Update On Kellen Winslow’s Injury

A league source tells us that the talk among the Browns is that tight end Kellen Winslow landed in the Cleveland Clinic because his balls swelled to the size of grapefruits.

(We think that technical term is testiculus coconutus.)

Actually, one explanation for the situation is a condition known as hyrdocele.  And while the condition in itself isn’t serious, it could be a symptom of testicular cancer.


Clinton Portis injured, misses practice again

Since the Washington Redskins lost to the St. Louis Rams last Sunday, star running back Clinton Portis has not practiced with the team.

He's suffering from a hip flexor, a minor injury that will not keep him out of Sunday's game, according to coach Jim Zorn.

Zorn added, though, that Portis likely would not practice with the team until Saturday's walkthrough before Sunday afternoon's game against Cleveland.

With backup running back Ladell Betts injured, the team signed former league MVP Shaun Alexander this week to back up Portis. Alexander will be ready to play on Sunday, his first game of the NFL season.


Shockey practices

METAIRIE, La. (AP) — Without tight end Jeremy Shockey or receivers Marques Colston and David Patten, Drew Brees still passed for 1,013 yards in the Saints' past three games, leading New Orleans to victory in two.

Now it looks like all three of the Saints' top receiving threats could return for a divisional game Sunday at Carolina.

"Good to go," said Shockey, his teeth chattering intermittently after he emerged from an ice bath following Thursday's practice.

The former Pro Bowl tight end had sports hernia surgery on Sept. 23. He started practicing on a limited basis last week, but sat out last Sunday's win over Oakland.

"Everything has felt better every day and that's very encouraging," he said. "It's the first time that I can actually sneeze without feeling like I'm getting stabbed, like in a bar."

The Saints also waived tight end Sean Ryan, who was New Orleans' third option at that position while Shockey was out last week.

Through the first three games of the season, Shockey was the Saints' second-leading receiver with 16 catches for 151 yards. He has spent most of the past few games standing next to Payton on the sideline. Payton even joked that he needed to get Shockey back on the field because the flamboyant Texan was "driving me nuts standing next to me with a towel in his hand."

"Jeremy really wants to be involved," Brees added, smiling at Shockey's towel-waving sideline antics.

Shockey said he appreciated the way the Saints' allowed him to remain as involved as possible during his injury.

"Anything I can do to help my teammates, if I can just give them one piece of advice or they see me jumping up and down like a lunatic and it helps them, hey, it's the only thing I can do," said Shockey, who went on to contrast his treatment in New Orleans to the way he thought he was marginalized by the Giants after he broke his leg last December.

"Last year was handled very unprofessional by the Giants, what they did to me and not wanting me even to go to the Super Bowl," Shockey said. "That's the past. Everyone here at this organization — it's first-class here and I think that when we go to the Super Bowl, I'll be playing in it."


Tavares Good Injury Update

Rookie linebacker Tavares Gooden is scheduled to undergo a sports hernia surgery and a hip surgery.

"I had two different things going on there," said Gooden, a third-round pick from the University of Miami. "I felt it was time to get it fixed. I’ll be fine for next year. I’ll probably be even faster."


James Jones out three months

MIAMI - Pop goes the season?

With two weeks to go before the season opener, that might be a stretch for the Miami Heat.

But when it comes to the team's 3-point shooting, it certainly left Erik Spoelstra's team with a sinking feeling.

The Heat announced today that 3-point specialist James Jones is expected to be sidelined for three months after rupturing a tendon in his right wrist, with surgery scheduled for Saturday.

"Just flexing my wrist, it popped," the team's prime offseason free-agent acquisition said of the moment Wednesday that will sideline him for the first half of the season.

Signed away from the Portland Trail Blazers in the offseason to help fill the 3-point shooting void the Heat has endured since the free-agent departures of Jason Kapono and James Posey in 2007, Jones had been out since the start of training camp with what was listed as a sprained right wrist.

The 6-foot-8 forward thought he had turned the corner with a recent return to practice.

Instead, Spoelstra said an examination showed the tendon was "shredded."

"We thought it was something that we could maintain during the season," the first-year coach said.

For Jones, it is a crushing blow to what was anticipated as a triumphant homecoming for the University of Miami graduate and Miami Lakes resident.

"Just imagine someone punching you in your stomach as hard as they can," he said.

To the Heat, it is just as staggering a moment. The Heat not only is shooting just 24.1 percent on 3-pointers amid its 0-3 preseason, but fallback option Daequan Cook is 2 of 14 from beyond the arc.

"Without James, we can get open jump shots from about 20 feet," said Spoelstra, with it unclear whether that would provide the needed spacing for Dwyane Wade to be able to attack the rim and Michael Beasley to utilize his post-up game.

Asked if the team would seek a replacement 3-point specialist, Spoelstra said, "I don't know. That's something we'll talk about the next few days."

Among outside options could be the low-cost likes of a Damon Jones, revisiting camp-cut Matt Walsh, or a bigger trade, having in the offseason investigated Ben Gordon when he was a free agent.

Beyond Cook, Spoelstra said he felt the team could get 3-point contributions from defensive specialist Yakhouba Diawara and point guard Chris Quinn,

But no one on the roster presents the 3-point pedigree of Jones, who finished third in the league last season at 44.4 percent, behind only Kapono and Steve Nash.

Cook, who is coming off offseason shoulder surgery, said he believes he can step up to the challenge.

"That's one of the reasons I'm on this team," he said.

Cook said his preseason 3-point percentage is deceiving because he opened camp wearing a protective pad on his left shoulder, which he since has discarded.

"It affected it a lot," the second-year guard said. "At one point and time I didn't have full motion."

For Jones, a debut with his hometown team will come later rather than sooner.

"I felt like I was turning the corner. It felt like I was in the homestretch and trying to get my feet underneath me, get my conditioning and my wind up," he said. "I felt like I finally started to see some daylight, and once again the clouds came and here I am."

The Heat is 0-3 this preseason with its next exhibition Saturday in Jacksonville against the Orlando Magic.


