Hester says he's ready to be No. 1

Coming off a 51-catch season with a team-best 665 receiving yards, Devin Hester is the only player on the roster who can be considered even close to a No. 1 wide receiver, and with no help expected in free agency, he's destined to be the main man again, unless the Bears happen to strike gold in the draft.

"It's important for me to play like a No. 1 receiver," Hester said. "That's my biggest goal. I feel like I have the ability to play as a No. 1 receiver, and I'm feeling real good and confident. Kyle (Orton) is coming out here throwing great passes and organizing the receivers and putting them in the right spots. That's what it's all about, being on the same page as the quarterback."

Asked if Hester could be a go-to guy in the passing game, coach Lovie Smith seemed comfortable with the idea.

"You talked to Devin, right?" Smith said "What did he tell you? He told you he was the No. 1 receiver, right? He definitely has No. 1 receiver-type ability. At the end of (last) year, Devin was definitely playing like a No. 1 receiver and I'm excited about this second year of him being a full-time wide receiver."

In his last six games last season, Hester caught 25 passes for 347 yards. At that pace over 16 games, he'd have 67 receptions for 925 yards.


Ray Lewis says Ravens were always his first choice

In his first news conference since re-signing with the Ravens, linebacker Ray Lewis repeatedly said Thursday that Baltimore was always his first choice in free agency.

"My family is Baltimore. My family is the purple. My family is the fans," Lewis said during a half-hour interview session with local reporters. The bottom line: Was there ever a decision for me to leave Baltimore? I don't think so.

"I didn't take a trip. I didn't visit anyone else's facility," Lewis said. "That would have taken away from what I do for my city."

Before Lewis signed his seven-year, $44.5 million contract (which is essentially a three-year, $22 million deal), he talked about his interest in the Dallas Cowboys and New York Jets, which irritated some of his fan base.

According to owner Steve Bisciotti, the Ravens offered Lewis a contract "higher than most 33-year-olds ever see" at the end of the season. Lewis wanted to test free agency for the first time in his 13-year career and asked the team to keep the offer on the table.

"He gave us 13 years; we gave him a week," Bisciotti said. "He went out there to see a lot more. No, he really didn't want to leave. But if somebody is going to offer him $10 million more over a three-year contract, I would tell him to go. There was no animosity."

Asked if Lewis would eventually have a statue erected next to the one of Johnny Unitas, Bisciotti smiled and said, "I think there's enough bronze in this world to get two statues done."


Cowboys Need Irvin

The Dallas Cowboys have made several moves this offseason to improve team chemistry. The only coaching change was to finally fire Brian Stewart as Defensive Coordinator and announce that Wade Phillips would take over the job. That was not exactly a blockbuster since Phillips took over the defensive signal calling midway through last season. The Cowboys need leadership and direction on the offensive side of the ball. They got rid of T.O., which needed to be done, and now they have Roy Williams and a handful of young, fairly talented receivers on the roster. What they need now is someone to light a fire under there asses and show them how to be real NFL wide receivers. I can think of no finer person to do that than Hall of Famer and former Cowboy receiver Michael Irvin. I do not know if Mr. Irvin has any desire to coach, I know he is currently on the local ESPN radio affiliate and is doing the reality show thing with former Cowboy Bill Bates and former special teams coach Joe Avezzano. Michael Irvins leadership at practice and during games is legendary. I have watched him during several training camps in the early nineties and every game he played for the Cowboys. Now I know Irvin’s off field exploits are legendary as well, but his reputation as a leader and motivator are just what this team needs. Roy Williams is a natural talent; he showed this at the University of Texas and to a lesser degree in Detroit. Watching Williams with the Cowboys this season, it is obvious he needs some help. Michael Irvin was known as one of the great route runners in the game, Williams is known as one of the worst. Talent alone does not get you by in the NFL. Irvin could teach Williams and the other receivers how to practice, something Jason Garrett and Wade Phillips have yet to do. Irvin might even be able to ratchet up the intensity level of the whole team during training camp and during the season. He has the ability to connect and motivate people the way few people can. I do not think “camp cupcake” would apply if Michael were involved, at least not to the receivers and defensive backs. This team has no identity, no sense of urgency at all. Having a person like Mike in the locker room and on the sidelines on Sunday’s would change at least some of that, of course he cannot do it alone. Wade Phillips is not going to change his demeanor, and Jason Garrett is not going to change into a great motivator overnight. The players have to take on most of the challenge. Of course there is a chance that the changes that need to be made can be made without Irvin; I just like the chances a lot more with him than without him. Come on Mike, make the call. The fans and the Cowboys need the Playmaker to make a comeback.


