Braun homers in loss

Ryan Braun hit his first home run of the season in a loss to the Mets on Friday night.

The home run was a line-drive three-run shot off Livan Hernandez in the sixth inning that just barely cleared the fence in the left-field corner. Braun claims that he is feeling 100 percent and we expect the home runs to come in bunches very soon.


Kareem Brown Continue To Work at TE

We saw quite a bit of Kareem Brown at tight end. He dropped the first two balls thrown his way – including a 5-yarder over the middle – but settled down. Ryan complimented the defensive lineman’s mental capabilities because he’s in “every offensive and defensive meeting.” "The routes look good," O.C. Brian Schottenheimer yelled to him. "We'll get the catching part down."

I asked Brown if he expected to be the starting tight end on opening day in Houston and he laughed. Nice kid. And actually didn’t look too bad running his routes. Look at it his way: Bubba Franks, a career tight end, had more drops in his first training camp practice last year.


Hester & Olsen Support Cutler

Sources considered the presence at Cutler’s first press conference of both WR Devin Hester and TE Greg Olsen — who figure to be the primary targets for Cutler’s passes — as a very positive sign.

“The players were all genuinely sorry to see Orton go,” the insider said. “But the prevailing feeling seemed to be that it was time to move on.”


Perez Back to Bigs

Right-handed pitchers Mitchell Boggs and Chris Perez were recalled from Memphis.

Chris Carpenter was removed from Tuesday night's game prior to the bottom of the fourth inning with a strain to his left rib cage. While there is no firm prognosis, it is reasonable to expect the 33-year-old to miss six weeks, potentially putting him back in action around June 1. More will be known about Carpenter’s condition after he is examined in St. Louis by team physicians.

Sent to Memphis to open the season, Perez has pitched four innings over three games. He has a win and two saves on no hits and three walks. Perez fanned four Triple-A batters. It remains to be seen whether or not Perez is used as the team’s closer initially. Veteran Ryan Franklin may play the role short-term or rookie Jason Motte could be eased back into the job.


Spring Game 2009 Pictures

Check out over 200 photos from the 2009 Spring Football Game at Lockhart Stadium. Click here or above on proCanes Gallery. The way we see it, a lot of the current 'Canes will be future pros so we had to cover the game. Enjoy the pictures, and if you want any more specific ones, email us at and we can see if we have it, because we took about twice as many.

Best First-Round Picks, 1999-2008

Edgerrin James: 4th Pick 1999: James' 12,121 career rushing yards is best among active running backs and 11th all-time, 122 yards behind Marcus Allen at No. 10.

Ed Reed: 24th Pick  2002: In one of the more loaded picks, Reed wins by virtue of being one of the best ever to play safety. A testament of how widely respected he is, Reed was the only unanimous selection to the 2008 All-Pro team.

Jon Beason : 25th Pick 2007: One of the game's best young linebackers, Beason led the Panthers in tackles each of his first two seasons and earned All-Pro honors in 2008.

Reggie Wayne: 30th Pick 2001: Making a name for himself as Peyton Manning's No. 2 receiver early in his career, Wayne has now solidified himself as the Colts' No. 1. He has started every game since 2003 and has five straight 1,000-yard seasons.


Mastrole Passing Introduces Magic Benton

Mastrole Passing Acdemy is pleased to announce that Magic Benton  has joined the M.P.A. coaching staff.  Magic  Benton holds af2 career records with 630 receptions, 8,293 receiving yards and 178 touchdown catches. He holds the all-time scoring record, accounting for 1098 points as well.  Magic has been developing receivers and tight ends for the last 5 years.  Magic brings a unique and cutting edge style athletes have found to be motivating and beneficial to their development.  Magic teachings stress balance, speed, explosiveness, hand eye coordination, and defensive recognition.  Receivers will learn the necessary fundamentals to excel at their position through a series of teachings and drills.


McKinnie Out on the Town

Charles Oakley and Bryant McKinnie jumping on the Florida Panthers' bed and joining in the team's end of the season party Monday night at B.E.D. on South Beach. Between B.E.D. and Prime 112, the player party/dinner cost $21,000.


Braun says side injury not causing slump

Ryan Braun, hitting .200 with no homers and two RBI so far, says that his strained intercostal muscle is not an issue and he feels 100 percent.

"I'm just still trying to find my timing and rhythm a little bit," Braun said. "Physically I feel good but the swing is not where it needs to be yet. It's not mechanical as much as it is timing." Assuming the strained muscle is truly no longer an issue, Braun's slow start to the season is likely to soon be a distant memory.


