Quadtrine Hill ESPN the Magazine Feature

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CNNSI's All-Decade College Football Team

TE: Kellen Winslow: Winslow was both a gifted receiver and dominant blocker. As a sophomore in 2002, Winslow set Miami records for a tight end with 57 receptions for 726 yards, including 11 catches for 122 yards in that year's national championship game against Ohio State. As a junior, he won the Mackey Award as the nation's top tight end.

S: Ed Reed: The unquestioned leader of the Hurricanes' 2001 national title team, Reed sealed his place in Miami lore with a season-saving 80-yard touchdown return against Boston College. A consensus All-America in 2000 and '01, he set school records for interceptions (21), return yards (389) and interceptions for touchdowns (five).

Read more: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2009/magazine/specials/2000s/12/10/cfb.all.decade.team/index.html?eref=sihp#ixzz0a15GclN9

Click here to order Ed Reed’s or Kellen Winlow’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Myers misses practice Thursday

Houston Texans starting center Chris Myers (ribs) missed the team’s practice Thursday, Dec. 17, but he will play Week 15.

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Cowboys Work Out Leon Williams

The Cowboys worked out five players today, including CB Chris McAlister.

While one club source said McAlister looked sharp in the workout, it doesn’t appear the Cowboys are ready to sign him just yet. It’s usually one of those situations where they want to know what they’re dealing with, if or when an opportunity arises for them to get a cornerback.

The other workout players include RB Herb Donaldson, defensive tackle Henry Smith, linebacker Leon Williams and offensive lineman Cliff Louis.

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After slow weeks, Wayne makes the play

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- For three games, he’d dissolved into the background, an unnatural place for a playmaker of his ability.

Reggie Wayne knew his presence still dictated coverages, that a slice of what Austin Collie and Pierre Garcon and even Dallas Clark were doing was on his account. Colts quarterback Peyton Manning repeatedly said so as Wayne didn’t catch more than four balls, didn’t break a play longer than 23 yards and didn't have more than 48 yards receiving in a game.

On Thursday night against the Jaguars, he knew something else too -- he could find room down the sideline.

“Throughout the game they were kind of playing off and looking inside, looking at the quarterback,” Wayne said. “I just felt like there was a play somewhere in the game where I could just run by them if we could just control the safety with a route.”

When it arrived, Wayne ran past Derek Cox, saw Reggie Nelson occupied for a second by Collie and ran under a perfectly placed Manning pass for a 65-yard touchdown that provided the winning points with 5 minutes and 23 seconds left in a 35-31 win. In the unbeaten Colts’ 14th win of the season and 23rd in a row in the regular season, Wayne finished with five catches on seven balls aimed his direction for 132 yards and the score.

In front of their lone sellout of the season and in their first nationally televised game, the Jaguars (7-7) bucked an offensive trend with excellent red-zone production on offense. But the Jaguars needed to make sure they didn’t get burned with big plays, and they’d used up their allotment of one when Chad Simpson returned a kickoff 93 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter.

Cox, the rookie who’s a definite building block, and Mathis, the 2007 first-rounder who’s become largely unreliable, combined to allow for Wayne’s game-breaker. Cox didn’t try to knock Wayne off his route or his rhythm and couldn’t catch up to him as he ran by; Nelson’s angle was too sharp and his pursuit was fruitless.

“Manning just went to his playmaker, and he was in position to make a play,” Cox said. “We just didn’t execute properly... We wanted to eliminate the big play, any explosives. If you make them drive the length of the field, maybe the defense will hold up, maybe we’ll get an interception, cause a fumble.”

Long appreciated as a No. 1-caliber receiver, Wayne was on the same team as an all-time great until Marvin Harrison and the Colts divorced during the offseason.

At Jacksonville Municipal Stadium, his yards put him past legendary Baltimore Colts receiver Raymond Berry into second place on the franchise’s all-time receiving list with 9,339 yards.

It wins him the respect of his coach, his competition and his colleagues.

Jim Caldwell saluted him for passing Berry while Torry Holt, Manning and Collie also lavished praise.

“I have a tremendous amount of respect for Reggie Wayne and the way that he operates,” said Holt, the veteran the Jaguars brought in to help lead a young group. “I like the way he remains patient. Tonight he remained patient, he stayed in his routes, and Peyton was able to hit him with that long one. It’s just a tremendous amount of maturity on Reggie’s part, understanding how the game develops. He and Peyton there, it was something they saw that enabled him to get open.”

“His presence just dictates so much of what a defense is going to do, the way they defend us," said Manning, who passed for 308 yards and four TDs. "He wants to win. Like all great receivers, he wants the ball because he feels like that’s going to help our chances of winning, and he’s exactly right.”

Said Collie: “You look at tape and you can tell they know who the guy is, who the playmaker is. He’s done a great job of helping us out. …You’ve got to put your attention on that person, and between him and Dallas Clark, I think it does open up some stuff for me.”

Take away the biggie and Wayne would have had four catches for 67 yards, numbers I am sure the Jaguars would have been thrilled with.

Instead, Cox and Mathis will be answering in a film session for how it unfolded. And the Jaguars will wonder how a team that had a grip on the AFC’s final playoff berth goes about attempting to regain that hold.

The Colts are facing another, stronger round of questions about whether they will rest or play starters in their final two games against the Jets and Bills. If they pull key people early in those two, Wayne could be among the first to get the rest, again creating opportunity for Collie and Garcon. If that’s the case, it’ll hardly be like Week 14 in a home win over Denver, when he was barely a statistical factor in a game in which Brandon Marshall caught an NFL-record 21 passes.

Wayne joked after that he would have enjoyed just a couple of those receptions. Although there hadn't been huge production from Wayne recently, don't be fooled. He was being unselfish but still getting important results.

“It would be easy for him to be upset or pout, but he doesn’t,”’ Collie said. “And when a play is needed in crunch time, he’s the one who makes it. He’s done a wonderful job setting an example for us young guys as far as what a receiver should be.”

Click here to order Reggie Wayne’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Johnson's goal, to play best games of career to help Texans get back on tra

HOUSTON — Andre Johnson told a teammate two weeks ago that his goal was to play the five best games of his career to help end Houston's season on a high note.

He came just shy of a career high last week against Seattle and has 292 yards receiving and three touchdowns since his declaration.

Now, the NFL's leading receiver gets to face the lowly Rams (1-12) as the Texans (6-7) look for their second straight win.

"You just try to make the best of your opportunities," Johnson said. "I was given a lot of opportunities on Sunday and I was able to make a lot of plays to help the team win the game. But I'm just going to do the same thing. I have the same mentality and I'm just going to go out and give everything I've got for my teammates and the coaches."

Johnson has 1,237 yards receiving and eight touchdowns this season and with three games left, outdoing the career-high 1,575 yards he gained last season is well within reach. He said a new personal high is not his focus.

"I never set any goals for myself this season, my biggest thing was just trying to get this organization to its first playoff berth," he said. "That's all I'm worried about and that's something I'm going to continue to worry about until it happens."

Johnson is averaging a career-best 15.3 yards a catch and needs just one touchdown to set a career high.

He had 184 of his 193 yards receiving against the Seahawks by halftime. With the game in hand by the third quarter, Houston ran the ball to eat up the clock. But with Johnson needing just two receptions and 15 yards to set career highs in receptions (12) and yards receiving (207), the Texans threw two passes his way in the fourth quarter. They both fell incomplete.

"He's a very unselfish kid. I've been in this league a long time and I know a lot of players that would have been screaming for me to find a way to get them two more catches and 15 more yards," coach Gary Kubiak said. "When I told him I wanted to do that, he told me it wasn't important so that tells you what he's all about."

Johnson didn't care if he caught any more passes once the game was decided, but he was impressed that Kubiak wanted to give him a chance to set career marks.

He isn't worried about getting 11 catches again this week, but he does think starting fast again is the key to success. He caught a 64-yard touchdown pass on the first play against Seattle.

"If you could have been on the sideline, the energy level of the team was just up so high and guys feed off that," he said. "When something like that happens everybody wants to go out and do something that catches somebody's eye."

Houston is hoping to take advantage of the one-win Rams to get back to .500 and keep their slim playoff hopes alive. They know better than overlooking the Rams after a struggling Oakland team beat them 27-16 late last season.

The Texans were 7-7 entering that game and the Raiders were 3-11. The Texans have been reminded of that stinging loss this week.

"You can't look past anybody," Johnson said. "You still have to go out and do what you have to do and execute. If you don't go out there and do that you're going to end up on the losing end and that's something that we don't want to happen."

Click here to order Andre Johnson’s proCane Rookie Card.

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No ‘I’ in Vince Wilfork’s team

FOXBORO - The last time we saw Vince Wilfork [stats] on a football field, the scene and lasting image certainly was not a comforting one.

Wilfork flung his helmet in disgust while hobbling off the field, as he apparently reinjured his left foot in Sunday’s 20-10 win for the Patriots [team stats] over the Panthers at Gillette Stadium. Carolina running back DeAngelo Williams had just sprung for a 26-yard run with 11:57 to go in the third quarter, leaving Wilfork down in a heap and done for the day.

Before the half, the mammoth nose tackle suffered the initial injury. He was down for a longer period of time, attended to by trainers. Eventually, he got up, and walked off the field under his own power. His return was “questionable,” but when Wilfork is involved, questionable means ”good to go.”

Many athletes probably wouldn’t have bothered, or risked further injury, but that’s not Wilfork. Even in a contract year, he went back out there and gave it a go. Maybe that’s why fans adore and appreciate him so much. Maybe that’s why he’s currently leading all AFC interior lineman with 221,195 votes in the latest Pro Bowl tabulations released by the NFL.

Along with being a force at his position, along with taking on double teams, he always plays hard and he’s always willing to play hurt.

Wilfork did not practice yesterday and was not seen in the locker room, but he did make an appearance Tuesday night at Ira Toyota in Milford to promote Toys for Tots.

The good news was Wilfork did not show up in a wheelchair, nor was he on crutches. By one account, he did walk with a bit of a limp. He did his best to reassure those in attendance he would do what was necessary to be able to play Sunday in Buffalo in a key AFC East game against the Bills. Wilfork signed every autograph and mingled for hours, talking shop and promoting positive feelings about the Patriots, even if those are in short supply at the moment.

While he may not have the new contract he so craves, that hasn’t stopped Wilfork from remaining both dedicated and loyal, unlike some well-paid teammates who haven’t been able to get to work on time, and haven’t been able to refrain from knocking the coach.

And while the defense may be fine to move on without the services of a player like linebacker Adalius Thomas for a game, or more, the Pats would have to scramble should Wilfork be a no-go against the Bills and beyond.

The Pats survived the second half of the Carolina game without Wilfork, but they wouldn’t want to roll the dice the rest of the way without him.

“He means a lot to the defense,” fellow lineman Ty Warren [stats] said yesterday. “The nose tackle position is a real important position on this defense and he’s done a good job playing that position all year.”

Linebacker Rob Ninkovich has gotten his first taste of having Big Vince as a teammate, as that clog in the middle of the line.

“Vince is a beast,” Ninkovich said. “He’s a good leader, a good player out there. He’s got skills. You just can’t teach the kind of things he has. He’s a guy that’s 340 (pounds) I’m guessing, that can run, that’s agile, that stops the double teams, that stops the run. He’s great for our team because he’s such a good leader. He just helps in all aspects of the game.”

