Photos of the Week - Photos From Quadtrine Hill's Pro Boxing Debut

Quadtrine Hill won his professional boxing debut last night at the Seminole Hard Rock Casino in Hollywood, FL on February 15. Hill, a southpaw, hit Vashawn Tomlin with a quick right uppercut that sent him to the canvas. Shortly afterward Hill put Tomlin down for good at the 1:50 mark of the first round.

Bookmark and Share

Glenn Sharpe Signed To a Reserve/Future Contract

The New Orleans Saints have signed three more players to "Reserve/Futures" contracts for the 2010 season.

Signed on Thursday were offensive tackle Na'Shan Goddard, defensive tackle Earl Heyman, and cornerback Glenn Sharpe. Sharpe's contract had expired on Thursday but then was immediately renewed by the Saints. All three finished the 2009 season on the Saints' practice squad.

Bookmark and Share

Ravens committed to keeping McGahee

FL Network's Jason LaCanfora reports the Ravens are committed to keeping Willis McGahee despite his $3.6 million salary in 2010.

The Ravens want to keep McGahee around as insurance for -- and a complement to -- Ray Rice. The 28-year-old flourished in the backup role, averaging 5.0 YPC with a career-high 14 combined TDs. McGahee will likely remain the top choice at the goal-line, limiting Rice's fantasy ceiling in 2010. Rice still merits a Top-5 fantasy selection, especially in PPR leagues.

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

Bookmark and Share

DJ Williams may be asked to testify

Broncos stars Brandon Marshall, Elvis Dumervil and D.J. Williams could be called to testify for the defense in the murder trial of Willie Clark, the man accused of killing Broncos cornerback Darrent Williams on Jan. 1, 2007.

Jury selection for Clark's trial is scheduled for Monday, with the trial expected to begin Tuesday. The trial likely will last at least two weeks.
The three current Broncos are among 61 names on the witness list provided to Denver District Court by defense attorney Abraham Hutt. Four former Broncos — Javon Walker, Karl Paymah, Nate Webster and Demetrin Veal — also could be called to testify. All were Darrent Williams' teammates during the 2006 season.

Judge Christina Habas will not allow NFL players who testify to wear any sort of championship rings on the witness stand, and no one in the courtroom will be allowed to wear team jerseys or other paraphernalia.

Darrent Williams, 24, was killed after an altercation at a New Year's Eve party at a Denver nightclub. The limo in which Williams and others, including Walker, were riding was sprayed with bullets on Speer Boulevard near downtown. Williams died from a bullet wound to the neck.

Clark has told The Denver Post he is innocent.

Click here to order DJ Williams' proCane Rookie Card.

Bookmark and Share

New Orleans Saints: Vilma

The Saints defense is in good hands with a captain like Jonathan Vilma leading the way. Here are the defensive captain and Pro Bowler's recollections of the Saints' Super Bowl XLIV victory:

Q: What does winning the Super Bowl mean to the city of New Orleans? A: The win for us is great and exciting. It truly is. But words can't describe what it means to be a champion for the city of New Orleans. The Saints are Super Bowl champions and the city of New Orleans is a Super Bowl champion. I'm so happy we could bring the championship to the city.

Q: How  about the Saints defense in the game? A: We did a great job. This is what we worked for all year. We went out there and showed we belonged.  It was a great job by our entire defense. I can't thank our coaches enough. They did a great job getting us ready.

Q: What did you think when former Colts coach predicted the Colts would blow out the Saints? A: I didn't watch SportsCenter, NFL Network or any of that. A blowout? That didn't happen..

Q: The defense's reaction to Tracy Porter's interception? A: We wanted to be excited at that point, but we remember watching the New England game. We watched that on film. They were up by two scores with minimal times on the clock and Indy was able to pull it out and win the game. We were happy at first, excited that we got up by two scores, but we realized that we still had to keep the pressure on, especially with Peyton Manning.

Q: How did the defense limit Manning's production? A: That’ what we want to do to all quarterbacks, we try to limit them. We know he is a great quarterback, if not one of the best quarterbacks. We understand that he is ingrate make those plays. He is going to make tight throws and get the ball downfield, but we want to go out and keep the pressure on him.

Q: Did the defense switch schemes in the second half? A: We really didn't switch too  much. We started getting a little more aggressive in the fourth quarter. That is what we did all year, be aggressive and get after the quarterback,  We felt like if we were gong to win the game or lose the game, whichever one happened, we were going to play that way.

Q: Hoe was it having Tracy Porter and Jabari Greer back at the corners? A: With them in the game, we are a better defense. There's no doubt it. With them healthy, we are a great defense. They came out and have been healthy throughout the playoffs and it’s been great for us.

Q: It appeared that the defense got tougher in the last quarter? A: That's what we've been doing. We've always said we wee going to blitz in the fourth quarter.  We want to get in there and play our defense. If they score, so be it, but we are not going to back down to anybody. We're going to play tough defense.

Q: How about the goal line standing fourth quarter? A: The key was really playing to execute. We didn't do anything magical down there, we just executed.

Q: How do you feel about being voted captain of the defense? A: Being captain comes natural. It's what I  do. I'm glad my teammates voted me captain. It comes with q lot of responsibility. I'm responsible for getting the defense into the right checks, making plays to the ball.

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

Bookmark and Share

What about Reggie Wayne?

QUESTION: How come nobody is talking about Reggie Wayne's "absence'' from the Super Bowl? He is my favorite Colts, but I am extremely disappointed about his play and what I perceived to be an attitude problem during the game. He was not expecting the ball on the interception nor was he expecting it on his drop at the end of the game. I was at the game and there he was, standing on the defensive side of the Colts' sideline during the second half. I never saw this from him before. By the way, it looked like Kelvin Hayden came out of the game early in the second half with a hamstring injury. -- from John Hall, New York, NY

ANSWER: I wish I could provide some insight as to Wayne's subpar game (5 catches, 46 yards). We only had a few minutes with him and other players after the game and the team provided no access to the players or coach Jim Caldwell the week after the game. Reggie was subdued after the game, which was to be expected. Like Peyton Manning, he credited Tracy Porter with making a great play on the interception. Knowing Reggie as I do, he always gives 100 percent, even when he isn't as involved as he wants to be. I have to believe the knee injury that bothered him from time to time during the season and forced him to miss part of practice prior to the Super Bowl was a factor in how he played. Nothing else makes sense considering it's Wayne we're talking about.

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

Bookmark and Share

Ball's in Jimmy Graham's Court In Draft

Miami TE Jimmy Graham's story resembles that of Antonio Gates, and even a bit Michael Oher. After a successful college basketball career, he turned to football his senior year. He said he was looking for a way to play football ever since he was adopted at 15 and sent to a Christian school with only a basketball team. Today, he very well could be exactly what the Cardinals are looking for.

University of Miami basketball star Jimmy Graham isn't a one-trick pony. Despite leading his basketball team to back-to-back postseason appearances, he traded in his sneakers for cleats. He decided to play football his senior season and is now projected as a possible third or fourth-round pick in this year's draft. Sound familiar?

Graham think so too, which is why he idolizes tight ends Antonio Gates and Tony Gonzalez.

"Those guys are my idols," Graham said. "I am really looking forward to meeting those guys and kind of picking their brains and learn a lot from them through their experiences. Antonio Gates didn’t really get the opportunity to go back to college like I did. But I would love to kind of just sit down and talk with him. But those guys are definitely my idols and hopefully I’ll be stepping in their footsteps soon.”