Marlins' Gaby Sanchez sidelined with bruised knee

JUPITER - X-rays on Florida Marlins first baseman Gaby Sanchez taken Thursday morning in Jupiter were negative.

Sanchez was diagnosed with a bruise after banging knees with Lastings Milledge on a ninth-inning play at first during Wednesday night's game against the Nationals in Viera.

The right-handed hitting Sanchez is listed as day to day. He is 6 for 30 (.200) with two doubles, a walk and six strikeouts this spring.

Wes Helms is getting the start at first Thursday afternoon against the Phillies and Jorge Cantu, back from his World Baseball Classic run with Mexico, is at third and batting cleanup.


Perez to Test Shoulder Friday

JUPITER, Fla. — Sore-shouldered reliever Chris Perez will attempt long toss Friday as a possible prelude to a weekend game appearance. Perez remained in Jupiter Thursday to accept treatment on his throwing shoulder, which has been a nuisance for some time. Minimizing its degree, Perez said he has made his last two Grapefruit League outings since the discomfort first surfaced.

Perez compared the sensation to “a knot” and said he typically feels uncomfortable before and after throwing. One of several contenders for the Cardinals’ closer role, Perez described the feeling as “stiffness” more than pain and said that he is typically able to loosen it with exercises and light throwing.

“It would hurt, then I would start playing catch and loosen it up and it would be gone,” Perez said.

Perez accompanied the club on its recent two-day swing to Clearwater and Lakeland but was scratched from a Monday assignment after waking up stiff. He threw in the Joker Marchant Stadium outfield and gradually became more comfortable. However, the team’s training staff sided with caution. He returned to camp and underwent an arthrogram on Tuesday. Results suggested no structural damage but confirmed an impingement caused by tendinitis.

“They told me they want to be healthy later. If there’s any kind of discomfort tomorrow we’re going to shut it down. They said it’s not that important right now for me to throw an inning,” Perez said.

Since first experiencing stiffness, Perez worked a scoreless inning against the Florida Marlins March 18 and allowed two runs in a bumpy inning against the Baltimore Orioles March 13.

Any residual discomfort today will lead to a longer shutdown. Even if he is allowed to pitch this weekend, Perez acknowledges going more than a week without game activity does not enhance his chances to open the season as Cardinals closer.

“It’s definitely not ideal,” Perez said. “I’ve still got 2 ½ weeks left and I can get four or five more appearances. Hopefully, they go good and I build some momentum going into the season and win a spot.”


John Salmons and Brad Miller adjusting quickly to Chicago Bulls

John Salmons smiled at the question: Describe Brad Miller's game.

After a long pause — and another smile — Salmons drew out the syllable in the first word of his answer for emphasis: "Very deceptive."

Asked to return the assignment, Miller didn't hesitate.

"Versatile," Miller said of Salmons. "There really isn't anything he can't do well."

As Kings teammates for 21/2 seasons and Bulls teammate for 14 games, Salmons and Miller know each other's tricks of the trade well.

Salmons has seen Miller's pump fakes, no-look bounce passes and grimaces as he keeps another offensive rebound alive. Miller has watched Salmons finish with his left hand in traffic, improve his range to become a consistent three-point shooter and be a willing defender.

"You would never think he would be able to rebound as well as he can or take people off the dribble like he does or get to the hole as consistently as he does," Salmons said of Miller.

"Early on, it used to crack me up: 'How did he get to the rim like that?' But he does it all the time. He's just a good player."

Salmons' scoring average has jumped from his career mark of 8.6 points per game to 18.5 this season, but Miller isn't surprised.

"A lot of players underrate how good he is at both ends," Miller said. "He really has stepped up his offensive game because he can shoot it, put it on the floor to make plays and finish at the rim."