All that help and dedication is likely to earn Wilfork only a franchise tag designation, something in the neighborhood of $6 million-$7 million for a defensive tackle, as opposed to a long-term deal with a lucrative signing bonus. But that’s not why he tossed away his helmet Sunday. He hurled his lid because he could no longer help his team that day.

“The thing about football that’s frustrating is when you’re playing really well, then you get injured,” Ninkovich said.
“A guy like Vince, it really gets to him.”

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

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Hester tweets clarification

After predicting changes for the 5-8 Chicago Bears and hinting at frustration with how he has been used this season, Devin Hester tried to clarify his comments later Wednesday on his Twitter account.

Hester said Wednesday after practice: "I think there will be [changes next year]. It's been what, three seasons like this, it's tough. There will be a lot of changes, I know that for a fact. I hope it's for the better.

"[We're] not blind. Everybody sees it. It's going to be a lot of new players, and probably some other things [will] change around here."

Later Wednesday, Hester posted several tweets that claimed his comments were taken out of context.

"I feel like the media blew my interview out of proportion and that everything I said was reworded or taken the wrong way," Hester wrote.

In another post, Hester wrote: "When I am asked, "Will there be changes?" my answer is "yes". What I mean is; there will always be new guys (rookies, trades or coaches)

"That goes for every team, whether you are picked up or traded, it is still a change to the team.

"After reading current articles I feel like the press tried to make me seem like I had inside information on the future of coaches or players ..... which is not the case at all."

A Bears spokesman verified the account as Hester's for ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert.

Click here to order Devin Hester’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Bears receivers coach clarifies Devin Hester's comments -- sort of

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears receivers coach Darryl Drake said Thursday Devin Hester was not referring to any future coaching moves when the wide receiver predicted "a lot of changes" this offseason.

"He [Hester] sat there and said players," Drake said. "He said after the Super Bowl we had players change. He said through draft, through trades, that's exactly what he said. He didn't say a word about no coaches, everybody else said that. That's what I heard...am I wrong?

"People thought coaches because that's what they want to think. But that ain’t what the kid said. That ain’t exactly what he said. I heard what he said. If he would have said it, I will sit here and tell you, you're exactly right. But he didn't say that. He didn't. But he was made out to say that. Alright, and that ain’t right."

Hester told reporters Wednesday he discussed the issue of potential turnover with Drake, who attempted to clarity their conversation.

"He said, ‘Do you think everybody will be back?’ and I said, ‘When has our room ever been the same?’ And that's pretty much what he said in that interview. That's what I said to him, and that's what he said. I said our room has never been the same, there's always change in that room. Every year you go in there it's different."

Click here to order Devin Hester’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Reed may miss Bears game

The Bears beat Pittsburgh when Troy Polamalu was sidelined and now may play Baltimore on Sunday without Ed Reed, who missed practice Wednesday with ankle and groin injuries. Reed, a four-time first-team All-Pro, and Polamalu are widely regarded as the NFL’s two best safeties.

“I’ve seen some plays that he’s made where it seems like he knows the play before it happens,” Bears coach Lovie Smith said of Reed. “They are losing a lot when he’s not on the football field, but we assume he’ll be there. It will be a big challenge for our receivers to play against a guy like that.”

The Ravens (7-6) are known for Ray Lewis, a six-time first-team All-Pro linebacker, but Bears quarterback Jay Cutler said Reed is equally as vital to Baltimore’s defense.

“It’s both of them,” Cutler said. “It doesn’t matter what coverage they are in, they react differently than other guys. They see things quicker, so they get to the ball in a hurry.”

Long injury list
The Ravens held 10 players out of practice Wednesday and two other starters, linebacker Terrell Suggs and wide receiver Mason Finger, were limited.

The Bears held out three starters: cornerback Zack Bowman (illness), cornerback Charles Tillman (back) and receiver Devin Hester (calf). Defensive tackle Tommie Harris (knee) was limited. Left tackle Orlando Pace (groin) returned to practice after missing the last two weeks.

“I’m feeling pretty good,” said Hester, who sat out last week. “It’s getting better, but it’s still on a day-to-day basis. I’ll leave it up to the trainers and see what they say. I rely on my legs a lot, so if I have one bad leg, then it’s tough.”

Click here to order Ed Reed’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Salmons leads Bulls to 98-89 win over Knicks

CHICAGO — Luol Deng scored 24 points, John Salmons added 20 and the Chicago Bulls rallied from 17 down to beat the New York Knicks 98-89 Thursday night for their third win in 14 games.

The Bulls took control with a 15-2 run in the fourth quarter. Salmons scored seven points in the final 47.7 seconds, hitting a key 3-pointer.

Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah came up big after taking cortisone shots and the Bulls came away with a much-needed win on a night when it appeared they would be blown out again.

The Knicks led by as many as 17 in the first quarter thanks to a torrid start by Al Harrington, who scored 14 of his 18 points in the period. New York attempted an NBA-record 29 3-pointers in the first half, hitting nine. The Knicks finished 16 of 47 from long range, setting an NBA season high for 3-point tries.

New York was leading by four after Gallinari's 3 with 8:35 left when Chicago took over.

Rose's layup made it 85-79 Chicago with 4:22 left, and after two free throws by Duhon, the Bulls put this one away. Rose drove for a layup and Salmons nailed a 3 with 47.7 seconds left, making it 90-81.

Gallinari made it a six-point game with another 3, then jawed with injured Bulls forward Tyrus Thomas after missing a jumper following two free throws by Salmons.

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Lauryn Williams returns to her roots

PORT-OF-SPAIN; Trinidad: American sprinter Lauryn Williams is in Trinidad and Tobago, the home country of her father David. Lauryn’s father was born in Charlotteville, Tobago and grew up in San Fernando, Trinidad before migrating to the USA.

The 26-year-old sprinter arrived in Tobago on Thursday (17th) and is expected to re-connect with her father’s relatives in the fishing village on the eastern end of the island. Williams will then journey over to Trinidad where she will conduct a one day seminar on Saturday 19th December for young female athletes at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain. The seminar is being hosted by the National Association of Athletic Administration (NAAA) of Trinidad and Tobago.

The 2002 World Junior 100m champion has impressive record of making every major global outdoor finals since 2004 taking silver at the 2004 Olympics, gold at the 2005 Worlds, silver at the 2007 Worlds and was fourth at the 2008 Olympics and fifth at the 2009 Worlds.

Williams also won the 2003 Pan American sprint title in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic and has personal bests of 10.88seconds (100m) and 22.27 seconds(200m).

(Lauryn’s father died in October 2008 long long battle with leukemia)

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Growing up to be like Nancy Lieberman

Lauryn Williams’ Blog

I want to be like Nancy Lieberman when I grow up! 

This past Monday, I was fortunate enough to meet her among some other very big names in the world of sports at the honoring of the dream team luncheon for the Jefferson Award.

It is great when opportunities like this arise as not having the same sort of fame as other sports sometimes limits us from interacting with NFL, NBA and other high profile athletes such as the Williams sisters.

That said, when your not given this chance often you must bring every aspect your A game. Speaking has been the little demon in my closet for my whole career, and despite me pumping myself up because I wanted to do well, Monday was no different.

I was to give a 2-3 minute talk accepting my award and explaining  what inspires me to give.

Sounds easy enough right????


As if my nerves weren't bad enough, when two of the four athletes present got up and gave excellent speeches, I began to obsess because I didn't know what I could say that was going to be as appealing to the crowd. And I was the only female. I certainly couldn't be outdone by 3 guys!!  

It was between Nnamdi Asomugha and myself as to who was next and we both joked about how quick we would be because we were making up something right at that moment.

Little did I know this was a setup!

My name was called before his, so I get up and deliver something quick and straight to the point. Nnamdi, on the other hand, decides to give the best speech of all.

I had been outdone by all three guys.

What a shame! 

Thank God though Nancy swooped in and saved the day on behalf of all women, as it seems she has been doing her whole life.

In case you don't know, Nancy is the first woman to have played professional basketball, but she played with men because the WNBA was not yet in existence. Years later, when the WBNA did get going, she played in the league at the age of 50!!!

I was so inspired by her talk and the delivery of it, I am vowing to make my improvement in this area a focal point this year.

It was really encouraging when once things were finished two women came to me and said, "Your speech was great! If you had not told us how nervous you were, or that you were going to be quick, you would have nailed it right on the head."

I know I have some work to do, as my job will require me to speak.

I am up to the challenge of fine tuning my delivery until I can do as easy as say... Sanya Richards or Nancy Lieberman.

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New FREE Brandon Meriweather Wallpaper

Check out our new wallpaper featuring Brandon Meriweather. Click here to download our Brandon Meriweather Wallpaper and many other ones or click above on proCanes Wallpapers. Enjoy and stay tuned to more wallpapers in the near future.

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Titans Sign DE Kareem Brown To Practice Squad

The Titans have signed defensive end Kareem Brown to the practice squad. The former Miami (Fla.) player takes the place of Eric Bakhtiari, who was promoted to the 53-man roster on Saturday. Brown was selected by the Patriots in the fourth round of the 2007 draft, later, the Jets tried to convert him to tight end but ended up releasing him.

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Johnson's numbers are case for Kubiak

No wonder Andre Johnson doesn't want Gary Kubiak fired.

Last week, in a video for Chron.com, Johnson made an impassioned plea for Kubiak to return. He listed the reasons he believes Kubiak should be back.

These weren't the reasons, but check them out. And remember, Matt Schaub haters — somebody has to be throwing Johnson the ball.

This statistic blows me away: Since the merger in 1970, Jerry Rice leads all receivers with 15 games in which he had at least 10 catches and 100 yards. Rice played in 303 games and is acknowledged as the greatest receiver in NFL history.

In second place, one game behind Rice, is another receiver destined for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Marvin Harrison had 14 games with at least 10 catches and 100 yards. He played in 190 games.

Tied for third with 13 is Tim Brown, another receiver who'll be enshrined in Canton, Ohio. He played in 255 games.

Can you guess who is tied with Brown for third on the all-time list? Yep, Andre Johnson. And he's played in just 99 games.

Think about that for a second: Rice, Harrison, Brown, Johnson — common names but uncommon receivers.

Matching Jerry
Speaking of Rice (who should be a unanimous, first-ballot selection for the Hall of Fame in February), he's the only receiver since 1970 to lead the NFL in yards in back-to-back seasons.

Johnson has an opportunity to match him. He led the league with 115 catches for 1,575 yards last season. Johnson has 81 receptions for a league-best 1,237 yards this season.

Here's another reason Johnson likes things just the way they are: In 54 games under Kubiak, Johnson averages a league-best 89.1 yards a game. The closest to him during that three-year period is Larry Fitzgerald (84.9).

This is Johnson's seventh season. He's coming off the 30th 100-yard game of his exceptional career. He's had 21 of those games under Kubiak, and the Texans are 14-7 in those games.

NFC beast
Johnson tortures just about every team he goes against, including the NFC. In 25 games against the NFC, he averages 91.8 yards. Next is Chad Ochocinco with 83.3.

