All Canes Radio With Kareem Brown

Every Thursday Night joins All Canes Radio to bring the latest news on not only current Hurricane football but also proCane news and exclusive interviews with current and former proCanes live from Shake Shack in Coral Gables.

Click here to listen to this week’s show and hear our exclusive interviews with proCanes Kareem Brown, Steve Edwards and Coach Mike Rumph. Listen as Brown discusses the experience he got while being on the FIU Football staff this past season, his plans for the future, his thoughts on this past year’s Hurricane defensive line and much more! Edwards who was Florida Mr Basketball twice and was one of the building blocks of the University of Miami basketball program talks about why he chose to go to the U, his experience playing overseas basketball and what he is up to now. Coach Rumph talks about his experience being a defensive coordinator at American Heritage HS, his defensive philosophy and his thoughts on what made the U great.

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Lamar Miller's Workload Should Increase

Wednesday, the Miami Dolphins placed second-year running back Daniel Thomas on injured reserve, ending his season after he suffered a knee injury after playing just seven snaps on Sunday.

Thomas’ absence will mean an increased workload for rookie running back Lamar Miller, who has just 36 carries for 164 yards and a touchdown this year, but is getting more playing time lately and starting to show promise. Reggie Bush, who has 895 rushing yards this year, will likely carry more of the load, as well.

Thomas had his moments in 2012, with nice games against the Jets (80 total yards), Seattle (78 yards) and scoring the second-most touchdowns on the team (4). But his final numbers look disappointing — 91 carries for 325 yards (3.6 average), four rushing touchdowns and 15 catches for 156 yards.

To fill Thomas’ roster spot, the Dolphins signed cornerback Julian Posey from the practice squad, and signed DB Dion Turner to the practice squad.


Ravens still waiting for green light on Ray Lewis' return

Continuing a pattern from last week, Ray Lewis has been present during the portion of this week’s practices open to the media. But the 13-time Pro Bowl inside linebacker is still on the injured reserve list with a designation to return, which is why defensive coordinator Dean Pees isn’t making any assurances about Lewis’ return for Sunday’s game against the New York Giants.

“It’d be great to have him back,” Pees said after Thursday’s practice. “I said that a couple weeks ago when we first started kind of seeing him come back. I’d love to have him back. I think it’d be a great emotional lift. But more than that, we could use some bodies in there, too, at linebacker. We’ll just have to wait and see whatever they say is a go, but we’d love to have him back.”

Without Lewis, Jameel McClain (spinal cord contusion) and Dannell Ellerbe (sprained right ankle/left foot), the defense started Josh Bynes and Brendon Ayanbadejo in last Sunday’s 34-17 loss to the Denver Broncos.

Bynes, an undrafted rookie last season, manned the Mike linebacker spot previously occupied by Lewis and McClain. If Ellerbe sits out his fourth consecutive game, Bynes would make his second career start.

“If it happens, it happens,” Bynes said. “I’m anticipating whatever. I prepare every game like I’m going to be a starter. Even with me knowing that I’m not going to play, I still prepare each and every week like I’m going to be a starter because you never know – just like what happened Sunday – when your time is going to come.”

Pees didn’t get into the specifics of what Lewis is doing in practice, but he said that Lewis has looked like, well, Lewis.

“At this time of the year, I don’t think there’s very many teams out there hitting like you do in training camp. So you don’t necessarily see the physical part,” Pees said. “But the mental part, that’s not going to leave you after 17 years missing a couple weeks. So he’s there.”


Vince Wilfork enjoying another standout season

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — His numbers don’t leap off the page. They never do.

Yet as he has done throughout his entire nine-year career in New England, Vince Wilfork is leaving an unmistakable imprint all over the Patriots this season.

The only defensive player still on the roster from any of New England’s championship teams is once again living up to the billing as one of the best nose tackles in the league. Wilfork is a stalwart force in the center of the Patriots’ defensive line who’s been instrumental in their much-improved rushing defense.

“I could care less about stats,” Wilfork said earlier in the year. “The only stat I care about is the W. We win, and I’m happy. We lose, and I’m not.”

The 6-foot-2, 325-pound Wilfork wasn’t too jolly following New England’s 41-34 loss to San Francisco on Monday night that snapped the Patriots’ seven-game winning streak.

After back-to-back games against two of the top teams in the league — the first a possible AFC championship preview against the Houston Texans and last week’s showdown a potential Super Bowl matchup — New England travels to Jacksonville to face the struggling Jaguars.

And after playing two teams that have combined for 22 victories, Wilfork isn’t about to look past 2-12 Jacksonville.

The Jaguars, like every other team on New England’s schedule, likely will find it impossible to overlook Wilfork.

“A lot of people might look at their record, but you can just tell, they just line up and they play football. They’re old school,” Wilfork said. “They line up and they try to do things right and you can just tell, when they do the things right, they move the ball, they make plays.

“It’s going to be challenging for us.”

Attempting to block Wilfork is always a tall order.

Just ask Patriots offensive lineman Nick McDonald, whose job is to help handle Wilfork each and every practice.

“Going up against (a guy) like that, you’ve got to play your best football. He’s a tough player to defend,” McDonald said. “He’s a great football player. He’s a good leader. He’s a guy that’s been around the system for a long time and he does a lot of things well.

“He’s a hell of a football player.”

When the stage is biggest, Wilfork seems to shine the most. Take two weeks ago, for example.

The mammoth man in the middle was credited with four tackles, one for a loss, a sack, one pass deflection and a forced fumble, igniting a stunning blowout of the first-place Texans in front of a national television audience.

He also was almost single-handedly responsible for bottling up running back Arian Foster, who for the third straight season has eclipsed 1,200 yards but managed just 46 yards on 15 carries against the Patriots.

Wilfork didn’t even need to be standing on his large feet to make one of the more memorable tackles of his season, either. On the second offensive play of the game, Wilfork was blocked to the ground, but still managed to clamp his massive mitts around Foster’s shin, dragging him down for a 1-yard loss.

“He’s a unique player,” McDonald said.

Wilfork by no means is your average pass rusher, barreling down the middle rather than from the side, and has totaled fewer sacks in his career (15) than some players have this season alone.

But then again, nothing about the four-time Pro Bowler is typical.

The surprisingly mobile veteran is enjoying a standout season for New England with 42 tackles, two forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries, a pair of sacks and six passes defended.

“The athletic ability he has and the size he has is very rare, and just his passion for the game,” McDonald marveled. “Guys that have been around the league a long time like that and still have amazing passion and work as hard as he does, he’s going to be successful.”

The offensive line also is benefiting from his presence.

“Going up against a guy like that . that rare athletic ability and size, the power he has, the quickness, it’s definitely going to make you better,” McDonald said. “He’s going to make everybody around him better, too.”

Wilfork is a major reason the Patriots have forced a turnover in 25 straight games and lead the league in turnover differential at plus-22, seven more than second-ranked Houston.

“That’s one of the things that we do. That’s one of our goals. That’s one of the things that we work very hard toward. And it’s paying off for us this year,” Wilfork said. “Hopefully we can continue to get our offense the ball. There’s no other offense I would want to get the ball than inside (quarterback Tom Brady’s) hands. The more we get our offense the opportunity with the ball, the better we’ll be as a team, and we understand that.

“Our goal is to go out and create negative plays and create turnovers and give our offense the ball back.”


Jimmy Graham might miss out on Pro Bowl, thanks to Dallas Cowboys' Jason Witten

Sunday's game will almost certainly feature a Pro Bowl tight end. But which one?

The Saints' Jimmy Graham and the Cowboys' Jason Witten are battling for just one spot on the NFC roster alongside future Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez. Gonzalez is having a turn-back-the-clock season with the Atlanta Falcons in what might be his final season at age 36 (87 catches, 880 yards, eight touchdowns).

Witten has the stronger case, since he already has 97 catches and 923 yards, and he's on pace to break Gonzalez's record for catches by a tight end in a season (102 in 2004). That's especially impressive considering he began the year with a frightening spleen injury. Graham, meanwhile, has had a down year by his standards with 67 catches and 779 yards.

However, Witten only has two touchdowns, while Graham has eight. And Graham has become the higher-profile player after his breakout season in 2011. Graham finished ahead of Witten in the fan voting (both behind Gonzalez), which accounts for one-third of the selection formula along with player and coach votes.

The Pro Bowl rosters will be announced on Dec. 26. And there is a real chance that the Saints might get shut out for the first time since 2007.


Ray Lewis could provide 'emotional lift' if ready Sunday

After losing three games in a row, the Ravens could use a spark to get them on track Sunday against the Giants.

And what better lift could the Ravens receive than getting future Hall of Famer Ray Lewis back on the field? Lewis, who has practiced the past two and a half weeks, tore his triceps two months ago against Dallas, which left the rest of his season in doubt at the time.

After being on injured reserve-designated the past nine weeks, there's a growing chance he could be activated this week. If so, it could boost the confidence of a defense that's had eight starters miss games due to injuries.

Although Lewis has declined to comment until he's able to play, the speculation continues to grow that he could return Sunday.

"It would be great to have him back," Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees said. "I said that a couple of weeks ago when we first started seeing him come back. I'd love to have him. I think it would be a great emotional lift, but more than that, we could use some bodies in there at linebacker."

The final call will come from Baltimore's training staff as to whether Lewis is OK to play. And with current injuries to LB Jameel McClain (neck, out for the season) and LB Dannell Ellerbe (ankle), Lewis would certainly be utilized in any kind of capacity if available.

Lewis has practiced the past two days but to what extent is unknown. Because he's on the injured reserve-designated to return list, the Ravens are not required to list him on the injury report. If Lewis is able to play, there's a chance the Ravens wait until Saturday to make the roster move so that it remains unknown as to how much Lewis practiced.

"As far as what he's looked like during the week, he's looked like Ray," Pees said. "At this time in the year, I don't think there are very many teams out there hitting like you do in training camp. So you don't necessarily see the physical part, but the mental part, it's not going to leave you after 17 years, missing a couple of weeks. He's there."

His teammates are certainly hoping to see No. 52 leading the defense this week as well.

"It would be huge," OLB Paul Kruger said. "It would be a huge morale boost, and of course with the type of game he brings as well. I hope it can happen. We'll see."


Jon Beason eager to return to Carolina despite losing his starting job at middle linebacker

CHARLOTTE, North Carolina — Panthers three-time Pro Bowler Jon Beason wants to remain in Carolina next season despite losing his starting job at middle linebacker.

Beason said he has no intention of asking the team for a trade.

"I want to stay where I'm loved," said the 27-year-old Beason.

Beason, a four-year starter at middle linebacker, went on IR in Week 5. Coach Ron Rivera moved first-round draft pick Luke Kuechly over from weak side linebacker to the middle to replace Beason.

Kuechly has been a smash hit ever since.

He's second in the NFL in tackles and is expected to be in the talk for AP Defensive Rookie of the Year honors. All indications are Rivera plans to keep Kuechly in the middle for the foreseeable future.

"We may have found something there," Rivera said.

Although Beason prefers playing middle linebacker, Rivera said his skill set is better suited to play weak side linebacker than Kuechly, who led the nation in tackles twice while playing middle linebacker at Boston College.

"When you look at the different skill sets, I think Jon's got the skill sets to play inside and outside a little bit more than Luke does," Rivera said. "Luke's skill set lends more toward being an inside guy. So we'll see. It's still a ways away. ... I think it's one of those things that you do what's going to be best for us."