Michaels among targets

PITTSBURGH -- As general manager Neal Huntington prepares to shape the Pirates' 2009 roster, he said he plans to approach both outfielder Jason Michaels and utility man Doug Mientkiewicz about the possibility of each fitting into next year's club.

"They have both played well for us in the field and they've been great for us in the clubhouse," Huntington said. "They are the type of people that we would love to bring back. And it's our hope that we'll be able to provide a situation for them that they feel is the one that they want."

The bottom line, however, is that both players' decisions will likely come down to the amount of playing time and money the Pirates can offer to each.

Michaels came to the Pirates in May after being squeezed out of a role in Cleveland. He appeared in 102 games for the Pirates, hitting .228 with eight homers and 44 RBIs in 228 at-bats. The 32-year-old outfielder filled in at all three outfield positions.

Michaels has a $2.6 million club option for 2009 the Pirates will not pick up, and there isn't a buyout attached to the option. However, while the team isn't willing to pay that price tag for Michaels, the Pirates are still hopeful that the soon-to-be-free agent Michaels will consider returning.

Asked the final day of the season if he saw himself returning to Pittsburgh in '09, Michaels responded: "Absolutely. I think there could be a role for me on this team again, [much] like the role that I had here this year."

At first glance, there would seem to be minimal playing time possible for Michaels considering the outfield stockpile that the organization has at the Major League and Triple-A levels. Outfielders Nate McLouth, Nyjer Morgan, Brandon Moss and Steve Pearce all finished the season with the big league club, while top prospect Andrew McCutchen is not far away from joining them.

However, a potential left-handed-hitting starting outfield of McLouth, Moss and Morgan could make Michaels an intriguing fit as a right-handed-hitting veteran backup.

"There's an opportunity for Jason to pick up multiple at-bats against left-handed pitching," Huntington explained further. "It would also allow [manager John Russell] to rest one of the three regular outfielders."


Jonathan Vilma's resurgence sitting well with Saints

METAIRIE, La. — Jonathan Vilma sank into a sofa in the Saints' training centre with a TV remote in his hand and clicked through a few newscasts before his head tilted back and he fell asleep.

And why wouldn't he need a nap? The Saints' middle linebacker has been on field for every defensive play through New Orleans' first six games and leads the team in tackles with 56.

Then there's the time he spends in practice and meetings learning the jobs of his defensive teammates.

"It's like having a quarterback who knows what he's supposed to do on offence," Saints defensive tackle Brian Young said of Vilma. "If you've got a guy who's back there and basically telling everybody what to do and where to go, you've got confidence, you don't have to worry about as much. ... You just go out there and play, so it makes it a lot easier."

Vilma even talks like a quarterback sometimes, crediting the linemen who play in front of him every time someone asks him about making double-digit tackles in a game.

"Any time the media thinks I have a good game, it's strictly because of what my D-line does," Vilma said after making 11 tackles against Oakland last Sunday. "The D-line knows I appreciate them very much."

In New Orleans, the comparison of Vilma to a quarterback is fitting in another way. The Saints took a chance on the former Jets star in much the same way they did in 2006 with Drew Brees, who was jettisoned by San Diego following a serious injury to his throwing shoulder.

Three seasons later, the Saints look pretty smart for bringing in Brees. So far, last winter's trade for Vilma doesn't look too bad, either.
Vilma, a first-round draft choice out of Miami in 2004, was a Pro Bowl linebacker with the Jets in 2005. Then a switch in defensive schemes, followed by a serious knee injury, made him expendable in New York.

The Saints were able to get him for a fourth-round draft choice last spring and a conditional pick next season, likely in the third round.

The hope was that Vilma, like Brees, would overcome injury and thrive in a scheme that suited his strengths.

The Saints play a 4-3 defence (four down linemen and three linebackers), the same scheme the Jets used when Vilma was 2004 Defensive Rookie of the Year and a Pro Bowl selection the next season, when he led the NFL in tackles with 187.

In 2006, however, the Jets hired coach Eric Mangini, who replaced a three-linebacker scheme with a four-linebacker formation that he knew from his time as an assistant with New England.

The switch required Vilma, who is six-foot-one, 230-pounds, to take on blocks from offensive linemen who outweighed him significantly. What he lacked in size he sought to make up in quickness. Still, he wasn't the dominant linebacker he had been when he played behind four down linemen who ate up more blockers and allowed the linebackers to focus on pursuing the ball carrier.

Vilma's knee injury forced him to miss the last nine weeks of 2007 and required painful surgery involving a bone graft. He had muscle atrophy in his leg and had to work throughout the off-season to rebuild his strength and quickness.

"The anticipation of whatever play's coming and being able to just go sideline to sideline - that was something I was never going to know until I actually started playing back in training camp," Vilma said. "Now I feel good about where I'm at. I think I'm able to make those plays and it's comforting knowing that my knee hasn't been an issue and hopefully it won't be."

Vilma hardly appeared limited last Sunday, when he quickly slid off an attempted block near the line of scrimmage, lowered his shoulder into Darren McFadden and planted the Raiders' standout rusher on his back.

"I remember watching him when he was in college making big-time open field hits," Saints linebacker Scott Fujita said of Vilma. "It's hard to get a guy down in the open field. A lot of times you're just grabbing cloth and trying to grab shoelaces, but he does such a good job in open space and hitting guys one-on-one and bringing them down right there on the spot."

The Carolina Panthers, who host the Saints this Sunday, have taken notice of Vilma's resurgence. Coach John Fox and quarterback Jake Delhomme both referred to Vilma when discussing the recent improvement of the Saints' defence, which has yet to allow a 100-yard rusher.

Carolina linebacker Jon Beason, another former Miami Hurricane, said he thought Vilma would thrive once he returned to a 4-3 defence in which the middle linebacker runs the show.

"It's what he's used to, him being the man," Beason said. "He's a smart player. He's where he needs to be. He's not going to make any mistakes. And he's an intense guy."


'Frustrated' Devin can't wait

Devin Hester hasn't changed. The problem is with us, the media and fans who await his every return as though it carries the fulfillment of a messianic prophecy.

