Tracking proCanes - Billy Corben - "The U" Film is continuing our “Tracking proCanes” feature with someone who is not a former University of Miami Athlete, but nonetheless an alum of the University of Miami and is heavily involved in spreading the spirit of the University of Miami Athletic program, specifically the football program, through his new film “The U” which will air on ESPN on December 12th at 9pm after the Heisman Trophy Presentation. Billy Corben was born in Florida and graduated from the University of Miami where he majored in political science, screenwriting and theater. His feature documentary directorial debut, “Raw Deal: A Question of Consent,” premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2001, making him one of the youngest directors in Sundance history. Examining the alleged rape of an exotic dancer at a fraternity house at the University of Florida, the film utilized extensive clips from videotape footage of the alleged assault. Considered by critics to be “one of the most controversial films of the modern day” and “one of the most compelling pieces of non-fiction ever produced,” (Film Threat Magazine), “Raw Deal” has been seen all over the world. Following that success, Corben and producing partner Alfred Spellman founded rakontur, a Miami Beach-based content creation company, and took on another Florida true-crime story, this one closer to home. The New York Times called “Cocaine Cowboys” “a hypervent-ilating account of the blood-drenched Miami drug culture in the 1970s and 1980s.”

Corben is now putting the finishing touches on the film, “The U” which is described here: Throughout the 1980s, Miami, Florida, was at the center of a racial and cultural shift taking place throughout the country. Overwhelmed by riots and tensions, Miami was a city in flux, and the University of Miami football team served as a microcosm for this evolution. The image of the predominantly white university was forever changed when coach Howard Schnellenberger scoured some of the toughest ghettos in Florida to recruit mostly black players for his team. With a newly branded swagger, inspired and fueled by the quickly growing local Miami hip hop culture, these Hurricanes took on larger-than-life personalities and won four national titles between 1983 and 1991. Filmmaker Billy Corben, a Miami native and University of Miami alum, will tell the story of how these “Bad Boys” of football changed the attitude of the game they played, and how this serene campus was transformed into “The U.”

proCanes: How did you come up with the idea for the film?
Billy Corben: Everyone in our company, Rakontur, are Miami natives basically. So one of the mandates of our company is to not only tell great stories, but tell great Miami stories. The Hurricanes of the 80’s in particular is one of those great Miami stories. It was one of those stories on our list for a long a time to tell and we had an opportunity to pitch it to ESPN and we took that opportunity. The inspiration was really growing up in Miami and seeing the dramatic impact, not only in sports, but in our community in terms of pop culture, in terms of the merging of sports and entertainment, this profound effect the Miami Hurricanes had being the team of the 80’s.

pC: What's the official name of the film?
BC: The temporary working title of the movie was “Hurricane Season,” and now it is “The U” and just “The U.” There have been some internal discussions about adding a subheading to it, but right now it is just called “The U”

pC: How did you end up partnering with ESPN?
BC: Like I said, this story of the Hurricanes of the 80’s was on our short list, of great Miami stories that we wanted to tell and ESPN Films was doing some really great work and we called them up and Connor Schell, he happened to have been from Miami and gone to high school in Miami and he knew all about this story of course, not to mention he was a big Cocaine Cowboys fan which was really exciting and fortuitous for us. We went up to New York and met with everybody at ESPN films and eventually went to the Bristol CT headquarters and met all the people we have been working very close with on this movie and they loved the idea. They loved our take on it. They loved our angle on it. To their credit, they loved that we were also alumni and graduates of the University [of Miami] working on it. They’ve also given us a lot of creative freedom and autonomy on this project to tell it in our voice. It’s definitely ESPN Films presents, there’s no doubt about that, but it is our voice, it is Rakontur’s voice telling the story just like all the 30 for 30’s. These are all personal stories. All the filmmakers have a personal relationship with these stories and it’s no different here with Rakontur, me and the Hurricanes. ESPN is producing over the course of just a couple of short years, 30 movies with 30 filmmakers. I mean movie studios these days don’t even do that. So they are working their asses off, to help all of us craft these individual unique visions, 30 of them. They’ve just been incredibly cooperative and helpful and supportive to work with. I really appreciate and I can’t imagine having made this movie with anyone else and for anyone else other than ESPN. We approached them, we pitched the story, they loved it and have been behind us ever since.

pC: You went to UM, were you always a UM fan?
BC: My grandfather had season tickets in the 40’s in the Orange Bowl and as long as I have been alive, my dad has had season tickets to first the Orange Bowl and now of course Joe Robbie, Pro Player, Dolphin, Land Shark Stadium, J-Lo Stadium whatever the hell it’s called. I think it’s Buffet Stadium, that would be fun at least or we should just call it Margaritaville. Why don’t we just call it Margaritaville and drop stadium from it? My dad has had season tickets as long as I have been alive and I grew up going to ‘Canes games. Whenever I could go, I would. I’m talking about five years old at the Orange Bowl. Some scary stuff. The Orange Bowl was quite an intimidating environment for a little kid. You could actually feel the stands move and shake as the crowd built up and roared and back in the 80’s, the crowd would often get built up and roar. I remember the feeling of that stadium. It felt like that stadium was going to come apart as everybody was stomping and cheering and screaming. I remember even being that young and realizing what an absolute sensation this team was, and these players were. I was conscious, even then, of a good show, the spectacle of a great story. You could just look down at the field, at that stage and know you were witnessing the greatest show on earth. I’ve never seen football or entertainment like that since. It’s a shame. It’s a shame that football can’t be that fun and that passionate and that exciting and that enthusiastic. Later, you know, we have the Miami rules, the excessive celebrations penalties which are just ludicrous and literally take the joy and the thrill out of a game being played by 18, 19, 20-year old kids and you would hope they would be able to enjoy it now as much as they enjoyed it then and as much as the crowd enjoyed them enjoying it.

pC: What's your favorite memory of the Hurricanes when growing up?
BC: It’s tough because I was so young going to some of these early games. In high school, when I have more distinct memories I didn’t go to as many games as I would’ve liked to, in fact I didn’t go to any of the Championship games at the Orange Bowl, unfortunately. My dad had friends to take with those tickets and he wasn’t going to let me have one of those tickets or maybe he sold them, who knows! Those were expensive tickets, even in those days, so who knows.

pC: How different was it doing a film like this as opposed to Cocaine Cowboys?
BC: Well, no joke, they’re actually very very similar. One is about Miami and cocaine and one is about Miami and college football, so see, they’re very much alike! [Laughter] In fact, Cocaine Cowboys fans will find that structurally there are a lot of similarities. Cocaine Cowboys opens with the city of Miami, as a sleepy little town. “The U” opens with the University of Miami as this institution of higher learning with a not so great football team going through six coaches in seven seasons, just really on the verge of extinction. The University of Miami had already cut basketball and football was the obvious next step for the trustees to cut and they managed to get one more lease on life, higher one more head coach, to see if they could make some thing happen and they happen to higher Howard Schnellenberger, which was of course the big shift in the fate of this program. So, the movies [Cocaine Cowboys, The U] kind of begin similarly in that regard with the old archival footage of the campus, which was a very lily-white campus in Coral Gables. We have this old classic tourism film about Coral Gables, just like at the beginning of Cocaine Cowboys we have those tourism films of Miami and Miami Beach and you’re about to see the Cocaine Cowboys come in and turn the city upside down and turn it into what it is today and the same thing happens in “The U.” In comes this remarkable football team, these groups of men, these different teams that made up the Hurricanes in that decade and they’re about to come in turn the campus upside down, college football upside down and eventually professional football on its head. So, really, they’re actually very similar films and not to mention there’s a nostalgia today for both the Cocaine Cowboys era in Miami where anything goes, it was the wild west, there was a lot of money, a lot of parties a lot of fun, even though here was murder and mayhem, you still have that nostalgia. Same thing with the Canes, there’s an even greater nostalgia for the ‘Canes of the 80’s and the exuberance and enthusiasm and style that they brought to the game despite the fact that there was some negativity some negative press some bad news from the program and that time period. There is still that very strong passion and nostalgia for the ‘Canes of the 80’s just like the Miami of the 80’s of Cocaine Cowboys.

pC: Who would you say was your favorite interviewee?
BC: Man, that’s tough. That is tough because we did something like 40 interviews of head coaches, assistant coaches, players, from quarterbacks, wide receivers to some of the greatest defensive players to ever play the game of college or professional football. This is a real tough one. Finally we just got the Michael Irvin interview so there is a certain sweet smell of success there and he was as good, as we knew he was going to be in his interview. Jimmy Johnson was sensational. Lamar Thomas was hilarious. Bernie Kosar was a sweetheart and offered a lot of great insights that we wouldn’t have otherwise gotten had we not interviewed him. Alonzo Highsmith was great. Mel Bratton was great. Jeremy Shockey, you had no idea what that guy was going to say next, he was a classic interview. That’s a real tough one. Which one was my favorite? Too hard to say, too hard to say.

pC: How long will the feature be for ESPN?
BC: We’re going to get a two-hour broadcast block so without commercials the total running time of the movie is going to be about 100 minutes, which is barely enough time to tell the story of the four national championships that we’re telling. 1983, 1987, 1989, 1991 seasons. It’s tight squeeze, it’s tight squeeze.

pC: How difficult was it to get the player interviews, were former players receptive to the idea?
BC: Good question. Very little trouble getting the interviews from the players. Except for Michael Irvin, which was a bit more of an uphill battle, but ultimately he agreed to talk to us and was terrific. Like Michael Irvin said and a lot of these guys said, the years playing for the Hurricanes were some of, if not the best years of their lives. To call someone up and say “hey will you come and talk about some of the best years of your lives” doesn’t require a lot of arm twisting. The biggest problem was the University of Miami who was not supportive in the least of the project, which was funny because I did the math, of our full-time employees at Rakontur and the independent contractors that worked on “The U” and we have combined, no less than 20 years, 20 years, at the University of Miami, that we spent as students. You do the math, that’s at least 2 million dollars in tuition, at least, for all of us and all the years and semesters we spent there. Not to mention we still get multiple emails a day asking us to donate money to the University and yet I approached the University of Miami as an alumni, as a graduate. I said “hey can we get access to your archives, your photos, your films, we’d like to interview Randy Shannon, we’d like to interview Paul Dee” and they told us to go screw ourselves. Here we are, School of Communication graduates made good, telling the definitive story of the University of Miami Hurricanes in this era for ESPN, one of the biggest, if not the biggest cable networks in the universe, basically producing a two-hour infomercial for the University of Miami. They should put Rakontur’s name on a building when this is all done. I don’t know how they measure in cash, the contribution of a two-hour primetime infomercial for the University of Miami and the extraordinary history of the football program. Nine p.m. after the Heisman Trophy ceremony on ESPN. I was really disappointed at the level of professionalism or lack thereof, and lack of support that we got from the Athletic Department and the University administration. They should really be ashamed of themselves of how they treat their alumni. It’s not like we went to them for money, we didn’t need money, ESPN was financing the thing. We went to them for support. Let us interview some people who are currently employed by you. Let us get some access to some of your archival materials and like I said, they sent us packing. Considering the quality of education that I got at the University of Miami for the money I spent, I like to say it’s a TJ Maxx education at Neiman Marcus prices. The least they could do was be professional and be courteous to alumni.

I resigned my position on the Citizens Board, a very prestigious Board of both alumni and influential people in the community who are actively involved in fundraising efforts for every program of the University. I resigned as a result of the disrespect that the University showed us. What was interesting about it, was that the University not only blocked our access the small handful of people, Randy Shannon and Paul Dee mostly, who are currently employed by them who we needed the University’s permission in order to get access to them for an interview. Not only did they block that, but they attempted be obstructionists about it. They were telling other people such as Coach [Dennis] Erickson, not to give us an interview. It’s one thing to say, no we can’t as a University endorse, though we didn’t ask for their endorsement, participate in this, it’s another thing for them to go out and try to obstruct our ability and access to people that are no longer employed by the University. So we went out to Arizona State to interview Coach Erickson and he said ‘you know, I called the University to follow-up on this request and to see about the project and they told me not to do it.’ I was like “you’re kidding?” It’s one thing for the University to say we’re not participating and do whatever you want but to tell someone not to participate?

Fortunately for us, everybody pretty much, especially the players, didn’t care what the University had to say, certainly were not going to be kept from telling their story. That’s literally what this is; this is the player’s stories. If you’ve seen any of our Rakontur documentaries Cocaine Cowboys, Cocaine Cowboys Two, Raw Deal, A Question of Consent there’s no narrator there’s no real point of view of the filmmakers forced upon the movie. It’s not a Michael Moore movie. It’s not a big expose or anything. This is their opportunity to tell their story in the first person. I always say Rakontur is first person productions. It’s not about “they and he” it’s about “I” and “we” and that’s what we got here fortunately, because the players weren’t going to listen [to the University]. The players didn’t listen to the administration back when Tad Foote was trying to implement a code of conduct and dress codes, so they’re sure not going to listen to the administration now telling them not to participate and thank goodness for them. These are men of character and men who are great characters and fortunately I think virtually everyone we approached, now that Michael Irvin gave us the interview, pretty much everyone we approached said ‘yes’ except for a very small handful of people employed by the University.

pC: Talk about going down to Jimmy Johnson's house in the keys.
BC: Holy crap. Jimmy Johnson has life perfected, perfected. He makes Jimmy Buffet look like a stockbroker. This guy is doing retirement right. It’s amazing. He’s got this beautiful house, right on the ocean, and he very graciously invited us down there to interview him. We had a real small window of opportunity because, as he put it, he could ‘hear those fish biting out there’ and literally the background of the shot while we’re interviewing him is his fishing biddies loading up his fishing boat that’s in the background of the shot. They’re putting the bait on, the light beers, because Jimmy’s on light beers now, he’s on a diet, they’re loading up the Subway sandwiches, the fishing rods like right in the background of the shot [laughter]. They’re like ‘sorry guy we’re just running through!’ and Jimmy was like let’s do this, let’s do this. So we ran the interview and literally the last thing we did was just an intro we recorded and he said ‘alright guys, thank you, that’s it!’ He leapt down off the chair, ran into the background of the shot, jumped on his fishing boat and they just took off into the Atlantic [Ocean] to go fishing. It was awesome. There we all were, me and my crew just standing there with all of our equipment set up in Jimmy Johnson’s back yard thinking this is the coolest job ever. I got him and everybody else to sign this football. I mean everybody that we interviewed signed this football and it’s amazing. It’s like 40 signatures from the greatest players, coaches assistant coaches and one of the greatest athletic directors, Sam Jankovich, who signed this ball. It’s an amazing artifact that we have from making this movie.

pC: I assume you have a lot of footage that won't be shown on the ESPN feature, what will you do with that?
BC: That’s a great question too, because we always have a glut of extra footage. We’ll probably have some exclusive deleted scene that you can embed on the site at some point before or after the movie premiers. We’re definitely putting together quite a DVD package. To me actually, as a movie buff and DVD collector, my number one, top bonus feature that I look for in a DVD, if I am going to buy it or rented it or whatever, is deleted scenes. To that end, all of our DVDs, Cocaine Cowboys One especially, Raw Deal, A Question of Consent, on those two DVDs we put over 30 minutes of deleted scenes and deleted footage on there. That to me is a real serious value. That’s another 30 minutes of movie that you didn’t get and not to mention it’s a real insight into the film making process because you have to make a lot of tough decisions when you’re editing a movie especially a movie that has to be 100 minutes for television that’s got to tell the story of the Canes from the late 70’s into the early 90’s. I mean, obviously, as you said in your question, a lot of footage is going to wind up on proverbial cutting room floor. Fortunately there is no cutting room floor, it’s all digital non-linear editing, so we have all of those scenes, deleted lines, deleted scenes, deleted sequences, we have them all in a lock box in a folder in Final Cut Pro where we can go back to and access those for additional content. It’s definitely something whether it’s on, the ESPN website, certainly on the DVD you’re going to get a whole lot more of “The U” after the movie premiers.

pC: What phase are you in terms of the feature? Done? Editing?
BC: Man, oh man. This is an epic. ESPN is doing these 30 for 30’s which is 30 different documentaries by 30 different filmmakers about some extraordinary sports story of the last 30 years to celebrate ESPN’s 30th anniversary. They first came on in the fall of 1979, so right now they’re celebrating the 30th anniversary. When ESPN picked us up, we were not a part of the 30 for 30 series and then they announced the 30 for 30 series and told us that we were going to be one of the only two-hour 30 for 30s because the rest of them were all one hour. So, really all of the 30 for 30s are pretty much about one player or one game or in the case Barry Levinson, one band, the Baltimore Marching Band and this movie is an epic, it’s an epic. It’s one of the few, if not only, 30 for 30s that is about four national championships in under 10 years of a single team. This is an epic!