Johnson burned Seattle with 11 catches for 193 yards and two touchdowns. The Texans finish their NFC schedule with Sunday's game at St. Louis. There's no telling what Johnson will accomplish against the Rams.

Too bad the Texans don't play in the NFC, huh? If they beat the 1-12 Rams, they'll be 3-1 against the NFC for the third consecutive season. Maybe the team can apply to leave the AFC South for an NFC division other than the East.

I never get tired of writing statistics that demonstrate Johnson's greatness. And if we ever take that greatness for granted, all we have to do is to check out how he compares to the greatest receivers of all time.

Brothers in arms
One reason Johnson has excelled is because he and Schaub have developed such a good rapport on and off the field. And they've started every game together for the first time.

Schaub ranks in the top six in attempts (third), completions (second), percentage (second), yards (fourth), touchdowns (fifth) and rating (sixth). He has seven 300-yard games. Only Peyton Manning has more (eight).

Johnson and Schaub are one of the best combinations in the league, and they've done it with a running game that's been almost non-existent.
The Texans rank eighth in offense, including fourth in passing. Imagine how good the offense will be next season, when Schaub and Johnson have a healthy Owen Daniels, a big-time rookie running back and a new starter or two on the line.

Click here to order Andre Johnson’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Here's a twist: Ravens' Ray Lewis into yoga

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Ray Lewis does yoga?

"Oh yeah, faithfully, faithfully," the Baltimore Ravens' star linebacker said Wednesday during a conference call with Chicago media members. "I take hour-and-a-half yoga classes. The crazy part about it is, once you actually get into it, two or three times, you really miss it. If you don't do it, you're like 'Oh, wow' because it stretches you that much, that for us (NFL players), being muscular people anyways, it's kind of really hard to keep your muscles very flexible. I've been doing it almost two or three years now."

It seems to be working. Lewis leads Baltimore with 132 tackles on the season, and is second on the team in forced fumbles (2) and fourth in sacks (2).

A 10-time Pro Bowl selection, Lewis, 34, serves as a reminder that life doesn't have to end for an NFL linebacker after 30 -- a relevant topic in Chicago since Brian Urlacher is 31.

"If you look at age, you'll really be in trouble," Lewis said. "It's based on understanding the game, understanding how to get from Point A to Point B without taking three or four false steps, and without reading the wrong thing. That's why I think (people) make age too big of a deal."

"I just think he [Urlacher] has to come back with the same mentality, and enjoy the game, Because if he enjoys the game, working out will be easy. He'll definitely come back with more fire, ready to play."

Click here to order Ray Lewis’ proCane Rookie Card.

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Andre Johnson Helps Toy Dreams Come True

HOUSTON - Any child would welcome the opportunity to enter a toy store and grab as much fun stuff as they could in 80 seconds.

Fifteen elementary school students were given that opportunity, courtesy of Houston Texans Pro Bowl wide receiver Andre Johnson.

The students from Bastain Elementary school were allowed five minutes to walk through the Toys-R-Us store on Old Spanish Trail to see what toys and games on which aisles interested them the most.

Each student was also given a video game console.

Johnson told FOX 26 News that what impresses him most about the children's shopping sprees are that the students are considerate enough to find items for their siblings and parents.

Click here to order Andre Johnson’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Harbaugh cautious about Hester

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Devin Hester's decline in the punt return game has been stunning.

2006: 47 returns, 600 yards, 12.8 average, 3 touchdowns
2007: 42 returns, 651 yards, 15.5 average, 4 touchdowns
2008: 32 returns, 198 yards, 6.2 average, 0 touchdowns
2009: 23 returns, 186 yards, 8.1 average, 0 touchdowns

Despite all the numbers, Ravens coach John Harbaugh -- a former special teams coordinator -- raved about Hester during a conference call Wednesday with Chicago media members.

"We're just trying to figure out how we can defend him," Harbaugh said. "You have to take into account all the things he's done this year, and all the things they are as a unit. They're one of the best special teams units in the league.

"You also have to take into account the things he's capable of doing, and the things he's done in the past. We feel like we're defending the seven or eight touchdowns he had a few years back, and all the things he's doing right now. Maybe he's not doing as much dramatically in the return game, but he's probably doing as much or more for that team."

"As far as [Bears special teams coach] Dave [Toub] goes, I just have so much respect for him. I think he's one of the best football coaches in the National Football League. What he's done there with his unit is really historic. I'm really proud of him."

Harbaugh and Toub worked together in Philadelphia, and Harbaugh's assessment of Toub is spot on. But he's being awfully generous when it comes to his views on Hester, who did not return punts or play last week because of a calf injury. Even if healthy Sunday, are the Bears better off going with Johnny Knox or Earl Bennett?

Click here to order Devin Hester’s proCane Rookie Card.

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John Salmons must keep Bulls offense moving

After he was acquired from Sacramento last year, [John] Salmons came to Chicago and drilled every shot he took, or so it seemed. This year, Salmons jump shot has betrayed him, especially late in games.

When Salmons touches the ball on offensive, everything stops. Rose stops moving, Deng watches, Noah gets in position for a miss and the fourth player ties his shoe (or, watches someone on the other team tie their shoe). After seven or eight seconds of dribbling nowhere, Salmons will fire a bad shot or throw a bailout pass to one of his teammates, who has to hoist a desperation shot as the clock winds down.

Last night’s game was a perfect example. After Salmons went out of the game with two quick fouls, the Bulls offense moved better than it had all season. Rose was able to find wide-open teammates off the dribble-drive. When Salmons returned, so did stagnation.

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NFL U Week 14 Photos

Check out Week 14 photos from around the the NFL of our proCanes. Click here or above on the proCanes Gallery link.

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Scouts give take on Miami Hurricanes' draft prospects

For feedback on the University of Miami program -- players' pro prospects and other issues -- we solicited the views of three NFL scouts who have evaluated the Hurricanes, plus NFL Network draft expert Mike Mayock:

• Among UM seniors, tight end Jimmy Graham is generating the most interest and could be UM's highest draft pick in April, Mayock said. Two scouts said they see Jason Fox being picked before Graham, but either way, ``Fox and Graham have separated themselves from the other seniors,'' one said.

Mayock said Graham ``is looking at the third or fourth round assuming he runs well and catches well at his pro day.'' One team has him ranked 60th among all seniors.

``He's got good size, good hands, but he still has a long way to go,'' one scout said. ``He isn't Tony Gonzalez. He's not afraid to block, but he can't take on bigger linebackers by himself.''

• Two scouts disagreed about whether Fox has the body to play left tackle in the NFL. ``He's not a big, thick guy. He might need to move inside,'' one said. Said Mayock: ``Limited power, needs to get stronger. Most guys I talk to have him in the fourth, fifth round.''

• Though Darryl Sharpton played the run well, he ``doesn't have the skills linebackers need in pass coverage,'' one scout said. ``If you can't cover, you're a one-down player. He's too small.'' Mayock has him going in the middle rounds at best.

• Mayock said ``a lot of people like Javarris James because he can block'' -- though one scout said he wouldn't draft him ``because he can't stay healthy. He doesn't have the speed to consistently get outside.'' . . . Cornerback Sam Shields ``will run fast at Pro Day and could be a late draftable kid,'' Mayock said. . . . One scout rated tight end Dedrick Epps as a mid-to-late-round prospect because of his receiving skills.

• Scout feedback on the top juniors: Allen Bailey ``will be better in the NFL than college; second-rounder if he comes out now, could be top-10 pick if he stays'' and improves; Orlando Franklin ``could rise to a first- or second-rounder'' if he plays well at left tackle for UM in 2010; Graig Cooper is a potential ``third-rounder because of speed, versatility, return ability.''

A scout said Leonard Hankerson is a mid-rounder ``but I would be scared to take him because he [excelled] only one year and because of drops.''

• One scout raved about junior Damien Berry and cannot understand why he does not get more carries: ``He's their best running back. Physical, tough, good speed. If they ran him 25 times a game, they would be a different offense and it would help Jacory Harris.''

• One scout, on UM's defense: ``The linebackers are too slow. They can't keep up with guys in the flat and are out of position too much. The defensive linemen don't come off the ball well enough, and not enough of their linemen get better. Marcus Forston couldn't get upfield before they shut him down.''

• The scouts love Harris -- ``he can be special,'' one said -- but another said he must get stronger ``because his deep out routes tend to float. He's more accurate on midrange throws.''

• Ex-Dolphins great Mark Duper, who is close with Hankerson, said the junior receiver is leaning toward returning to UM, but it's not certain. Hankerson has two children and ``I'm sure that's weighing on him'' in his decision, Duper said. ``My advice was to stay and get your degree.''

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(miamiherald.com -barry jackson)

Portis compares the Redskins to The U

I rushed up a transcript of Clinton Portis's comments on Tiger Woods Tuesday afternoon, because that was the most colorful part of his weekly appearance on ESPN 980's John Thompson Show. But that probably wasn't the most germane segment to Redskins fans.

Barry Svrluga spoke at length with Portis on Tuesday about his own future; read about that here. But on his radio show, Portis also talked about the future of the Redskins franchise. For example, at one point, he was asked for his thoughts about continuity versus change in the coaches' office.

"I mean, I think that's a decision they've got to make," Portis said, referring to team ownership. "Really, I think the players on our team used to the change, and used to bringing in new people. And I think at the same time, the players on our team would love to just know whoever's coming in or whoever's there's gonna be there. You could do away with all this thought process of Do we got to learn a new system, will we have a new coach, will we have this? But whatever the situation is, we've got to go out and respond. We've got to go out and play for whoever is the head coach, and give it all we've got."

John Thompson asked Portis what he thinks when he hears people saying how much better the team has been playing without its stars; Portis said he has no complaints with that line of discussion.

"I mean, I agree to it," he said. "I think they are playing better. I think they're playing together. I mean, you give guys an opportunity to go out and stand up, and I think these guys are doing that. I think everybody fighting together, nobody gave up, and everybody's playing for an opportunity. I think everybody in the NFL's waiting for an opportunity, and when they finally get it, they go out and give everything they've got."

And finally, Doc Walker brought up the recent ESPN documentary about The U. Doc talked about how Portis's school put together such a long tradition of winning, and then turned it into an NFL question, asking basically how the Redskins could replicate or encourage such continued success.

"Well, if you look at what The U had through those times, it was all guys who enjoyed what they were doing," Portis said. "You know, you had the same character guys, you found guys to plug in when other guys left. When Michael Irvin left, you found Randal Hill and Lamar Thomas and guys who could keep that going. When there was a mass change, you found a guy who could come in who had the same attitude, who had the same goal, who had the same mindset and could adapt to what was going on. And all those guys were from the same background coming in to the University of Miami, and was looking forward to a winning tradition. I think you found the type of guys back then that you knew you could go out and win with, and that was gonna give it everything they had.

"And I think if you look at our roster, we have an assortment of everything, but guys got to come together. I think there's some guys on our team want to have fun, and some guys on our team treat it like business, and some guys on our team who treat it like, Well, hmm, I don't know if I can do that, who worried about being around instead of letting their play do the talking for them. So you've just got to find some group of guys with a common goal.

