McClover Signs

Darrell McClover signed with the Houston Texans on Thursday. He spent the last three seasons in Chicago and was vital to their special teams successes. Congrats to Darrell as he joins fellow Hurricanes: Eric Winston, Andre Johnson, Darnell Jenkins and Rashad Butler.


Vikes' McKinnie could avoid charges if he complies

MIAMI (AP) — Minnesota Vikings left tackle Bryant McKinnie can avoid a trial and have fight charges against him dropped if he completes community service and counseling and avoids another arrest.

Miami attorney Larry Kerr confirmed Thursday his client has been accepted into a pretrial diversion program, in lieu of a trial that was to begin Monday.

McKinnie must pay a three-figure enrollment fee, perform at least 25 hours of community service and participate in at least six counseling sessions to complete the program.

McKinnie faced four charges, including felony aggravated battery, stemming from a street fight a year ago outside a Miami nightclub. Kerr said McKinnie was grateful for support from the Vikings, their fans and his family and friends during the process.


Pat Burrell adds more than power to Tampa Bay Rays' lineup

PORT CHARLOTTE — The Rays had their reasons to make Pat Burrell the marquee off­season addition.

They like his power, his patience at the plate and the way he works at-bats. They relish the protection he adds to their lineup, the balance of another right-handed bat and the personality he brings to their already harmonic clubhouse.

But with Burrell's former Phillies team in town Thursday, old manager Charlie Manuel offered something else for the Rays to savor.

"Pat's capable of really putting up big years," Manuel said. "I don't think he's had his biggest year yet. I think his best years are still ahead of him."

The Rays would be happy with what Burrell, 32, has been doing the past four seasons, averaging 31 homers, 99 RBIs and 103 walks.

They figure that between the production he provides and what his presence does for the rest of the lineup, they'll be considerably more offensive.

"He'll have a very substantial impact," first baseman Carlos Peña said. "What he does is obvious. He brings a huge bat to our lineup, and the funny thing is he doesn't have to come out and rescue the world. All he has to do is be himself, and that's going to be more than enough."

Manager Joe Maddon said that Burrell will improve the entire Rays lineup, which sounds more and more like it might start with B.J. Upton followed by Carl Crawford, Evan Longoria, Peña, Burrell, the platoon rightfielders (Gabe Gross and Gabe Kapler), Dioner Navarro, Jason Bartlett and Akinori Iwamura.

Specifically, Burrell will force teams not to pitch around Lon­goria and Peña and throw more pitches overall, which should benefit the hitters behind him.

Crawford calls it "the fear factor."

Peña is even more blunt: "I don't know how somebody can say, 'Let me pitch around Carlos so I can pitch to Pat.' I'm like, 'What for? Why would you do that?' "

Phillies slugger Ryan Howard can relate, having seen the impact Burrell can have from the spot in front of him in the batting order.

"First off, he can add a lot of leadership, just teaching the game," Howard said. "As far as what he can provide in their lineup, he's going to work the pitchers. He gets walks. He tries to get himself a good pitch to hit by getting deep into counts. He's also going to provide a pretty nice little bang in there as well."

The only concern is how Burrell, the Phillies' full-time leftfielder the past eight years, will handle the transition to designated hitter.

He admits it's an ongoing process as he experiments with different ways to stay loose (running in place in the dugout) and has consulted former teammates Jim Thome and Chili Davis.

"I know I'm going to be somebody that needs to be active and not sit down," Burrell said.

Thome said Thursday in Glendale, Ariz., that he was happy to help, and the key is developing a routine.

"Let's face it: Pat has been an everyday leftfielder, and DH-ing is different," said Thome, 38, the White Sox's DH. "But I'm sure he'll do fine."

Manuel predicts a few big hits will ease the transition. "When he gets used to the DH, he has a chance to be real good," he said.

"He would DH a lot in interleague play. And he never got used to it, and he didn't have a lot of success (.153 average). Once he starts having success, you'll see a completely different guy."

When Burrell gets comfortable, opposing teams are going to be anything but.

"That's not the easiest lineup you want to have to pitch to," Howard said, "especially when all those guys are going hot. He's in a good situation over there."

Burrell likes the way it looks.

"You just hope to be in a situation where you have a chance to drive in some runs," he said. "That's what I'm here for."

Among other things.


Shockey angling for contract extension

Jeremy Shockey is reportedly angling for a new contract, but the Saints aren't interested in giving him one.

Shockey is due $3.025 million in 2009 and $3.825 million in 2010. The Saints have no reason to extend him after back-to-back disappointing seasons. In fact, they may just decide to cut ties with Shockey unless he performs up to expectations in 2009.


The Rock says he would like President Obama to play him in movie role

"The Rock" Dwayne Johnson says he would like President Barack Obama to play him in a biography movie about Johnson's life. Johnson played the role of Obama's alter-ego, "The Rock Obama," on a Saturday Night Live sketch this past weekend.

"I hear that we sound a like all the time," Johnson told Moviefone in an interview promoting his new movie coming out Friday. "I've gotten to know him and he's a big time athlete and loves athletics, so I'm sure he could bulk up."

The former WWE star Johnson says he talked to Obama prior to the U.S. presidential election in November and he is honored by comparisons between the two of them. He says Obama validated his work as a family movie actor.

"He did tell me that I was one of Michelle Obama's favorite actors," Johnson said. "We also talked about the importance of making family movies - he was telling me that his daughters were big fans of 'The Game Plan.'"