Indeed, Salmons is averaging 19.4 points on 50.5 percent shooting in 37.1 minutes since coming to the Bulls. He is shooting 39.7 percent from three-point range and creating a doozy of a lineup decision for coach Vinny Del Negro if Luol Deng returns from the stress fracture in his leg.

Perhaps most impressive, Salmons is posting such numbers despite taking just 13.1 shots per game.

"I've never been the type who takes a lot of shots because my shots need to come within the context of the offense to succeed," he said. "I try not to force shots."

Miller is averaging 12.4 points and eight rebounds in the 14 games of his second Bulls stint. Many of his contributions — setting proper angles on screens, tipping balls for extra possessions — don't appear in box scores.

"I'm not playing as many minutes, so it's like just fight like the younger days when I didn't have to worry about playing 40 minutes," Miller said. "I don't have to conserve as much energy. So it makes it easier."

Miller is averaging 27.5 minutes with the Bulls, but it's telling that he typically is playing in the fourth quarter.

The Bulls are 7-7 since Miller and Salmons started playing. With a three-game win streak and the playoffs in sight, they're doing enough to warrant nicknames.

"I call them 'Smooth' and 'Slow Motion,' " Derrick Rose said.

No need to identify which is which.


John Salmons ties career-high w/ 38 points

John Salmons tied his career-high with 38 points on Tuesday, helping the Bulls knock off the Celtics (on St. Patrick's day, no less). He made 14-of-20 field goals, 3-of-7 three-pointers and 7-of-7 free throws.

Salmons is a streaky shooter and right now he's on fire, having made 23-of-35 shots (66%) in the past two games. He only had three rebounds and didn't have any assists, but he also didn't turn the ball over despite playing a game-high 43 minutes.


NFL Fashion with C. Portis, ‘Tana Moss and Willis McGahee

Miami, USC cranking out NFL players

Here are the top 10 college football factories, and some of their raw NFL placement numbers …

1. Miami

Draft picks since 1999: 65

First-round picks:: 27

Highlights: RB Clinton Portis, RB Edgerrin James, WR Reggie Wayne, WR Santana Moss, S Ed Reed, WR Andre Johnson, RB Willis McGahee, TE Jeremy Shockey, TE Kellen Winslow, DT Vince Wilfork, LB Jonathan Vilma, LB D.J. Williams, S Sean Taylor, RB Frank Gore

Lowlights: CB Mike Rumph, DE Jerome McDougle, DT Damione Lewis, DT William Joseph, DE Michael Boireau, WR Roscoe Parrish, WR Sinorice Moss

Skinny: The “elite” talent has waned recently, as Florida, Texas and USC have begun snatching away players Miami would have developed and sent to the NFL seven or eight years ago. However, the Hurricanes’ cache of players in the first half of this decade was unmatched. Miami’s 27 first-round picks in the past 10 years nearly match the total NFL draft picks that perennial football factories such as Auburn and Alabama produced in the same time span. The only question is whether Miami’s class from 1999-2008 is the greatest 10-year haul of talent in the history of college football.

“I don’t know how you would argue it,” Portis said. “The teams in [2000 and 2001] were basically NFL teams. You had Pro Bowlers rooming with other Pro Bowlers. Hell, some of the meeting rooms, if you took a picture, everyone in it would have been a first- or second-round pick. … You raised your game to stay on the field. You basically had to be an NFL [talent] if you were going to play.”

Click here for the rest of the rankings.

William Joseph Signs

Free agent defensive tackle William Joseph apparently isn't a free agent anymore. He, too, showed up for work Monday after signing with the Oakland Raiders in an undiclosed deal recently.


Now Hitting for the Detroit Lions, Phillip Buchanon

When your career starts out as a Florida all-state high school player and moves on to the University of Miami as an All-American, the road to stardom in the NFL can sometimes be an easy one. Phillip Buchanon was a member of a team some say was the greatest of all time. In 2001 Phillip played on a 12-0 national championship Hurricanes team in which sixteen of its players were drafted in the first round of the next three NFL drafts. Buchanon was also one of those first round picks.