"You look back to the Ravens when the Ravens was having so much fun, or you look back to Pittsburgh and the talent that they had, running around and what they had. You even look at the Saints now, it looks like the Saints have fun in doing what they're doing....Teams that winning, you've got a bunch of guys jumping around and having fun and enjoying what they're doing. I think you need that."

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Frank Gore named NFC Offensive Player of the Week

Big time congratulations to 49ers running back Frank Gore, who, according to Matt Maiocco, won his fourth career NFC Offensive Player of the Week award.  Frank the Tank put together a monster effort on Monday in the 49ers demolition of the Cardinals (take that everybody who thinks the 49ers did nothing to win this game).  Gore finished with 167 rushing yards and a touchdown and did everything needed to push this offense forward.

It's rather entertaining how quickly people were throwing out trade ideas for Gore.  He has certainly struggled at times behind this offensive line and dealing with the offensive changes, but I really do think the 49ers can work him into things on a regular basis.  One thing that I was especially pleased with following last night's performance was the fact that the big game moved him to within 165 yards of a fourth straight 1,000 yard rushing season.  Gore was the first 49er with 3 straight, so it's very impressive that he has a chance to extend that even further.  It's no gimme, even with the Lions and Rams remaining on the schedule, but hopefully he can reach the mark.

From a career perspective, Gore currently sits on 5,276 yards, good for fourth all-time among 49ers running backs.  He is currently 259 yards back of Garrison Hearst for fourth all-time.  With three games left, he has a shot at passing Hearst before the season ends.  At this point he sits a little over 3,400 yards behind Joe Perry for first place all-time among 49ers running backs.  At his current rate it would actually take him just over three seasons to reach Perry.  Of course, if the 49ers can really reinforce the offensive line, and settle in on their offensive game plan with some real balance, what's to stop Gore from getting their in less time?

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The U is the highest rated documentary in ESPN history

Jared Campbell and Darryl Sharpton

ESPN Films wrapped up the fall slate of the critically-acclaimed "30 for 30" film project with Billy Corben's The U, Saturday night immediately following the Heisman Trophy presentation, and earned a 1.8 rating. That represents an average of 1.8 million homes (2.368 M viewers, P2+) and is ESPN's highest-rated documentary of all time (The Greatest Game Ever aired December 13, 2008, and earned a 1.4 rating - 1.369 million households, 1.811 M viewers). For the "30 for 30" series Fall slate overall, the seven films earned an average 1.0 rating (1,007,000 homes, 1,258,000 viewers).

Click here to read our review of “The U” Documentary.

Click to the right on “Read more” to see more photos --> Read More...

Dwayne `The Rock' Johnson to give UM commencement address

Walking Tall, Get Smart, The Game Plan and Race to Witch Mountain, will speak at the 10 a.m. commencement Thursday at the university's BankUnited Center, where undergraduates, master's degree candidates and doctoral candidates from most of UM's schools and colleges will receive degrees.

Johnson, who was a member of the 1991 Hurricane football team that won the national championship, has long been a UM supporter, along with his ex-wife, Dany, who is also an alumnus and a member of the board of trustees.

In 2007, the two made a $1 million donation to the UM athletic department. In recognition of their gift, the football locker room was named the Dwayne ``The Rock'' Johnson Locker Room.

Johnson, who considers Miami his hometown, told Miami magazine he credited his success to the UM.

``It was there that I learned traits that became part of my ethos-like sacrifice, commitment, achieving my goals in a gracious manner, and learning to deal with failure,'' Johnson told Miami magazine in 2005 about his years on campus.

At Thursday's ceremony, students' name will be called out as they walk across the stage to be congratulated by President Donna Shalala and their school's dean.

The ceremony will be streamed live. To watch the ceremony visit www.miami.edu/commencement.


Hurricanes Hymn

Hurricanes Hymn from rakontur on Vimeo.

Portis talks Tiger

Missed the first couple minutes of Clinton Portis' show on ESPN 980, thanks to my browser freezing up. Nice. But the best stuff came when Portis talked about Tiger Woods and his own temptations. One bone of contention: not everyone who is disappointed in what happened to Tiger is living a secret life or has multiple women on the side.

On if there’s any limitations on him: I really haven’t tried to lift. I’m still doing treadmills. I tried to run outside and it seemed like everything around me was bouncing. Once they put me on IR, there was no rush to go outside and try to run again. … I’ll try sometime in February.

On possibly bringing in a new staff: That’s a decision they have to make. I think the players on our team are used to change and used to bringing in new people. At the same time players on our team would love to know whoever is there will be there. Do we have to learn a new system? Will we have a new coach? Whatever it is and whatever the situation is, we have to go out and respond and play for whoever is our head coach and give it all we’ve got.

On how things were at the University of Miami and what direction he’d like the Redskins squad to go in: If you look at what the U had, through those times, it was all guys who enjoy what they’re doing. They had the same character guys. You found guys to plug in where other guys left. Guys who could keep that going. When there was a mass change, they could find someone who had the same attitude and had the same goals and same mindset and could adapt to what was going on. All those guys were from the same background coming into the University of Miami. You found the type of guys you knew you could win with and they would give it everything they had. If you look at our roster, we have an assortment of everything. Guys have to come together. If some guys want to have fun and some guys treat it like a business and some guys treat it like, well, mmm, I don’t know if I could do that. You just have to find a group of guys with a common goal. You look back to the Raiders when they were winning and Pittsburgh and the talent they had and what they did. Look at the Saints now. It looks like a bunch of guys jumping around, having fun and enjoying what they’re doing. I think you need that.

On how he perceives the treatment of Tiger Woods: I think he’s being treated unfairly. Honestly, I always felt like everybody in that position, whether you’re a reporter or whatever, you run a grocery store or the guys doing endorsements with Tiger…I’m sure they have a lot of hidden secrets, hidden secret admirers and women they talk to. Being an athlete you’re put under a microscope and everyone wants you to be perfect. You can’t have nothing else going on. For so long Tiger was a perfect person. No one wanted to see this. Now you go from loving this man, who you admire all these years, till you find out that he had a side woman and now you hate him. He’s still the same man. For any man to keep it that under wraps for that long, I’m sure it wasn’t the first time his wife found out he was talking to someone else. But it wasn’t in the public eye, there wasn’t pressure to leave him. I’m sure they got into it before. I doubt it was the first time she picked up the phone and seen another woman calling. I say don’t get married. I’m not married. I’d love to be the perfect guy. I’m not. If I find temptation worth fulfilling, I fulfill my temptation. That gets me in trouble sometimes. I deal with it then. I’m 28 years old and I will enjoy my life. For Tiger, it turned out bad. Everyone is jumping off the bandwagon and judging him. But he’s the same guy. I’m sure other golfers are doing the same thing. I’m sure others who are pointing fingers are doing the same thing. They just weren’t caught.

More Tiger and all the women: If he kept that a secret, congratulations. Most of the time there's one or two and you can't keep that a secret.

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Saints film study: Jonathan Vilma saves day against Atlanta

On Sunday, Jon Vilma earned every penny of the five-year, $34 million contract he signed with the New Orleans Saints in free agency last March.

With the Saints desperately clinging to a 26-23 lead against the Falcons, the veteran linebacker made two key plays in the final five minutes to preserve the Saints' 13th win of the season.

First, he killed one drive with an interception against Chris Redman. It was Vilma's second clutch interception in as many weeks and his third of the season.

His second big play was an example of his tireless preparation and veteran savvy. He quickly diagnosed a Falcons play which had been run earlier in the game and made a critical tackle on fourth down to stop another Falcons drive and ice the game.

The first time the Falcons ran the play - a follow route by the running back -- it resulted in a 38-yard gain by running back Jason Snelling. Facing a third-and-3 on the third play from scrimmage, the Falcons aligned receiver Michael Jenkins to the left side of the formation with three receivers bunched tight to the right: wide receiver Brian Finneran, tight end Tony Gonzalez and receiver Roddy White. Snelling motioned from the left side of the backfield to the right side and followed the three receivers on a pass route at the snap. Finneran ran a shallow 5-yard crossing pattern to the left. Gonzalez ran a 10-yard out to the right. White, meantime, went deep on a post pattern. Snelling followed the cluster, faked an out route to the right then cut back to the left down the middle of the field.
Conscientious of Gonzalez, three Saints went with him on the out route: safety Roman Harper, who appeared to have single coverage on him underneath, and linebackers Scott Shanle and Jon Vilma who were in a shallow zone. Ultimately Vilma lost his responsibility in the middle of the field and allowed Snelling to break free between the hashmarks for the longest pass reception of his career.

The Falcons went back to the same play on fourth-and-2 on their final drive and the Saints read it. Vilma jumped the route by Snelling and met with him with a perfect form tackle to stop him short of the first down. Redman looked like he had his mind made up on the play before the snap. He had Gonzalez open on the out route against Harper in the right flat but never looked his way.

"That play worked earlier, so you knew they were going to come back to it at a certain point in the game," Vilma said. "We talked about it on the sidelines and had a different defense ready for it. It worked the second time against it."

Cornerback Randall Gay said he and several Saints knew the play was coming as soon as they saw the Falcons line up in the bunch formation and guess correctly that they would go back to the back.

"Everybody on the team was calling it out right when it happened," Gay said. "We have smart team. We study it. We listen to what (defensive coordinator) Gregg (Williams) and D.A. (defensive backs coach Dennis Allen) and everybody goes over. We knew the play and everybody was ready. We didn't cover it well (the first time). They came back for it. I left my man to go cover it. J.V. beat me to it."

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What We Learned: Gore Reminds 49ers Of His Value

The 49ers are still a run-first offense

It's good that coach Mike Singletary and offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye have confidence in quarterback Alex Smith to throw the ball often and spread the field to take advantage of talented young receivers such as Vernon Davis, Michael Crabtree and Josh Morgan. But it was wrong to get pass-happy in the few games prior to Monday night's win and limit Frank Gore's touches.

Gore’s combination of power and explosiveness makes him one of the league's premier backs with his. He showed how dominant he can be when he gets involved early in the game plan and got stronger as the game wore on — even against a solid Arizona front seven that has played the run well all season. Gore needs to keep seeing the ball 25 times for the Niners to keep their slim playoff hopes alive. That will be especially key in Philadelphia for Week 15, to keep the Eagles from consistently pressuring Smith.

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Redskins' Clinton Portis expects to be part of offseason change

Clinton Portis wore a burgundy Santa hat adorned with a Washington Redskins logo and emblazoned with the word "Redskins" across the furry front. And in that environment, at a charity function sponsored by the team that has employed him for six years, the Pro Bowl running back discussed what has been on his mind since he suffered a concussion more than a month ago: That his time in Washington may be over.

"I can't sit and tell you I want my career to be over here, but at the same time, you got to understand the business side of things," Portis said in a nearly 10-minute interview with a small group of reporters Tuesday at FedEx Field. "I've been here for six years, and we went to the playoffs twice. I think Mr. [Daniel] Snyder [the team's owner], with the pressure that's on him with the organization, [is] probably going to have to make changes. For everything that [goes] on, I'm to blame, so why wouldn't I be the change?"

Portis, who ranks second behind John Riggins on the franchise's all-time rushing list, was reflective about his current abilities and his legacy during the interview, which came during an appearance at the Redskins' giveaway to benefit the U.S. Marine Corps's "Toys for Tots" program. He said he does not believe the concussion he suffered Nov. 8 in Atlanta that ended his season will also end his career. "I don't think for one second it's going to be career-ending," he said.