Miami Hurricanes’ First-Round N.F.L. Draft Streak Nears a Likely End

The streak lasted so long that during its span, Warren Sapp crafted a Hall of Fame-caliber professional career, retired, finished a season on “Dancing With the Stars” and began a second career as an analyst on the NFL Network.

It wound through so many generations of football players that Sapp stumps people with a trivia question: who was the highest-drafted University of Miami player the year before the streak started? (Running back Donnell Bennett, second round in 1994, by Kansas City.)

The streak has hung on for so many years that when Sapp spoke to Kenny Phillips, who saved the streak when the Giants chose him with the final pick in the first round last year, he welcomed him to an extraordinary Hurricanes club.

“I said, ‘Way to keep the streak going,’ ” Sapp recalled recently. “It’s a common bond with someone who is 13 years removed from me.”

Sapp and Phillips are the bookends of a singular period of Miami football dominance: at least one Hurricanes player has been selected in the first round in 14 consecutive N.F.L. drafts. But Miami’s fortunes on the recruiting trail and the football field have suffered in recent years — no national championships since the 2001 season, and a losing season in 2007.

Even if Miami’s absence from college football’s loftiest ranks is just temporary, as most recruiting experts and N.F.L. personnel executives believe, it will take its toll this month. The streak — and one of the Hurricanes’ favorite trash-talk fodder — will almost surely end. When the college draft begins April 25, cornerback Bruce Johnson could be the only Hurricane drafted, and probably not before the fourth round. Years of the draft being colored in orange and green will fade to black.

“My streak ends,” Sapp said, sighing. “It’s something we took immense pride in.”

Still, with the dispersal of talent to more colleges than ever — players from football lesser lights like Troy (Leodis McKelvin), Delaware (Joe Flacco) and Tennessee State (Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie) were selected in the first round last year — Sapp may not have to worry about Miami’s record being matched. Elias Sports Bureau found Louisiana State has the next-longest current streak of first-rounders (five). Recruiting powers like Southern California (one) and Florida (two) are well off Miami’s pace.

And it is unlikely that any program will touch Miami’s mind-boggling run early this decade, when it had four first-rounders in 2001, five in 2002, four in 2003 and an N.F.L.-record six in 2004.

Miami nearly scuttled football in the 1970s, and it still fails to sell out games against anybody but its biggest rivals. But Howard Schnellenberger, the coach who revived the program in the 1980s, laid the groundwork for the streak by eschewing most out-of-state recruiting and mining talent-rich South and Central Florida.
From those areas came Michael Irvin, Bennie Blades, Jerome Brown, Ray Lewis, Phillips and Sapp. All were first-rounders. Schnellenberger started a slogan: “Pipeline to the pros.”

“We caught all kinds of flak,” Schnellenberger, now the coach at Florida Atlantic, said. “The university hierarchy thought it was guff because it was emphasizing pro football as an end to the means.”

Without the lavish facilities and tradition of Texas and Michigan, Schnellenberger encouraged a culture that emphasized college and regional pride, binding the players to the campus and to one another. Its most obvious manifestation is that players, even deep into their pro careers, still return to Coral Gables to work out in the off-season.

With one coach after another leaving for pro jobs (Schnellenberger, Jimmy Johnson, Dennis Erickson and Butch Davis), those players provided continuity at Miami, filling, Schnellenberger said, the institutional role that coaches like Joe Paterno and Bobby Bowden do at Penn State and Florida State.

The pros provided a powerful recruiting pitch on national television when they stood on the sideline at Miami games. And once the prospects came to Miami, the pros helped prepare them for their next step. When Sapp was there, Russell Maryland and Brown showed up. When Phillips was a freshman, he worked out with safety Ed Reed and running back Edgerrin James, both first-rounders.

When Ernie Accorsi, the former general manager of the Giants, visited the campus, Alonzo Highsmith, Micheal Barrow and Jessie Armstead were working out with Miami players.

“They give you tips — they teach you how to watch film,” Phillips said. “It does a lot for a guy who is 18 years old. My junior year, Ed said: ‘The way is paved for you. All you have to do is play.’ ”

Sapp and Phillips credit the influence of former Hurricanes for fostering sustained excellence.

“We were not going to bend those standards,” Sapp said.