Beason, a former first-round pick out of Miami, has played on the weak side before but has made it clear in the past he feels more comfortable in the middle where he's allowed to run to both sides of the field and make plays.

Beason used that ability to his advantage while leading the Panthers in tackles for four straight season from 2007-10. He was selected to the Pro Bowl in three of those seasons.

That earned him a five-year, $51.5 million contract prior to the 2011 season — of which $25 is guaranteed.

But injuries have plagued him since.

He missed 15 games in 2011 after tearing his Achilles tendon and will miss 11 games this season with knee and shoulder injuries. He had surgery earlier this year to repair cartilage damage in his right knee and will have another operation soon to fix a torn labrum in his left shoulder.

Beason could wind up splitting reps at weak side linebacker with Thomas Davis, who has bounced back from three torn ACLs to have a solid season there.
"I like what is happening here," Beason said of the team.

And there's another reason, too.

"There's a big part of me that wants to return and justify that contract," Beason said.

In the meantime, Beason is rooting on Kuechly.

Despite the fact the rookie has taken his job, Beason remains a big fan.

"The kid is having a great season," Beason said. "He's flying to the ball and making plays. If he doesn't make the Pro Bowl it would be a shame."


proCane Center Ranked 5th Best in NFL According to


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Colin McCarthy making progress

Titans middle linebacker Colin McCarthy, who’s missed the last three games with a concussion, was a limited practice participant on Wednesday and may be on the way to playing against Green Bay on Sunday.

“We’ll let him go through a normal practice tomorrow with no restrictions and see how he is,” Titans coach Mike Munchak said. “If he goes through tomorrow and does everything, then we’re assuming he’ll be fine.

“We’ll just have to watch him, take another look on Friday, to make sure nothing comes up. But from all the activity he’s been doing the last couple of days … we’re assuming he has a good chance of moving forward.”

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VIDEO: Vince Wilfork teams up with iRobot

A new sitcom-like video teaming iRobot’s Roomba vacuum cleaner with New England Patriots captain Vince Wilfork and his family has gone viral.

The video, the first in a series called “At Home with the Wilforks,” reached 16,000 views as of 2 p.m. today, up from 500 at 5 p.m. yesterday, the Bedford company said.

Four more episodes featuring the Wilforks and other iRobot products will debut over the coming weeks.

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Ray Lewis practicing again for Ravens

Ravens coach John Harbaugh acknowledged that injured linebacker Jameel McClain's roster spot could eventually go to Ray Lewis, who could be activated this week from injured reserve with a designation to return.

Lewis, who is trying to return from a torn right triceps, was working today, marking the third consecutive week that he's practicing.

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Detroit Lions still have high expectations for Jason Fox

ALLEN PARK -- Detroit Lions offensive lineman Jason Fox is nearly three years into his NFL career and he still hasn't started a game. 

Fox has appeared in five games over that stretch. He's been active for just one this season, playing six snaps on special teams against the Houston Texans on Thanksgiving.

Still, the Lions' coaching staff has been pleased with what they've seen from Fox this year, particularly his ability to stay healthy.

"That's probably the biggest thing," coach Jim Schwartz said. "His first couple years he had trouble staying healthy. He's very good within our scheme, he had a very good training camp, he was active this year when Jeff Backus was down during Thanksgiving. He can play on the right side, he can play on the left side, he's played some guard for us, and he's a good developing player."

Fox played tackle in college, and that's been his primary position for the Lions as well, but the team is high on his versatility.

"I think he's a tackle but I think he can play guard as well," offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said. "I wouldn't put center past him. Hopefully he'll be able to find an opportunity and take advantage of it."

Fox hasn't had an opportunity this year because the Lions offensive line has stayed healthy. Backus' one-game absence due to a hamstring injury is the only time a player from the starting unit has been sidelined. Fox also slid down the depth chart  this offseason with the addition of first-round draft pick Riley Reiff.
But depending on what the Lions do in the draft and free agency this offseason, 2013 could be Fox's chance to emerge as a key contributor. Right tackle Gosder Cherilus is a free agent and guard Stephen Peterman, with a $3.3 million cap number, could be released to clear cap space.

Fox will be a restricted free agent this offseason, but is expected to be retained.

"Jason's basically going to be hitting his stride going into next year," Linehan said. "He's got some position versatility. I see him playing a lot of football for us next year."

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Kenny Phillips close to return

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Giants' secondary is getting healthier, as safety Kenny Phillips will practice Wednesday and is on track for returning Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens. Cornerback Prince Amukamara also will test his hamstring during Wednesday's practice, according to coach Tom Coughlin. The Giants lost 34-0 this past weekend to the Atlanta Falcons without Phillips and Amukamara. "They will both practice, but it will be limited to the point we will test Prince more than anything," Coughlin said. "With Kenny, we feel he is rested and ready to contribute." Phillips has missed the past two games with a knee injury, the same injury that kept him out of six games earlier in the season. Phillips said Tuesday on ESPN New York 98.7 that he definitely will be on the field in Baltimore. The Giants have not determined whether running back Ahmad Bradshaw, who did not play in Atlanta because of a knee injury, will play against Baltimore. He will not practice Wednesday but has said that he plans on playing against the Ravens. "We know we would all love to have him play, but it is going to be a medical decision," Coughlin said. "It is not going to be mine. Although he wants to play as badly as he can, I think if the doctors feel that he can play without hurting himself, that very well may be a case. But if his doctors don't feel that's possible, then they will make the decision."

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Ravens Saving Roster Spot For Ray Lewis?

Reporters and fans are looking for any clues that linebacker Ray Lewis will be activated for Sunday’s game against the New York Giants.

One hint may be that the Ravens have yet to replace linebacker Jameel McClain on the roster. On Monday, Head Coach John Harbaugh ruled McClain (spinal cord contusion) out for the remainder of the year, but the team has yet to place him on injured reserve.

So is it legitimate to speculate that the spot is being held for No. 52?

“I think it would be fair – and I’m pretty sure you’re going to do it any way – to consider any possibility on that,” Harbaugh said Wednesday.

The Ravens do have other options. They could bring up a player from the practice squad, as they have before with players such as linebacker Josh Bynes, defensive back Anthony Levine and safety Omar Brown this season. Inside linebacker Nigel Carr and outside linebacker Adrian Hamilton are current P-squad possibilities.

On Monday, Harbaugh left open the possibility that the Ravens could sign somebody. They did so on Tuesday, but it was running back Lonyae Miller to the practice squad. Baltimore could still make a move for a linebacker.

If Lewis is going to be activated, it would have to be by Saturday at 4 p.m. He has been practicing for two weeks, first returning on Dec. 5.

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PHOTO: DeQuan Jones In the Canes Lockeroom After Victory Over UCF

University of Miami Men’s Basketball Coach, Coach Konkol posted this photo after the Canes victory over UCF on Tuesday night which features proCane DeQuan Jones.


Post game locker room pic after last night's win at UCF @DequanJones5 in his old seat!

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John Salmons hit 6-of-13 shots and a 3-pointer for 17 points

John Salmons hit 6-of-13 shots and a 3-pointer for 17 points, six rebounds, five assists and a steal in another start for the Kings on Wednesday. He's been starting at small forward for a month now, but had scored six or fewer points in five of his previous seven games.

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proCanes Players of Week 15

Co-Offensive Players of the Week:

Leonard Hankerson: proCane Redskins WR Leonard Hankerson caught two passes for 56 yards with two touchdowns in the Redskins' Week 15 win over the Browns. Hankerson made the most of his two targets. His first score came when he blew past Sheldon Brown and Kirk Cousins threaded the needle between three Browns for a 54-yard score in the first quarter. His second touchdown came on a simple goal-line bootleg from Cousins. Don't chase these plays as Hankerson continues to rotate with Josh Morgan opposite No. 1 target Pierre Garcon.

Andre Johnson: proCane Texans WR Andre Johnson caught 11 balls for 151 yards and a touchdown as the Texans defeated the Colts 29-17 in Week 15.
He was targeted 13 times, a game high on either side of the ball. Johnson was truly dominant against Colts top CB Vontae Davis, consistently winning 50:50 balls in the air and scoring from three yards out on a rub route deep in the red zone. Johnson has reasserted himself at age 31 as a top-five NFL receiver and likely future Hall of Famer. The past eight games have been the most productive stretch of Johnson's career, averaging 8.4 catches and 119.6 yards per game. He needs just seven receptions and 140 yards to join Marvin Harrison as the only receivers with at least 100 catches and 1,500 yards in three seasons. Andre Johnson also topped 11,000 career receiving yards this week

Honorable Mention: Travis Benjamin WR Browns, Jimmy Graham TE Saints, Frank Gore RB 49ers.

Defensive Players of Week:

Calais Campbell: proCane Cardinals DE Calais Campbell in his first game back from a calf injury played his best all-around game since Week 2 at New England despite still dealing with the lingering effects of a calf injury that sidelined him for a month. He wasn’t in pain while he recorded eight tackles, four for losses, a sack, a quarterback hurry and a pass deflection, but his calf wasn’t completely healed either.
Honorable Mention: Sam Shields DB Packers

Special Teams Player of the Week:

Matt Bosher:
proCane Falcons P Matt Bosher continued his great 2nd season though this week he only had two punts but made them count. Bosher’s two punts totaled 100 yards with a long of 61 yards, and average of 50 yards and one touchback.

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Walking Tour of The University of Miami Hurricanes Schwartz Center

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Sinorice Moss Makes His Movie Debut in Last Fall

Kyle Bishop (Lance Gross) is a recently cut NFL free agent barely getting by and running out of options. He moves back in with his contentious mother and younger sister, all while dealing with his own unrequited field dreams. When an old flame steps back into his life, Bishop soon begins to re-evaluate his disposition.

Written and directed by ex-NFL player Matthew A. Cherry, The Last Fall is a down-to-earth look at what happens when field dreams deflate and the transition back to a regular life is more challenging than the game itself. Tune in on Tuesday, December 18 at 7:30P/6:30C for the premiere of The Last Fall!

proCane Sinorice Moss played the character "Drew Irving”. DVD will be on sale on Jan 15, 2013

Congrats Sinorice!

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Andre Johnson answers his 'doubters' with spectacular streak

HOUSTON—At first, Houston Texans receiver Andre Johnson heard the whispers. As his frustration grew, the whispers became shouts, but he kept quiet. He knew the real reason he had only nine catches for 164 yards over a four-game stretch early in the season.

Fans and media insisted Johnson’s career was coming to an end. They pointed to his puny statistics, so very un-Johnson like, as mounting evidence. Yes, Johnson had started the season with eight catches for 119 yards and a touchdown in a victory over Miami, but then, the critics claimed, Johnson hit that proverbial wall that slows so many veterans, no matter how talented they were or how much they had accomplished.

Johnson, who turned 31 in July, knew a lingering groin injury that had slowed him in training camp had not healed. Combined with the two hamstring injuries that limited him to seven games and 33 catches for 492 yards in 2011, and it was easy to see why so many thought Johnson was nearing the end of a magnificent run as one of the NFL’s premier receivers.