But given the Redskins' disappointing 4-9 season and the fact that the team has won just one playoff game since he arrived in a 2004 trade with Denver, Portis said he would understand if he became part of sweeping changes to the roster.

"I would love to be here," Portis said. "I'm grateful of everything this organization [has] done for me. At the same time, it's just understanding the business side of things. I could be selfish and say: 'Oh, man, look at my production. Look at what I've done.' But we don't have anything to show for my production. So if it happened, it happened, and I can understand that."

Portis had not spoken with reporters since suffering the injury, limiting his public comments to his weekly appearances on "The John Thompson Show" on ESPN 980. He gained 494 yards on 124 carries with one touchdown in eight games before being injured. He was placed on season-ending injured reserve last week, meaning 2009 is the least productive of his eight years in the NFL. Some Redskins personnel believe Portis, who has 2,176 career carries -- including four seasons with at least 325 attempts -- will never return to an elite level.

Portis, though, believes otherwise. "As long as I'm healthy, man, I'm not worried about playing anywhere in the NFL," he said. "I feel like I am going to compete and will compete at a high level anywhere I am." He also defended his reputation, which he believes has taken a hit over the past several seasons, when his practice habits -- he frequently takes time off during the week to rest various ailments -- have come under scrutiny.

"I think the way I [have] been portrayed was like I was selfish," Portis said. "I [have] never been selfish. I don't think there's nobody around that can say I'm selfish. I think I went out and gave everything I had on Sunday.

"Through the week -- which became a problem, me not practicing through the week -- I'm not going to sit and torture myself through a week. If I can't do it, I can't do it. I know how I feel, and I always know how I feel. I feel like if I'm capable of going out and playing on Sunday and giving you everything I got, then that's perfect. I don't think running plays change. I don't think blocking schemes change. I think it's all instinct. I don't think I've lost instinct."

Portis has a base salary of about $7.2 million in 2010, $6.4 million of which is guaranteed. He has roster and workout bonuses of a little more than $500,000. Because he is under contract, Portis acknowledged that steering his future is not up to him. He said the future of Coach Jim Zorn, who is coming to the conclusion of his second season, would not have an impact about how he feels about remaining in Washington.

"I feel like whether he [is] here or not, I would love to come back to this team, but that choice isn't mine," Portis said. "I think Coach Zorn would love to be here as well, but that choice isn't his. So I think you see guys going out and playing for Coach Zorn, guys giving everything they got. Whether he [is] here, whether I'm here, I think this organization [has] got to do what's best for them. Me and Coach Zorn and whoever else have got to leave this organization got to know we got another opportunity to continue our career, and hopefully it works out on that end."

Portis said he thought last week that he would be cleared to play against Oakland on Sunday, but he still has trouble focusing his right eye, and doctors told him they wouldn't be comfortable with him playing. "Is it scary?" he said. "Of course." But he said he is comfortable with the club's decision to end his season -- "Why risk it?" -- even if that decision brings up the possibility he will never again appear in a Washington uniform.

"If I have played my last game as a Redskin," Portis said, "I would like the fans here to remember, on Sunday I gave you everything I had."

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Portis says he'll play again -- somewhere

Redskins running back Clinton Portis said Tuesday that while he doesn't believe the concussion that ended his season will end his career, his time in Washington may well be up after this season because the team, a disappointment at 4-9, will likely undergo significant changes.

"I can't sit and tell you I want my career to be over here," Portis said at FedEx Field, where he helped distribute holiday gifts as part of the Redskins' contribution to the U.S. Marine Corps's "Toys for Tots" program. "But at the same time, you got to understand the business side of things. I've been here for six years, and we went to the playoffs twice. I think Mr. [Daniel] Snyder, with the pressure that's on him with the organization, probably going to have to make changes. For everything that go on, I'm to blame, so why wouldn't I be the change?"

Portis suffered a concussion at the end of a run Nov. 8 at Atlanta, and has not played since. Last week, when additional tests showed he still had lingering symptoms, the Redskins placed him on season-ending injured reserve. He had not spoken with reporters since the incident, but said, "I don't think for one second it's going to be career-ending," despite the fact the NFL and its teams have started to take much closer looks at concussions, Portis said.

He also said, though, that he wouldn't be surprised if his career continued elsewhere.
"I think as long as I'm healthy, man, I'm not worried about playing anywhere in the NFL," Portis said. "I feel like I am going to compete and will compete at a high level anywhere I am. I would love to be here. I'm grateful of everything this organization done for me. At the same time, it's just understanding the business side of things. I could be selfish and say, 'Oh, man, look at my production, look what I've done.' But we don't have anything to show for my production. So if it happened, it happened, and I can understand that."

Portis said he thought he might be cleared to play in last week's game against Oakland, but he could not pass the final test -- which involved testing his vision by using goggles. He still has some problems with his right eye, he said, which has to work too hard to get focused, particularly at night. He said he was comfortable with the diagnosis.

"I would love to play, but at the same time I don't think when you got the opportunity to play again next year and in the years to come, why risk it?" he said. "I think this is a first-time thing. Is it scary? Of course. At the time that it happened, I wanted to continue playing in the Falcons game. You go back and see what happened and see that I land on the field motionless and all of a sudden you see the side effects of what's going on, I think it's more how they scare you, the conversation from the outside world. 'Oh, man, this could happen, this could happen.'

"At the same time, what's going to happen's going to happen. I think God puts you in situations. If it was meant to happen, no matter how healthy I think I am, if it's going to happen and I get hit again, it's going to happen."
Portis said whether second-year coach Jim Zorn returns to the Redskins will have no bearing on how he feels about his future in Washington.

"I feel like whether he [is] here or not, I would love to come back to this team, but that choice isn't mine," Portis said.
"I think Coach Zorn would love to be here as well, but that choice isn't his. So I think you see guys going out and playing for Coach Zorn, guys giving everything they got. Whether he [is] here, whether I'm here, I think this organization got to do what's best for them. Me and Coach Zorn and whoever else have got to leave this organization got to know we got another opportunity to continue our career, and hopefully it works out on that end."

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Leon Searcy: Two Thumbs Up! “The U” Gives Viewers Real Sense Of What It Was Like To Play For Canes

Miami’s Leon Searcy watched ESPN’s 30 for 30 film “The U,” which chronicles the rise of Miami’s football dominance from 1983 to 1993. He puts on his movie reviewer hat to talk about what he thought of the documentary that he not only watched but also lived.

I loved the movie.

It gave a very descriptive detail of what the University of Miami was back in the 80s.

It looked at how the program grew to prominence in the Howard Schnellenberger era, the Jimmy Johnson and the Dennis Erickson eras. I think it was wonderfully done and showed the good, the bad and the ugly.

The whole movie fell into line of what the University of Miami was all in the early 80s all the way up to the early 90s. I mean I thought it was great. I thought it was Oscar-worthy but of course I would say that.

But this movie talked about everything. It looked at how Schnellenberger pretty much built the program up from ground zero. How he marketed the product and how he went after Miami Dade and Broward County athletes. How the four and five-star recruits like Michael Irvin, Alonzo Highsmith, Bennie and Brian Blades decided to stay in South Florida to build this program.

All those kids were recruited by so many different colleges but that was what turned Miami around, when the major recruits in the South Florida area decided not to go to other schools and beat up on each other. They decided to form right here and go to the University of Miami. They were near home, played some football, had their families see them play. And if they had some social unrest with their families, they didn’t have to go far to handle them.

And the documentary covers all of that. It also went into the transition from one era to another and how Jimmy Johnson took a bad rap from a lot of outside sources who were trying to get him to put a leash on the players. People thought we were too brash and too cocky and too confident.

Jimmy told them, “You don’t know these kids and you don’t know their upbringing. You don’t know what they go through. They’re using the football stage to express themselves.” All they saw was poverty, all they saw was dysfunction, and they used football as a means of expression. And the great thing about it is that Jimmy Johnson would not let outside sources stifle these kids.

All Jimmy Johnson asked was that if I go to bat for you, you go to bat for me. That’s why we won so many games. That’s why we were so brash. That’s why we won some titles, because we had Jimmy even standing up to the president of the university, which they show in the documentary.

Then you had testimony from former guys like Michael Irvin, Alonzo Highsmith, Brett Perriman, Bennie Blades, Jessie Armstead and me. I mean this movie has all the who’s who of the “U.” And most of the guys gave a pretty detailed description of what Miami was all about.

When I first heard someone was making this movie I thought “this was long overdue.” I mean, because a lot of people tend to forget that from 1983 to 1993, in that ten-year span, Miami had either directly or indirectly had something to do with the national title just about every year.

It talked about the Pell Grant scandal, it talked about 2 Live Crew. So they didn’t pull any punches. The one thing that I like about this documentary is that it didn’t pull any punches.

It was real about the story telling and guys were just pretty frank about what went on at Miami within that ten-year span.

For me the best part of the movie was all the winning. I was there for five years from 87-92; I mean we won a whole bunch of games. In my five years at Miami we were 56-4, including bowl games. So the highlights of the big plays during those years brought me back.

Seeing the Michal Irvin touchdown against Florida State that brought us back and won the game; seeing the wide right against Florida State that ultimately helped us win a national title and watching the Sugar Bowl when we beat Alabama for the national title. Those highlights were amazing. It was just great footage.

It was a great experience.

So to end my review, I’m going to channel my inner Roger Ebert:

First of all, it gets two thumbs up. An excellent movie. I would say the documentary is riveting, powerful, scary, and frightening and a testament to one of the most dominant football programs in college football history.


Give Salmons some credit for his defense

In a nutshell, the Bulls went back to looking like they might be a good team during Tuesday’s 96-87 loss to the Lakers.

While the offense sputtered to a halt in the fourth quarter, they did have plenty of good shots roll of the rim. Someone mentioned that the Bulls went cold in the fourth, but cold has been their natural state this season. They actually got hot early in the game, then returned to normal.

Even after Kobe Bryant and his broken finger scored 42 points on Tuesday, I think John Salmons deserves some credit. He hasn’t been the scorer the Bulls expected this season, but he’s been pretty good on defense.

It seemed like he was doing a nice job on Bryant, but got into quick foul trouble by jumping at a couple of pump fakes in the first half. Once the smaller Kirk Hinrich came into the game, Bryant attacked like a rabid reindeer, knocking down 8 jumpers in just 3 ½ minutes.

Checking the play-by-play, it appeared that Salmons and Hinrich each spent about 20 minutes guarding Bryant. The Lakers star scored 14 of his points and committed 6 of his 8 turnovers while Salmons was in the game. Salmons scored just 2 points himself, so I guess the lesson is stay out of foul trouble.


Photos From "The U" Premier

Lamar Miller, Mike James and AJ Highsmith

Click here to read our review of “The U” Documentary.