Accorsi saw the not-so-subtle pressure up close when he went to campus to “box” the players (teams used a battery-powered reaction box to test quickness, explosion and change of direction). It was so hot that the dry-cell battery melted. Two players found a store that sold the hard-to-find battery. The test was on.

“They were going to make sure we were able to test them, a test players generally would duck, but not them,” Accorsi said. “Then they competed against each other like it was an Olympic trial. All the players put pressure on each other, current and past, to be relentless competitors.

But just as the decrepit Orange Bowl stadium crumbled a few years ago, so did Miami’s supremacy. There are many theories why Miami did not produce a top pro prospect this year. Schnellenberger says coaches tried to recruit too much nationally, forsaking their backyard. He also notes that Miami’s decline has coincided with a failure to find a top-flight quarterback.

And as bowl games and cable channels showing college games have proliferated, more teams play on national TV. That has helped put lower-profile teams on the recruiting map. On national signing day in February, Miami Pace defensive back Kayvon Webster, who had committed to Miami, signed with South Florida.

Tom Luginbill, the national recruiting director for ESPN’s Scouts Inc., says Miami’s recruiting dip started after the 2003 season. For years, Miami had its pick in South Florida. But then Florida, Florida State, South Florida and others in the Southeastern Conference and the Atlantic Coast Conference began plucking their share.

“They just weren’t getting the same caliber of player as they had gotten before,” Luginbill said. “I don’t attribute it to anything other than maybe they had a little dip in effort, but more than anything else, streaks come to an end.”

Larry Coker, fired as coach after the 2006 season, has been blamed for what is perceived as lackluster recruiting. He won the national title in 2001, his first season after replacing Davis, and the Hurricanes lost to Ohio State in the title game the next season. Then the slow slide began.

“The overall talent in South Florida wasn’t as good as it has been as far as really great talent,” said Coker, the coach for the new football program at the University of Texas at San Antonio. “The key for Miami is always the talent level in South Florida. When I left, I think there was good talent. Were there six first-round draft choices? Obviously not, but the talent was good.”

The recruiting analyst Tom Lemming says he suspects Coker’s efforts were also hampered when Miami moved to the A.C.C., from the Big East, in 2004.

“They dominated everything before that, and they had trouble after that,” Lemming said. “They helped elevate the rest of the A.C.C. They started losing more than they did. Miami would still be Miami if they’d stayed in the Big East.”

But everyone agrees that Florida Coach Urban Meyer has hurt Miami the most. Meyer arrived in Gainesville in 2005, and the Gators have won two national championships since. They play in a raucous stadium and on national TV. That has helped Meyer make inroads into what had been Miami recruiting territory. He has in turn elevated the rest of the SEC.

The most startling example of how things have changed: Bryce Brown, a running back from Wichita, Kan., considered by many the top recruit this year, committed to Miami last year but continued to visit other colleges. In February, he signed with Tennessee — even though his older brother plays for Miami.

Sapp was outraged by Brown’s about-face — “What an idiot,” he said — but Lemming blames something else.
“It’s no longer the place to be,” Lemming said of Miami. “Now, U.S.C. is the place to be.”

Maybe, but perhaps not for long. When he replaced Coker two years ago, Coach Randy Shannon adopted Schnellenberger’s strategy of recruiting in South Florida. In 2008, more than half of his class of 33 signees was from the area, and it finished near the top of nearly every recruiting class ranking. This year’s class ranked as high as 11th, landing 6 of the top 150 recruits, according to rankings.

“They have some good young guys,” Baltimore Ravens General Manager Ozzie Newsome said. “They’ll be back.”

He should know. Newsome’s hand is all over the streak — the Ravens drafted Lewis and Reed.


And Then There Was One

This story appeared in the April 20 issue of ESPN The Magazine.

After finishing his final 40-yard dash attempt, Miami cornerback Bruce Johnson lets his momentum carry him to the far end of the Hurricanes' practice field. There, in the shadow of a parking garage, he glances back at the school's pro day setup. What he sees are the unmistakable signs of the end of an era. Aluminum bleachers, once bulging with 100 scouts reeking of rental-car living, are not even half full on this late-February afternoon. The large section roped off for agents contains only seven people, four of whom are university employees. In the nearly deserted area behind the end zone—which most years overflows with family, friends and students—a woman with her back to the field talks on her cell about her cousin's canine-allergy medication. The VIPs, once a who's who of NFL royalty, are limited to a pair of big-name former Canes: Panthers linebacker Jon Beason and Cardinals running back Edgerrin James, who wrapped Johnson in a hug before the day began and implored him to "represent the U."