While Graham can't help but ride the coattails of former basketball stars turned tight ends, he has also learned how to make his own way through the process.

"I’ve truly been blessed this past year. I’ve worked my tail off, so it’s just good to see hard work kind of pay off and people giving me opportunities to show my talents."

He did just that. Graham impressed scouts and coaches at the Senior Bowl. He also impressed the media with his excitement over the whole media storm. But Graham says the most valued part of his experience down in Mobile, Ala. was what he learned from the coaching staff.

“Wow, I’ve actually learned a lot," Graham said. "Every time I step out there, I feel like I learn something new. [Tony} Sparano... kind of pulled me to the side [when] we were doing 1v1’s, and I caught a pass and I burned somebody- I don’t know who it was- but he said, 'get into it and stick em’, kind of make them think you are going one way' because I try to outrun people because I think I am faster than everybody, but he said at the next level you aren’t going to be able to do that, you have to be more technically sound. So that was pretty big.”

Other coaches have found a way to utilize Graham's basketball knowledge to develop him in the trenches.

“It’s kind of funny how every coach from college, and even NFL coaches, kind of use basketball words to tell me what to do. It’s get to 10 and just post them up, or get to the back of the end zone and just kind of grab the rebound. You can definitely tell basketball comes out a little bit. I mean as far as footwork and leaping ability and hands. I think the hands part is the biggest [because] basketball players usually have soft hands.”

It's not only Graham's basketball background that's helping him on the field, it's also the lifelong brotherhood of The U family that is behind him every step of the way.

“I had the opportunity to sit down with Ed Reed a lot. He taught me a lot of coverage and stuff. Greg Olsen called and was wishing me luck. It seems like The U family has definitely surrounded me and helped me through this process.”

With only a couple months before the NFL Draft, Graham appears to be in very good hands.

Bookmark and Share

Patriots have no rules for playing tag

This is the halfway point for Vince Wilfork, the New England Patriots and the franchise tag. There has been no movement.

It's been seven days since teams could place the tag on players, and with the Feb. 25 deadline closing in, perhaps a look at Patriots' history with the tag will provide a different lens through which to view the situation.

Adam Vinatieri had mixed results as a franchise player, signing an extension in 2002 and playing on a tender in 2005 before leaving as a free agent.

2002: The Patriots assigned the franchise tag to kicker Adam Vinatieri on the final possible day. The sides had been negotiating an extension, and using the tag gave the sides more time to work out the details. In March, the tag was removed and Vinatieri inked a three-year extension.

2003: Once again waiting until the last possible day, the Patriots assigned the franchise tag to safety Tebucky Jones. Bill Belichick said the team hoped to keep Jones, but the signing of free agent Rodney Harrison helped accelerate trade talks that led to Jones' being shipped to New Orleans for draft picks.

2005: In a replay from 2002, the Patriots waited until the final day before placing the franchise tag on Vinatieri. The sides were reportedly negotiating an extension, but it never came to fruition. Vinatieri played the season on a one-year tender, hit free agency the following offseason and signed with the Indianapolis Colts.

2007: Nowhere close to finding a middle ground, and with talks with cornerback Asante Samuel hitting a stalemate, the Patriots assigned the franchise tag six days before the deadline. At that point, the team obviously felt like there was no reason to wait. Samuels left as a free agent after the season, signing with the Philadelphia Eagles.

2009: On the first possible day, the Patriots assigned the franchise tag to quarterback Matt Cassel. The move was made quickly with the idea that the quicker Cassel signed the tender offer, the quicker a trade could be consummated, since a player without a contract can't be traded. Cassel was dealt to the Kansas City Chiefs.

With those five examples to draw from, it remains unclear which most closely aligns with Wilfork's situation.

In 2007, Asante Samuel had contentious talks in trying to get a long-term deal with New England and bolted as a free agent after one year under the tag.

While the sides are seemingly talking to each other -- which is the only way an extension can be reached -- the view from here is that the odds favor the Patriots' applying the tag by the Feb. 25 deadline, if for nothing else but to buy more time until the financial landscape dramatically changes March 5, when teams will no longer be operating under a salary cap.

So the question is whether it will be a tag-and-extend situation like Vinatieri in 2002, or a contentious tag-and-holdout situation like Samuel in 2007? And how likely is a trade?

It's hard to imagine the Patriots' not making every effort to retain Wilfork. Whether he plays in a 3-4 or 4-3 defensive alignment, Wilfork is an upper-echelon interior lineman in the mold of the Vikings' Pat Williams. When Williams started for the Buffalo Bills (2001-04), he was the nose tackle in the middle of a rock-solid 3-4 run defense; now in Minnesota, he anchors the middle of the 4-3 alignment.

That's one reason why it's a disservice to Wilfork to pigeonhole him as solely a 3-4 nose tackle. Some have suggested the benefits of the Patriots' trading Wilfork and switching to a 4-3 alignment, but regardless of such a switch, the team still would need an athletic run-stuffer in the middle. No one on the present roster is better than Wilfork in that role.

Still, as the Patriots have shown in the past, once they set a value on a player and realize that a middle ground won't be reached, they won't hesitate to move to Plan B.

If they can't lock up Wilfork, would they devote those resources toward making a serious push to sign Julius Peppers? The trickle-down effect of such a move could result in more four-man fronts, with Peppers lining up at end and likely providing a boost in an area the Patriots struggled in 2009 -- the pass rush.

Still, someone will have to fill that big hole in the middle, whether it's the 4-3 or the 3-4.

Could second-year player Ron Brace make a big leap? The returns from his rookie season weren't overly promising.

Or maybe Myron Pryor will continue his ascent; the 2009 sixth-round draft choice was used mostly in sub situations as a rusher. If not one of those two, perhaps a draft pick like Tennessee's Dan Williams, if he's available with the 22nd selection in the first round, could fill that role.
The free-agent market doesn't figure to provide any quick fixes, and filling the spot with a trade, as the Patriots did in 2003 in acquiring Ted Washington, is tougher now because more than one-third of NFL teams are running some version of the 3-4.

That's why, when looking at the Wilfork situation from all angles, it's hard to imagine the Patriots wouldn't want him back. As always, the question will come down to this: at what cost?

The answer to that question, coupled with Wilfork's own financial desires, will ultimately determine where things head.

As 2002 showed with Vinatieri, being assigned the franchise tag can still result in a happy ending between the sides. Then again, as 2007 showed with Samuel, it can also get nasty.

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

Bookmark and Share

Lance Hurdle Update

Lance Hurdle is currently playing in the NBA D-League for the Idaho Stampede after starting out with the Bakersfield Jam. Lance is averaging 23.7 minutes per game with the Stampede and over 9 points per game. Lance has started one game for the Stampede and is shooting 62.5% from 3-point land.

Bookmark and Share

Skiles: Salmons could start at shooting guard

Coach Scott Skiles said that he hopes newly acquired John Salmons can be available for Friday's game against the Pistons, and that if so he could start at shooting guard.

It makes sense that he gets decent minutes, but this is Skiles we're talking about here. In the same interview he said, "I don't think there's anything spectacular about his game," which in context was actually a compliment, we think. Either way, his five-game week next week is a good time to try him out.

Bookmark and Share

Bucks deal 2 players to Bulls for G Salmons

MILWAUKEE (AP) -Milwaukee Bucks general manager John Hammond wanted to add another scoring threat to take some of the pressure off of rookie Brandon Jennings, even if it meant helping a division rival clear salary cap space to go shopping in free agency this summer.