Hester is a flesh-and-blood return man, not a paranormal phenomenon. He's without peer at his craft, but he's human nonetheless. That is little solace as he suffers through his longest drought without a return for a touchdown in a short career of unparalleled brilliance.

''I am getting frustrated,'' Hester said. ''It is frustrating because we set a high expectation for ourselves as a return game, and when we're not doing it, then ... I feel like it's all on me. Maybe I'm not getting the job done. You never know. It is frustrating when you don't get the big returns you got last year and the year before.''

Repeat that quote to Bears special-teams coordinator Dave Toub and prepare for a steam burst from his ears. The doctor in Toub diagnoses anxiety about Hester as a form of lunacy.

''You guys are crazy,'' Toub said. ''The media is berserk with this kid. The pressure ... you shouldn't put pressure on the kid like that. He's getting better and better. This kid is improving. Have you seen what he's done as a receiver?''

Hester certainly has made a big jump in that area, catching a combined 11 passes the last two weeks, nine of which have gone for first downs. Only Andre Johnson (11), Reggie Wayne (11), Larry Fitzgerald (10), Roddy White (10) and Steve Smith (10) have more first-down catches during that span. That's some exclusive company.

Hester caught 20 passes all of last season but already has 16 catches for 193 yards and two touchdowns in five games this season. (He missed a game because of a rib injury.)

But as sure as he's catching on with the offense, his numbers have diminished in the return game. As unfair as any comparison might be, given Hester's unprecedented success in his first two seasons, the simple fact is that he's getting fewer opportunities and doing less with those chances.

Hester has returned 14 kickoffs for an average of 22.6 yards and 11 punts (with four fair catches) for an average of 5.4 yards this season. He has no return touchdowns. A year ago at this point in the season, he had returned 19 kickoffs for a 23.6-yard average and one touchdown and 20 punts (with four fair catches) for a 19.4-yard average and two touchdowns.

Hester has had punt returns of 17 and 28 yards called back because of penalties this season. If you add those numbers to his total, he still is averaging only eight yards per punt return. Is the rib injury still bothering him?

''Do I look like it when I am out there on offense?'' Hester said. ''I feel pretty good.''

Again, it's absurd to think Hester can continue at the pace at which he started his career. What he has accomplished is extraordinary. Hester has 13 return touchdowns, counting a 108-yard return of a missed field goal and the fastest-ever score off the opening kickoff in the Super Bowl. Officially, he has 11 touchdown returns, which puts him only two off the career record of 13 set by Brian Mitchell from 1990 to 2003.

Hester's reputation precedes him, and teams seem better prepared than ever when they face the Bears.

''It's tough,'' Hester said. ''Teams know they're playing against one of the best special-teams [units] in the league. We won [the special-teams rankings] two straight years. The return game was a key factor in that success. ... But now when teams go against us, I feel like they are really preparing themselves and spending a little more time.''

In addition, the Bears -- like every special-teams unit in the NFL -- have to fit new players into new roles. Nobody wants to admit it, but the team misses Brendon Ayanbadejo, who made two Pro Bowls with the Bears before bolting to the Baltimore Ravens as a free agent. The combination of new players, fewer opportunities because of pooch punts and squib kicks and better preparation by opponents has taken a toll, but the challenge of facing Hester is also a motivating factor. The Minnesota Vikings figure to be ready Sunday, given that they were burned for punt-return touchdown by Hester last season and yielded two return touchdowns to the New Orleans Saints' Reggie Bush this season.

Hester laughs at the idea that his new contract, which includes incentives for him as a receiver, somehow has motivated him more for that position than for his special-teams role. He can increase his base pay by $3.5 million in 2012 and by $4.5 million in 2013 and has a chance to earn a de-escalating roster bonus of $10 million in 2013 based on a four-tiered structure tied to number of receptions, receiving yards, receiving touchdowns and combined touchdowns produced to that point.

''In the two years I have worked with coach Dave, you have to work on blocking schemes and figuring out new return schemes,'' Hester said. ''But as far as just returning the ball, that is just natural to the return guy. Either you've got it or you don't.''

The sorcery hasn't been as obvious this season, but Hester's still got it.


49ers running back Gore gives coach vote of confidence

With each passing week, the Bay Area turns up the dial on Mike Nolan's hot seat.

On Wednesday, it was New York's turn.

Reporters in the Big Apple asked Frank Gore what it's like to play for a coach with such uncertain job status.

The 49ers' franchise player responded with a strong vote of confidence.

"Coach Nolan is a great head coach and a great guy and I like him a whole lot,'' the running back said.

Nolan is 18-36 since arriving in 2005, and the team's erratic play during a three-game losing streak has led to increasing questions about his employment.

Gore insisted he hasn't heard any such talk and remains a fan both personally and professionally. "I talk to him about more than football,'' he said.
Meanwhile, keeping Gore involved on game days could be the key to Nolan's future. The 49ers haven't gotten him 20 carries since a Week 3 victory over Detroit.

The team is 10-4 in Gore's career when he gets at least 100 yards.

For that reason, the Giants are expecting to see a steady dose Sunday.

"I think what makes Frank Gore a great running back is the fact that you can't pinpoint what type of running back he is,'' Giants defensive end Justin Tuck said. "He's a slasher. He's a downfield runner. He's patient. He's quick. He's elusive.

"He fits just about every category you can say about a running back, but you really can't pinpoint on how you need to attack him. "... He definitely has all of the tools to be a great one."


Portis on Alexander, Focus, Weightlifting

More highlights from Clinton Portis's weekly appearance on yesterday's John Thompson Show on ESPN 980. And for the record, Portis seemed to be accusing The Post of taking his post-game words out of context I believe his beef is actually with the ESPN 980 guys, who misunderstood what I had written. But whatever. The main point is, he seemed very on-board with the Alexander signing, which hadn't yet been completed at the time.