As Miami's best pro prospect, Johnson, 22, does in fact perfectly embody the state of the Hurricanes, who have gone 12—13 since 2007. Undersized (5'9") and a step slow (40 time: 4.42), the soft-spoken Johnson is ranked as the draft's 25th-best corner by Scouts Inc. and will likely be a late-round pick. That means that for the first time since 1994, the program dubbed NFLU won't have a player taken in the first round, ending a streak that changed both college and pro football. The last year a Hurricane wasn't selected in one of the first three rounds? Try 1986. "I guess it's kind of a sad day," Johnson says after his workout.

In many ways, Miami is a victim of its own success—it became so good at producing NFL players that everyone stole the school's formula. Dennis Erickson, who took over for Jimmy Johnson, cranked up the pipeline while winning national titles in 1989 and 1991. The coach wooed players to his program by promising what they really wanted: a paved path to the pros. Unlike most college teams then, Miami became NFL-friendly, giving scouts ample access to game film, prospects and facilities.

That open attitude most noticeably manifested itself in a souped-up pro day that had the intensity of a bowl game and the star power of South Beach. While the Canes performed the same drills and underwent the same measurements as prospects elsewhere, they did them in front of stands packed with family, recruits and ex-players. The day was a can't-miss event rather than an obligatory exercise. Allured by the hoopla and wealth of talent, all 32 NFL teams sent their GM, their coach or often both, and a few dispatched up to seven scouts. "It was like a festival, a celebration," says Titans GM Mike Reinfeldt. "You knew there'd be so many good players you might discover someone you weren't even looking for."

The results are staggering. Over the past 14 years, Miami produced more first-round picks (33) than any other school, beginning with defensive tackle Warren Sapp, who went 12th overall to the Bucs in 1995. (Ohio State ranks second, with 25 over the same period.) The following year, picking 26th, the Ravens selected Ray Lewis. The pipeline reached its peak after the Hurricanes won the 2001 national championship. Over the next three drafts, 23 players from the title team were selected, including 11 in the first round. It was a group of players—featuring safety Ed Reed, wide receiver Andre Johnson and running back Clinton Portis—who set new standards for speed, attitude and pro-level preparedness. "You knew what you were going to get with a player from Miami," says Giants GM Jerry Reese. "Tough guys who played hard and loved football."

There are whispers in the scouting community, punctuated by Vince Young's breakdown in Tennessee, that players at many high-profile programs are coddled, soft and illprepared for the next level. That was never a concern with the Hurricanes, and it's one reason why no school had more players on NFL opening day rosters last year than NFLU (44). Under Miami's system—one that Reed has called The Crucible—hardened players from rough urban high schools are pushed to the limit, not just by coaches and teammates but by past generations of greats. In the main hallway inside the team's facility is a massive wood display that has the feel of an altar, honoring all the former Canes now playing in the NFL. Many of those alums, like Reed and Portis, work out at the school during the off-season and make a habit of staying in touch and mentoring the current Canes with tough love. Word is passed down that there are no promises or guaranteed roster spots at the U. Each week the best play—period.

Few players represent the self-perpetuating, competitive furnace better than Saints tight end Jeremy Shockey. As a Cane, if he ever felt practice lacked proper pop, he'd run downfield and cheap-shot a defensive back, sparking a brawl. Drafted 14th overall by the Giants in 2002, Shockey pushed himself hard in order to live up to predecessor Bubba Franks (taken 14th by the Packers in 2000), while setting a good example for Kellen Winslow (sixth by the Browns in 2004). "That's why we're NFLU," says Johnson. "If you don't make plays, they will sit you, forget you and move on to the next guy, just like in the NFL."

Of course, as Johnson has discovered, the scouting game is just as ruthless. As Miami waned, so did interest in its players. The burnout started when coach Butch Davis took his scouting smarts to the NFL after the 2000 season. Although successor Larry Coker led the team to title games in 2001 and 2002, he ultimately couldn't restock his ranks quickly enough to keep up with all those Canes going pro. By the time the team fell out of the national rankings four years later, several key components of its can't-miss recruiting formula were no more. The crumbling Orange Bowl no longer impressed prospects; the school instituted much tougher admissions standards; a focus on national recruiting cost the Canes their monopoly on talent-rich South Florida. Perhaps most critical of all, there's nothing unique about Miami's pro day or scout-friendliness now. It's the standard. "The playing field leveled," says Lions coach Jim Schwartz.

