's 2010 proCane Rankings Part V

Welcome to our 1st annual and long overdue proCane Rankings where we look back at the 2010 NFL season and rank the 43 proCanes that took snaps in 2010 (except for Sinorice Moss who was placed on IR before the start of the season).

Stay tuned as we countdown from number 43 to number 1. Our rankings are based on each player’s performance last year. In August we’ll go ahead and re-rank the player’s based on our 2011 expectations. For now read our review of each player’s 2010 season and where they rank overall. Enjoy!

To read our rankings of players 43-35, click here.

To read our rankings of players 34-26, click here.

To read our rankings of players 25-16, click here.

To read our rankings of players 15-9, click here.

8. Vince Wilfork DT New England Patriots: Wilfork who has slowly become the leader of the Patriots’ defense and made his second consecutive Pro Bowl this season has been listed as a NT for all 7 years of his career but this year, though still a NT saw action at defensive end and caused a lot of problems for opposing offensive lines. Wilfork had a career high 46 solo tackles and 2 sacks and was also in tiptop shape last season as he played on plenty of third downs where historically he would be pulled out of the game for. With this newfound versatility look for Wilfork to continue to pose major problems for opposing offenses and continue to excel.

7. Santana Moss WR Washington Redskins: Coming into the 2010 season many expected a big season from Santana Moss because of Donovan McNabb’s arrival. While McNabb didn’t have a very good season with the Redskins, Moss actually did post a career high in receptions (93) and over 1100 yards receiving which was the second best total of his career. Though his average yards per catch was a career low of 12.0 yards, that was more a product of the offensive scheme more so than Moss. Though Moss is entering his 11th NFL season, and his future with the Redskins is in doubt, he proved that he is still a solid, if not Pro Bowl WR, and no matter what team retains his services in 2011, they will be getting a #1 receiver.

6. Devin Hester WR Chicago Bears: Hester came into the 2010 season in somewhat of a drought, as his WR responsibilities increased for the Bears in 2008 and 2009 Hester did not have a kickoff or punt return for a touchdown in those two years after having 11 for touchdowns in his first two seasons. This season the Bears took a little off of Hester’s WR plate and it paid dividends as he had 3 punt returns for touchdowns and as a result broke Gale Sayer’s NFL record of 13 returns for touchdowns after recording his 14th versus the Vikings in Week 15. Hester was named to the Pro Bowl and first team All-Pro for the 3rd time in his career. Though Hester had more touchdowns receiving (4) in 2010, his receptions, yards, and yards per catch were his lowest in three years which has put the Bears in a predicament. The Bears paying Hester #1 WR money, but find he cannot be both an effective returner and WR and as a result are trying to find a balance. It should be interesting to see how the Bears handle his playing time in 2011.

5. Andre Johnson WR Houston Texans: Coming into the season Andre Johnson was only the second receiver in NFL History (Jerry Rice was the other) to lead the league in receiving yards for two consecutive seasons. If Johnson could have surpassed 1,500 yards in 2010 he would have been the only WR in NFL to have 3 consecutive seasons of 1,500 yards receiving or more. Unfortunately Johnson battled an ankle injury that he suffered in week 2 for the entire season, which made him miss three games. Despite missing three games he still had over 1,200 yards receiving and 8 touchdowns and was also named to his 3rd consecutive Pro Bowl. Despite missing 3 games Johnson led the NFL in yards per game with 93.5 and finished 6th in the NFL in receiving yards, and receptions. There is little to no debate as to the fact that Johnson is the best WR in the NFL and he should continue to be for several more years to come.

4. Reggie Wayne WR Indianapolis Colts: Wayne made his 5th consecutive Pro Bowl and was named to the All-Pro team for the first time in his career after a stellar 2010 season. Wayne started all 16 games and though fantasy owners will complain about him having only 6 touchdowns, Wayne had 111 receptions and over 1,300 yards receiving and as a result was second in the league in receptions and third in yards. In his 10th season Wayne is still one of the top 5 wide-receivers in the league and though some seem to think he has lost a step and others think the 2011 season could be his last Peyton Manning, there is no denying that he is still producing at a very high level and without him Manning would not be as successful and neither would the Colts.

3. Sam Shields DB Green Bay Packers: By now everyone knows Shields’ story going from an undrafted rookie free agent signee of the Green Bay Packers to starting nickel cornerback to Super Bowl Champion. To say that’s impressive would be shortchanging Shields and the path he has taken. Shields was the starting nickel cornerback from Week 1 versus the Eagles and started 6 games in 2010. He accumulated four interceptions none being bigger than the two he had versus the Bears in the NFL Conference Championship, where Shields had an interception to thwart a Bears’ scoring threat at the end of the 1st half and his second interception sealed the game for the Packers as the Bears were driving to tie the game. Shields also added a drive-stopping sack. Though still somewhat raw, Shields has cemented himself as the nickel corner for the Packers and many coaches across the league think he can be an elite corner in the not too distant future. Look for Shields to continue his success in 2011 and possibly even become the #2 cornerback for the Packers.

2. Ray Lewis LB Baltimore Ravens: What else could you possibly say about a 35-year old middle linebacker in his 15th NFL season who totaled over 130 tackles and played ALL BUT 5 DEFENSIVE SNAPS in all of the 2010 season? Enough said, if you ask us at but we’ll elaborate a little more. Lewis, who is still the leader of the Ravens defense and who some were saying coming into the season could no longer play on passing downs and had lost a step simply proved in 2011 that he is still the best MLB in the game. To accompany his 139 tackles, Lewis had 2 sacks, 2 forced fumbles and 2 interceptions (one of which he returned for a TD). Lewis also made his 7th straight Pro Bowl (12 total) and was named a 2nd team All-Pro. The Ravens have signed Lewis through the 2015 season and at this rate don’t be surprised if he is able to play it out. Truth be told Lewis isn’t athletically the linebacker he was as rookie, but mentally, he is the smartest linebacker in the game and that’s not only what sets him apart, but it also allows him to keep going.

1. Ed Reed S Baltimore Ravens: Under normal circumstances a player that leads the NFL in interceptions would be considered as the top player in the league, but Reed not only led the NFL in 2010 in interceptions and interception yardage, he did it while playing in only 10 of the 16 games regular season games. Reed made his presence known in his first game back by having 2 interceptions in Week 7 versus the Buffalo Bills along with a forced fumble. Reed only played in 12 games in 2009 and was injured for most of that season and as a result was on IR to start the 2010 season. Once Reed came back in 2010 he looked fresh, fast and his instincts were where they have always been, reading the opposing team’s quarterback mind along with the fact that Reed anchored the young defensive backfield of the Ravens and teamed up with Lewis. This offseason Reed hasn’t been talking retirement, on the contrary, he said he feels healthier than he has in quite a few years. With Reed going into the 2011 season completely healthy look for him to once again lead the league interceptions and make even more big plays than 2010.

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Brandon Harris, DeMarcus Van Dyke worked out for Rod Woodson today

University of Miami cornerbacks Brandon Harris and DeMarcus Van Dyke worked out for the Oakland Raiders secondary coach Rod Woodson today.

Woodson also auditioned Ryan Hill and Jared Campbell at the Miami campus in Coral Gables, Fla. 

Harris and Van Dyke had dinner tonight with a Cleveland Browns secondary coach and are working out for the AFC North club Friday.'

Harris visited the St. Louis Rams on Wednesday and concluded his visit Thursday morning.

He has previously worked out for the Atlanta Falcons, Denver Broncos and the Miami Dolphins.

Harris is regarded as a late first-round, early second-round draft target.

He struggled in the Hurricanes' bowl game against Notre Dame wide receiver Michael Floyd, but otherwise had a strong season.

As a sophomore, he ranked second in the nation and led the Atlantic Coast Conference with 15 pass deflections and was named first-team all-conference. He was a Jim Thorpe Award semifinalist with 52 tackles, six tackles for losses and two interceptions.

As a freshman, Harris ran track as he competed in the 60 meters, 400 meters and 4x400-meter relay.

He finished with 132 career tackles, nine tackles for losses, four interceptions, five forced fumbles, two sacks and 28 pass deflections.

Van Dyke conducted a private workout for the Baltimore Ravens a few weeks ago.

And Van Dyke has visited the Philadelphia Eagles.

He previously worked out for the Broncos, Falcons and Dolphins.

Van Dyke ran the 40-yard dash between 4.25 and 4.28 seconds at the NFL scouting combine.

He also posted a 33 1/2 inch vertical leap, a 10-1 broad jump and a 6.97 in the three-cone drill.

He's regarded as a late-round draft target.

In 50 games, he started 21 games and recorded 80 tackles, three interceptions and 10 pass deflections.

He also ran track for the Hurricanes.

He started three games last season.

At the combine, he posted the third-fastest time in the past decade.

An angular 174 pounds, the 6-foot defensive back ran the fastest time since Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson (4.24, 2008) and Oakland Raiders cornerback Stanford Routt (4.27, 2005).

Van Dyke's lack of ideal size and strength are a concern, but his speed is rare.

He bench pressed 225 pounds five times at the combine.

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High school kicks Greg Olsen off field

Being locked out by the NFL is one thing, but Chicago Bears tight end Greg Olsen had to deal with another rejection recently when he was kicked off a high school field while trying to work out.

"The other day I got kicked off a high school field trying to go out and do some field work, so it's not easy," Olsen said Thursday on "The Waddle & Silvy Show" on ESPN 1000. "You have to find your spots and find someone that will let you use their field.

"[Players] already have done some research on some different places, and maybe as it gets a little closer [to training camp] if it looks like that's what we're going to have to do not being able to go over to Halas, then we'll have to continue to look at different opportunities."

One of those places is not likely to be Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire, Ill.

"I live right down the street from Stevenson," Olsen said. "The other day I went out there, done it a bunch of times, and all of a sudden they kicked me off. I tried calling everyone over there to see if I could, and no one would call me back."

Stevenson public information coordinator Jim Conrey said it's school policy not to allow the general public on the facilities during school hours.
"Here's my understanding -- I believe he showed up unannounced during the school day and tried to go out on the field while we were trying to have phys ed classes," Conrey said. "One of the phys ed teachers asked him not to go out on the field."

Conrey said Olsen "challenged" the decision.

"If he wants to give us a call and work something out, we'll see if we can accommodate him," Conrey said. "We understand he's in a tough situation with the lockout. We can't have the general public showing up and disrupting classes. Mr. Olsen said he was a resident of our district, and I'll have him on his word."

Conrey also said there are liability issues.

"Another issue is if we have the general public showing up unannounced and they get injured, we're responsible for that," he said. "If Mr. Olsen started to run sprints and blew out his knee, we're responsible. With his situation as a pro athlete, that could be a huge cost. You can't just show up announced. We'd be happy to work something out. We'd try to accommodate him."

Olsen said Bears players will monitor progress with the lockout in the next few weeks before deciding where to work out on their own.

"We're going to see how this last-ditch effort goes [to resolve the lockout]," Olsen said. "If the lockout seems like it's going to go much longer, we'll organize something up here and get everybody back together. We're going to let these next couple weeks play out and get a feel for how long things are going to go. If it doesn't look like there's a light at the end of the tunnel then we'll just take it upon ourselves to do it.

"We've had to do our research [on where to work out]. Preferably, we'd like to do it outside, especially as the weather starts turning. That's ideal."