“You’re going to have doubters, no matter what you do, because that’s the nature of this business,” Johnson said, standing in front of his locker. “People have their own opinions. I knew what a lot of people were saying, but I also knew what was going on. I knew it was only a matter of time, a matter of getting healthy.”
And then Johnson did get healthy, and then his performance took off again. Since that four-game stretch that brought out the “doubters,” as Johnson calls them, he has averaged 8.4 catches and 119.6 yards per game.

“I’m feeling a lot better,” Johnson said. “I feel like my explosion came back. That’s a big part of my game, so I feel a lot better than I did at the beginning.”
Johnson is coming off the best eight-game stretch of his illustrious career, with 68 catches for 1,002 yards. The doubters have gone silent.

“He never ceases to amaze me,” Texans coach Gary Kubiak said. “What I’ve seen him do has been spectacular. It just goes to show everything he’s been through with the health issues. He worked so hard to get back, and now he’s back and playing as well as anytime in his career. He’s playing with a ton of confidence.

“I’ve been fortunate to (coach) receivers like Jerry Rice (at San Francisco) and Rod Smith (Denver), and Andre’s like them. They don’t just walk on the field and make it happen without putting in a lot of hard work to get there.”

With 93 catches for 1,360 yards this season, Johnson needs seven receptions and 140 yards to join Marvin Harrison as the only receivers with at least 100 catches and 1,500 yards in three seasons. Johnson also could join Rice as the only receivers with 100 catches and 1,500 yards in their 10th season or later.
“It’s fun to be a part of his legacy, to witness it firsthand,” running back Arian Foster said. “He’s going to continue to play at a high level because that’s what he’s been doing for years. To see him work has been inspiring for me and my career.

“I’m so happy for him because I see how much work he puts into his craft. Injuries are a part of the game. They’re going to happen to everyone that plays this game. It’s about how you deal with them, and he bounced back incredibly well. He deserves everything he has.”

Just how great has Johnson (6-3, 230) been? He has averaged 5.88 catches per game, the most in NFL history for players with at least 500 receptions. Harrison is second with 5.80. Since Kubiak became his head coach in 2006, Johnson has averaged 6.5 catches per game.

“I’m glad I don’t have to go against him anymore,” defensive coordinator Wade Phillips said. “Every week, he gets the ultimate compliment because of what defenses do to try to stop him.”

Johnson lines up wide to both sides and in the slot. He also starts in the backfield and goes in motion. There have been times when Kubiak has him shift into the backfield and run his route from there.

Johnson still runs well. He’s strong off the line of scrimmage. He runs precise routes. He can outjump smaller cornerbacks. He has amazing concentration when the ball’s in the air. His strong, quick hands allow him to snatch the ball from defenders.

“Defenses try to take him away from our offense, and we try to do some things in our scheme to get him open,” quarterback Matt Schaub said. “I always want to know where Andre is.

“He’s the ultimate security blanket. When we need a play, I’m going in his direction. We see all types of coverages, but when push comes to shove, I’ll still go to him because I know he’s going to make a play on the ball. I have the utmost confidence in what he can do.

“I’ve been watching him up close and personal for six years, but every time I think I’ve seen it all, he outdoes himself. He continues to wow me. It’s remarkable to see what he’s done this season. You can see he’s taken his game to a new level.”

Over the last six seasons, Johnson’s average of 90.2 yards per game is the NFL’s best. Detroit's Calvin Johnson is second at 83.8.

Before he became the Lions’ coach, Jim Schwartz was Tennessee’s defensive coordinator. That meant he had to game-plan for Johnson two times a season. Schwartz sees a lot of similarities between Calvin Johnson and Andre Johnson, who rank first and third in yards this season. Calvin Johnson is 182 yards short of breaking Rice’s season record of 1,848, set in 1995.

“Everybody knows what great players they are,” Schwartz said. “The thing that’s similar about them other than the size and their production is the fact that they’re team-first guys. They’re willing to do all the little things that maybe get unnoticed when you’re getting 117 yards a game. They’re good team players and extremely hard workers.

“With all the stereotypical diva wide receivers, these two guys are old-school receivers. They do their job. Both of them block very well. Both of them can make you pay down the field with deep balls, but they both also catch short passes and run after the catch.”

The Lions have firsthand knowledge about the kind of season Andre Johnson is having, as he caught nine passes for 188 yards in the Texans’ 34-31 overtime victory at Ford Field. Coupled with the previous game—a 43-37 OT victory over Jacksonville—and Johnson’s two-game total of 461 yards was the most prolific in NFL history.

“He’s been doing it for a long time, and I’ve definitely been looking up to what he’s been doing,” Calvin Johnson said. “I’ve been watching him since before I came into this league. I like the physicality he brings to the game. I like the way he makes his presence known.”

Ever since he came to the Texans with the third overall pick in the 2003 draft, Johnson’s presence has been felt. He’s the only receiver to have at least 60 catches in each of his first eight seasons.

Since 1970, Johnson and Wes Welker have put up the most games with at least 10 catches and 100 yards—16. Johnson is the third-fastest receiver to reach 11,000 yards (11,016) behind Rice and Torry Holt.

“I’ve been around this league a long time, and I’ve been fortunate to be with some Hall of Fame players, and I think you’re looking at one,” Kubiak said. “He’s a special player and a special person with an incredible work ethic. He’s the ‘go’ for this team. And he’s money.

“He’s a big-time leader, a quiet leader by example most of the time. But when he talks in front of the team, everybody listens. We tell all the young guys to watch the way he handles himself in practice, meetings and the dressing room. He’s a worker, a class act. Everybody looks to him.

“I think the most impressive thing about Andre is how committed he’s been to this organization through some very tough times. He’s stuck with this organization to get into the position it is now.”

The Texans are 12-2 and AFC South champions for the second consecutive season. If they defeat Minnesota at Reliant Stadium on Sunday, they’ll earn home-field advantage in the AFC playoffs.

“It’s just a great feeling because of what I’ve been through with the organization,” Johnson said about the Texans’ quest to reach their first Super Bowl. “This is something we’ve been working for around here for a long time, to put ourselves in a situation like this.

“I didn’t think it’d take 10 seasons for it to happen, though. I’m just enjoying every moment of it.”

In his first eight seasons, Johnson was forced to watch the playoffs on television. Fans and media wanted to know why he never asked for a trade or even complained publicly about the constant losing.

“There’s always frustration, and I think that’s the thing that makes you grow as a player, as a person,” he said. “You kind of find out a lot about yourself, if you’re going to be loyal or if you’re just going to run away from it. My thing was I wanted to stay. I wanted to be a part of something special. I wanted to help this organization get to where it is right now and even help it achieve more.”

Johnson was healthy last season for the first playoff victory in team history, against Cincinnati, and the seven-point loss at Baltimore. He had 13 catches for 201 yards and a touchdown in those two games.

When the Texans begin the playoffs this season, Johnson wants to pick up where he left off.

“We’re learning as we go through this experience, but we know every game gets bigger,” he said. “Just having that experience from last year is so important because we know what to expect.”

Clinching a second consecutive AFC South title isn’t enough for the Texans.

“Last season, we’d never done it before, but we’re familiar with it now, and we have bigger goals,” Johnson said. “This is the most fun I’ve had since I’ve been here. And I don’t want it to stop.”

Johnson hopes it won’t stop until the Texans reach their first Super Bowl. And, later, membership for him in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

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There's more to Jonathan Vilma than you might know

METAIRIE, La.—Jonathan Vilma hasn’t backed down from his fight against the NFL and commissioner Roger Goodell, even after scoring an overwhelming victory last week when his year-long suspension was overturned.

The way Vilma sees it, he still hasn’t gotten his reputation back. And he probably never will.

“You’re talking eight years before this happened, eight years of my career working hard, trying to be a good example of what it is to be a football player on and off the field. And in a matter of months, literally, all that is wiped away,” Vilma said. “The only thing you hear about when you mention Jonathan is ‘bounty’—either he did it or he didn’t do it. Some people believe me, some people don’t, regardless of the outcome.”

No matter which group you fall in, it’s hard to argue with Vilma on that account. He will probably be better known for the bounty scandal than anything he ever did on the field, which is a shame since his on-field accomplishments have been awfully noteworthy themselves.

A three-time Pro Bowl selection with more than 1,000 career tackles. A Super Bowl champion praised for going head-to-head against Peyton Manning in a battle of audibles in the biggest game of his life. A defensive rookie of the year with the New York Jets in 2004 after being a college star and national champion with the Miami Hurricanes.

Off the field, the 30-year-old Vilma’s credentials are equally impressive.

He was named the Saints’ Man of the Year in 2010 for his charitable efforts both in the U.S. and his parents’ birthplace of Haiti. And he was voted a team captain every year from 2009-2011 after being quickly embraced as a leader when he arrived via trade in 2008.

Saints quarterback Drew Brees particularly gravitated toward the equally competitive middle linebacker, known as the “quarterback of the Saints defense.” The two of them began a friendly but passionate rivalry on the practice field, with smack-talk and wagers on almost every two-minute drill.

“You just feel like that guy is the leader of the defense, and you respect him,” Brees once said of Vilma.

Ironically, the old story line with Vilma was that he was probably flying too far under the radar on a national level.

Heading into the 2011 season, after Vilma earned two straight Pro Bowl berths, he was ranked by his peers around the league as the 37th best player in the NFL on the NFL Network’s annual list.

At that time, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers talked about how Vilma was probably even more appreciated by his opponents than the national public.

“I think he has gone to an elite player. He is one of the top in the league at his position. I think you would put him up there with anybody that plays that position,” Rodgers said before the Packers and Saints played in the Thursday night season opener. “For some reason, his name is often left out when you are talking about the best players at middle linebacker. It's unfortunate there is a number of very good guys in the NFC, when you think about Patrick Willis, and Brian Urlacher has a recognizable name. For some reason, I feel like Jonathan's name gets left out when you talk about Pro Bowl balloting and stuff. When it comes to the players that play in the game, there is no lack of respect for Jonathan Vilma.

“Any good defense starts with a talented, athletic, very intelligent middle linebacker, and that is what the Saints have in Jonathan Vilma.”

Unfortunately, Vilma’s career began taking a downturn just one week later when he suffered a knee injury in practice that would eventually require three different surgeries both during and after the 2011 season.

Vilma has never quite been 100 percent since, though he’s appeared to be on the mend since returning from the physically-unable-to-perform list in Week 7 this season. He has 37 tackles, one sack and one pass defense in nine games—mostly while playing the weakside linebacker position for the first time in his career.

Since his return, Vilma has played both nickel linebacker and weakside linebacker because younger Saints newcomer Curtis Lofton has become entrenched at the middle linebacker spot. And Lofton figures to remain there in the years to come as the Saints continue to remake the unit under new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo.

As to whether or not Vilma will remain in the Saints' future, that remains a huge question mark.

Vilma is held in the highest regard by coaches and teammates as a leader with a high football IQ. Rising stars like end Cameron Jordan routinely refer to him as a valuable mentor.

But to have any chance of staying in New Orleans, Vilma will have to agree to a drastic pay cut from his scheduled $6 million in salary and bonuses—both because of his diminished production and because the Saints will be under some serious salary-cap constraints.

It is possible Vilma would do that, since he agreed to a smaller pay cut to stay with the team this year. But it’s also quite possible Vilma’s terrific five-year run with the Saints will end on a dark note, under the cloud of the bounty scandal that will never go away.