Hammond sent forwards Hakim Warrick and Joe Alexander - and, more important, their expiring contracts - to the Chicago Bulls in exchange for guard John Salmons on Thursday, adding a veteran player who showed he can be counted on to score in a playoff series against Boston last year.

That's something the Bucks could use right now.

"We have had issues at times, especially starting games - how can we find ways to score points if by chance Andrew (Bogut) isn't scoring early or Brandon's not having the chance to hit some early shots,'' Hammond said. "We've had difficulty. And once again, I think John's the kind of player that's proven he can score.''

The Bucks also obtained the Bulls' second-round picks in 2011 and 2012, along with the option to switch first-round picks in the 2010 draft - provided that Chicago's pick isn't in the top 10.

Hammond then made another move before Thursday's deadline, sending rookie guard Jodie Meeks and center Francisco Elson to Philadelphia for Royal Ivey, center Primoz Brezec and a second-round pick in the 2010 draft.

It will be Ivey's second stint in Milwaukee, having played in a career-high 75 games - including 20 starts - and averaging 5.6 points per game in the 2007-08 season.

Hammond said the 76ers expressed an interest in Meeks almost immediately after Milwaukee took him in the second round of last year's draft.

"I can tell you that when we drafted Jodie, the Sixers were a team that called us maybe 10 minutes after that pick,'' Hammond said. "So they've liked him, they've coveted him. So he's in a place where he, I think, has a chance to be successful.''

But the Bucks' main target was Salmons, who averaged just over 12 points in 51 games for the Bulls this season. He is scheduled to make $5.8 million next season if he doesn't opt out of his contract.

"We would love to have him here for two more years, and think that he could be really a very good asset to our team,'' Hammond said. "We need some more scoring, and he's a proven scorer in this league.''

Salmons averaged 18.3 points per game in stints with Sacramento and Chicago last season, and made his mark in the Bulls' playoff series against Boston - including a 35-point performance in Game 6.

"He's a good pro guard,'' Bucks coach Scott Skiles said. "He's been a solid player for quite a while, and we feel like we still need to solidify one of our perimeter spots, especially with Michael (Redd) out. So it made sense.''

Given Redd's uncertain future after yet another serious knee injury, is Salmons an insurance policy?

"No question whatsoever,'' Hammond said.

Hammond said he was hesitant to trade with a division rival, but figured the Bulls could have unloaded Salmons' salary elsewhere. And he couldn't pass on the opportunity to acquire another scorer.

"I think that you could safely say that if they didn't move John to us, they might have had a chance to move him somewhere else,'' Hammond said. "So yeah, you do hesitate, and that does bother you, but at the end of the day you have to do what's best for you and your organization.''

In the process, the Bucks cut ties with Alexander, their No. 8 overall pick in 2008.

Despite his disappointing and injury-plagued career to date, Hammond praised Alexander for his professional attitude.

"It is now over, and we move forward, and hopefully at the end of the day it's going to be the right decision for us,'' Hammond said. "And I think it's going to be the right decision for Joe. We want nothing but good things for him, he deserves it.''

Bookmark and Share

Huff shapes up as cleanup hitter

The Associated Press reports that Giants C Bengie Molina will cede the cleanup spot to incoming free agent Aubrey Huff this season.

Bookmark and Share

Minnesota Twins sign Charlton Jimerson for Rochester Red Wings

The Minnesota Twins have signed 30-year-old Charlton Jimerson for Rochester. He is expected to be the opening day center fielder for the Red Wings.

Jimerson, 30, was the MVP of the 2001 College Baseball World Series for the champion Miami Hurricanes.

In 2009, with the Newark Bears, he led the independent Atlantic League in batting average (.335) and slugging percentage (.567). In 103 games, he had 91 runs, 27 doubles, 21 HRs, 62 RBIs, 33 walks, 88 strikeouts, and 38 stolen bases in 43 attempts.

In portions of four seasons in the major leagues, with Seattle and Houston, he hit .444 (4-for-9 with 2 HRs, including a 440-foot HR off Philadelphia’s Cole Hamels, Sept 4, 2006, in his first big-league at-bat). Jimerson, who is listed at 6-foot-3, 215 pounds, has appeared in 31 games, mostly as a pinch-runner.

Jimerson’s best minor-league stint was with West Tennessee of the Double-A Southern League in 2007. In 82 games, he hit .276 with 23 HRs, 73 RBI and 30 stolen bases. He struck out 117 times and led the league with a .565 slugging percentage. In 2006, with Triple-A Round Rock, in 123 games, he hit .247 with 27 doubles, 18 HRs, 45 RBI, 28 stolen bases and 183 strikeouts.

Bookmark and Share

Will McKinnie Be a Viking in 2010?

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

Bookmark and Share

The U 2

Billy Corben tweeted the news the other day: we're beginning pre-production on what we're jokingly referring to as The U 2: 1992-2002.

The plan as of now is to shoot interviews in March and April, edit through the summer and fall, and have it ready for December, around the one year anniversary of the premiere of The U.

Evan has begun putting together the interview list, so let us know who you most want to see in The U 2 in the comments. 

Bookmark and Share

Magic Benton's Youth Strength & Conditioning Classes

If you're in the Naples Florida area and looking for a strength and conditioning class for your child, check out former Miami Hurricane wide receiver and Florida Firecat wide receiver Magic Benton's classes.

The classes are put on by Magic Benton and 24/7 Sports. 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays. Cost is $30.

Contact: Brian Dodd 277-0700,

Bookmark and Share

Skins RB coach says Portis has something left

New Redskins running backs coach Bobby Turner said that Clinton Portis "definitely" has something left."

The new Redskins' regime continues to have good things to say about Portis, but it doesn't mean that his roster spot or starting job is safe. Portis will have to participate in offseason workouts while the Redskins shop for their running back of the future. Portis is set to earn $6.43 million in guaranteed money in 2010.

Click here to order Clinton Portis' proCane Rookie Card.

Bookmark and Share

Antrel Rolle Could Be on Packers Radar

Arizona Cardinals’ free safety Antrel Rolle is a name that’s probably on the Green Bay Packers radar.

Why, you ask? Rolle is under contract with the Cardinals.

Well, that contract isn’t going to fly in Arizona. Rolle is due $8 million in base salary and a $4 million roster bonus on March 5. Although Rolle was a Pro Bowler and recorded 72 tackles and four interceptions in 2009, he’s not going to get $12 million from the Cardinals or anyone else in 2010.

So, the Cardinals are in the precarious position of having to rework Rolle’s contract or releasing him by March 5. Thus far, there hasn’t been much movement by the Cardinals’ camp to get a new deal done and as the days tick on, it becomes more likely Rolle will simply be released.

Although the Packers will presumably re-sign starting free safety Nick Collins, who is a restricted free agent, Rolle could offer an intriguing option to replace strong safety Atari Bigby, who’s also a restricted free agent. Bigby has been injury prone throughout his career and his play seemed to tail off towards the end of last season, ultimately making him replaceable.

Rolle (6-0, 208) and Bigby (5-11, 213) are virtually the same size, but Rolle is superior in coverage and has missed only one game the past two seasons, compared with Bigby’s 12.