In the 2002 NFL draft the Oakland Raiders took Buchanon with their 17th pick in the first round. Seemingly he had hit the jackpot. In his first year with the Raiders they went to the super bowl. It was a super drubbing against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers but hey, how can you look down at reaching the pinnacle game of its sport in your first year in the league?

From there it went from bad to worse. It has to eat at a player who for all his life knew nothing other than winning and playing in the big game. Enter the 2003 Raiders. Dysfunction, distraction, and just plain ole dissed. Buchanon’s trip from the penthouse to the basement had begun. His next two years spent in a wonderful city on a team equivalent to football purgatory. And just when he thought it could get no worse, he was traded to the Houston Texans, an expansion team.

During Buchanon’s two years in Houston he played in fewer games, and was eventually waived. It got better. The day after he was waived by Houston the Buccaneers picked him up. He got healthy and he played. Not a lot, but when you're waived mid season because of injury or not, contemplation is on the menu.

Six years after becoming a first round pick Buchanon is once again a starter. He had his best year ever and it looks like there is no way Tampa will let him test the free agent market, especially with Ronde Barber coming down the stretch. Apparently for Phillip it is once again time for dysfunction. The head coach of the Buccaneers is fired, Monte Kiffin the defensive coordinator ran off to the University of Tennessee to coach with his son, and the defensive backs coach is now the head coach. You say what dysfunction right? It appeared as if it couldn’t look any better for Buchanon with his defensive back coach now being the head man. As Lee Corso would say, not so fast my friend.

Buchanon doesn’t end up getting a decent offer from Tampa and the next thing you know with the help of his agent Drew Rosenhaus, he will fight for a starting job with the Detroit Lions. It sounds terrible doesn’t it? Not to me it doesn’t. Even though the Lions went 0-16, I expect a seriously motivated group there this year. You say it can’t happen? If you don’t believe, think way back to a couple of months ago. That was the Miami Dolphins I saw in the playoffs after going 1-15 the year before.

Phillip Buchanon isn’t going to have it easy, but what fun would it be if you didn’t have to work hard to get what you wanted? No matter what, Buchanon has and will put in the effort needed. He has fought hard to show the league he can be a premier player in it. As far as having it rough on a team not expected to do well, is there anybody reading this who bet on the Arizona Cardinals to be in the super bowl at the beginning of last year? I don’t think so.

Even though he has a full plate with working out, a new contract, and the move to Detroit, Phillip still had time for a little conversation.

DW: You were on one of the best college football teams of all time. At the time you were at the U, a lot of people said the Hurricanes were better than the Dolphins. That National Championship team had 16 of its players selected in the first round over several drafts. Be it college or pro, was that the best team you have ever played on???

Phillip Buchanon: Yes as a team hands down it was probably the best that I’ve played on. We had so many dedicated players that were hungry and wanted to win. It was fun.

DW: So as one of those first round draft choices, you were picked by the Oakland Raiders. It’s your first year in the league and you’re in the Super Bowl, even though you lost, did you think the winning would ever stop? Because most players in the NFL never play in a Super bowl and in your first year you’re there. Did you think your career would take the turn that it did?

Phillip Buchanon: Most definitely not. Things were looking good over there and then all of a sudden a lot of things went on between management and players that got really crazy. We didn’t have true leaders out there. We had a couple of hall of fame players, but no true leaders.

DW: How did you guys go from one year being a super bowl team to the total opposite just a year later? Was management really that big of a problem?

Phillip Buchanon: At the time it was. It was really bad. The biggest problem was losing Rich Gannon though. Once Rich went down our offense was done and it took a pretty big toll on us. Rich Gannon was the key for us and at the time one of the best quarterbacks in the league. Once he got hurt and Tyrone Wheatley got hurt everything went down hill after that.

DW: How did you like living in Oakland?

Phillip Buchanon: It’s a different vibe from the bay area to Florida which I’m use to, but I loved everything about Oakland, especially the fans. The only thing I didn’t like was the football because we were losing and that was depressing.

DW: You got traded to the Houston Texans and should’ve played more once you got there, but didn’t because of injuries. What happened with that?

Phillip Buchanon: I don’t know, but during that part of my career I had to battle a bunch of injuries and things didn’t work out the way I had planned it. At the time Houston had a lot of young guys without much direction.