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Fiery Antrel Rolle On The Giants: ‘We’ve Still Got This Thing’

NEW YORK (WFAN) - The Giants put on an embarrassing display this past Sunday, losing 34-0 to the Falcons at the Georgia Dome.

How can the Giants look so dominant one week and so helpless the next? Why did Big Blue look so lifeless in a game which was so important to its playoff hopes?

Safety Antrel Rolle, for one, can’t offer an explanation.

“I just, I really don’t know (what happened),” Rolle told WFAN co-hosts Joe Benigno and Evan Roberts in his weekly spot on Tuesday. “It just seems like whenever there is an up, there’s a down … It just seemed like no matter what phase of the game it was, the (Falcons) were extremely successful and we were very unsuccessful.”

With the Giants now in a three-way tie with the Redskins and Cowboys for first place in the NFC East — and currently sitting in ninth place in the conference — the two-time Pro Bowler knows that his team needs to pick up the slack immediately and get back to its winning ways.

If the Giants don’t, they’ll be heading home prematurely after having a comfortable divisional lead throughout the season.

“We need to fix this right now,” Rolle said. “There is no tomorrow for us at this point. Everything that needs to happen has to take place right now.”

Though Big Blue struggled in every facet of the game in Week 15, the former first-round pick was especially critical of his own play against the NFC South champions. Rolle had just one tackle and no pass deflections as Matt Ryan torched New York’s defense for 270 yards and three touchdowns.

“I was absolutely horrified with the way I played,” Rolle said candidly. “I think I played probably one of my worst games ever. Not just as far as the overall game, but as far as tackling. I think I tackled extremely poorly throughout the course of the game, and I even told my coach on the plane ride home, ‘I’m extremely mad at myself. That’s not the way that Antrel Rolle plays football’ … Was I myself? Absolutely not.”

The 2010 All-Pro acknowledges that although the G-Men have been down this road before and ultimately prevailed, it doesn’t mean that this season will be a replica of last season.

But still, Rolle believes in his team’s character and ability to persevere.

“We’ve made it hard for ourselves and we’ve taken a lot of slack, as well we should,” Rolle said. “Whatever is being said about us right now, do we deserve it? Absolutely. But you know what? We’re never out of the fight. I don’t care what anyone has to say about the Giants, about the players, about whatever the case may be. We’ve still got this thing, and we’re going to go out there and fight. We will give it our all this coming Sunday.”

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Kenny Phillips in a rush to bring energy back to team

On Monday, Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw declared himself ready to go this weekend against the Ravens without a practice to test his sprained left knee under his belt.

Tuesday, it was Kenny Phillips who proclaimed his sprained right knee healthy enough for him to return Sunday without a practice to draw upon.

The safety has missed the last two games after aggravating his sprained MCL against the Packers in Week 12. Like Bradshaw, he didn’t make the trip to Atlanta and watched the Giants’ 34-0 rout at the hands of the Falcons on television. And like Bradshaw, Phillips doesn’t want to be a spectator any longer as the Giants fight for their postseason lives.

"I’m 100 percent confident that I’ll be on the field this week," Phillips said in a radio interview on ESPN 98.7 yesterday afternoon. "Not sure which role that the coaches want to allow me to play, but whatever they allow me to do, I’m going to go out there and give 100 percent and try to be that spark for our defense these last few weeks."

Phillips first sprained his MCL against the Eagles in Week 4. He then missed the next six games and returned against the Packers, allowing defensive coordinator Perry Fewell to use the three-safety package he relied on last season with Antrel Rolle and Stevie Brown as the other two components.

But Phillips aggravated the knee injury and couldn’t finish the game. He played a limited role the following week against the Redskins, but hasn’t practiced since.

Watching from afar, Phillips said he saw a Giants team that lacked the necessary energy on Sunday in Atlanta.

"That’s one thing I can’t explain," Phillips, the Giants’ first-round pick in 2008, said. "I think that’s why all of us at the organization are scratching our heads. We can’t figure out why one week we come out, we have that fire in our eyes and the next week not so much.

"It’s not that we’re not practicing hard. It’s not that. It’s not that guys (are) not buying into it, but for some reason, since I’ve been here the last over four or five years, that’s just how it’s been. Up and down, up and down. I hate to say it, (but) I think a lot of the guys have gotten used to it. And we win when we have to. When we don’t have to, we kind of just go out there flat."

The Giants’ loss Sunday, combined with the Redskins’ and Cowboys’ victories, left the Giants on the outside of the playoff picture looking in for the time being. They still control their own destiny: Consecutive wins to end the season clinch a postseason berth. But a loss in either game would force them to rely on outside help.

Phillips, as many of his teammates have echoed, said the Giants are at their best against the proverbial wall. They followed that pattern during the 2007 Super Bowl run — the season before Phillips was drafted — and again last season.

But then there was the 2010 season, when the Giants could’ve clinched a playoff berth with a win over the Packers in Week 16. Instead, they were blown out, 45-17. And despite a 10-6 record, the Giants didn’t make the playoffs that season.

"We just have to get back to being passionate about the game," Phillips said. "If a guy makes a play, no one’s congratulating, no one’s jumping around. It just seems like we don’t have no fire, no energy right now."

Phillips hopes his return, perhaps along with cornerback Prince Amukamara’s, will provide some sort of boost, both on the field and emotionally. Without Phillips over the last two games, the Giants have allowed 61 points.

"The situation that we in right now, I have no choice," Phillips said of playing Sunday. "It’s either now or never."

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Jonathan Vilma says Roger Goodell acted with 'reckless disregard for the truth'

NEW ORLEANS — Jonathan Vilma urged a federal judge Friday to reject NFL commissioner Roger Goodell's motion to dismiss the defamation lawsuit filed against him by the Saints linebacker.

Vilma's request to U.S. District Judge Ginger Berrigan argues Goodell acted with "reckless disregard for the truth" when basing initial allegations about Vilma upon one fired Saints assistant, Mike Cerullo, whose testimony has been inconsistent and challenged by other witnesses in the NFL's bounty probe of the Saints.

The motion centers on Goodell's public comments that Vilma held up $10,000 cash in a team meeting in 2010, offering it to anyone who knocked Arizona quarterback Kurt Warner out of a playoff game.

During recent NFL appeal hearings in the bounty case, former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams testified he never saw any money.

"Williams has always told Goodell, and continues to state, that there was never any cash put up for a bounty on any player. It was 'just talk.'" Vilma's motion reads. "Nonetheless, Goodell irresponsibly chose to contend that Vilma walked around with $10,000 before the Cardinals game."

Vilma's season-long suspension and with various shorter bans for three other players were thrown out Tuesday by former Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, who Goodell had appointed to oversee the appeals of player punishment.

After Tagliabue's decision, the NFL Players Association dropped claims in federal court on behalf of Saints defensive end Will Smith and two former Saints: Cleveland linebacker Scott Fujita and free agent defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove. Vilma dropped his claims against the league concerning the disciplinary process, but moved forward with his defamation case against the commissioner, asking Berrigan to allow discovery, which consists of the collection of evidence and deposing of witnesses. Berrigan has so far delayed discovery while the Goodell's motion to dismiss the case is pending.

In their effort to highlight how unreliable Cerullo was, Vilma's attorneys, Peter Ginsberg and Duke Williams, cite hearing testimony from Saints assistant head coach Joe Vitt, who said Payton once arranged for police protection at his former suburban family home while he was away at league meetings because the head coach feared Cerullo was emotionally unstable and might harm his family.

While the lawsuit does not quote the testimony from the closed-door hearing directly, it appears in transcripts obtained by The Associated Press.

"An email was sent to the League about Mike Cerullo long before these (bounty) charges were brought up on our football team saying that Mike Cerullo was crazy, that Sean Payton had to have a police escort or, excuse me, police protection at his house because he was going to the owners' meeting, and he was worried about his family with Cerullo," Vitt testified. "This is the kind of guy we're dealing with. Allright?"

Vilma's motion also notes that the NFL subsequently dropped Goodell's initial allegation about Vilma physically holding up money in the meeting before the Arizona game.

"There can no longer be any doubt that Goodell acted with malice ... in making this quasi-criminal accusation against Vilma," the motion said.

The NFL continues to allege that Vilma offered a $10,000 to anyone who knocked then-Minnesota quarterback Brett Favre out of the 2010 NFC title game, which followed the Arizona game. Williams testified that he recalled such an offer for that game, but never saw any money change hands and suggested the offer represented nothing more than tough talk in an emotional meeting that he allowed to get out of hand.

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VIDEO: Devin Hester Workout

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How good was The Rock at football?

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson rose to fame thanks to his exploits in the pro wrestling ring and got his first break in the movie business as the Scorpion King in 2001’s “The Mummy Returns.”

While the film role may have been seen as a way for producers to rope in fans of Johnson’s wrestling career, it actually sparked what turned out to be a lengthy and lucrative foray into the film world. By this time next year, he’ll have starred in more than 20 movies, while continuing to make his presence felt in the wrestling world.

Wrestling is actually the Johnson family business -- his father Rocky Johnson was a star in the 1970s and '80s, while his Samoan grandfather Peter Maivia was famous in the 1960s.

But before “The Rock,” Dwayne Johnson was a burly defensive lineman that teammates called “Dewey” who wasn’t afraid to walk around in a traditional lava-lava skirt and belt out country music tunes at the University of Miami 20 years ago.

After finishing high school in Pennsylvania, Johnson joined Dennis Erickson’s Hurricanes in 1991, a team that would go on to win the national championship.

Over his four years with the Hurricanes, the 6-foot-5, 290-pound Johnson started only once, appearing in 39 games with a total of 77 tackles and 4.25 sacks.

Still, Johnson left an impression on coaches and teammates that went deeper than his numbers, starting with the man who recruited him, Ed Orgeron, currently the defensive coordinator at USC.

Orgeron, University of Miami defensive line coach (1989-1992): "He was a highly recruited kid. We were excited to have him, he came to us ahead of his time. He was developed and was extremely quick. He was a hard worker and a humble young man.

"Everybody liked him. He was easily coachable and everybody was impressed with him. He came in and played a lot as a freshman."

Kevin Patrick, University of Miami teammate (defensive end, 1989-1993): "At that time in college football I don’t think there was any doubt the University of Miami was at the top of their game. If you were on that team and a scholarship player, you were highly recognized.

"You look at those rosters that Dewey was a part of, they were loaded with talent and he was competitive.

"I can remember one of the first times he was on campus, it was an official visit. Our D-line coach [Orgeron], who was recruiting him, he was very proud, and he says, 'Look at my new dog.'

"And you look over and there’s this yoked-up kid with muscles everywhere walking around on the field. He got everyone’s attention. He was a physical specimen from Day 1. He didn’t just become one as soon as he became a wrestler.

Orgeron: "As a freshman, he came out, and back then we didn’t play too many freshmen. But he was very strong, he had some great practices and we were able to play him as a freshman, and at one point we thought maybe we’d start him as a freshman.

"The problem with Dwayne was there was a guy named Warren Sapp who came along the next year."

Warren Sapp, University of Miami teammate (1992-1995): "He was a specimen. He looked great. He always looked great. He was tan, curly hair. He was the kind of guy you want your sister to date, because he was a nice guy. I always said that to him.

"When he was [first] there, I was a tight end in high school and I got [to Miami] as a tight end and linebacker, and they moved me over to D-line. I was real reluctant to do so. I thought I was a pretty good tight end and a pretty good athlete, but being 290 pounds, they moved me to D-line and said, 'We need you to rush the passer or you can go home.'