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

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James Jones Heating Up

The Heat's reserves showed the NBA just why they should fear facing Miami in the postseason as they led the team from South Beach to a 97-79 victory over the Raptors in Toronto on Wednesday, April 13 to close out the season.

Miami coach Erik Spoelstra sat LeBron James(notes), Dwyane Wade(notes), and Chris Bosh(notes), while Mike Miller(notes) wasn't on the court as well (nursing a sore left thumb and ankle).

Most impressive, though, was James Jones(notes) pouring in 12 points on 4-of-6 from downtown. Jones is now 18-of-28 from three-point range (64.3 percent) over his last eight games; which shows he's ready to deliver huge moments like the ones he gave the Heat in their 98-90 victory over the Atlanta Hawks on Monday, April 11 with his two late, fourth-quarter daggers from deep.

That's not to say House's 35-point explosion wasn't impressive, as it was as breathtaking as it was welcome. However, James Jones is likely to be the first option off the bench when Spoelstra wants a three-point specialist in the game late in a contest against the Philadelphia 76ers or any other opponent in the playoffs.

What House's fabulous night showed is Spoelstra will have options beyond Jones in crucial situations. His 7-of-13 from beyond the arc against Toronto has to have the 76ers head coach Doug Collins sweating bullets wondering how he'll stop the 6-1, 190 lbs. dynamo if Spoelstra inserts him into a contest late.

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Brother-sister sailors aiming for Olympic medals

COLORADO SPRINGS, COLO. Zach Railey has sailed on the sport's biggest stage. His sister, Paige, has come within an eyelash of doing the same. Both know that the bar has been raised, that expectations have been enhanced, that they must bring everything they've got, with little room for error.

"Our goal is to go to the Olympics," Zach said. "And to win Olympic medals."

They're considered favorites for the 2012 London Games, rounded into shape last month during a four-day camp at the Olympic Training Center that prepared them for European races serving as qualifiers for events to determine the 16-person U.S. Olympic team.

A 2008 Olympic silver medalist, Zach, 26, of Clearwater, Fla., marked a fifth-place finish Saturday in Finn at a World Cup in Palma, Spain, and Paige, 23, also of Clearwater, took fourth in Laser Radial. World Cup stops this month in Hyeres, France, and next month in Medemblik, Netherlands, also are selections for Olympic qualifiers, a World Cup in June in Weymouth, England, and the world championships in December in Perth, Australia.

Zach is striving to become the first American to claim Olympic gold in Finn, also known as heavyweight dinghy and won by Ben Ainslie of Great Britain in 2004 and 2008. Paige wants to continue the U.S. stranglehold on Laser Radial, referred to as singlehanded and won by Anna Tunnicliffe when the discipline made its Olympic debut in 2008.

Both were put through the rigors at the OTC during a 55-person retreat U.S. Sailing high performance director Kenneth Andreasen jokingly called a "fat camp." Athletes received sailing-specific education and testing, working under Olympic coaches Luther Carpenter and Leandro Spina, along with strength and conditioning coach Chris Herrera, Colorado Springs sports nutritionist Bob Seebohar and chief medical officer Sam Murray.

In 2008, Zach competed at 190 pounds, then he ballooned into the 240s in 2009, and he's now down to 210 - exactly where he hopes to be going into London, albeit without added muscle in his upper body that should increase his leverage. Paige has gained 16 pounds in the past 1 1/2 years, and she aspires to add five more pounds to her 146-pound frame, that way she will "be able to stay with the smaller girls and keep up with the heavier ones."

"We know what it's going to take to stand on top of the podium in 2012," Zach said, "so you can't ever take that for granted. We know we're going to show up to the Games, and in both of our classes, there will be eight to 12 competitors that can take that away from us, and we've got to make sure that we're better than they are."

Paige said sailing is unique compared to other Olympic sports since athletes are "dealing with elements the wind, the water. Everything is constantly changing. You can sail like half of the race, and then the next half is completely different from the first half. ... What we try to do is try to be consistent throughout all the different types of conditions."

Andreasen dubbed Zach and Paige "in their classes, the best sailors in the world." But he conceded the international field is "extremely competitive. It's very physical. Everybody is in better shape than they've ever been." He added that the U.S. needs to be "the fittest team on the planet." If it's not, he said, "We're not going to win the medals we want."

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Louisvile Bats Brian Barton sees the math in baseball

Check this video of proCane Brian Barton who is one semester away from graduating with an Aerospace Engineering degree.

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Gaby Sanchez against the league's proposal to expand replay

ATLANTA — Marlins first baseman Gaby Sanchez might seem like an ideal poster child for Major League Baseball's proposal to expand replay next season on fair-or-foul rulings down the lines.

After all, it was Sanchez who thought he'd slapped a game-winning hit down the left-field line in the bottom of the ninth inning against the Phillies on Aug. 5.

Even though replays showed the ball bounced on the chalk, umpire Bob Davidson ruled it a foul ball.

Sanchez struck out and the Marlins lost 5-4 in 10 innings. But Thursday, Sanchez said the league should drop its proposal and leave it up to the umpires.

"It's going to make the game go longer. It's going to take a lot more decisions out of the umpires' hands and that's why they're there," he said about the latest proposal, which includes expanding replay to trapped balls.

A spate of missed calls in the playoffs and World Series prompted the movement to expand replay, which baseball started using in 2008 but only on home run balls.

"I'm in favor of anything that will help umpires get the call right," Marlins manager Edwin Rodriguez said. "I know (players) want to speed up the game, but they also want the game to be called right."

Wes Helms, the Marlins' union representative, agreed. He laughed and said he wished the replay would've been in effect last season.

"The ball Gaby Sanchez hit, we would have won. That was a key play and it was clearly a fair ball," Helms said. "When I go back and look at plays like that, I am totally for it."

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Comments's 2010 proCane Rankings Part IV

Welcome to our 1st annual and long overdue proCane Rankings where we look back at the 2010 NFL season and rank the 43 proCanes that took snaps in 2010 (except for Sinorice Moss who was placed on IR before the start of the season).

Stay tuned as we countdown from number 43 to number 1. Our rankings are based on each player’s performance last year. In August we’ll go ahead and re-rank the player’s based on our 2011 expectations. For now read our review of each player’s 2010 season and where they rank overall. Enjoy!

To read our rankings of players 43-35, click here.

To read our rankings of players 34-26, click here.

To read our rankings of players 25-16, click here.

15. Jon Vilma MLB New Orleans Saints: Vilma was named to his second consecutive Pro Bowl after a solid 2010 season where he posted over 100 tackles for the third consecutive season and a career high four sacks. Though Vilma did post the fewest tackles of his seven-year career (105), besides his 2007 season where he only played in seven games, the Saints’ defense was riddled with injuries in 2010, and Vilma did not miss a game and anchored the defense. Look for Vilma to continue to be the quarterback of the Saints defense in 2011 and as that defense gets healthier and gains more experience, Vilma will continue to flourish.

14. Greg Olsen TE Chicago Bears: Coming into the 2010 season there were fears that Olsen would not be utilized in Mike Martz’s wide open offense and the Bears actually almost traded Olsen before the start of the 2010 season despite public comments by Head Coach Lovie Smith and Martz that Olsen would be used in the spread offense. Olsen statistically didn’t have a bad season as he posted 41 receptions for 404 yards, the lowest since his rookie season, but more concerning was the fact that in seven games Olsen had either only reception (5 games) or no receptions (2 games). Olsen had his best game of the season in the first round of the playoffs versus the Seahawks where he posted 113 yards receiving, 58 of those coming on one play, but it showed that he could be a threat in that offense if correctly utilized. With one season under his belt it will be interesting to see if Martz can figure out a way to incorporate or Olsen, though the trade rumors continue to persist.

13. Javarris James RB Indianpolis Colts: James was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Indianapolis Colts right after last year’s draft and by the time Week 5 rolled around he was signed to the Colts’ active roster. James had previously been on the Patriots and Redskins practice squads. Though James did not put up huge numbers, 112 yards rushing on 42 carries, the fact that he made the active roster of the Colts and scored six TDs last season, more than any other proCane runningback, merits him being ranked as a top 15 proCane performer for 2010. James will have an uphill battle to earn a roster spot on the Colts next season as he was inactive for the last two games of the regular season and playoff game, but he very well may be signed by another team due to his tough redzone running.

12. Jon Beason LB Carolina Panthers: Beason had started at MLB for the Panthers the last 3 seasons and coming into 2010 put the team first and agreed to start at the RLB spot. Beason who has yet to miss a game in his four-year career took some time to get acclimated to his new position and was not having as large of an impact defensively for the Panthers. In Week 10, Beason moved back to the middle and 2 weeks later made his presence felt with an interception versus the Cleveland Browns. Beason is too good to not be the starting MLB and it seems like the Panthers have realized that, and he should resume his duties in the middle of the defense in 2011.

11. Kellen Winslow TE Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Winslow finished the 2010 by playing all 16 games for the second consecutive season and though his numbers weren’t as good as his 2009 numbers, his first season in Tampa, Winslow was still a threat down the middle of the field for the Bucs. Winslow had a career high 5 TDs to go along with his 730 yards receiving and as the season progressed became a more consistent option for Tampa QB Josh Freeman culminating in a 7 reception for 98 yards and 2 TDs performance in Week 15. Winslow has already said he expects big numbers in 2011, and though at times he was not able to practice due to injury, he didn’t miss a game and played with his usual fire all season long.

10. Antonio Dixon DL Philadelphia Eagles: Dixon was a surprise contributor to the Eagles’ defensive line in 2009 as an undrafted rookie free agent signing. He suited up for 16 games and became a vital cog in the Eagles’ defensive line versus the run that year. In 2010, due to injury Dixon received extensive playing time in Week 5 versus the 49ers where he recorded his first sack of the season and ended up starting the rest of the way for Eagles totaling 30 tackles, 2 sacks and 2 pass deflections. Dixon has been a very pleasant surprise for the Eagles and a great personal story as well, overcoming learning disabilities and controlling his weight. Look for Dixon to start for the Eagles next season and continue to excel versus the run and improve his game on passing downs.

9. DJ Williams LB Denver Broncos: Playing in the 3-4 for his second consecutive season DJ Williams looked even more comfortable totaling 119 tackles. Williams also became much more involved in the passing game as he had a career high 9 pass deflections and more impressively 5.5 sacks. The Broncos began to blitz Williams more in passing situations and as a result he led the Broncos in sacks last season as well as tackles by a wide margin. The only knock on Williams is his off the field problems where he was accused of a DUI for the second time in his career and lost his captaincy as a result as well as his driver’s license for a year. Rumors have circulated that Williams is on the trading block but if he isn’t traded he will have to get used to playing in the 4-3 defense at the weak-side linebacker spot as the Broncos are changing their defense, again.

Check back tomorrow to see which proCanes were ranked 8th through 1st!

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VIDEO: Leonard Hankerson Profile

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Where does Ray Lewis sit in ESPN's linebacker rankings? continued its series of positional power rankings today by tackling a position near and dear to Ravens fans: linebacker. The Ravens sent two linebackers -- Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs -- to the Pro Bowl this year, but only one cracked ESPN’s top 10.

Lewis finished fifth in the voting, and ESPN’s seven divisional bloggers ranked Suggs 11th. 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis topped the list, followed by James Harrison of the Steelers, DeMarcus Ware of the Cowboys and Clay Matthews of the Packers.