DW: Did you ask for Oakland to trade you or was that a total surprise to you?

Phillip Buchanon: I asked for the trade, I was ready to get out of there. In Houston I spent a lot of my time getting healthy there and unfortunately it just didn’t work out for me.

DW: So you leave Houston for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. This year I thought you shined there. I was very surprised to see they were willing to let you test the free agent market, especially with Ronde Barber on the downside of his career now. Why do you think the Buccaneers let you get away?

Phillip Buchanon: To be honest with you I have no idea. Raheem Morris and I had an excellent working relationship. From what I understand, they are intending to run the same defensive schemes we use to run when I was at the University of Miami where I had a great deal of success. I guess they wanted to go in another direction. It is a business.

DW: What was your experience like learning from Monte Kiffin?

Phillip Buchanon: He was definitely good. I learned more about defense in Tampa under coach Kiffin than I did in all my time in Texas and Oakland. This was a great stop for me, and regardless of the situation I wish Tampa the very best of luck, but don’t get me wrong I really really really wanted to play in Tampa, but sometimes things just don’t work out that way.

DW: What makes Kiffin such a good coach, is it his schemes, is it the way he motivates his players? Why is it that Tampa no matter what always had a great defense under him?

Phillip Buchanon: It’s because he understands the game of football, he always puts his players in the best situations and other teams that I’ve been on just tell you to go out there and play man to man, or play cover three with no direction, just play football, just do what you do. Kiffin is able to break the game down and slow it down for you, and he plays to win. There was a lot of pride in what we did. In Houston the game wasn’t the same. You got plenty of information, but the attitude was more just get out there and play. It was the same way in Oakland. In Tampa it was more this is why we do this and this is why we don’t do that and it made sense.

DW: Are you saying Kiffin took a more hands on approach as a defensive coordinator?

Phillip Buchanon: I can honestly say that the coordinators in Oakland and Houston were hands on too, but they just didn’t understand the game the way Kiffin did.

DW: You signed with the Detroit Lions, a team that went 0-16. Last year the Miami Dolphins after going 1-15 the year before made the playoffs. Do you think it’s possible for the Lions to do the same?

Phillip Buchanon: Now a days in the NFL anything is possible. I am just going to go there and contribute as much as I can, be a good team player like I have always been and do my part.

DW: Have you heard if you are going to start or not?

Phillip Buchanon: There are whispers, but I’m going to go up there and do what I do which is work hard, continue to study my film, get the guys to work hard and hopefully reach our goal of getting to the playoffs.

DW: The new coach of the Lions Jim Schwartz is the former defensive coordinator of the Tennessee Titans, what direction do you see him taking the team in…

Phillip Buchanon: The only direction we can go is up because we are on the bottom now.

DW: What is it that you want people to know about Phillip Buchanon that they don’t know?

Phillip Buchanon: I want people who don’t know me not to judge me off of Miami swagger. I’m just a low key hard working humble guy and a lot of people don’t know that.

DW: Thanks for the time Phillip.

Phillip Buchanon: Thank you


Braun nursing injury

MIAMI -- Add two more Team USA players who project to be out for the remainder of Round 2 at Dolphin Stadium.

Reliever Matt Lindstrom of the Marlins underwent an MRI exam on Monday and has a strained right rotator cuff. He has been advised not to throw for seven to 10 days. Left fielder Ryan Braun of the Brewers is sidelined by tightness on his right side.

Braun is dealing with tightness on his right side. It's not considered serious but, erring on the side of caution, Team USA manager Davey Johnson will not use the All-Star outfielder in Tuesday night's elimination game against Puerto Rico.

Team USA needs to win on Tuesday to advance. If they do, Johnson noted that Braun would probably not be available on Wednesday, when the U.S. would play Venezuela to determine the seeding for the semifinal game in Los Angeles.

Both players experienced discomfort in Sunday night's 9-3 win over the Netherlands.

They join a growing list of Team USA players dealing with injuries. On Sunday, Chipper Jones left the club with a right oblique strain. On Saturday, Dustin Pedroia was placed on the disabled list with a left oblique strain.
Mounting injuries is the biggest fear of the Classic.