"So I came into the D-line room and sat down, and Dwayne Johnson walks in and says, 'What are you doing here?'

"I said, 'I’m here for your job.' So that’s how me and him had our introduction to each other. I said it jokingly, but I was there for his job."

Orgeron: "You’re talking about one of the best college football players of all time. If not for [Sapp], Dwayne could have been an all-conference, perhaps an all-American."

Sapp: "There was no competition between us. You could ask him and he’d tell you. He became a wrestler and a movie star. I love him to death, but he couldn’t play with me. If he’d tell you anything else he’d be lying to you."

Orgeron: "Dwayne was a good player, but he wasn’t one of our star players. We had some really good defensive linemen.

"He was very athletic, he had great gifts. Great strength. I coached at Syracuse, and if Dwayne had been there, he would have been one of the top linemen we ever had at Syracuse. He was that type of player."

Brad Webber, University of Miami strength coach (1988-1998): "At that time we had so many good players who did such a good job pushing each other, whether it was in the weight room or on the field -- we had two great bookends at that time. We had KP and Warren Sapp.

"Back in the day, Miami had some drills that were pretty cranked up. It was the offensive line versus the defensive line. At that time we had a great defensive line. They had some reps and they got Dewey in there and he got rocked right off the bat.

"And Kevin grabbed him and pulled him out of there and said, 'That’s not how we’re going to do things around here.' He didn’t really appreciate that, so they squared off right there and kind of pushed each other around, and Dewey said, 'I’ll see you in just a little bit.'"

Patrick: "We were all best friends and we loved each other but when it boiled down to it, you fought for your job. I can remember getting into a fight with him in the strength coach’s office."

Webber: "After practice things kind of simmered down and we had come into the weight room. And they’re doing some working out and we had a big coach’s office that looked out into the weight room. And KP was in the office kicking back, and I saw Dwayne walk in there and he turned and shut the door and locked it, and looked through that glass window and smiled at me. And I said, 'Oh no, here we go.'"

Patrick: "I was the starter and there was this young kid fighting for his place, I didn’t take s--- from anyone and neither did he.

"I went to put him in his place and he fought back and words were exchanged and next thing you know there was a huge collision in the middle of that office."

Webber: "They start going at it and I ran down through that weight room and had to unlock the door -- in the meantime they had flown over my desk and tore the desk to pieces and knocked everything off there, and they were back in a little bitty hole behind the desk just wearing each other out.

"Dwayne ended up getting on top of him and he was trying to get a hold of his tongue. He was saying, 'I’m going to pull that tongue out of your head if you keep talking that trash.'

"So eventually I dove over on top of both of them, and next thing you know we’re all laying in there. You know how it is: You’re fighting one minute, you’re boys the next. We were laughing about it two minutes after that."

Patrick: "No punches were ever thrown and I think over time this story has gotten a lot bigger than it actually was. But we got after it pretty good and tussled around.

"I think we destroyed everything in that office, including the desk. In books, I’ve gotten his interpretation of the fight and I’ve heard it from his mom, and over the years it’s changed to be more amusing."

Sapp: "When you have a partner in crime and you can go balls-to-the-wall in a ball game and come out it knowing it’s not going to fall off, that bodes well for you.

"I knew I had somebody that was more than capable of playing if I was taken out. He was our do-everything guy. He could play inside and out, he could play all four positions.

"He was the Swiss Army knife. He was our utility guy. It was, 'Dewey, go left end. Go nose. Go right end.' He could do it all.

"He was a jack-of-all-trades, but only a master at wrasslin’.

Patrick: "One of my fondest memories is we got in a fight at San Diego State, and when they were breaking it up, the Aztec Indian was trying to climb a high wall down in the end zone of the stadium and Dewey was right behind him. The Aztec was trying to climb and there’s Dewey trying to yank him down."

Orgeron: "His uncle was Jimmy Snuka, he came from a wrestling family. So we knew about that.

"I remember one day walking off the field, he hadn’t had a good day and I said something like, 'You know, Dwayne, you should just become a wrestler.'"

Sapp: "So we used to joke with him by saying, 'When you get done with football, you’re going to go into wrestling, right?'

"And he’d say: 'Damn right, bitch.'

"And we were like, "All right, that’s cool by us.' It was just our way of joking with him and passing time.

"So I get to the NFL and [teammate] Derrick Brooks is a wrestling nut. He watched wrasslin’ all the time: 'Monday Night Raw,' 'Tuesday Night Thunder,' whatever it is, he watched it. And I was his roommate. I’d come in the room and I’d be like, 'Oh come on. It’s Monday night, there’s football on, and we’re not watching football?'

"And Brooks would say, 'No, no: "Monday Night Raw."'

"One day I walk in the room and I hear 'candy ass.' And I said, 'What the heck?' That’s what coach O [Orgeron] used to say.

"And then I started watching."

Patrick: "The first time I heard Joe Diffie’s song 'If the Devil Danced (In Empty Pockets)' was because Dewey was sitting next to me on the way back from Colorado singing his tail off.

"He’s got a pretty good voice and was big into country music. We’d see him in the apartment he lived in just singing his tail off. We thought this was pretty good. He always had that, and in combination with his family background, we knew he was going to be something special if not on the football field but in another line of work."

Webber: "Football’s an emotional game and it gets hot and heavy, but that’s one thing about those Miami teams, we were all family and still are. You don’t see some of them for 10 or 20 years, but when you do, it’s like you never left. It’s a special place and a tight bond between all those people."

Patrick: "The one thing I say about Dewey is that he’s one of the most down-to-earth, most humble guys that I have ever been around.

"He’s as quality as it gets -- that could not have happened to a better person. It’s kind of cliché, but he’s a guy who worked his ass off.

"It’s interesting to see how his career has developed over time. I was taking my kids to see 'The Tooth Fairy' and I remember my kids saying, 'We’re going to see daddy’s friend in the movie.' And they were obviously excited."

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Ed Reed embarrassed, blames flu for getting hurdled

Slamming his helmet to the ground and kicking it was only the beginning of the frustration for Ravens safety Ed Reed.

After playing poorly and watching his team get handled by the Broncos yesterday, Reed admitted shame for all involved.

“I felt like it was Christmas and not for our side,” Reed said, via Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun. “We were in a giving mood. . . . We didn’t play football. I was embarrassed. I am embarrassed as a player to come out and perform the way we have. As a Ravens nation, as a player, I am embarrassed for our city.”

Reed himself has plenty to be ashamed of. An apparent miscommunication with cornerback Cary Williams led to an easy touchdown by Broncos wide receiver Eric Decker, and at another point, Reed was hurdled by running back Knowshon Moreno.

“I was not expecting him to jump, honestly,” Reed said. “I couldn’t react because I was dealing with a lot of sickness early in the game. I just wasn’t all the way into it, honestly. I was dealing with flu symptoms and everything. I just kind of watched him jump over me.

“I wasn’t expecting that at all. I thought he was was ready to put his head down. I saw him gathering himself, so I was like, ‘There’s no way he’s going to jump.’”
Likewise, there was little expectation that the Ravens would clinch their playoff berth while losing three straight games, and looking bad in the process.

“It hits you in your heart when you lose three straight and you had an opportunity to close our your division the last three weeks,” Reed said. “It’s terrible. It’s what all you guys have been saying about us right now. Regardless of us not listening to it or not worrying about it, it’s just been the truth. We’ve just acted on it to come out and lose today.”

Reed can blame the flu if he wants, but the reality is the Ravens defense doesn’t intimidate anyone any longer, not as short-handed as they are. And with an offense that’s no help whatsoever, they’re on the verge of becoming a non-factor.

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Richard Gordon Suffers Another Injury

Raider Coach Dennis Allen on injuries: “I’ll go through them. Juron Criner had a hip. It’s pretty sore today, but we’ll see where he’s at on Wednesday. Richard Gordon had a bicep. There’s no structural damage, but he’s, again, a guy we’ll have to look at on Wednesday to see where he’s at.

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Clinton Portis rooting for Alfred Morris to break his record

Alfred Morris is on pace for 1511 rushing yards this season. Clinton Portis holds the franchise record for single-season rushing yards, at 1516. Seems likely that this will go down to the wire.

But Portis said he hopes his record falls at the hands, or feet, maybe, of the 6th-round pick from Florida Atlantic.

“I’m actually rooting for him,” Portis told Holden Kushner and Danny Rouhier on 106.7 The Fan. “In my eyes, records are kind of meant to be broken. And just to even have the luxury of having it [was meaningful]. I think Alfred Morris is a class act, a young guy who came in and handled things properly and did it the right way. You never really hear him boast and brag about his accomplishments. And I think a lot of it is overshadowed by the great play of RGIII, but I think what they’re doing as complimentary players to one another is great for the city.”

Morris’s 1,322 yards this season are already seventh-highest for a Redskin — the only men who have gone higher are Portis, Stephen Davis, Terry Allen and John Riggins. The rookie is averaging 4.7 yards pe carry, second-highest among the 15 best rushing seasons in Redskins history. And he’s averaging 94.4 yards per game, the fifth-highest total in franchise history.

“I just see him as a tough runner,” Portis said. “I never really compared him to me, just watching him, being a fan of his and the way he carries himself, being a fan of his and seeing how hard he runs, and the determination. The first guy never tackles him. And you never really see him fall backwards. He finishes with his shoulders down, head upfield, and kind of welcomes the contact. And I think it takes a tough runner to do that. A lot of guys, they end up facemask turned all the way and everything else. So when you watch this guy, and how he’s filling in along with RGIII and how they’re playing together, as well as the rest of the guys on the team, it just looks good.”

And yes, I only typed all those words as an excuse to use the image above, which was featured during Comcast SportsNet’s pregame show on Sunday.

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How Ray Lewis takes the pep talk to new levels

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- His teammates will tell you that Ray Lewis is the greatest living practitioner of that rip-roaring piece of performance art known as the locker room pep talk. But don't take their word for it. Find him on YouTube and see for yourself.

Here is the Baltimore Ravens linebacker appealing to the pride of University of Miami football players: Know what you carry, when you carry that 'U' on your chest.

Here he is riffing on the essence of team with Loyola of Maryland men's lacrosse players: Nothing else matters but the man that's beside me.

And here he is channeling anger with Stanford's men's basketball players: If you ain't pissed off for greatness, you're OK with mediocrity.

Lewis played at Miami. He didn't play for Loyola or Stanford. But he'll talk to most anyone who asks, and even some who don't, such as football players at Elon, where he once showed up unannounced just because he happened to be in the neighborhood.

"Ray is the best motivational speaker anywhere," Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo says. "It's not just what he says, but how he says it. He gets inside your soul."

Aristotle called the sort of speech that summons our emotions epideictic. We know the locker room version of the genre better as Win One for the Gipper, a rallying cry that echoes across generations.

The rousing pregame speech is a staple of Americana — and of American cinema. If the climax of most sports movies is the slow-motion moment of triumph, it is typically preceded by a rhetorical call to arms from a gravel-voiced coach offering fire-and-brimstone wisdom to his room full of doe-eyed underdogs.

Some of these great movie moments are made up, such as the speech given by fictional Miami Sharks coach Tony D'Amato in the 1999 film Any Given Sunday. Al Pacino repeats the word inch a dozen times in his stem-winder.