To that end, it has been an ongoing editing process not to mention that we just got a Michael Irvin on October 29th. We had locked pictures, so we thought several weeks ago, Two weeks ago we did live recording sessions that we put live on U-Stream so you could hear live a 14-piece orchestra all week long recording the music. Halloween weekend we spent editing the Michael Irvin sound bites into the movie which of course will make the movie longer which means we will have to cut other things out which means the shape and timing of the movie is going to change. We are still very much editing the movie but at the same time we are also recording the score, the original music, we are actually recording an original song, actually this is breaking news, I don’t think anybody knows about this. We are recording an original song, main title song, theme song with Luther Campbell last week which was pretty incredible. It’s an old school Miami based two live crew sounding styled song, which Luther is going to do the lead vocals on. We’re doing the graphics work, designing a beautiful lower thirds effect, I’m not going to give away the surprise but it’s a pretty bad ass concept very consistent with the spirit of the U. We’ve got some beautiful graphics work and animation that’s going on right now. So we’re really doing everything at the same time right now to try and finish this movie. ESPN said the movie is premiering December 12th at 9pm, I told them you will not have it a minute later than 8:45 pm on December 12th. At this rate that might be about when we deliver [laughter]. The movie is looking great, it’s sounding great. We’re making a lot of last minute changes. I asked ESPN at the end of the second hour of the movie if they could have a SportsCenter break, this just in ‘this just in, SportsCenter, “The U” is going into overtime” so we can make the movie a little bit longer.

pC: What's one thing you learned from making the film that you didn't already know about the program?
BC: Well I’m tempted to just say you have to watch the movie to find that out, but I’ll give you one. Jimmy Johnson’s Thursday night meetings, which I didn’t know about, but hearing about it from Coach Johnson, from the players, it took on a new life and a new depth and new meaning to what was otherwise sort of anecdotal stories about these mythical Thursday night meetings. Art Kehoe even told us, that he wished that he had gone to one, but never actually made it to one of the Thursday night meetings. Commentary from the players and coaches of things like that, that are really really compelling. Everything else that I learned, that I didn’t know about the team or the program I’m going to let you watch the movie and find out for yourselves something that maybe you didn’t know about the program.

pC: How would you say this film is different from other sports documentaries?
BC: First of all I don’t really look at it as a sports documentary. I look at it as a sports culture documentary. I look at it as a Miami story. I look at as a lot of things, but not just a sports documentary. I think it talks a lot about the atmosphere in Miami in the 1980’s, the racial tensions in the community, the fact that we had not one, not two, but three incidents where police officers murdered young black men that led to multiple race riots over the course of the decade, starting 1980 with the McDuffie murder and riots going all the way to 1989 with the Lozano shooting and subsequent civil unrest and this was the environment and the neighborhoods where a lot of the great players in South Florida were recruited by Howard Schnellenberger and Jimmy Johnson and it gave these players a perspective and a fire, a passion for the game. As Mel Bratton put it ‘football was the way out of the hood.’ They played with that passion and that fire and that swagger that nobody had ever seen anything like it before. Not on TV, anyway. Hip Hop culture and street swagger and Miami street swagger is now pretty much mainstream, but back in the 1980’s that was not what most of America knew. I think about pop culture references to black America in the 1980 and we have the Cosby Show and as far as music goes you had Run DMC, which was pretty tame Rap music. Luther Campbell was just coming on the scene, gangster rap was just coming on to the scene, it was very controversial and not ready for primetime. But here you had these players also not ready for primetime but right there in living color on your TV set every Saturday playing football and displays that you had just never seen before. That’s what the movie is about to me. Yes, it’s a great team, yes it’s certainly about four National Championships in a span of less than a decade, but it’s about these men and these personalities and the character and the characters that made up this team.

pC: Some former players I have spoken to have expressed concern over what sort of light the film will portray the “U.” What would you say the film is trying to portray?
BC: I’ll tell you this. I’ll tell you this. ‘Canes lovers who watch the movie are going to walk away from the movie still loving the team and maybe loving them even more. ‘Canes haters are going to walk away probably still hating the ‘Canes [laughter] for the same reasons they hated them before, but I think with a new level of appreciation or maybe even respect for how this team changed; first pop culture, then college football, then professional football maybe not in that order and really professional sports in general. I think this is a real opportunity for the team, the players, the coaches to tell their story from their perspective and respond, let’s say, to a lot of the criticism and the negativity that’s been around. There’s no doubt that we’re pretty objective in this film, we do present the other side of the story. But here you have first hand the Canes responding directly to that criticism and that controversy. Whether or not that makes everybody happy, whether or not that generates more controversy, we’ll have to see when the movie premiers. I don’t think anybody will throw a bottle at my head like poor Dan Le Batard [laughter]. He wrote something that pissed of a fan, I really hope I will not have enter the witness protection program after we premier this movie.

pC: You interviewed Coach Dennis Erickson, Larry Coker, Jimmy Johnson and Howard Schnellenberger. Talk about those interviews and just the difference between the 4 coaches and what they had to say.
BC: Coach Coker unfortunately is not going to be in the final cut of the movie, because we do not go all the way to 2001. Originally when we had conceived the movie we were possibly planning on going to ’01. We’re not now. This is just going to be the team of the 80’s, the Canes that were recruited primarily by Schnellenberger and Jimmy Johnson and that continued to play in the early 90’s and won in 89 and 91 with Coach Erickson. Right up to the Pell Grant scandal and the sanctions is kind of where we end our tale. In talking about Howard Schnellenberger, Jimmy Johnson, and Dennis Erickson, you could even tell today, interviewing them and watching their interviews in the movie exactly the kinds of personalities and exactly the kinds of coaches that they were and that the players and assistant coaches talk about. Their personalities are right there perfectly on display.

With Schnellenberger you get the stature of this man and the rich history of football that he brings to the table. You understand the reverence that these players had for him and you could practically still smell the cherry flavored tobacco smoke coming down the hall before he walks into a room and he’s a real presence to this day. That growl low voice that he has really contributes to the whole persona which continues to this day and you really understand why the players respected him, paid attention to him and did not want to disappoint him. They wanted to go out and win for him.

Jimmy Johnson, same thing. I mean you see Jimmy Johnson on TV every week on Fox and he’s just got that energy, and that enthusiasm, that passion, that fire that these players came along with. I think Don Bailey Junior told us in his interview, Jimmy Johnson had a chip on his shoulder from his time at Oklahoma and everything and he came in like a lot of these players did, with that chip on his shoulder. And Jimmy talked to us about how he could relate to a lot of these players because he was the first person in his family that went to college. A great line from the movie from Dan Le Batard, which I was going to tell you, but I think I am going to save it for the movie, it’s a great line about the relationship and connection Jimmy Johnson had with his players, motivating these players the right away you can see why Jimmy Johnson became, as Michael Irvin said: “A lot of the guys on the team, myself included, didn’t have fathers, grew up without fathers and Jimmy Johnson became all of our fathers.’ You can see the warmth. I mean watching the archival footage, Jimmy and the team in practice and on the sidelines in games, in the locker room, there’s always an arm around a shoulder, an embrace after a touchdown, I mean there was a bond and a level of warmth and not just respect but you know a familial bond and a love for each other and the game and that is so apparent in talking to Jimmy Johnson today.

Robert Bailey said in his interview ‘Coach Erickson was like when a substitute teacher comes into class.’ Everybody is just going mess around as much as possible and as much as they can get away with. Erickson you can see, he said in his interview ‘that the players taught him more about football, their lives, and their culture than he probably taught them.’ At the same time you can see that this is a guy knew enough to stay out of their way and to devise tactics to channel their energy off the field onto the field and into winning games on the field. You can see that he is cool and quiet but at the same time you can see he is calculating how to get these players to do what they need to do to win games. There’s no doubt that he did it, winning two national championships.

pC: Did you talk to some of the Hurricane QB greats? Talk about them and their personalities.
BC: This is not a “Quarterback U” documentary but you can’t make a documentary about the Hurricanes in the ‘80’s and not talk to some of the great quarterbacks. We talked to two in particular, both of who won National Championships. We talked to Bernie Kosar and Steve Walsh. Both were terrific and not unlike the coaches, even to this day could understand the personalities that made them leaders on the field. Bernie Kosar was about as nice and gracious a man as I have ever met. He actually did the interview less than a week before the news broke about his financial difficulties and it really broke my heart to read about that in the Miami Herald. He really could not have been a nicer guy, more gracious guy and less than a week before that news broke, did not let on at any point before, after or during the interview that he was dealing with the kind of problems he was clearly dealing with at that time and we really appreciate his time, which he gave us quite a lot that day. His insight into Howard Schnellenberger as a coach, some of his teammates and what went into being a freshman quarterback coming out of that quarterback preseason contest of the ’83 season that Schnellenberger had him and Vinny Testaverde endure to see who was going to get that starting position. It’s actually a great deleted scene from the movie that hopefully will see the light of day somewhere online or DVD about that quarterback competition and how Vinny Testaverde was clearly, to coach Schnellenberger and to Bernie Kosar, clearly the better athlete pound for pound, pass for pass and how Schnellenberger just had a feeling. They go into that season and lose that first game against the University of Florida and perhaps this looks like Schnellenberger‘s folly and Schnellenberger famously said that he went back and looked at the film from the game and determined that play by play statistically the Hurricanes beat the [Florida] Gators, just not in the final score and he was able to, I think, instill that enthusiasm and that inspiration in Bernie and in the players, that you were clearly the better team there, now we have to make that reflect on the scoreboard and that is what they did for the rest of the season with this freshman quarterback who ended up winning all of their [remaining] games and go to the Orange Bowl against Nebraska for the National Championship that year.

pC: What do you think about the move to Land Shark Stadium?
BC: I was on the University of Miami Citizen’s Board, a position that I resigned from, as a result of a lack of cooperation the University gave us on this project and I was on the Board when Paul Dee came and made a presentation at a luncheon about the options that the University was facing with regard to which stadium to contract with, to have the Hurricanes games and it broke my heart to see the Orange bowl torn down, in fact it’s something, that even though this movie is not about the Orange Bowl and the destruction of the Orange Bowl plays a very important visual element in our movie at the end of it. It felt right especially because of the rich history of the stadium. At the same time the presentation that we saw, from a business standpoint, was very clear that this move was inevitable, there was nothing that was going to stop it from happening. From a strictly business perspective it was a sound decision, and as I said inevitable, a foregone conclusion that they were going to move the team. What you can’t really account for in a business decision like that, the x-factor, we’ll call it the “U-factor,” the “OB-factor.” That is that element of whether it is motivational, spiritual, psychological, or what have you, that the Orange Bowl brings to the table in terms of local excitement, community excitement about the team and about the games. It was a creaky piece of crap, that stadium, but it had not only a lot of history, it felt a lot more like a college stadium, certainly than already dated corporate coldness of what is now Land Shark Stadium. So, there’s definitely something to that.

I think the distance is not a major factor, students can still take buses and everything up there, but I think there is definitely, I mean you can see when the team is number 8, number 9 [in the polls], attendance has been pathetic this year at Land Shark, there’s no doubt about it. I think there has been more enthusiastic tailgating going on outside of the stadium that fan support in the stadium. So whether or not that’s just a testament to the dissatisfaction the fans feel with the stadium change or the fact that there’s been some beautiful weather lately so there’s a lot of competition for people’s time and attention. People get out of bed and it’s a beautiful day and they’re like ‘huh, beach or Land Shark Stadium?’ The fair-weather fans, as they call them. Ultimately, like I said, it was a sound business decisions and an inevitable one at that, but I think it’s going to take a couple of year convince the community and the fans at-large that this is something that they should drive north to the county line to experience Hurricane football.

Schnellenberger talked to us in his interview about the plans he had for an on-campus stadium at the University of Miami. But Schnellenberger has always been a major proponent of that. Look at his plans at FAU right now. He’s got a beautiful on-campus stadium and shopping mall planned that he’s been actively endorsing and getting support for and it’s a real shame we can’t have that level of on-campus enthusiasm at the University of Miami. Again, there’s not a lot of options for playing football in Miami-Dade county is the bottom line, unless you’re going to build a stadium from scratch on available land. You can’t play at the Bank United/Convocation Center, you can’t play at Mark Light Steroid Field, or whatever it’s called. There’s only so many venues to play football and when you looked at the business opportunity that the City of Miami and the Orange Bowl was afforded with and Dolphins Stadium was offering at the time, there was no hope for the Orange Bowl, for the Hurricanes to continue with the Orange Bowl. That was the final nail in the coffin for a venue that took up a lot of property, a lot of land, you can’t help but watch the footage of it being torn down and wish that they could have thought of some way to preserve that structure and the history of that structure. I mean a Marlins stadium? I mean really? Really? Is that necessary?

pC: On your website, you use the photo of the Ibis being detained by FSU cops, why?
BC: Why not? [Laughter] Why not? It’s actually going to be a great deleted scene, John Routh, aka Sebastian the Ibis, telling us the story of how he was beat down and handcuffed at Doak Campbell Stadium by some troopers who were not happy that he was going to use a fire hydrant to put out the flaming spear [laughter]. It’s a great story and also a wonderful image that is so emblematic of the “bad boy” reputation that the Hurricanes had at the time that appeared to even extend to our mascot. I just think it’s one of those things that really deserves to be preserved as the header on our blog. Read’s exclusive interview and account of his run-in with the FSU cops.
pC: After all the interviews you have done, what's one word or phrase you think describes the U. BC: Well I think “The U” actually does a very effective job as a word or a phrase that describes the U. It’s “the U.” As McGahee would say ‘the U already know.’ What more do you need to say really about it? It’s become a brand. Howard Schnellenberger tells us in his interview how when he first came to the University he was giving the entire Football program an entire overhaul in terms of the facilities, box office, ticketing, the promotional materials, programs, artwork, etc, people were coming to him asking him to get rid of the U logo of the team. He said ‘why would we get rid of the U? What are we going to make it? We’re going to make it an M? There’s a lot of M’s in the world, but there’ only one U.’ He said ‘we’re going to make that logo more recognizable than the IBM logo.’ He said that in 1979. That’s exactly what has happened. One of the things we end the movie with is a montage from Monday Night Football of former Canes introducing themselves when they’re supposed to say what college they went to, they just say ‘the U.’

pC: After interviewing all these former greats, what's one thing you saw that they possessed or that made them great that the current team and future teams need to do to get back on top?
BC: I think I should leave the football coaching to the football coaches [laughter]. Well the football coaches and Sid Rosenberg and everybody on the sports talk radio who like to do a lot of Monday morning quarterbacking and Monday morning coaching. So I don’t know if it’s necessarily what the team needs to do now to get back on top, but I will tell you that the relationship that this team had with each other and with their coaches, it sounds trite, but it was a family. The former players, the way they look back at the new players and embrace them and try to mentor them and train them, I think is extraordinary. Michael Irvin told us in his interview, he had never talked with another player in the pro’s [NFL] that had the bond, relationship and talked as much about his alma mater and was as enthusiastic about the college team he played for as the former ‘Canes are. When you’re facing a tough year, sometimes teams break down into factions, sometimes there’s support for coaches, there’s people against coaches, it can become a very contentious environment when you’re not winning. It’s easy to pull together and be a family when you’re winning. It’s tougher through the tough times, through the hard times and that’s something this team really used to do. They were winning and the world was crapping on them. They would lose, at the Fiesta Bowl, the world was crapping on them. You come off the loss of the Fiesta Bowl, which Jimmy Johnson tells us in his interview, was ‘the most devastating loss of his entire career’ college or professional and a lot of the players share that sentiment, if not most of them. They came off of that loss, which was devastating, they came back to the University of Miami, back to Coral Gables and Jimmy Johnson nearly resigned with the conflict he got into with President Tad Foote. Tad Foote tried to implement the code of student conduct for the players, the dress code, etc., the players would have none of it. Here they were with the entire nation’s media crapping all over them, and here was the President of the University, and he came to symbolize everything they were up against, because they weren’t even feeling the love on campus at home from their own administration. They pulled together and came out the following year and won a national championship. Again, with a brand new quarterback, Steve Walsh, in the 1987 season.

What has to happen is that the team needs to pull together as a family; I think this movie will actually help, to tell you the truth. I think the team should watch this movie and they should understand the modern tradition, modern legacy of this team. This is not a team steeped in hundreds of years of tradition. It is a modern tradition a modern legacy, it is something current players are very much part of, especially the players from Schnellenberger ‘s fabled “State of Miami,” you know these local recruits that Randy Shannon has so passionately pursued and I hope he continues to do so. Really, that’s what they have to do. What the team needs to do is watch this movie. They should watch it on a loop. They should play it in the locker room endlessly. They should just have to watch this movie over and over again to be reminded of who the Hurricane are, where they come from and what is expected of them. What is expected of them is by their coaches, by the former players, by their teammates, by their classmates, by the campus, by the administration, by the community, by the city of Miami and ‘Canes fans all over the world, is to win. That’s all, it’s pretty simple right, just to win. Nothing more is expected of them, right?

pC: What is your next project once you're done with ”The U?”
BC: Ha! Next project! We’re already neck deep in the next projects. We’ve got “Dawg Fight” about a ring of underground, backyard fighting in South Florida, in Perrine, specifically. Really intense story. We have a great trailer for it online. We’re working on Cocaine Cowboys 3 which is about “Los Muchachos”, the boys Louis Falcon and Sal Magluta the most successful and notorious Cuban cocaine smugglers in Miami, in the 1980’s. Cocaine Cowboys One really focused on the Columbians, now this is the Miami Cuban cocaine smuggling story. We are working on Square Grouper, which is kind of an unofficial prequel to Cocaine Cowboys which is about marijuana smuggling in Miami in the 1970’s, which is going to be amazing. It looks extraordinary. The stories are, you know, revelations. It’s more these characters like John Roberts and Mickey Munday and Griselda Blanco and Jorge “Rivi” Ayala. These people that nobody, or very few people have heard of, that are just going to knock your socks off. Interviews with people that are telling the stories, your jaws are going to be on the ground. What else are we working on? Ah yes, “Peter Gatien Project.” Now we’re working on a 90’s ecstasy movie, takes place in New York, around the nightclub scene and how the city of New York and the Feds cracked down on ecstasy and nightclubs in New York in an effort to clean up the city. They really made public enemies of the local nightclub owners of New York in an effort to get rid of ecstasy and clean up New York. Other than that nothing is going on! Of course I would love to do a sequel to “The U” about the 2001 team, we could call it “The U 2” or something like that.

We at would like to thank Billy Corben for being so gracious with his time to do this very insightful interview for our new feature "Tracking proCanes." Click here to check out our past interviews with Leon Searcy, Steve Walsh, Frank Costa, John Routh, Chad Wilson and more!

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Watch Leon Searcy & Gerard Daphnis Talk Hurricanes Football & Talk To Former Tar Heel Natrone Means

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In third year, Hester emerges as solid No. 2 receiver

Three years.

That's generally how long it takes many receivers in the NFL to get accustomed to the nuances of navigating their way through an opposing secondary.

Where should they sit down in a zone? When should they break off a route? When should they run a "hot" route when the blitz is coming? And on and on.

Now midway through his third season as a receiver for the Bears, Devin Hester has clearly matured into a top-notch receiving threat. With 41 catches for 548 yards and 3 TDs, the former superhuman return man has nearly eclipsed his numbers from all of last season (51-665-3).

I asked him after a Week 14 victory over Jacksonville last season if things were slowing down for him at all.

"(Before) when you'd go out to play, you've just got too much on your mind," said Hester, who had 5 catches and 80 yards in that win over the Jaguars. "You're second-guessing yourself all the time. Now you've just got a free mind and you're just playing ball."