Edgerrin James, Javarris James hoping for rebound in '09

Hurricanes running back Javarris James and his ex-Canes cousin Edgerrin James are waiting and hoping -- Javarris for an injury-free season, Edgerrin for a divorce from the Arizona Cardinals.

After a terrific freshman season (802 yards, 4.7 per carry), Javarris battled injuries and mustered 582 yards (3.7 per carry) in 2007 and 286 yards (4.2) in nine games in 2008.

Javarris thought he would be at UM for three years and admits that turning pro was ''tempting, but I didn't have a healthy season and I didn't really accomplish nothing here.'' James said his freshman year was ''good,'' his sophomore season ''average'' and ``last year was my downfall year.''

Coach Randy Shannon has challenged him to rebound. ''He had early success and everything was so easy,'' Edgerrin said. 'You've got to continue to have that hunger. The hunger is more than just showing up and putting in the workout. . . . Life is challenging him. I was working out and I said, `Man, you see what I'm doing? I'm working without someone telling me I have to be here.' I told him he's got to work much harder than in the past.''

Javarris said, ''Maybe I need to work out harder. I don't know how that's possible.'' He said Mark Whipple's offense ''is going to be fun,'' with more chances in the passing game.

Edgerrin said, 'Whipple understands the type of player he's dealing with. I never thought Javarris' style was shotgun and gadget stuff. His thing is line up like the pros do.''

Competition is fierce, with Lee Chambers, Mike James, Damien Berry, and eventually Lamar Miller pushing James and Graig Cooper. ''My job is to make sure they don't take my job away,'' Javarris said.

Edgerrin, the NFL's active rushing leader and 11th all-time, wants out of Arizona after losing his starting job in November, despite postseason playing time. Though many expect Arizona will cut him instead of paying him $5 million in 2009, general manager Rod Graves told The Arizona Republic that until ``we feel it's prudent to release him, he's here. He's still very effective.''

Said James: ``The sooner the better. That's not what I came there for [to be a backup]. I may never get the credit, but I've only been involved in one losing season. I've carried myself the right way. To run for 1,200 yards in Arizona -- that's not easy. [Some] say I'm average. It's a joke. I'm 30, but I take care of myself. I'm going to come out on top.''


Brian Barton speeds to No. 2 spot in order

JUPITER, Fla. — A year ago, St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Brian Barton had the safety net of being a Rule 5 pick to fall back on, and that gave him an edge over other prospects when it came to making the major-league roster. Through a series of cameo appearances, splashes of production and a couple injuries, Barton was able to spend the entire year on the Cardinals’ roster (or major-league disabled list).

Now he no longer has that net.

Barton is tied for the team lead with two home runs, both on a gusty day at Roger Dean Stadium. Those are two of his four hits this spring. He has also struck out six times against two walks. Yet, his speed and often lively bat remain of interest to the Cardinals as they look if there is a second righthanded-hitting outfielder to take north. Barton has options remaining and can be assigned to Triple-A Memphis without threat of losing him or having to return him to Cleveland, his original ballclub. And this season figured to be his year to get playing time in Class AAA, as opposed to spot duty in the majors. Unless all this shuttling of outfielders into the infield (i.e., Joe Mather) leaves a role open that Barton has the most experience to fill.

Barton is in the lineup today, batting second — a spot manager Tony La Russa has put him before because he has the speed to score from first an Albert Pujols’ extra-base hit.


Tracking proCanes - Steve Walsh - is continuing our “Tracking proCanes” feature with former starting quarterback and National Champion Steve Walsh. After graduating from Cretin-Derham Hall High School in Saint Paul, Minnesota, Steve Walsh attended the University of Miami. He posted a record of 23-1 in his two seasons as the team's starting quarterback and led the Hurricanes to the 1987 national championship. Walsh held the school record for career touchdown passes from 1988-2002 before being surpassed by Ken Dorsey. Walsh was selected by the Dallas Cowboys with the first pick in the 1989 NFL Supplemental Draft where he was reunited with his former UM head coach Jimmy Johnson. Walsh went on to have an 11-year NFL career, playing for the Cowboys, Saints, Chicago Bears, St. Louis Rams, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Indianapolis Colts. Please read Read below as Steve talks to about how he was recruited out of high school, his days as a Hurricane, pro and more!

proCanes: So you're head coach at Cardinal Newman High School in Palm Beach, can you talk a little bit about how you became the head coach?  Were you always interested in coaching? 
Steve Walsh: I’ve always had a kind of secret passion to coach because it’s something I stayed involved in with the University of Miami and the various quarterbacks , mainly Kenny Dorsey. As I got out of the league and I knew enough of the coaches on the staff like Rob Chudzinski and Butch Davis and all those guys, I spent some time around Kenny as I explored coaching back in 2000.  I decided to enter the business world through a mortgage company called  Home Bank and decided to not pursue the coaching industry but it was something I always had a passion for and love and I continued to stay around some of the Miami qbs.  I then started to do radio broadcasting for FAU and over the last three years got involved in some sports through a weekly college football show called Tailgate Overtime as well as University of Miami football specials called Grilled Iron Gate. Over the last year the mortgage industry has gone through major transitions and the company shut down so I joined Country Wide and over the last year the coaching opportunity evolved. I went down to talk to Randy Shannon about coaching and possibly coming to the University of Miami and coaching.  In the end though, I just felt like it was easier for me to stay in West Palm Beach for my family and explore coaching at the high school level and see how much I do love it and then make a decision over the next five years and then decide if this is something I want to do for the rest of my life and at what level.  If this is something I do love, then I’ll explore coaching at the collegial level. 