This isn’t to say converting Rolle to strong safety would be seamless. When healthy and at the top of his game, Bigby is an asset against the run and it’s no certainty the Packers would be able to make up for that absence with Rolle in the defensive backfield. It’s in coverage where Bigby can sometimes be a liability and the Packers’ losses to the Vikings, Steelers and Cardinals showed that the team needs to improve dramatically in coverage to stop top-flight passing teams.

The other wild card here, of course, is if the Packers will pursue Rolle and if Rolle would consider signing with Green Bay.

Rolle played collegiately at Miami and there have been indications that if the Cardinals cut him and the Miami Dolphins have an opening, Rolle would like to return to South Beach.

Still, Rolle is someone to keep an eye on the next few weeks and would be an exciting addition to the Packers’ secondary.

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

Bookmark and Share

Inside the numbers on Greg Olsen

The notion entering the 2009 season for the Bears was that the arrival of Jay Cutler was going to launch the career of Greg Olsen to new heights.

The quarterback and tight end quickly formed a bond off the field and the idea was that relationship would extend to the field and Olsen's statistics would quickly enter the Pro Bowl range.

Olsen posted career highs in receptions (60), yards (612) and touchdowns (8). But his yards per catch were 10.2, a notch below what he had done in 2008. That might have been the biggest surprise, given the idea that Cutler's arrival and his penchant for throwing the ball downfield would create more opportunities for Olsen to run the deep seam.

Here is how Olsen's numbers stacked up around the league among tight ends:

*60 receptions: 10th
*612 yards: 11th
*10.2 yards per catch: 19th
*8 touchdowns: T-4th
*108 targets: 8th

The last stat is the most eye-catching: Olsen was targeted 108 times by Cutler, according to Stats Inc. That also led the Bears. Here is how those numbers broke down:

*Olsen: 108 targets, 60 receptions in 16 games
*Devin Hester: 91 targets, 57 receptions in 13 games
*Earl Bennett: 88 targets, 54 receptions in 16 games
*Johnny Knox: 80 targets, 45 receptions in 15 games
*Matt Forte: 72 targets, 57 receptions in 16 games
*Devin Aromashodu: 43 targets, 24 receptions in 10 games
*Desmond Clark: 34 targets, 19 receptions in 11 games

The numbers that jump out are the ones that belong to Aromashodu. He appeared in 10 games but wasn't a significant part of the offense until the final four, when he acquired the majority of his statistics. The figures for him show how much involved Cutler wanted to get Aromashodu in the offense. Cutler talked about wanting to get him in the mix and backed it up with the decisions he made with the ball.

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

Bookmark and Share

Romberg, Winston and Kenny Holmes Head To Harvard or Wharton

ProCanes offensive linemen Brett Romberg (Falcons) and Eric Winston (Texans) and defensive end Kenny Holmes were among 77 NFL players, who will participate this week in the NFL Business Management and Entrepreneurial Program.

Romberg and Holmes headed to Harvard Business School on Monday for the five day program while Winston headed to Wharton.

The prestigious schools will offer executive education activities, according to the NFL. Players must complete an application process in order to be selected, and the criteria includes level of education, professional business experience, interest in starting, owning or managing a business and leadership and community involvement.

More than 500 NFL players have participated in the program since its inception in 2005.

Bookmark and Share

Jimmy Graham Makes the ACC All-Academic Team

Here they are, your kings of the classroom.

And these guys aren't playing mop-up duty, either.

Quarterbacks Christian Ponder and Russell Wilson were among the 42 players selected to the 2009 ACC All-Academic team. And how about BC lineman Anthony Castonzo, a biochem major? E.J. Manuel, Jimmy Graham ... plenty of recognizable names on that list.

To be eligible for consideration, a player must have earned a 3.00 grade point average for the previous semester and maintained a 3.00 cumulative average during his academic career. All 12 ACC schools were represented by at least one player on the team.

No surprise here -- Duke led the conference with 11 selections. Clemson followed with seven. Virginia Tech and Boston College had four each, and Florida State, NC State and Maryland had three each.

Congrats to those players for proving that it's possible to be equally as successful in the classroom and on the field.

Bookmark and Share

Bulls trade Salmons

The Chicago Bulls and Milwaukee Bucks have agreed to a deal in principle that will send John Salmons to the Bucks for the expiring contracts of Kurt Thomas and Francisco Elson, sources said on Wednesday.

The deal allows the Bulls to clear Salmons $5.8 million salary off the books for next season. That puts them roughly $20 million under the cap next summer as the Bulls make a push to sign free agents like LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.

The deal gives the Bucks a shooting guard to replace the injured Michael Redd.

The Bulls held Salmons out of Wednesday's game at New York in anticipation of a trade. has learned that Salmons remained at the team's hotel and did not even accompany the Bulls to the arena.

The trade will not be announced until Thursday, and a source told's Chris Sheridan there was a chance the deal would be expanded by the time it is finalized. But no matter what, the end result for Salmons will be a spot in the Bucks' starting backcourt alongside Brandon Jennings.

The Bulls had been trying to force teams interested in Tyrus Thomas to include Salmons in the deal. They had also wanted to include him as part of a package for Houston's Tracy McGrady.

Bulls guard Derrick Rose was unaware of a potential trade before the Knicks game.

"Man, that's crazy thinking about John leaving," Rose said. "He just came here [in a trade with the Kings on Feb. 18, 2009]. But, it's the NBA. If he does get traded we'll definitely miss him, but [the season] must continue."

Rose said trades could affect the focus of a team, but he understands the nature of the business.

"It hurts your team a little bit," he said. "Like when you have a game right after [a trade]. But that's just how the NBA goes.

"People are going to be on your team, the next thing you look up and they could be gone. We'll definitely miss him if he does get traded, but it didn't go through yet, so he's still a part of this team."

Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro said it's tough telling a player not to get on a bus to go to a game.

"It's never easy," he said. "It's never fun. We're dealing with good character people.

"It's part of the business. You just have to deal with it, and move forward."

Del Negro said he wasn't at liberty to discuss the possibility of the Bulls acquiring McGrady.

"There's a lot of speculation out there," he said. "There's a lot of things that as an organization we're working on.

"My focus is on the game, and then I'll talk to [general manager Gar Forman and team president John Paxson] after the game and see where everything's at."

Del Negro doesn't anticipate any potential trades interfering with his team's concentration.

"I think if you've been in the league a while you understand the business part of it," he said. "It just comes with being a pro player. You just hope it works out for everybody [on] both sides. We want to keep our flexibility moving forward and add some if we can.

"Whatever happens is going to happen if it makes sense for both sides. I think players understand that. We have some younger players, but, overall we have good character guys like I've said. They know what their job is tonight. My job is to hopefully get them going early and get them in the game and get them involved."

Bookmark and Share

McClinton: 'It is a blessing' to be honored

Jack McClinton has a feeling something special is going to happen tonight when the Hurricanes host sixth-ranked Duke at BankUnited Center.

"For some reason, I think we’re going to win today," the two-time All-ACC selection said Wednesday afternoon, two years after he was at the heart of UM's first win over the Blue Devils in 45 years. "Duke’s a great program, but when you play against a better team you always get up for it. As much as people don’t think we can do it, I believe we’re going to pull it off today."

The Hurricanes (17-8, 3-8 ACC) will need a special effort to knock off the Blue Devils (21-4, 9-2 ACC). But win or lose, it will still be a special night for McClinton and die-hard Hurricanes basketball fans. At halftime, McClinton's No. 33 will be raised to the basketball arena's rafters along with Don Curnutt (1967-70) and the late Dick Hickox (1958-61). Only two other UM players have received that honor before Wednesday: Rick Barry (1962-65) and Tim James (1995-99).

