Ex-Miami Hurricanes and NFL star Bernie Kosar files for bankruptcy

Former gridiron great Bernie Kosar, dogged by financial and legal problems, filed for bankruptcy Friday.

Kosar, 45, the former Miami Hurricane and NFL quarterback, filed for Chapter 11, which is generally used by companies to reorganize.

The bankruptcy petition didn't provide much detail. Boxes were checked off on the petition indicating Kosar has assets estimated between $1 million and $10 million and liabilities of between $10 million and $50 million.

The filing listed Kosar's largest unsecured creditors, owed a combined $19.5 million. Among them and the amount of their claims: the Cleveland Browns, a team he quarterbacked from 1985 to 1993, nearly $1.5 million; his ex-wife Babette, $3 million; and Jim Ferraro, the owner of the Cleveland Gladiators, an Arena Football League team, $725,000. Kosar is the team's president.

Other major unsecured creditors include Tampa's Florida Bank, owed about $9.7 million over some sour real estate investments, and Key Bank of Cleveland, owed $3.1 million.

The filing marks a hard fall for Kosar, the star Hurricanes quarterback in the 1980s who went on to excel in the NFL with the Cleveland Browns before ending his career with the Miami Dolphins in 1996.

Kosar, who owns a home in Weston, has endured a variety of setbacks lately. Kosar's wife, Babette, divorced him in 2007. Last year, his Bernie Kosar's Steakhouse went out of business.

Lenders also obtained foreclosure judgments on apartment properties Kosar had an interest in in Tampa, Clearwater and Pinellas Park.

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Report: Ryan Braun breaks up with girlfriend

Here at Decider, we’ve been known to make a few jokes about Ryan Braun and his dalliances with ugly T-shirts and potential reality TV show stints. But since Braun is a millionaire baseball star who rolls with 50 Cent and has unlimited access to beautiful, morally loose women, we figure he can take it. Besides, do you think he even looks at the Internet? If he does, he’s probably enjoying the online reaction his recent break-up with girlfriend Andreena Clarke.

Braun appeared on local radio station 103.7 KISS FM last month and announced that, yes ladies, he is newly single. The news was posted on the station’s website with no less than four question marks and three exclamation points. The listener comments were no less orgasmic: “Omg, Ryan Braun is HOTT!!! I mean that in the best way EVER!!! I would love to meet him. He Rocks….GO BREWERS!!!! OH!!! I meet Prince Fielder before….He is Awesome!!!!” (That’s 17 exclamation points worth of lust!)

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Hendricks Cut

The New York Giants cut free agent DT Dwayne Hendricks yesterday.

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Olsen continues to impress

The News
Chicagobears.com reports that coach Lovie Smith has been more impressed than ever by tight end Greg Olsen in offseason workouts. "I really liked what Greg Olsen has been able to do this spring," Smith said. "Of course we know his talent. But I've really seen him move more toward being a dominant player always."

Our View
Olsen's value took a leap this offseason when the Bears acquired quarterback Jay Cutler. He is arguably the team's best pass-catcher and should be in line for his best season yet. He could challenge the top five tight ends in the league in terms of fantasy value.

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Brees and Shockey on the Same Page

Brees hit tight end Jeremy Shockey deep down the middle of the field on a well-timed seam route. I think we could see a lot of that this year if Shockey stays healthy. The middle of the field has always been open for tight ends in this offense.

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Huff comes through in clutch again

The Orioles ended their nine-game homestand with one of their most exhilarating victories of the season.

Trailing by a run in the ninth inning, the Orioles scored twice off All-Star closer Francisco Rodriguez to deal the New York Mets a 5-4 loss before an announced 23,009 on Thursday night at Camden Yards.

For the second game in a row, Aubrey Huff connected for the game-winning hit with a line one-out single to right field that scored Nolan Reimold from third and sent the Orioles sprinting out of the dugout to pile on Huff near first base.

The victory, the Orioles' first when trailing after eight innings, left the Orioles with a 5-4 homestand and a 29-37 record overall. They'll begin a three-game series at Philadelphia on Friday night.

Rookie catcher Matt Wieters started the rally with a leadoff double. Pinch hitter Nolan Reimold drew a walk and then Brian Roberts dropped down a sacrifice bunt. Mets catcher Omir Santos popped out of his crouch and immediately threw to third base, but umpire Tim Timmons ruled that pinch runner Felix Pie had beat the throw, drawing a spirited argument from New York manager Jerry Manuel.

With no outs and the bases loaded, Adam Jones fell behind Rodriguez 1-2, but eventually worked a full-count walk to bring home the tying run. After Rodriguez struck out Nick Markakis looking, Huff lined the closer's first pitch of the at-bat into right field.

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Braun expected to return Friday

CLEVELAND -- The lower back tightness that has dogged Brewers slugger Ryan Braun at times this season became a problem again on Wednesday, when Braun exited in the eighth inning of the Brewers' eventual 9-8 victory.

Milwaukee has a well-placed off-day on Thursday before it begins another Interleague series in Detroit on Friday night. Manager Ken Macha said he thought Braun would be back in action for that game.

Braun reached on a fielder's choice and scored from first base on Prince Fielder's double in the top of the seventh inning, then played the bottom half of the frame in the outfield without a ball hit his way.

"It looked like he scored from first with no problem, but the trainer came over to me and said, 'He says it's tightening up but he's going back out there,'" Macha said.

The next half-inning, Macha made a change. Braun was replaced in the top of the eighth by pinch-hitter Jody Gerut, who flew out to end the inning and then remained in the game as the left fielder.

Back issues first became a problem for Braun last season, when a strained muscle between his ribs sapped his power stroke down the stretch. The issue returned in Spring Training, but Braun has mostly been able to play through it, starting all but three of Milwaukee's games in left field.

Braun went 2-for-4 with two runs scored and an RBI on Wednesday and is among the National League's top 10 with a .321 batting average, 49 runs scored and 48 RBIs.