pC: Did you have an opportunity at UM? 
SW: After I talked to Randy I think there would have been an opportunity in a graduate assistant position.  With some of his changes, would there have been another opportunity?  Maybe, maybe not.  I was exploring a graduate position with him. 

pC: You said you had a great relationship with Dorsey, do you have a relationship at all with Jacory Harris? 
SW: Not so much.  I saw [Harris and Robert Marve] before the season and talked to them on the sidelines a little bit but I wouldn’t say there is a strong relationship.  Nothing like what I had with Ken Dorsey. 

pC: Are you going to continue your stint with QAM for next season?
SW: No. That’s not going to be able to happen. 

pC: Going back to your Hurricane and NFL days what would you say was the hardest for your transition from UM to the NFL?
SW: Well I think when you go into a different system and different personnel there were a lot of challenges with the level of play.  It becomes that much better and more intense and when I didn’t feel comfortable in some of the offensive systems that we ran, that really didn’t take advantage of my skills, that was probably my challenge. You know the one system that I really felt comfortable in was in Chicago and that’s where my greatest success was. 

pC:What was the most uncomfortable system?
SW: St. Louis or New Orleans.

pC: So would you say that the Bears was your favorite stop?
SW: Yeah. My last year in the league in Indianapolis working with Peyton [Manning] and Tom Moore the Colts was really an unbelievable experience because they had a really unbelievable offensive system and Peyton and I had a relationship from my days with the New Orleans Saints so that was a real good relationship and him and I worked well together. That was a lot of fun and we were successful but certainly for me as a player personally, it was Chicago. 

pC: What was your favorite memories from the UM days?
SW: The comeback victory against Florida State, the comeback victory against Michigan.  Everybody remembers the Norte Dame loss. That’s something I‘d like to forget and then the National Championship against Oklahoma was a great memory of course. Those were just memories that every once in a while you think about a certain play or part of the game. The thing that people most talk to me about was the Michigan comeback. 

pC:How was it having Jimmy Johnson as your head coach?
SW: Jimmy was extremely passionate about being  a champion and being the best.  He would always say be the best and at the end of the day can you say you were the best? That doesn’t happen often in life.  That was what his passion and what he was about and that transcended to the players and we had that thought process and he was able to further it along with his passion. Jimmy was an incredible motivator and gifted speaker and really knew how to push the buttons of his players and that’s what I’ll take from Jimmy.   

pC: What do you think UM needs to do to become the best again?
SW: The playing field is so much more leveled than it was in my day.  You’re going into situations where if you don’t play really good you’re going to get beat and that’s the biggest thing they see about the ACC.  I think they thought they were just going to walk over the ACC and that’s really tough.  They just need to get the confidence back that they can be champions because everyone has talent on both sides of the ball and everyone has scholarships on both sides of the ball.  The difference maker is having the confidence and that confidence comes with success. It’s a fine line having that confidence and that creates success and having success creates confidence.  But when you get both of those things and you obviously mix in the talent there, that’s when you get the national championships.  There was a need for them to upgrade their talent and there is still a need for that but now they have to play with confidence, they have to have the coaches that are going to help instill and coach them on how to make the plays and then you have to go out there and do it. 

pC: So what was then the downfall the program? Do you think it was a lack of talent? Coaching?
SW: I think it’s a combination. When you bring in talent  it doesn’t matter how good they were in their highschool careers, they have to get better.   If they come in saying okay I’m at the University of Miami I’ve made it now, let’s walk over some teams, they’re going to lose.  They have to come in there with the hunger and passion to be the best like Jimmy preached and it doesn’t come easy.  You have to work hard at it and it’s not to say that they don’t work hard but when teams become champions it’s a combination of talent and hard work. 

pC: How did you come from Minnesota all the way down to Miami?
SW: Mark Trestman was the initial guy that was on me. Mark played college football with one of my highschool coaches. I was not getting recruited very heavily and he called Mark and said you want to take a look at this kid, he’s pretty talented and Mark came to take a look at me and immediately Miami started recruiting me. He mentioned me to Howard Schnellenberger at Louisville and Howard started recruiting me but I really didn’t have a lot of options.  Iowa State was always recruiting me but none of the Big Ten schools were really on me. Miami, Louisville, Iowa State, Northwestern were my choices, but it was pretty easy choice at that point. 

pC: Were you a Hurricane fan beforehand? 
SW: Oh no, I had no clue. The only Miami Hurricane game I remember watching was the Boston College game and I just thought that was an unbelievable game on both sides. I was a Kosar fan but it was an unbelievable game Boston College pulled out. I just left the game thinking I’d love to be part of a college that treated the ball like that. 

pC:I say a word and you tell me the first thing that pops in your head:
Randy Shannon: Intelligent
Larry Coker:  [Pause] Solid guy.
Orange Bowl:  A great place to play.
Dolphin Stadium:  Unbelievable facility.
Jimmy Johnson:  Motivational
The Fiesta Bowl:  Forgettable
Nortre Dame:  Intense Rivalry
pC: Do you wish that rivalry came back?
SW: I do.  I think both schools need it actually. 

pC:Which school do you think is in better shape?
SW: They [Notre Dame] are just financially. They’ve always been in a better position than Miami.   But as far as quality of the team I would say Miami. 

pC: What do you think of the move to Dolphin Stadium?
SW: I think it needed to happen.  You know Miami could not support what the facility needed done from a long term revenue standpoint for the University.  So I think it’s fine.  As a player, you had that commonality of that field that drew everybody back full circle but bottom line is the facilities are a weak link on campus and from a game day standpoint you’re not going to play in a better stadium than Dolphin Stadium so I think they solved that with one move.  Financially it was a smart move. Though financially it’s been very successful it’s just the field isn’t the same but I guess what are you going to do. 