That's made Miami an optional stop, not a must-see, on the scouting calendar. Only a dozen or so teams showed up for this year's pro day, including reps from the Lions, Giants and Titans, all of whom have shown interest in Johnson. Even late in the draft, a prospect from NFLU is a worthy choice.

And Johnson, even at 167 pounds, represents what teams are looking for in a second-day pick. He plays with fluid hips that allow him to change direction and accelerate with power in the open field, where he craves contact. "That's the dog in me," he says. "That fight, that's the U right there."Sitting on a high-jump pad, Johnson slowly unties the fluorescent-green cleats he wore during his workout. As is the Miami tradition, he plans on passing the shoes to a younger teammate, maybe even one of the recruits in the Hurricanes' freshman or sophomore class, who are expected to restart the school's first-round streak in 2011 or sooner. Finally, it appears, third-year coach Randy Shannon is turning the program back around.

A linebacker on Miami's 1987 title team, Shannon has put together three straight top-10 recruiting hauls the Erickson way, by focusing on local talent. In fact, eight members of the 2008 class, widely considered the nation's best, played for prep power Northwestern High, located just a few miles from Miami's campus. "The future is bright," Miami AD Kirby Hocutt said in January.

In the meantime, it's up to Johnson to represent. As he stuffs the cleats into his bag, students walking past on their way to class recognize him and yell out, "Bruuuuuuuce!"

He waves back, but without looking up. Instead, his eyes remain fixated on the tongue of the neon cleats, labeled by the manufacturer with a 40 time—4.2—that he'll never come close to running. Not that it matters.

Teams already know what they're going to get.


Michaels returns for Bucs' home opener

PITTSBURGH -- In some ways, Monday afternoon happened exactly like Jason Michaels envisioned it this offseason, sitting in PNC Park preparing for the Pirates' home opener. The fact he was in the visitors' clubhouse with an Astros uniform on was the only deviation from the script.

When the 2008 season concluded, the Pirates decided not to pick up the outfielder's option, but there did seem to be early interest to re-sign him to be part of the outfield rotation here. When Michaels never heard from the Pirates, he sought employment elsewhere, landing a spot in Houston as a backup outfielder and right-handed pinch-hitting option off the bench.

Considering how things played out prior to the year, it wouldn't have been surprising for there to be some bitterness. But that's not a part of Michaels' makeup, and he's chosen instead to just turn the page and start fresh.

"I have no ill feelings towards them at all," said Michaels, who was in the Astros' starting lineup and in center field for the first time in 2009 on Monday afternoon. "I understand it's a business. that's just the way it is. I wish them a lot of luck.

"I enjoyed being here and being over there with those guys last year. There's a lot of great players over there, and for years to come, too. I enjoyed it, I really did. They're going to have a good team."

Over the Astros' first six games, Michaels had picked up just three pinch-hitting appearances, going 0-for-3 with a strikeout. With Houston facing lefty Zach Duke on Monday and manager Cecil Cooper trying to give a push to an offense that scored just 16 runs over its first six games, Michaels was hitting sixth, giving Michael Bourn the day off.

"We needed to get Jason Michaels into the lineup, get him some at-bats," Cooper said. "He's going to be a guy who's going to help us throughout the year, particularly against left-handed pitching. I thought this was a perfect day. He knows this club pretty well, so it's a good opportunity for him. Hopefully, that will help to jump start us a little bit."

With Michaels staying within the NL Central, he will have the opportunity to beat up on his former teammates, not that revenge is a motivator for him. Getting the Astros back on track and keeping up with a fairly even division is enough to get him going.

"It's a tough division," Michaels said. "I think all the teams are pretty equal. It's going to be a battle all the way to the end.

"I think everything is fine," he continued about the Astros' slow start. "I don't know what it is. I don't really have an answer for that. We need to start today and win today."


Kareem Brown to TE?

I unearthed a mildly interesting piece of information earlier today during our locker room period. The team may be converting defensive lineman/linebacker Kareem Brown to tight end. He is working with both units (double the meetings, double the fun) and is already down about 25 pounds from his weight of 290 last year. Brown is 6'4" tall and played at 315lbs in college. When I talked with him today he was about to go off and have a salad for lunch.

This move was out of a major necessity since with all of the focus on the quarterback situation it has gone almost unnoticed that the Jets have a grand total tight end on the roster, last year's first-round pick, Dustin Keller. Two if you count James Dearth, but the team doesn't like to put their long snapper in jeopardy by playing him too much on offense.