It's clear that Jay Cutler trusts Hester and will continue to feed him the ball, which is all fantasy owners want. For us, in this game, he's gone from a high-risk player to a reliable second receiver. Hester is averaging 89.8 yards the last four weeks and should continue to post numbers like that the rest of the way. Those of you who took him, congrats on taking the chance.

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Kenard Lang's HS Team Makes the Playoffs

Jones Coach Kenard Lang said that it's been business as usual this week for the Tigers (5-4) after just sneaking into the Class 2A playoff field via a tiebreaker over Frostproof and South Sumter on Monday.

“I wouldn’t use the word 'recover' from the emotion of the tiebreaker, but I’d say we’ve kept the same intensity,” Lang said. “I let them know that that’s the kind of intensity we need to maintain for the rest of the season and especially going into the playoffs.”

Lang said the rest of the season because he said he isn’t looking at Friday's visit to Oak Ridge (5-4) as a throwaway game before next week’s playoff matchup at Cocoa (9-0).

The Tigers have won three of the past four meetings with Oak Ridge and Lang said though he said his starters are healthy, he doesn’t plan to rest them unless the game is a blowout.

“The game means a lot to the kids because of bragging rights that come with any rivalry game, but for me it’s just another game we can get under our belt and get better,” Lang said. “I don’t care that it’s Oak Ridge, we’re going out there to win.”

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For Wilfork, the job is job one

There’s a hand-made sign – black letters on a white sheet of paper – hanging in Vince Wilfork’s locker.

“Do My Job,” it reads.

Wednesday, the Pats nose tackle and co-captain explained that it has become a mantra for him since the team returned from a Week 2 loss to the Jets. Wilfork, who’s in the final year of his current Patriots contract, said he wanted to remind himself at all times what’s most important.

"It’s easy to come in and forget what you’re here for. A lot of things going on earlier with me and with my contract, that was one thing I wanted to make clear to myself. So every time I come to my locker, I remind myself what I’m here for. That’s to do my job. I have to sit at this locker every day, so I have to see that every day. Every time I see that, it reminds me what I’m doing, why I’m here, it makes me get in my playbook even more.

"If I put it in my playbook, I won’t ever see it there,” he continued. “Where can I put it so I see it every day? My locker. I see every day, some times too much. Even if I don’t stop at my locker, I walk by and see it.”

The tactic seems to be having an effect on some of Wilfork’s teammates, too, not unlike when Adalius Thomas’ Humble Pie t-shirts became popular in 2007.

“I’m pretty sure a lot of guys on the team see it, too,” Wilfork said of his sign. “They say stuff about it. It just reminds me why I’m here, and that might be rubbing off on some of the other guys. Do your job. It’s gonna stay there, long as I’m here.”

How long he remains here is still a pertinent question, since Wilfork has yet to sign an extension with the Pats. Aside from a brief holdout during spring practices, however, Wilfork has been committed to fulfilling his current deal.

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Ray-Ray on kickers

Asked today how he views kickers, Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis had an interesting response. This is what he said:

"I don't look at them any differently [than other players]. I've had a true pleasure to be around one of the greatest ones in Matt Stover. So I kind of look at kickers totally different because of 'Mr. Consistency.' It's just who Stover was. I never looked at them any differently outside of who we are. A mistake is a mistake. Whether it's a missed kick, whether it's a dropped pass or whether it's a blown coverage, a mistake is a mistake. I don't separate them because they're always a part of the team."

Steve Hauschka says he's felt the support of his teammates after missing a critical 38-yard field goal in Cincinnati. For now, at least, they have his back.

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Portis officially ruled out

Top running back Clinton Portis (concussion) will not play against the Denver Broncos on Sunday at FedEx Field, Coach Jim Zorn said today after practice.

"We kept Clinton at home just to get rest," Zorn said. "That was kind of the doctor's orders."

With Portis ruled out this week, Ladell Betts is expected to start against Denver. But Betts, who provided a spark after Portis was injured against Atlanta, left practice early because of an ankle injury.

"Ladell Betts tried to go early," Zorn said. "Really couldn't finish. His ankle's still getting better."

Running backs Rock Cartwright and Quinton Ganther are behind Betts, who rushed for 70 yards (he had a 4.7-yard average) and a touchdown against the Falcons. "I suspect he's going to go" against Denver, Zorn said of Betts. "He was actually looking like he was going to be able to go [in practice] and we just pulled back on him to give him another day."

Punter Hunter Smith (groin) could be placed on the season-ending injured-reserve list if he struggles Friday punting during practice.

"Well, we're going to try to punt him tomorrow," Zorn said. "Just try to go full go and see what he could do; see if his leg can hold up. If it does, great. If it can't, then we'll decide what we need to do then.

"Well, yeah, it's a possibility [going on injured reserve] if he continues re-aggravate this thing. That's why I'm trying to give it as much [time] as I can. But tomorrow is kind of an important day."

Presumably referring to the fracas last Sunday against the Falcons, DeAngelo Hall, via Twitter, says: Just want to Thank the fans, my teammates and Organization for supporting me! Ive tried to keep my nose clean n play the game the right way.

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Feagles angling for improvement after recent struggles

At age 43, Jeff Feagles is still in the NFL because of his directional punting and a precise mastery of how to angle his kicks out of bounds. But in recent weeks, those angles have betrayed the veteran punter.

Notably in the Cardinals and Chargers losses, Feagles delivered a series of short punts that gave the opponent the ball back at midfield. As the Giants try to right their season coming out of this week’s bye, after four straight losses, Feagles is personally trying to get back on track as well.

“It sickens me to come off the field and have those referees going down the sidelines 30, 35 yards,” Feagles said after practice Wednesday. “It’s very frustrating, because I know I can put it out there for 40, 45 yards.”

In the Arizona game, Feagles had four straight punts less than 35 yards, each of which placed the Cardinals between the 40-yard lines. Sunday against San Diego, he had three more short punts — between 31 and 37 yards — that positioned the Chargers between the 45-yard lines.

Feagles has spent years perfecting his directional approach, changing how he angles his body and how hard he kicks the ball based on field position. When he’s punting from Giants territory, he aims for an official standing out of bounds about 50 yards from the line of scrimmage. When he’s punting from the opponent’s territory, he aims out of bounds at the 10-yard line.

But over the past few weeks, he’s noticed that the ball is coming off his foot differently. The trajectory of his punts has always veered to the right, but his kicks have been veering more sharply to the right recently.

How does that explain the shorter punts? If he’s on the right hash mark and punting toward the right sideline, when the ball hooks right it goes out of bounds earlier than it would with a straighter trajectory — meaning a shorter punt and better field position for the opponent.

“The ball is moving more to the right than it ever has,” Feagles said. “I’ve got to start tightening up my angles, so I compensate a little more, get a little more distance rather than getting it out of bounds.”

Punting out of bounds and keeping the ball out of the returner’s hands is great — but not when it greatly sacrifices field position. Feagles’ focus is to punt deeper and, if the ball lands in the field of play, rely on the rest of the punt team to cover. Middle ground — which still reaps the benefits of the directional approach — is punts landing deeper in enemy territory but in the 12-yard alley outside the numbers, so the returner is still corralled.

Feagles will work on both adjusting his angles and hitting the ball better off his foot and hopes to be back to his old self when the Giants come out of the bye. He also is hoping the time off — which he’ll spend in Chapel Hill watching UNC, where oldest son C.J. is a freshman punter, coincidentally play against Feagles’ alma mater Miami — will help him naturally reset his technique.

“A lot of times by getting away, it helps me a lot, because I’m a real big muscle-memory type of guy,” Feagles said. “If I get away and come back, a lot of things will come back to me, and I won’t have to think about them. Sometimes, a lot of players and athletes overthink things, and I don’t want to get caught up into that.

“It’s like golf,” he continued. “Guys get away from golf for a couple of weeks, come back, and next thing you know they’re hitting the ball beautifully. I’m hoping that’s what’s going to happen.”

(Why do conversations with kickers always turn to golf?)
* * * *
I know this may be a punting overload for the afternoon. One more note from Feagles, though. We spoke to Lawrence Tynes after Sunday’s loss to explain the botched field-goal attempt in the first quarter. Wednesday was the first chance we got to talk to Feagles. He confirmed that he botched the hold, as Tynes had said.

“I caught it, and when I went to put it down, it slipped out of my hands,” Feagles said. “And by the time I got it down on the ground, Lawrence saw the angle of the ball … It’s such a split second. You figure a kick gets off in 1.3 seconds, he saw the ball at an angle and didn’t think I was going to get it back up. By the time I got it back up, could he have kicked it? Maybe. But at that instance, it’s … And then, being 4th and 1, it was the situation, I’ve got to run, and Mr. Merriman introduced himself to me.”

Imagine that’s not an on-field introduction any punter enjoys. Feagles said the last time the ball slipped out of his hands on a hold was on an extra point in the season opener against Dallas in 2007. Since Sunday’s game was lost by just one point, this instance was hard to get out of his head.

“Those kind of plays always come back to haunt you in a close game, they really do,” Feagles said. “As long as I’ve been around, they do. And again, you just feel sick about it because you’re sitting there the whole game, ‘Is this going to come back and haunt you?’ And it did at the end of the game.”
* * * *
One more final note, because it’s the blog, and there’s space. Feagles mentioned something interesting head coach Tom Coughlin said in the Giants’ team meeting Wednesday morning.

Coughlin is known for giving his players interesting statistics or relevant scenarios to motivate them. Wednesday, Feagles said the coach emphasized teams who have bounced back from losses, using the squads in last year’s AFC and NFC Championship games as examples.

“It was really a good slide,” Feagles said, “showing guys can come back.”

Feagles didn’t get into the specifics of what Coughlin said about each team, but it’s interesting to see where those teams were around this time last year.

After a loss, a tie and a loss in Weeks 10, 11 and 12, the Eagles were 5-5-1. They won four of their last 5 in the regular season. Pittsburgh lost in Week 10 and won six of its last seven regular-season games, and Baltimore lost in Week 11 (to the Giants) and won five of its last six.

Not sure how the Cardinals fit in, because they lost four of their last six games in the regular season — but starting in Week 17, did win four straight to reach the Super Bowl.

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Braun takes home another Silver Slugger

MILWAUKEE -- For the second straight season, Ryan Braun will have some hardware to show for his efforts at the plate.

After batting .320 with 32 home runs and 114 RBIs, Braun became the first Brewer since Paul Molitor, more than two decades ago, to win a Silver Slugger Award in consecutive years. Since 1980, the awards have been given annually to the best offensive player at each position as selected by the Major League Baseball managers and coaches.

The other National League Silver Sluggers were Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols, Phillies second baseman Chase Utley, Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, Marlins shortstop Hanley Ramirez and Cubs pitcher Carlos Zambrano.

Braun is the third Brewers player to take home the award in consecutive seasons. Molitor was the American League's top designated hitter in 1987 and 1988, and Cecil Cooper won the award as a first baseman in three straight seasons from 1980-82.

The specially designed Silver Slugger will be presented to each player by a representative of the Hillerich & Bradsby Co., makers of Louisville Slugger, the Official Bat of Major League Baseball, in a ceremony early in the 2010 season. The trophy is three feet tall and bears the engraved name of the winner and his Silver Slugger teammates in his respective league.

Before 2005, the Brewers had been shut out in Silver Slugger balloting since 1990, but now they have a winner in four of the past five seasons. Prince Fielder, who was edged at first base for the second straight year by Pujols, won in 2007. Then-Brewers outfielder Carlos Lee was a Silver Slugger in 2005.

Braun's numbers were certainly deserving in 2009. With 203 hits, he became the third Brewer ever to lead his league in that category and the first since Molitor led the AL in 1991. Braun also became the eighth player in Major League history with at least 100 runs, 100 RBIs, 200 hits, 30 homers, 20 stolen bases and a .300 average in the same season.

The numbers keep on coming. Braun has 103 home runs in his first three Major League seasons, sixth-most in baseball history behind two active players -- Pujols (114) and the Yankees' Mark Texeira (107) -- and three Hall of Famers -- Ralph Kiner (114), Eddie Matthews (112), Joe DiMaggio (107).

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Behind the Scenes of "The U" 11/11/09 04:30PM

Check out a Behind the Scenes Q&A Session with Billy Corben, Director of “The U” Documentary which will air on ESPN on December 12. Stay tuned tomorrow for an exclusive interview had with Billy Corben. You will not want to miss it!

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Roscoe still on bench

Bills coach Dick Jauron said he's sticking with Fred Jackson on returns, but he still sees a role for Roscoe Parrish on the team.

That, we presume, means Parrish isn't the one who will be moved off the roster to make room for James Hardy.

Jackson has looked good on returns the past two weeks. Nevertheless, Parrish is the reigning punt-return champ in the NFL the previous two seasons. Is there still a place for Parrish on returns or on the team?

Said Jauron: "Well definitely on the team, there's no doubt about that. I think we'll just stay where we've been, where we'll go week to week making the decision on Roscoe, whether he's active or not. Obviously we're very happy with Fred and what he's done in the return game. Yeah, but there's definitely a place for Roscoe on our football team."

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Sporting News All Pro MidSeasonTeam

Reggie Wayne, WR, Colts. Manning's go-to guy runs any pattern to perfection and has become a mentor to young receivers.

Jon Beason, ILB, Panthers. He sets the tone for the Panthers' defense, even if it means calling out teammates like Julius Peppers.

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NY Giants Safeties Coach Talks About the Loss of Kenny Phillips

Q. How much does losing Kenny Phillips hurt your unit?
A. Kenny started off really well. When you take a young man out of a role who had that much production that early, everybody is saying, ‘Oh my gosh, we wish we had Kenny back.’ The thing is that Kenny is a young player who is developing, just like all the other guys we have back there. His athletic ability is uncanny. We all know that, as far as his range and his ability to make plays. It hurts. I hate it for the young man, because he had a chance to have a phenomenal season. Now he is in rehab and hopefully we are looking forward to him coming back stronger next year.

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Ravens' Reed says pain is worse this year

If health is a relative condition, then Ravens safety Ed Reed is relatively healthy. Or healthy enough to suit up each week, at least, and create chaos in the secondary.

But the nerve impingement issue he has in his neck and shoulder appears to be worsening. Reed said Wednesday that he has more pain with the injury this season, that he sees his doctor every week and that he continues to take anti-inflammatory medication for it.

Still, he says, it hasn't affected his play "that much." Neither was it responsible for several attempted arm tackles in a loss to the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday, he added.

"If there's a point that I come to where it's hurting me that bad and I don't feel like I can be beneficial to the team on Sunday, then that's when … I don't need to be playing because I'm going to take away from what we're trying to do," Reed said. "Until I feel that way, I'm going to be out there trying to help."

Reed missed three arm tackles Sunday - twice against Laveranues Coles - although he did make five tackles in the game. He did not appear on the team's injury list last week.

"That's technique, bad angle, not getting your head across" the ball carrier, Reed said. "That's the first thing you learn as a little kid, how to tackle. One, I was going for the ball and he had the ball right there [at arm's length]. You've got to secure the tackle, versus go for the ball first. It really had nothing to do with pain."

Coach John Harbaugh said at his weekly news conference Monday that Reed has "tackled very well this year, up until this [Cincinnati] game."

"I'm sure he's disappointed with those three tackles. Those three tackles are tackles you normally see him make," said Harbaugh, who did not meet with the media Wednesday. "Obviously, the hit against Denver was as good a tackle as you're ever going to see. From my understanding, the neck is as good as it's been in two years, but I think it's a factor. But it's not a dangerous-type thing where he's at risk, or he wouldn't be playing."

Reed, 31 and an eight-year veteran, acknowledged that he has experienced more pain this season. "And when I did have those pains, I didn't practice a couple times because of it," he said. "I've just got to stay up on my rehab and strengthening it."

Reed had the problem coming into training camp a year ago and missed virtually all of training camp. Nevertheless, he had one of his best seasons, with nine interceptions and one forced fumble.

On a defense desperate for big plays, Reed continues to deliver this season. Through eight games, he is responsible for five of the team's 11 takeaways (two interceptions, three forced fumbles). He said he tries not to think about the injury.

"You try to be smarter about what you're doing," he said "It isn't about arm-tackling. You try not to put your head in there, which you're not supposed to anyway. I see sometimes when I'm doing that, so I might put myself at risk more than anything."

Reed said he won't make any decisions about the future until after the season.

"Coming into this year, not knowing how my injury was, knowing I had more pain than I had in the past, I was taking it one year at a time," he said. "I was not going to come into the season worrying about it and not give my all. My main thing was, look, come into the season, give your all and see how it feels. … Assess it every week, every day, see how it's feeling. It's been holding up enough to where I can be effective."

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Vince Wilfork unmoved

FOXBORO - Vince Wilfork [stats] is worried about not having a contract extension from the Patriots [team stats]. That’s no secret. But the clock is ticking toward free agency next year, and recently, there was a window during the bye week when the two sides could have gotten together and made some headway on a new deal.

They could have found some common ground and gotten closer to hammering out an extension that would ultimately keep the nose tackle in these parts for many years to come, which has been Wilfork’s long stated desire.

Only that didn’t happen.

Wilfork told the Herald yesterday scuttlebutt suggesting there had been movement toward a new deal was nothing more than a bunch of “bullcrap.”
No matter. He just marches on, and continues to play the best football of his career. And down the road, his performance should produce a very big pay day, be it with the Patriots or someone else.

What’s interesting, is that Bill Belichick may have unwittingly tacked on a few more dollars to the bundle by showing potential suitors that Big Vince could also play defensive end in a pinch. He played a majority of snaps there Sunday against Miami, so he’s turned into an even more attractive catch.

The 6-foot-2, 325-pound Wilfork held the edge quite well while taking on 6-7, 317-pound Dolphins tackle Jake Long. With Jarvis Green out with an injury, Belichick correctly figured Wilfork had a better shot handling Long, given his strength and quickness, than Mike Wright, who played the nose.

“It is what it is,” Wilfork said, borrowing that familiar refrain, when asked about the move.

He doesn’t like it when it’s insinuated he’s playing well because there’s a contract at stake. For him, it’s more about not wanting it to become a distraction. That’s why he posted a hand-written note at his locker, which reads: “Do my job.”