We at would like to thank Steve Walsh for giving us his time to be our second interviewee for our new feature: "Tracking proCanes."

Kevin Brinkworth With Former UM Alums to Produce 2 HR UM Football Documentary to air on ESPN

Kevin Brinkworth, Class '96 reached out to Procanes last week regarding a UM Documentary he started producing in 2006 which focused on the Miami Hurricanes’ last season at the Orange Bowl. Brinkworth attended every home game during the 2007 season, capturing more than 15 hours of footage with a high-speed camera. He roamed the UM sideline, filming strategy sessions and coaches’ chalkboard talks. He went up to the press box, where he had an “unbelievable” interview with Ted Hendricks, ’72, a three-time All-American linebacker and defensive end for UM who played 15 seasons in the NFL. Before each game, Brinkworth taped interviews with Hurricane greats who came back to their former turf: Russell Maryland, A.B. ’90; Houston Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson; quarterback Gino Torretta and more.

Brinkworth subsequently partnered up with UM Alumni Billy Corben and Rakontur (Producer's of Cocaine Cowboys) to complete a 2 hour Documentary on UM Football which is being funded by ESPN. The documentary is part of ESPN’s 30th Anniversary Programming called "30 in 30" and will air next year on ESPN after the Heisman Trophy presentation.

Producing this documentary has been a dream of Brinkworth's for the last five years, as he's been a Canes fan since birth. Thus far they have interviewed; Melvin Bratton, Howard Schnellenberger, Larry Coker, Jon Vilma, Willis McGahee, Jeremy Shockey, Bennie Blades, John Routh (The Ibis), Don Bailey Jr, Art Kehoe, Sam Jankovich, Luther Campbell, Jessie Armstead, Drew Rosenhaus, Robert Bailey, Jerry Rushin & James T (99 Jamz). Brinkworth also has over 50 live "sideline" interviews from '91-'96, including Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson, Michael Irvin, Jim Kelly and much more. Many awesome pictures from the current interviews that have already been taped including Jeremy Shockey, Willis McGahee, Jonathan Vilma and more are here:

Please see the press release below about Brinkworth's partnership with Rakontur and ESPN. We will be talking to Brinkworth in the coming weeks for our "Tracking proCanes" feature and look forward to hearing more about this project and his days as a 'Cane.

Rakontur signs deal with UM’s Brinkworth to license footage for upcoming ESPN documentary “The U”

Rakontur the producers of Cocaine Cowboys I & II executed an agreement with former University of Miami player Kevin Brinkworth to license 40 hours of former player interviews and footage of the program dating back to 1991. ESPN commissioned the documentary and will air it part of a series called “30 for 30,” covering sports events of the past 30 years, which celebrates ESPN's 30th anniversary in 2009. No air date has been set, but the project expects to be complete by the 2009 season opener.

Corben stated, “It’s not going to be a highlight film. It’s going to be an account supported by  former players and administration recaps of how the University of Miami changed the sport in both positive and negative ways, how the small, private Southern school whose football program was on the verge of extinction in the mid-1970s changed the face of college football on and off the field forever.”

Spellman and Corben have interviewed 15 people, including Howard Schnellenberger, Larry Coker, Melvin Bratton, Luther Campbell, Robert Bailey, Drew Rosenhaus, Jeremy Shockey and Art Kehoe. Brinkworth’s footage adds another 25 of some interviews, including memoirs from Dwayne ‘The Rock” Johnson and Michael Irvin. “They’re personal accounts from my friends, my teammates. They opened up to me because I was there too,” stated Brinkworth.

Corben is had been bogged down by sscheduling a tour for the coffee-table book they're now doing with MTV Books and Cocaine Cowboys II just celebrated a well received premier. “Brinkworth is real, he was there and they former players open up to him. He has a very unique style,” Corben stated. Brinkworth has been a part of the UM program since graduation and was coached by Randy Shannon in his very first year as a Miami graduate assistant.

''I don't think anyone will come away saying we did anyone wrong,'' said director Alfred Spellman, who, along with producer Billy Corben, and Brinkworth all attended UM. ``It will be very objective and very fair. We don't come in with an agenda. We will explore why the program was under a microscope, but not in a judgmental way. We are UM fans, what do you expect?”

Lewis signs 7-year deal with Ravens

Ray Lewis officially signed his contract, and it locks him up longer than previously believed.

According to the NFL Players Association, the Pro Bowl middle linebacker officially signed a seven-year deal that totals $44.5 million, including $12.25 million in bonuses.

Because Lewis is turning 34 before the season, the Ravens probably are looking at this as a three-year deal but they are spreading the pro-rated bonuses over seven seasons. In the first three years of the contract, Lewis would earn $22 million, which was the reported deal last week.

This season, Lewis will receive a $6.25 million signing bonus, a $2.75 million roster bonus and $1 million in base salary. In 2010, the Ravens would need to pick up a $1.25 million roster bonus on Lewis and pay him $4.25 million in base salary. In 2011, there is a $2 million roster bonus and $4.5 million in base salary.

His base salaries in the final four years of the deal are: $4.95 million in 2012, $5.4 million in 2013, $5.85 million in 2014 and $6.3 million in 2015. Base salaries in the NFL are not guaranteed after a player is released.