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Photo of the Week: U Family

Here is a shot from the 2007 season featuring proCanes Jon Beason, Baraka Atkins, Tanard Davis and Kelly Jennings.

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Cutler: Devin Hester is a No. 1 receiver

Given a chance Wednesday to lobby for a Brandon Marshall trade or Plaxico Burress signing, Jay Cutler praised his own receivers instead.

Cutler said he hasn't talked to former teammate Marshall and is "100 percent comfortable" with the current Bears receivers. When asked about the team's perceived lack of a No. 1 receiver, Cutler replied: "I think we've got one in Devin [Hester]."

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Giants' Moss upbeat despite hamstring injury

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Just when Sinorice Moss was giving indications that he can be the receiver to replace Plaxico Burress as the New York Giants' deep threat, he felt a little twinge in his hamstring.

As he lay on the ground, Moss spiked the ball in disgust.

That was late in Tuesday afternoon's second workout at the mandatory minicamp. All Moss could do on Wednesday was stand on the sidelines and watch his teammates work. He will not participate in the final two days of the minicamp.

It was far from surprising for the receiver who is entering his fourth season. He has done little in his first three years, and now a setback just as his star appeared to be on the rise.

"I was frustrated because I have been working hard all month," Moss said Wednesday. "When I felt something in my leg, I got angry and upset. Maybe I just need to rest my legs. I don't know. I am just trying to stay positive about the situation and go out here and help my teammates."

Moss insists the injury is not serious and that he will be ready for training camp in August.

"It's unfortunate it's going to keep him out," coach Tom Coughlin said. "He was getting a lot of snaps and he was doing something with them."

The 25-year-old Moss had a spectacular morning session on Tuesday, getting behind the defense to haul in two long passes.

In his first three seasons, the former second-round draft pick had 38 catches for 403 yards and two touchdowns in 29 games. He was limited to six games in an injury-plagued rookie year and never seemed to get in the receiving rotation, making him wonder whether he would ever make it with the Giants.

"Things really sometimes didn't go my way. But I stayed at it," Moss said. "I came to practice with that same attitude. I always ran fast, I always listened to the coaches. I always did what they asked me to do, never complained. And whenever I had my opportunities in a game I stepped up and made plays. So there is no reason for me to be mad at the coaches or look down on myself. But when I am given the opportunity to go out and make the plays, I go out and do that."

Even with the release of Burress in April and the Giants' decision not to re-sign veteran Amani Toomer, Moss said he never looked at the 2009 season as a make-or-break one for him.

"I have a lot of naysayers, people say I can't do this, I can't do that," said Moss, whose brother Santana plays with the Redskins. "I have been hearing that all of my life. I have been hearing (you're) not going to make it to the NFL."
The feeling has left Moss with a chip on his shoulder. When the Giants looked ahead to this season, most people expected that Steve Smith and Domenik Hixon would be the logical contenders for the spots held by Burress and Toomer, followed by rookie draft picks Hakeem Nicks and Ramses Barden.

"I can't worry about what those guys say, but it does bother you when people tell me what you can't do," Moss said. "You are not me, so you can't tell me what I can't do. So that is why I step out on this field every day and I have the attitude of going out there and just making plays and helping this team. So my coaches can know, hey, when it is time to play in the game, 'Hey, give this guy the ball.' "

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Wilfork going the Haynesworth route?

Beat writer Mike Reiss does not expect the Patriots to come to an agreement on a long-term extension with Vince Wilfork.

Reiss believes the Pats will instead copy the Titans' handling of Albert Haynesworth and give Wilfork a short-term incentive -- an increase in 2009 salary plus a guarantee not to slap him with the franchise tag in 2010.

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Sinorice Moss gathers momentum in Giants' wide receiver race

The huge hole left in the Giants' offense when Plaxico Burress was cut has been filled this spring by the littlest guy on the field.

It may not be that way in September, of course, but Sinorice Moss, the Giants' forgotten, 5-foot-8, 185-pound receiver, has clearly been the breakout star of May and June. The former second-round pick (2006) has dazzled everyone the last few weeks with his blazing speed and spectacular catches.

It's what Moss knew he was capable of doing all along.

"I feel like I can do so many things with the ball in my hands," Moss said after the first practice of the Giants' mandatory, three-day minicamp. "It's just about me getting the opportunity to show that."

That opportunity didn't come often during Moss' first three seasons in the NFL. Injuries ruined his rookie year, and then inconsistency in practice kept him buried on the depth chart. He was so far down that offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride thought last year was Moss' best, by far. Yet he caught only 12 passes for 153 yards and was inactive for six games.

While many wrote Moss off, his coaches didn't. They loved his attitude, his passion and the fact that despite a tough situation he kept working and never complained.

"It was never for me to come in and pout, complain, argue, or be mad at my coaches," said Moss, who strained a hamstring late in yesterday's second practice, but seemed fine as he walked off the field. "Things happen for a reason. That's how I look at it. But I continued each and every day to go out there and perform, and I showed these coaches why they drafted me, why they had me on the field, and why I'm here."

The reason Moss is here is his speed, which he flashed twice yesterday, burning cornerbacks downfield to make spectacular, over-the-shoulder catches. "He's gotten behind the secondary a few times this spring," said Tom Coughlin. "And he has obviously created some excitement on our part in watching him do that."

If Moss can continue to do that all summer long, there's a huge opportunity waiting for him in September. Burress and Amani Toomer are gone, and the race for the starting receiver jobs is wide open. Moss, 25, has already been anointed the No. 3 receiver by Gilbride. But he's been performing like a No. 1, which will come as a huge surprise to a lot of his doubters.

"I have a lot of naysayers," Moss said. "People say I can't do this, I can't do that. I've been hearing that all my life. It does bother you when people tell me what I can't do. That's why when I step out on the field every day I have that attitude of just making plays so my coaches can know 'Hey, when it's time to play in the game, give this guy the ball.'"