Lewis recently praised Willis on ESPN.

“I just love the way he plays the game," Lewis said. "He plays the game with a fire. He reminds me of myself -- a lot, a lot, a lot."
Lewis, 35, was as high as third on one voter’s ballot and as low as 10th on another.

"Ray Lewis would not be in my top five at this point,” said Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc., who didn’t have a vote but provided analysis. “For his age, he is still exceptional and a borderline Pro Bowler, but he doesn't run like he did. I remember when I was with the Browns, I looked at every report the team had written since 1999 and Lewis had the highest grade ever given out. He was nearly perfect."

Here’s the full top 10 list:
1. Patrick Willis, 49ers
2. James Harrison, Steelers
3. DeMarcus Ware, Cowboys
4. Clay Matthews, Packers
5. Ray Lewis, Ravens
6. Jerod Mayo, Patriots
7. Brian Urlacher, Bears
8. LaMarr Woodley, Steelers
9 (tie). Tamba Hali, Chiefs
9 (tie). Jon Beason, Panthers

Click here to order Ray Lewis’ proCane Rookie Card.

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Brandon Harris among Rams draft visits

Miami (Fla.) cornerback Brandon Harris and North Carolina safety/return man Da'Norris Searcy were among previously unreported defensive players to make pre-draft visits to the St. Louis Rams on Tuesday. The visits for defensive players will conclude Wednesday at Rams Park.

Harris, who can play the slot and some safety, projects as a late first-round or early second-round pick. Searcy, who plays strong safety and returned both punts and kickoffs for the Tar Heels, projects as a mid-round pick. 

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Ray Lewis gives hint about retirement

Ray Lewis says he still feels like he hasn’t played his best football.   After appearing to slip at one point, the Ravens linebacker has experienced an almost unprecedented renaissance in his mid 30′s.

Lewis missed only five snaps last year and doesn’t appear to be slowing down much.  He has always discouraged questions about retirement, but may have given up a hint about his future on NFL Network this week.

At one point, Lewis said “only God knows” how long he can play.   But Rich Eisen asked Lewis during another part of his stay whether he’d be around long enough to possibly play with his son, finishing his sophomore year in high school.

“That’s another four years!” Lewis said via Jamison Hensley of the Baltimore Sun. “Nah. Because I’m real with myself, that would be a very hard task. I can’t see myself playing football past 37.”

Lewis turns 36 this season, so that would give him two more years on the gridiron.  His contract runs through 2015.

We wouldn’t be surprised to see him as a cool addition to NFL Network’s crew once he’s done playing.

Click here to order Ray Lewis’ proCane Rookie Card.

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The Patriots are expected to keep Vince Wilfork more at nose

The Patriots are expected to keep Vince Wilfork more at nose tackle in 2011, rather than kicking him to end as they did last year. Wilfork played over 40 percent of his snaps at "five technique," mostly because Patriots ends combined to miss more than 30 games.

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

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Orlando Franklin visited the Vikings

University of Miami offensive tackle Orlando Franklin has visited the Minnesota Vikings, according to a league source with knowledge of the situation.

Franklin is a two-time all-conference selection who was named the Hurricanes' Rookie of the Year as a freshman and was named the University of Miami Sports Hall of Fame Unsung Hero as a senior.

A second-team All-Atlantic Coast Conference selection, Franklin had played offensive guard prior to his senior year when he played hurt with a torn meniscus in his left knee that he delayed having surgery on until after the season.

Franklin has 35-inch arms and 11 1/8 inch hands and quick feet. At the NFL scouting combine, he ran the 40-yard dash in 5.11 seconds and bench pressed 225 pounds 26 times with a 28 1/2 inch vertical leap.

He improved his bench press to 30 repetitions at his Pro Day workout and posted an 8-9 broad jump.

Born in Jamaica and raised in Canada, Franklin moved to Florida before his senior year of high school.

He started 39 games for Miami in four seasons.

Franklin led the team with 61 pancake blocks last season in a dozen starts at left tackle.

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Countdown to draft: Brandon Harris

As part of the online coverage leading up to the NFL draft, The Sun will look at prospects who could be available for the Ravens with the 26th overall pick.

BRANDON HARRIS Cornerback, Miami
Height/weight: 5-9/191
Key statistics: Broke up 15 passes in 2009 and 10 in 2009
Pro Football Weekly ranking: 3rd among all defensive backs

Why Ravens should draft him: A mentally tough coach’s son, Harris is football smart and instinctive. He’s aggressive which shows up in his stats. Not only does he break up passes, Harris forced five fumbles the past two years.

What should concern Ravens: Harris has one glaring weakness – size. The Ravens are looking for a corner who is taller than 6 feet, and Harris measured a disappointing 5-9 at the NFL combine. It didn’t help when he struggled to match the size of Notre Dame’s Michael Floyd in the Sun Bowl.

What they’re saying: “I love the game of football. It’s not just something I do just to do. I was born into this game. I think my love for the game and passion separates me from a lot of people.” -- Harris

Interaction with Ravens: Met with the Ravens at the NFL combine in February

Bottom line: There is little doubt that Harris will be there when the Ravens pick at No. 26. He’s considered a safe pick and projects to be a dependable starter. But Harris lacks the size that the Ravens desperately want at cornerback. If the Ravens pass on him, the Steelers could jump on him five picks later.

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A few minutes with Ray Lewis

Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis dropped by the NFL Network studios Monday, so we took the opportunity to talk with him about a few critical offseason topics, as well as what he sees in his own future:

What would happen if you and Tom Zbikowski stepped into the ring? RL: Zbikowski would lose. We’ve already talked about that. Zbikowski is a realist when it comes to the sport. The locker room talk is always that about who can beat who. He’ll be the first to tell you he’s not going to get in the ring with a 250-pound person. That’s crazy!

Who is your favorite two-sport athlete of all-time? RL: Probably Bo Jackson. We were just at an event for my foundation in my hometown, and we bonded quickly. I watched Bo from a perspective of awe my whole life. How can you by that fast, that strong, and that quick? He had it all. If there is a two-sport athlete I love, it was Bo.

What is the inspiration behind your pre-game dance? RL: Well, it’s changed over the years. But a good friend of mine is a retired military veteran by the name of Kirby Lee from my home town. He started having some mental issues. I met him, and that man loves me like my mother loves me. He has a tattoo of me on his shoulder. I didn’t know about any of it. He always comes up with these crazy dances. One day I told him I’d do his dance on TV. I promised him. So one Sunday when they introduced the defense first, coach always brings me out last. I did it, and once I did it I had to do it every week. After first, there wasn’t even music to it. Then it turned into this huge thing. Now, it’s just an animal.

Have you thought about your career being done at some point? RL: No. I can’t. I never thought about it being there when I first started. I promised myself that I would finish something, and I’m going to finish it.

What do you have left to finish? RL: A lot. What I’m chasing, you won’t find in the record book. It’s what I’ve been chasing since Day 1. I don’t play this game for any other reason. But when I walk off, I will be considered the greatest ever to play this game, period. That’s the only thing I chase. That’s why I train the way I do, and that’s why I’ve never looked at the end and thought my end is coming. God will let me know when my end is coming. The day I wake up and don’t have the energy to get up and be me, something has changed.

You were No. 18 on ‘The Top 100: NFL’s Greatest Players.’ Thoughts? RL: Everyone has their opinion. The thing I’ve never been able to grasp when they try to do that is that there are too many eras. It’s humanly impossible to compare 20 years ago to us now. The game is totally different. We’re not playing the same game as when Dick Butkus was playing. He got to do anything he wanted to do . Now, I get fined for those same hits. How do you rate that? Who is the greatest linebacker of all-time? In my era, I thought Mike Singletary was the greatest linebacker I had ever seen. It’s a tough conversation.

Any thoughts on playing long enough to play with your son, Ray Lewis III? RL: (Laughing) That’s another four years! Nah. Because I’m real with myself, that would be a very hard task. I can’t see myself playing football past 37.

Give me another player in the AFC North you have a ton of respect for … RL: I can go down in the line if you’re talking about guys from Pittsburgh. I love Ben Roethlisberger. I love Troy Polamalu. I love the way the play the game. Hines Ward plays the game at a very high level. He pisses people off, but I love it. Those are the guys I love. When me and Ben see each other, there’s a mutual respect. I put my hand on my heart, he puts his hand on his heart. It’s that type of respect I have for the guys I truly like.

Are there any guys in the NFL who you would pay to watch play? RL: Yeah, Chris Johnson. I’ve never seen anyone that fast with a football in his hand. … You can go back since the beginning of football, I’ve studied historical football for ages. We’ve had Lenny Moore, we’ve had Gale Sayers. We’ve never seen that. But what we never had was two steps and then out!

Did you ever think you had the angle on him and he got the corner on you? RL: Yeah. I’m telling you, he split us one time through a hole, and I went to our defensive coordinator and said, “I don’t care what you do, do not blitz from the inside. Keep him bottled.” If you let him find a seam, the race is over. He has that type of speed. I would love to see the race – and I know a lot of people think he wouldn’t win – but I would love to see a race between him and Usain Bolt in the 40-yard dash. But in the 40, not the 100. Usain is a totally different athlete after 50 yards. But Johnson is one of those special talents. But he’s raw with it. I would pay to see him play any day.

Who do you enjoy trash-talking with on the field? RL: You know, I don’t have those conversations anymore. That’s what’s funny. The reason why, and this is the funniest thing ever, but I live it. When I hit people, some get up and say, “Pops, I love you, man.” In the middle of the game, (they get up and say) “Pops, I got to talk to you, I have a lot of stuff going on.” I can go down the line and tell you about the conversations I have on the field with guys. It’s a different respect now.  A lot of these babies were in junior high school when I (started) playing. Now they’re playing with who they grew up watching. It’s different.

Who is the next great NFL inside linebacker? RL: Patrick Willis. I think he has it. I watch football, and I think he has it. Now, you know a lot comes with that. You have to be very careful to crown someone in the first few years.

On a special note, Lewis was available on behalf of his work with the United Athletes Foundation, as he and over 150 top U.S. athletes have joined Ironman triathlete and dialysis patient Shad Ireland in the fight to prevent obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes, the leading causes of kidney disease. Ireland is the first kidney dialysis patient in the world to accomplish the Ironman triathlon. Click here to watch Ireland and Lewis talk about the cause.

Click here to order Ray Lewis’ proCane Rookie Card.

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Belt-Huff flip designed to improve Giants' outfield defense

San Francisco Giants prized rookie first baseman Brandon Belt might not be a first baseman come this weekend.

Because of shoddy defense in the outfield corners and with Cody Ross on the disabled list, Giants manager Bruce Bochy could flip-flop Belt and right fielder Aubrey Huff within the next couple days, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. With the Giants traveling next week to Colorado and its massive Coors Field outfield, the move seems logical.

Huff has been a statue in right while filling in for Ross. He has played singles into extra-base hits and is becoming a liability with his minus-3 defensive runs saved mark. Ross (strained calf) isn’t expected to be activated from the DL until late next week at the earliest.

Belt took fly balls during batting practice on Monday and Tuesday with Giants outfield coach Roberto Kelly. He was an outfielder before enrolling at Texas, and he played 14 games in the outfield in the minor leagues last season. He has said would be comfortable playing there again.