Burrell's fifth-inning fireworks pace Rays

Pat Burrell hit his first home run of the spring, a grand slam, in the fifth inning to put the Rays up, 7-4.


Huff clears head, finds success

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - Aubrey Huff looked down at his cell phone, recognized the phone number of the incoming call and realized that he probably was about to get bad news. He just never fathomed it would be this bad.

It was around 7:30 on a November morning, an odd time for a phone call from Tampa Bay Rays traveling secretary Jeff Ziegler.

"I picked it up and thought, 'This probably can't be good.' And he said, 'Huffy, I just want to give you the heads up that Joe Kennedy has gotten into an accident,'" recalled Huff. "I was like, 'Gosh, is he OK?' It obviously had to be bad if he was calling. He goes, 'Well, he died last night.' I just said, 'What? Is this a dream?' At the end of the day, we found out what happened. When something like that happens, you come to realize what's important in life."

Huff, now the Orioles' first baseman and cleanup hitter, and Kennedy had arrived in the majors a year apart with Tampa Bay and quickly become close friends. They were both gregarious personalities and free spirits who enjoyed the big league lifestyle.

Kennedy hadn't been in an accident that day in 2007, but he had collapsed and died as a result of a hypertensive heart disease. His passing was one of several experiences for Huff that helped change his outlook, and resulted in one of the best seasons of his career.

Also that month, Huff made derogatory comments about the city of Baltimore on a satellite radio show, earning a hefty fine from the club and the jeering of its home fans. Then in November, Huff and his wife, Baubi, welcomed their first child, Jayce.

"I grew up really fast in a short period of time," Huff said. "I just let it all go. I quit worrying, especially with my son being born and Joe dying. I really had a lot of stuff going in my head and I told myself, 'This is just a baseball game. This isn't life. Just go out and have fun every day and not worry about your numbers.' When I went out there and had my best years in Tampa, that's what I did, just played the game and went out there and had fun.

"It just got to the point where it was really, really hard to deal with. I was going, 'Is this even worth it?' I know we're paid a lot of money as a professional athlete and that sounds stupid to say, but you really want to play well and compete and I was just not doing that."

Wearing No.17 last year in honor of Kennedy, Huff batted .304 with 32 homers and 108 RBIs, his best season since 2003, when he hit .311 with 34 homers and 107 RBIs for Tampa Bay. He led the league in extra-base hits (82), was third in total bases (330) and doubles (48) and fifth in slugging percentage (.552), numbers that earned him a Silver Slugger Award.

"I knew I could do it because I've done it before," said Huff, who hit .280 with 15 homers and 72 RBIs in 2007 after signing a three-year, $20 million deal with the Orioles. "Something in mid-May just kind of clicked and I don't think I've ever been in that good of a groove. I felt really good mentally for three months straight. That was as good as I felt on a baseball field in my whole career."

His performance at the plate quieted the boos from the home fans, who were still stinging from Huff's appearance on the Bubba the Love Sponge show.

"I knew the only way to make all the fans of Baltimore not hate me was to put up numbers and hit," Huff said. "In a weird way, that show was a blessing. Obviously it wasn't smart and I wouldn't recommend anybody doing it, but it turned out to be kind of a motivational factor to get myself going."

Orioles manager Dave Trembley was impressed with the way Huff was able to block out all the potential distractions.

"He has the uncanny ability when something goes wrong, he lets it go," Trembley said. "He likes to hit and he's obviously good at it. He didn't give any at-bats away, he used the other side of the field, he's not afraid to hit with two strikes. He shows the ability to hit left-handed pitching. Whatever he did, I hope he does it this year."

Huff, who is entering his free agent year, admitted that he did very little this offseason, sticking to the routine that worked so well for him following the 2007 campaign, when hernia surgery prevented him from doing any baseball activities until spring training.

He did make good use of his time off, traveling to Denver with his wife to spend time with Kennedy's widow, Jami, and their two children.

"Every day I put the jersey on, I see Joe's number and it's tough, but the days go by and it gets a little easier," he said. "She's doing a lot better and their kids are growing up nicely. Joe is one of the better friends that I've been around in baseball. It was definitely tragic, but he's in a better place."


Falcons sign OL Romberg

ATLANTA -- The Atlanta Falcons on Monday added their first unrestricted free agent from another team, signing veteran blocker Brett Romberg to a contract of undetermined length.

Romberg, 29, is expected to add veteran depth to the offense line. During his career he has lined up mostly at center, where incumbent Todd McClure has become a fixture, but can also play guard. The Falcons have been seeking that kind of versatility in the offseason.

A former University of Miami star, Romberg visited with Atlanta officials last week. The Falcons announced the signing on Monday afternoon.

Romberg became his NFL career in 2003 as an undrafted free agent with the Jacksonville Jaguars. He never appeared in a game for Jacksonville, however, and joined the St. Louis Rams during the 2006 season.

He has appeared in 33 games over the past three seasons and has started 18 of them. Romberg started nine games in 2007 and six games in 2008, when the Rams suffered a spate of offensive line injuries. The six-year veteran appeared in 14 games last season.

Chosen as the nation's best collegiate center in 2002, Romberg is a rugged in-line blocker and his style should fit well with that of Falcons offensive line coach Paul Boudreau.


Santana Moss Says Nice Things About His Coach And Quarterback

It's not really news to anyone that last season didn't end quite as well as we might've hoped -- certainly not after that strong start. And, as fans, it's our prerogative to immediately make changes all over the place in our mental depth charts for the team. We decide to (for example) elevate the third string quarterback to starter, or fire the head coach. Whatever.