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proCanes Stats from Week 14 of NFL U

Andre Johnson: 11 catches 193 yards 2 TDs

Vince Wilfork: 5 tackles, 2 solo tackles

Brandon Meriweather: 4 tackles, 3 solo tackles, 1 pass deflection

Jeremy Shockey: 4 catches 46 yards

Jonathan Vilma: 7 solo tackles, 1 pass deflection, 1 INT returned 11 yards

Santana Moss: 4 catches 58 yards


Rocky McIntosh: 6 tackles, 5 solo tackles

Calais Campbell: 5 tackles, 4 solo tackles, 1 sack

Antrel Rolle: 3 tackles, 2 solo tackles, 1 pass deflection

Kelly Jennings: 1 solo tackle

Frank Gore: 25 carries 167 yards, 1 TD, 2 catches 10 yards

Kellen Winslow: 4 catches for 26 yards

Roscoe Parrish: Played but did not record any statistics

Greg Olsen: 2 catches, 14 yards


Darrell McClover: Played but did not record any statistics

Willis McGahee: 12 carries, 76 yards, 2 TDs, 1 catch 2 yards

Ray Lewis: 9 tackles, 5 solo tackles, 1 pass deflection


Tavares Gooden: 6 tackles, 5 solo tackles

DJ Williams: 8 solo tackles,

Sinorice Moss: Was not active in Week 13

Jeff Feagles: 3 punts for 115 yards with a 38.3-yard average and 1 punt inside the 20-yard line

Bruce Johnson: 5 tackles, 3 solo tackles

Reggie Wayne: 4 catches 43 yards

Jon Beason: 16 tackles, 9 solo tackles, 2 tackles for loss

Damione Lewis: 8 tackles, 5 solo tackles, 1 tackle for loss

Phillip Buchanon: 3 solo tackles, 1 pass deflection

Antonio Dixon: 2 solo tackles

Spencer Adkins: 1 solo tackle

Orien Harris: 2 solo tackles

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49ers get back to Gore at right time

Fantasy owners have been waiting for a game like this from Frank Gore for quite a while. And Gore picked the perfect time, i.e. the first week in the fantasy playoffs, to come alive with 25 carries for 167 yards and a touchdown in San Francisco's 24-9 win over Arizona.

Gore had become the forgotten man in the 49ers' offense as coordinator Jimmy Raye switched to a pass-heavy scheme that featured spread formations in order to help Alex Smith succeed. The plan revived Smith's career and helped make tight end Vernon Davis one of the fantasy surprises of the season, but the 49ers weren't winning and Gore wasn't producing.

Twenty-five rushing attempts in a game? Gore got that many carries over the past two contests. And he had just 32 carries over the past three games.

But the 49ers returned to their bread-and-butter and now Gore is alive and well for the fantasy playoffs. Trouble is he'll have a tough matchup next week in Philadelphia when the 49ers face the Eagles' 10th-ranked run defense in a hostile enviroment.

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

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Spencer Adkins Developing

Rookie linebacker Spencer Adkins, a sixth-round pick from Miami, was active for just the second game this season on Sunday. He had a big special teams tackle on the kickoff return after the Falcons tied the game 23-23.

"It's been a learning process," Adkins said. "Everyday I learn and get better."

Adkins has spent most of his practice time at strongside linebacker.

"But coach informs me daily that I need to learn both outside positions," Adkins said.

He hasn't seen all of ESPN's documentary on the "The U."

"I caught the tail end of it, but I recorded it," Adkins said. "When I go home today, I'm going to watch the whole thing."


Frank Gore revives 49ers offense

WELCOME back, Frank Gore.

Oh, sure, the 49ers defense did the heavy lifting, forcing seven turnovers in Monday night's 24-9 victory over the NFC West-leading Arizona Cardinals.

But Gore sure showed up, too. Remember him, the bell cow? Isn't this how coach Mike Singletary's originally designed it: Physical defense complemented by a run-oriented offense?

For one game, it worked wonderfully, in a game the 49ers desperately wanted to win in front of a national audience to show they're not the frauds they've been labeled over the past two months.

While the defense offered up many heroes (see: three turnovers forced by safety Dashon Goldson, three sacks by pet-project linebacker Ahmad Brooks, solid effort by linebacker Patrick Willis), it was a welcome sight to see Gore as the offense's savior.

He had 25 carries for 167 yards, making him the NFL's Week 14 rushing leader, whatever that crown is worth when skimpy playoff hopes are still on the mind.

"I was in the zone. They let me get in the zone," Gore said. "Every back should be in the zone when they get the rock and can't be stopped. I told myself to be patient and let it happen."

Singletary told him similar words during a meeting in the coach's office this week.

"We talk a lot. He wanted me to stay focused, keep working," Gore said. "I went up to his office and he told me it would happen."

It's been awhile since something like this happened, that the 49ers could turn to Gore to boost a stagnant offense.

In the previous three games — while they transitioned into that trendy land of the spread offense — Gore vanished. He had 32 carries for 117 yards in those three games combined. He hadn't scored a touchdown since the 49ers' last prime-time game, another turnover-aided victory at home, on Nov. 12 vs. the Chicago Bears.

Needing a fourth-quarter touchdown to ice their third straight home win, the 49ers turned to Gore, over and over again. The Cardinals' sixth turnover gave the 49ers the ball at the Arizona 16-yard line, and it took four consecutive carries by Gore to reach the end zone, that coming on a 2-yard run with 9 minutes, 22 seconds remaining.

Singletary understandably glowed about his defense's effort, especially that of Brooks. So what did he think of Gore?

"He didn't get loose like he wanted to, but he was very effective," Singletary responded. "He got yards when he needed to get yards.

"It was good to see him smiling about the way he contributed."

Gore did break loose for two long runs in the first half, charging up the middle for 36 and 31 yards. He had 13 carries and 104 yards at halftime, and the 49ers had a 17-0 lead.

You'd think the 49ers should have had more than just a 17-0 lead at halftime. But they've never scored more than 17 points in a first half this season, and they'd never led by 17 at halftime, either.

Reflect back to that win over the Bears and you'll see the 49ers won 10-6 after intercepting Jay Cutler five times. It should be no surprise then, that the 49ers offense still isn't a high-scoring, fast-paced machine. Nor is the defense always going to produce a zillion turnovers.

In a perfect 49ers world, quarterback Alex Smith would have capitalized more on the Cardinals' generosity and lit up the scoreboard with touchdown passes to Vernon Davis and Michael Crabtree.

Oh, wait, Davis and Crabtree did catch touchdown passes. But Smith certainly wasn't in any so-called zone. He was 19-of-35 (54 percent) for 144 yards with those two touchdown passes offset by two interceptions and too many wild throws.

These remaining three games still are more about Smith's development than Gore's renaissance.

Then again, for those huge optimists, these final games could be about debating whether the 49ers can win out (gulp, next stop: Philadelphia). And whether the Cardinals have the capacity to lose two games, including one to either the Detroit Lions or St. Louis Rams. And whether the Dallas Cowboys or New York Giants or whoever can fade fast from the wild-card hunt.

When playoff elimination does come, the talk again will return to how to end the 49ers' seven-year postseason drought.

As team president/owner Jed York said before the game, "You need a quarterback to win. (Smith) is playing well. The quarterback drives it, but you need to have the pieces around him. We're starting to get some of those pieces, like 85 (Davis), 15 (Crabtree) and 21 (Gore)."

Ah yes, No. 21. They do still have him.

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

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Lamar Thomas steps down as Boynton Beach coach

Boynton Beach boys' basketball coach Lamar Thomas announced his resignation last week, citing family issues that would have kept him away from the team.

Athletic Director Rick Swain has assumed the primary coaching duties, beginning last Friday with a loss at Fort Pierce Westwood.

"With my pride, I didn't want to step down. But both Coach Swain and I agreed that it was the best thing to do," said Thomas. "I love the kids to death, but I have a life-changing decision to make."

Thomas said an unnamed member of his immediate family was recently diagnosed with a major medical issue, and he is attempting to see if he is a matching donor for a kidney transplant. If Thomas is a donor option, the likelihood is he would be unable to continue coaching at least through this season.

"Health is very important for me and my relative, and that is my focus right now," he said.

Thomas, who played eight seasons in the NFL for the Miami Dolphins and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and who is also a former Miami Hurricane, was in his second season with an overall record of 8-16. Boynton Beach is 0-5.

He said the decision to step down was made easier knowing Swain would be taking over, as Swain was also his high school coach at Buchholz High in Gainesville, and has 426 career coaching victories.

Click here to order Lamar Thomas’ proCane Rookie Card.

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Status of Reed still unclear

Three starters in free safety Ed Reed (strained hip/foot), wide receiver Mark Clayton (right hamstring) and left tackle Jared Gaither (lower back) missed Sunday's 45-point rout of the Detroit Lions, and coach John Harbaugh was guarded about their availability for Sunday's game against the Chicago Bears.

"I would say optimistic, yeah," he said. "Not for sure. Jared’s got some lower back tightness. He can go. It’s just a matter of how effective he can be. Mark, probably as the week goes on, we’ll have to see how much he can move around on that thing. I know he’s a lot better today than he was last week. And Ed, same thing. He’s going to have to get out there and practice and get a feel for it. It’ll be up to him. So I’d put Ed and Mark kind of in the same category."

Click here to order Ed Reed’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Astros re-sign Michaels

Jason Michaels re-signed with the Astros on Monday, giving manager Brad Mills a backup outfielder, a righthanded bat off the bench and another veteran voice in a clubhouse that has lost some leaders.

“He was in the minor leagues when I was in Philadelphia, and he was highly thought of,” Mills said of Michaels. “His reputation in baseball is very solid as being a very solid clubhouse presence and a solid player.”

Michaels, 33, picked it up toward the end of the 2009 season with the Astros, hitting .308 with a .400 on-base percentage in his final 51 games to finish with a .237 average, four home runs and 16 RBIs. A dozen of his 18 starts in 2009 were in center field, with four coming in place of Carlos Lee in left field and two in right for Hunter Pence.

“He is a solid guy,” general manager Ed Wade said of Michaels. “We’ve lost some guys through free agency, and the leadership element is important.”

Michaels is a career .269 hitter with 49 home runs and 263 RBIs since breaking in with the Phillies in 2001.
The Astros also added lefthander Gustavo Chacin, 29, to a minor league deal with a spring training invitation. Chacin spent 2009 in the Phillies system.

With Michaels’ addition, the Astros have 40 players on their 40-man roster.

Click here to order Jason Michael’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Photos From "The U" Premier

Tolbert Bain, Lamar Miller, Mike James, AJ Highsmith and Brian Blades

Click here to read our review of “The U” Documentary.

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proCanes Extend TD Streak to 119 Regular Season Weeks

Did you know that a former Miami Hurricane/current proCane has scored at least one touchdown in 119 consecutive regular season NFL weeks? Dating back to Week 15 of the 2002 season where Clinton Portis scored 4 TDs, at least one proCane has scored a TD in each regular season week since then. We have chronicled every touchdown since 2002. See below:

Week 14 2009:
Andre Johnson - 2 TDs - Houston Texans
Willis McGahee - 2 TDs - Baltimore Ravens
Frank Gore - 1 TD - San Francisco 49ers

Week 13 2009:
Andre Johnson - 1TD - Houston Texans
Willis McGahee - 1 TD - Baltimore Ravens

Week 12 2009:
Frank Gore - 1 TD - San Francisco 49ers
Reggie Wayne - 1 TD - Indianapolis Colts
Santana Moss - 1 TD - Washington Redskins
Willis McGahee - 1 TD - Baltimore Ravens

Week 11 2009:
Frank Gore - 1 TD - San Francisco 49ers
Andre Johnson - 1TD - Houston Texans

Week 10 2009:
Frank Gore - 1 TD - San Francisco 49ers
Reggie Wayne - 2 TDs - Indianapolis Colts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click below to see the rest of the list:

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D.J. positive part of defense's soft first-half effort

INDIANAPOLIS — For most of the first half, Broncos defenders played as if trudging through mud, not on the hard, fast artificial surface inside Lucas Oil Stadium.