Given the propensity for Brian Schottenheimer to run two and three tight-end sets - currently in vogue throughout the league - the Jets are clearly wanting at this position. And, given the upcoming three-day mini-camp next week, the team needed bodies in this position.

Although carrying around two playbooks doesn't seem pleasant, Brown is enjoying the challenge. While he has fun playing defense, he said of his new role, "Playing offense is childhood fun."

Right now, he is mostly getting up to speed as a blocker to balance out Keller who is still going to remain mostly a pass catcher.

Now entering his third NFL season, Brown was originally a fourth round Draft pick in 2007 by the New England Patriots, who waived him after 11 games that year, and he was subsequently signed by the Jets.

A "U" guy (that's the University of Miami for those of you not familiar with the term) Brown had 11 sacks in his senior season there, which ranks as the second-best single-season total by a Miami defensive tackle.

He has played tight end before - in high school for Miami-Norland.


Brad Kunz Plays for the Peoria Pirates

Brad Kunz who used to play on the AFL2 Florida Firecats alongside Magic Benton, Ethenic Sands and other former Hurricanes is suiting up this season for the Peoria Pirates. Kunz is listed as an offensive and defensive lineman at 6'7 315 wearing number 33. Best of luck to Brad!

Calais Looking To Be a Starter

When the subject of Cardinals defensive ends pops up in the desert these days, the names of second-year DEs Calais Campbell and Kenny Iwebema are the ones most often mentioned in conversations among team insiders. That’s particularly the case with Campbell, who is expected to replace the departed Antonio Smith in the starting lineup. But another young player who we hear shouldn’t be forgotten is Keilen Dykes, who spent last year on the practice squad. “They kind of like him,” said one insider of the 6-3, 294-pound West Virginia product. “He’s a big, thick, strong guy who could also swing inside.”


Productive offseason for McIntosh

During his first two years as a starting linebacker for the Washington Redskins, Rocky McIntosh was as quiet as can be.

Middle linebacker London Fletcher served as the defense's unquestioned leader. Marcus Washington always chatted and danced on the strong side. McIntosh, on the weak side, was all business, on and off the field.

But McIntosh has shed some of that shyness this offseason. Fletcher hasn't attend conditioning workouts at Redskin Park, Washington was released in February because of injuries and a high price tag, and veteran backup Khary Campbell remains unsigned.
McIntosh, heading into his fourth season, suddenly is the senior linebacker at Redskin Park.

"I never played that role in the past, but I'm vocal when I have to be," he said. "I've got the most playing time here, so I can definitely be a help to

McIntosh said he hasn't heard from Fletcher or Washington since the season ended, but he sees Campbell since they're Northern Virginia

"Those are my guys," McIntosh said. "I learned from them. They set the tempo, Khary with special teams and Marcus on defense. ... It would be great to have them back and try to build on what we did last year."

The Redskins ranked fourth on defense in 2008; McIntosh, who suffered a major knee injury in December 2007, played all 16 games, starting 15. He ranked second on the team with 88 tackles.

Campbell called McIntosh one of the Redskins' "do-it-all guys."

Said McIntosh: "I'm an OK guy, an average guy, but I'm not great. As a defense, we weren't great. We were No. 4, but why not be No. 1? I didn't make it to the Pro Bowl, and we didn't make it to the playoffs. That's what's you're striving for."

McIntosh has loftier goals for 2009.

"Last year, I was rehabbing to get back, and I went straight into training camp [without a break]," McIntosh said. "This time around has been a lot less stressful. This year, I want to be a very explosive guy. I want to blow guys up every play. In college, that's the way I was, a little bit more relaxed out there, creating a bigger impact."

McIntosh is doing that at Redskin Park. After nearly three years of staying "behind the curtains," McIntosh had become more involved in community service and in players association matters. He also commandeered an empty work space in the public relations department, acting as a quasi-intern to learn what happens behind the scenes.

"Rocky's overcome adversity," Campbell said. "When you're able to do that, [you] tend to be more confident and have fun."

But McIntosh, who was involved for two years in a South Carolina commercial real estate company, didn't attend a recent three-day seminar for NFL players at Penn's Wharton School of Business just for fun.

"Football isn't going to last forever," said McIntosh, who has degrees in English and criminology and will consider graduate school or law school when his football career ends. "I want to make sure that I keep my mind rich. ...