“You can come here and forget about what you’re here for. There are a lot of things going on with me, with the contract, that’s one thing I want to make clear to myself,” Wilfork said. “So every time I come to my locker, I remind myself what I’m here for. ‘Do my job.’ That’s just to remind me, because I have to sit at this locker every day . . . every time I see it, it reminds me what I’m doing, why I’m here. It makes me get in my book even more.”

Wilfork has 33 tackles but has yet to register a sack. Of course, it’s more about being a force up the middle to draw double teams so others can make plays. It’s also about helping to shut down running attacks, and the Pats are fifth best in the league at that. When asked if he thought he was playing the best football of his six-year career, Wilfork took the humble route.

“I won’t say that. My thing is, I just try to do what I can do to help my teammates. If that’s getting better each week, I try. Lord knows I try my best,” he said. “What I put out on the field, I want my teammates to feed off of. That’s one thing, I lead by example. I’m not a big talker. I let my work speak for itself.”

Wilfork knows he and his teammates will have to bring their “A” game Sunday night when they take on Peyton Manning and the Colts. He knows this will be the toughest test to date for the Pats defense. He knows what Manning can do. He knows how frustrating it can be to think you have him, when really, you don’t.

“Sometimes you know it’s a pass and you still can’t get to him, or the ball’s coming out and he’s scott free,” WIlfork said. “It’s very rare that you see somebody get turned free and don’t make the play. But against a guy like this, he’s got weapons everywhere. He can dump the ball out anywhere. He has great guys around him.

“We have to do a great job. Just keep it coming, hopefully we’ll get to him, frustrate him a little bit. But it’s going to be hard.”

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Portis called 'very, very doubtful' for Sunday

Coach Jim Zorn all but ruled out running back Clinton Portis from Sunday's game against the Denver Broncos, saying Portis, who suffered a concussion Sunday, is "very, very doubtful."

Portis, who did not attend practice, met with Zorn at Redskins Park before leaving to consult with a physician and review an impact test Portis underwent after he suffered the concussion early during Washington's 31-17 loss to the Atlanta Falcons. "I had him in my office this morning and he was still ... you could tell that he wasn't quite 100 percent," Zorn said. "We're not going to mess around with any concussion. He does have a concussion."

Quarterback Jason Campbell has encouraged Portis to be careful with his health and return only when he believes he is completely at full strength.

"You're talking about a serious injury. It's something dealing with the head," Campbell said. "Any time there's an injury that way, you're just not talking about short-term, you're talking about long-term. It's very important that they [take precautions] and he takes precautions because this is something that deals further than just football."

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Minaya, Boras meet about Holliday, Cora

CHICAGO -- Mets general manager Omar Minaya met with agent Scott Boras on Tuesday night to discuss parameters of possible deals for two of his clients -- Matt Holliday and Alex Cora.

Holliday, who ended the season with the Cardinals, is one of the premier outfielders on the free-agent market and is expected to receive various lucrative offers. Cora, a utility middle infielder, played for the Mets this past season and can be re-signed by Minaya during the 15-day exclusivity period, which ends at midnight on Nov. 19.

"We have to look at everything, whether it's through trades, our free agents or somebody else's free agents," Minaya said after the two days of the General Managers' Meetings ended following a morning session on Wednesday. "We wanted to talk about their interest level and our interest level. Sometimes you get an idea what they're looking for."

The Mets suffered through a 92-loss, injury-plagued 2009 season, and Minaya is trying to avoid a repeat performance by rebuilding the team as quickly as possible.

To that end, Minaya said earlier in the week that the Mets will be very aggressive in the free-agent market this winter with the top priorities being a slugger for the middle of the lineup and more starting pitching.

Cora, 34, spent two stints on the disabled list and batted .251 in only 82 games.

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Salmons still shooting despite woes

John Salmons hit just 1-of-11 shots for five points, five boards, two assists, two steals and a 3-pointer in Wednesday's loss.

While we still think he's a buy-low candidate, frustrated owners may be ready to cut him. We still think he's going to get his shot figured out, but it's hard to argue with the fact that he's hit just 33 percent of his shots this season. Hopefully he's on your bench until he gets it going.

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NFL U Week 9 Photos

Check out Week 9 photos from around the the NFL of our proCanes. Click here to see the photos.

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Parrish mentioned in poll

Roscoe Parrish might not be dressing on Sunday, but it hasn’t affected the respect that opposing coverage teams in the NFL have for him.

In this week’s Sports Illustrated Poll, 296 NFL players were asked “Who is the League’s Most Dangerous Return Man?”  Most players picked the Chicago Bears’ Wide Receiver Devin Hester (48.6%), but here’s the list of the top 5.

Josh Cribbs – Cleveland (14.9%)  Leon Washington – NY Jets (8.9%)  Darren Sproles  – San Diego (7.8%) Roscoe Parrish – Buffalo (6.4%)

Parrish is the league’s all-time leading punt returner in terms of return average.

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Browns Cut WR Darnell Jenkins

Darnell Jenkins has been cut by the Browns, according to Aaron Wilson of the National Football Post. Jenkins did not see any action with the Texans as a rookie in 2008, and failed to impress during his stint in Cleveland as well. He was signed by the Houston Texans as an undrafted free agent in 2008 and he signed with the Cleveland Browns on October 28, 2009.

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Q&A with Tavares Gooden

Question: What's your assessment of your play in your first season as a full-time starter at inside linebacker?
Answer: I didn't really know what to expect and how it was going to play out. I was given an opportunity, and I'm just trying to take advantage of every moment. I've been trying to play well after Brendon [Ayanbadejo] went down [with a torn left quadriceps tendon on Oct. 4] and trying to get better in every aspect of the game. I'm working hard with my coaches and doing extra film study so that I can become the linebacker I want to be.

Q: When Bart Scott left after last season, you were quickly anointed as his successor. Was that a lot of pressure for you?
A: When Bart was here, he taught me a lot of stuff, so there wasn't really a lot of pressure. I just couldn't wait to get some game time. That's what you look for as a kid. You want to be the guy playing out there with the greats like Ray [Lewis] and playing against guys like Brett Favre and Adrian [Peterson]. That's what you want, just that opportunity to go out and play. It wasn't about pressure, but more about "Let me see how I do against a different team and different players.

Q: You've had a tumultuous history recently with injuries, including a groin injury late in your senior year at the University of Miami, a hip injury that forced you to sit out the Senior Bowl, a hernia that cut short your rookie season with the Ravens and a concussion that sidelined you against the New England Patriots on Oct. 4. Are you concerned about this recent spate of injuries?
A: You're going to get that kind of stuff like that playing this game. What I do is, I go full speed. If that means getting injured, that's what it is. I'm not going to slow down. I don't think about the injuries. If I'm unable to play, that's a different thing. But as far as me being afraid of injuries, no. I just play football full-speed, and my body will handle the rest. I know this offseason, we're going to come up with a plan. If I need to be heavier or if I need to be more agile or whatever it is to help prevent injuries, we're going to do that.

Q: With your speed, have you considered playing safety?
A: No, not really. Linebacker is fun. You get to match against guys. I've been blessed with speed, but I've never seen myself playing safety. We have great safeties like Ed [Reed] and [ Dawan] Landry, so I don't know how I would fit in anyway. I'm pretty sure if the coaching staff didn't think I would have prosperity at the position, they would have moved me.

Q: Who is the toughest running back to bring down?
A: Adrian [Peterson] is pretty fast and elusive as far as getting to him. Sometimes you couldn't get to him because his linemen were coming up, and he was moving side to side, but there aren't too many guys that I can't bring down. That goes back to coaching and technique and being as fast as I am, the ability to get to them.

Q: Did you have a childhood fear?
A: That I was going to lose my dad [Byron Gooden Sr.]. My mom [Sheila Gooden] passed away when I was so young, and I didn't know what I was going to do. He's been a real man to me and helped me grow up. I wasn't afraid of Freddy Krueger or any of those guys. It was just about losing my father.

Q: Your mother died while waiting for a heart transplant when you were 10. How did that tragedy shape you as a person?
A: I tried out for football when I was eight, and I got hit so hard that I quit after that. I said, "This is not for me." I came back the next year and tried out. One day, my father made me late, and the defensive coach said, "I'm going to run you guys until you puke." I was like, "Run my dad. I don't have a car to get here." So I quit again after that, and I didn't think I was going to play any more football. But I told my mom, "Watch, I'm going to play this year." She told me that I didn't have to play, but I promised her that I would play. She passed away before my first game, so she never saw me play football and ever since then, I've been keeping that promise to my mom. I've developed a passion for the game and just sticking with it.

Q: Do you still think about your mother a lot?
A: Of course. It's hard not to think about the person who brought you into the world. But you celebrate life. You don't cry about it. So I celebrate my mom's life every time I go out there and play football. I live for her.

Q: How did you get the nickname "The Business"?
A: I would play video games and just work out my boy on Madden and college hoops. I think was a sophomore in high school, and I would just keep saying, "I'm giving you the business!" So everyone started calling me "The Business."

Q: What's a better nickname: "Little Stump" or "The Business"?
A: "The Business" because I developed that myself. It's tough to live in your big brother's shadow [Byron Gooden Jr., who was known as "Stump"] your whole life. So when I got my opportunity to get my own name, I figured "The Business" would be it.

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

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Harbaugh: No plans to use RB McGahee soon

Coach John Harbaugh says the Ravens have no need to put Willis McGahee in the game with Ray Rice playing so well.

McGahee had zero carries in Week 9 and has 10 in the last four games. "It's pretty hard to take [Rice] off the field when he's making the plays," Harbaugh said. "I don't think it has anything to do with Willis as much as it has to do with the way Ray's playing." McGahee is strictly Rice's handcuff and no immediate threat to his workload, even on the goal line.

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Pro Football Weekly’s Midseason NFL All Star Team

WR Reggie Wayne, Colts — Great hands and route-running skills, coupled with intimate knowledge of the offense, have led to Wayne’s incredible consistency over the years. He’s doing it again, having caught 59 passes for 753 yards and six touchdowns. He has broken the 125-yard barrier in three games and scored in all but two contests.

WR Andre Johnson, Texans — Many talent evaluators will tell you Johnson is the AFC’s most gifted receiver. With great size and strength, plus the speed to get deep, Johnson is a game-changer who presents a constant challenge for defenses. He also possesses a work ethic that makes him want to get better each and every week, a rare trait in a league filled with more than a few divas at the position.

S Brandon Meriweather, Patriots — The Patriots lost a ton of veteran leadership with the departures of Rodney Harrison, Tedy Bruschi, Mike Vrabel and Richard Seymour. But the defense has performed admirably, and Harrison has gone on record as saying that Meriweather is the team’s defensive MVP. Meriweather is starting to show the instincts that made fellow Miami (Fla.) safeties like Ed Reed and Sean Taylor stars. Meriweather’s breakout game came in London against the Buccaneers, when he snared two interceptions, returning one 39 yards for a touchdown.

Click here to order Reggie Wayne’s, Andre Johnson’s or Brandon Meriweather’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Bryant Mckinnie is the boss of all bosses. He goes to work everyday just like the rest of us. He endures the blood, sweat & tears to become the next best thing; on & off the field. When he's not on the field protecting future hall of famer Brett Favre, he's scouting talent. No, not athletic talent, but those individuals who desire to make it big in the dog eat dog world of entertainment.

As Co-Ceo of Swagga Entertainment, Mr. Mckinnie works twice as hard to ensure that Swagga Ent. puts out only quality products. With Pleasure P as one of the feature artists on the label, they're well within reach of making the label as household name. We recently caught up with Bryant to discuss the label & what heights he believes it will reach in the near future.

*interview was conducted after the Vikings/Pittsburgh game*

BA: How are you Mr. Mckinnie? You guys played a good game, although it resulted in a loss.
BM: I'm pretty good. Yea, it was a pretty good game, it was back & forth.

BA: Well at least you guys are still at the top of your division unlike my Redskins, who are at the bottom of the barrel.
BM: (laughs). Yea, we are. What's the Redskins record?

BA: (laughs) Its not even worth mentioning, so we won't go there. So, lets get back to Swagga Entertainment business, how'd you link up with Pleasure P?
BM: Pleasure P aka Marcus Cooper, we met in Miami. We had a mutual friend that promoted parties & Marcus came to my house for a barbecue & we became friends; started hanging out. I remember we were in the car one day, playing some music & there was a potential artist I wanted to work with & I was talking about how I wanted to start a label. He was telling me had the same goals & everything, & he said we should do this together, we continued to talk about it & he already had the name Swagga Entertainment, so we just went from there.

BA: Ok. What's it like working with him?
BM: Forreal, its ok. He's really busy. You know he's touring, working on albums. He's on his 2nd tour with R. Kelly. He's actually signed to the label. So right now, I'm actually doing a alot of the foot work, because you know he's still an artist. Outside of that, its cool working with him. We help each other out on a lot of things.

BA: I see you're stepping it up in the partnership, always good to see people working together to achieve one common goal. Now, since you're a fan of music, what type of music are you into?
BM: I listen to A LOT of different people. I mean Stevie Wonder, you know when you were young when your mom used to clean the house & cut on the radio while cleaning. She used to have me listening to a variety of different music. Then going away to college, hanging with an eclectic group of people they put me on to different types of music as well, so I'm versatile. I'm not just into hip-hop, I listen to The Dave Matthews Band, Sublime. I can go in any direction with you.

BA: Undestandable, its a good thing to have an eclectic ear, I'm the same way. Now what separates Swagga Entertainment from other major labels?
BM: Swagga Entertainment was kinda supposed to not only be a hip-hop label. Wehave a rock band & you know rock bands have their own swag. Just because you hear the word Swag, you don't always have to assume its only hip-hop based. Everybody has their own swagger, its really universal, not just focused on hip-hop. We actually have acts focused on pop, rock-n-roll & r &b.

BA: I had the pleasure of speaking with Marcus & he mentioned you guys have a few artists such as Sonny Mason, Al B. Sure, Jr, Pretty Money & Mona Lisa, when can we expect to hear something from these few artists?
BM: We're actually trying to put together a Swagga Entertainment mixtape where we'd have a few songs from the artists, so people can pretty much get an idea of what kind of music we're trying to create & give you samples of what they're working with. From there we'll decide which one we'll push first. They're all in their recording phase right now. With Marcus working on his second album & once its completed & pushed out, they'll pretty much come out behind him.

BA: Pretty Money is associated with Trina as well, how'd you guys link up with them?
BM: Well, Pretty Money used to come to my house to record, so that's how I heard of them. I became a fan & Trina & I have been good friends for a while, I told her about the group, & wondered if she'd be interested in working with them. You know work as a joint venture to help get & put them out there. She's been doing a great job, taking them out & doing shows. Opening up for her & they're going to be on her next album entitled Amazing. We all know one another, so we're just going to work together to achieve one common goal, which is to make good music & get them heard. Trina is trying to start a female rap movement herself, you know there's a shortage of those these days. They're working together to try & bring that back.

BA: You're definitely right about a shortage female MC's. Now, where can upcoming artists & producers send their work to for possible usage?
BM: They can send them

BA: Thanks, I'll be sure to pass that info along. Now, Bryant, within the next few years, where do you see Swagga Entertainment in regards to longevity?
BM: Honestly, it should grow & be one of the top labels in the industry. For the fact we're not solely focused on one genre of music. You have some labels that are strongly focused on hip-hop. I want to focus on other things. You know, rock-n-roll sells. It sells out shows, their fans BUY their music, you know what I mean. Not a whole lot of bootlegging. So I mean, if you pick & choose the right artist, get behind them, push them how they're supposed to & market them right, we'll be around for a while.

BA: Understood, so it sounds like you're the A&R of the label.
BM: You know why, I'm not supposed to, but I always want to hear the music. When someone brings an artist in, I want to hear their product. I want to see them, I wanna see them perform. You know you have some people who say, Yea, I can rap, but can't move a crowd. I want to see you feel it, get in character. I don't want to just see you there holding a mic, if that's the case, I can just listen to your songs. I want to see the energy. I look for an array of things when I'm working with artists. I want to be drawn to them, I wanna be able to feel their music & personality, you know what I mean.

BA: Yeah, you want someone with showmanship. You wanna know you're investing in something of quality.
BM: Exactly.

BA: I definitely applaud you guys vision & where the label is headed. Especially with the industry being as fickle as it is. Everything starts as with a vision, but seeing it into fruition is something totally different. So congratulations on that. I definitely wish you much success, on & off the field of course.
BM: It is & thank you very much.

BA: Now I surely will be checking you out every Sunday. I tell people the Vikings are the team to watch this year, because my team SURELY isn't. I hope you guys can bring a championship to Minnesota.
BM: (laughs) Thanks, I definitely hope so.

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

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Sooner or later, Portis's health must be addressed

Obviously, the health of running back Clinton Portis should be the Redskins' top concern. It was unsettling to watch Portis lay on the Georgia Dome field after suffering a concussion early during the 31-17 loss to the Atlanta Falcons, and it would be wise for him to sit out for some time because of the head injury.

Portis's situation, however, renews immediate and long-term questions about the state of the Redskins' running game. It was clear from the start of training camp that Portis was not in top condition, according to some in the organization who requested anonymity because of Portis's high standing with management. And during the first eight games, Portis simply did not display the burst and sharpness on his cuts he did last season.

Prompted by concerns about Portis's performance, in large part, the Redskins at one point made the highly unusual move of carrying five running backs on the 53-man roster. With 790 yards in eight games, the Redskins rank 24th in the league in rushing. Their 4.0-yard average is tied for 21st in the NFL.

In fairness to Portis and Washington's other running backs, the patchwork offensive line has been in disarray since right guard Randy Thomas and Pro Bowl left tackle Chris Samuels suffered season-ending injuries. But Portis missed holes at the start of the season when Samuels and Thomas were in the lineup together, albeit briefly.

Of course, every running back misses holes. No one is perfect. But some of Portis's teammates believe his performance in Washington has suffered because of his poor practice habits. That's not my opinion; it's the opinion of people with whom he works.

And there was the Mike Sellers incident. Players privately still criticize Portis for attempting to have Sellers demoted during a 16-13 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Portis had the right to express his opinion about Sellers's blocking, players said. It was not cool, however, for Portis to go to coaches in an effort to have Sellers removed from the game.