The consensus has been that Belt would go back to Class AAA Fresno once Ross is activated, which would put Huff back at first base for good. However, Bochy has said that he likes Belt’s approach at the plate despite his .158 average entering Wednesday's game.

It remains to be seen if Bochy’s love of Belt’s at-bats will be enough to keep Belt in the big leagues. It probably makes more sense to send Belt down and let him play every day rather than platoon him with Huff or Ross.

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Speedy Jemile Weeks quickly establishes himself as fan favorite

The latest speedster to fill the River Cats' leadoff role doesn't steal bases like Eric Patterson or do back flips like Corey Wimberly.

Jemile Weeks, 24, just plays with passion, his speed, hitting ability and defensive skills enough to carry him to within a step of the major leagues.

And, like former River Cats Patterson and Wimberly, the 5-foot-9, 161-pound Weeks has already become a fan favorite.

What's not to like? The second baseman is hustling, making plays and hitting .391.

"He comes to the park every day to play with passion," said River Cats manager Darren Bush, who also managed Weeks at Double-A Midland last season.

"You can't substitute anything for that. It's fun watching him out there."

Weeks said he's enjoying playing at Raley Field.

"There's a different atmosphere here with the fans," he said. "Just knowing you're at that next level, knowing you're near a big-league team, is just an inspiration."

Weeks, who lives in Altamonte Springs, Fla., grew up playing baseball with his older brother, Rickie, the Milwaukee Brewers' second baseman. While their age gap (nearly 4 1/2 years) prevented them from playing on the same team growing up, there was plenty of playing catch.

"It's a big help," Weeks said of his brother's success. "It was always a little bit of competition."

Weeks, a switch hitter, said playing hard was an emphasis when he was younger. "I think it shows in my play and my brother's play," he said. "That's what we were taught from my parents."

Jemile Weeks was first drafted by Milwaukee in the eighth round of the 2005 draft, but he opted to play for the University of Miami.

The A's chose him in the first round in 2008.

Speed is a big part of Weeks' game. But injuries have kept him in check.

He strained his left hip twice while running to first base, once in 2008 with Class-A Kane County, and once last season with Midland.

So he hasn't developed into a consistent base stealer, at least not yet. He's stolen 31 bases in his three previous seasons (176 games).

"He wants to (run)," Bush said. "I hold him back a lot. But he's very capable of doing it."

Weeks knows his speed is a big reason the A's selected him.

"It's something that's going to help me get to where I want to go," he said. "The key for me is to try to stay healthy, use my speed when I can. I feel real confident I can get bags."

Weeks, who has good power for his frame, said playing for Bush has been a blessing.

"He keeps you fired up," Weeks said. "But when things don't go your way, when things jump the wrong way, he's not there to jump down your throat. He's there to help you. He keeps you going."

Hopefully all the way to Oakland.

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Comments's 2010 proCane Rankings Part III

Welcome to our 1st annual and long overdue proCane Rankings where we look back at the 2010 NFL season and rank the 43 proCanes that took snaps in 2010 (except for Sinorice Moss who was placed on IR before the start of the season).

Stay tuned as we countdown from number 43 to number 1. Our rankings are based on each player’s performance last year. In August we’ll go ahead and re-rank the player’s based on our 2011 expectations. For now read our review of each player’s 2010 season and where they rank overall. Enjoy!

To read our rankings of players 43-35, click here.

To read our rankings of players 34-26, click here.

25. Jeremy Shockey TE New Orleans Saints/Carolina Panthers: In Shockey’s nine-year career he has not once been able to play all 16 games in a single season and unfortunately 2010 was no different. Shockey was only able to play in 13 games which ultimately led to the emergence of fellow proCane TE Jimmy Graham and Shockey’s release in the offseason and signing with the Panthers. Shockey accumulated a career low 408 yards receiving, and career lows in receptions (31) and yards per reception (31.2). Shockey will be reunited for the 2011 season with proCane offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski in Carolina. If he can stay healthy and the Panthers can find a quarterback, Shockey could have a big season because Chudzinski’s offenses emphasize the TE.

24. Bryant McKinnie LT Minnesota Vikings: After making the Pro Bowl in 2009, but not being voted to the Pro Bowl in 2010, most would think McKinnie did not have as good of a 2010 campaign, but on the contrary McKinnie according to himself and coaches played more consistently in 2010 while protecting Favre’s backside as well as Tarvaris Jackson’s. McKinnie still needs to lose some weight this offseason to improve his quickness versus edge rushers and vowed to do that with a personal trainer, especially since he will be seeing Julius Peppers twice again this season.

23. Willis McGahee RB Baltimore Ravens: McGahee the last two seasons has been stuck behind Ray Rice as the number two back for the Ravens. As a result in 2010 McGahee had his worst year statistically with only 380 yards rushing and 5 TDs on the ground and 1 TD through the air on only 100 rushing attempts. McGahee in 2009 had totaled 14 TDs as he was the main red-zone threat for the Ravens, but wasn’t featured as much inside the 20-yard line in 2010. McGahee can still be a starter in the NFL and is approaching free agency this year where it looks like he will not be resigned by the Ravens. Look for him to have a bigger impact in 2011.

22. Jimmy Graham TE New Orleans Saints: After not appearing in the first two games of his rookie season, Jimmy Graham slowly made his presence known for the Saints as he topped 70 yards receiving in two games and finished the 2010 season with five touchdowns as he subbed for fellow injured proCane Jeremy Shockey. Graham performed so well in 2010 and showed so much potential that the Saints released Shockey this offseason and plan on using Graham as their feature TE in 2011.

21. Rocky McIntosh LB Washington Redskins: McIntosh had his best season statistically with 73 tackles despite playing for the first time in his career in a 3-4 defense as the RILB. McIntosh has had a solid and somewhat underrated career and turned many heads by showing his versatility and playing so well in a 3-4 defense as well as versus the pass. Most seem to think he won’t be with the Redskins next year, but look for him to have no trouble signing with another team and picking up where he left off.

20. Kenny Phillips S NY Giants: Phillips played in only two games in 2009 because of the need of microfracture surgery on one of his knees. Many at the time said Phillips’ career was over and he would never be able recover after such a serious injury and surgery. Not only did Phillips come back, but he had a solid season in his first season playing beside fellow proCane Antrel Rolle. Phillips played in all 16 games and started 15 of them. Though he only recorded one interception he had career highs in tackles (77) and pass deflections (5). Phillips did admit that it took him a while to feel 100% physically and mentally but he did stay healthy and put up good numbers which leads us to believe he is in for a big 2011 season.

19. Antrel Rolle S NY Giants: In his first season with the Giants, Rolle was named to his second consecutive Pro Bowl and had a solid though not spectacular season for the Giants. Rolle started all 16 games and the fact that he had only one interception may be misleading as he played a lot closer to the line of scrimmage than most safeties. Look for Rolle to become more comfortable in the Giants’ defense and as long as he continues to play well on the field and create less headlines off of it, he and Phillips could become one of the best safety tandems in the NFL.

18. Eric Winston RT Houston Texans: The only explanation we can come up with for Winston not making a Pro Bowl yet, is that he plays for the small market Texans. Winston has been stellar at RT for the Texans and 2010 was no exception. Winston played at an All-Pro level during 2010 with one exception versus the Tennessee Titans where he was beat for two sacks. Look for 2011 to be an even better season for Winston and the Texans, and look for him to make his long overdue first Pro Bowl.

17. Brandon Meriweather S New England Patriots: Meriweather made his second consecutive Pro Bowl after a good 2010 season, though he was inconsistent at times. Meriweather started 13 of the 16 games and in three games only record one tackle while versus the Colts, for example, recorded 7 tackles and an interception. His inconsistency led to him sharing time with the other Patriot safeties as his numbers did slip from his 2008 and 2009 seasons. The Patriots do expect more from Meriweather, and look for him to step up in the 2011 season with the increased competition at the safety position.

16. Chris Myers C Houston Texans: Despite having a solid 2009 season Myers did take a lot of heat in the offseason from Texan fans mainly because of the lasting image of Kris Jenkins throwing him to the turf towards the end of that season. Myers followed up his solid 2009 campaign with a stellar 2010 season where he was ranked as the #3 center in the league by and anchors a Texans offensive line which at one point featured three proCane starters; Myers, Eric Winston, and Rashad Butler. Look for Myers to continue his stellar play in 2011 and hopefully make his Pro Bowl debut.

Check back tomorrow to see which proCanes were ranked 15th through 8th!

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Ray Lewis: 'I haven't played my best football yet'

Ravens LB Ray Lewis has been a Pro Bowler 12 times in his 15-year career, including last season.

Yet he told NFL Network's Rich Eisen that the best is still ahead, one reason Lewis only allowed himself to miss five of Baltimore's defensive snaps in the 2010 season.

"I would do my fellow teammates a disservice, I feel, if I ever left the field," Lewis said on NFL Total Access on Monday. "And it's one thing to talk about somebody if they're just slowing down and can't do it anymore, and you're just like, '(End) your career, don't ruin yourself like that.' It's another thing when I still say to this day, I haven't played my best football yet. I just believe that in my heart of hearts."

Lewis, 35, has also willingly embraced the role of mentor among teammates who call him "Pops," "Uncle" and "Godfather."

"Some people say dominant is your play. I don't believe dominant is your play, I believe dominance is your presence on how you influence other men," Lewis said.

"And any time that I'm in the middle of my defense -- where I've got a Sizzle (Terrell Suggs), where I've got a Ed Reed, where I've got Haloti Ngata … that's one of my greatest abilities, being able to pull that type of strength out of men. And that's why I enjoy playing the game."

Lewis didn't seem too perturbed by the ongoing lockout, laughing that typically in April he's "probably calling coach (to) tell him why I can't come to a minicamp."

And whether it's the labor front or the Ravens' 2011 outlook, "Pops" is focused forward, not reliving the team's latest playoff near-miss after its divisional round ouster to the rival Steelers in January.

"When it's over, it's over -- yesterday's gone," Lewis said. "I'm not done chasing it. I always tell everybody the same thing … 'If we were supposed to be there, we would have been there. This year was the Green Bay Packers' year.'

"For me, go back to the drawing board, figure some things out, and say, 'Here we go again.' "

Click here to order Ray Lewis’ proCane Rookie Card.

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Colin McCarthy, Miami Hurricanes ILB -Player Spotlight

proCane Colin McCarthy joins the list of top Miami players headed to the NFL. McCarthy led the Canes in tackles in 2010 with 119 also winning the Plumer Award for leadership, motivation and spirit. Bringing the next generation of NFL stars to you today on the NFL Draft Bible Player Spotlight Show, hosted by Bo Marchionte.

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Listen to internet radio with All Access Football on Blog Talk Radio

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Ray Lewis: Tom Zbikowski 'would lose' in a fight with me

Baltimore Ravens safety Tom Zbikowski is 3-0 as a professional boxer, but teammate Ray Lewis said he would whip him if the two ever fought.

"Zbikowski would lose," Lewis said during a guest appearance on NFL Network Monday night. "We've already talked about that. Zbikowski is a realist when it comes to the sport. The locker room talk is always about who can beat who. He'll be the first to tell you he's not going to get in the ring with a 250-pound person. That's crazy!"

Zbikowski, who is listed at 215 pounds, begs to differ with the perennial Pro Bowl linebacker. In an interview last month, Zbikowski acknowledged he would be nervous stepping into the ring against Lewis but also said he'd beat any active NFL player in a boxing match.