We're in hell right now, gentlemen. Believe me. And we can stay here, get the (blank) kicked out of us, or we can fight our way back into the light. We can climb out of hell, one inch at a time.

Some of these great movie moments are taken from real life, such as the speech by U.S. men's Olympic hockey coach Herb Brooks, played by Kurt Russell, in the 2004 film Miracle. This one is based on what Brooks told his young Americans the night they upset the mighty Soviet juggernaut in 1980.

If we played them 10 times, they might win nine, but not this game. Not tonight. Tonight, we skate with them. Tonight, we stay with them. And we shut them down because we can. Tonight, we are the greatest hockey team in the world.

It's no secret that a pep talk delivered with passion and cadence works theatrically and thematically. Shakespeare had that figured out long ago. Witness King Henry's bravura elocution before the Battle of Agincourt in Henry V:

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers; for he to-day that sheds his blood with me shall be my brother.

Ray Lewis couldn't have said it better himself.

Pep talks overrated
Here's the advice of one coach enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame: Forget everything you know of pregame speeches from the movies.

"Pep talks are the most overrated item you can think of," Marv Levy says. "There are far, far fewer of them than the public perceives."

When Levy coached the Buffalo Bills from 1986-97, he often salted his oratory with Churchillian exhortations about finest hours and never giving up. But he typically delivered those talks the night before games, not in the locker room.

Levy says he preferred offering perspective to raising adrenaline, which risks revving motors so high that players go out and make mistakes. "I wanted to spur them to thoughtful action," Levy says, "not stupid, over-the-cliff emotion."

Levy, 87, who holds a masters degree in English History from Harvard, was rarely at a loss for words. Some coaches are.

Mike Sellers is an assistant football coach at Huntingdon (Pa.) Area High School. He remembers a night in 2007, before he was an assistant, when he was in the pregame locker room as the Bearcats' webmaster. The coach had nothing to say so he asked his assistants if maybe they did. They didn't. So the coach threw it to Sellers.

"I had nothing," Sellers says. Then a light bulb went off — and now he is proprietor of, which bundles prefab pep talks for coaches in need.

The site gets 800 to 1,000 hits a day but sells only 20 to 45 packages a year, $14.99 for bundles of eight generic speeches. Here's a taste:

The time is now. This is the day. This is the hour. It has been set aside, marked and reserved for you. This is your time to succeed. Your destiny awaits you.
Win one for the Gipper

George Gipp, Notre Dame's first All-America football player, died of pneumonia in 1920. Eight years later, Notre Dame coach Knute Rockne delivered a halftime speech that propelled the Fighting Irish to a 12-6 upset of Army. Or so the legend goes.

Murray Sperber, author of Shake Down the Thunder: The Creation of Notre Dame Football, believes that Rockne made up the deathbed scene in which Gipp asks Rockne to tell the team some day — "when things are wrong and the breaks are beating the boys" — to win just one for, well, him.

Two years after that Army game, a Collier's story ghostwritten for Rockne tells the tale pretty much as Hollywood would render it in the 1940 film Knute Rockne All American. Pat O'Brien, playing Rockne, gets a faraway, misty-eyed look, his voice wavering slightly as he gives the locker room speech against which all others are weighed.

"I knew a guy who played for Rockne, that's how old I am," Levy says, "and he told me that wasn't really Rockne talking" — that was Hollywood.

Still, the real-life Rockne could clearly punch-up a speech. Find him on YouTube wearing a jaunty fedora, hands tucked casually in suit coat pockets, except when punctuating a point with his fists .

And don't forget, men: Today is the day we're going to win. They can't lick us. … The first platoon men — go in there and fight, fight, fight, fight, fight! What do you say, men?

Robert N. Sayler, co-author of Tongue-Tied America: Reviving the Art of Verbal Persuasion, says coaches must "build up a reservoir of credibility" with their players to make such appeals work.

"The gripping speech that has the feeling of let's go win one for the Gipper will have a memorable theme and great phrasing, sentences that you remember when you walk out of the locker room," Sayler says. "Simplicity is crucial to the epideictic, moving, power-house speech. And, obviously, they have to be well delivered, with cadence and dramatic pauses to set up the theme."

Parody and hilarity
Nothing is over until we decide it is. Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell, no!

John Belushi, as Bluto Blutarsky, utters those immortal if historically inaccurate words in the 1978 film Animal House during a pep talk without the locker room that has become so much a part of American culture that you can get it as a ringtone.

It's a parody of pep talks — and the movies' convention of them — but hardly history's only one to elicit laughs.

Time was drawing short before kickoff of 1964's AFL championship game and referees knocked on Buffalo's locker room door. Paul Maguire, the Bills' punter of that era, recalls running back Cookie Gilchrist yelling at coach Lou Saban to get the team moving. Saban jumped up on a table.

"I only have one thing to say to you," Saban shouted. "Heads down, toes up!"

Gilchrist started to open the door, then stopped, closed it, and looked at Saban.

"What the (blank) does that mean?"

"I don't know," Saban said. "I'm as nervous as you are."

The Bills burst out of the room, laughing uproariously, and beat the San Diego Chargers 20-7.

"I never found out if Lou did it on purpose to get us loose," Maguire says. "I don't think so, but knowing him, maybe he did. Every time I asked, he just got that grin on his face."

Lewis motivates, leads
Lewis declined comment for this story through a Ravens spokesman. The guy who talks to everyone is not talking to anyone from the news media as he rehabs from a triceps injury that has kept him off the field since mid-October.

"Ray has a talent as far as talking and leading," Ravens safety Bernard Pollard says. "The passion he has is crazy, man. The players respect it. We know his life, what he's been through. He puts it all on the line for this team, this organization, this city."

Sometimes Ayanbadejo watches Lewis on YouTube. "It's like a time capsule, takes you back to the moment," he says. "They all make you feel excited. It's his energy, his emotion, his rawness, his words, his delivery, his sincerity."

And it doesn't hurt that Lewis is an all-time great.

"Ray has Greek god status around here," Ayanbadejo says. "He has a special gift. He can have a career in motivational speaking when he retires."

No matter how many times you hear him, "listening to Ray never gets old," Ayanbadejo says. "You always come away with something new."

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VIDEO: Leonard Hankerson's 2 TDs

Thank you to @GDixon410 for sending us the below GIFs of proCane Leonard Hankerson’s 2 TDs.



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Jacory Harris is going to Canada!

Jacory Harris, former Miami Hurricanes quarterback, is on to the Canadian Football League. From nice, warm Miami, to .... Edmonton.

The Edmonton Eskimos are expected to announce they have signed Jacory Harris to a contract.

Honestly, I can't tell you much about the Eskimos, except that they started three quarterbacks this season, and finished 6-12.

This news comes on the heels of the Eskimos naming former receiver Ed Hervey as the teams general manager. Maybe this is one of his first moves.

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Calais Campbell Hits Lions Hard

Calais Campbell popped off the grass late in the fourth quarter as Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford laid 10 yards behind the line of scrimmage and jumped right into a batting stance.

His home run swing was as picture perfect as a 6-foot-8, 300-pound defensive end can get wearing shoulder pads and a helmet. The imaginary home run, however, may not have landed yet.

Now imagine if Campbell was 100 percent healthy.

Campbell played his best all-around game since Week 2 at New England despite still dealing with the lingering effects of a calf injury that sidelined him for a month. He wasn’t in pain while he recorded eight tackles, four for losses, a sack, a quarterback hurry and a pass deflection, but his calf wasn’t completely healed either.

“I think I was able to make all the plays I couldn’t make last week because I had pain in my calf and I had to play little more in control,” said Campbell, who had eight tackles last week at Seattle. “(On Sunday) I was able to dive and get off balls and fly around and make plays. It felt good.

“(But) I didn’t have the explosion I wish I had but I had a lot more than I’ve had since I got hurt.”

Campbell felt like he was going to explode when he was forced to watch from the sidelines against Atlanta, St. Louis and New York. The frustration of not playing pain free for the last month boiled over against Detroit.

“When I got a chance to get back I was giving everything I got,” Campbell said. “When you miss it, you don’t really know what you have until it’s gone really.”
Campbell had to pick up some of the slack left by Dan Williams’ large void. Williams missed the game with a hamstring injury but Campbell made up for the nose tackle’s absence by recording his first full sack since October.

“It’s nice to see Calais back in to play and making those kinds of things happen,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “That’s something that we’ve missed.”

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Leonard Hankerson records first two-touchdown game

Last week, wide receiver Leonard Hankerson recorded four catches for 67 yards. His coaches called that his best game of the season, not only because of his catches, but his blocking contributions as well.

This week, Hankerson continued his production, recording two catches for 56 yards and two touchdowns as the Redskins defeated the Browns.

It marked the first multiple-touchdown game of the second-year Miami product’s career. It was also only the second time this season that a Redskins receiver has had multiple touchdowns in the same game. (Santana Moss had two in Week 7.)

“Any touchdown is special. I’m just glad I was able to go out there and help my team come out on top,” said Hankerson, who on the season has 36 catches for 521 yards and three touchdowns (all career highs).

Hankerson’s first touchdown — a 54-yard bomb — put the Redskins on the board following four consecutive three-and-out possessions.

Kirk Cousins faked to Alfred Morris on the stretch play to the left, rolled back to his right and threw downfield to Hankerson, who had gotten behind three defenders and made a juggling catch before he hit the ground. Hankerson bounced back up and trotted into the end zone. Kai Forbath’s successful extra-point attempt tied the game at 7 with 2:26 left in the first.

“It was a little play action, and I was actually the last read on that play,” Hankerson said. “All the safeties came up, and he made a great throw. It was like a distraction drill, because they all jumped up in front of me, and the ball dropped in my hands.”

Hankerson’s second touchdown came in the third quarter, putting Washington up 24-14 and capping a seven-play, 60-yard drive.

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'I am embarrassed for our city,' Ed Reed says after Ravens' loss to Broncos

The mounting frustrations of a third consecutive loss were on display during and after the Ravens' 34-17 defeat to the Denver Broncos.

That included Ravens Pro Bowl free safety Ed Reed slamming his helmet to the ground after he and cornerback Cary Williams allowed a touchdown pass to Broncos wide receiver Eric Decker. Then, Reed booted his helmet soccer-style with the helmet accidentally hitting someone on the sidelines.

During the locker room after the game, Reed was much calmer after donning a conservative three-piece suit.

Reed wasn't done venting, though, about the Ravens' subpar play as they allowed Peyton Manning and company to pile up 350 yards of total offense and 21 first downs.

"I felt like it was Christmas and not for our side," the former NFL Defensive Player of the Year said. "We were in a giving mood. ... We didn't play football. I was embarrassed. I am embarrassed as a player to come out and perform the way we have. As a Ravens nation, as a player, I am embarrassed for our city."

The Ravens have lost three consecutive games, but could still qualify for the postseason.

"You still have a lot of football left to be played, a lot of corrections we could make, and we have to make them," Reed said. "If we don't make them, then it won't be a concern. It will be us at home in January during the playoffs, somewhere I know we don't want to be.

"It hits you in your heart when you lose three straight and you had an opportunity to close our your division the last three weeks. It's terrible. It's what all you guys have been saying about us right now. Regardless of us not listening to it or not worrying about it, it's just been the truth. We've just acted on it to come out and lose today."

