas police

DALLAS: Former Dallas Cowboys receiver Michael Irvin says his lawyers have been in contact with police over him being threatened with a gun.

Dallas police said last month they suspended their investigation because Irvin never returned their followup calls.

Irvin said Friday that he filed a police report after the Jan. 12 incident, when two men in another vehicle pointed a gun at him at a stoplight.

The Hall of Famer and broadcast analyst told KTVT-TV that he just returned to the Dallas area Friday morning. Irvin says he was in Tampa, Fla., for the Super Bowl, and then went to Los Angeles.

Police confirm they've been talking to his attorneys. Sr. Cpl. Kevin Janse says police have no reason to doubt Irvin.


Turner will receive assist from Chudzinski

Great news for those who think Norv Turner had too much on his plate being both the Chargers head coach and offensive play caller:

Turner thought so, too.

At least, he believed he could be more effective if he could lighten his load.

So Turner hired an assistant head coach to alleviate some of his duties during the week and on game days.

“I'll be freed up to do stuff,” Turner said. “... When you're comfortable with everyone around you, it frees you up to do something else.”

Turner completed the restructuring of his coaching staff last week when he brought back Rob Chudzinski as tight ends coach and gave him the title of assistant head coach.

The lofty title was necessary because Chudzinski was in demand as a candidate for offensive coordinator, and because Turner had for some time desired a right-hand man to entrust certain duties.

Chudzinski, a candidate for the coordinator jobs in Detroit, San Francisco and Tampa Bay, was the right fit for numerous reasons.

The 40-year-old coached the Chargers' tight ends in the 2005-06 seasons, so he is familiar with the offense and much of its personnel. And he spent the past two seasons as the Cleveland Browns' offensive coordinator.

“He brings another set of eyes and other opinions,” Turner said. “He'll mesh with what (offensive coordinator) Clarence (Shelmon) does, what (quarterbacks coach) John Ramsdell does. It just strengthens our offensive staff. It's continuity, but a new set of ideas.”

The plan is for Chudzinski to be in the booth on game days, allowing Ramsdell to move down to the sideline to go over photos, what happened on the previous series and what the plan will be for the next series. That means Turner won't have to be the one talking with quarterback Philip Rivers and spending time evaluating what comes next on offense.

Ramsdell, who plays a large role in overseeing the passing game, and Shelmon, who does the same with the running game, can also communicate on the sideline in proximity to the players they coach.

Chudzinski will be “the main guy” Turner communicates with during the game, as he will be in the booth evaluating the opposing defense.

“It frees me up in terms of the whole game,” Turner said. “It's another guy who has called a game, managed a game and had to handle different things.”

Turner is looking forward to the extra help during the week.

Chudzinski can devise practice schedules and assist with game-planning when Turner is required elsewhere – fulfilling administrative or media obligations or even becoming more involved in the situational planning for the defense and special teams. Situations with players and officials also come up during the week, and Turner can turn an offensive meeting over to Chudzinski to attend to those circumstances.

“Sometimes you have to pull away,” Turner said, “and you can't have everyone waiting on you.”

For Chudzinski, this job gives him an opportunity to have new responsibilities that will bolster his resume.

“The biggest thing is to be able to grow in your career and prepare yourself for the future and enjoy where you're at right now,” he said.

Being familiar with Turner helped too. The two crossed paths in 2002 and 2003, occasionally even watching each other's practices when Chudzinski was offensive coordinator at the University of Miami and Turner held the same position with the Miami Dolphins.

Chudzinski likes the opportunity for input that Turner encourages his assistants to make.

“It seems like it's a real team effort,” he said.

Turner also spoke of the additions that coordinator Ron Rivera made on his defense, bringing in defensive line coach Don Johnson and secondary coach Steve Wilks. Turner believes Rivera's familiarity with those two will add to the effectiveness of the defensive staff.

“Three years ago, Ron and Steve Wilks and Don Johnson were coaching in the Super Bowl with a pretty good defense,” Turner said. “It's guys Ron is familiar with.”


Lewis wouldn't likely justify the cost to Jets

Ray Lewis to the Jets?

Sure sounds intriguing, especially given that new coach Rex Ryan was Lewis' defensive coordinator with the Ravens.

But before you get too worked up about the hard-hitting Lewis joining forces with Ryan with the Jets, a lot has to happen before there can be a deal.

For starters, Lewis has to get to free agency in the first place. The Ravens are interested in bringing him back, and it's not out of the realm of possibility that they will make a run at keeping him before the free-agency signing period begins Feb. 27

But league sources tell me the team is almost certain to let him get to free agency, if only to allow him to satisfy his own curiosity about how much he can make on the open market. Lewis will command a salary in the range of $9 million to $10 million per season (if not more), and though he still is an elite player, that is an awful lot to pay a 33-year-old inside linebacker.

Yes, Lewis gives you instant leadership and a commanding presence on the inside. But he alone cannot be expected to transform the Jets' underachieving defense. They already have a quality inside presence in David Harris, who might not be in Lewis' class just yet but is a rising young player. What this team needs is a better pass rush.

Salary is another problem. The Jets are limited in terms of salary-cap space, and Brett Favre's situation only complicates matters. The Jets will give him some more time to ponder whether he wants to play; in the meantime, his $13- million salary for 2009 still counts against the salary cap.

Lewis said he'd want Favre to be on the team this season, but if both players were to be on the roster, the Jets would be unable to maintain their salary-cap numbers without releasing other players.

With Ryan in only his first season as coach, he'd more likely be interested in keeping a larger number of younger players rather than investing more than $20 million in two players near the end of their careers.

There is no denying Lewis' potential impact on the Jets, or any other team. But Favre proved last year that the Jets weren't just one offensive player away from making a Super Bowl run. Same goes for the defense in 2009. Lewis alone won't make a big enough difference to justify the cost.


Edgerrin James: Likely to be Released

James is virtually certain to be released by the Cardinals this offseason, the team's official site reports.

This has been in the works for months. The fact that James reclaimed his starting job in Week 17 and fared reasonably well in the playoffs isn't expected to change that. James believes that he can still be an effective starter and his performances from Week 17 through Super Bowl XLIII (a 4.5 YPC average on 75 carries) provide some hope. However, he stumbled to a 3.5 YPC average as a starter in Weeks 1-8 and he lost his starting gig in Week 9. James has declined sharply over the last three years and he will turn 31 during training camp. He may not find much interest on the open market.


Ranking this year's Dolphins: Who had the biggest impact?

10. Right tackle Vernon Carey - Four-year starter made a smooth transition back to right tackle and was steady and durable all season.


Vilma's arraignment delayed

MIAMI – The arraignment for Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma has been delayed, according to his agent Mitch Frankel.

Frankel said Vilma’s attorneys informed him of the postponement.  The linebacker was scheduled to be arraigned Friday in a Miami court.
No future date has been set for Vilma, according to Frankel.

Vilma was arrest by Miami Dade police in January for reckless driving and resisting arrest.  According to police, Vilma was detected by police for speeding, weaving in and out of traffic and running a red light.

Frankel said Vilma was upset about the arrest and planned to vigorously fight the charges.