Portis has rushed for 494 yards (he has a 4.0-yard average) and has scored one touchdown. During the loss to the Falcons, backup Ladell Betts displayed a burst rarely seen in Washington's rushing attack the last 16 games while producing a team-high 70 yards on 15 carries (a 4.7-yard average) and scoring his first touchdown. Betts tied Portis and punter Hunter Smith for the team lead in rushing touchdowns.

Betts is a hard worker, and coaches rewarded him for his dedication in naming him the third-down back out of training camp. Betts would become the primary back as long as Portis is sidelined, Coach Jim Zorn said.

"Ladell will start if Clinton can't go," Zorn said the other day. "There's still a chance Clinton can go, but I think it's doubtful. That's a 25 percent chance."

Against the Falcons, Betts provided the spark the Redskins have sought most of the season. At 30, however, Betts is not a long-term answer.

Portis is 28. He has a lot of mileage on him after all those carries and yards over the years, and the Redskins owe him a lot of money next season. Most of his base salary of nearly $7.2 million is guaranteed, and he also is due roster and workout bonuses totaling more than $507,000.

Clearly, with the way Portis slowed down in the second half last season (he rushed for at least 80 yards only twice in the final eight games in 2008) at that stage of his career, the Redskins should have selected a running back high in the draft. But Washington traded its second-round pick to the Miami Dolphins in the Jason Taylor trade - the Redskins also gave the Dolphins their sixth-round pick in the 2010 draft - and its fourth-round pick to the New York Jets in the Pete Kendall deal.

Philadelphia Eagles all-pro back Brian Westbrook is the second to none as an all-purpose runner. But the Eagles at the end of last season determined Westbrook, 30, was getting to that point for running backs, and they needed to begin thinking about the future. With the 53rd overall pick in the second round of the draft, the Eagles selected back LeSean McCoy from Pittsburgh.

In Week 7, Westbrook suffered a concussion in Philadelphia's 27-17 victory over the Redskins at FedEx Field. McCoy started and scored on a 66-yard touchdown run the next week in Philadelphia's 40-17 victory over the New York Giants. He had 99 total yards from scrimmage in Sunday's 20-16 loss to the Dallas Cowboys. McCoy has 348 yards rushing on 83 carries (a 4.2-yard average) and 20 receptions for 163 yards.

In next April's draft, the Redskins hold picks in the first, second, fourth, fifth and seventh rounds. Washington has major needs along the offensive line, and the team might finally have to address their running back situation, one way or another.

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John Salmons' shooting woes continue on Tue

John Salmons had five rebounds, five assists, one steal and two blocks on Tuesday, but he scored just 11 points on 3-of-13 shooting.

Salmons entered this game shooting 34.5% from the field, but he's a career 45% shooter and will turn things around before long. He might even be worth targeting as a buy-low candidate, given his recent struggles.

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Mets Want Burrell?

The Mets held internal dicussions about acquiring former Met-killer Pat Burrell from Tampa Bay, which would love to unload Burrell. But they're not inclined to make such a deal, because of Burrell's weak defensive skills.

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Huff Leads Class of Free Agent First Base Players

Aubrey Huff: If Huff is anywhere close to the 2008 version (32 homers, 108 RBIs, .912 OPS), he could be the steal of the free-agent class. If he's more like he was in '09 (.241 average, .694 OPS), he'll struggle for playing time.

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Lauryn Williams ponders, “11 secs is history, the bar is set at 10 point.”

KINGSTON: Former World 100m Champion, American Lauryn Williams, believes the days of running 11-point secs to win championships will soon be something of the past.

She said in 2007, Veronica Campbell-Brown ran 11.02 seconds to beat her in a photo-finish for the World Championships crown.

But this year, 11.01, the time it took Williams to cross the finish line, placed her fifth behind Shelly-Ann Fraser’s winning time of 10.73 secs.

It was behind this thought she said: “Sometimes you have to step it up a notch, 11.00 secs is not going to get you anywhere, anymore, people have raised the bar.”

“10 seconds is going to be the regular now,” she continued.

Williams is a silver medalist in the 100m at the 2004 Olympics in Athens and a 4-time medalist at the World Championships – winning the sprint relay gold in 2005 and 2007. She was also the 100m champion in Helsinki 2005 but narrowly lost out to Jamaican Veronica Campbell-Brown in a photo-finish in Osaka 2007.

Williams, who was born on September 11, 1983 in Rochester, Pennsylvania, first made a name for herself right here in Kingston at the 2002 IAAF World Junior Championships, winning the 100m.

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proCanes Stats from Week 9 of NFL U

Andre Johnson: 10 catches for 103 yards

Vince Wilfork: 3 tackles, 1 solo tackle

Brandon Meriweather: 4 tackles, 3 solo tackles

Jeremy Shockey: 3 catches 26 yards

Jonathan Vilma: 12 tackles, 10 solo tackles, 2 tackles for loss

Santana Moss: 5 catches 47 yards, 1 carry for 6 yards

Clinton Portis: 4 carries 4 yards before leaving the game with a concussion

Rocky McIntosh: 2 tackles, 2 solo tackles, 1 pass deflection

Calais Campbell: 3 tackles, 2 solo tackles

Antrel Rolle: 3 tackles, 3 solo tackles 1 pass deflection

Kelly Jennings: 1 solo tackle

Frank Gore: 15 carries 83 yards, 1 TD, 7 catches 75 yards

Kellen Winslow: Led the Buccaneers with 4 catches 57 yards 1 TD

Roscoe Parrish: NO GAME, Bills Bye Week

Greg Olsen: 5 catches, 71 yards 3 TDs

Devin Hester: 6 catches, 94 yards, 2 punt returns 2 yards

Darrell McClover: 2 solo tackles

Willis McGahee: Did not have a carry or catch

Ray Lewis: 8 tackles, 6 solo tackles

Ed Reed: 5 tackles, 3 solo tackles, 1 fumble recovery

Tavares Gooden: 5 tackles, 1 solo tackle

DJ Williams: 6 tackles, 4 solo tackles, .5 sack


Jeff Feagles: 5 punts for 176 yards with a 35.5 yard average and 1 inside the 20-yard line

Bruce Johnson: 3 tackles 2 solo tackles, 3 pass deflections

Reggie Wayne: 8 catches 64 yards, 1 Interception

Jon Beason: 11 tackles, 11 solo tackles, 1 tackles for loss, 1 pass deflection

Damione Lewis: 1 solo tackle

Phillip Buchanon: 3 solo tackles

Antonio Dixon: 2 tackles, 1 solo tackle

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Tracking proCanes - Lance Hurdle - Part II

In Part II of our interview with Lance Hurdle he talks about who his favorite player growing up was, Jimmy Graham, the hardest away game he played in the ACC and much more! Click here to read Part I of our interview.

pC: So out of high school you weren’t really recruited by big schools?
LH: Actually I wasn’t recruited at all. I went to the Vegas Tournament going into my senior year. We played a team from Texas and I had 40 points and that’s when Santa Barbara had seen me so they were recruiting me and the Universtity of San Francsico was recruiting me and that’s the first year that Jessie Evans was there and actually he told me well I’m going to come down and take a look at you while you’re playing in high school, but that never happened. So, I was left hanging and I was real disappointed about that so at Santa Barbara it came down to me and a guy named Mike Roll that went to UCLA and he actually committed to Santa Barbara but really wanted to go to UCLA so UCLA came in with their offer and he backed out and that’s how I got put in, so basically I was second. So I really wasn’t recruited at all and when I went to Santa Barbara it really didn’t work at all and I left. Actually, when I left Santa Barbara the coach there told me ‘my concern for you is that you’ll be paying for your education come your junior year’ I said “ok” so I went to JUCO and did whatever I had to do.

pC: Was it a personal problem with him?
LH: No I think he was just a straight shooter. I guess he didn’t see it and that made me work even harder and I have a lot of friends on that team still. Actually one of my best friends is still playing for him and actually I told him and he jokes about it. After we had a big game and we beat Duke he said ‘I bet our coach is crying right now.’

pC: And you havent’ talked to him since?
LH: I haven’t talked to that coach since that day. But I do talk to the assistant coach that recruited me a couple of times but I haven’t talked to the head coach.

pC: So who’s the guy you idolized growing up? Who was your favorite player?
LH: Michael Jordan. No doubt Michael Jordan.

pC: Who do you think is the best point guard right now?
LH: It’s either Chris Paul or Deron Williams. I was watching them last night go head to head. They have some battles but I can’t pick one. If I did have to pick one it’d be Chris Paul.

pC: Are these games you’ve recorded or are you getting teams to give you film?
LH: Coach Suarez always makes tapes for me. They record NBA games. So I have a live tape of TJ Ford when he was at Texas and sometimes I watch that but sometimes I’m on the computer a lot and I just go on YouTube.

pC: So you see a move and you try to implement it in your game?
LH: The moves, the pace, the pace at which they play with how they take control of the game especially in crunch time. I just watch their demeanor on the court.

pC: What do you think about Jim Graham playing football now?
LH: I was excited to see him out there on the football field. I was excited because I always told him he could play, he was the second fastest guy on the team.

pC: He was?
LH: Yeah second to me. He almost beat me one time. He runs a 4.4 [second 40-yard dash] easy and he jumps a 40 inch vertical, so he’s an NFL prospect easy. So I said, he should be playing football. I said “you’re an NFL prospect easy because one time after practice we were throwing a pigskin around the court and Coach was like ‘stop, stop, stop.’ But Jim and I were throwing it and Jim was catching and running and I was like “you should play football” and he was like ‘ah, I don’t know.’ So I’m glad he picked up the helmet.

pC: Do you know how that happened? Did they approach him?
LH: Yeah they approached him. Actually some NFL teams were approaching him aswell so he turned down a big contract for basketball overseas to play a game that I think he can be a millionaire in.

pC: As a player when you were on the team would you gusy find yourself checking the message boards after the games and seeing what fans would say or would you guys stay away from that?
LH: Well I stay away from that. My little brother will always be on there looking and seeing what they said. And he’ll tell me and I’ll say I’m not concerned with that cuz that can mess up your game.

pC: So would you say most players don’t bother?
LH: No, most players don’t even know we have those unless they’re looking for them, but most people I know don’t care or don’t even worry about it.

pC: What would you say was your best memory from your days here?
LH: I had a few. Obviously my career high at North Carolina. We played Carolina when I was at Santa Barbara. We went to Chapel Hill the day after Thanksgiving. My grandfather who passed away when I first got here came to that game. Him and my grandmother drove up to North Carolina. We have family in Carolina but they drove up there to watch me play and I only had one point and when he passed that year before the season, he actually passed our second day of official practice, I was really hurt. I was really hurt and I told him this game is for him, so I tried to go out and be aggressive. I was upset we didn’t get the win but you know I’m not trying to be selfish or anything but that 20-point game will always stand out. I know he was looking down and smiling. But other than that, beating Duke down here, Wake Forest, beating Kentucky at Kentucky, going to Madison Square Garden, everything actually, going to the tournament getting a win. Sometimes I’m a little kid, I’m a big fan, sometimes I look at the other bench, I look at Coach K, Coach Williams, Gary Williams too and they’re legends and I just think man I can’t wait till the game is over to shake their hands. It’s crazy, probably the most memorable thing as I think of it now, is after 20 points against Carolina, Coach Williams says ‘Man you couldn’t miss any huh? Why did you have to make all the shots on us? I will always remember that.

pC: You talked about your first year the team was really close. Was it as close the second year? Who was your closest friend or best friend second year on the team?
LH: Yeah we were still close, I think we just had something. We had to get tougher mentally. As a team we were just too laid back, that’s why, but I’d have to say James Dues is like a brother to me, just like Malcolm is, and so is Julian Gamble, but James Dues we’re so much alike in a lot of ways it’s so crazy. We’re so close we talk about him being my best man at my wedding and everything and we joke around like that, but James we’re still close now. We hang out all the time. After I work out I’ll call him and stuff like that. He’s a great guy and there’s great people on this team.

pC: Who would you say was the most leader of your team that would get in your face if the game wasn’t going right?
LH: That’s easy. Malcolm. Malcolm will do that even when he’s sitting out. Yeah, he’ll call team meetings. He’ll be at home watching. We came back from NC State, you know we didn’t play well at all, and it was the third game we lost in a row. He called a meeting and he is so respected by us, because he puts in the work and he works hard. He says ‘you know I know I’m sitting out but that doesn’t mean I’m just going to sit back and watch you guys not live up to your potential.’ He was just a vocal leader so even when he was sitting out he would still be getting in people. He would tell Jack ‘hey yo man pick it up.’ Yeah he’s very intense.

pC: He’s a transfer and he’s so young, you wouldn’t expect that.
LH: See that’s the thing about our team. We accept everything. He’s a basketball player and very passionate about the game just like we all are so he’s going to tell it like he sees it and he called all the seniors out one night and told them one day ‘you all are seniors and you are all letting your season go down because you are not being leaders’ and he said that in front of coaches in front of the whole team so I can’t wait to see what he does this year because he’s going to be special.

pC: Isn’t that the responsibility of the coaches to get the team motivated or you would say there’s only so much the coaches can do and then it’s up to the players?
LH: Yeah there’s only so much the coaches can do. We’ve had plenty of talks with the coaches and for whatever reason it just didn’t click. It clicks but not as much as when it comes from another teammate because he’s one of you, so if he sees it and he doesn’t think it’s going well it’ll click more.

pC: Do any former Hurricane players ever come to talk to you guys or hang out?
LH: They’ll come around like Rob Hite. Rob Hite will come and play pick-up with but you know what’s crazy is Ed Reed came and spoke to us one game after practice. At the end of practice he’s sitting there on the sideline and I’m like damn that guy looks familiar We’re shooting some free throws, about to bring it in, and coach says go in the locker room. We’re getting ready to leave the next day and he’s like go in the locker room Ed Reed is going to speak to you and I said ‘oh that is Ed Reed!’ So he talks to us, he’s real down to earth, very humble, he’s not about his ego at all and he gave us a lot of things to think about not just on the basketball court but off the court. He talked about how there’s a lot of guys that want to be in our spot and we’re taking it for granted. I will always remember that. He’s funny too. He’s one of my favorite football players, and to see him talk to us that was great.

pC: What do you think about twitter is it something you feel you can connect with your fans or something you use personally? Do you have a lot of fans messaging you?
LH: Yeah they [fans] do but they normally do it more on facebook. I haven’t been on facebook in a while but I had twitter earlier in the summer and I deleted it and when I got back to campus everyone was like man get twitter so I was like alright so I got it. It just keeps me up to date with everybody’s life and what they’re doing every five minutes. I think it’s fun to see what the big stars are doing when they’re like I’m watching TV or just chilling out

pC: Who’s your current favorite player?
LH: Kobe [Bryant]. Big time LA [Lakers] fan and I’m glad they won because it shut a lot of people up. You don’t realize how many Kobe haters you have until you go somewhere else and it’s ‘Kobe’s not going to win, I hope Kobe doesn’t win.’ Then Orlando is a Florida team and everybody’s like I’m going for Orlando and I’m like oh here we go, I like Orlando too but no match for Kobe.

pC: What do you think of LeBron James?
LH: He’s a beast. I don’t know whatever he was fed as a child, I mean 6’8 270 lbs, that’s ridiculous and he can jump out the gym like a guard, a fast guard. I don’t know how he can be stopped.

pC: What do you think from what you’ve heard is the biggest difference between college and the D -League?
LH: They really haven’t told me the game difference too much. I guess playing in the ACC is really hard every night so Raja Bell told me one thing is that there might be a lot of older guys in the D-League, more seasoned. Maybe 29 or 30-year old guys that might have gone overseas. A lot of people play in the D-League to get into the NBA so some go overseas and go to the D-League and some people are out of college for a while and then go to the D-League so for whatever reason they’re older so they’re a lot more physical. They’re going to be trying to knock you down so I’ve been in the weight room everyday trying to put on weight.

pC: Are you big follower of Canes football?
LH: Definitely.

pC: Do the basketball and football players ever hang out or cross paths? LH: Well we don’t hang out, like let’s go to the movies because our schedules are too different. They’re football schedule is different from us. So, it’s like we’re always doing something. We’re busy. But we’re all cool with each other and we support them, they come support us.

pC: A lot of football players go to basketball games?
LH: Jacory is always at the game. Jacory was on the court when we beat Wake Forest. He was jumping up and down. I’ll tell you one thing, Jacory is a real humble dude and I’m glad to see what he’s got coming to him because he deserves it. He’s not going to let none of that stuff get to his head. A lot of other guys are also very humble like Javarris [James], Graig Cooper. They’re not going to be walking around with their noses in the air.

pC: Who would you say is the biggest rival for the basketball team?
LH: Well Florida State we always took seriously because it was Florida State. But if anything, I couldn’t think of one to be honest. I couldn’t think of one. You know which one might start to become a rival, Virginia Tech because they booted us out of the ACC tournament the two years I’ve been there, so we don’t like that at all.

pC: Is it tough playing up there?
LH: Oh yea real tough and the only time we beat them is up there. But it’s real tough up there. Their fans are loud. They’re right on top of you too because of the way their arena is set up. Hopefully that’s going to turn into a rival

pC: Word Associations, give me the first thing that pops in your head when you read the following:

Frank Haith: Great coach
Sebastian the Ibis: The best mascot in the country
Jack McClinton: Best pure shooter I’ve ever been around
Florida State: I don’t like them
Chris Paul: My idol right now
Jimmy Graham: A beast
Coral Gables: A beautiful city

pC: Do you have a nickname?
LH: El boogie.

pC: El boogie? Why?
LH: Well Malcolm came up with the name. They would call me that when Malcolm got here and they put it in the media guide and everybody would see it, and during the game I would hear el boogie, the fans would say el boogie, let’s go el boogie. So it stuck and I like it because everyone’s like el boogie when they see me around.

pC: Do you have any pre game rituals?
LH: Yeah, I have to shoot around, then eat. Well I’ll shoot around for an hour then eat then I’ll come back and take a 45 minute nap and shower just to wake myself up.

pC: You go back home?
LH: I go back to the dorms or my apartment. I used to watch TJ Ford in the middle of when I’m getting dressed. Watching his pace. I watched it before the one time I woke up late and I only had like 15 minutes because we had to be there at a certain time and I was like oh, I have 15 minutes to get taped and everything so I rushed to the arena and it was the day we played Wake Forest this past year. I was like oh this is going to be a tough night so I’m sitting there trying to wake up on the way there. I get there and I throw water on my face and after we won I was like man I should do that more often!