But you'd really prefer that the players still have faith in their teammates and coaches, which makes this Santana Moss interview at CBS Sports a relief to read.

It sounds like you're firmly in Zorn's corner despite how the season finished up. Not every Redskin teammate would share that sentiment.

Moss: "I like Jim Zorn, I like what he wants to do, I like his whole logic to the game. I feel like he knows that this game isn't based on just passing or just running, he knows that you have to have talent all over and have key guys in key spots. I like what he has to offer us as a head coach and I'm going to back him because I feel like we all believe in his scheme and that we can be successful in it."

From your perspective, how much better has Jason Campbell become over the last season?

Moss: "I think he's gotten a lot better. Like light years. The stuff that he went through last year will make him see things more clearly this year. Last year there were situations where he was sacked a lot, and you can't blame it on that kid. You can't blame it on anybody because defenses were bringing it and they knew where we were weak and they exposed it. He gave us a chance to win every time we went out there, and that's all you can hope for.

Sure, it would have been a much livelier story if he had trashed either (or both) of them, but seeing this kind of explicit endorsement at this point in the offseason is a terrific harbinger for the 2009 season. At least, I hope it is.


Ray Lewis signs contract

OWINGS MILLS -- Baltimore Ravens All-Pro middle linebacker Ray Lewis has officially signed his three-year, $22 million contract, finalizing the agreement he reached last week with team officials.

The two-time NFL Defensive Player of the agreed to terms last Wednesday, but didn't immediately sign the incentive-laden deal.

Now, Lewis is officially under contract with the Ravens through the 2011 season.

The 10-time Pro Bowl selection's seven-year, $50 million contract that he signed in 2002 expired after last season.


Irvin's 'Playmaker' abilities on display through foundation

He wasn't running his Hall of Fame routes on the football field, nor was he talking football or giving speeches on the professional game he played so well for so long on Sunday, March 8 at the Ocean Manor Resort's Bamboo Beach Tiki Bar

St. Thomas Aquinas High School's own and Fort Lauderdale native Michael Irvin had some other important business to take care of. "We're all coming together and having a little fun," Irvin said. "It's so important. This kind of kicks off Spring Break."

Irvin was referring to the second annual charity volleyball games, which the former Cowboys wide receiver hosted with former Michigan State and NFL great wide receiver Andre Rison at the shoreline on the Galt Ocean Mile of Fort Lauderdale.

While Irvin was running around all over the court sending instructions to the Boston Village Pump Lauderdale By The Sea women's team, Rison brought his coaching expertise inside the huddle for the Bamboo Beach women's team.

All done to benefit today's children's charities, including Irvin's Playmaker Charities and Foundation, Inc. and Kid's in Distress, both of which received thousands of dollars from the event.

"Let me tell you something," Irvin said. "I don't like to refer to kids who haven't received the primary goods in life underprivileged. We're here giving kids and helping them receive the opportunity that they wouldn't otherwise have. It's about the positive things in life."

Rison would know. The four-time All-Pro selection who made 743 receptions for 10,205 yards and 84 touchdowns throughout his 12-year NFL career came from a single parent home in Flint, Michigan.

"In my eyes, with what's going on in today's society, with the economy being as bad as it is, with unemployment being at an all-time high," Rison began saying, "the fact that people of all different races, from all different parts of the world come and show their support is phenomenal. You've got people here giving care and support and giving back to those who need it through the Playmaker's Foundation and Kid's in Distress. It's a great feat."

Soulan Johnson, Executive Director of Irvin's Playmaker Foundation, estimated the fun-filled, family event would bring in approximately $5,000 to $6,000 combined toward the two local charity foundations.

Cost to attend the Bamboo Beach Tiki Bar camping grounds was $5 in order to meet and greet Irvin, Rison and current New Orleans Saints cornerback Mike McKenzie, who played his high school football at Miami Norland (1994 alumnus).

"The best part of the event is having people here who are guests being committed to making sure these charities succeed through their mission," Johnson said. "That's the basic objective. It's really simple. The bottom line is helping kids."

McKenzie didn't think twice about attending and giving back. The All-Dade county selection at free safety as a high school senior made two key observations regarding the benefits of holding such an event.

"It's about the awareness and the involvement you're able to create by getting businesses from all over Florida involved to help kids in need," McKenzie said. "People don't realize how great a demand there is for kids in need. It's huge to support these kids and to give them some extracurricular activity outside of school. By the lack of programs outside of school grounds, there's only so much the kids can do. We don't want them running wild in the streets. It's not always about the money, but it always helps."


Ravens' Ray Lewis is a consummate pro football player

The first thing that jumped out when I put in tape of the Baltimore Ravens' defense was the passion and energy and intensity with which Ray Lewis played. I could literally feel it through the video screen. It was palpable and tangible.

Before we go any further, let's get the abridged analysis out of the way. The bottom line: Lewis had a great season in 2008, and I don't use that word lightly. At age 33, in his 13th NFL season, Lewis did not lose a step. Physically, he was very close to the same player he had been in his earlier seasons, when he was universally regarded as the best defensive player in the league.

Emotionally, he remained the heart and soul of the Ravens defense, the glue that kept everything together. He performed with a young man's enthusiasm and fervor, a veteran's knowledge and wisdom, and that once-in-a-generation hunger and yearning.

We've all recognized over the years that Lewis' seeming obsession with the brutal essence of football made him different, a singular entity who performed with a kind of disciplined fury that, in an inexplicable way, was infectious and exhilarating. He had an uncommon capacity to both be a part of, yet separate from everything going on around him. Play after play, he executed his responsibilities with unrelenting determination and focus.