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Jack McClinton works out for Miami Heat

MIAMI - University of Miami guard Jack McClinton wanted to make sure he took something out of Wednesday's pre-draft tryout at AmericanAirlines Arena.

So after he gave the Miami Heat's scouting braintrust a shooting exhibition, he huddled with coach Erik Spoelstra.

"We were talking about my step-back," he said, "how effective it is, and adding a counter-move to it when they start crowding my space."

While the two-time first-team All-ACC selection won't know his pro landing spot until the June 25 NBA Draft, he certainly tempted the Heat, converting 40 of 50 mid-range jumpers and 36 of 50 3-pointers in a drill against UConn point guard A.J. Price.

"It went good," he said, sweat still dripping onto his Heat practice gear. "I shot the ball well, played pretty good defense, competed."

The 6-foot-1 streak shooter said he now has worked out for half of the league's 30 teams.

"I'm hearing a lot of my range being from 22 to 45," he said, with 30 selections in each of the two rounds.

The Heat holds the Nos. 43 and 60 selections in the second round.

McClinton said he was so anxious for the workout that he tried to get on the court early.

"I mean it's a blessing, just to be able to come in here and get invited to work out with these guys in front of Pat Riley and Erik Spoelstra," he said.

Having attended South Kent Prep in Connecticut with Dorell Wright, he said he huddled with the Heat forward before the session. "We sat down the other day, ate at Monty's, and we were just talking about the workouts," he said. "Me and Dorell are almost neighbors. So we hang out every day. We talk every day."

The issue with McClinton has been, due to his diminutive stature, whether can be productive at point guard.

"We did a lot of ball-screening, pick-and-roll stuff," he said. "Going into these camps, they want to see that. They know I can shoot the ball. They want to see if I can put the ball on the ground. I've really been showing that in my workouts."

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Jack McClinton impresses Miami Heat in workout

Intent on making a big impression during Wednesday's predraft workout for the Miami Heat, former University of Miami star Jack McClinton did all of his homework.

He attended Heat games after his senior season ended.

He got advice from Heat forward Dorell Wright, a close friend and neighbor.

He even arrived an hour early for his session at AmericanAirlines Arena in front of Heat president Pat Riley, coach Erik Spoelstra and the franchise's front office staff.

''I got here a little early and I wanted to come up and shoot,'' said McClinton, a 6-1 guard who set an ACC career record by shooting 44 percent from three-point range. ``Look, man. If Riley sees you up here and nobody [else] -- it was a good experience.''

It was tough to tell which impressed the Heat most: the eagerness McClinton had to arrive early, or the shooting display he put on late.

McClinton closed out the final drill of Wednesday's session by making 40 of 50 mid-range jumpers. He then sank 36 of 50 from NBA three-point range during the drills that were open to the media.

But what might ultimately decide his fate at the June 25 NBA Draft is how well he did behind closed doors.

The Heat -- like many other potential NBA suitors -- is well aware of McClinton's propensity to put the ball in the basket. But what the undersized shooting guard needed to show to improve his stock was the ability to put the ball on the floor and make plays.

History suggests the Heat might be inclined to give McClinton a serious look if he's available in the middle-to-late stages of the second round, where, barring a trade, Miami owns picks No. 43 and No. 60. He could also be an option as an undrafted free agent.

The Heat has had several former Hurricanes in training camp or on its roster since Riley arrived in 1995.
Because of his size, scoring ability and concerns about ball-handling, McClinton has been compared to ex-UM guard Robert Hite, who went undrafted and was with the Heat for the 2006-07 season.

McClinton, a first-team All-ACC pick the past two seasons at UM, could be selected as high as late in the first round, or he could fall completely off the board, according to mock drafts.

Those all-over-the-map projections have McClinton taking an all-over-the-country approach with his workout itinerary. McClinton estimates he has worked out for as many as 15 teams, and will travel Thursday to Cleveland and Saturday to Phoenix.

''My range is so far -- I'd work out for 15 more teams if I could,'' McClinton said. ``I'm approaching this like I'm the 500th pick in the draft with something to prove. [Teams] know I can shoot the ball. They want to see if I can put the ball on the ground. I've really been showing that.''

McClinton ran several of the Heat's basic schemes during two-on-two scrimmage sessions that also included Connecticut guard A.J. Price, UCLA forward Alfred Aboya and LSU forward Chris Johnson. McClinton and Price primarily ran pick-and-roll sets.

''He's definitely a pure shooter, so there's always a spot for a guy like him in the NBA,'' Price said after facing McClinton. ``Regardless of his size, he's able to make shots.''

Spoelstra spent time with McClinton after the workout and offered some adjustments he might need to make to get his shot off at the next level.

''Too much can be overstated about these draft workouts,'' Spoelstra said of the process in general. ``If it's two-on-two or three-on-three, anybody can have a great or a bad day. What you want to see is an NBA skill.''

McClinton's mission leading to draft night is to show the league he has NBA skill -- and then some.

''That's what it's all about,'' he said. ``Coming in these workouts, compete and show these guys what you can do. The rest is out of your hands. Every team needs a great shooter. I feel like I can fill that void on anybody's team.''

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Aubrey Huff home run is difference in New York Mets' 6-4 loss to Baltimore Orioles

BALTIMORE -- Aubrey Huff's name has been mentioned as a potential trade target for the Mets, and on Wednesday, they got a first-hand demonstration of why that is.

Huff drilled a two-run homer off Pedro Feliciano in the seventh inning, handing the Mets a 6-4 loss to the Orioles at Camden Yards.

Daniel Murphy went 3 for 4 with an RBI, and Gary Sheffield went 2 for 4 with a solo home run. But the Mets went 1 for 8 with runners in scoring position and left nine runners on base.

Tim Redding gave up four runs in 5 1/3 innings.

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Burrell gets first start in field

DENVER -- Designated hitter Pat Burrell added a new role to his job description Wednesday against the Rockies in Interleague Play. Actually, it's an old job description.