"You've got a little window when you're not working on football during the offseason, and I take advantage of that. Don't just go home and sit on your butt. Be productive somehow."



With a glut of wide receivers and a 2008 first-round defensive back (Leodis McKelvin) who can return kicks on the roster, the Buffalo Bills are testing the waters for interest in Roscoe Parrish.

According to a league source, the Bills are shopping Parrish, primarily as an exploratory measure.

Parrish was a second-round pick in the 2005 draft, and he has appeared in 55 of a possible 64 career games.  He has served primarily as a kick returner, with only 1,097 total receiving yards in four NFL seasons.  He also has more fumbles (seven) than receiving touchdowns (five).
Signed for three more seasons, Parrish is due to earn base salaries of $1 million in 2009, $1.025 million in 2010, and $1.025 million in 2011.
The Bills currently have nine receivers on the roster:  Parrish, Terrell Owens, Lee Evans, Josh Reed, James Hardy, Felton Huggins, Justin Jenkins, Steve Johnson, and C.J. Hawthorne.


UM’s Johnson working with Dolphins

University of Miami cornerback Bruce Johnson has been scheduled for a private workout with the Miami Dolphins on Friday, according to a league source.

Johnson ran a 4.40 in the 40-yard dash at his campus Pro Day workout after clocking a 4.49 at the NFL Scouting Combine.

At his Pro Day, Johnson registered a 38 1/2 inch vertical leap and a 10-4 broad jump. He improved by four inches in the vertical leap from his combine performance.

Johnson, who’s listed at 5′10,” 170 pounds, was the only Miami player invited to the scouting combine.

“I was in my comfort zone,” Johnson told Cane Sport following his Pro Day. “I turned some heads. I felt I performed real well. I think I could raise my stock up since I did well in Indy and here.”

When asked if he thought he would be drafted between the fourth round and the sixth round, Johnson replied: “I felt like they had me predicted to go low, but if I could show my ability, I could raise my draft stock up.”

Johnson, who also ran track in college,  is a relative of Seattle Seahawks cornerback Kelly Jennings.


Vince Wilfork Stays Positive

Speaking in two forums yesterday, Patriots nose tackle Vince Wilfork hosted a live on-line chat on Comcast's website and also appeared as a guest on Mohegan Sun's Sports Tonight with Gary Tanguay and Michael Felger.

Discussing a range of topics from the proposed 18-game regular season, the status of Tom Brady's knee and the loss of Mike Vrabel, to the ever-present concern regarding his contract, Wilfork is content to stay positive and let things happen without getting too worked up about what he can't control.

What could possibly be out of this big man's control?  The proposed 18-game regular season and the "Tom Brady" rule, clarifying how a quarterback can be hit, are two issues Wilfork personally doesn't agree with, but knows will be addressed and dealt with as a team sooner or later.

From a defensive standpoint it's something crazy because here you are you got a free shot at the quarterback or anybody with the ball, and the first thing on your mind is you're going to make this tackle, you're going to knock this guy out.  But you can't think like that anymore.  It's about, okay, where can I hit him so that it's legal.  That's the first thing you're thinking about.  That changes you're whole mindset because with me being fined throughout my career, now it changes my whole mindset how I can attack.

Wilfork also weighs in on catching up with Patriots QB Tom Brady in Foxboro, "Tom looked like Tom to me.  He's a warrior," and talks about how the loss of Mike Vrabel will be felt throughout the whole locker room and on the field.  As far as the potential additions of Julius Peppers or Jason Taylor, Wilfork is all for it and would love to play with either of them.

Looking relaxed throughout his guest appearance, Wilfork wasn't even the least bit bothered by the questions regarding his contract.  He said it bothered him at first, but now knows the organization is indeed interested in him and he is content to let it all play out.  He's not hesitant about declaring that he wants to remain a New England Patriot from beginning to end and doesn't think he could go anywhere else and get the same love from his teammates or the fans.

That's good to hear, Vince.  Hope you're feeling the love for many years to come.


Perez impressive for Redbirds

ST. LOUIS -- From the looks of it, Chris Perez was unfazed by his demotion to Triple-A Memphis.

In his 2009 regular-season debut with the Redbirds, Perez turned in two effective and efficient innings, earning the win in relief as Memphis beat Oklahoma City, 4-3, in 10 innings on Thursday. Perez did not allow a run or a hit, striking out two and walking one. He needed only 23 pitches to get six outs.