That unique combination of rage and intellect was again apparent in 2008. Game preparation shows up on film. We like to use the word "instincts" to describe a player's aptitude to always be in the right place at the right time. Lewis has rare instincts, yet they derive from countless hours of film study. He understands offensive formations and tendencies so thoroughly that his reactions are always primal, never measured.

It was evident watching the Ravens this past season that no concessions were made to Lewis, no weaknesses camouflaged. And that is the best barometer by which to judge his overall performance. A defense is only as strong as its weakest link. That player must be somehow concealed within the overall defensive scheme so that the opposing offense does not easily exploit him. The coaching staff did not have to compromise, or scale back to compensate for any deterioration in Lewis' game. The reason was there on film: Lewis had not regressed at all.

The Ravens defense this past season was a talented assortment of variable chess pieces and interchangeable parts. They incorporated elements of both the 4-3 and 3-4, and their blitz packages were diverse and effective. They often rushed just 4, yet two of those 4 were a linebacker and a defensive back. More times than I can remember, a rushing defender would get in clean, not accounted for by the pass protection. It was a simple concept executed brilliantly: Pressure the quarterback without sacrificing bodies in coverage.

Players like Terrell Suggs, Bart Scott, Haloti Ngata, Jarret Johnson and Jim Leonhard aligned in many different positions, and were asked to perform varying responsibilities. The defense had many components, and even more moving parts.

Lewis was the one constant: He stayed in the middle, directing traffic and maintaining the unit's core strength, regardless of the personnel and the scheme.

The Ravens played predominantly a "2 gap" concept with their defensive line. In that approach, the down linemen essentially engage the offensive linemen in front of them, preventing them from working up to the linebackers. Lewis thrived in that system. It allowed him the freedom to use his incredible instincts to run to the football.

He played inside out, continuing to display the ability to run laterally with burst and speed. There was no decline in his sideline-to-sideline range, and he still looked like a kamikaze when he fixed on his target and exploded into the tackle. He remained more than capable of delivering powerful, jarring hits.

Lewis was again an outstanding run defender. He took on blocks, was consistently physical at the point of attack. He could really fill a gap and be a downhill thumper. You don't see that as often in the NFL as you used to years ago, and Lewis excelled at it.

That's the beauty of Lewis. He plays with a toughness that knows no bounds other than the unwritten rules of combat that define one's respect for the game.

What really stood out on film was Lewis' understanding of the Ravens' myriad blitz packages, and the coverages that accompanied the various pressures. The Ravens were predominantly a zone-coverage defense, much more so than a man-to-man team. In any zone concept, particularly one played behind a blitz, there are holes that can be exploited if the quarterback can deliver the ball quickly and decisively. Lewis was outstanding at knowing where those voids in the coverage were, and immediately taking them away with his initial movement at the snap of the ball.

That kind of awareness often goes unnoticed if the quarterback throws an incompletion, or if he is forced to hold on to the ball and gets sacked. But that really speaks to the essence of Lewis as a player and a teammate. The game is about togetherness, brotherhood and accountability. You play for the man beside you. You do your job the best possible way it can be done, no exceptions, no excuses. It's a simple world of black and white, with no grey areas.

In 2008, Lewis continued to prosper in that setting. There was nothing on film that would lead me to believe he cannot do it again in 2009.
Greg Cosell of NFL Films analyzes coaching tape and is executive producer of State Farm NFL Matchup. He is a frequent contributor to Sporting News.


Salmons scores 29 in double-OT loss

John Salmons was outstanding in the Bulls' double overtime loss to the Heat on Monday, finishing with 29 points, eight rebounds, a three, two steals and two blocks in a whopping 54 minutes.

Salmons did have five turnovers, but was a focal point of the Bulls' attack and continues to be an automatic start in fantasy leagues with Luol Deng sidelined due to a leg injury.


Tracking proCanes - 5 Minutes with John Salmons went down to the "Triple A" on Monday afternoon to have a quick chat with proCane and Chicago Bull John Salmons. John was gracious enough to chat with us briefly after his shoot around. Here is what John had to say:

proCanes: What’s your feeling on coming back to Miami? You’re with the Bulls now, so you’ll be coming back a little more often now.
John Salmons: It’s always good to come back. Every time we come here to play the Heat I see a lot of friends I haven’t seen in a while and we’ll go out to dinner and catch up. It’s always a good time. 

pC: Do you go to campus at all?
JS: No not too much.  

pC: How is it going up against James Jones tonight? Though he has been battling his injury, do you guys keep in touch and talk a little trash?
JS: He is happy to be home. So it’s definitely a blessing for him. He’s hanging in there trying to get his minutes and do what he can do when he is out there.  

pC: Are you following the current Canes?
JS: Yea I have been following them a little bit. It’s going to be hard for them to make the tournament this year. I’m hoping they do well in the ACC tournament.  

pC: What other former teammates do you stay in contact with?
JS: Vernon Jennings, he’s living in Atlanta and doing real well. Paolo, remember Paolo? 

pC: Paolo Coehlo
JS: Yea we stay in touch through one of our managers so I know what’s going on with him. Alex Fraser. 

pC: How about Leonard Hamilton?
JS: Last time I saw him he was actually at Alex Fraser’s wedding. I saw him there and I keep in touch with Stan Jones also. 

pC: How was the transition from the Kings to the Bulls?
JS: It is tough being traded in the middle of the season. You have to pick up all your stuff and move. It’s a totally new situation in the middle of the season. It’s tough but my teammates have been great, the coaches have been great everybody is trying to help me. I have started the last three or four games and I’ll be tsarting tonight so we’ll see.  

pC: Thanks a lot John for your time and good luck tonight.
JS: Thank you 

James Jones Trying To Come Back

James Jones hit his first shot, a 3-pointer, which was a most encouraging development. It was only Jones' eighth 3-point conversion of the season. But that was the only shot Jones hit. He did not score again.