"That's the one conversation from Day 1 that I told this group. I don't want anybody being a hero," Johnson said on Monday afternoon during Team USA's workout at Dolphin Stadium. "If you have anything slightly bothering you, I want to know about it. I don't want any heroes here. Don't go out there with a chance to injure yourself in any way, shape or form."

Because Braun's injury apparently is similar to the one that dogged him during the second half of 2008, Brewers officials considered bringing Braun back to Phoenix for a visit with team doctors.

Instead, he will remain in Miami, where Marlins doctors have been busy with a number of injured U.S. players.

Officials from Team USA suggested that Braun undergo an MRI exam. After consulting with the Brewers, he will simply rest and rehab for now.

"His comment was, 'If I was feeling like it was something serious, I'd be glad to take an MRI.' I don't feel it's serious," Johnson said of his conversation with Braun. "We can't force him to do anything, but he feels like he's going to be fine."

Braun initially wanted Johnson to "keep an open mind" and make a determination at game time if the slugger could play.

"I said, 'I know ballplayers and you remind me of myself. I know you're lying to me,'" Johnson said. "I also got word from the Brewers that he might not be honest with how he feels. So we will definitely err on the side of caution."

Dealing with players who are determined to play and hide ailments is part of the challenge for Johnson and his staff.


Perez Continues Strong Showing

LAKELAND | Nobody has had a better spring for the Tigers than Timo Perez, who had four hits in Monday's 7-6 exhibition victory over the St. Louis Cardinals.

Given some regular at bats in the absence of Detroit's regular outfielders, the 33-year-old Perez has shown he can still hit, run, play the outfield and hit with power. He had a home run and a triple on Monday.

The problem is the Tiger outfielders will soon return from the World Baseball Classic, and then Perez will be out of a job, at least at the Major League level.

"I know my situation here. I'm a veteran. A lot of younger players are here," said Perez, who spent the entire 2007 season at Toledo. "I just get ready for every day. You never know. It's a long season, and I have to be mentally ready."

Manager Jim Leyland expressed Perez's predicament.

"Timo Perez is probably the best pinch hitter we've got. He's a prototype pinch hitter -- go up there and let it fly . . . sometimes it goes at somebody and sometimes it drops in. But the fact of the matter is, how much are we going to pinch hit?''

American League teams pinch hit only about once every two games, less than half as frequently as National League teams, which means Perez is probably in the wrong league.

"Yeah," he agreed, "but nobody gave me a job in the National League."

Consecutive hits by Ramon Santiago, Perez and Will Rhymes produced the winning run in the bottom of the ninth inning Monday before a crowd of 8,376.

The Cardinals jumped of Tiger starter Zach Miner for four runs in the first inning and Albert Pujols hit his first spring homer off Bobby Seay in the seventh.

But the Tigers came back with the help of Perez's hitting and Brent Clevlen's first home run.


Cardinals roster cuts include Brian Barton

LAKELAND, Fla. — About to feel the pinch from lack of playing time, outfielder Brian Barton, a major-leaguer all of last season, was one of eight cuts the Cardinals made to their spring training roster Monday.

Barton and pitchers Mitchell Boggs, Matt Scherer and Charlie Manning were optioned to the minor-league camp. Pitchers Clayton Mortensen, Jess Todd and Adam Ottavino and first baseman Allen Craig, who is hitting .455 this spring, were re-assigned to the minors.

Manager Tony La Russa cautioned about reading too much into the moves, but Barton's demotion speaks to the possible makeup of the Cardinals' outfield.

Ryan Ludwick is a lock, so with Joe Mather currently manning third base, Barton was the only other righthanded-hitting outfielder still on the roster.


Najeh Davenport Turns To Male Model

It looks like Najeh Davenport has turned to modeling, at least in the offseason. It's not clear whether he is calling it quits on his NFL career, but we have found his modeling webpage on Modelmayhem.com. On the site, Davenport describes himself as having “been” a professional athlete and someone who is looking for “the next stage.”

Best of luck to Najeh, though we at proCanes think his NFL career isn't quite done yet and hope to see him on Sundays this coming season.

Click here to see his modeling page.

Ravens RB Willis McGahee Switches To No.21

According to the Ravens' Web site, running back Willis McGahee has switched his number from No.23 to the No.21 he wore with the Buffalo Bills. Cornerback Chris McAlister, who was released last month, previously had No.21.