Reed said he has friends on the Broncos' roster, but wasn't in a mood to exchange greetings afterward.

"I know a bunch of guys over there and I didn't shake hands today," Reed said. "I was just hurting as a player for mistakes that we made."

Besides being beaten by Decker on a double-move for the score, Reed got hurdled by Broncos running back Knowshon Moreno.

"I was not expecting him to jump, honestly," Reed said. "I couldn't react because I was dealing with a lot of sickness early in the game. I just wasn't all the way into it, honestly. I was dealing with flu symptoms and everything. I just kind of watched him jump over me.

"I wasn't expecting that at all. I thought he was was ready to put his head down. I saw him gathering himself, so I was like, 'There's no way he's going to jump.'

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DeMarcus Van Dyke Injured

The Pittsburgh Steelers dropped their seventh game of the season Sunday to the Dallas Cowboys and are now in a must-win situation as they head into their final two games of the season against the Cincinnati Bengals and the Cleveland Browns.

The loss included more injuries to the Steelers secondary in addition as head coach Mike Tomlin said in his post game press conference that starting cornerback Keenan Lewis (groin) suffered a groin injury in the second half and reserve cornerback DeMarcus Van Dyke (shoulder) suffered a separated shoulder early in the game while attempting to make a tackle on special teams.

The Steelers came into the game already thin in the secondary as cornerback Ike Taylor (ankle) sat out his second consecutive game Sunday with a fractured ankle as did his replacement Cortez Allen (groin), who missed the game due to a groin injury suffered last Sunday in the loss to the San Diego Chargers.

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Andre Johnson, Arian Foster share the spotlight

Andre Johnson jumped to the fore and seized the lead role early, then Arian Foster took over late. Foster would call their shared co-starring role for the Texans’ offense “a thing of beauty.”

Throw in another “monster-mode” effort by the defense’s resident force of nature, J. J. Watt, and we can call the 12-2 Texans AFC South champions. The Indianapolis Colts, who were the last threat to same, went down 29-17 on an afternoon when both Foster and Johnson exceeded 150 yards, something they’d never before done in the same game.

“You want an offense that can win in the air and on the ground,” said Foster, who ran for 165 to Johnson’s 151 receiving. “I think that’s what (head coach Gary) Kubiak envisioned when he put this team together. When you’re firing on all cylinders like that (you’re) tough to beat.

“The players are making plays and the coaches are putting us in position to make plays. I think it’s a tribute to the organization’s eye for talent.”

Foster and Johnson proved to be perfect bookends on a day the Texans used to rinse their mouths after a disastrous visit to New England last Monday night. Two plays in, Matt Schaub’s already had two completions to the latter – the second for 52 yards on a spectacular catch in heavy traffic – and the Texans were perched at the Colts’ 19. Only a field goal resulted, but it provided a 3-0 lead.

Houston is 8-0 this season when getting on the scoreboard first.

Johnson already had seven receptions for 107 yards by halftime, while Foster was off to a sluggish start, gaining only 34 on 11 rushes. But things went exactly the other way in the fourth quarter when Foster averaged 8.8 on his nine carries – despite being deprived of a 27-yard touchdown sprint that wiped out by left guard Wade Smith’s hold. Unfazed by the penalty, which Smith admitted was the right call, Foster picked up where he’d left off with four minutes left and carried on seven successive plays for 75 yards, setting up the victory-clinching field goal.

Indy quarterback Andrew Luck would be left with just 65 seconds to try to make up two scores. Even the Colts’ Comeback Kid himself couldn’t pull that off.
“We have to close out games as an offense,” Foster said. “Everybody’s tired at the end. Everybody is at 70 percent, 80 percent. But your 70 percent has to be better than somebody else’s 70 percent. You have to find a way to dig deeper. That’s my mindset. I’ve been like that since I was a kid. It’s just part of how I train . . . to be at my best when everybody else is tired and I’m tired. I take a lot of pride in that.”

So did a fellow named Earl Campbell, who closed out plenty of games following the same script for the Houston Oilers. You keep hammering away with the likes of Campbell and Foster and the most stalwart of defenses will stagger. Something has to give.

Johnson said he grabbed Foster when the Texans regained possession and told him, “Just run us home.”

The Texans’ consummate under-appreciated grunt up front, center Chris Myers, explained why the offense was able to finish like it did. Life is a lot easier when you’re not having to play catch-up, as had been the case in the 42-14 drubbing by the Patriots on Monday night.

“When it came to that last drive, we opened up some holes and Arian just took off with some breakout runs,” Myers said. “That’s how it works. You pound, pound, pound, grind, grind, grind and finally you bust out. You tap ‘em for four yards here, three yards there . . . a few no gainers. But, as long as you stay true to what you do, those bust-out runs are going to come.

“We haven’t had a run like (Foster’s negated TD) in awhile. But you can get a feel for how the game is going, when the defense is kind of back on their heels a little bit. (The Colts) were on that last drive and we took advantage of it.”

Quarterback Matt Schaub seemed to be on the same wave length.

“You just stick with the game plan,” he said. “We had some hard times finding holes with the run game early, even through the third quarter. But those 3-, 4-yard runs can turn into big ones, and they did in the second half.”

Of Johnson’s explosive start Schaub said, ‘Dre just did what he’s done his whole career. (On the second-down bomb) we had a play fake, a little ‘boot’ going on. We sold the fake really hard and he just popped wide open, got behind everybody. I was trying to give him a chance to make a play. It a closely contested ball but he came up with it.”

The Texans’ offensive players routinely talk about how much they enjoy watching Watt wreaking havoc. The second-year defensive, on everyone’s short list for NFL Defensive Player of the Year honors, repaid the compliment when asked how much pleasure he gleaning from seeing Foster hammer his way downfield, leaving Colts strewn in his path.

“When our offense can end the game on the field with a huge drive like, that’s the way we love it,” Watt said. “Watching ‘Dre starting out the game, then Arian running (at the end) . . . I love this team. We can get you three different ways – offense, defense, special teams – and there’s a love for each other (in the locker room) and a genuine team chemistry.”

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Five questions with Cleveland Browns receiver Travis Benjamin

Q: Everyone talks about your speed. What's the fastest you've ever run?
A: In college I went 4.26 (in the 40-yard dash). In track, I've got the indoor record at Miami in the 60-meter, I ran that in 6.69.

Q: Can you get faster?
A: I'm always training on my speed, so come off-season, I probably can knock a couple more hundredths off.

Q: Have you ever lost a race to anyone who's challenged you?
A: I've never lost to a challenger. But in college there are much faster guys than me. I never thought about (quitting football for) track. Once track was over every year, I was right back to football.

Q: Rumor has it that you haven't cut your hair since 8th grade. True? If so, why?
A: It's true. I just always wanted dreads when I was growing up because my older brother had dreads. So since 8th grade, I've had the dreads. I just cut a few inches off every year so it doesn't look bad. My brother's is down to his waist, he's 25. But it would be very difficult to play with that.

Q: Your mom is a police office in Florida. How did that affect your upbringing?
A: It's just discipline. Knowing that I always had respect for her and everything she did. If she says something one time, I do it.

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VooDoo Welcomes FB/LB James Bryant to the Graveyard

NEW ORLEANS – The Arena Football League has assigned fullback/linebacker James Bryant to the New Orleans VooDoo, announced the VooDoo front office Friday, December 14th.

Bryant played as a rookie with the Orlando Predators in 2010. With the Predators, he recorded 6.5 tackles and one sack. Bryant also returned a kick ten yards for a touchdown.

During his collegiate career, Bryant played for the University of Miami. In 2005, he was the team's No. 2 fullback where he rushed for eight yards, caught two passes for 44 yards and returned 2 kickoffs for 34 yards. Bryant switched to linebacker in 2006.

"JB played for me in 2010. He's a 100 mile an hour player and person," said VooDoo Head Coach Pat O'Hara. "He has tremendous energy and power."
TRANSACTION – The Arena Football League (AFL) assigned FB/LB James Bryant to the New Orleans VooDoo.

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Jonathan Vilma wants Roger Goodell's dismissal motion rejected

NEW ORLEANS -- Jonathan Vilma urged a federal judge Friday to reject NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell's motion to dismiss the defamation lawsuit filed against him by the New Orleans Saints linebacker.

Vilma's request to U.S. District Judge Ginger Berrigan argues Goodell acted with "reckless disregard for the truth" when basing initial allegations about the linebacker upon one fired Saints assistant coach, Mike Cerullo, whose testimony has been inconsistent and challenged by other witnesses in the NFL's bounty probe of the team.

The motion centers on Goodell's public comments that Vilma held up $10,000 cash in a team meeting in 2010, offering it to anyone who knocked Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner out of a playoff game.

During recent NFL appeal hearings in the bounty case, former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams testified he never saw any money.

"Williams has always told Goodell, and continues to state, that there was never any cash put up for a bounty on any player. It was 'just talk.' " Vilma's motion reads. "Nonetheless, Goodell irresponsibly chose to contend that Vilma walked around with $10,000 before the Cardinals game."

Vilma's season-long suspension and three other players' various shorter bans were thrown out Tuesday by former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, whom Goodell had appointed to oversee the appeals of player punishment.

After Tagliabue's decision, the NFL Players Association dropped claims in federal court on behalf of Saints defensive end Will Smith and two former Saints: Cleveland Browns linebacker Scott Fujita and free-agent defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove. Vilma dropped his claims against the league concerning the disciplinary process, but he moved forward with his defamation case against the commissioner, asking Berrigan to allow discovery, which consists of the collection of evidence and deposing of witnesses. Berrigan has so far delayed discovery while Goodell's motion to dismiss the case is pending.

In their effort to highlight how unreliable Cerullo was, Vilma's attorneys, Peter Ginsberg and Duke Williams, cite hearing testimony from Saints assistant head coach Joe Vitt, who said Payton once arranged for police protection at his former suburban family home while he was away at league meetings because the head coach feared Cerullo was emotionally unstable and might harm his family.

While the lawsuit does not directly quote the testimony from the closed-door hearing, it appears in transcripts obtained by The Associated Press.

"An email was sent to the League about Mike Cerullo long before these (bounty) charges were brought up on our football team saying that Mike Cerullo was crazy, that Sean Payton had to have a police escort or, excuse me, police protection at his house because he was going to the owners' meeting, and he was worried about his family with Cerullo," Vitt testified. "This is the kind of guy we're dealing with. All right?"

Vilma's motion also notes that the NFL subsequently dropped Goodell's initial allegation about Vilma physically holding up money in the meeting before the Arizona game.

"There can no longer be any doubt that Goodell acted with malice ... in making this quasi-criminal accusation against Vilma," the motion said.

The NFL continues to allege that Vilma offered $10,000 to anyone who knocked then-Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brett Favre out of the 2010 NFC Championship Game, which followed the Arizona game. Williams testified that he recalled such an offer for that game, but he never saw any money change hands and suggested the offer represented nothing more than tough talk in an emotional meeting that he allowed to get out of hand.

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Jimmy Graham says he's been nursing a wrist injury since training camp

New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham said Friday he's been dealing with a left wrist injury since preseason.

Graham said on gamedays he mimics the tape job on both wrists to conceal the injury from opposing defenders and wouldn't say Friday which wrist is injured. Graham hasn't been on the injury report all season with his wrist injury.