Burrell's Performance This Spring So Far

Working his way to the American League, Burrell has played most of his games as the DH and is doing fine with an OBP of .438. Has played a few innings in right but expect him to get some time in leftfield as well, his natural position.

( Exclusive Photos From UM Baseketball vs. NC State

It was Senior Day for Brian Asburry, Jimmy Graham, Lance Hurdle, and Jack McClinton. Check out the photos from Miami's win over NC State by clicking here.

Pictures of Edgerrin, Santana and More Out on South Beach

Payton's Wedding Reception at Soldier Field

March 7, 2009 (CHICAGO) (WLS) -- A very special wedding reception took place on Saturday night at Soldier Field.

Jarrett Payton, son of Bears great Walter Payton, got married on Wednesday in Florida.

On Saturday night, he and his bride Trisha celebrated with friends and family in Chicago.

The new Mr. and Mrs. Payton took to the floor for the first dance. Then Jarrett danced with his mother Connie and sister Brittney.

While it was a night to celebrate, it was also a time to remember the late Walter Payton and his time with the Bears.

"To be able to be here and to have this special night is something that is unbelievable and it's basically just an honor," said Jarrett Payton.

"I think its just having Walter's presence here. We know holding it here, he's with us," said Trisha Patyone.

The couple says they always knew they'd have their reception at Soldier Field.


Romberg Still Looking

Rams free-agent center Brett Romberg left Atlanta without a contract but may take additional trips and has drawn interest from Oakland.


Separation best for Cards, James

It's time to sign the divorce papers.

This legal separation involving the Cardinals and Edgerrin James isn't working. The Cardinals are coming across as manipulative, James as a spoiled athlete ungrateful for the $25 million he pocketed from this team. Release him so both sides can save face.

General Manager Rod Graves is delaying cutting James loose because, "Despite all the emotions, we have to do what's in the best interest of this team."

"Until we get to a situation where we make a roster move and feel it's prudent to release him, he's here," Graves said Friday. "While some feel he may not have the glamour and glitz of a young running back, he's still very effective."

It's a reasonable argument until you take into account that James is beginning to morph from a guy who wants out to a guy who's making a scene about it. When an writer caught up with him Tuesday working out at the University of Miami, James made sure he pointed at his Cardinals jersey hanging over a chair, and said it's right where it belongs: near a trash can. He gestured toward a photo of himself in a Cardinals uniform and said the picture needed to change. He hollered to another former Hurricanes players, Cardinals safety Antrel Rolle, and said, "You're about to have Arizona all to yourself."

OK, we get it. You want out. You don't need to turn into a cliche and trash the organization in the process. We're tired of that song and dance here.
This comes from someone who really likes James. He came here in 2006 when other big names wouldn't touch the Cardinals. He played a significant role in a postseason that gave a struggling community a much welcome distraction. He was funny, bright and often accessible.

But his darts have turned into arrows, and this organization is all about exorcizing the bad karma that for so long defined the Cardinals.
"I would certainly rather not see negative comments from any of our players about not wanting to be here," Graves said.

It becomes a tougher decision when you have just one other running back - Tim Hightower - under contract. The team wants to protect itself until the draft/free-agent picture becomes a little less cloudy. Can the Cardinals secure someone who would justify releasing James, who has one year and $5 million left on his contract? It's self-preservation and has nothing to do with wanting to stick it to James, as some believe.
James' frustration is understandable, too. He has pleaded his case to the Cardinals several times this off-season out of fear the market is passing him by.

Although 30 is a signal that a running back is near the end of his career, James still has something left. His yards-per-carry average of 3.9 last season was his best since 2005. His 133 carries were the lowest of his career, too, and nobody knows what he would have done with more.
He's the NFL's active career rushing leader and 11th all time. He is well aware of who's ahead of him, and if he had rushed in 2008 what he had averaged the previous nine seasons, he would have leapfrogged to seventh, ahead of Tony Dorsett, Jim Brown, Marshall Faulk and Marcus Allen.

If the Cardinals release him, he'll garner attention but probably not comparable money. It would have to be the right fit, a team that does not expect a big-play back but one who sets up the offense for manageable third-down distances. Only five times did James surpass 20 yards in a single carry during his three seasons with the Cardinals.

Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt is not a fool. He wouldn't have sat James during the season simply out of spite.

If the Cardinals release James, that's $5 million more in cap space, which would leave them at about $27 million under the cap of $127 million.
It's time to get moving. Let James go. The team doesn't need to start the season with a guy who doesn't want to be here. The Cardinals know that, and James should be allowed to test the free-agent market.

Sometimes irreconcilable differences are simply irreconcilable differences.


Ravens' best option was to pay Ray

News item:
Linebacker Ray Lewis came to terms with the Ravens last week on a three-year contract believed to be worth $22million. The team also signed veteran center Matt Birk to a three-year deal to replace departed free agent Jason Brown.
My take:
Whether Lewis was worth $22million on the free-agent market is irrelevant. He's worth it to the Ravens, especially in the first season of the post-Rex Ryan era.