Zbikowski, who will turn 26 in May, has scheduled his fourth professional bout for April 23 against Blake Warner.

If the lockout goes on long enough, maybe we'll see a Zbikowski vs. Lewis match.

Click here to order Ray Lewis’ proCane Rookie Card.

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Brandon Harris to Pittsburgh?

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Ed Bouchette lists Miami CB Brandon Harris, Baylor NT Phil Taylor, and Mississippi State OT Derek Sherrod as his top three choices for the Steelers at No. 31 overall.

Bouchette has been all over Harris for weeks now, but he's coming around to the idea of drafting Taylor as run-plugger Casey Hampton's successor. Bouchette also likes Florida G/C Mike Pouncey and Ohio State DE Cameron Heyward, but doesn't believe either will be available that late in the first round.

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Ray Lewis explains his "dominance"

Ray Lewis said Monday that it would be "a disservice" if he would stop being an every-down linebacker.

Lewis, who turns 36 next month, only missed five plays last season for the Ravens.

"It's one thing to talk about somebody if they're slowing down and can't do it anymore," Lewis said on the NFL Network. "It's another thing when I say to this day that I still haven't played my best football yet."

Lewis was invited to his 12th Pro Bowl after leading the Ravens with 145 tackles. He also recovered three fumbles, broke up four passes and intercepted two throws.

Still, Lewis explained that his impact goes beyond the stats.

"I'm the only one inside the film room with my coaches to see how dominant I am on the football field," Lewis said. "Some people say dominance is your play. But I believe dominance is your presence on how you influence other ment. That's one of my greatest abilities, being able to pull that type of strength out of men."

Lewis said players jokingly call him pops, uncle and godfather.

"That is the reward of playing this business at such a high level for so long," Lewis said.

Click here to order Ray Lewis’ proCane Rookie Card.

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James Jones' late heroics helps Heat clinch second playoff seed in East

Los Angeles - Long-distance sharpshooter James Jones received a late call and rescued the Miami Heat.

LeBron James scored 34 points, and Jones buried back-to-back threes to trigger a decisive 10-2 closing run as the visiting Heat recovered after blowing a 20-point cushion to clip the Atlanta Hawks 98-90 on Monday night.

'He's cold-blooded, he has ice in his veins,' Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said of Jones. 'When he's needed in the fourth quarter, he's proven that he'll hit big shots.'

Minutes later, Miami secured the second seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs, when the lowly Washington Wizards stunned the visiting Boston Celtics 95-94 in overtime.

'It took us 81 games to get to this point,' James said, 'There's a lot more work to do.'

As a result, the playoff pairings in the East are set for this weekend.

The Heat will meet the seventh-seeded Philadelphia 76ers, while the Celtics will face long-time rivals the New York Knicks in a battle of the third and sixth seeds.

Also, the top-seeded Chicago Bulls will tangle with the eighth-seeded Indiana Pacers, and the Orlando Magic will go up against the Hawks in a showdown of the fourth and fifth seeds.

Dwyane Wade netted 21 points while Chris Bosh finished with 15 for Miami (56-24), winners for the 14th time in 17 games, including Sunday's physically and emotionally 100-77 beat-down of Boston.

After building a 76-56 cushion with 3:18 left in the third quarter, the Heat appeared to tire. Playing mostly with a lineup of reserves and using an effective zone defence, the Hawks went on a 31-12 run, capped by Zaza Zaza Puchulia's drive past Zydrunas Ilgauskas to pull within 88-87 with 3:30 remaining.

On the play, he clipped Ilgauskas with an elbow in the face. Ilgauskas retaliated by firing the ball off Pachulia's back as the Hawks big man trotted down court. Ilgauskas was ejected and Atlanta hit the free throw to knot the game at 88-88.

Enter Jones, who replaced Ilgauskas in a move that immediately paid off. He promptly fired in the go-ahead three and added the ensuing free throw after being fouled by Josh Powell with 3:15 left.

After Bosh took a charge on Powell, Jones nailed another from behind the arc, just 34 seconds later. James added the final three points and the Heat escaped with the victory.

'When I came in guys told me, we'll get you some shots, make sure you get them up and make sure you make them,' Jones said. 'I got a good one up and Powell was a little too late recovering for the four-point play. I hit another one that sealed the deal.'

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Double-duty at Talladega for Tim George Jr.

Tim George Jr. will pilot the No. 21 Chevrolet Impala in Saturday's Aaron's 312 at Talladega Superspeedway.

He has competed at Talladega in the ARCA Racing Series on 3 previous occasions, leading 12 laps and earning a career-best 3rd-place finish (2010) after starting 4th. He also has posted finishes of 13th and 20th at the track, in 2009 and 2008 respectively. In addition to the Aaron's 312 NNS race, catch George in the No. 31 RCR Chevrolet in the ARCA 250.

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Pat Burrell hits fourth homer

Pat Burrell went 2-for-2 with a solo homer and two walks Monday versus the Dodgers.

Burrell is just 5-for-27 on the season, but four of his hits have been homers. Unfortunately, all four of those homers have also been solo shots and he hasn't driven in another run in his nine games.

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Scott Maine Takes the Loss

The Iowa Cubs duked it out with the Albuquerque Isotopes, but fell in ten innings, 6-5.

Scott Maine was in trouble both innings he pitched. He got out of a bases-loaded one out jam in the ninth to send the game into extra innings, but after the I-Cubs took the lead in the top of the tenth, he allowed two runs in the bottom of the inning to take the loss. Maine's final line was 1.1 innings, allowing two runs on three hits and four walks. Maine struck out one Isotope.

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Danny Valencia's RBI lifts 'pen-strong Twins past Royals

MINNEAPOLIS — The Minnesota Twins lost four key relievers to free agency from last year's division champions, guys that got almost $40 million in guaranteed money between them in contracts with their new teams.

So far, those fan fears have been allayed. The remade bullpen is all right.

After a 12-up, 12-down performance by the 'pen, Danny Valencia hit a bases-loaded single with one out in the 10th inning to lift the Twins to a 4-3 victory over the Kansas City Royals on Tuesday night.

Dusty Hughes (1-0) pitched a perfect 10th for the victory and watched former teammate Robinson Tejeda (0-1) fail the Royals.

"That's baseball," Tejeda said. "I just try to come in and do my job. Sometimes you miss a spot, and they're going to make you pay for it."

He gave up a one-out single to Delmon Young and walked Michael Cuddyer. Then came Jason Kubel, who crushed a pitch to right-center where Jeff Francoeur nearly made a nifty running catch with his glove outstretched and his body bent awkwardly at the wall. Francoeur dropped it, though, sticking Kubel with a really long single and a disbelieving look to load the bases for Valencia.

"I don't care how far you have to go. Once it's in my glove, it's in my glove. That's what was frustrating for me," Francoeur said.

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Gaby Sanchez succeeding outside the mold

Gaby Sanchez knows his name will probably never be spoken in the same breath as Ryan Howard, Prince Fielder, Mark Teixeira or Albert Pujols — first basemen like him, but all of them sluggers.

Sanchez doesn’t fit in the basher’s mold for first basemen, and frankly doesn’t sweat it. When you’re hitting .343, as Sanchez is, and contributing to the best doubles-hitting team in the majors, why worry?

“You can drive in runs with doubles or base hits,” Sanchez said. “I don’t feel like you need to hit home runs.”

Sanchez hasn’t hit one out yet. Then again, that’s becoming one of the early-season trends for the Marlins.

After swapping second basemen with the Braves — Dan Uggla for Omar Infante — the Marlins made a conscious decision to sacrifice power for a contact hitter and superior glove.

They have hit just five home runs in their nine games.

And backup Greg Dobbs, who was filling in at third on Saturday while injured shortstop Hanley Ramirez rested his wounded leg, is the only infielder to wallop a home run.

That stands in stark contrast to the 2008 Marlins, whose four infielders set a major-league record by becoming the first foursome to each slug at least 25 home runs.

Their bats are now on display in Cooperstown.

Sanchez is symbolic of the transformation away from the long ball.

He hit 19 home runs as a rookie last season, and the Marlins are counting on him to reproduce that modest total again this year. Infante, who will be facing his former club when the Marlins open a three-game series against the Braves in Atlanta on Tuesday, hit 16 with Detroit in 2004 but has come nowhere close to that total in the six seasons that followed.

The Marlins do, however, expect Sanchez to hit.

If he doesn’t, it won’t be from lack of concentration. Hitting coach John Mallee says Sanchez might be the “toughest out” on the Marlins.
“He doesn’t take a pitch off,” Mallee said. “He’s in on every pitch, whether it be the first pitch of the game or the last pitch of the game. Every pitch to him, somebody wins, and he tries to win every pitch.”

Mallee should know. As the organization’s roving hitting coordinator for more than eight seasons, he has been with Sanchez every step of the way, from the day the former University of Miami star played his first minor-league game in 2005. It’s one reason why Sanchez doesn’t spend much time in the film room, looking for flaws in his swing.

He knows Mallee will spot it first.

“He knows my swing probably better than I know it myself,” Sanchez said. “He’s the one who basically made my swing the way it is.”
It wasn’t long after the Marlins drafted Sanchez that Mallee did some tinkering.

“When he first got in the system, he didn’t pull the ball very well,” Mallee said. “He went the other way and hit .350 in rookie ball, but he didn’t hit for any power because he made deep contact in the zone.”

Sanchez kept both hands on the bat through the end of the swing.

“He told me to let go of my [right] hand, releasing the hand,” Sanchez said. “Right away, it made a huge difference because the bat speed increased and the home runs went up.”

Still, Sanchez is not a slugger by definition but would prefer to develop a reputation as a raw hitter.

“At first base, you have Albert Pujols, you have Ryan Howard, you have Prince fielder, you have Adrian Gonzalez,” Sanchez said. “You have guys who hit 30 home runs, 35 home runs, 40 home runs.

“So if you’re a guy who hits 20, it’s like, OK, he hit 20. It’s just one of those things I don’t think about. Once I start thinking about it, I’ll go south.”

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Comments's 2010 proCane Rankings Part II

Welcome to our 1st annual and long overdue proCane Rankings where we look back at the 2010 NFL season and rank the 43 proCanes that took snaps in 2010 (except for Sinorice Moss who was placed on IR before the start of the season).

Stay tuned as we countdown from number 43 to number 1. Our rankings are based on each player’s performance last year. In August we’ll go ahead and re-rank the player’s based on our 2011 expectations. For now read our review of each player’s 2010 season and where they rank overall. Enjoy!

To read our rankings of players 43-35, click here.

34. Tavares Gooden LB Baltimore Ravens: The knock on Gooden since his college days has been his inability to stay healthy and 2010 unfortunately was no exception as Gooden played in 10 games, he did not start any and only tallied 18 total tackles last season. He was used by the Ravens on obvious passing situations because of his speed and coverage skills, but missed six games due to injury and was not able to secure a starting spot. At one point the Ravens saw Gooden as Ray Lewis’ successor but his inability to stay healthy has put that in doubt. It would be great to see him be able to play an entire season, hopefully 2011 will be the year.

33. Kelly Jennings DB Seattle Seahawks: Jennings under new Head Coach Pete Carroll had a solid mini camp which translated to him starting 14 games for the Seahawks and tallying a career high 13 pass deflections. Jennings also had his first interception since his rookie season in 2006, was far more consistent this year and wasn’t pushed around as much by opposing receivers. Jennings will be a free agent, but look for him to draw interest from teams including the Seahawks.