On Shaun Alexander's arrival: "Shaun was a league MVP, so of course he got all the talent that's needed to play this game if he was just league MVP a couple years back. And, you know, all of the sudden people throw you out. You don't get league MVP by not being able to sustain in this NFL, so [as] for him coming to the Washington Redskins, I really think he can help this team.

"You know, if it's a soft mentality that they say he's got, I think coming to this team will change that, because on this team, the guys on this team are gonna hold you accountable for stepping up and coming out with heart. They're not gonna settle for less. So I think Shaun's coming here to prove he can still play. If they sign him he's got some things to prove. He's gonna have to get the people in the locker room to believe in him before you can get the outside world, so he gonna have to win some guys over in the locker room but at the same time, if he come here and do his job, that'll be easy to do."

On sharing carries: I honestly think Shaun know the system inside out. You know, he won the league MVP, so he probably can come in and help me, he can show me some things that maybe I don't see. So I'm sure he can help me improve my game, and as far as me and him interacting, I think it'll be the same as me and Ladell. You know, there's times when you're getting off the ground slowly and looking to the sideline, you know, [you're] not looking for a thumb's up, like 'Good job!' you're looking for help. So I'll teach him the code, the signals.....Keep your helmet on. I'm looking for you to come in and play right away. He already know the system, so when I look from the sideline, you jog right on the field and let's go."

On whom he rooted for in Browns-Giants: "When it comes to the Giants, Cowboys or Eagles playing, I always prefer for the other team to win. It don't matter what kind of dogfight we're gonna be in....So when you get a team to put them in a position to lose a game, I'm always happy for them to lose, and I'm sure they never want to see us win either."

On why he's playing so well: "Losing Sean and all of the sudden having to adjust my mind to it, to a guy who respected and gave everything he had to this game, so you know my preparation for this game, the mindset, the appreciation for the game, that's always first. Going to work Wednesday through Saturday with a positive attitude instead of trying to figure out a way to get out of it, you know? Going out and whatever's asked of me to do, going out and doing that to the fullest of my capabilities. Getting in the weight room this offseason also was a major role. Sticking around, being in the weight room., wanting to be a big part of this team's success. And I think the guys around me, to see me around all offseason, to see me working out, it still shocked people every week. They come in like, 'Who is that? What are you doing in the weight room?' "

On his focus comments: "You know, the way the quote came out, that's not how I said it. But I don't understand how people not used to that....The part about us buying into the outside world patting us on the back was correct, the part about me saying, 'Oh coach let us get away with everything this week...' I mean, you know, they just ran with the quotes. They always put it the way they want to put it. I said coach got on more guys than normal as far as the Thursday-Friday practices, and we had a great practice on Saturday, probably our best practice on Saturday this year. But as usual they take it and run with it man, so I'll leave it alone."


Browns' Winslow home resting after hospital stay

BEREA, Ohio – Cleveland Browns tight end Kellen Winslow, hospitalized last week with an undisclosed illness, remains at home under doctors' orders and coach Romeo Crennel on Wednesday offered no definitive timetable for the Pro Bowler's return.

Winslow spent three nights at the Cleveland Clinic before he was discharged last Sunday. The 25-year-old, who has battled injuries throughout his NFL career and contracted a staph infection following knee surgery in 2005, missed Cleveland's win on Monday night over the New York Giants.

Winslow practiced early last week before he began feeling ill. He went to the hospital for an examination last Thursday and was admitted.

The Browns have provided little information on Winslow's condition, citing health laws and the player's privacy.

Winslow's agent, Drew Rosenhaus, has not returned phone calls or e-mails seeking comment.

During his news conference on Wednesday, Crennel said Winslow is being treated at home.

“He is doing well, I spoke with him,” Crennel said. “I am hoping that he can play this weekend (Sunday, at Washington). He is questionable for the game and questionable is 50-50. If things keep progressing, because he is making progress, then he will be there and be able to help us try to win the game.”

Crennel said the decision to keep Winslow away from the team facility was made by medical personnel.

“He is being treated by the doctors and they are telling him to stay at home and he is checking in at the Clinic,” Crennel said. “When they tell him to come, he will come.”

Winslow, one of Cleveland's top offensive stars, was replaced in the starting lineup against the Giants by Steve Heiden, who caught five passes for 59 yards. Backup tight end Darnell Dinkins also caught a 22-yard touchdown pass as the Browns shocked the Super Bowl champions and won their first Monday night game since 1993.

If Winslow can't play against the Redskins, Crennel hopes his teammates will step up again.

“If he (Winslow) is not here I am going to try to get those tight ends to do what they did on Monday night,” Crennel said.

Winslow has had a star-crossed pro career.

The former first-round pick and son of Hall of Famer Kellen Winslow Sr. broke his leg trying to recover an onsides kick during his second game as a rookie in 2004 and missed the remainder of the season.

While he was rehabbing during the following offseason, Winslow suffered near-fatal injuries when he crashed his motorcycle while doing stunts in a parking lot. He underwent surgery on his right knee, which was later infected with staph and had to be cleaned out. Winslow had at least two more surgeries on the knee.

The Browns have had numerous players infected with staph in recent years.

Winslow tied a franchise record with 89 catches in 2006, and last season he earned a trip to the Pro Bowl after recording 82 receptions for 1,106 yards.

Following the Pro Bowl, he had arthroscopic knee surgery and Rosenhaus announced that he intended to get Winslow a contract extension from the Browns, who have already restructured the tight end's contract to help him recoup some of the money he lost while he missed time in his first two years.

Winslow skipped the team's voluntary practices during the spring, and there was speculation that he might hold out of training camp. However, Winslow reported on time and entered last week's game with 19 catches for 170 yards.


As Phillies Reach World Series, Burrell Savors the Journey

LOS ANGELES — The visitors’ clubhouse at Dodger Stadium is among the smallest in the majors. It is a narrow room with chicken-wire lockers and furniture in the middle. There is no separate room for coaches, and no spacious lounge for the players.

This is where the Phillies celebrated their sixth National League pennant on Wednesday night. There was a podium set up in the front of the room, near the office of Manager Charlie Manuel. The rest of the room was pretty much shoulder-to-shoulder, with players and club officials and cameramen and writers. Champagne corks were flying, and I can’t imagine that anybody left the room dry.