For the first time this season, Pat "The Bat" Burrell was Pat "The Glove" Burrell, as he was slotted in at right field and in the six hole in the lineup. Burrell has been the DH in all 32 games he has started.

"I'm sure it's going to be a test," Burrell said. "I haven't been out there, but I played every day for nine years. Hopefully, I won't have too many plays."

Manager Joe Maddon notified Burrell before the team left for Denver on Monday about his start in the middle game of the three-game series. Burrell has been taking fielding practice the last two days and before the game Wednesday, he and outfielder Gabe Kapler played catch from about 25 feet. To Burrell's right, in center field, was speedy center fielder B.J. Upton.

"I don't know," Upton said, laughingly, on his upcoming experience of playing with Burrell in the outfield. "That's what I'm waiting to see. He said it's going to be a blast."

The Rays preach defense, but Maddon inked Burrell's name in the lineup because he was mesmerized with Burrell's past against Rockies starter Aaron Cook. Burrell entered Wednesday hitting .688 (11-for-16) with a home run, four RBIs and an on-base-plus-slugging percentage (OPS) of 1.660 against Cook.

"I just couldn't walk away from that," Maddon said. "I've never had a player that's 11-for-16 against anybody. I've just got to go with it.

"I'm like, 'I'm an idiot if I don't give him a chance to play that game.'"

Maddon said Burrell will be taken out of the game for defensive purposes in the late innings if the Rays have a lead.

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Moss goes deep at minicamp

The first practice of the Giants three-day mandatory minicamp turned into a showcase for Sinorice Moss, the still-young receiver who has kept everyone waiting for him to develop into the player the team envisioned him to be.

Moss is entering his fourth season and, as a former second-round draft pick out of Miami, certainly qualifies as a disappointment. He's been hurt, he's been left waiting on the sideline and he's been moderately effective in the brief moments he's actually found his way onto the field. In this practice, though, Moss showed what the Giants hope he can do for them now that Plaxico Burress and Amani Toomer are no longer on the scene or the roster.

Moss, running free inside the new 100-yard field house, twice got behind the defense for long receptions. In the team period he outran - by one step - cornerback Terrell Thomas and ran directly under a perfectly-thrown pass from David Carr. Moss made a wonderful adjustment on the lob and completed an over-the-shoulder catch in stride for what would have been about a 40-yard gain.

A bit later, working in a 7 on 7 drill, Moss again clicked deep, this time with Eli Manning. Moss sprinted up the left sideline and barely got a step on cornerback Rashad Barksdale, who had good coverage on the play. Moss simply got a bit higher than Barksdale and made the grab for his second eye-opening play.

"Having the deep plays called and having the opportunity to go out there and catch big passes over the DBs, it speaks volumes,'' Moss said. "It's very exciting. I had a positive attitude to go out there and make plays for this team and show these coaches why I'm here on this team. I never look down on myself, I just go out there and continue to work.''

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Moss Strains Hamstring

WR Sinorice Moss. After catching an early deep ball, Moss was fired up -- as he should have been. Moss ran a gorgeous post route past CB Terrell Thomas and caught a perfect pass from QB David Carr. "Let's go, baby!" Moss yelled as he jogged into the end zone. And go he did once again when he beat CB Rashad Barksdale on a deep go from QB Eli Manning. Wait, he's not done: he caught a very good back-shoulder pass from Carr and fought off CB Kevin Dockery while leaping. Not an easy thing to do given his smaller build.

During the last drill of practice this afternoon, WR Sinorice Moss - - whose outstanding play has been detailed here all spring long - - made a difficult, sliding catch to bail out QB David Carr in a two-minute drill. And that was good.
But then he yelled, tossed the ball aside, walked towards the trainer and slammed his helmet to the turf.
That wasn’t good.

It turns out that Moss suffered a “hamstring strain,” according to the Giants. He did spend a few minutes laying on the ground with a trainer hovering over him, but he also was able to get up and walked off the practice field with the rest of his teammates. The fact that he wasn’t limping makes it seem like it wasn’t serious, but hamstring injuries do tend to linger, so it’ll be interesting to see if he’s on the field for Day 2 of mini-camp tomorrow.

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Giants safety Kenny Phillips grows into a starting role

At the end of last season, safety Kenny Phillips was 202 pounds. During the offseason program this spring he watched his weight tick up, pound by pound, until it reached 217.

Phillips, who usually has trouble putting on weight, changed nothing about his diet or workout regimen. All the added weight was muscle, not fat, so the reason for the increased mass is still unclear.
Though Phillips has a theory.

"Maybe I went through puberty," the Giants safety joked Tuesday at the start of mandatory minicamp. "I don't know. I have no idea where it came from."

Phillips has gone through at least one growing process in the last year: his NFL rookie season, during which he admittedly reined in his personality on the field and off while playing a situational role as a backup. Now, with James Butler having left via free agency, Phillips is in a starting role alongside Michael Johnson. And so far this spring, last year's first-round pick has shown improved on-field awareness to go along with the athleticism that was always evident.

"I see better recognition. I see him getting a jump on the ball, believing in what he sees and letting his ability take him to, literally, where the ball is," coach Tom Coughlin said. "He's bigger and stronger, too. We're excited, looking forward to" Phillips' upcoming season.

A year ago, Phillips stunned former defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo during the second day of minicamp when he pivoted and sprinted across the field to make a diving interception. It was a play Spagnuolo was still talking about more than a month later at training camp, and it showed what kind of on-field speed and range Phillips had.

In Week 2, he put those skills on display again when he recovered after being fooled on a cut move by Rams wide receiver Torry Holt. Phillips got spun around on the play but somehow got in position to wrestle with Holt for the ball in the end zone. The only problem was Holt won the scrum for a touchdown.

This season, Phillips is hoping his increased awareness will put him in a better position before the throw so that his athleticism will help make the play -- not just keep him in it.