Phillip Buchanon: I learned more about defense my one year in Tampa than during the rest of my career

New Detroit Lions cornerback Phillip Buchanon took the time to chat with Dennis Wyatt of TV Sports Daily. The interview touches on each step of Buchanon's career, from his experience on the dominant Miami Hurricanes, to his NFL stops in Oakland, Houston and Tampa Bay.

Buchanon had plenty of positive things to say about his time with the Bucs, specifically about defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin.

March 14, TV Sports Daily: DW: What was your experience like learning from Monte Kiffin?

Phillip Buchanon: He was definitely good. I learned more about defense in Tampa under coach Kiffin than I did in all my time in Texas and Oakland. This was a great stop for me, and regardless of the situation I wish Tampa the very best of luck, but don't get me wrong I really really really wanted to play in Tampa, but sometimes things just don't work out that way.

DW: What makes Kiffin such a good coach, is it his schemes, is it the way he motivates his players? Why is it that Tampa no matter what always had a great defense under him?

Phillip Buchanon: It's because he understands the game of football, he always puts his players in the best situations and other teams that I've been on just tell you to go out there and play man to man, or play cover three with no direction, just play football, just do what you do. Kiffin is able to break the game down and slow it down for you, and he plays to win. There was a lot of pride in what we did. In Houston the game wasn't the same. You got plenty of information, but the attitude was more just get out there and play. It was the same way in Oakland. In Tampa it was more this is why we do this and this is why we don't do that and it made sense.

Wyatt asks if he will start for the Lions, and Buchanon takes a very humble approach. Even though he has to know he's the front-runner, his answer focuses on what he'll do to make sure he earns the job.

There are whispers, but I'm going to go up there and do what I do which is work hard, continue to study my film, get the guys to work hard and hopefully reach our goal of getting to the playoffs.

What you really have to like as a Lions fan is that he not only focuses on his own work effort, but insists he'll make sure his teammates are working hard as well. When you're coming off an 0-16 season, you can never have enough guys that want to be vocal leaders in the locker room.


Salmons scores 24 points in Bulls' victory

Bulls swingman John Salmons scored 24 points on Saturday, making 9-of-15 field goals and 5-of-8 three-pointers in a convincing win over the Hornets.

Salmons added three rebounds, two assists and one block, and basically played as though reknown defender James Posey wasn't even on the court. With Luol Deng's return date up in the air, expect similar performances in the coming weeks.


Burrell takes out ads to thank Phils fans

After spending nine seasons with the Phillies, Pat Burrell thanked Philadelphia fans by taking out ads in both The Philadelphia Inquirer and the Daily News.

Burrell, who signed a two-year, $16-million deal with the Rays this offseason, thanked Phillies fans for their support and for sharing a championship parade with him after the club won the World Series last season.

Burrell also told fans he hopes to see them again in October in the World Series in what would be a rematch between the Phillies and the Rays.
Burrell signed the ads, "All my best, Pat."


Closer Watch: Perez struggling, Motte surging

We know you can't get enough news about the Cardinals' closer situation (who can?), so we're back with our third update in the span of 10 days.

This one centers around another rocky outing by Chris Perez. Perez, who closed some last year and is the favorite for the job out of spring training, gave up two hits, a walk and two runs while closing out Friday's split-squad game against Baltimore. He's struck out three and has given up three earned runs in five innings this spring.

Compare that to the performance of Jason Motte: five innings, one earned, seven Ks. Ryan Franklin, who closed for awhile last season and is a candidate again this spring, has given up one run in four innings while striking out five.

Manager Tony La Russa hasn't said anything recently regarding the closer situation, but he can't be happy with Perez's most recent performance. We still have Perez listed as the favorite, but his grip on the job is slipping by the day. So far this spring, he's received one save opportunity to Motte's two.

If you're drafting in the next couple days, consider Perez one of the last closer options. We currently have him ranked 29th among relievers (27th among closers). Motte should rise a few notches on your big board. Even if he doesn't land the closer's job right away, he should be able to help your team with his strikeout ability (assuming he doesn't start the year in Triple-A -- you never know with La Russa).