There might have been one guy, though — Pat Burrell. At 32 years old, Burrell is a Phillies lifer. He was the first player drafted in 1998, the Phillies’ prize for a dreadful ’97 season. In less than two years, he was in the majors for good. One year he hit .209 in 522 at-bats, and survived in a tough sports town.

As his teammates celebrated, Burrell stood off to the side of the podium, his back against a locker covered in plastic, nursing a can of Bud Light with a coach, Jimy Williams. He was taking it all in, he said, reflecting on his long journey to the World Series.

“To get to this point, it makes everything worth it,” said Burrell, who hit .333 in the N.L.C.S. “I don’t know what to say.”

Someone asked Burrell how often he thought about the path to get here. He motioned to Jimmy Rollins, the shortstop whose leadoff homer propelled the Phillies in Game 5, and the rest of his joyous teammates.

“Almost daily – every day now, with what we’ve been doing,” said Burrell, who is a free agent after the season. “It’s easy to just get caught up in the moment. But when you look at it, I’ve been up here longer but he’s been in the organization two years longer. He was in the ’96 draft, and I was ’98. To think of where we’ve come, the changes, and where we’re at – it’s a hell of a feeling, there’s no other way to say it. I’m not one with words, either, but there’s no other way to describe this. We just couldn’t be happier.”

Then Burrell paused. It was starting to sink in that the next game he plays will be in the World Series.

“Shoot,” Burrell said, “now it’s time to keep going.”


NFL U Week 6 Video Highlights

Check out the return of our NFL U Video Highlights. Like we did back in 2006, proCanes.com will provide our fans every week video highlights of all of our NFL U stars along with pictures from the current NFL Week. Click here to check out our Week 6 Video Highlights or click above on NFL U Video Highlights. Enjoy this week's highlights which feature a Reggie Wayne TD, a couple of Clinton Portis TDs, an Andre Johnson TD and more!

NFLU Week 6 Pictures

Check out Week 6 photos from around the the NFL of our proCanes. Click here to see the photos.

Gooden placed on IR

Tavares Gooden has been placed on season-ending IR by the Ravens, according to the AP. He was taken down by a hip injury. Marshal Yanda landed on the IR as well, and Edgar Jones and receiver Ernie Wheelright were promoted from the practice squad as adjoining moves.

Our View: Gooden provided favorable depth at linebacker for Baltimore, but held no fantasy value with five tackles (three solo).


Parrish to be full go Wednesday

The bye week has apparently done the Bills quite well. Not only was Trent Edwards back throwing passes and taking snaps with the starting unit, but receiver Roscoe Parrish also participated in practice for the first time since undergoing thumb surgery more than two weeks ago.

“Everything went pretty well,” said Parrish following Monday’s practice. “It went better than I thought it would be. I went out there and ran routes pretty good, caught the ball pretty good and caught punts.”

Parrish participated only in individual position drills for the first 15-20 minutes of practice, and did not take snaps during the team portions of the workout.

The first thing he did was catch punts knowing the impact on his hand would be less severe than catching passes from Buffalo’s quarterbacks. But he did run routes and catch passes and was pretty satisfied with how his thumb felt.

“The training staff did a good job of supporting my thumb with a pad and everything, so I didn’t really feel a lot of pain,” said Parrish. “It was just uncomfortable and I had to get used to (the pad). As far as the pain I didn’t really have any pain.”

The Bills wideout and return specialist is just trying to get his full endurance back by Sunday. Not practicing with his teammates the past three weeks left him slightly winded after running routes during individual position drills.

Moving forward the plan is to have Parrish participate fully on Wednesday, and how he comes through that practice will largely determine his status for Sunday.

“Everything right now is looking pretty good,” he said. “I’ll be full go on Wednesday and we’ll see from there. I feel pretty good about Sunday. I have a real good chance.”


Winslow expected to practice today

Barring any setbacks, Kellen Winslow Jr. should be back on the practice field today when the Browns begin their preparation for the game against the Redskins on Sunday.

Players were off Tuesday. Crennel said Winslow spent the day resting at home after missing the game Monday with an illness that kept him hospitalized three nights last week.

Crennel said he expects Winslow to play against the Redskins, although Winslow might be limited in practice today and Thursday.

Steve Heiden caught five passes against the Giants. When Winslow returns, though, Heiden is expected to go back to his role as a blocker.

“Heiden, ever since I’ve been here, has been a tremendous player for this team,” Crennel said. “In 2005, he caught (43) balls and when Kellen got back, he took a back seat and became a good team player. He still is a good team player, and when we go to him he usually produces.

“When we’ve got both of them, now we’ve got two guys that we can go to. That’s a good problem to have.”

Heiden caught 12 passes last year. Winslow caught 82.

Hester not as dominant on special teams

Devin Hester hasn't changed. The problem is with us, the media and fans who await his every return as if it carries the fulfillment of a messianic prophecy.

Hester is a flesh-and-blood return man, not a paranormal phenomena. He's without peer at his craft, but human nonetheless. That is little solace as he suffers through the longest drought without a return for a touchdown in a short career of unparalleled brilliance.

Hester feels the demand for perfection, the aura of certainty that grips an awestruck public every time he touches the ball: "Will this be the one he finally returns for a touchdown?"

Hester wonders himself.

"I am getting frustrated," Hester said. "It is frustrating because we set a high expectation for ourselves as a return game and when we're not doing it, then, at the end of the day, I feel like it's all on me.

"Maybe I'm not getting the job done. You never know. It is frustrating when you don't get the big returns you got last year and the year before."

Hester certainly has made a big jump in just the last two games, catching 11 passes combined the last two weeks, nine of which have gone for first downs. That's tied for sixth in the NFL on passes caught for a first down in that stretch, behind the likes of Andre Johnson and Reggie Wayne with 11 each and Larry Fitzgerald, Roddy White and Steve Smith, all with 10. That's some very exclusive company.