McClinton, just one year removed from wearing the orange and green, said it is an honor just to be honored.

"It definitely means a lot, especially to me and my family," said McClinton, who led UM in scoring for three seasons (2006-2009) and left the program as its most prolific three-point shooter."Having my name with these great players at the University of Miami, it’s just a great blessing to be here and a blessing having it happen so fast. I met Mr. Barry yesterday. He’s a legend man. It’s like talking to Jordan. It was just a great honor to meet him."

Barry, named one of the 50 greatest players in NBA history, would love to see McClinton follow his footsteps as a pro. But Jack has work to do. A second round pick by the San Antonio Spurs last June, McClinton was unable to land a roster spot with the Spurs or Minnesota Timberwolves and signed with the Aliaga Petkim in the Turkish Basketball League, where he's been since the season began Oct. 17.

Little by little, McClinton says, he's adapted to the European game, where zone defenses "stress getting your fundamentals down."

"Things are going well," said McClinton, who ranks 12th in scoring (16.28 ppg) and is averaging 3.3 assists while shooting 32.3 percent from three-point range for an 8-11 team. "I had nine assists last game. I feel like I'm really transferring my game over there. I’m really becoming a total player. I’ve learned how to read the defense more, be a better point guard. It’s definitely helped my game for sure."

Living overseas, McClinton says, has its perks. Aliaga, located on the west coast of Turkey, is a small town of about 44,000 people -- most who love basketball and have grown to love McClinton. The tough part? No fast food.

"There's been a lot of different things that have happened that I haven't gotten used to yet," McClinton said. "The fans are great, but they're tough. They'll throw stuff on the court if they're not happy. But other than that, the biggest thing I miss is being able to go to McDonald's whenever I want."

McClinton, who lives in a small apartment, said he keeps up with his former team when he isn't playing or practicing and watches Canes games online. Many times during games, he'll broadcast his thoughts on Twitter. Of his former teammates, whom he keeps in contact through email and AOL instant message, McClinton said he communicates most often with point guard Malcolm Grant.

"They're a young team man," McClinton said. "Winning on the road in the ACC isn't easy. But if you look at their home record, it's real good. I tell Malcolm all the time he’s doing a great job."

Bookmark and Share

Vote for On's Blog Contest has been nominated for the 2010 Sun Sentinel best Sports Blog. Click here to vote for as your favorite South Florida Sports Blog of 2010. You can also click on the image on the left.

Thank you for your support!

Bookmark and Share

Quadtrine Hill Wins His Professional Boxing Debut

Quadtrine Hill won his professional boxing debut last night at the Seminole Hard Rock Casino in Hollywood, FL. Hill, a southpaw, hit Vashawn Tomlin with a quick right uppercut that sent him to the canvas. Shortly afterward Hill put Tomlin down for good at the 1:50 mark of the first round.

"He was setting up for the uppercut," Hill said.

James Bryant, who played three years at UM before ending his career as a linebacker at Louisville, recorded a knockout at the 2:00 mark of the first round. Bryant came out aggressively and put Roy Boykins down with a left in the first round. Quickly thereafter he landed a right that put Boykins down for good.

"My instinct was definitely going for the knockout," said Bryant, who was in the Washington Redskins' camp last year.

The attached photo was take by Lamar Thomas who went to support his fellow proCane and "The U."

Bookmark and Share

Saints LB Jon Vilma at Mardi Gras

Saints linebacker Jon Vilma is at Mardi Gras, and here are some of the videos he sent to playmaker mobile.

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

Bookmark and Share

Haji-Rasouli Speaks To Kids

Pitt Meadows Secondary School will be getting a special football practice with the B.C. Lions Saturday afternoon, with members of the CFL team teaching the Marauders a thing or two.

The Lions players taking part in the practice have not yet been announced.

Players from the professional football club will visiting schools across the province as part of their Read, Write and Roar and Lions’ Pride programs.

Offensive lineman Sherko Haji-Rasouli spoke to Hume Park Elementary in New Westminster Tuesday morning about the importance of literacy.

Bookmark and Share

Dolphins Want More From Carey

The Dolphins have been telling people they need more consistency from right tackle Vernon Carey, who played through back and knee injuries.

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

Bookmark and Share

Panthers’ Beason countersues accuser

Jon Beason is countersuing a man who said he was punched by the Carolina Panthers linebacker at an uptown strip club after saying he saw Beason "doing (cocaine) at Lake Norman."

The new suit, filed Tuesday, claims Beason has been "injured in his good name, has suffered humiliation and mental distress, has been subjected to insults…"

The suit doesn’t say how much Beason is seeking, but says he has also incurred attorney’s fees and has “suffered in excess of $10,000.”

Beason was arrested on Nov. 30, two weeks after the man – 29-year-old Gregory Frye – said Beason punched him in the face at the Uptown Cabaret. Frye reported the incident to police on Nov. 16, but officers said there wasn’t enough evidence to arrest Beason. A magistrate ultimately issued the arrest warrant.

A day later, Frye sued Beason. Frye and his attorney could not be reached for comment. The charges were dropped on Dec. 11., and Mecklenburg District Attorney Bruce Lillie said in a statement "other than Mr. Frye’s statement, police were not able to obtain evidence that Mr. Beason was the assailant."

Beason, in his third pro season, is one of the Panthers’ team captains and is their leading tackler. He was chosen to play in the Pro Bowl the last two seasons and is regarded as one of the National Football League’s premier middle linebackers.

Click here to order Jon Beason's proCane Rookie Card.

Bookmark and Share

Stockar and Jerome McDougle Team up with Omega XL

Award winning photographer, Marc Serota from Omega XL, spent the day with two NFL greats – Stockar and Jerome McDougle. The brothers were both drafted in the first round of the NFL draft, which is an honor shared only by a few other sets of siblings. Both brothers began taking Omega XL to help improve their aching joints and stiffness from the intense workouts and games they experienced throughout their football careers.

Stockar began his career with the Detroit Lions when he was drafted 20th overall in the 2000 NFL Draft. By 2002, Stockar was the starting right tackle. He established himself as an essential player by staring 32 consecutive games starting in the beginning of the 2003 season. In 2005, Stockar signed with Miami Dolphins.

Jerome had a very successful college football career and even helped lead the University of Miami Hurricanes to their 12-0 record in 2002.  He earned All-Big East Conference honors and was a finalist for the Lombardi Award. Jerome was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles in the first round of the 2003 NFL Draft.

Today, the two are partnering with the Broward County Athletic Association (BCAA) to enhance student academic learning through interscholastic sports. The McDougles hope to help students achieve greatness assisting students through many different facets of the partnership. The brothers want to help students secure athletic scholarships as well as help with fundraising support, football camps and other clinics that relate to student health and welfare and anti-drug information.

Great HealthWorks Inc. is the manufacturer of Omega XL, a completely natural super food made from the oil of the New Zealand green-lipped mussel (perna canaliculus). Omega XL contains a unique combination of 30 different fatty acids that has shown to improve swelling, stiffness, bronchial tightness, allergy symptoms and pain due to inflammatory related conditions.

Click here to order Jerome McDougle's proCane Rookie Card.