pC: Who’s your favorite NFL team?
LH: My favorite NFL team is the Dallas Cowboys. I’ve always been a Cowboys fan but I’m a Saints fan too because I went to high school with Reggie Bush.

pC: Were you guys friends?
LH: Yeah, we were cool.

pC: He was good in high school?
LH: He was ridiculous.

pC: Did he only play football?
LH: He played basketball his first year. Freshman basketball and after a while the football coaches were like you’re a football player. He did track too. He was second to Michael Johnson in a 200.

pC: Do you keep in touch with him now?
LH: A little bit. I mean he’s busy. He’s really busy.

pC: How about favorite NBA team?
LH: Lakers

pC: Baseball? Do you follow baseball?
LH: I used to but I’d have to say the Padres or the Yankees

pC: Favorite food?
LH: Chicken and mac and cheese

pC: What’s one band or group/artist the most we could find on iPod?
LH: Jay Z or Little Wayne.

pC: What’s a movie you could watch over and over?
LH: He Got Game.

pC: A TV show you can’t miss?
LH: Martin

pC: What do you do in your spare time?
LH: Sleep or listen to music. Yeah, I like sleep

pC: Two websites you have to check daily?
LH: Twitter or my email

pC: Play video games? Madden?
LH: I love Madden. I actually play football games more than basketball games. That’s the crazy thing. I love basketball games but the football games everybody loves. I play Madden and NCAA Football.

pC: XBox or PS3?
LH: I’m a Playstation guy myself but I’ll play on anything

pC: What would you say was the toughest thing about playing at Miami?
LH: Balancing school. This year we were on the road a lot so we were missing a lot of classes and that obviously was important because it was a last semester. So, sometimes I was writing 2 or 3 papers a week and I had to take a laptop with me on the road. That was the toughest part because when I was at Santa Barbara we bussed a lot. But here we would go and stay the night and we would come back the following day so we would miss like 3 days. That was the tough part I just had to do a lot of catching up.

pC: So does Dorrell Wright come by?
LH: Yeah he does. He was at the camp. Dorrell is a great guy, he’s funny. He’s from LA so we clicked like that. When he first came out here I asked Jack to take me out to meet him. He’s really funny. If you’re around him you won’t stop laughing. He’s just real laid back you know there’s something about these NBA guys that they’re laid back. It amazed me how much alike they are to us. They’re just playing basketball. They’re just real funny and cool.

pC: So do you have to be conscious of what you eat during the offseason?
LH: No, I have a high metabolism I’m probably losing weight right now. I eat everything. I eat at late hours on purpose. For me I take that to the weight room and that turns to muscle. I have a real high metabolism. Last summer for a week I didn’t do anything, I was just resting my body, I was just eating everything, no weight lifting or nothing and I found out I lost weight because I wasn’t doing anything. So I have to do something. I try to stay away from McDonald’s and things like that, but my girlfriend she cooks me meals and I find that they put the most weight on me. So she cooks me meals and she helps a lot with that, she’s like ‘you gotta eat, you gotta eat.’ Breakfast I never used to eat, so she will wake up make me for breakfast so I wake up eat and go workout.

pC: So you lose weight during the season?
LH: A little bit but we’re always eating because we have pre-game meals, meals on the road, meals after the game and we’re always weight lifting, so I won’t lose a lot of weight but I will lose some because of how much I run.

pC: So what do you guys do on the road?
LH: Say we play on Wednesday, we leave Tuesday after class around 4 or 5 pm we’ll get there at night go straight to dinner and have our film session and scouting report and stuff like that. Then we’ll go straight to bed or we’ll go to our rooms and I had Dews who would pop in a movie and we’ll fall asleep to that and next day we wake up, breakfast, shoot around, a pre-game meal. Depending on how late we play we look at the schedule make changes and then we’ll play, go back to the hotel they’ll have food for us or whatever and the next day we’ll come back

We have charter flights for certain games so we’ll go on charter flights. For like Duke, and UNC they give us extra time to see our families out there. Last year when we went to Wake Forest and then played Duke we stayed there for a week so we had a lot of time. We went to a movie one time, we went to the mall, we got to experience what the Carolinas were like.

pC: Do the fans recognize you on the plane?
LH: Not really. Some will ask ‘who are you?’ Sometimes like when we’re going to Virginia the opposing fans will recognize us and say thing like your going lose and they just mess with us. If we won the stewardess would give us a shout out and say we have the University of Miami on board and the whole plane will be cheering. It’s just fun playing.

We at would like to thank Lance Hurdle for being so gracious with his time to do this very insightful interview for our new feature "Tracking proCanes." Click here to check out our past interviews with Leon Searcy, Steve Walsh, Frank Costa, John Routh, Chad Wilson and more!

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Reggie Wayne Has a Flair for Analogies

Reggie Wayne is a funny guy, but we don't hear much during the season because the media chooses to talk to coach Jim Caldwell and QB Peyton Manning first.  Wayne is not only an all-pro receiver, but an all-world communicator as well.

When asked about winning ugly yesterday against the Texans, part of his reply was:

“I ain’t trippin’ at all, high standards or not. Hey, you’ve got high standards for the female you choose, too – but sometimes, you know, you just end up making a choice.”

What kid who went to a floor party at a college dorm hasn't been there?  Colorful and accurate, that's what we like in athlete quotes.

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Gore keeps playing after eye is poked

Nothing symbolized the 49ers' postgame injury report better than Frank Gore's eye.

The eye was swollen and bruised, like a fighter after the 15th round. The running back said a defender poked him in the right eye while he was under a pile-up in the first half.

He remained in the game and declined to say whether his vision was affected during the Titans' 34-27 victory at Candlestick Park.

"I was all right. But I wanted to win,'' Gore said. "I told my boys that I'm going to stay out there and fight with them, and that's what I did."

Gore finished with 15 rushes for 83 yards and a touchdown. He also had seven catches for 75 yards.

Like a long list of others, Gore will be reevaluated today.

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William Joseph gets third whirl

The Raiders signed defensive tackle William Joseph for the third time this season, and don't ask him why. No reason was give for his latest signing and the Raiders have not announced a corresponding move to create a roster spot.

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Moving Wilfork gives defense a different look

FOXBORO — When the Patriots lined up on defense against the Dolphins, something looked a bit off about the defensive line, and not just because Jarvis Green wasn’t on the field.

Pro Bowl nose tackle Vince Wilfork was at right end. Mike Wright was in the middle of the line at nose.

After the game, Bill Belichick said the move gave New England a better matchup.

“We just felt like overall with Vince and Ty (Warren) outside, Mike inside (and rookie Myron Pryor as well), that that would give us the best matchup on Miami’s personnel and what they were doing,” Belichick said. “Vince…is a pretty versatile player. He’s very flexible. He did a good job. He embraced the move all week.”

Miami left tackle Jake Long is 6-foot-7, 330 pounds, and though Wilfork is several inches shorter than Long, he outweighs the former number-one draft pick. Wright, who would have been starting at end normally, would have been giving up about 30 pounds to Long.

Wilfork finished the game with three tackles, but his numbers weren’t important because he was able to sufficiently occupy Long while his linebacker teammates focused on getting to quarterback Chad Henne.

“When I got the memo I was like, ‘cool,’ ” Wilfork said. “I’m not looking at (center Jake) Grove, I’m looking at Long now and (left guard Justin) Smiley. I didn’t mind it because I knew I could play it. I knew it was going to be a little strange, a little different, but in practice I got those different looks (and) they threw a lot of stuff at me. Sometimes I was like, ‘Man, what the heck am I doing?’ but it paid off. They prepared me very well for the game and looking at film, I think I did pretty good. Of course I could get better out there, but I have something to improve on.”

Warren, who played some nose early on in his career, said things happen more quickly at the interior spot, and that he and Wilfork spoke often in the days leading to the game, with Warren giving his friend tips on how best to play the position.

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Defensive lineman Vince Wilfork visited with the Dale & Holley show Monday morning, one day after helping the Patriots beat the Dolphins and tighten their control on the top spot in the AFC East. Wilfork commented on Dolphins linebacker Joey Porter, who was vocal during the days leading up to the game but did not deliver any meaningful plays on Sunday.

"You have to play between the lines, and obviously he didn't do that yesterday," Wilfork said. "So, he can talk all he wants, but, back it up. I always say that people we have who trash-talk out on the field, I'm like, 'Hey, if you're going to talk, back it up. Because at the end of the day, the spotlight is going to be back on you. You did all the trash-talking through the course of the week, let me see what you gone done.' "

Added Wilfork: "We take whatever he says for motivation. So, keep motivating us."

Wilfork discussed the Dolphins' game plan, and why he was moved to the end.

Said Wilfork: "You could just tell how they wanted to attack us, outside. Especially with Ricky [Williams]. Ricky, he's not too thrilled to run between the tackles. That's just Ricky. So, we know with Ricky in the backfield, OK, screens and outside runs, because he's trying to get to the edge."

Wilfork was about being listed No. 1 on a list of top free agents for the upcoming offseason.

"I was over with all the contract situations a long time ago," he said. "I mean, a long time ago. I told the organization the same thing. That's something that, it will take care of itself." Added Wilfork: "They know what they're going to get out of me when I'm on the field. They're going to get everything I have, with or without a [new] contract."

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Zorn 'cautious' about Portis's return

Washington Redskins running back Clinton Portis was knocked out of Sunday's 31-17 loss to the Atlanta Falcons in the first quarter, suffering an apparent concussion on a run that was called back because of a holding call.

Portis, the Redskins' leading rusher on the season, took the ball from quarterback Jason Campbell and ran around the left tackle with 3 minutes 26 seconds left in the first quarter and the Redskins trailing, 7-0. Center Casey Rabach was called for holding on the play. Portis fell hard to the Georgia Dome turf when he was tackled by Atlanta defensive backs Chevis Jackson and Thomas DeCoud.

Portis lay face-down on the turf for a few seconds before team athletic trainers rolled him over. Coach Jim Zorn said Portis was "knocked out."

"You tell me what happened," Portis said after the game. "I don't remember what happened."

Zorn said it was too early to say how long Portis might be out, if at all.

"He had kind of one of those smiles on his face that you know [he] was wondering what the heck happened," Zorn said. "I would never make a diagnosis on a guy getting knocked out. We just have to wait and see. There'll be some tests to see whether or not there was a concussion and how long it takes."

Zorn said the team would be "cautious" about Portis's return. Portis spent the second half of the game on the sideline in a T-shirt and athletic shorts.

"I got a headache," he said. "I'm sore. But I think I'll be all right."

Portis, who ran just four times for four yards, was replaced by backup Ladell Betts, who carried 15 times for 70 yards -- more than in any game since 2006 -- and scored a touchdown on a fourth-down play from the 1.

Portis's injury was just one in a slew suffered by the Redskins Sunday. Campbell, who was sacked five times, was twice knocked from the game, the first time in the first half with a chest bruise, the next with what Zorn later described as a "high-ankle sprain" in the second half. Campbell returned even after the sprain, and he'll be evaluated during the week.

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Harbaugh: Reed's not at risk

A week after Ed Reed blasted Denver’s Knowshon Moreno to force a big fumble, the Ravens safety was conspicuous for three missed arm tackles in a loss to the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday.

Although it was an uncharacteristic performance for Reed, coach John Harbaugh said he doesn’t believe it was the result of Reed playing hurt.

“I think he’s tackled very well this year, up until this game,” Harbaugh said at his weekly news conference Monday. “Obviously, the hit against Denver was as good a tackle as you’re ever going to see. From my understanding, the neck is as good as it’s been in two years, but I think it’s a factor. But it’s not a dangerous type thing where he’s at risk, or he wouldn’t be playing.”

Reed, who has played the past season and a half with a nerve impingement in his neck, had five tackles in the 17-7 loss to the Bengals, and forced another fumble when he stripped Chad Ochocinco. But he also whiffed on three would-be tackles, twice against wide receiver Laveranues Coles on a run of 8 yards and a pass of 32.

“He’s worked extremely hard in the weight room,” Harbaugh said. “He’s as muscled up as he’s been since we’ve been here in the last two years. So I think Ed’s worked really hard to get himself in position to play really well. I’m sure he’s disappointed with those three tackles. Those three tackles are tackles you normally see him make.”

Injured or not, Reed remains a playmaker on defense. He has forced fumbles in three of the past four games and returned an interception for a touchdown. After he stripped the ball from Ochocinco at the Ravens’ 36 in the fourth quarter, he recovered it himself, ran 13 yards and then lateraled to Chris Carr for 4 more yards. That series ended with a missed field goal by Steve Hauschka.

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Olsen's career day wasted in lopsided loss to Cardinals

CHICAGO – On Sunday, Greg Olsen became the first Bears tight end to catch three touchdown passes in a game in 34 years. But the third-year pro wasn’t in the mood to celebrate following a 41-21 loss to the Arizona Cardinals.

“Nothing we did was good enough to win the game, so none of our performances were too special or else we would have won,” Olsen said. “At the end of the day, this is a results business, and we didn’t get it done today. No matter what you do personally, the object is to win, and we didn’t do it.”

Olsen’s 33-yard TD reception from Jay Cutler capped the Bears’ first possession and tied the score 7-7 with 9:13 left in the first quarter. Olsen later snared scoring passes of 3 and 20 yards from Cutler in a 2:46 span early in the fourth quarter to draw the Bears to within 34-21.

After the game, Olsen said that it was unfair to characterize the slumping Bears as a team that’s headed in the wrong direction.

“We have a lot of guys with a lot of pride and take a lot of pride in what we do and what we stand for here, and I think that was evident in the second half the way we fought back and clawed our way back with eight minutes left,” Olsen said. 

“We gave ourselves a chance. I think it shows what kind of guys we have here and the pride we take in playing for the Bears, and we know we have to play better.”

Olsen became the first Bears tight end with three TD catches in a game since Greg Latta on Dec. 21, 1975 at New Orleans and the first Bears player since receiver Marty Booker on Nov. 18, 2001 at Tampa Bay.

Olsen caught five passes for a season-high 71 yards in the game.

“That’s been something we’ve been trying all year, and we’ve been a little frustrated that it hasn’t happened more,” offensive coordinator Ron Turner said of Olsen’s involvement. “That was good to see, and hopefully that’s something we can build on.”

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Ravens need to get Willis McGahee more involved in the offense

The Ravens need to get back to running the football which takes pressure off of Joe Flacco.  They have turned to 2nd year RB Ray Rice as the full time running back and despite his fine play the offense hasn’t been as good as it was early in the year.  The Ravens should get Willis McGahee back involved in the offense as he is the 2nd best playmaker on the offense behind Rice.  McGahee has carried the ball 47 times for 201 yards (4.3 ypc) with 5 TD runs and he has also caught 9 passes for 62 yards (6.9 avg) with 2 TD grabs.  But in the Ravens’ last four games McGahee has 10 carries for 0 yards (0.0 ypc) and he has only caught 2 passes for 8 yards (4.0 avg).  The Ravens need to get McGahee back into the offense or they are going to continue to have problems scoring points.

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Kosar says he's interested in being the Browns G.M.

As Peter King first reported on Saturday, Browns owner Randy Lerner is looking to hire a "football czar" who would help turn around the franchise.

But with former Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar already wedging a foot in the door, the football czar will have to find a way to navigate Kosar's expectations.

Though Kosar's expectations remain to be seen, he seems to be interested in being the General Manager of the team.

"Part of me wants to do it," Kosar told Tony Rizzo of ESPN 850 in Cleveland, "but you have to see who you are working with and what say and what amount of organization and control and decision-making abilities you are going to be able to have."

Frankly, Kosar should have none.  Though some former players have become highly competent executives (including former Browns tight end and current Ravens G.M. Ozzie Newsome), a guy doesn't just show up and become an expert in running a football team -- especially when that guy's personal finances are in shambles.

So just like the "football czar" will be relied upon to help Lerner extricate himself from a bad situation with coach Eric Mangini, Lerner also might need said czar to find a way to keep Kosar from getting his fingerprints all over the franchise.

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Up Close With John Salmons

Let me preface this interview by saying this was before Chicago's recent win at home over the Charlotte Bobcats, when John Salmons led the team with 27 points on 9-for-16 shooting from the field. Before that game, Salmons was shooting a team-low 29.6% from the field, so he and I talked about the slump and what he was doing to bust out of it. Salmons is a pretty self-kept guy, but it was interesting to see how much he opened up after such a successful game.

I know it's been a bit of a slow start for you this season, especially in terms of field goal percentage, so what's been behind it?
"I've been working on getting a ton of extra shots up every day to try and get a rhythm. All I can is just keep working on it and have faith."

Is it a confidence thing, or a flow of the game thing, or what?
"I don't know. I just haven't been able to make shots. It hasn't been anything specific. My shot just hasn't been as hot as it's been in the past, and I'm trying to get better."

Mentally, what does a guy do to break himself out of a slump? All athletes go through some sort of downtime and some point in their careers, but how does John Salmons go about it?
"For me it's just keeping my faith in God and putting all my worries on him. I'll go out there and play hard, give it my best, and pray for a good outcome."

What's it like being such a mild-mannered, soft-spoken guy on a team full of so many strong personalities?
"It's fun, man. There really are a lot of strong personalities on this team. There are so many guys that want to speak their mind, and it's always fun to be around a group like that."

How different is the culture of this team and the expectations of this team versus what the culture and expectations may have been had you started another season off in Sacramento?
"Yeah, but regardless of where you're at—Chicago or Sacramento—you still want to be professional. When I was in Sacramento I was coming into every game with the expectation to win. I'm still trying to win games here. It'd be the same in both places."

You had such a good year last season averaging a career-high in points with over 18 a game—what kind of pressure do you feel has been put on you, either by fans, media, or yourself—to come out here and duplicate that?
"I'm just trying to help my team win as many games as possible. If I just play basketball I think I'll be okay."

That one game against Charlotte bumped up Salmons's shooting percentage by five full points, and they're going to need more games like that if they hope to get their relatively low team scoring up. He's supposed to be a significant chunk of Chicago's post-Ben-Gordon offense, so Saturday night was a huge step in the right direction.