"You can see it coming now," he said of the wide receivers' routes.

During organized team activities, Phillips would see the receiver trying to fake the flag route to the sideline before running a post up the middle.

"I just run straight to the post and pick it off," Phillips said. "It just comes with playing time and experience."

And confidence.

"I'm not Ed Reed, but I feel I can make those same plays," Phillips said of his fellow former Miami Hurricanes safety. "You're a rookie and you don't want to go out there and start running around and trying to do stuff when you're not even starting. I was a little hesitant, but this year, I'm all in."

And he's all over the field. Whereas Butler was strictly a strong safety and would have to switch with Johnson if an offense flopped a formation, Phillips is capable of playing either position. So this spring, both players have been working on their communication and assignment adjustments on the fly.

"It makes us more flexible because we can do anything and everything," Johnson said. "And we can switch positions in our head instead of scrambling and running to the other side of the field."

Later, Johnson added about Phillips' improved awareness: "He's come a long way."

Phillips said the best teacher was live action because, unlike practices that include tons of deep balls, game situations involve more underneath routes and running plays. Instead of playing sandlot style football, Phillips had to learn to make better coverage reads.

"You don't get the opportunities to shine like you do in practice when they're taking deep shots all the time," he said. "I just felt I didn't really get the opportunity to make as many plays as I wanted to."

With his increased role, and his bigger physical frame, Phillips should have plenty of opportunities moving forward.

"They always felt I had the body frame to carry weight. They just said make sure you keep the speed," he said. "Obviously I did, so they're not complaining."

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Opportunity Knocks for 2009 New York Jets

Former defensive tackle Kareem Brown has been following TE Bubba Franks through workouts as he begins a desperate journey to make the Jets. Between Franks and Dustin Keller, the team has sufficient talent at the top of the tight end depth chart.

What they need is someone to block in short-yardage situations.

If Brown can successfully convert to tight end, he could end up being New York’s goal-line specialist—someone able to open holes off the edge on offense while clogging lanes on defense.

Over time, NFL teams have begun rotating players more often, which means roster spots are at a premium. Players like Philadelphia’s Dan Klecko (who plays fullback after winning the Big East Defensive Player of the Year as a defensive tackle at Temple) now fill depth charts. If Brown wants a future in this league, he needs to start learning new tricks right now.

At 6-4, 295 pounds, Brown has the size to fill both positions. The skill set, on the other hand, still remains to be seen.

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Winslow Being Cautious

TAMPA - The Tampa Bay Buccaneers concluded its first session of mandatory minicamp practice with two players being cautious with their injuries.

Bucs defensive end Gaines Adams twisted his foot during practice and left early, while tight end Kellen Winslow did not go full speed through every drill. Neither injury seems serious.

"I rolled over on my foot," Adams said. "It's nothing major."

Winslow, who is recovering from a staph infection and ankle injury last season, cautiously approached drills that could hinder his comeback. As Winslow participated in a drill with the ball attached to an elastic band, he stopped midway during the exercise when it became too strenuous.

"They put the cone out there far for me and I was like, 'Nah man, I can't go that far,' " Winslow said.

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Wilfork Contract Speculations

Do you also see a possibility of the Patriots trying to work a contract with Vince Wilfork before camp or because of the uncertainty of the CBA they may actually wait until the end of the season?
I think the sides will continue to have an open dialogue about a possible extension for Wilfork, but my sense is that the resolution won't come in the form of an extended contract unless either side has a significant shift in stance. It seems to me that the team is reluctant to given an extension - to anyone, really. The last long-term extension/contract was Ty Warren in August of 2007. While they might be willing to go there for Wilfork, my feeling is that the numbers aren't currently at a level that would appease Wilfork. So that leads me to this conclusion: I think Wilfork will ultimately be given a short-term incentive (e.g. no franchise tag in 2010, a bump in base pay for 2009) and play out the final year of his deal.

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Where Norris goes, Gore will follow

Frank Gore wanted his fullback's attention. "Big Mo," he hollered across the 49ers' practice field Monday, as Moran Norris finished up some extracurricular drills by catching passes. Gore had been explaining his friendship with Norris to a reporter, and he wanted backup.

"We're very close on and off the field," Gore said, waiting for Norris to arrive.

"It goes beyond football," the fullback confirmed, a day before his 31st birthday. "He's like a little brother to me."
Their reunion might be the feel-good story of the 49ers' offseason, bringing together a combination that helped Gore rush for more yards in 2006 than any other running back in team history.

No one was terribly surprised that they ended up apart at the end of the 2008 training camp, when the 49ers waived Norris to accommodate the creativity of then-offensive coordinator Mike Martz. No fan of fullbacks in general, Martz had little use for the big lug of a lead blocker. Once a meat-and-potatoes running game returned to the 49ers' menu, Norris came back on the roster. He signed a three-year deal, reportedly worth $5 million, in late February.

At the end of last season, when players had their exit interviews with the coaches, Gore said he brought up Norris' name during his talk with head coach Mike Singletary.

"I put a buzz in his ear," he said.

When the 49ers decided to contact Norris, general manager Scot McCloughan checked with Gore to let him know the team was interested. The feeling was mutual.

After a few weeks of unemployment, Norris had spent most of the 2008 season with the Detroit Lions, whose 0-16 season might have been miserable, "but it beats sitting at home watching the games on TV," Norris said.

Whenever he could, he watched the 49ers and tried to fight off frustration. Norris and Gore talked to each other every week. Five years apart in age, they had bonded early in the '06 season, when they both began the year as second-teamers and worked their way up. Pretty soon, they were driving to games together, sharing meals regularly and putting 1,695 yards on Gore's resume.

Their rapport, they say, allows them to read each other's movements in advance. Each knows instinctively how the other will react to a given situation.

When Gore reached the Pro Bowl in 2006, he took Norris as his guest. A 49ers scrapbook from the week in Hawaii shows the two buddies side by side, wearing orchid leis and flashing peace signs.