Bookmark and Share

Vince Wilfork & The Franchise Tag

Q. Mike, will the upcoming draft have any impact on getting a deal done for Vince Wilfork? I raise this question because when I put on my general manager hat, I see things this way: If I sign Wilfork, I'm free to spend my draft addressing those positions that were of major concern last season (OLB, DE, RB, WR, TE, OL). If I don't, I've pigeon-holed myself come draft-time (since nose tackle automatically becomes priority No. 1) and arguably set my team back another year from legitimate Super Bowl contention, since I now have to essentially rebuild my defensive line with young, unproven players (and backed by a secondary that was hardly a strong point for the team). I would tend to think this line of thought would add even greater impetus to complete a deal with one of the team's few sure things. Just like to get your take from this perspective. -- Brian (Fairbanks, Alaska)
A. I think you are right on the money, Brian. It's my belief that the Patriots know how valuable Wilfork is to them. No one has gone on the record with specifics about contract offers, but I wouldn't be surprised to learn that there is some big money being discussed to keep the big man. My prediction is that no extension will be reached before the Feb. 25 deadline, so he will be tagged, but that the sides will keep working on it and there is still a chance he will sign an extension with New England before the start of the season.

Q. Maybe the Patriots have made a fair offer to Vince Wilfork. Could it be that Wilfork has overrated his value? Wilfork is a great run stuffer but he can't rush the passer. I wouldn't give him more than a 4-year, $30 million deal. I would give more to a pass rusher. I'm also sick of players complaining about the franchise tag, a slap in the face is making $20,000 a year working a night shift I hate and stuck there because there are no jobs available. Wilfork needs a reality check or maybe a real slap in the face. -- Anthony (Taylors, S.C.)
A. Anthony, it's possible that the Patriots have made a fair offer to Wilfork, but as I see it, until they come out and put their name on it publicly, it's all speculation. As for Wilfork's stance that the franchise tag would be a slap in the face, when he said it I thought he made a mistake from a public-relations perspective. I understand what he means -- he's given the organization six good years and believes he should be treated a certain way -- but that's not how many received his words in these tough economic times. As for the idea of investing in a pass-rusher over Wilfork, I think that is something to consider. I personally feel it's smarter to invest in Wilfork, a player whose strengths and weaknesses you have intimate knowledge of, and try to develop that pass rusher (e.g. Clay Matthews in Green Bay). On a possible contract for Wilfork, I think there are a number of different ways you can structure it. For example, a four-year, $30 million contract that is fully guaranteed is more valuable to me than a six-year, $60 million contract filled with yet-to-be-earned bonuses. So I'd focus more on the guarantee part of it than the average per year or total value.

Q. Mike, let us assume the Patriots designate Vince Wilfork with the franchise tag. Now let us move to the beginning of the football season. Can Vince sit out the first six games and then play the remainder of the season and be credited with playing a full season? Also, can Vince be tagged for multiple years or will that all depend on the new CBA (assuming there is one)? I believe you have predicted Vince might go down this route (like Asante Samuels did) of getting a guarantee of not being tagged for the following year by playing a percentage of plays in the current year. Does an uncapped year or new CBA change these dynamics with new or expiring rules? -- Gary T. (Alexandria, Va.)
A. Gary, Wilfork would have to show up for only the final six games to receive credit for the season. So it's actually longer than just the first six weeks he can sit out. On the second part of the question, the Patriots could tag Wilfork again next year regardless of the rules in place.

Q. Mike, how much does Robert Kraft have a say on contracts for players? I assume he probably trusts Bill Belichick on small stuff but on big contracts like Wilfork, do you think Kraft is the one deciding the guarantee money and total package? -- Alex (Rome, N.Y.)
A. Alex, my sense of the inner workings is that Kraft gives Belichick a yearly budget and trusts his football acumen to set the appropriate values for the players. I don't think it's a one-or-the-other type of thing, and there is probably some wiggle room.

Q. Hi Mike, based upon your experience when does the Patriots front office really start working on contracts for free agents? I've been reading that they have not reached out yet to their players. It seems to me they like to wait until the last minute. What's your thoughts on this? -- Mike B. (Springfield, Mass.)
A. Mike, I'd say it varies from player to player in terms of when negotiations start. On Tully Banta-Cain, for example, talks were quite active back in October, so in a lot of ways, you're just revisiting them now. For some NFL context, here is a link to the Patriots blog on that gives a feel for how the Steelers are doing it. I blogged it because it provided an example to me that these deals can come together fast.

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

Bookmark and Share
(mike reiss' mailbag

Baseball proves to be right choice for Braun

MILWAUKEE -- Brewers star Ryan Braun kicked away soccer to pursue a life in baseball. Even in a World Cup year, it appears that he made the right choice.

Braun, who grew up near Los Angeles, knew early on that he wanted to be a professional athlete, but the hard part was choosing the sport. He was a standout in soccer (his best sport), basketball (his favorite) and baseball. By high school he decided that baseball offered the best path to being a pro.

"That offered the best opportunity, even though I think soccer was always my best sport," Braun said. "I was a forward on U.S. development teams and did pretty well, but for the future, in this country, it made more sense to focus on baseball."

How far might he have made it in soccer?

"I could have played professionally, for sure," he said.

It's that kind of confidence, bordering on cockiness -- Braun is well aware that he sometimes toes the line -- that has put the 26-year-old on a near-historic path in Major League Baseball.

Consider that he's only played something like 2 2/3 seasons and already has 103 career home runs, 317 RBIs, a National League Rookie of the Year trophy, two Silver Slugger Awards and a pair of starts in the Major League All-Star Game.

In 2009 he led the NL with 203 hits (joining Hall of Famers Paul Molitor and Robin Yount as the only Brewers to lead his league in that category) while batting .320 with 32 homers, 114 RBIs and 20 stolen bases. Braun became only the eighth player in Major League history with at least 100 runs, 100 RBIs, 200 hits, 30 homers, 20 steals and a .300 average in a single season.

His home run rate is also near-historic. Only five players have hit that more than Braun's 103 homers in their first three seasons: Albert Pujols (114), Ralph Kiner (114), Eddie Matthews (112), Joe DiMaggio (107) and Mark Teixeira (107).

Under contract in Milwaukee through 2015, Braun should have plenty of seasons in front of him. What's left to accomplish?

"My No. 1 goal is to stay healthy," he said. "I feel like as long as I do that, I'll be able to go out and compete, and the numbers and everything else will take care of themselves. Having an opportunity to get to the 2008 postseason, that was really special. Ultimately, the goal is to be part of a team that has a chance to get to the postseason every year. The opportunity to be on a winning team drives everything I do."

Family -- Braun's dad, Joe; mom, Diane; and little brother, Steve -- is at the root of his success. Braun may be entering just his full season in the Majors but it will be his 23rd summer of baseball, and the fact that it's not the 22nd is because of Joe.

Joe Braun lobbied his local Los Angeles-area T-ball league to accept the 4 1/2-year-old Ryan a year earlier than usual. The catch? He had to agree to coach the team, launching a career that would lead his son all the way to the Majors.

"It was cool," Braun said. "I can't thank both of my parents enough for their support and their involvement. That made everything more comfortable for me, more enjoyable.

"Because I had such a great relationship with my dad, I never hesitated to ask him a question. If the coach wasn't somebody I knew as well, maybe at that age I wouldn't have been confident enough to ask so many questions about the game. It probably led to me having a better understanding of what was going on."

Were there any drawbacks to having his father around so much?

"No, not at all, to be totally honest with you," Braun said. "I always appreciated it, and my dad is pretty cool, so all the guys liked him."