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NFL U Week 8 Video Highlights

Check out the return of our NFL U Video Highlights. Like we did back in 2006 & 2008, will provide our fans every week video highlights of all of our NFL U stars along with pictures from the current NFL Week. Click here to check out our Week 8 Video Highlights or click above on NFL U Video Highlights. Enjoy this week's highlights which feature Jeremy Shockey, Reggie Wayne, Frank Gore, Ed Reed, Andre Johnson and much more!

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proCanes Extend TD Streak to 114 Regular Season Weeks

Did you know that a former Miami Hurricane/current proCane has scored at least one touchdown in 114 consecutive regular season NFL weeks? Dating back to Week 15 of the 2002 season where Clinton Portis scored 4 TDs, at least one proCane has scored a TD in each regular season week since then. We have chronicled every touchdown since 2002. See below:

Week 9 2009:
Greg Olsen - 3 TDs - Chicago Bears
Frank Gore - 1 TD - San Francisco 49ers
Kellen Winslow - 1 TD - Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Week 8 2009:
Frank Gore - 1 TD - San Francisco 49ers
Reggie Wayne - 1 TD - Indianapolis Colts

Week 7 2009:
Reggie Wayne - 1 TD - Indianapolis Colts
Brandon Meriweather - INT returned for a TD – New England Patriots
Devin Hester - 1 TD - Chicago Bears

Week 6 2009:
Jeremy Shockey - 1 TD - New Orleans Saints
Greg Olsen - 1 TD - Chicago Bears

Week 5 2009:
Clinton Portis - 2 TDs - Washington Redskins
Ed Reed - INT returned for a TD - Baltimore Ravens
Kellen Winslow - 2 TDs - Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Andre Johnson - 2 TDs - Houston Texans
Reggie Wayne - 1 TD - Indianapolis Colts

Week 4 2009:
Greg Olsen - 1 TD - Chicago Bears
Reggie Wayne - 1 TD - Indianapolis Colts
Willis McGahee - 2 TDs - Baltimore Ravens
Santana Moss - 1 TD - Washington Redskins

Week 3 2009:
Santana Moss - 1 TD - Washington Redskins
Willis McGahee - 2 TDs - Baltimore Ravens
Sinorice Moss - 1 TD - NY Giants
Devin Hester - 1 TD - Chicago Bears
Greg Olsen - 1 TD - Chicago Bears
Reggie Wayne - 1 TD - Indianapolis Colts

Week 2 2009:
Antrel Rolle - Blocked Field Goal Return for a TD - Arizona Cardinals
Andre Johnson - 2 TDs - Houston Texans
Willis McGahee - 2 TDs - Baltimore Ravens
Kellen Winslow - 1 TD - Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Frank Gore - 2 TDs - San Francisco 49ers
Bruce Johnson - 1 TD - New York Giants

Week 1 2009:
Willis McGahee - 2 TDs - Baltimore Ravens
Kellen Winslow - 1 TD - Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Reggie Wayne - 1 TD - Indianapolis Colts
Jeremy Shockey - 2 TDs - New Orleans Saints
Frank Gore - 1 TD - San Francisco 49ers
Devin Hester - 1 TD - Chicago Bears

Click below to see the rest of the list:

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Tracking proCanes - Lance Hurdle - Part I is continuing our “Tracking proCanes” feature with former University of Miami and new Bakersfield Jam point guard Lance Hurdle. Hurdle played in 65 games as the Miami Hurricanes point guard between the ’07 and ’09 seasons. Hurdle averaged over 7.5 points a game in his two seasons as a Miami Hurricane. Before being a Hurricane Hurdle played for San Bernardino Valley CC where he was named Foothill Conference Player of the Year after averaging 16 points, four rebounds and six assists per game He also earned first-team all-state and San Diego Union Tribune All-Academic Team honors, while guiding San Bernardino to the Foothill Conference Championship. Hurdle was drafted by the Bakersfield Jam in the 5th round last Thursday in the NBA D-League Draft. Hurdles heads out to California on Wednesday to start preparations for his upcoming season.

Part I: Lance talks about getting drafted by Bakersfield, his days as a Hurricane and much more!

pC: You were drafted in the 5th round and going back to California. Have you spoken to any coaches or players from the Bakersfield Jam?
LH: I just spoke to the coaches and they just told me they couldn’t wait for me to get out there and stuff like that.

pC: So do you know any other guys on the team?
LH: I know of some other players, but I don’t know anybody personally.

pC: How many other point guards are there on the team?
LH: I’m not sure, I heard that they drafted one other point guard and I’m pretty sure they have two others. The other point guard they drafted in the 8th round from Chattanooga, I think.

pC: When did you find out you were going to Bakersfield? Did you expect to be drafted higher or was that where you thought you would go?
LH: I didn’t know where I would go, actually. It didn’t really matter to me as long as I just got drafted. I actually found out from Twitter first. I was following it on the draft board and I was trying to reload the page and as I was reloading my page a tweet came saying ‘good luck in Bakersfield.’ [Laughter]. I actually reloaded and it stopped right before the Bakersfield pick. I had talked to the Bakersfield coach the day before and they said they were interested and stuff like that, so I had a feeling I had a chance to be in Bakersfield. When the page paused right before the Bakersfield pick, I said “watch that I go to Bakersfield.”

pC: When did you actually talk to the coach?
LH: I talked to the coach the day after, on Friday. They were still busy during the draft and they knew I was on a time difference so they thought it would be too late to call. I actually talked to the secretary that night to get everything situated in terms of my flight and arrangements, just welcoming me and the next day I talked to the coach.

pC: You fly out Wednesday and when does practice start?
LH: I read somewhere practice starts Thursday, but Training Camp starts Sunday. I’m not sure when it starts, to be honest, because I have seen two different times. I just know I have to be out there Wednesday.

pC: So how does the D-League work?
LH: I signed with the NBA D-League and with the NBA D-League I sign with the league and then you’re in a pool of draftees and then they pick.

pC: So do you sign for a certain amount of years?
LH: Its’ just normally for a year because a lot of these players get called up to the NBA or they get a great contract overseas so this is a great opportunity to be seen.

pC: So you know any other people that went to the D-League and then went overseas. Do you have any friends that followed that track?
LH: Not really. I’ve heard a lot of stories about it.

pC: You said you worked out with the Miami Heat how did that go?
LH: It went well. I did the pre-draft camp like two or three times. Then they had the rookie camp but I couldn’t do that cuz I was back home in Virginia but I came back and I worked out with them for a week but they just needed an extra guy.

pC: The Heat are thin at point guard. You think that was part of the reason for them calling you in? What were their workouts like?
LH: It was like a team individual, running their plays and stuff like that. But the thing that I think hurt me was the fact that I went home and I graduated but then I had one more semester in the summer so I stayed in the University Village but my contract was up so I had no place to stay right after so I went home for a couple of weeks and they had called me and I was like, well I can come back right away and they were like it’s not that big of a deal but if it’s meant to be it will come back around so I wasn’t too worried about it.

pC: So were those workouts with all the starters?
LH: For the most the part most of the team was there but D-Wade [Dwayne Wade] wasn’t there, Jermaine O’neal, Mario [Chalmers] was there in the rookie camp, but I wasn’t there for that but he wasn’t there the week that I was there.

pC: Was James Jones there?
LH: Yeah it was voluntary for them but he showed up everyday.

pC: Did you talk to James Jones?
LH: Yeah, we actually exchanged numbers. He’s a real cool guy especially doing the pre-draft workouts so I was asking him what are they looking for and he told me ‘a point guard with a lot of confidence who can play defense and show that their aggressive on the offensive end.’

pC: So what would you say you’ve been working on the most? What part of your game?
LH: Honestly I went back to the basics. I think my biggest advantage on field is my speed. So when I work out, I just practice going full speed and doing a move at the same time. So that’s basically what I’ve been improving on, full-speed and into a jump shot, full speed and so on. Whatever I do is full speed and pacing it up and slowing it down just making my defender have to think about what am I gonna do next and whether I am going to go fast or slow

pC: Who do you workout with? Do you workout at UM?
LH: Yeah I work out with strength coach Matt Callaway, he’s a big time help and I’ve been working out with Raja Bell he’s in there too. He’s been a big time help as well just keeping me confident. He went through the CBA. I didn’t know that till he told me that and told me the D-League is more connected with the NBA so if that’s your goal you’ll be there one day if you stick with it. They’ve given me a lot of confidence and actually Boozer was up here playing pick-up. Roger Mason was with the Spurs so I’ve been around a lot of NBA guys all summer and just working out on my own

pC: Do you workout in the new gym they built?
LH: Yeah it’s nice. It’s like maybe 15 baskets in there. It’s two big main courts but on each side they have more baskets.

pC: Tell me about how you ended up at UM. Who recruited you and why UM?
LH: When I left UC santa Barbara that was a tough year for me, I didn’t play very much and I really did not have that connection with the coach that I would like to have so I decided to go to Junior College in San Bernardino and my older brother went to Cal State San Bernardino so personally it was a good fit for me because I stayed with him and I was just working out. I always wanted to come to Miami and we actually talked about just coming out here for a spring break and I said “man how cool would it be to get recruited by them and go on a full scholarship” and he said ‘don’t knock it, it might happen’ and I was like yeah they not gonna put a junior college transfer in the ACC. But one night I get a call from a 512 number, that’s Texas, and you know Coach Suarez and Coach Haith used to be at Texas and Coach Suarez still had that area code number. So I asked my brother what area code is 512 and he says Texas so I was like it might be Texas A&M because I heard they were trying to recruit me. So I listen to the voicemail and it was Coach Suarez and I was so excited. From that point on they came to see me at our college championship game and I had my best performance of the year and from there God just took over.

pC: So were any other schools recruiting you at the time?
LH: It was UM, Marshall, Southeastern Missouri State, Western Carolina, Tennessee Chattanooga. There were a lot of them

pC: So Miami was the top one?
LH: It was Miami, the day I committed to Miami I took an unofficial visit to Pepperdime and during that day when we took the unofficial with my mom I came home that night and said “you know what, I just want to go to Miami, I don’t want to do the five visit thing, Miami is special.”

pC: I didn’t know that your dream was to come to Miami so it must have been then not that difficult to transfer?
LH: It wasn’t difficult at all.

pC: You didn’t have to sit out a year so when did you sign and when did you start working with the team?
LH: I signed April 15, my birthday, and I came out here in June. I worked out in the summertime and went to class. They wanted to get me out here so I came out here second session of summer and I came out here started working out with the team, taking classes, school started and then the season was here.

pC: Who was the other point guard when you came in?
LH: The year I came was the first year [Denny] Clemente was gone. I came in with Eddie Rios, so it was Eddie and I. That’s the year they were still trying to put Jack [McClinton] as a point too, but since we had Eddie and myself they just kept Jack at the two for a little bit.

pC: Last year Jack played a lot more the point and then you lost Eddie. Talk about that and not having Eddie as a back-up. Did that hurt the team a little bit down the stretch?
LH: It did effect b/because Jack had to play the point and Jack is a good point guard but he can score and teams started to key on him when he’s at the point guard position but not having Eddie hurt us because it limited the looks Jack had and it tired him out. Jack is a good player and he found his shot but if he had Eddie it would have helped us out a little more.

pC: Talk about the previous season you guys surprised everyone and then the following season many would say you didn’t live up to expectations. Talk about that and what went wrong the second season and what went right the previous season.
LH: The first season we felt disrespected. My first year here when we went to the tournament. we felt like everybody picked us to finish 12th in the ACC. We felt we get no respect. We worked hard in practice and we even put extra time in practice. We went down to Mississippi State in a tough environment and pulled out a win there and that’s when we really came together so we just felt we put that chip on our should the first year but last year everything was given to us. We were preseason ranked, we were on TV a lot, we were in the media and I don’t think we had that edge that we had to work for it and by the time we got it, it was too late.

pC: So would you say there wasn’t a sense of urgency from the players?
LH: Yeah I think last year’s team talent on paper was obviously better. We had a year of experience with everybody we had good freshmen coming in. Julian Gamble who was supposed to play the spot Anthony King left open, was young but very skilled. You just had too many chiefs and not enough Indians, you know what I mean? We had a lot of good players. My first year we knew our role but last year it was too many people trying to find their role, but everyone is going to be good this year.

pC: You think so?
LH: They’re really going to be good and Malcolm Grant, who I work out with, that’s like a brother to me. When he first came to campus, being point guards that’s how we clicked and we’re real good friends and he didn’t go back home and we stayed out and worked out together and competed against one another so him as a point guard, his talent is going to take him to another level, but his leadership more importantly

pC: Who is going to be the scorer now?
LH: James Dews can score the ball.

pC: He showed that last year but he wasn’t consistent.
LH: I think he’s worked on his scoring ability and being able to score in a variety of ways. Dews is a good scorer Dequan [Jones] has gotten much better Dwayne Colline is going to get you and he’s going to be a beast this year. Dwayne and you’ve got the freshman guys who are really good. Julian Gamble, Reggie, you’ve got a lot of really good players.

pC: Who would you say is your mentor? Who really helped your game when you were here?
LH: Coach Suarez. That’s my go-to man. When I decided to make the decision whether to do the D League or not, that’s the first person I called. Everyone else when I talk to them about going overseas or the D League they give me negative stuff about the D League. When I talked to Coach Suarez the first thing he said to me is you’ve got to do what’s best for you. Overseas is good but there’s some negatives. The D League is good but there’s some negatives, either way wherever you go there will be some negatives and positives. I worked out with him after every practice during the season even now when he’ll come in and work out with me. He’s just a great guy.

pC: Where’s the toughest place you had to play when it was a road game? Where the fans were the worst the loudest?
LH: Well the obvious ones were Carolina, Duke, Clemson but I have to say Kentucky. They had 25,000 fans and when they started to come back they were so loud I couldn’t hear anything, literally. It was crazy.

pC: Talk about playing at bank united center? Was it tough to play somewhere that was never full?
LH: Well when we had a packed house it was easy to get pumped up for games but obviously the two years I wasn’t here they would talk about how no one was really in the stands, unless it was a big game. So it was different. The student section was always packed. I love our crowd, I love our fans here even during school they say ‘hey Lance good game or when’s the next game.’ Even when we’re out in the city. I love our fans here I wouldn’t trade them for nobody.

pC: So what do you think about what Coach Haith is doing with the program? How do you see the future?
LH: Coach Haith is a great coach and a great person. He’s a father figure to everyone. He’s definitely taken this program to a another level but I think he will stay. Last year you heard the rumors and he even said it himself, this is where I want to be and this is what I want to be doing and you even see it in his recruiting each year. It’s getting better and he’s just a great coach and a great guy.

pC: So what do you think Miami needs to do to take it one step higher?
LH: To get that ship back, I think they’ve just got to play hard because I think they were picked last again. I was looking at it with Malcolm. I think they’re picked 11th or 12th either way it’s disrespect, that’s not where they want to be. They don’t like it at all. They’re working hard, they’re running and they’ve gotten better so I think they might have a lot of growing pains because they’re young but sometimes being young can help you out because with young players there’s a lot of confidence. They really don’t know what they’re getting themselves into, so they just want to play and there is not a lot of pressure at all and the expectations are going to be like just go play and that’s the best time to play.

pC: Why the number 1? Have you always been number 1?
LH: When I was young and started playing basketball I had like number 5, number 14, random numbers and one day we got new uniforms for my AU team and my dad had number one and I said alright I like that so I’ve had that it since but when I got to high school, our high school had no single digit numbers. Our high school coach was very stern, I love him to death, so I said well let me get number 11. 1 and 1 together and then when I went to Santa Barabara I had to pick a totally different number, number 3, and that didn’t work out at all, so then I went to San Bernardino and I got “1” back. When Coach Suarez said ‘hey what number would you like?’ and I said “is “one” available” and he said ‘yeah, you’ve got it’ so I kept “one.”

pC: So at what age did you start playing? Was your dad a coach?
LH: Yeah he was a coach, he was an assistant coach to our AU team but I started playing with our AU team when I was 7 years old.

pC: You were always a point guard?
LH: I was thinking about this last night. It’s crazy that you ask me that. I was taller than everybody else when I was younger so I played “the three” but I was young so you have no true position so I was “the three” until I was about 13 [years old] and my AU coach said in the middle of the game, he says, ‘you’re a point guard not a three so you’ve got to bring the ball up,’ and I was like “what? Alright, whatever.” So it took me a while to get used to it but I got used to it and it’s been with me ever since.

pC: You could always handle the ball even at “the three” spot?
LH: Yeah but when I was 12 [years old] I wasn’t good. I would just score, score, score at the “the three” position but I learned how to be a point guard.

Click here to read Part II of our interview with Lance Hurdle and see what he has to say about who is favorite player growing up was, Jimmy Graham, the hardest away game he played in the ACC and much more!

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Winslow Has a Big Day in the Bucs First Win

Kellen Winslow (4 catches, 57 yards, TD) is back in play, however. He will be frequently targeted by Freeman next week considering Miami was allowing 100 yards to tight ends going into Week 9. Winslow remains a top-10 play, and probably will start that way. Maurice Stovall (3 catches, 46 yards) and Sammie Stroughter (3 catches, 19 yards, TD) aren’t quite the waiver-wire pickups you are looking for.

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

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Portis injured

Clinton Portis left the game in the first quarter with a possible concussion. Ladell Betts (15 carries, 70 yards, TD) filled in well, which he usually does when Portis is injured. Portis owners should already own Betts. If that isn’t the case, make Betts a middle- to high-priority waiver claim. Betts will make a decent play against a Denver team coming off a short week if Portis can’t go.

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Texans' Johnson leaves game with injury

Andre Johnson left Sunday's game in the third quarter but returned only a few plays later.

Johnson took a hard hit in his back after making a catch and falling toward the goalline. He was eventually able to walk off the field under his own power and may have simply had the wind knocked out of him.

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Wilfork slides down line

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- While the Dolphins' offensive wrinkles were a big part of Sunday's game, the Patriots had a few tricks up their jersey sleeves as well in their 27-17 win.

One of the biggest ones came on defense, where nose tackle Vince Wilfork played most of the game at right defensive end.

Why the switch?

Players explained after the game that since the Patriots were without starting right defensive end Jarvis Green, an adjustment had to be made.

Five-year veteran Mike Wright was the projected fill-in, but at 6-foot-4, 295 pounds, he wasn't deemed the best fit to face the powerful left side of the Dolphins' offensive line anchored by left tackle Jake Long (6-7, 317).