32. Rashad Butler LT Houston Texans: Butler who has been activated for all 16 games the last two years for the Texans started four games this past season and performed quite well at left tackle. Butler as a matter of fact opened the eyes of opposing coaches with his solid play and most probably will be snatched up by a team in need of a starting left tackle this offseason.

31. Phillip Buchanon DB Washington Redskins: In his first year with the Redskins, Buchanon, who played in all 16 games and started 5 had a career high in pass deflections (18) and recorded two interceptions. Overall, Buchanon had a solid year, but was at times inconsistent and found himself in Shanahan and Co.’s doghouse on several occasions. Buchanon didn’t contribute as much as was anticipated on punt returns but is still a threat on special teams as well. With one year under his belt with the Redskins look for Buchanon to have a bigger impact in 2011.

30. Calais Campbell DE Arizona Cardinals: There were high expectations coming into the 2010 season for Campbell as he was expected to record double digit sacks and more than adequately replace free-agent departee Antonio Smith. Unfortunately in 15 games Campbell only recorded six sacks, 1 less than the 2009 season though he did have more total tackles (60). The 2011 season will be an important one for Campbell to prove that he can be an elite pass rusher in the NFL, because most expected him to already be one.

29. Darryl Sharpton LB Houston Texans: Sharpton in his rookie season with the Texans was a surprise contributor on defense as he started 6 of the 12 games he was active for before sustaining an injury which ended his season prematurely. When playing though, Sharpton was solid both on special teams and defense where he accumulated 34 tackles and a sack. Look for Sharpton to work his way up the Texan depth chart and eventually become a full-time starter, if not in 2011 then 2012.

28. Vernon Carey RT Miami Dolphins: Carey battled a knee injury for most of the 2010 season but still started 12 games for the Dolphins before being put on injured reserve. Carey playing with a below average Dolphins offensive line was one of the few bright spots. Carey has been solid throughout his career and talk of him moving to the guard position is unfounded. Carey, though still recovering from his knee injury should be 100% by the start of the season.

27. Roscoe Parrish WR Buffalo Bills: Parrish was having the best season of his six-year career as through eight games he had career-high receiving yards, rushing yards and receiving touchdowns. Parrish was the Bills’ #2 wide receiver after finally being given opportunity to shine on offense while he continued to be a threat on punt returns as well. Unfortunately his season was cut short in week 8 after he sustained a season-ending wrist injury, but look for him to return as a starter to the Bills’ offense despite the emergence of Steve Johnson last season.

26. Frank Gore RB San Francisco 49ers: Gore was on pace to have another stellar season for the 49ers with their new-found dedication to the running game. Through 11 games Gore had 853 yards on the ground and over 450 yard receiving along with five touchdowns before fracturing his hip and being placed on injured reserve. It was the fourth consecutive season that Gore was unable to play in all 16 games, but when Gore is healthy, there are few in the league that are better than him especially with how involved he has become in the passing game as well.

Check back tomorrow to see which proCanes were ranked 25th through 16th!

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Ray Lewis: Sean Taylor was taken from us way too early

Ravens LB Ray Lewis was at the NFL Network studios on Monday to talk about the United Athletes Foundation, and Shad Ireland who is the first kidney dialysis patient in the world to accomplish the Ironman triathlon.

When you think about Lewis, it's hard not to think about his place not only one of the greatest linebackers of all-time, but also as one of the great Miami Hurricanes, too.

So I took some time on Monday to ask him about the greatest Hurricanes ever.

"It's impossible to really say who the greatest is without talking about all of the different eras," Lewis said. "And even then, I can't do it."

So we compromised, I shot him my list of greatest Hurricanes ever, and he gave him his first reaction. My list would have included Lewis as No. 1, but in deference to him, I have omitted him and his teammate Ed Reed -- you know, not to cause any friction.

Bonus - Ted Hendricks: Said Lewis, "His wisdom was everything. He just knew how to play the game."

Onto the list ...

6. Edgerrin James James led the league in rushing his first two years in the league, is the Colts' all-time leading rusher and a member of the all-decade team for the 2000s. "I never saw somebody run the ball with such an ability to shift and change direction. So I called him 'Easy.'"

5. Jim Kelly Kelly led the Bills to four AFC championships and is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The best of a strong group of Miami quarterbacks that included Bernie Kosar and Vinny Testaverde. "He was resilient."

4. Warren Sapp Sapp won the Lombardi Trophy and Outland Trophy at Miami, was a seven-time Pro Bowl player and a member of the Buccaneers lone Super Bowl championship team. "The first time I saw him, I said that I have never seen anything like that."

3. Jerome Brown Brown was a dominant defensive tackle, but might be most well known for staging a walkout with his Hurricanes teammates during a dinner with Penn State players prior to the 1987 Fiesta Bowl. "He was the forefather before Sapp. He set the path in motion for Miami football. He was the trend-setter."

2. Michael Irvin Irvin might be the poster boy for the flamboyant Miami player. Irvin was a member of the Hurricanes 1987 championship team and won three Super Bowls with the Dallas Cowboys. Lewis summed up Irvin in just one word. "Passion."

1. Sean Taylor "He broke all of the rules. It was amazing how good he was. He shouldn't have been able to do the things that he did. He had the size, speed and range. He was the complete package. We lost him way too early."

Click here to order Ray Lewis’ proCane Rookie Card.

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Scouting the Draft: Leonard Hankerson, Miami

A once-a-day look at a draft prospect that either has been targeted for the Patriots in a mock draft, has had a private workout for New England or has made an official visit to Gillette Stadium. In the end, mocks are good for discussion and workouts and interviews could be a smokescreen or a sign of real interest, but these are players who make sense as being on the Pats' radar for the upcoming draft.

Name: WR Leonard Hankerson, Miami (Fla.)
Height, weight: 6-2, 209 pounds
Hometown: Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. (St. Thomas Aquinas HS)
Senior season stats: 13 games (11 starts); 72 receptions for 1,156 yards (16.1 ypc), 13 touchdowns [receiving yards and touchdowns were single-season school records]
Career stats: 41 games (27 starts); 134 receptions for 2,160 yards (16.1 ypc), 22 touchdowns
Honors: first-team All-ACC, Harding Award (Hurricanes' team MVP)
Combine: 40 dash - 4.43; bench - 14 reps; vertical - 36 in.; broad jump - 9-9; 3-cone - 6.94s

Why he's a fit for the Pats: Scouts and draftniks say Hankerson runs solid routes and has a strong work ethic - two things that would serve him well with Tom Brady as his quarterback. Hankerson isn't a burner, but he has good height, tracks the ball well and will go across the middle. One caveat: while he can make the tough catches, he drops a few too many easy balls.

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Jonathan Vilma knows the lockout will turn off the fans

As the NFL’s players and owners continue their long battle over the billions of dollars that ultimately come out of the fans’ wallets, I sometimes wonder whether they realize the extent to which they’re jeopardizing the fans’ passion for the NFL.

So it’s always good to come across quotes from some of the players who do seem to get it.

One such player is Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma, who told the New Orleans Times-Picayune that he’s worried about how the fans will react to all the offseason news focusing on lawsuits and labor battles, instead of minicamps and free agents.

“It’s never a good look for the game,” Vilma said. “It’s never a good look for the fans to have the players and the owners arguing over money, and so hopefully we can get it worked out as soon as possible and get back playing.”

Vilma said he personally hasn’t been affected by the lockout: He’s working out on his own and has also kept busy with charity work in Haiti. But he doesn’t like the idea that this offseason is about the labor situation, not the game on the field.

“Unfortunately it hasn’t gone the way I wanted, just because I want to play football,” Vilma said. “We always talk about, ‘the business side of football,’ and we just try to get over these hurdles as quickly and as smoothly as possible.”

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

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Ravens' Ray Lewis signs autographs


Click here to order Ray Lewis’ proCane Rookie Card.

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Rule out Vernon Carey moving to guard for Dolphins

Vernon Carey is being paid by the Miami Dolphins as if he’s an elite tackle, and that’s the position South Floridians should expect this hometown product to play in 2011.

It gets under my skin every time I hear, or see someone talking about drafting an offensive tackle and sliding Carey inside to guard because it’s the dumbest most unrealistic idea EVER.

Most of you proposing this slide have no idea how that whole process works, or what it takes to become the effective pulling guard the Dolphins desperately lack.

Just because Carey played the position for one season at the University of Miami (and hated it) and played a little guard in his rookie season with the Dolphins in 2004 doesn’t mean he can do it seven years later.

Carey’s older now, and his body doesn’t react or respond like it once did. He’s a drive-blocker, a bulldozer, not a pulling guard. That means he’s a tackle, not a guard.

Head coach Tony Sparano, an offensive line guru, has told us moving Carey inside is not an option on the table now.

I’ve repeatedly stressed it won’t happen for a number of reasons, starting with the FACT he’s a tackle, and wants to remain a tackle.
So can we please squash the Carey can move to guard talk? Dead it!

If the Dolphins opt to draft another tackle early, which I don’t think will be considered, this regime would likely release Carey, eating some of the initial investment they made re-signing him in 2009, and start over with an unproven player like Boston College’s Anthony Castonzo, Colorado’s Nate Solder or Wisconsin’s Gabe Carimi

That approach would insert a question mark into a line that presently has concerns at three other spots: left guard, center and right guard. Would that be idea?

Of course Carey’s knee issues, and weight (around 340) should be a concern moving forward. But Carey has already begun working out with Jake Long and the boys at Nova. He spent a month training in Arizona with PTI (Richie Incognito was there with him) building an offseason program specially designed for him, helping to speed up his rehab.

Carey said he’s working out twice a day to get ready for the season, and that workout includes his usual spinning classes.

None of this means he’s going to be the starting tackle for the next five seasons. But what it does hint at is that the Dolphins should be set at right tackle for at least 2011.


Click here to order Vernon Carey’s proCane Rookie Card.

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(Omar Kelly

Ray Lewis tackles social issues

Ravens icon Ray Lewis went on ESPN First Take Monday morning and talked about how he's using his lockout time.

His first initiative is the United Athletes Association, which features 150 world-class athletes trying to increase awareness about combating diabetes and obesity. "Our numbers are staggering in the U.S. when you're talking about diabetes and kidney disease," said Lewis, who says exercise is the solution.

He also said he has created a number of companies "with my team of people" that can help those without employment.

"I've been playing football since 1985," Lewis said. "I've never had a summer off in 25 years. ... Our whole purpose is to create these businesses to help anybody. I got a job for you."

ESPN did not pursue what those companies -- and jobs -- might be, but did ask if Lewis would consider going in the ring, like teammate Tom Zbikowski.

"Absolutely ... NOT," Lewis said, grinning.

Click here to order Ray Lewis’ proCane Rookie Card.

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Tim George Jr has new sponsor for ARCA, NNS

Applebee’s Neighborhood Bar & Grill/Potomac Family Dining Group will sponsor Tim George Jr. in both the ARCA and NASCAR Nationwide Series races at Talladega Superspeedway this weekend, has learned.

George, 30, will compete in his third full ARCA season in 2011, piloting the No. 31 Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing. He ran 27th in the season opener at Daytona on Feb. 12. Friday’s 3 Amigos 250 at Talladega is the second race on the ARCA schedule.