Braun wasn't the best player on his early teams, which produced some recognizable names. Baseball alumni from the North Valley Youth Baseball League in Southern California include 2005 All-Star right-hander Jon Garland and former Astros reliever Jack Cassell, who once surrendered a homer to Braun in the Majors. Cassell's brother, Matt, is the quarterback for the NFL's Kansas City Chiefs. The league also produced Jason and Jarron Collins, who went on to play in the NBA.

It also produced Braun's younger brother. The Brewers signed Steve Braun as an undrafted free agent out of the University of Maryland in 2008, and he was hitting .265 as an infielder for Milwaukee's Class A affiliate in Appleton, Wis., last season before he sustained a bad ankle injury.

The injury required surgery, but the downtime gave Steve an opportunity to spend some time in Milwaukee with his brother during the baseball season. It was a bit of a blast from the past.

"We would get to play together every other year because we are exactly a year and a half apart," Ryan Braun said. "I recognized at a young age how fortunate we were to get to play together in every sport every other year. It was awesome when he signed with the Brewers. Not too many brothers have an opportunity to get to play pro ball in any capacity, never mind to be with the same organization. It's something I'm proud of, and it would be amazing if we got to play together in the big leagues some day."

For now, Ryan will continue to carry the family mantle.

Bookmark and Share

Look out Lindsey, here comes Lauryn

This past Friday the Winter Olympics started and so did my future as a professional skier.

I got my first ski lesson at Bretton Woods in New Hampshire and I think I am a natural!!

Lindsey Vonn watch out! You may have some competition lurking in the shadows! LOL!!

Ok, Ok, maybe I shouldn't get ahead of myself, but I did have a great time. I cant wait until the next adventure.

This biggest thing is getting over the fear of heading downhill with something in your hands and attached your feet. Your first instinct is to throw your hands out for balance and lean back to brace yourself, when in fact just the opposite is true for you to be in control of yourself and your skis.

I graduated from the bunny slope after just one lesson!

Though me and the snow covered ground spent a lot of time together over the next 3 days, I am very pleased with the progress I made.

As an athlete, you're built to compete and believe "Anything you can do, I can do better!!" But we are quickly humbled when we step out of our area of expertise and into someone else's.

I have new respect for those competing in the Winter Games, especially those doing cross-country skiing. Who in their right mind would want to ski uphill???

I have had a great time watching the coverage and learning about all the different sports over the past to few days, but I am giving up television for lent (The next 46 days Sad ) so this is where the story ends for me.

Best of luck to all the Americans!

Bookmark and Share

Jonathan Vilma Partying At Liv After Winning the Super Bowl

Louis Oliver and proCane Jonathan Vilma at LIV the night of the Saints' Super Bowl win over the Indianapolis Colts.

proCane DJ Williams, Louis Oliver and proCane Jonathan Vilma at LIV the night of the Saints' Super Bowl win over the Indianapolis Colts.

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

Bookmark and Share

Hurricane Baseball Alumni HR Derby Photos

Jim Morris and Ryan Braun share a laugh before the HR Derby.

Yonder Alonso talks to fellow Hurricane Baseball Alums.

The new half a million dollar upgraded scoreboard at Alex Rodriguez Park.

Jon Jay

Jemile Weeks

Ryan Perry, Yasmani Grandal, Yonder Alonso and Ryan Braun get set to start the HR Derby.

Grandal knocks one out of the park.

Ryan Perry hits a line drive.

Yonder Alonsa awaits the pitch.

Yonder Alonso

Ryan Braun

Ryan Braun

Ryan Braun, Jay Rokeach and Yasmani Grandal

Ryan Braun

Brian Barton

Chris Perez

Alex Cora

Bookmark and Share

Romberg & Winston Head To Harvard

ProCanes offensive linemen Brett Romberg (Falcons) and Eric Winston (Texans) also were among 77 NFL players, who will participate this week in the NFL Business Management and Entrepreneurial Program.

Romberg and Winston headed to Harvard Business School on Monday for the five day program.

The prestigious schools will offer executive education activities, according to the NFL. Players must complete an application process in order to be selected, and the criteria includes level of education, professional business experience, interest in starting, owning or managing a business and leadership and community involvement.

More than 500 NFL players have participated in the program since its inception in 2005.

Bookmark and Share

Money Matters in the Hester Mess

Devin Hester admitted that his best role may be as a part-time offensive weapon and full-time return man. While that makes a lot of sense, the Chicago Bears are already paying him like a No. 1 receiver.

"I know what I'm best at," Devin Hester said last week on "The Waddle & Silvy Show" on ESPN Radio-1000. "The return game is my bread and butter, so if I had to cut back on my receiving and go back to returning, that's something I would love to do."

The problem is that the Bears are paying Hester as a starting receiver – four years, at least $30 million – not a kick returner who plays a little wideout. Hester's already been paid $15 million in guaranteed money from his 2008 contract extension, in addition to a $5 million roster bonus last season.

In 2006 and '07, Hester scored 11 regular-season touchdowns on punt and kickoff returns and added another kickoff-return score in Super Bowl XLI. But he hasn't scored a touchdown on a punt or kickoff return since Dec. 30, 2007. There's no guarantee that it would even help the Bears to have Hester return kickoffs, especially based on his lousy punt returning the past two seasons. His 7.8-yard punt-return average in 2009 was 19th in the NFL. His 6.2-yard average in 2008 was 23rd best.

In 2008, Danieal Manning took over Hester's kickoff-return duties midway through the season and led the NFL with a 29.7-yard average. Hester averaged just 21.9 yards before losing the job.

This past season, rookie Johnny Knox averaged 29.0 yards on kickoff returns, just one-tenth of a yard off the NFL lead, and he was a late addition to the Pro Bowl. Manning averaged a very respectable 26.6 yards.

So if Hester really wants to help the Bears, he should focus on continuing to evolve as a receiver, where there's still lots of room for improvement after a decent 54-catch, 682-yard season. There's even more room for improvement in his punt returns, where he's become way too much of an east-west dancer seeking the sidelines than a north-south home-run threat.

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

Bookmark and Share

Potential Market For McGahee

We've been pondering Willis McGahee's future with the Baltimore Ravens since late November. McGahee has been relegated to being a high-priced backup at this point, with a salary that jumps to $3.6 million in 2010 and $6 million in 2011. Following the Ravens' playoff exit, McGahee told Ravens Insider that he expects big things, whether he stays or goes. Subsequently, beat writer Mike Preston wrote that this was likely McGahee's last season in Baltimore.

With the strong chance of no salary cap next season, McGahee could be cut; after all, $3.6 million is a lot of money for a situational
player, and 2010 will be an opportunity for franchises to take a do-over on some of their over-valued contracts without taking a cap hit. Ravens coach John Harbaugh indicated that he wanted to bring McGahee back, but Willis' salary could be an issue. As noted by Pro
Football Weekly, he could remain in Baltimore, but would likely have to do a deal similar to what LaDainian Tomlinson did last offseason: re-work his current pact to suit his diminished role with the team.

We could see teams such as the Texans, Chargers and Lions show some interest in Willis, as all three are on the hunt for a traditional starting RB this offseason. The Ravens will likely look to add some draft picks in exchange, per Ravens blog Baltimore Beatdown.

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

Bookmark and Share

Encouraging sign for Wilfork?