At least once a week, Gore said, he can count on a home-cooked meal, courtesy of Norris' wife, Tamara. Next week, the Morans will host their annual football camp, which functions as a fundraiser for their foundation, aimed at helping at-risk youth in their native Houston get through school.

Several 49ers have volunteered to attend and help coach the kids, including tight end Vernon Davis and wide receiver Arnaz Battle. Gore is a regular, faithfully following Norris' lead.

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Q&A: O’s Blogger on Aubrey Huff

The Mets begin a three-game, inter-league series against the Orioles tonight in Baltimore.

There has been some buzz of late, at least among fans and opinion columnists, linking the Mets to the O’s and Aubrey Huff, who is batting .261 with eight HR and 41 RBI this season.

I think a lot of people are intrigued by Huff because a) there is no way the O’s make the post season this year, and so he’s probably available now, b) he hit 32 home runs last season, and c) he could play first base now, but is capable of playing left field when Carlos Delgado returns from the disabled list.

So, I asked Matt Sadler, O’s fan, and writer of Right off Russell, to help fill me on Huff, who I am not very familiar with, outside of what I see in the boxscore.

Matthew Cerrone: Do you think the O’s will trade Huff?  If so, what type of talent are they typically looking for?
Matt Sadler:  I do think the O’s will trade Huff away at the right price. Huff is in the last year of his deal, and I don’t see him signing with the team.  They have serviceable players that can cover for him at first base and DH with some prospects on the way… Andy McPhail is a reasonable baseball man.  I think his recent MO is taking younger, underachieving players with huge upside.

Matthew Cerrone: How is Huff’s defense? Can he still play both first and outfield?
Matt Sadler: Honestly his defense is very non-descript. I am trying to remember him making any serious blunders at first, and I can’t. His stats seem to back my theory up. He is also doesn’t end up on the highlight reel for Teixeira-like grabs. He seems to cover well for some poor throws, but his range is not remarkable. As for playing the OF, he has not played there as an Oriole. He has covered first, third and the DH role. The O’s have too much depth in the outfield and are very thin in the infield.

Matthew Cerrone: What are best and worst parts of his game?
Matt Sadler: The best part of his game is that he can provide instant results from the plate. He is a career hitter who is not a liability on the basepaths. While his power is generated pulling the ball, he can hit well enough to the opposite field to avoid teams using the shift on him.  The worst part of his game is that he is a slow starter. His best months usually are in July, August and September… for a team, looking to fill a a gap mid-season, he would be perfect.

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Dorsey Vying For a Spot in the UFL

Some came to chase the seemingly elusive dream of playing professional football.

Others showed up to resurrect once promising NFL careers.

A few even laced up their cleats for fear of having to permanently hang them up.

But all 55 players that participated in the United Football League scouting workout at Sam Boyd Stadium on Saturday night were after one thing –- a roster spot in an upstart league with a potentially fruitful future.

“Everyone was real competitive today,” said Cecil Sapp, a former Denver Broncos and Houston Texans fullback who is now a UFL hopeful. “You could tell everyone really wanted a spot in this league and it will be a good opportunity. It will be like the baseball minor leagues. Just one step away.”

With former NFL coaches and newly hired UFL head coaches Jim Fassel (Las Vegas), Jim Haslett (San Francisco) and Ted Cottrell (New York) on hand, the hopefuls ran 40-yard dashes, smacked tackling dummies and practiced passing routes for nearly two hours.

Although most of the participants had not touched a football in months, Fassel seemed impressed with the effort displayed.

“This is a total offseason and these guys are out here and you can just see the way they work that this is important to them,” Fassel said. “And that is the starting criteria for me. I don’t want somebody who just says, ‘I’m a good player, I should be out here.’ These players have good attitudes and they want to make it and that’s part of any evaluation you do as a coach. You always evaluate the talent, but you also evaluate how important is it to this guy.”

Fassel and the other UFL coaches have already worked out nearly 200 players at similar combines across the country. The four inaugural UFL teams will hold a draft in 10 days to begin building their rosters.

Fassel said he hopes to sign 30 players initially then wait until the end of NFL training camps in late-August to sign another 30 players.

“The talent level in this league will surprise people – I can guarantee that,” Fassel said.

One position Fassel already has locked up is the starting quarterback. But Fassel would not release this mystery gunslinger’s name except to admit that he has prior NFL experience. (Cue the Michael Vick rumors.)

Fassel did keep a close eye on the slew of talented quarterbacks auditioning for back-up roles Saturday including former Cleveland Browns starter Ken Dorsey, who also won a national championship with the University of Miami.
The two-time Heisman trophy finalist hope to revitalize his career in the UFL, much like Kurt Warner did in the Arena League.

“I just want to be around a group of guys that love playing football and have fun,” Dorsey said. “This league has a lot of credibility. You’ve got four top coaches and some great ownership. It’s a realistic league. It’s not anything that hasn’t been fully thought out. It doesn’t happen very often where you have a great idea backed by great coaches and players that are legitimate. It’s exciting.”

Aside from Dorsey, several other notable college quarterbacks showed off their arms including Utah’s Brian Johnson, Northwestern’s C.J. Bacher, Nebraska’s Joe Ganz and Arkansas’ Casey Dick.

In every group, whether defensive tackles or wide receivers, the list of Saturday’s participants included all Division-I athletes with a large number having logged some NFL experience.

“Sometimes guys can resurrect his career in a league like this,” Fassel said. “All of a sudden, for whatever reason, he hits the back burner and starts playing lights out football. Trust me, the NFL is going to scout the hell out of this league. Big time.”

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Hester Only Has Eyes for Cutler

For the Bears to have success this year in the passing game, Jay Cutler must quickly develop chemistry with his offensive weapons.  OC Ron Turner is working to make sure that happens.

...at least two of the Bears' top four receivers are on the field every time Cutler throws a pass. One or both of the tight-end tandem of Greg Olsen and Desmond Clark also must be on the field when Cutler throws. Ideally, one of the two running backs, Matt Forte or Kevin Jones, also must be on the field.