Hester caught 20 passes all of last season, but already has 16 catches in just five games (he missed one due to a rib injury). He has gained 193 yards with two touchdowns as a receiver.

But as sure as he's catching on with the offense, his numbers have diminished in the return game. Unfair as any comparison may be given Hester's unprecedented success in his first two seasons, the simple fact is that he's getting fewer opportunities and doing less with those chances.

Hester has returned 14 kickoffs with a 22.6-yard average and returned 11 punts with four fair catches for a 5.4-yard average. He has no return touchdowns. A year ago at the same point in the season, he had returned 19 kickoffs for a 23.6 average with one touchdown and 20 punts with four fair catches for a 19.4 average, including two touchdowns of 73 and 89 yards.

Hester has had two punt returns covering 17 and 28 called back because of penalties. If you add those numbers to his total he's still averaging only eight yards per punt return.

Remove the two touchdowns from last year's total in the same time period and he still was averaging over 12 yards a return.

Again, it's absurd to think Hester can continue at the pace he has started his career. What he has accomplished is extraordinary. Hester has 13 return touchdowns, counting a 108-yard return off a missed field goal and the fastest-ever score off the opening kickoff in the Super Bowl.

Officially, he has 11 touchdown returns, which puts him just two off the NFL career record of 13 set by Brian Mitchell from 1990-2003. He's one return behind Dante Hall, who is in his ninth season, and Eric Metcalf, who retired in 2002 after 14 years.

Hester's reputation precedes him and teams seem better prepared than ever when they face the Bears.

In addition, the Bears -- like every special-teams unit in the NFL -- have to fit new players into new roles. Nobody wants to admit it, but the team misses Brendon Ayanbadejo, who made two Pro Bowls with the Bears. He bolted to Baltimore as a free agent. The combination of new players, less opportunity due to pooch punts and squib kicks and more preparation from opponents takes a toll, but the challenge of facing Hester is also a motivating factor for opponents.

Hester laughs at the idea that his new contract, which includes incentives for him as a receiver, somehow has him more motivated for that position than for his special-teams role.

He can increase his base pay by $3.5 million in 2012 and $4.5 million in 2013 and has a chance to earn a de-escalating roster bonus of $10 million in 2013 based on a four-tiered structure tied to number of receptions, receiving yards, receiving touchdowns and combined touchdowns produced to that point.


Portis needs a new character -- leader

Clinton Portis posted MVP-caliber numbers this past Sunday, but true MVPs don't let their squads lose to the lowly St. Louis Lambs. By now, everybody's heard Portis' grumbling about his Washington Redskins not having their mind right heading into the Rams game, but the person who really needs to pay close attention to those comments is Clinton Portis himself.

I have a hard time swallowing this "Mr. Serious" spiel from Portis. After all, this is the guy who's concocted more stupid characters than Eddie Murphy played in "Norbit." This is the guy who once chuckled with Chris Samuels about Michael Vick's dogfighting ring. This is the guy who once wore a Ric Flair-style gold title belt on the Denver Broncos' sideline, despite not being the champion of anything I'm aware of. This is the guy who guaranteed the Redskins would earn a berth in last year's NFC Championship game, but ultimately didn't deliver.

Portis can run around in phony championship belts and play all the fake characters he wants, but until he displays some real character, his Skins aren't going to win any real championships.

Portis has six rushing TDs on the season and leads the league in both rushing attempts (136) and yards (643). Recently, he has been even more impressive, posting three consecutive 100-yard rushing performances. Portis also hasn't fumbled yet this year and is a stud blocker in pass protection. But the Redskins need more -- they need Portis to be their unquestioned leader.

Jim Zorn is a first-year coach who isn't exactly Tom Coughlin when it comes to his temperament. Jason Campbell hasn't done enough yet to be the true leader of that locker room. Mr. Taylor just got to Washington. Chris Cooley is too busy accidentally exposing himself on the Internet. If someone's going to step up and be the face of the Redskins, it's going to have to be you, Sheriff Gonnagetcha. What's truly "gonnagetcha" team somewhere is you stepping up and becoming a leader. Portis should have let his teammates know they weren't taking a desperate Rams team seriously enough.

If Portis had stepped up, assumed a larger leadership role and talked some sense into his teammates before or even during the game -- for instance, when Marcus Washington went all "8 Seconds" and celebrated a routine play against a league laughingstock -- I wouldn't be writing this right now. Santana Moss's brutal two weeks wouldn't have mattered. Pete Kendall getting all young Tiki Barber with the pigskin? Wouldn't have mattered. None of it would have mattered, because the Redskins would have won that game.

Portis can come out and give us all the lip service he wants, but if he led half as well as he played last week the Burgundy and Gold would be sitting pretty in the NFC East right now. Instead, the Redskins pulled an even bigger Week 6 choke-job than the rival Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants did. Coach Janky Spanky can keep making excuses for his team, but until he truly steps up and becomes the man in D.C. he'll be Christian Slater (he's still alive?) -- his own worst enemy. If he does step up, I can see him winning the MVP award and carrying his team deep into the playoffs.


Johnson helps drag Texans from malaise

In their minds, the winless Texans had given away their past two games against Jacksonville and Indianapolis. So it was time, past time really, to steal one back.

Still grumbling to himself and grinding his teeth over an early fumble on a play he knew should have ended with a touchdown, Andre Johnson took it upon his broad shoulders to do just that.

A replay overrule had erased what the officials on the field called a Miami interception, giving the desperate Texans a last-gasp fourth-and-10 at their 36 with 52 seconds left, trailing 28-23. When quarterback Matt Schaub went to Johnson in the left flat, Yeremiah Bell seemed to arrive there first, but over his dead body was Johnson going to be denied that football.

With muscle and grit, Johnson bested Bell in a desperate tug-o’-war that at least made the Texans’ season salvageable.

Not to be denied
“Matt gave me a chance, and I was able to make a play,” Johnson said. “I don’t know how, but I did. I just stuck my hands up, he put his hands up and the ball kind of bounced around. It was both of us competing for the ball, and I wound up with it.”