The speedy exception on the Broncos' defense was inside linebacker D.J. Williams.

He made seven unassisted tackles against the Indianapolis Colts in the first half. Tackles? Williams was a series of head-whams, body-bends and shoulder-pops. He covered tight ends and slot receivers 15 yards downfield.
Yet the Broncos fell behind 21-0 before everybody got up to speed.

"I don't know if we were too tense early in the game, but it took us a while to cool down and play the type of defense we're capable of playing," Williams said. "Maybe we were worried about big plays, but they really didn't go deep on us."

Click here to order DJ Williams’ proCane Rookie Card.

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Sinorice Moss wondering where he belongs in team's plans

Sinorice Moss was smiling as he gathered his belongings at his locker the other day. Smiling outside, even if he was brimming with disappointment inside.

“You’ll always see a smile on my face,” the Giants’ wide receiver said. “I feel great. My life is great. I woke up this morning.”

And then, like he has every other in-season day during his time with the Giants, Moss went to work, hit the practice field, made a few catches and went back inside to wonder why he’s not a bigger part of the team’s game plans, such as the one for Sunday night’s matchup with the Eagles. Moss was among the Giants’ inactives – the fifth straight game he hasn’t dressed.

“I’ve shown numerous times what I’m capable of doing to this organization, to this team, to my teammates each and every day,” Moss said. “(The lack of playing time) is something I don’t understand and it’s something I probably won’t get the opportunity to understand, but I have to go out there each and every day and do what I have to do to better myself as a professional athlete.”

Moss is four years into his professional career and could conceivably have many more seasons in the NFL yet to play. But the first part of the former second-round pick’s career has been very disappointing.

Moss has 39 catches for 421 yards and three touchdowns in his career – an underwhelming collection of stats that’s been aided by only one reception this season. It was an 18-yard touchdown catch late in the blowout victory over the Buccaneers in Week 3.

Other than that pass, Moss has been practically invisible on the field this year. He’s seen only two other passes come his way and both of them were incompletions in the Week 8 loss in Philly. On one of them, he was open on a deep post up the middle, but Eli Manning overthrew the 5-8 receiver.

“It’s very tough to get in a rhythm,” Moss said. “With repetition, that’s how you build confidence. With anything you do, with any player. You get a certain amount of reps, you build confidence to know that, ‘Okay, I’m capable of doing whatever.’ ”

Moss’ uncertainty extends beyond this current season because he’s in the final year of his rookie contract. That means he’ll be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. But like all prospective undrafted free agents with only four or five years’ experience, Moss will be a restricted free agent if the owners and the union don’t agree to an extension of the collective bargaining agreement.

The Giants would likely have to make only a low tender to retain Moss’ rights.

“It’s a lot of uncertainty, but I try not to think about that,” said Moss, who added: “I would love to be here. This is where my heart is. I ride and die for the New York Giants. Anybody can tell you how much passion I have for this team and the organization.”

An organization he might have been close to leaving before a two-touchdown performance in the preseason finale against the Patriots. Four months later, Moss appears to be in a precarious spot once again.

“But with the opportunities I got in certain games, I made the best of them,” Moss said. “Whether it’s catching the balls or scoring touchdowns, I made the best of them.”

Click here to order Sinorice Moss’ proCane Rookie Card.

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Winslow Leads Buccaneers With Four Receptions

TAMPA | Tight end Kellen Winslow was the leading receiver with four catches for 26 yards. It was the 10th time he has led or tied for the team lead this season.

His 62 catches for the season are twice as many as the Bucs' second-leading receiver WR Antonio Bryant, who has 29 after his two-catch game Sunday.

Winslow tied the season record for catches by a tight end with TE Jackie Harris, who had 62 in 1995. Winslow ranks fourth with 659 yards, 127 shy of TE Jimmie Giles' single-season mark set in 1981.

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

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Wilfork Suffers A Foot Injury

Vince Wilfork left the game in the first half with a foot injury and his return was listed as questionable. He made a brief appearance in the third quarter before reinjuring his foot.

It was undetermined which play Wilfork had originally injured his foot.

He left the field on his own power dejected, tossing his helmet to the ground, heading straight for the locker room. He was again listed as questionable.

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

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Vilma: 'Put it on our shoulders ... and we'll take care of it'

ATLANTA -- Jonathan Vilma turned in the two biggest defensive plays of the game Sunday, helping the Saints move to 13-0 with a 26-23 victory against the Falcons. With 3:55 left, Vilma picked off Chris Redman's attempt to hit Roddy White over the middle. With 1:18 left, Vilma stopped Jason Snelling for a 1-yard gain on a fourth-and-2 pass play, ending Atlanta's hopes of an upset. Vilma spoke with Sporting News' Ryan Fagan and other reporters after the game.

Question: Most of the talk about the Saints this year has been about the offense. But you guys on defense got a chance to make the big plays today. How good did it feel to close them out?
Jonathan Vilma: We've been saying that since OTAs. Just put it on our shoulders in the fourth quarter and we'll take care of it.

Q: On that fourth-and-2 play with Snelling, did you know you had him short of the first down when you hit him?
JV: No. I just made sure that I stopped him right there. I didn't want to let him get any extra yardage.

Q: Is there any concern because maybe you guys aren't blowing people out like you did earlier in the year?
JV: No. Why would there be concern? We're 13-0 and have wrapped up at least the No. 2 seed in the conference. Why would there be concern about that?

Q: No worry about the close games?
JV: That's the first thing people are going to ask you -- did you win or lose? That's the most important thing.

Q: Can you talk about the interception in the fourth quarter?
JV: It was the same play that had burned us earlier in the game. We said if we saw it again, we would make adjustments. I was able to break on it and make a play.

Q: What's the biggest difference for the defense between this year and last year?
JV: Turnovers have been huge. Last year, we were maybe middle of the pack in turnovers, and this year we are first. Last year, we were 0-5 in games that were decided by three points or less and this year we are undefeated.

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

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Andre Johnson Week 14 Stud

Andre Johnson/Matt Schaub: Johnson caught a 64-yard touchdown pass from Schaub on the first play from scrimmage against Seattle. The Texans' duo did a lot more after that. Johnson had a season-high 193 yards receiving and two touchdowns, and Schaub passed for 365 yards (336 before halftime) and two touchdowns to lead Houston to a 34-7 win over the Seahawks.

Click here to order Andre Johnson’s proCane Rookie Card.

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McGahee Nets 50th Career TD

With a comfortable lead, the Ravens decided to go nearly exclusively to the run as the third quarter wound down. 

And the scaled-back attack continued to work.  Baltimore shoved the ball down the Lions’ throats with a steady dose of Willis McGahee and a mauling offensive line to take a 41-3 lead.

McGahee reeled off a 20-yard run to start the Ravens’ last series of the third quarter, then ended it with a 16-yard touchdown run.

It was McGahee’s 50th-career touchdown, and the Ravens’ fourth of the day set a franchise record for the most rushing touchdown in a single game.

Click here to order Willis McGahee’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Antonio Dixon soars in the face of stuttering and other challenges

As if stuttering wasn’t a great enough challenge, Philadelphia Eagles defensive tackle Antonio Dixon grew up facing homelessness, dyslexia, illiteracy, and a father in prison. His story is an inspiration not just for those who stutter, but for anyone who faces seemingly impossible odds.

Did you ever feel nervous starting a new school? Antonio attended over a dozen elementary schools. He stutters when he’s nervous, so he constantly dealt with being the new kid who stutters. To this day, when Antonio stutters, he slaps himself in the chest or arm to get the words out (AIS does not recommend this technique).

Antonio could have crumpled under the weight of so many burdens. Instead, he fought and persevered. After attending various elementary and middle schools, he attended one high school, where he flourished. He entered high school barely literate, but he learned to read and excelled in class and on the football field.

He graduated, played for the University of Miami and then, after a brief stint with the Washington Redskins, signed with the Philadelphia Eagles as a rookie free agent. He’s played in 11 games this year. NFL scouts believe that with training, his size and speed could make him a dominant force in the league for years to come.

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Q&A with Ravens' Ray Lewis

Editor's note: Ray Lewis spoke with The Baltimore Sun about the Ravens' problems on the field and his life off it. The Pro Bowl linebacker discussed his weekly training sessions with the Baltimore Police Department, and his relationship with Steve McNair's mother. Lewis also addressed the team's focus for today's game against the Detroit Lions (2-10), the reason for the team's penalties and why he is convinced that the Ravens (6-6) will make the playoffs.

Question: The Ravens, who are 13 1/2 -point favorites over the Detroit Lions today, have a 7-1 record under coach John Harbaugh in games in which they are favored by at least seven points. What makes the Ravens so focused that they rarely overlook teams?
Answer: We have a great veteran presence that keeps everyone focused on the week-to-week. The thing I always preach is this is the National Football League. I don't care what Sunday it is, you can be beat. So, forget people's records. You'd better come out and play football.

As you've seen, the Oakland Raiders beat Pittsburgh and the Dolphins came back to beat New England. That's the thing we get. Every week, we come in and we prepare. We prepare the same way for whoever is supposed to be good and whoever is supposed to be bad.

Q: The Ravens' defense has bounced back after the bye and now ranks 10th in the NFL. But the Ravens have the seventh-fewest sacks in the NFL, recording one in their past three games. What's wrong with the pass rush?
A: Anytime you take a Terrell Suggs out and you start to mix and match people to put them in different places, it changes the scheme. But you can see some things when you look at what Antwan Barnes did last week coming off the ball and what Paul Kruger did against Pittsburgh.

You look at our defense, and you say that it's not the same anymore. You got to realize - we have a lot of rookies and second-year guys in a lot of places. That's the transition. You have to keep pushing forward to get these young guys to understand that you've got to be next man up.

Q: The Ravens have hurt themselves this season with slow starts, getting outscored 82-29 in the first half in their six losses. What's wrong with the Ravens in the first half this season?

A: Of course, everything is obvious. You can't spot people in the NFL. You've got to keep the game close. You can't make the crucial turnover in the red zone. You can't make the crucial penalty on third down. Those are the things that have hurt us in the first half.

You can come out in the second half, and maybe have all of those things corrected, but there are only 30 minutes left in the half. That's the thing we have to improve on offensively first to make sure these things don't happen, but defensively as well, too.

Q: The Ravens are once again one of the most penalized teams in the NFL, ranking second in penalties (90) and penalty yards (868). Do the Ravens have a bad reputation with officials?
A: You can say that. I don't want to make a big deal out of it. When you watch film, sometimes you look at yourself and say, "Huh?" You got on a helmet and shoulder pads and just wish the refs would say, "It is football, and it ain't basketball." A touch foul ain't a touch foul. If somebody's hand touches another, you've got to let that play out.