A while back, ESPN Boston's Mike Reiss wrote that the way it's shaping up, Vince Wilfork is "likely to be assigned the franchise tag" if a
deal can't be consummated with the Patriots. Appearing on Boston radio station WEEI, Wilfork told the hosts that being tagged would be akin
to "a slap in the face." He then added, "I want a long-term deal or I want to be free. Point blank."

Thursday marked the opening day that teams could place the franchise tag on certain players, and all tagging must be accomplished by Feb.
25. As Reiss notes, this doesn't mean that a long-term deal with Wilfork needs to complete by then, but momentum towards that goal
should be made. Ian Rapoport of the Boston Herald reports that a tag wasn't placed upon Vince on Day One of Tagging Season (as it was to
Matt Cassel last offseason), so perhaps this means they're negotiating.

In the unlikely event that Wilfork is not tagged or re-signed, he will be one of the top free agents on the market this offseason, especially
given the prevalence of the 3-4 defense, and the need for a nose tackle in that scheme. We previously speculated that the Broncos,
Bills, Cardinals, Chiefs and Dolphins would be interested. The South Florida Sun-Sentinel had word that Vince would relish a return to
Florida, either with the Dolphins or Bucs.

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

Bookmark and Share

Quadtrine Hill to make pro-boxing debut

Dodging defenders or targeting them for a block. The contrasting roles of hit and not get hit -- vital in Quadtrine Hill's previous career -- also apply to his new sport.

Hill, a former University of Miami running back, with brief NFL stints in New England, Chicago and Houston, has discarded the helmet and shoulder pads for 10-ounce gloves.

Inspired by a love for the sport and hoping to help fill the current void of marketable and successful American heavyweights, Hill will make his professional boxing debut Tuesday night at the Seminole Hard Rock Live Arena in Hollywood.

Hill, 27, and two other former football players will be part of a card that features former world heavyweight champion Oliver McCall in the main event.

``I have always been a huge boxing fan,'' Hill said. ``When I was on the Patriots, I'd talk about so many different fights. Guys on the team would say, `you really like boxing.' I do.''

Hill, whose Hurricanes career lasted from 2002 to '05, turned his attention to boxing in February 2009. He joined the Lucky Street Gym in Hollywood and embarked on a brief amateur career of five victorious bouts.

``From Day One, when I first stepped into the ring, the trainers asked if I had ever done this before,'' Hill said. ``I educated myself. I'm a quick learner and I was already athletic.

``They put me to spar with an experienced pro, who was something like 18-2, and I got in there and held my own. Everybody was shocked at how easily I got in there and picked it up.''

Hill believes his previous career will benefit him as a boxer.

``The football background has provided me with athletic ability and being a running back gives me an advantage of quickness, strength and vision,'' Hill said. ``In boxing, the vision I needed in football helps me pick up when someone is going to throw a punch.

``I don't get hit very much because I have quick feet and quick reaction. As soon as I see they are going to throw something, I move out of the way, dodge punches or block them.''

Hill signed with a new promotional company intent on attracting athletes to the heavyweight division. Tuesday's heavyweight-laden card also will feature the professional debuts of former UM running back James Bryant and Michael Mitchell, who played at FSU.

``The heavyweight division is low right now, especially in the United States,'' Hill said. ``There are no heavyweights anybody can name.

``Football and basketball have taken all the athletes who would have been great fighters. This is what our program is doing, trying to find those athletes who have that athletic ability but didn't have the opportunities to go where they wanted in football, or in basketball or baseball.

``The heavyweight champion of the world used to be one of the most popular faces [on] the planet. Now you barely know who he is.''

Bookmark and Share

Offseason Outlooks: San Francisco 49ers - Frank Gore

RB Frank Gore. Gore is a chronically underappreciated first-round pick, but you have to love his strong finish to last season. Gore accounted for 70 percent of San Francisco's rushing yards, and a he's a consistent workhorse. Gore has averaged 1,078 rushing yards, 390 receiving yards and 10-plus TDs over the past two seasons. Consider Gore an ideal, back-end first-round pick again in 2010.Remember to show some appreciation.

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

Bookmark and Share

Standoff taking place with regard to Wilfork?

According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, a "standoff" between the Patriots and impending free agent NT Vince Wilfork may be taking place in New England.

Wilfork will be very upset if the Patriots slap him with the franchise tag, but no long-term extension appears to be imminent. Once the tag is applied, though, the sides have until mid-July to reach a multi-year deal. The Pats would likely prefer to lock Wilfork up, which would make both sides happy.

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

Bookmark and Share

Vikings "disappointed" that McKinnie skipped Pro Bowl

Minnesota Vikings left tackle Bryant McKinnie said it was no big deal that he got kicked off the NFC Pro Bowl roster for skipping back-to-back practices.

But apparently it was a big deal to the Vikings.

Judd Zulgad of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports that Vikings VP of Player Personnel Rick Spielman criticized McKinnie's attitude toward the Pro Bowl during a question-and-answer session with Vikings fans on Saturday.

"To get an honor to go play in the Pro Bowl is something that's unique, and something that should be cherished," Spielman said. "It's a privilege and honor to go there and play in a game like that, and I know from an organizational standpoint that we were disappointed, as well as a lot of our fans were, on how things turned out."

It's noteworthy that Spielman uses the word "we" and says he's speaking "from an organizational standpoint," suggesting that he's not the only member of the Vikings organization who's disappointed in McKinnie.

The bottom line is that players drop out of the Pro Bowl all the time, but there's a right way and a wrong way to do it. McKinnie did it the wrong way, and it's not surprising that other members of the Vikings organization are disappointed in him.

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

Bookmark and Share

Ken Dorsey To Pursue Coaching Career

Ex-Miami quarterback Ken Dorsey, 28, said he will pursue a coaching career -- ``I feel I can be a great coach'' -- and would love to return to UM. ``I've never talked to Randy Shannon [about a job], unfortunately,'' Dorsey said, though he has sought career advice from UM athletic director Kirby Hocutt.

Dorsey, who was a volunteer coach at Lakewood Ranch High in Bradenton last season, has spoken to a few non-BCS schools about an assistant job. He said he intended to take an administrative job working at FIU for athletic director Pete Garcia -- ``Pete and I are close'' -- but changed career goals and plans to call FIU's Mario Cristobal.

Dorsey said he ``texted Jacory Harris every week this past season. He's one of the smartest quarterbacks there in a long time. I see leadership qualities that I had.''

Bookmark and Share

Vilma Presents Team Mates With Custom Crown Royal Cask No.16

Middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma is so proud and close to his teammate that to commemorate their Super Bowl win over the Indianapolis Colts he embellished them with a personalized gift courtesy of Crown Royal.

Vilma arranged for each of his teammates to receive a bottle of Crown Royal Cask No. 16, an ultra premium whiskey that was recently named “Canadian Whisky of the Year” by Malt Advocate Magazine, in a personalized bag commemorating their historic season.

Of the gifting, Vilma says, “After such an incredible season and the big win on Sunday, I have so much respect for each and every member of this team – they’re like family to me. So I’ve arranged to give each teammate a bottle of Crown Royal Cask No. 16 that has a specially embroidered message from me in honor of our win.”

Gotta love Vilma.

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

Bookmark and Share

Gaby Sanchez Fighting for 1st Base

The Marlins aren't sure who is going to play first base. Incumbent Jorge Cantu has driven in 195 runs the last two years, but Gaby Sanchez and Logan Morrison are getting chances to force him back to third base. Some are mentioning Morrison as a possible Rookie of the Year candidate.

Bookmark and Share