So Wilfork (6-2, 325) got the call at right defensive end, with Wright moving inside to nose tackle, and rookie Myron Pryor serving as a backup nose.

"I think they moved [Vince] out so we could be a little more stout against a bigger guy like that, especially with them trying to get it outside," Wright said.

The versatility was important to the team's victory.

“Around here you got to wear a couple of hats,” defensive end Ty Warren [stats] said. “We talked about it all week. (Wilfork) told me the last time he played out there was high school. Vince was kind of ‘Huh?’ But I guess we felt it was the best matchup.”

It paid off, as the Patriots held the Dolphins to 133 yards rushing. Mike Wright played nose tackle and didn’t have to face former first-round pick Jake Long, and it kept Wilfork (three tackles) away from center Jake Grove, against whom he’s struggled.

“We just felt like that was a good matchup for us,” coach Bill Belichick said. “Vince has really played all across the line for us. He’s a pretty versatile player. He’s very flexible. He embraced the move all week and it looked like he did a pretty good job on Long.”

Warren said the main difference in the positions is that things happen quicker at nose tackle and a nose tackle is more likely to face cut blocks.

Click here to order Vince Wilfork’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Shockey held to just 26 yards in Week 9

Jeremy Shockey was held to just 26 yards on three catches in Week 9 against the Panthers.

Shockey could have added a touchdown but he turned his head too late on a ball that hit him right in the back shoulder. Though he was targeted just five times, he should bounce back with a bigger game against the Rams next week.

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Olsen breaks out with three TDs in loss

Greg Olsen caught five passes for 71 yards and three touchdowns in Sunday's loss tot he Cardinals.

Olsen's numbers have to be taken with a grain of salt because the vast majority of this game, and two of his touchdowns, was garbage time. Still, it's a great boost of confidence for Olsen, who came into the game with just 22 catches and two touchdowns in seven games. Olsen will be a low-end TE1 for Thursday night's game against the 49ers.

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

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Rolle Reversal

Cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and safety Antrel Rolle helped the Cardinals engineer a six-point swing just before halftime.

Rodgers-Cromartie blocked a 48-yard field goal attempt by Robbie Gould. Rolle, standing in the end zone, grabbed the short kick, evaded several Bears’ tacklers inside the 10-yard line and returned it 59 yards to Chicago’s 49-yard line.

Two Warner completions advanced the ball to the 25, and Neil Rackers kicked a 43-yard field goal as time expired for a 31-7 halftime lead.

The play didn’t endear Rolle to his teammates, though. He caught grief because it was Gould who tackled him.

“He grabbed my (right) foot, and that foot hasn’t been healthy lately,” said Rolle, who’s been bothered by a sore arch. “I’ve been ripped all day today by everybody.”

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

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Beason: 'it's pretty disheartening'

NEW ORLEANS – Carolina Panthers middle linebacker Jon Beason was spare in his praise of the New Orleans Saints on Sunday.

"You've got to give them credit," Beason said after the unbeaten Saints rallied to beat the Panthers 30-20 in the Super Dome. "They're a pretty good football team – I didn't say great.

"We showed we can play with them. We proved it for 3½ quarters. But you can't give them stuff and that's what we did late in the game."

Beason was referring to two long plays by the Saints offense in the third quarter that catapulted them back in the game. The Panthers' cause wasn't helped when weakside linebacker Thomas Davis hurt his right knee with 10 minutes, 40 seconds remaining.

Davis left the game and didn't return. Although the nature and severity of the injury wasn't known immediately after the game, Davis said in the locker room he thought he had hyper-extended his knee and that it hadn't happened by being hit. He wasn't on crutches nor was his knee in a brace afterward.

Davis missed most of the preseason with an injury to the same knee. He missed the Panthers' game against Buffalo on Oct. 25 with a pulled hamstring. Beason and Davis had helped set the game's tone in the first half, their speed a huge factor in tracking down Saints running back and receivers. Beason ended 11 tackles and a fumble recovery. Davis had six tackles, two for a loss, before he was hurt.

"Anytime you don't know what's wrong with a knee, it's definitely scary," said Beason. "Unfortunately, he's having a great season. Pro Bowl numbers. I can't think of any outside linebacker playing any better. You've just got to keep the faith. Hopefully everything works out and he'll be back next week."

Big plays by the Saints in the second half wiped out much of the good work that Beason, Davis and the rest of the Panthers defense had done for much of the game.

"It's pretty disheartening," Beason said. "That's on us. (We) missed tackles, had a blown assignment one time. It's something to build on, but you can't have it if you're going to win games. It's too tough in this league."

Trailing 17-6 at halftime, the Saints scored quickly in the third quarter, with a 63-yard pass from quarterback Drew Brees to Devery Henderson setting up a 10-yard touchdown run by Pierre Thomas.

Later in the quarter, Brees hit Robert Meachem on a 54-yard scoring pass down the right side, tying the game 20-20.

The Panthers came into the game with the NFL's top-ranked pass defense, but allowed Brees to throw for 330 yards. They limited New Orleans to 84 yards rushing.

"They've gotten to where they're running the ball better," said Beason. "It used to be that a lot of teams just sat on the pass. You can't be one dimensional in this league. We did a good job containing the run, but we blew some coverages."

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Raiders meet with William Joseph

The Oakland Raiders met with former defensive tackle William Joseph on Friday, according to a league source.

He wasn't immediately signed.

Joseph was with the team earlier this season.

The former  New York Giants player was drafted in the first round of the 2003 NFL draft out of the University of Miami.

Joseph earned a Super Bowl ring with the Giants after suffering a season-ending injury.

Joseph was re-signed by the Raiders last November after being cut in September of last year. He finished the season with eight tackles.

As a rookie after a holdout, Joseph signed a five-year, $6.95 million contract.

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Reggie Wayne Autograph Session

The Indianapolis Colts and Finish Line are pleased to announce that Colts WR Reggie Wayne will be signing autographs at the Finish Line Store in Castleton Mall on Wednesday, November 11th from 6:30-8:00 p.m. This autograph session is open to the public. AUTOGRAPHS WILL BE SIGNED ON A FIRST-COME, FIRST-SERVED BASIS AND ARE LIMITED TO ONE AUTOGRAPH PER PERSON UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED. UNFORTUNATELY, GIVEN THE HIGH DEMAND AND THE LIMITED TIME FRAME, WE CANNOT GUARANTEE THAT EVERYONE IN ATTENDANCE WILL HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY TO GET AN AUTOGRAPH. ADDITIONAL RESTRICTIONS MAY APPLY.

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Donnell Bennett's HS Team Inches Closer To the Playoffs

The name Devon Wright and shutdown are not words that have been used often, but thats exactly what happened Friday night as Northeast shut down Wright and in turn beat Taravella 23-6 to inch closer to its first playoff berth since 1995.

If Deerfield Beach beats Douglas Saturday, the journey will be complete and Northeast (4-5, 2-1) will be the District 9-6A runner-up. If Douglas pulls the upset, there will be a three-way tie and a tiebreaker will need to be played Monday at a site to be determined.

``It's a big win for us, the guys really worked hard, they deserve it and we have to get ready for whats to come,'' Northeast coach Donnell Bennett said. ``It means a lot, not just for me, but the school and the kids.''

On Friday, it was a defensive mastery of Taravella's Wing-T offense that stuffed Wright for only 69 yards on 19 carries before he left the game late in the third quarter with a right ankle injury. His status for the Trojans (3-6, 0-3) season finale is still unknown.

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Kosar discusses his role with the Browns

Bernie Kosar wants to make it clear he's not an employee of the Browns.  He's "been in the building a lot," but he's just a consultant.  When asked on ESPN Cleveland this week what that means exactly, Kosar was vague.

"I don't know.  It's evolving," Kosar said.  "People think that I've got a master plan and 'Bernie's being secretive.' Sometimes in life, there are things that go beyond football. There's personal issues that evolve. Things happen to people that are beyond football. . . . There's other things going on with people, their own personal health, and their families that override football. You have to be really, really, be careful about what you say."

Kosar joked that he recently learned how to tie a tie as part of his evolving role.  His comments on the thought process behind G.M. George Kokinis' firing were the most revealing of his 15 minute interview.  Kosar describes a situation where coach Eric Mangini and owner Randy Lerner remain in step.

"[Lerner] and coach Eric have been on the same page in terms of - [Lerner] hasn't undermined Eric's authority, he hasn't undermined the coach's power.  This is a decision with the general manager that both of them was the best of the team," Kosar said.  "Players, if they aren't doing their job, and they aren't getting their job done, they get cut.  It's got to be the same in the personnel department."

That may be true, but it's fair to wonder whether a possible "football czar" will cut Mangini. 

The coach seems safe for the rest of the 2009 season, so he has to decide what to do at the quarterback position.  Kosar said that he doesn't see a rift between Mangini and Brady Quinn, but that Mangini hasn't decided who will start at quarterback after Cleveland's bye. 

Kosar knows all about quarterback drama in Cleveland.  16 years ago today, Kosar started his final game as a Brown.  Bill Belichick cut him shortly thereafter in a wildly controversial move and is still not a favorite among Browns fans because of it.  Belichick and Mangini have that much in common.

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Hester fast becoming a good catch

Devin Hester has been frightening Bears opponents since his first game in the NFL when he went 84 yards for a touchdown with a punt return against Green Bay on Sept. 10, 2006.

But everyone knew he had rare return ability from his days at Miami.

What's really scary is that Hester has become the Bears' No. 1 receiver, and he continues to improve by leaps and bounds, with the potential to get a lot better.

"He's just scratching the surface," said Bears wide receivers coach Darryl Drake. "The things he's done as a return man with the ball in his hands, he's able to do anytime he gets his hands on the ball as a receiver."

Drake doesn't believe in the term "No. 1 receiver," choosing to evaluate pass catchers by how proficient they are at making plays, especially big plays, when they have the opportunity.

Hester rates at the top of the class on that grading scale. He has been on the receiving end of four of the Bears' six longest pass plays this season, and he leads the team with 35 receptions, 454 receiving yards and 8 catches of 20 yards or more and is tied for the team lead with 3 receiving touchdowns.

In the past three games Hester has 21 receptions, more than anyone in the NFL except Arizona's Larry Fitzgerald. His 265 receiving yards are fourth best in the league over the same period.

Maybe the most amazing stat is that Jay Cutler has thrown 17 passes to Hester in the past two weeks, and he has caught 15 of them.

"That means he's not only getting open, he's catching everything," Drake said. "That gives the quarterback confidence in you and it means he's going to keep coming back to you. The more those two work together, they're only going to get better."

Hester caught 20 passes in 2007 in his first pro season as a wide receiver after switching from cornerback. Last year his reception total jumped to 50.

This year he's on pace for 80 catches and 1,038 receiving yards, which would be more than the combined yardage total of his first two seasons (299 yards in 2006 and 665 last season).

"I definitely see bigger things," coach Lovie Smith said. "He's learning. He hasn't been at the position long enough to have perfected it yet. But he gets a little bit closer each week. One thing we've always known is that Devin is special with his hands on the ball, and that's what's happening.

"He's getting more and more comfortable with it. He is a No. 1 receiver, and I think as you talk to opposing defenses, they definitely look at him that way."

So does Cutler, who has quickly developed a rapport with Hester.

"Plays that we run in practice against the scout team, if we see something that we feel will work against a defense," Hester said, "we might chitchat a little bit on the sidelines and say, 'Hey, if this happens, just go ahead and do this.' We communicate a lot during practices."

Hester always has had the physical skills to be a great receiver: the speed, quickness, hands, elusiveness, etc., etc. But now that he has improved the precision of his route running and his knowledge of the offense, he has become the complete package.

That's where he has made the biggest improvement this season.

"We knew what he could do with his hands on the ball," Smith said, "so I think you have to look at his route running as much as anything. To become a great receiver you need to be precise with your routes. He has done that."

Offensive coordinator Ron Turner hasn't had much success getting the Bears' run game going, but he has found a go-to guy in Hester.

"He's been an all-around receiver," Turner said. "He's catching the ball on third down. He's catching the ball in traffic. He's catching the ball inside and outside. We've got to continue to try to get him the ball."

That would be just fine with Hester, who wants to remain on pace for 1,000-yard season.

"That was one of my goals going into this season," he said. "And to be a complete receiver, to get up there with some of the elite players and make the plays they make."

If Hester keeps improving at this pace, he's going to need some new goals.

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Shockey is living up to the hype

Before the New Orleans Saints started their 2009 training camp, a New Orleans-based journalist told me in a discussion about Jeremy Shockey that the tight end would turn out to be a major disappointment in New Orleans.

“I know you are a big Shockey guy, but I don’t buy the hype around him,” the journalist said. “He looks to be just playing for himself, and he has little team-oriented skills in him. Mark my word when Sean Payton traded for him, and we all know he was the main catalyst to acquire him, it was the biggest personnel mistake he has ever made in New Orleans. It cost this team plenty to trade for him, and they are going to get very little in return. He will be with another team in 2010.”

Well, I think this gentleman may have another opinion of Shockey after watching what he has brought to the table this season.

With Saints wide receiver Lance Moore fighting a series of injuries, it has been the sure-handed Shockey who has secured his spot as a key element in playing on the Drew Brees “Change the Scoreboard Often Football Show.”

Shockey is second on the team in catches with 31 for 376 yards and three touchdowns in seven games this season.

With teams featuring the tight end more in their attacks (10 of the Top 30 reception leaders in the NFL are tight ends and Shockey is in that category) he has become a go-to option in the middle of the field.

The former Miami (Fla.) all-American says his success this season has all to do with his good health and him being on the same page with Brees, one of the NFL’s elite players.

“I don’t like to make excuses, but because of the sports hernia injury, we really had no time to work together on our timing and it showed up during some games,” Shockey said. “A quarterback and receiver have to have trust in one another and a sense of where that guy will be down field. Also I had to pick up a new offense and football is not like baseball. If you trade for a center fielder in baseball you are playing the same position in the American League as the National. In football the terminology is different from team to team, and this offense is pretty complex to digest in a short period of time. This offseason, in training camp, and in the preseason games, we were able to get our timing down, and it has worked out pretty well during the season. I know if I run my routes correctly, Drew Brees will get me the football.”

Former Saints quarterback and WWL-AM radio commentator Bobby Hebert says that Shockey has been a great addition to an already very potent Saints passing attack.

“When I played with New Orleans, we had two good tight ends in Hoby Brenner and John Tice, but they were more run-blocking type tight ends,” Hebert said. “Hoby was a good receiver, but he didn’t get a lot of yardage after the catch like Shockey does. Jeremy is a big target and he is a mismatch for any safety or linebacker down field. He has tremendous athletic skills, and he will outrun 99 percent of the linebackers or safeties that try to man up on him. Jeremy may drop an easy catch at times, but then he will come down with a great catch in traffic. You can see that his practice time with Drew (Brees) has really paid off, and they are on the same page now. I know as a former quarterback that Drew trusted Marques Colston, Lance Moore, Devery (Henderson) and Billy Miller more than he did Shockey last season. Football is about talent, but it is more about execution and good execution and because of the injury and the lack of quality practice time the execution on game day was not what everybody thought it would be. Jeremy Shockey has been a great addition and people don’t give him props he should get because he is a pretty good blocking tight end also. I can safely say that there has been no tight end in Saints history with Shockey’s kind of talent and production out on the field.”

Hebert is correct because if you look at the list of nominees for possible induction to the NFL Hall of Fame in 2010, Shockey’s numbers are quite impressive for someone who just turned 29 years old on August 18, and if he can stay healthy, he would have at least four to five real strong seasons left in him.

Listed below are the five tight ends that have been nominated for possible induction to the 2010 NFL Hall of Fame and Shockey’s numbers are included amongst them

Shannon Sharpe, 815 catches, 10,060 yards, 62 touchdowns

Frank Wycheck, 505 catches, 5,126 yards, 28 touchdowns

Ben Coates, 499 catches, 5,555 yards, 50 touchdowns

Jeremy Shockey, 452 catches, 5,087 yards, 30 touchdowns

Russ Francis, 393 catches, 5,262 yards, 40 touchdowns

Mark Bavaro, 351 catches, 4,733 yards, 39 touchdowns

One of Shockey’s biggest backers is former Miami (Fla.) Hurricanes teammate and perennial all-pro safety Ed Reed.

The Baltimore Ravens standout told me this summer that Shockey is a rare breed of talent and an emotional wire on the field.

“I know that Jeremy was upset about how he played last season, but this is the NFL, and it is not like a light switch to turn on and off when you are with a new team and fighting through an injury. He is one of the great tight ends in the game today, no question about it,” Reed said. “He has big, real sure hands, and he is like a big forward in basketball in boxing out defenders to the ball. For someone that big Jeremy can really run and he attacks defenders. He doesn’t give you a chance to unload on him, he unloads on you. People talk about his personality and stuff, but the guy loves to play this game and he is as tough as they come. He plays the game with purpose and emotion. If I was piecing together a club I would want him on my side. Once Shockey and Brees get on the same page they will be hard to stop.”

That has been very apparent this season and you have a feeling more footballs will be aimed in the direction of Shockey. He has indeed lived up to his four Pro-Bowl level in the black and gold.

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Salmons fills stat sheet in win over Bobcats

John Salmons hit 9-of-16 shots and two 3-pointers on his way to a season high of 27 points to go along with seven rebounds, six assists, three steals and a block in Saturday's win over the Bobcats.

We told you to have patience with him, or to try to buy low when he was struggling. he's got it figured out now, and should be good to go from here on out.

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McClinton Scores 22 Points in His 3rd Game in Turkey

Jack McClinton scored 22 Points in 34 minutes for his team Aliaga Petkim in Turkey to improve their record to 2-2. McClinton led his team with 22 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists. McClinton is averaging 15 points a game through three games, though looked a lot more comfortable and got a lot more minutes in his 3rd game in Turkey. He was 3-5 from 3-point land and also 5-5 from the free throw line.

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Cora Files for Free Agency

Four 2009 Mets have filed for free agency in the two days after the World Series. Carlos Delgado and Brian Schneider filed on day one.  Alex Cora and Ramon Martinez filed on day two. Of those four, Cora is the only one possibly returning.

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