But Bears #1 receiver Devin Hester gets the special treatment.  He does not take a single throw from any quarterback other than Cutler.  A lot is being placed on the shoulders of Hester.  Even with Bennett looking good so far and Johnny Knox looking to be a breakout this year, Hester is going to be the man and he must have a good chemistry with Cutler.

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No time to rest for McClinton as NBA draft looms

CORAL GABLES - Jack McClinton seems in a hurry.

An interview starts 10 minutes later than expected, throwing off his schedule. He answers each question thoughtfully in the Miami basketball office, but he's clearly in a rush to begin his midday workout in preparation for this month's NBA Draft.

He bolts from the room at the conclusion, even before the "stop" button on the recorder can be pushed. Despite the college accolades and interest from general managers, McClinton in many ways remains the same kid who has been doubted throughout his life. He still practices the most, still has midnight shooting sessions with anyone willing to grab rebounds.

"I've done this my whole life," McClinton said. "I've always done it. That's the type of person I am. I want to be perfect. I know you can't be perfect, but you can keep preparing yourself. Be prepared or prepare to fail. That's how I look at it."

When will it change?

He says never. No matter if five years from now he's made it in the NBA or struggling to find a roster spot.

"It would probably take me breaking both of my legs ... knock on wood," McClinton said. "That's the thing. Those are the great ones. Look at Kobe Bryant. He never stops working. Once you stop working and become complacent, you become just like everybody else."

McClinton went from being unwanted out of high school to a two-time first-team All-Atlantic Coast Conference player. His next obstacle is convincing scouts he can play point guard after being a primary scorer at UM.

At 6 feet 2, he is considered undersized to play shooting guard. His dribbling and playmaking ability were concerns during college. McClinton says the NBA features few point guards who serve as the team's primary ball-handler.

"If you think about the NBA, there's only about six or seven great point guards," said McClinton, who has drawn comparisons to Eddie House of the Boston Celtics. "You got Chris Paul, Steve Nash, Deron Williams, Jason Kidd, Chauncey Billups. But all the rest are guys who just don't get rattled bringing the ball up the court. They get the team in the offense, and they cut through and knock down the open shot if possible. It's not too many guys who are going to be out there creating. I know I can do that."

McClinton took some criticism when he decided to skip the Portsmouth Invitational in April, preferring to conduct individual workouts for teams. The camp often allows players considered to be borderline prospects to improve their stock.

"It's a huge mistake," assistant director of NBA scouting Ryan Blake said at the time. "He's probably got an agent that said he could get [him] an individual workout ... It would help him to get three games against the top seniors. What's going to happen if he doesn't get drafted?"

Jack McClinton Sr. said the choice was made so his son could heal from a late-season knee injury.

"People's opinions are going to vary," McClinton Sr. said.

"We just basically made a decision based on where he [was] physically and mentally. We're taking good advice. I think we're going to be OK."

McClinton has fully recovered from the injury, and the move has been beneficial.

He's worked out for at least eight NBA teams and had a strong showing at the predraft camp in Chicago. According DraftExpress.com, the New York Knicks are strongly considering trading for a late first-round pick with plans of drafting McClinton.

"I'm hearing a lot of late-first, early-second [round] talk," McClinton said. "Anywhere from [No.] 22 to 60. I've worked so hard. Even you're in the second round, you can still work and get a spot. I love to work. I'll do what I got to do to get there."

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Building Blocks of the AFC

Vince Wilfork, NT, Patriots. Like three-quarters of the division, we'll stick with a 3-4 defense. Wilfork is an elite nose tackle and just 27 years old.

Vernon Carey, RT, Dolphins. There were quite a few players left to consider, but we went with the best right tackle in the division to give Brady a formidable offensive line. Carey will turn 28 in training camp.

Andre Johnson, WR, Texans. He won't turn 30 until the final year of our window and he's a tremendous combination of size, speed, physicality and professionalism.

Eric Winston, RT, Texans. Strong, smart and still has his best football ahead of him. Probably a coin flip between Winston and Tennessee's David Stewart for the spot opposite Roos. I give Winston a tiny edge as he is better equipped to play left tackle or guard if we need to make a move.

Ed Reed, S, Ravens: Reed, 30, would be higher on the list if this was a one-year scenario. But recent ailments make it questionable whether he wants to play football for another three years and beyond. Reed even discussed flirtations with baseball, because it's much easier on the body. But pairing Reed with Polamalu, even if it's just for a few years, would give my team arguably the best safety tandem in NFL history.

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Starting job not assured for Ravens RB Willis McGahee

Ravens RB Willis McGahee has said all the right things about working with the second-team offense in the Ravens' recent OTAs, and the way we hear it, McGahee, on the basis of his considerable talent, likely has a slight edge to be the club's starting running back in Week One. However, a source close to the team notes that if McGahee is not healthy and motivated come training camp, the Ravens won't hesitate to use second-year back Ray Rice ahead of McGahee. Rice has gotten the first-team practice reps as McGahee, who is working his way back from knee and ankle injuries, completely heals. McGahee's agent, Drew Rosenhaus, said via his RosenhausSports Twitter account that McGahee had knee and ankle surgery in the offseason. McGahee missed three games because of injury last season, the most he had missed in a season since sitting out his 2003 rookie campaign in Buffalo to recover from a serious knee injury suffered in the '03 Fiesta Bowl.

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Defendant in Sean Taylor murder case must wait to change guilty plea

One of five defendants charged in the slaying of former University of Miami and Washington Redskins football star Sean Taylor was in Miami-Dade court Friday wanting to change his guilty plea to murder charges.

But Venjah Hunte, 21, will have to wait until June 19 for another hearing to consider the matter. Last May, he pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in exchange for a 29-year prison sentence.