When you see a lot of people arguing this across the league, it's because receivers are becoming such great actors. If somebody is stopping your progress, yeah. But if you're playing in the schoolyard, you'd never get that call. That's the way football has always been taught. If you're in the schoolyard, you'd better make a play. You can't cry about it and try to get a flag. It's frustrating at times, but you've got to keep playing, too.

Q: Joe Flacco has taken some criticism recently for his play, especially after throwing three interceptions Monday at Green Bay. What's your level of faith in Flacco?
A: You never judge a person if they're going through their downs because you always stick with them when they're going through their ups. I always tell Joe, "Keep playing football." If you stay in this business long enough, you're going to have some bad games and you're going to have some bad seasons.

The important thing is: Do you prepare the same? Does your passion leave the game because you're not having the success you want? Or do you work harder or study more? That's the kind of things that I emphasize to Joe and Ray Rice. Keep loving the game.

Q: This season, you have become a personal trainer for the Baltimore City Police. Every Tuesday (your one day off), you put police officers through a scaled-down version of your workout routine, from jumping rope to sit-ups to ladder drills. Why did you decide to do something like this?
A: I honestly think it's one of the greatest things ever to interact with people always trying to make a difference. They're like the soldiers overseas. They sacrifice their lives. Through my experience of training them, that's a stress relief. They come in there, and we really get a mind, body and spirit experience. We pray before and after. You can see the enlightenment of the stress leaving them. Sometimes, they don't like me pushing them, but they get over it. (laughs).

Q: Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs has had a restraining order issued against him and now is getting sued for $70 million for alleged physical abuse of a woman who says she is the mother of his two children. Have you talked to Suggs about his situation?
A: I did tell him that no matter what, just know you have people like me always in your corner and always praying for you. We all find ourselves going through things, whatever they are. But you have to know that nobody wants you to get into trouble.

I told him today, "You're truly missed out on that football field." A lot of times people don't realize how frustrating it is when you're hurt [Suggs has a knee injury] and you really want to be out there helping your team. I've told him, "Just make sure you don't keep it to yourself." When you do that, it ruins who we are as people. That's my lesson to him.

Q: After the murder of your teammate and close friend Steve McNair in July, you have bonded with his mother, calling her before every game. Describe your relationship with her.
A: We talk every other day. You've got to understand you can only replace a son with a son. For her, she goes through a lot. She calls me sometimes, "Son, I'm going through it." I tell her, "Ma, it's OK. Just keep fighting. I'm here." Most of the time when I call her, I make her laugh as a son. I crack so many old-school jokes. Even that's a harsh reality, too. I talk to her every Sunday morning, you hear her say, "I'm going through it." Of course, I was thinking about the game and this is about life.

Q: With a 6-6 record, what convinces you that the Ravens are a playoff team?
A: It's always been the same thing: We're grinders. If it's going to come, it's going to come late, as it's always been around here. We've had a couple of seasons where we started out 4-0 here or there, but the bottom line is every year I've been around here, our best football probably came in the latter part of the year. Here we go again. Nothing is out of the picture. You look at the whole AFC picture, everything is right there.

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Irvin would trade in three Cowboys Super Bowls for one perfect season

Perfect season or bust, says Hall of Famer Michael Irvin.

The former Cowboys receiver who won three Super Bowls in Dallas said Sunday he would trade in his championships and his spot in the Hall of Fame for a perfect, 19-0 season.

Irvin, an NFL Network analyst, said this on NFL GameDay Morning:

"I would turn in all three Super Bowl rings and my Hall of Fame bust for one undefeated season."

Irvin helped the Cowboys to wins in Super Bowl XXVII, XXVIII and XXX. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2007.

The Colts have said they intend to rest their starters down the stretch after they secure home-field advantage. Saints coach Sean Payton said after reaching 12-0 that he would try to fulfill the potential of a 19-0 season.

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Wayne anything but brash

What’s nice about Reggie Wayne is there’s never a sniff of trouble from him.

No sombreros on the sideline. No sharpie in the socks. No sit-ups in the driveway. No sulking during practice. No demands of a trade, arguments with the coach, getting in the face of the quarterback or yelling at fans.

Sure, he jokily put on a hardhat and vest for his training-camp arrival last summer, to signify his desire to lead the Colts’ rebuilding project, but that was hardly harmful and he hasn’t made a peep of panache since.

It’s refreshing that one of the NFL’s marquee receivers – the one with arguably the best hands – can be so good while being uncontroversial.

This isn’t to say Wayne is boring. He’s anything but. He has fun during interviews, clearly enjoys the game and exudes cool.

But when it comes to playing football, he’s only about playing football, not being a showman, and that’s why he’s been so important to the Colts.

First of all, he’s productive. He’s tied for second in the NFL with 83 receptions. He’s fifth with 1,035 yards. His nine touchdowns are tied for third.

Almost more importantly, Wayne’s abilities have forced opposing teams to focus so much attention on him that it’s opened things up for Dallas Clark, Pierre Garcon and Austin Collie.

“That’s the beauty of it,” said Wayne, who learned the lesson of monopolizing coverage from former teammate Marvin Harrison.

“I can go to Peyton (Manning) on the sidelines and say, ‘You know what? They’ve been doubling me on certain plays.’ So, Peyton will send me on a nine-route just for the fun of it, and I’ll take two guys out of the picture. I do what I can. If I’m running a decoy route to get an extra guy out of the picture, then that’s what I have to do. That should be a positive for us. That’s how it goes.”

Heading into today’s game against Denver (8-4), the Colts are 12-0 and riding a 21-game regular-season winning streak, tied for the longest in NFL history. Yet Wayne’s production the last two weeks has been sparse. He has seven receptions for 67 yards and one touchdown in that span.

Think he cares? Think Randy Moss, Chad Ochocinco or Brandon Marshall would?

“You just stay focused and play ball. At some point in time, they’re going to call my name,” said Wayne, a three-time Pro Bowler in his ninth season out of Miami. “If you mope and complain and things of that nature, you’re not going to be ready for your opportunity.”

It’s too bad more wide receivers – the diva position in sports – aren’t as altruistic. But unselfishness is what has helped the Colts so much this season. Joseph Addai didn’t complain when Donald Brown was drafted. Tony Ugoh has taken his demotion from starting left tackle in stride. Kelvin Hayden didn’t mind playing second fiddle to rookie cornerbacks last week.

Wayne has led by example, instead of being an example of what’s wrong with so many receivers these days.

“He is a guy that understands what hard work is all about. I think he had that kind of work ethic before he arrived,” Colts coach Jim Caldwell said. “The guys all down there at the University of Miami all talk about Reggie Wayne’s work habits. They are legendary. He has not ceased that type of effort and commitment to excellence. … All I see is the same guy we saw when we first walked in the building. He is very, very effective with excellent hands. He is an all-around football player that loves the game.”

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Parrish says confidence isn’t lacking

ORCHARD PARK — Roscoe Parrish was the league’s most dynamic punt returner in 2007 and 2008, but thus far in 2009 all he’s been is a dud.

After leading the NFL in each of the previous two seasons with averages of 16.3 and 15.3, respectively, Parrish has dipped all the way to 5.3 yards per return this year, 24th in the league.

Parrish fell out of favor with former coach Dick Jauron after a terrible decision that resulted in a late-game fumble that enabled woeful Cleveland to beat the Bills in October.

Since Jauron’s firing, Parrish is back deep on punts, but he hasn’t made an impact and it appears he is suffering from a crisis in confidence.

However, special teams coach Bobby April argues that Parrish’s main problem has been the opposing team’s punters are neutralizing him.

“The one thing that you have the least control over in terms of getting good results is the punt return,” said April. “Since he’s been back we’ve faced some guys who have really hung the ball up and kicked it shorter.

“Whenever there’s space those guys can get creative, but when he doesn’t have space, it’s hard to be creative.”
Parrish agreed with his coach, and said that he’s not suffering from a slump or a lack of confidence.

“I’ve been catching the ball and guys have been right there, so I have to make smart decisions and fair catch and try to put the offense in a good position,” he said. “Hopefully, that big one is coming.”

Since he turned pro in 2004 Parrish has 26 punt returns of at least 20 yards, tied with Chicago’s Devin Hester for the most in the league.

His 12.56 career average ranks third in NFL history, and he is the Bills’ all-time leader in yards, yet Jauron felt it prudent to bench him after the mistake against Cleveland.

“It was very tough, but I looked past that and tried to get into the game mentally,” Parrish said. “I … didn’t let it take advantage of me.

“I just did what I needed to do to be ready. You can’t mope around because your opportunity might come back again and you won’t be able to seize that moment.”

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Salmons: 'I just can't get it going'

Late Saturday night, John Salmons talked inside the Bulls' locker room in his typically thoughtful and ponderous manner.

He shared how earlier that day he had told Randy Brown, the Bulls' director of player development, that Saturday marked the first time Salmons had looked at his statistics.

"Everything is down," Salmons said. "It's not just 3-pointers. Even my free throws are down. I don't know. I just can't get it going."

The list of the Bulls' offensive problems is long. They have no stretch-the-floor shooters. They're getting little bench production. At times, they struggle completing simple perimeter passes.

That's why they rank 28th in scoring, 29th in shooting, 28th in 3-point shooting and 29th in 3-point attempts. High on that list are Salmons' struggles. It's like he's shooting upstream.

After a breakthrough season in which he averaged 18.3 points on 47.2 percent shooting, including 41.7 percent from 3-point range, Salmons is averaging 13.8 points and shooting 38.5 percent.

That percentage drops to 32.7 percent from beyond the arc, which is magnified because, with 98 attempts, Salmons is by far the leader on a team with little 3-point presence.

This has contributed to a lack of proper spacing and limited Derrick Rose's penetration and effectiveness.

"Having 3-point shooters spreads the court and opens the lanes up more," Salmons said. "But that's the makeup of our team. It's something we have to fight through. We can't worry about not making threes. We have to be true to our team and use what we have."

Twice last week, players refused to take the bait when asked about the offensive sets and play-calling.

Rose, when asked, did offer he operated more in isolation while in college at Memphis but said he still feels he gets enough opportunities now. Luol Deng merely said this: "We execute what's out there."

But the fact remains that without a true 3-point specialist or post presence, the Bulls lack offensive options.

"We don't take a lot of threes," coach Vinny Del Negro said. "That's not the way we're built right now. It doesn't stretch the defense when you're not able to make threes. So it makes it harder.

"You just try to do things to compensate for that by being more efficient. It puts more pressure on your ballhandling and decision-making. When you're not effective offensively, it affects your defensive transition."

Salmons was supposed to make fans forget Ben Gordon, who remains out for Detroit with a badly sprained ankle he tried to return from Dec. 2 against the Bulls. Gordon is averaging 18.7 points on 44.7 percent shooting, 35.1 percent on 3-pointers.

Salmons does offer more positional size and has defended well at times. But his dribble-drive approach hasn't always meshed with Rose, and he has struggled handling more defensive attention.

"I just have to keep working at it, get my extra shots up," Salmons said. "It's a long season."

Given that watching the Bulls' anemic offensive performances is akin to root canal surgery, Salmons is right on target.