Asked if he had immediately grasped the significance of that catch, one of 10 on the afternoon for a career-high 178 yards, Johnson smiled weakly.

“To be honest,” he said, “I didn’t even know what down it was. We were in the two-minute drill and that means you’re throwing the ball on almost every play. Most of us (receivers) out there were gassed.”

Their mental exhaustion, after 2½ months of practices and games with nothing positive to show for their efforts, was probably equal to the fatigue their bodies felt.

But, six plays later, Schaub fooled the Dolphins and almost everybody else in Reliant Stadium by scoring on a quarterback keeper up the middle from the shotgun formation. When the two-point conversion failed and the Dolphins couldn’t counter in the few seconds they had left, the Texans were in the win column 29-28.

Never mind how they had followed a script only a masochist would embrace. As owner Bob McNair noted later, you don’t expect to come out on top too often after committing four turnovers.

“Our guys battled their hearts out, and that’s the reason we prevailed,” McNair said. “They just wouldn’t quit. I’m really proud of them.”

Still, he also said: “It’s hard on an old-timer like me.”

It has been hard on everybody.

“We owed ourselves one, the fans one and the whole city of Houston one,” said Kevin Walter, whose markedly less dramatic if no less important grab for a 30-yard gain followed Johnson’s and moved the Texans to the Miami 11.

Overcoming obstacles
Johnson spoke of the palpable frustration on the Texans’ sideline as things kept going wrong, from Schaub’s interceptions of the first two possessions, to the shaky pass protection to repeated glaring defensive breakdowns. Even what should have been a game-clinching play by nickel back Eugene Wilson ended badly with Wilson snaring an interception off a deflection, only to fumble the ball back to the Dolphins, who promptly went 73 yards to reclaim the lead with 1:45 left.

The Texans had been embarrassed early by Patrick Cobbs, who caught touchdown passes of 53 and 80 yards, the first off yet another new wrinkle by Miami’s single-wing wildcat formation. This after they had insisted all week they were prepared for anything.

But, somehow, all that would be overcome this day.

“I think the two-minute drive (at the end of the game) was a big test for us,” Johnson said. “That was the first time we’ve been in that situation, and we answered. It showed what we can do.”


49ers ignore Gore when they need him most

SAN FRANCISCO – Frank Gore is not that easy to overlook. This isn't the same Gore who wins peace prizes and quietly runs around trying to save our planet.

The 49ers' Gore runs through people. And around people. And sometimes right past people. At 5-foot-9 and 215 pounds, with a thick neck and wide, compact frame, his rushing style is noisy and muscular, and effective enough to command attention around the NFL.

But early in the fourth quarter Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles? With the 49ers leading 26-17 and presumably intent on running clock and maintaining momentum? Gore? Earth to Mike Martz, to Mike Nolan. The guy is really good.

Good, but forgotten. Through the first three quarters of Sunday's 40-26 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, Gore rushed 17 times for 98 yards. He squeezed through holes and busted loose for one impressive 25-yard sprint. On several other occasions he broke tackles and stubbornly lugged defenders along for extra yards. He also provided a balance to the offense, and of no less significance, appeared to have a calming influence on an erratic J.T. O'Sullivan, the former UC Davis and Jesuit standout who is struggling to establish himself as a starting NFL quarterback.

But that fourth-quarter evisceration was swift, inexplicable, stunning. Candlestick Park became so silent, you could almost hear the flights landing at the nearby international airport. Closer to the carnage, Nolan fumbled through his postgame news conference, sounding like a teenager who had just been pulled over for speeding. There was a lot of explaining to do. A lot of explaining.

There was the timeout situation and his two challenges – the first on Donovan McNabb's deep throw to DeSean Jackson and the second on David Akers' 38-yard field goal. There were questions about O'Sullivan's job status (no change yet), and a hint that Nolan's own future will make for some hearty Monday morning chewing. Yet most notable were the inquiries about Gore's mystifying absence during the first two possessions of the final period.

Ignore the NFL's third-leading rusher at the wrong time and this is what happens: O'Sullivan incomplete pass on second down. O'Sullivan sack. Andy Lee punt.

O'Sullivan incomplete pass. O'Sullivan incomplete pass. O'Sullivan pass to Vernon Davis for minus-seven yards. Lee punt.

Gore, who still finished with 101 yards on 19 carries (for a hefty 5.3 yard average), spent most of the closing minutes watching O'Sullivan fumble once and twice throw interceptions, all of which contributed mightily to the Eagles' 23-0 eruption. And none of which was enough to prompt anything controversial out of Gore.

That's never been his style. The 2006 Pro Bowl selection remains the consummate pro, the company man. He runs, he scores, he catches passes. He wants to win, desperately. But he leaves the grumbling to others and the coaching to his coaches.

"I'm just frustrated that we're not finishing," he said afterward, visibly upset. "If we had finished today, we'd win the game. … I'm not the coach and I don't make the calls. We made mistakes and we lost the game. Our coach did what he thought was the best thing for us to get a first down and move the ball."

There were no shots at Martz for favoring the pass, nor at Nolan, who allowed it to happen. Still, no doubt he was wondering what his coaches were thinking. Nolan seemed to distance himself from the offensive woes, dancing around the Where-Was-Gore question and failing to offer anything resembling a detailed response.

"I thought we were moving the ball well the entire game," said Nolan, speaking rapidly. "I thought we had a good mix. I thought we kept them off balance. I thought it was a good plan. … "

Did he really? Sounds like pollution to me.


Portis Says Skins Were Too Loose

Over the past month, the Redskins provided some of the greatest and strangest blogging material imaginable for the first month of an NFL season. As the days went on, they seemed happier and happier, more and more relaxed. Still, before today's game, one player and official after another insisted that they would not overlook this Rams team, that the focus would remain the same. Vinny Cerrato even said on ESPN 980's pre-game show that this week's practices were some of the team's best of the year. But after the stunning loss, Clinton Portis quite pointedly disagreed.