Meanwhile, Hunte's attorney, Michael Hornung, has asked the court to appoint a new attorney for Hunte because of what he cited as a ``serious breakdown in attorney-client communications.''

Hunte has said he never entered Taylor's Palmetto Bay home on the night he was killed. The other defendants all face life imprisonment.

Prosecutors took the death penalty off the table to speed up the trial process.

The four other defendants: accused gunman Eric Rivera, 18; Jason Mitchell, 21; Charles Wardlow, 19; and Timmy Lee Brown, 17, are all from the Fort Myers area and are currently jailed in Miami-Dade County. All have pleaded not guilty and are being held without bail.

After being awakened by loud noises about 1 a.m. Nov. 27, 2007, the 24-year-old Taylor grabbed a machete kept in his bedroom for protection.

What began as a simple burglary turned into a homicide when a gunman shot Taylor in the leg -- causing significant blood loss.

The death of the former UM football star has left a mark on his family, fans and the Washington Redskins. During the first play of the first game after Taylor died, the Redskins defense came out with only 10 players instead of the usual 11.

The trial for the four other defendants is scheduled for Jan. 18. Originally scheduled for last August, the trial has been postponed three times so defense attorneys can interview more witnesses.

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Gaby Sanchez getting prepped for promotion?

It would appear that way, considering Gaby Sanchez is now the third baseman at Triple-A New Orleans. After returning from a knee injury that sidelined him a month, Sanchez played his first two games back at his usual first base. Earlier this week, the Zephyrs coaching staff was instructed to play Sanchez exclusively at third for the next week to 10 days.

Could that mean Emilio Bonifacio's run is coming to end? Perhaps. Bonifacio was not in today's starting lineup against right-hander Casey Janseen, probably because he's batting .218 from the left side against righties and .309 as a right-handed hitter off lefties. He's all but sure to be in there Sunday against LHP Brian Tallet.

Bonifacio continues to field a sub-.300 on-base percentage and he's had his issues defensively at third base.
Cantu isn't coming off first, so it makes to get Sanchez re-acclimated to third in case the Marlins decide they need his bat. This isn't aChris Coghlan deal, wherethey moved him from second to left, a position he'd never played. Sanchez got plenty of experience at third both at UM and in the minors.

Through 29 games at Triple-A, Sanchez is batting .318 with a .387 on-base percentage and .482 slugging.
How's this for a possible lineup: Coghlan LF, Uggla 2B, Ramirez, SS; Cantu, 1B; Hermida, RF; Sanchez, 3B; Baker, C; Ross CF

The lefties are spread out. I like Ross eighth with the hope Sanchez will be on base for some of the Toy Cannon's doubles and homers.

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Ryan Braun to unveil new bat line

Milwaukee Brewers leftfielder Ryan Braun will introduce a new line of bats Friday in a partnership with SAM BAT, a Canadian bat manufacturer.

Braun will unveil the bat before the Brewers game Friday night against the Chicago White Sox at Miller Park in Milwaukee. The new bat, called RB8, was designed by Braun.

As part of the new initiative, Braun is working with Good Sports Inc., a Boston group working to increase youth participation in sports, fitness, and recreational programs by providing sports equipment. SAM BAT will donate 150 bats plus 10 bats for every home run Braun hits this season.

"This is something I am enjoying," Braun said in a recent interview. "For me, whatever companies I associate myself with off the field, I want them to have the same kind of ambitions and goals that I do. Ultimately, I want to be the best baseball player that I can be and I want to associate myself with companies that have those same ambitions.”

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Burrell bats second as Crawford rests

ST. PETERSBURG -- A first look at Sunday's lineup card filled out by Rays manager Joe Maddon likely got most Rays fans taking a second look.Carl Crawford had the day off, and batting second for the Rays -- in between B.J. Upton and Evan Longoria -- was none other than Pat Burrell, a career middle-of-the-order hitter.

"It's the Burrell sandwich, between a slice of B.J. and a slice of Evan," Maddon said. "It should digest well. I think he's going to have a very good day sitting in that spot."

Maddon explained his logic by noting he did not want to move Ben Zobrist out of the fifth spot due to the protection he offers cleanup hitter Carlos Pena. And with Washington starter Ross Detwiler being "a reverse split guy," Maddon felt fine with Gabe Gross hitting sixth. Which left Maddon with the decision about whether to hit Gabe Kapler or Burrell second, and he decided on Burrell.

"Pat's a high on-base percentage guy," Maddon said. "He can take his walks. And he can set it up for Longo and Carlos. Also, the bottom part [of the order] keeps doing a good job, so that means he can come up in the two-hole with men on base."

Maddon saw a similar move made by the Angels with slugger Troy Glaus, who was moved up in the order.
"It worked out well," Maddon said.

Burrell is likely the slowest player on the Rays, but Maddon did not feel there would be any adverse effect of having a slow runner hitting in the No. 2 spot.

"No, because Longo's not a basestealer and neither is Carlos, so he's not clogging the bases up on anybody," Maddon said. "Just get out there and let them drive you in. He's swinging the bat pretty well. Putting him in that hole lets us see that he gets a nicer pitch to hit. And see if that really gets him rolling."

Maddon likes to give Crawford a day off when the team is facing an off-day the following day -- which the Rays are Monday -- giving the speedy left fielder additional rest for his legs.

"Carl's been playing at a real high level," Maddon said. "He's been doing a lot of running, obviously, and he's been diving all over the place, doing a great job. And I really believe by giving him the two [days off], he can sustain what he's been doing. And actually, most of the time, when we give him the deuce, he comes back even better. So it should be kind of interesting to see him on real turf [in Colorado, where the Rays play next]."

Crawford said he can "definitely" notice a difference in the freshness of his legs when he gets time off.

"Yeah, I notice it even if it's just one day," Crawford said. "I get a chance to regroup my legs. Just make them feel fresh again."

When asked about the Rays putting some speed in the No. 2 spot by using Burrell there, Crawford smiled.

"Yeah," he said with a chuckle.

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