Perez competed for ninth-inning duties during Spring Training, but was set back when he missed two weeks due to shoulder discomfort. He was sent out when the Cardinals instead chose to take long reliever Brad Thompson rather than a late-inning, short man in Perez.

"I think the idea is to let him pitch and let us play," manager Tony La Russa said. "There's no timetable, [where you say] 'Well, if he has three great outings, we'll see him.' You don't have that kind of crystal ball. I'm just pleased that he got off to a good start. Let him keep cranking, and stuff will take care of itself."

Cardinals Minor League affiliates went 3-1 in their season openers on Thursday, with only Class A Quad Cities losing. Other system stars included 2008 first-round Draft pick Brett Wallace, who went 4-for-5 with two home runs for Double-A Springfield, and reliever Ryan Kulik. The left-hander struck out five over two scoreless innings, picking up the win in reliefs.


La Russa wants Chris Perez to just “keep cranking”

ST. LOUIS — Ejected from the major-league bullpen near the end of spring training and given the assignment of proving his readiness by closing in Triple-A, righthander Chris Perez did just that in Memphis’ opening night Thursday.

Perez pitched two scoreless innings and got the victory Thursday when Memphis got a bases-loaded walk in the 10th to defeat Oklahoma City, 4-3. (Here is the box score.) Perez did not give up a hit and he struck out two.

From the majors, the Cardinals will be eyeing Perez’s performance.

Pitching coach Dave Duncan has said that it’s possible for a pitcher, specifically Perez, to earn his way into a ninth-inning role with the big-league club by pitching well in the role for the minor-league affiliate. When told about being optioned out to Triple-A, Perez noted that he began last year in the minors and still received save opportunities in the majors — during a division-title race, no less. Manager Tony La Russa said he saw the reports on Perez’s outing Thursday and noted the righthanders success and the positive review of his outing from the coaches.

That doesn’t mean he’s on deck for an instant callup.

“The idea is to let him pitch and let us play,” La Russa said. “There isn’t a time table for his return. We don’t have a crystal ball. I’m pleased he got off to a good start. Let him keep cranking and we’ll see how it goes.”


Huff honored to win hitting awards

BALTIMORE -- Hours before his public moment, Aubrey Huff had a little fun with his teammates.

Huff straddled a plain brown box on Thursday morning and bellowed throughout the clubhouse, "Has anybody ever seen what a Silver Slugger looks like?" Without further ado, Baltimore's first baseman hoisted the trophy over his head, producing his own trophy ceremony for a select group of admirers.

Huff duplicated the moment a little later on the field at Camden Yards, when he received both the Silver Slugger Award and the Edgar Martinez Award, which is annually presented to the best designated hitter in the league. Huff has since moved on to first base, but he said it meant a lot to earn the twin awards.

"I've always wanted to win one of those things," he said of the Silver Slugger. "I always thought it would be real cool to have -- that and the Gold Glove. We'll have to see about the Gold Glove, but it's awesome, especially winning the Silver Slugger as a DH. Usually, the best DH is one of the best hitters in the league. That's a real honor."

Huff, who was also named to The Sporting News American League All-Star Team last season, led AL hitters in extra-base hits (82) and finished in the top 10 in total bases (330), home runs (32) and RBIs (108). Huff also became the first Oriole to hit 30 homers since 2004, cementing his place in select company.

"He was reliable for us in the four-slot last year," said manager Dave Trembley. "He got a lot of big hits with men on base, a lot of two-strike hits, a lot of extra-base hits the other way. ... He's just been a very good offensive player for us, and it's nice to see him recognized for those accomplishments throughout baseball."

Huff, nestled back in the cleanup spot, is already zeroed in on adding to his trophy collection.

"I always look back on my season, because during the year, you really don't think about it because you're playing every day," said Huff. "In the offseason, you have time to reflect and realize what you've done. But it's past me now. It's over. It's a brand new season now, and we're trying to duplicate it this year."


What about Small Forward?

What about small forward? How much longer does this scholarship last for Jamario Moon, a player whose Heat career could come to an end at the close of the playoffs?

Considering James Jones holds a long-term contract, and considering he has outplayed Moon in recent games, might these final few games of the regular season be the right time to test that possibility?

With Jones and Mario Chalmers, there would be shooting to space the floor for passes out of the post from Jermaine O'Neal or off penetration from Dwyane Wade.

Had Jones been healthy from the start of the season, his role certainly would have been expanded by this stage. Heck, an argument could be made that Yakhouba Diawara has outplayed Moon in recent games.