George finished ninth in the ARCA point standings last season, which included a career-best third-place finish at Talladega last April.

George will pilot the No. 21 Applebee’s Chevrolet in the NNS race on Saturday. It’s his second career Nationwide start after his debut last year at Elkhart Lake where he finished 32nd.

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Comments's 2010 proCane Rankings Part I

Welcome to our 1st annual and long overdue proCane Rankings where we look back at the 2010 NFL season and rank the 43 proCanes that took snaps in 2010 (except for Sinorice Moss who was placed on IR before the start of the season).

Stay tuned as we countdown from number 43 to number 1. Our rankings are based on each player’s performance last year. In August we’ll go ahead and re-rank the player’s based on our 2011 expectations. For now read our review of each player’s 2010 season and where they rank overall. Enjoy!

43. Sinorice Moss WR NY Giants/Philadelphia Eagles: Moss, who was having another good Training Camp before injuring his groin and eventually being placed on Injured Reserve before the beginning of the 2010 season, didn’t play a down last year and was eventually released by the Giants who drafted him in the 2nd round of the 2006 Draft. Moss signed with the Philadelphia Eagles this offseason and is poised to breakout in 2011 with the Eagles who have historically filled their roster with WRs that are not necessarily superstars.

42. Dedrick Epps TE Miami Dolphins: Epps who was signed to the Dolphins practice squad in September was signed to the Active Roster in December and played in three games for the Dolphins. Though he didn’t record a reception in those three games, he did get several snaps and looks to be an active backup for the Dolphins in 2011.

41. Bruce Johnson CB NY Giants: After a very surprising 2009 season where Johnson played a significant role as the nickel corner for the Giants after being signed as an undrafted free agent, there were high expectations for him coming into 2010. Johnson lasted through Week 7 when he was placed on injured reserve following arthroscopic knee surgery. He only totaled 5 tackles and no interceptions after having 46 tackles, 1 sack, 2 forced fumbles, 2 interceptions and 1 TD in 2009. Look for him to bounce back in 2011 and help his fellow proCanes Antrel Rolle and Kenny Phillips in the Giants’ secondary.

40. Jason Fox OL Detroit Lions: The Lions drafted Fox in the 4th Round of the 2010 draft with the intention to groom his as a tackle for the future. Fox was recuperating from offseason knee surgery for most of the season, but did finally see action in the last game of the season where he didn’t give up a sack and played fairly well. Coach Linehan has been impressed with Fox’s progress since his surgery and is counting on him being an integral part of the Lions 2011 offensive line.

39. Spencer Adkins LB Atlanta Falcons: In his second year as a Falcon, Adkins doubled his tackle total posting six in 2010 while playing primarily on special teams. Adkins was on the active roster for 9 of the 16 games of 2010 and has yet to crack the starting lineup for the Falcons but is a valuable contributor on special teams.

38. Randy Phillips S Detroit Lions: Phillips signed as an undrafted free agent with the Lions and made a strong impression in Rookie Camp and Training Camp, so much so that he earned playing time for the Lions the first 3 weeks of the season. After underperforming, he was released and later placed on the practice squad and then was reinstated to the active roster in Week 16 against the Miami Dolphins where he forced 2 fumbles. Phillips was still recovering from offseason surgeries and looks to compete for a roster spot with the Lions again this season. Having his former secondary coach from “The U,” Tim Walton as the Defensive Backs coach in Detroit has helped Phillips’ progress.

37. Damione Lewis DL Houston Texans: After signing last offseason with the New England Patriots, and expected to make a big contribution to that defense, Lewis was cut before the beginning of the season after not fitting in as a DE in the Patriots’ 3-4 scheme and also having a rough offseason as he dealt with his mother’s death. He was signed by the Texans and played for them in Week 8 and became a regular contributor on defense for the rest of the season. Lewis can still be an effective DT in a 4-3 scheme and look for him to be a contributor next year after accumulating 17 tackles and one sack in only 10 games.

36. Clinton Portis RB Washington Redskins: After playing in only eights games during the 2009 Season, Portis under new head coach Mike Shanahan changed his attitude towards off-season workouts and recommitted himself to the Redskins. Most expected him to have a big year, but unfortunately again his season was cut short as he played in only 5 games and had 227 yards rushing and only two touchdowns. The Redskins have since released Portis, and until the lockout is resolved we don’t know who he will be playing for next season. Because of his recent injuries most think he is no longer a starting back in the NFL but could be a serviceable 3rd down back especially because of his solid blocking and receiving skills.

35. Leon Williams LB Dallas Cowboys: Williams played mainly special teams for the Cowboys last season as he suited up for 11 games and totaled eight tackles and one fumble recovery. Williams was key in the Cowboys’ punt and kickoff return games and did play some on defense. The Cowboys elected to not tender Williams and he is currently a free agent. Look for him to find a spot on a team in 2011 as a special teams player.

Check back tomorrow to see which proCanes were ranked 34th through 26th!

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Secret Superstar: Antonio Dixon

There were numerous questions surrounding DT Antonio Dixon when he came out of college. The Miami product had serious concerns about his weight as well as some personal life issues stemming from a horrid childhood. His father served 17 years for drug trafficking, his mother’s addiction lead to him entering foster care, and he spent time living in a homeless shelter as well. On top of that, Dixon has a speech impediment and finds it difficult to talk to the media.

All of this factored into him going undrafted in 2009. He was initially signed by the Redskins and later claimed off waivers by their rival, the Philadelphia Eagles.

It is testament to the belief Eagles’ coaches have had in Dixon that he has became the premier player in a defensive tackle group that boasts three players drafted in rounds one and two (Bunkley, Mike Patterson and Trevor Laws.) It’s also easy to see why Antonio Dixon is the Eagles’ Secret Superstar.

Clogging the Middle
Dixon flashed during his rookie year. As a run defender, he accumulated a +3.9 grade in 119 snaps. He wasn’t making a lot of plays, with just ten stops, but he’d more than shown he deserved a roster spot already.

With an expanded role in 2010 – a torn bicep for incumbent Brodrick Bunkley against San Francisco gave Dixon a chance to start in Week 6 – he did not disappoint. He ended the year ranked 8th overall in our run defense grades for interior defensive linemen, surrounded by players like Antonio Garay, Haloti Ngata and Kevin Williams. His playmaking was once again lacking (just 21 stops), but this is understandable considering the 2-gap scheme that asks Eagle defensive tackles to eat up blocks.

Dixon put in one of the most memorable run defending performances we saw all year against Chicago. His day was highlighted by three tackles for a loss and he gave Olin Kreutz fits throughout the game. The Titans’ interior can’t have been happy to see him either in Week 7 as neither Eugene Amano nor Leroy Harris had an answer.

Not Yet a Pocket-Collapser
While against the run he was sometimes supreme, he has failed to match that level when rushing the passer. In 229 pass rushes in 2010, he put up just seven quarterback disruptions, two of which were sacks. This was worse production than his rookie year where he had six combined pressures in just 120 snaps. Considering he only plays in the base package (the Eagles use their defensive ends inside in the nickel,) his opportunities have thus far been limited, however, if his recent performances are anything to go by, that’s no bad thing.

It will be interesting to see the effect of the new system under recently hired defensive line coach Jim Washburn. The shift will be towards a more disruptive and aggressive 1-gap scheme in contrast to the gap control of previous years. Washburn also used his defensive tackles in the nickel during his time in Tennessee so Dixon may find himself with more of an opportunity in the coming year.

A new scheme fit?
Dixon’s size leads many to believe he’s a prototypical 4-3 two gap player but he’s surprisingly agile for a man that goes about 330 lbs. While he hasn’t yet produced while rushing the passer, he has shown some explosion and block-shedding ability many times against the run. If anything, the new plan may fit Dixon better than the last.

Talented players usually find ways to thrive in different schemes. Dixon is certainly that. However, a quick glance through his grades shows he still has a lot of work to do. Against weak competition, he was simply dominant, but when he came up against good run blocking teams like Houston (LG Wade Smith and C Chris Myers,) he struggled. It’s his performances against top opponents that will dictate whether Dixon can take the next step.

Dixon is much more than a feel-good story. He’s got the skills to produce in the NFL and we’ve only had a glimpse of what he’s capable of.

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Colin McCarthy works out for the Buccaneers today

University Miami inside linebacker Colin McCarthy works out for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers today.

He worked out for the Miami Dolphins on Friday along with other Hurricanes players.

McCarthy has previously worked out for the Atlanta Falcons,

McCarthy recorded 95 tackles as a junior and 105 tackles as a senior with nine tackles for losses. He finished his career with 308 tackles, 34 for losses and was twice named all-conference.

McCarthy is regarded as an old-school linebacker who plays with sound instincts, but is relatively undersized.

The 6-foot-1, 235-pounder is currently projected to go in the third to fourth round.

An NFL scouting director had solid praise for McCarthy.

"Yeah, he’s a tough kid," the executive told National Football Post. "He runs around. He’s active. He’s instinctive, always working to the football. Gives up a little in terms of size, he's not 250, 260 pounds, but he plays pretty solid for an undersized guy.

"Very competitive player, great intangibles, comes with high remarks from the staff at Miami. So, he’s definitely a quality player and a quality kid.”

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Vernon Carey addresses his offseason training and his efforts to aid children in the community


Click here to order Vernon Carey’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Frank Gore not expected to be affected by hip

The 49ers' workhorse runner, Frank Gore, has missed games in each of the last four seasons with injuries. He is not expected to be slowed by his latest, a broken hip, in 2011. However, he is entering the final year of his contract.

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

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DeMarcus Van Dyke to work out for Raiders, Browns this week

University of Miami cornerback DeMarcus Van Dyke is scheduled to work out for the Oakland Raiders and the Cleveland Browns this week, according to a league source with knowledge of the situation.

He conducted a private workout for the Baltimore Ravens a few weeks ago.

And Van Dyke visited the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday and Tuesday.

He previously worked out for the Denver Broncos and the Atlanta Falcons.

Van Dyke ran the 40-yard dash between 4.25 and 4.28 seconds at the NFL scouting combine.

He also posted a 33 1/2 inch vertical leap, a 10-1 broad jump and a 6.97 in the three-cone drill.

He's regarded as a late-round draft target.

In 50 games, he started 21 games and recorded 80 tackles, three interceptions and 10 pass deflections.

He also ran track for the Hurricanes.

He started three games last season.

At the combine, he posted the third-fastest time in the past decade.

An angular 174 pounds, the 6-foot defensive back ran the fastest time since Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson (4.24, 2008) and Oakland Raiders cornerback Stanford Routt(notes) (4.27, 2005).

Van Dyke's lack of ideal size and strength are a concern, but his speed is rare.

He bench pressed 225 pounds five times at the combine.

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Jonathan Vilma staying focused on next season

New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma, about a week shy of his 29th birthday, is in his prime, getting rich and coming off his third Pro Bowl season.

But he can't help being disappointed by a lockout and court battle that has, for now, derailed football.

"Unfortunately it hasn't gone the way I wanted, just because I want to play football," Vilma said Saturday after a promotional appearance for Perry Ellis at Lakeside Mall. "We always talk about, 'the business side of football,' and we just try to get over these hurdles as quickly and as smoothly as possible."