"It has been pretty bad since preseason," Graham said. "But I'm not the only one dealing with issues and dealing with injuries. I played through a lot of stuff and unfortunately, I've played every game this season pretty banged up but so has everyone else in this locker room."

Graham said he wasn't sure if the wrist injury has hampered his performance this season. The Pro Bowl tight end has 64 catches for 710 yards and eight touchdowns this season.

"Catches and blocking has been painful this year but that's everybody," Graham said. "Everybody on this team has had some issues and is having issues. I can't use that as a crutch. I'm out there on Sunday's and I've got to produce."

When asked if he would need to have a procedure to fix his wrist injury in the offseason, Graham said he will know more once he has an MRI as it sounds like Graham will try to play the rest of the season in pain.

"I think it's (Graham's wrist injury) has been ongoing all season," Vitt said. "This time of the season and you're into Week (15) and you're going to have little nicks. ... But I think Jimmy has done a real good job of working through his nicks."

Graham miss one game this season with a ankle injury when the Saints beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Oct. 21.

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Jonathan Vilma disputes Mike Cerullo's credibility in latest legal filing

New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma is calling into question the credibility of one of the NFL's primary bounty witnesses, former defensive assistant Mike Cerullo, and the league's assertion that there was a bounty on Arizona quarterback Kurt Warner. Vilma and his attorney, Peter Ginsberg, are attempting to keep Vilma's defamation suit against NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell moving forward in U.S. District Court.

The details on Cerullo were part of a memo filed in opposition of Goodell's motion for Judge Ginger Berrigan to dismiss the defamation lawsuit.

The memo said Cerullo is the only person to claim Vilma put a bounty on Kurt Warner and Ginsberg claimed that the NFL doesn't believe Cerullo's account.

"Cerullo was fired for his incompetence and repeated and material lies to the Saints which caused him to miss several weeks of the 2009 season," Ginsberg wrote.

The biggest allegation is that Saints Coach Sean Payton had to obtain police protection at his home after the team fired Cerullo.

The memo also said Cerullo claimed that Mike Ornstein gave his $10,000 to Gregg Williams at a hotel the night before the NFC divisional playoff game against Arizona.

"Williams, as with the other Cerullo fantasies, never told Goodell that this accusation was true," Ginsberg said in the memo.

The memo also said Cerullo's story changed concerning whether he memorialized the supposed bounties on Warner.

"On November 13, 2011, Cerullo told Goodell and his investigators that he had taken 'detailed notes' about the supposed bounties on Warner," Ginsberg said in the memo. "Of course, no such notes were ever provided, as Goodell clearly knew, and Cerullo later denied taking any such notes."

The memo claimed Cerullo manufactured a spreadsheet of bounties "that even the NFL could not believe."

"The spreadsheet contended that the Saints defensive team and staff pledged an improbable $235,500 during the playoffs," Ginsberg said in the memo. "Cerullo now admits he has no explanation for the outrageous amounts shown on his spreadsheet."

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Vince Wilfork enjoying dominant season, with a little help from his friends

FOXBOROUGH — Officially, Vince Wilfork was credited with four tackles, one sack, one tackle for loss, one pass deflection, and one forced fumble in the Patriots’ undressing of the Texans last Monday night.

But his impact on that game seemed far larger than the statistics showed, and it began on the second official snap.

Houston running back Arian Foster, who came into the night averaging more than 120 yards in nationally televised games, had just picked up 15 yards, negating an illegal formation penalty called on his team moments earlier.

Foster got the ball again, and started to follow center Chris Myers but then cut back. Right guard Ben Jones had shoved Wilfork down in the backfield and was trying to hold him on the Gillette Stadium turf.

But Jones didn’t do a good enough job, and Wilfork reached out and grabbed Foster by the left shin, dropping him for a 1-yard loss.

Houston punted three plays later.

“He is a big guy,” Texans right tackle Ryan Harris said after his team fell to 11-2 on the season. “He is a smart player, a veteran, and a champion. He knows what it takes to win in this league.”

As with most defensive tackles, Wilfork’s statistics, taken at face value, are not impressive. He has been credited with 46 tackles, two sacks, six pass deflections, two forced fumbles, and four fumble recoveries.

His impact, however, cannot be measured in raw numbers, though the fact that he’s been on the field for 80 percent of New England’s defensive snaps gives an indication of his importance. Last season, Wilfork played an eye-opening 86 percent of the snaps, and was behind only cornerback Kyle Arrington in total snaps by the time the playoffs were over.

And if it seems like Wilfork has been everywhere this season, it’s a credit to the maturation of his young teammates that he’s been able to show off all of his talents.

“What’s happening to them is his production and his ability right now, I think it’s because of the outside presence of Chandler Jones and the three linebackers,” an AFC scout said. “[Dont’a] Hightower is starting to come on. I think the surrounding pieces have allowed him to be more, I won’t say more dominant, but you see more now the effect that he can have on the game and the production, the versatility, the things that he can do when there are better players around him.

“When you have to account for Chandler Jones’s speed rush and then him pushing the pocket and the quarterback trying to get away from the edge rusher, he has to step up and Wilfork is right there. He can get a sack or you have a zone scheme and they’re trying to attack the defensive end and Chandler Jones is able to stack and shed and the running back has to cut back and Wilfork is right there.”

The scout said that in recent years, when New England didn’t have players like Jones or Hightower or Brandon Spikes, offenses could double- or even triple-team Wilfork because he didn’t have many teammates who could hurt them.

The Patriots’ switch to a four-man defensive line also has aided Wilfork’s opportunities to make plays.

“As a 3-4, head-up nose guard, it’s so hard to be that stat guy,” the scout said. “It’s so hard to get a bunch of sacks or a bunch of TFLs [tackles for loss] as a 3-4 nose. In a 3-4 scheme you want to protect your linebackers and those are the guys that will be making all the plays.

“So having the 4-3 scheme, he’s able to play from a 3-technique to a shade; he’s got the versatility to play all along the line. [Bill] Belichick will move him to a 5-technique or a 3-tech or a nose . . . I think the four-man scheme has allowed him to show his versatility a little bit more, especially in the run game because he’s able to do a little bit of 2-gapping and penetrate gaps.”

Even as a leader and focal point of the defense, Wilfork, like so many of his teammates, will do whatever is asked of him if it furthers the Patriots’ cause.

“Even in three-man line there’s different things we can do that you see me move around a lot, from nose to end, just matchups that we like, try to keep the offense guessing, and in a four-man line it’s the same thing,” Wilfork said.

“We just try to keep it moving, and what’s best for the team, that’s what we’re going to always do. It may not be best for me, but when my name is called I’m ready, and ready to make plays if I have to. But if I don’t make plays, if I’m playing well and helping my teammates, if I’m freeing up some of my teammates, I’m happy, and if we win I’m happy.

“When we lose, that’s when it becomes a problem. Don’t want to lose, I’ll tell you that. Hate losing, so I’m going to do everything I can to prevent that.”

Moving Wilfork around also creates more opportunities for him to show off his athleticism, freakish for a man his size.

Wilfork’s return on his first career interception, when New England hosted San Diego last season, is just one example. He read Philip Rivers’s eyes, tipped the ball to himself, and rumbled down the Chargers’ sideline, stiff-arming at least one player along the way.

“He’s an extremely large human being,” said Patriots guard Donald Thomas, no small guy himself. “And for his size, he has great explosiveness. Once he gets going, it’s hard to stop him, unless you take a perfect fit and you know exactly what he’s going to do. If not, you see what he can do to people.”

Thomas played against Wilfork with the Dolphins in 2009, and does not have fond memories of the experience.

“It was rough,” Thomas said. “It was like, you see the film, but you don’t really get a chance to know how powerful he is until you get a chance to feel it. All you can do is just try to do what you’re taught and hold on.”

Wilfork’s dominant performance against Houston had some wondering if he might be a dark-horse candidate for Defensive Player of the Year.

According to the scout, in other years he likely would be.

But this year, with San Francisco’s Aldon Smith, who will be in Foxborough Sunday night, on pace to break the single-season sack record, the Texans’ J.J. Watt accumulating numbers like 16½ sacks and 15 pass deflections, Bears cornerback Charles Tillman with nine forced fumbles and two interceptions, both returned for touchdowns, not to mention the Broncos’ Von Miller, it’s a stacked field.

Asked if he believes this is his best season, Wilfork shrugged.

“I don’t know,” he said. “I never look at seasons and games, I don’t look at it like that. When I prepare, I prepare to win. If it comes with ‘best season,’ it’s not for me to say. I’ll leave it up to you guys to decide that.

“At the end of the day, I just want to help this ball club win. That’s what I’m all about, winning. You can have all the stats, but if you’re losing it don’t mean much. Winning is everything to me. At the end of the day, that’s what everybody gets paid for, to produce. To win. We do that, I’m a happy man.”

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Gaby Sanchez healthy, ready to bounce back

Pirates manager Clint Hurdle described Gaby Sanchez as “in a good place physically.” He was discussing the health of his first baseman, but there is another meaning to that.

Sanchez, who joined the Pirates at the July trade deadline, is finally sound after dealing with knee problems and eventual surgery that affected his hitting since the middle of the 2011 season while playing for the Marlins.

Even though it meant leaving south Florida, where he spent his entire life, the 29-year-old Sanchez agreed he ended up in a better location, far removed from the distracting, circus atmosphere that contributed to the Marlins‘ 2012 implosion.

After dealing with incessant hype and attention focused on the club‘s name and venue changes, the Ozzie Guillen sideshow, an opulent, gimmicky new stadium and an off-season spending spree that went bust, Sanchez said he appreciates his new, drama-free surroundings.

“Being able to see one organization, and then another, it‘s great here,” he said. “It‘s easy to go to the ballpark every day.”

Sanchez was supposed to help staunch the type of collapse that ruined the 2011 season, but the job was too big. Platooning at first base with Garrett Jones, the right-handed hitting Sanchez hit .241 with four home runs and 13 RBI in 50 games for the Pirates.

That was somewhat better than his .202, three homers and 17 RBI in 55 games with the Marlins sandwiched around three weeks in the minors.

“It just happens,” he said. “That‘s the way baseball is.”

In November 2011, Sanchez had arthroscopic surgery to clean up a frayed patella tendon in his right knee. Rehab limited his workout routine “and I definitely wasn‘t as strong as I could be,” he said. “When I made contact with balls, even when I hit them good they weren‘t going like they had in years past. So this off-season, that‘s what I‘m getting back to. Get stronger.”

Hurdle said he has observed Sanchez working out at PNC Park, “and he‘s strong, he‘s injury-free and he still has a couple of months to work.”

Sanchez made the National League All-Star team in 2011, but that was tempered by a poor second half when his knee flared up and he played in pain. Although it altered his hitting mechanics, Sanchez never removed himself from the lineup.

“I‘m not the kind of person who just sits out and says, ‘I‘m not gonna play‘ just because my knee is hurting,” Sanchez said. “I know I can at least run and do those kinds of things.”

Sanchez said his play improved with the Pirates, a 3-for-29 finish notwithstanding.

“I felt like when I came here I was hitting the ball well,” he said. “I was making hard contact, I was taking at-bats deep into the count, I got back to what I did best. In the last six or seven games I was hitting the ball extremely well and I couldn‘t get lucky. Everything I was hitting was a line-out somewhere.”

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