"I think it was loose," he said during a searingly honest post-game press conference. "It was people smiling everywhere: us, coach. Coach really got on us a lot this week, and in previous weeks he didn't have to. You know, I think we came in and we had a great, probably our best Saturday practice all year long, as far as knowing the game plan and knowing the stakes, but Friday I think we had some mistakes and coach had to get on us Thursday and Friday. We kind of just got loose."

Later, he was asked whether today's offense seemed snake-bit, with the weird turnovers and the costly penalties, and he again pointedly disagreed, steering the conversation back to the issue of focus. Which is maybe not what you'd expect from a player who recently dressed up in camou to hunt fake Rams on Chris Cooley's blog.

"I think it's a focus thing," Portis said of today's offensive performance. "You know, the previous four games the focus was there. We knew that we couldn't go out and put ourselves in that position. We come out today and all of the sudden you start to get patted on the back and you feel like you're a better team, 'Ok, let me try to do this.' And we turn the ball over, and 'Oh, don't worry, we can come back.' And that didn't work."

More from Portis:
On Pete Kendall taking his fumble hard: "I mean, I think we should all take it hard, because we have a golden opportunity to establish ourselves and we let it slip away. We're playing up and down to our competition week in and week out. We come out and play tough games, and every game shouldn't be tough. You know, it's some games that we really should come in and dominate. I think this was one of those games. We came in, we dominated as far as stats. And point-wise and turnover-wise, we lost the battle. We can't turn the ball over. As we say every week, we're not good enough to overcome turnovers and penalties."

On whether he thinks the Redskins are better than the Rams: "Well, I mean, I think so, but it don't matter what I think, they got the win. So I really think we just need to go back to ground zero and keep the media away from Redskins Park and focus back in. And I think the headlines got good, guys started high-fiving and yelling, 'We here!' And, you know, we got three games that we could win, and we hadn't thought ahead all season long until this week. And that's gonna hurt us.

"You know, we overlooked a team that came here ready to play. And me, honestly, we've been the underdogs since I've been here. And we came out with fight every game we was the underdog. Win, lose or draw, we came out to fight. So for us to expect St. Louis not to come out and fight, I don't know how we let them shock us like that."


Beason Fantasy Ranking

There were very high expectations for Beason coming into this season. Maybe a little too high. It was certainly reasonable to expect Beason to be an elite fantasy linebacker. He had 104 solo tackles as a rookie, 77 of them over the 11 games after he moved to the MIKE. But while Beason has improved going from Year 1 to Year 2, his numbers have suffered the negative consequences of Carolina's improved offense. With the Panthers controlling the ball more effectively because of their improved running game, that has translated into fewer seconds on the field for Beason. And Carolina is no longer a lock to fall behind like last season, when David Carr was imitating a professional quarterback for a good chunk of the year. Last season, teams were consistently running the ball in the second half against the Panthers, and often running right into Beason. So while another 100-tackle season is likely (Beason has 27 through four games), a jump to that Patrick Willis-stratosphere is unlikely.


Devin Hester: Developing as Wideout

Hester caught six passes for 87 yards in the Bears' improbable 22-20 loss to the Falcons on Sunday.

Hester looks more and more like a receiver with each passing week, and even when Brandon Lloyd (knee) returns, we have to think that Hester will remain a big part of the passing game. Combine that with the continued maturation of Kyle Orton as a quarterback and his return skills, and Hester becomes a solid option as a fill-in for bye weeks and injuries, or as a weekly starter in deeper leagues.


Roscoe Practices

Receiver/punt returner Roscoe Parrish practiced for the first time since surgery to repair ligament damage in his right thumb that forced him to miss the past two games.


McIntosh return big plus for 'Skins

Linebacker Rocky McIntosh's impressive return from reconstructive knee surgery has been a major boost for the Redskins. McIntosh, who tore two ligaments in the 15th game last year, has piled up 40 tackles, just one fewer than team leader London Fletcher, a former Rams linebacker.

"The first couple of preseason games, it took him a little bit just to get the confidence back in his knee. But he's been playing well for us now," Fletcher told reporters in Washington this past week. "He's playing the run real well, making plays in the passing game, and creating turnovers. He's definitely a big part of our success."

Although he's in just his third season out of the University of Miami, McIntosh is one of the most respected leaders on the team, according to his teammates and coaches. Just don't expect McIntosh, who often turns down interview requests, to promote himself.

"We all work for each other," McIntosh said. "It's like a chain: Everybody's got to work or the chain is going to pop or break down. We've all got to work together.


Orien Harris Starts

Another key inactive is starting defensive tackle John Thornton, who had an MRI Friday on an Achilles tendon. Orien Harris will start in place of Thornton, and rookie defensive tackle Pat Sims will be active today for the first time in six games.


Facing power righty, Sox start Cora

BOSTON -- For Monday's Game 3 of the American League Championship Series, Red Sox manager Terry Francona went with his third different lineup.

The new wrinkle this time was veteran Alex Cora getting the call at shortstop in place of rookie Jed Lowrie.

Francona felt that the left-handed-hitting Cora was a better option than the switch-hitting Lowrie, who went 0-for-6 in the first two games.

Lowrie has been a far more effective hitter against lefties, so Francona thought the matchup with Tampa Bay righty Matt Garza favored Cora.

In Game 2 of the AL Division Series, Francona made the same maneuver against Angels righty Ervin Santana.

"The power righty seems like it's been more of a fit for Alex," Francona said. "I anticipate Jed being right back in there [Tuesday]. Again, sometimes you have different ways of being a good team. Sometimes you throw out the same nine, sometimes you don't."

Lowrie has been Boston's primary shortstop since Julio Lugo tore his left quad just before the All-Star break. Francona wasn't worried at all about Lowrie's confidence.

"I think Jed is smart enough to always [look at the big picture]," Francona said. "I think we're just trying to do what's best for the ballclub. But we will always make sure Jed knows that, so when he goes out to take his grounders today, he [knows] he's not being punished. We're just putting the best team out there that we can."

In 152 at-bats this season, Cora hit .275 with nine RBIs.