Vilma addressed a variety of topics, from his charitable work in Haiti to the Saints' upcoming draft strategies, but it was understandable the lockout was the most pressing.

Since the league's collective bargaining agreement expired last month after two extensions, the owners have locked the players out and the players, claiming to have disbanded their union, have filed suit in federal court on antitrust grounds. The case is lingering before a federal district judge who has urged both sides to resume negotiations and hash out a new deal before one they may find less favorable is imposed on them.

In Vilma's eyes the situation has the aura of no one winning.

"It's never a good look for the game," he said. "It's never a good look for the fans to have the players and the owners arguing over money, and so hopefully we can get it worked out as soon as possible and get back playing."

Before the Saints' 2009 championship season, Vilma signed a five-year deal. His status as the team's defensive captain remains unchallenged after last season, in which he started all 16 games. His 131 tackles led New Orleans for the third consecutive season, and offered further proof, if any were needed, that the Saints made a superb move when they acquired Vilma from the Jets for a fourth-round pick in 2008.

In Vilma's case, the lockout hasn't really hampered his schedule. The Miami native, and University of Miami alum, still has Miami as his base, and he said his workouts there have followed the precise trajectory they would have if there were no lockout.

"That's what I'd normally be doing anyway, so this time isn't all that unsettling for me," he said.

He hopes to go to Haiti -- his parents hail from the Caribbean nation, although he was born in the United States -- in June. Vilma was one of the NFL players with Haitian roots who worked publicly to raise funds after a massive earthquake hit the island nation in 2008. In this offseason, the island's notoriously unstable and potentially violent politics have been in play, as presidential balloting goes back-and-forth, and Vilma is hoping the political dust will settle before he heads to Port-au-Prince to take stock of the situation on the ground.

As for taking stock of the Saints, Coach Sean Payton and other club officials are barred from communicating with players during the lockout, and with the team's workout facilities at the Metairie complex shuttered, Saints players have scattered about for offseason work and conditioning.

If quarterback Drew Brees wanted to arrange some kind of unofficial practice schedule for the Saints, the responsibility of getting the defensive side together would likely fall to Vilma and perhaps defensive end Will Smith, who lives in Kenner. But even if he and Brees did make such arrangements, they would likely prove less effective, according to Vilma.

"Definitely, we could easily set that up and get the guys down here and get the work done," he said. "But there's nothing like being around the whole environment, the facility and the coaches. We'll try to get as close to that as possible, though, because at the end of the day we want to get better, we want to win, and we're not going to let little setbacks stop us from that."

Indeed, Vilma argued the Saints' performance last season reflected that desire to win. A Super Bowl hangover, he said, is evidenced in a team that goes 8-8 and misses the playoffs, not one that battles for its division crown until the last week and does make the playoffs.

That said, Vilma expressed distaste with several aspects of last season.

"I thought the season was a good season," he said. "We battled through injuries, we battled through a lot of things during the season where we were still able to wind up 11-5 and top five in both offense and defense. Unfortunately, we didn't play our best, the way we wanted to, against Seattle. But you know what? Those things happen. It did leave a sour taste in my mouth, but we're not going to let that rain on the whole season. We still felt like we played well, and we've just got to take the next steps."

Those unit rankings -- the Saints finished No. 4 in the NFL in total defense and No. 6 in total offense -- mean the 2011 draft at the end of April isn't a make-or-break proposition for New Orleans, Vilma said. He has followed the widespread predictions the Saints will seek improvements in their defensive front seven in the draft, and said he is fine with that direction, even though he said it is less a shortcoming than some observers believe.

"I think right now we're in a good position and we don't have any glaring needs," he said. "We look at our team and we say we have guys who are bona fide starters, legitimate starters. Now it's always good to add depth, similar to Patrick Robinson, a terrific athlete, last year. So I feel like if the need is front seven, quote-unquote, I feel like it will be more for depth. I think we have a solid front seven; I think we have good players."

Along those lines, Vilma said he has spoken with Shaun Rogers, the defensive tackle the Saints signed after he was released by Cleveland, although the two do not know each other well. The scattered reports Rogers may have something less than an ideal work ethic or attitude do not align with the word Vilma said he has gotten on Rogers from his peers.

"Just looking at him, watching him play, hearing about him -- it's all good things," he said. "His work ethic, his size, his talent, that all speaks for itself, and I'm real excited to be working with him this year."

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

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Zach Railey finishes 5th in the Finn class

2008 Olympic Silver Medalist Zach Railey (Clearwater, Fla.) finished a strong second place in the final medal race to put him into 5th overall for the event.

With a premium put on a successful start and first upwind leg due to a smaller racecourse used in the medal race, Railey described how his pre-race strategy paid off. “Before the race, we felt the left-hand side was favored, but pin end was relative favored. I wanted to make sure I had a great start off the line and get to the left.”

He executed the plan and halfway up the first beat when the wind shifted, he had to hold onto the left side a little longer than he had hoped, but still rounded the mark in fourth place. “From there, it was between me and three other boats for 5th overall. One of them, Ed Wright, was in front of me and two were in 9th or 10th, so I know the race was on.”

Railey went on to pass Wright (GBR) downwind and took a chance on the next upwind leg to round ahead and finished the race in second. “I was up and down all week, and overall we definitely think we improved. The fleet sailing here is a lot deeper than any other events we’ve been in, so to get a top five shows that we’re doing well.”

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John Salmons scores 32 points against the Cavs

John Salmons scored 32 points on 14-of-18 shooting (including two threes) with one rebound, two assists, and one block in the Bucks' 108-101 win over the Cavs on Saturday.

He has emerged as a semi-consistent play in a place with the consistency of quicksand. Go ahead and keep him in your lineups going forward. Brandon Jennings added 14 points on 4-of-10 shooting with two rebounds, nine assists, and three steals in the win.

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Scott Maine Get His 2nd Save

Scott Maine pitched the ninth inning for the Iowa Cubs in their 6-4 win over the Round ROck Express and got his second save in two days. He gave up a lead-off single, but then got the final three batters in order. He had one strikeout.

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Pat Burrell happy to get title ring he can wear

Friday's banner-raising was for the fans. Saturday was for the players, when they got their championship rings. They have gotten so elaborate over the years that players rarely haul them on their fingers.

Then again, some of the players are big, too.

"I'll wear it," left fielder Pat Burrell said. "I'm proud of it."

Burrell already has a ring, which he won with the Phillies when they beat Tampa Bay in the 2008 Series. He wanted to wear it the next year. Problem was, he signed with the Rays. His new teammates might not have appreciated the daily recap of the prior October on Burrell's hand.
Burrell keeps the ring at his house in Arizona. Likewise, Aaron Rowand's ring from the 2005 White Sox sits in a safe somewhere.

"I'll pull it out for special occasions," Rowand said. "I don't wear it all the time because I'm afraid to lose it."

The weight of the bauble does not concern Rowand, who said, "It would be the biggest ring ever made and it wouldn't be too big, because it's a World Series ring."

Hall of Fame president Jeff Idelson will participate in tonight's ceremony, bringing past Giants World Series rings from the Hall's collection.

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Promising future in managing awaits Alex Cora

NEW YORK -- Two stools were positioned against the railing just to the home-plate side of the visitors' dugout at Citi Field late Saturday afternoon, probably to be used by a television crew for interviews. As the Mets took batting practice, though, one of the stools was occupied by a man with a Nationals uniform, a Mets past and a promising future. Someday Alex Cora will be interviewed, just not yet.

Opposing managers occasionally take a pregame seat in the same area for the purposes of surveillance. They can monitor BP and try to pick up something about a player's swing or a limp, some weakness or flaw that can be exploited.

On this day, Cora was the monitor. He was in position to kibitz with former Mets mates and to see what he could see about them. It was high-tech espionage, but you never know.

Wayne Hagin, the Mets' announcer, happened by, renewed his acquaintance with Cora and said, "When he was managing, Roger Craig once told me never to stand in front of the manager when he's here, and since you're going to be a manager, I'll keep moving."

Hagin and a majority of folks in the game are sure Cora someday will assume the position of manager. When he's done serving as a middle infield understudy and tutor, Cora will move a few feet to the his left and to the top step of some dugout and probably do some team proud as a rookie skipper. He comes equipped for the job now, though the club that eventually will employ him undoubtedly will insist he serve an apprenticeship in the Minor Leagues.

The Mets became confident Cora was equipped when he spent the better part of the 2009 and '10 seasons on their roster. The Nationals have seen the potential, too. Indeed, Mike Rizzo, their GM, said this about that Saturday: "Alex still has a lot left in his tank as a player. But he has my number, and when he's done playing, he can make a call. It will be well-received."

For now, Cora is well-received as the team sage, a role he filled more than adequately for the Mets when others were unwilling or unequipped to do so.

"He and [Matt] Stairs run the place," Rizzo said.

It's called veteran presence.

"For a long time, I wanted him on my team," the general manager, in his third year as the man with two uppercase letters as his job title, said of Cora. "A left-handed bat who can play second, short and third, and almost as important, we have the two kids -- [Ian] Desmond at short and [Danny] Espinosa [at second] who can learn from him. We couldn't choose a better guy to mentor them.

"He had them both out on the half field [a full infield with a miniature outfield] every morning in Spring Training before anyone else got there. I didn't know about it for weeks. He does things like that. I think it comes natural to him to be a teacher."

Extra preparation never hurts. Cora has been preparing to manage for 35 years. Even last August, when the Mets released him, was preparation. A manager should know his players are experiencing. He should know what being released is.

"It's not enjoyable," he said. "But I can check that off the list now."

Before he signed with the Nationals, Cora was approached about managing -- in the Minor Leagues -- over the winter. The assignment with a team he preferred not to identity would have been Class A. He declined, telling the interested party, "I can still help your big league team."

And he could have managed in winter ball, but he opted to play with his hometown team, Caguas in Puerto Rico, after his older brother Joey advised him that managing in winter ball would change how big league clubs viewed him.

"You'll never play again," big brother Joey told him.

Joey Cora is the White Sox third-base coach, and he also is regarded as managerial material. He managed Caguas, and Alex played for him.
"He'd kind of take a day off once in a while," the younger Cora said, "and I'd manage."

The sage quality showed itself as Cora sat on the stool.

"The good teams get better as the season goes on," he said. "Look at the NBA, the Lakers won, what, 10 of 11 after the All-Star game? They've lost a few in a row now, but they made their statement. Look at Charlie Manuel's record in September with the Phillies. You need to get better as the season goes on. We will."

He sounded like a manager already.

Managers need to be tactful at times. So Cora practiced tact Saturday. Left unsaid or at least unexplored as he sat on the stool was how the Mets have fared late in recent seasons. He abided by "If you can say something nice about someone ... " and noted how much the absence of Carlos Beltran undermined the Mets.

He thinks like a manager, too.

Davey Johnson is one of Rizzo's advisors. The former Mets manager has been at Citi Field to witness the three-game series. Johnson was a second baseman and managed Cora with the Dodgers in 1999 and '00, when Cora was a plebe.

"I put him at shortstop and moved [incumbent shortstop Mark] Grudzielanek to second," Johnson said. "When he was still playing second, I noticed he was peaking [at the runner approaching first] while he was preparing to make the catch and transfer on double plays. I explained to why that wasn't a good thing to do.

"I heard him tell Espinosa the same thing 11 years later. That impressed me a lot. He learned and remembered."

Manager need good memories, too.

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