Muscle and Fitness Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson Feature Scanned

Click on the images below to read Muscle & Fitness' feature on proCane Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. The photos were taken at The U in the Athletic Dept. training facility.

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Colts name Edgerrin James honorary captain for AFC title game vs. Jets

Last week it was the Saints, this week the Colts are turning to a former star running back for inspiration.

The Colts have named four-time Pro Bowler Edgerrin James an honorary captain for Sunday's AFC title game against the Jets.

James played seven seasons in Indianapolis from 1999-2005. The year after he left, the Colts won Super Bowl XLI -- and later awarded him a Super Bowl ring.

James is the franchise's all-time leading rusher with 9,226 yards.

Last week, the Saints re-signed RB Deuce McAllister to a contract and then made him an inactive honorary captain in their win against the Cardinals. McAllister then announced his retirement this week.

Click here to order Edgerrin James' proCane Rookie Card.

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Hurricane Love - Vilma and Shockey Celebrate their Win Over the Cardinals

Former Miami Hurricane teammates and current New Orleans Saints teammates, Jeremy Shockey and Jonathan VIlma celebrate their win over the Arizona Cardinals in the Divisional Round of the Playoffs.

Click here to order Jeremy Shockey’s or Jon Vilma's proCane Rookie Card.

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The Rock On ESPN

Watch and listen to the following interviews with ESPN proCane Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson had promoting his new film The Tooth Fairy.

A Big thanks to fan Jeremy for letting us know about the interviews.

Click Play to listen to The Rock's interview with ESPN's Miake & Mike:

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Shockey's still hurting, but Payton isn't ready to panic

METAIRIE — New Orleans Saints tight end Jeremy Shockey has a new injury and hasn't practiced this week for the NFC Championship game Sunday against Minnesota. Saints coach Sean Payton, however, didn't appear worried on Thursday.

"He's getting better," Payton said of his oft-injured star. "We'll list his status (today). On a guy like him overall, pretty good, though, right now with where he's at. He's making good progress. He knows the offense well. He's been going through the walk throughs."

The Saints host Minnesota at 5:40 p.m. on Sunday with a spot in the Super Bowl at stake.

Shockey missed the Saints' last three regular season games with a toe injury and missed four games in 2008 with a hernia and ankle injury. His toe is not the issue now. Payton said he has a knee bruise.

Shockey suffered the injury on the Saints' first drive in the 45-14 divisional win over Arizona on Saturday when he caught a 13-yard pass to set up the team's first touchdown.

"It was one of those plays," Shockey said Thursday. "It was a little pass on the sidelines I caught. I got hit, and I twisted wrong and had a little setback."

The injury slowed Shockey. On the Saints' next possession, he limped his way into the end zone and made a 17-yard touchdown catch for a 14-7 lead.

Payton, who was an assistant with the New York Giants when Shockey was a rookie with the team in 2002, was asked if Shockey can be his own worst enemy as far as injuries because of how emotional, hyper and reckless he tends to be on the field.

"In regards to his emotion, it's important for a player to be himself," Payton said. "And that is something that I think he's done ever since we had him as a rookie in New York. So we're very comfortable with that. There is a confidence level he brings to the huddle."

Click here to order Jeremy Shockey’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Vikings' McKinnie, from Woodbury High

Bryant McKinnie took a longer route than most players to an NFL career with the Minnesota Vikings.

After his high school career at Woodbury in South Jersey, McKinnie played 2 years at Lackawanna Junior College in Scranton. While at Lackawanna, he bulked up by 70 pounds and attracted attention from major colleges.

From Lackawanna, he earned a scholarship to the University of Miami, where after a redshirt year in 1999, he started at offensive left tackle for 2 years.

During his Hurricanes career, McKinnie did not allow a sack and was named All-America both years. As a senior in 2001, he won the Outland Trophy, given to the best lineman in college football, and finished eighth in the Heisman Trophy voting. Nebraska quarterback Eric Crouch won the Heisman that year.

"I knew I wanted to attend college since I was a kid; education was one of the things that I knew was extremely essential in my life and completing college was something I wanted to accomplish," McKinnie wrote on his blog. "Years later I can now say I am a proud graduate of University of Miami. I want aspiring athletes or anyone to know that education is beyond invaluable."

McKinnie, 30, is 6-8, 335 pounds. His nickname is Big Mac. He was drafted seventh overall by the Vikings. His entire 8-year career has been spent in Minnesota. He has started 115 of 116 games. He was selected for this year's Pro Bowl, his first.

If his Vikings beat the Saints in Sunday's NFC Championship Game, he will not play in the Pro Bowl because he will be in his first Super Bowl, in Miami. That would be an appropriate homecoming.

"It would mean a lot, feeling like going back to where you went to college and you get the chance to play in front of a lot of friends and family back in Miami for the Super Bowl," McKinnie wrote on his blog this week. *

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

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Shockey takes pride in success of Vikings' Visanthe Shiancoe

New Orleans Saints tight end Jeremy Shockey said he's been excited to watch Minnesota Vikings tight end Visanthe Shiancoe break out over the past two years in Minnesota. Shiancoe spent his first four seasons with the New York Giants as Shockey's backup before he left in free agency.

Shiancoe (6 feet 4, 250 pounds) had a career-high 56 catches for 566 yards and 11 touchdowns this year, then added an 11-yard touchdown catch in last week's playoff win over Dallas.

"That was from me. That was from being my backup for a couple years," Shockey joked. "He's a great guy. It's good to see the success he's had. He had a Pro Bowl year in my opinion, even though he didn't get voted in. He's developing into one of the best tight ends in the league.

"It broke my heart (when Shiancoe left New York). But I'm proud of the success he's had. He deserves it."

As for his own success since leaving New York, Shockey said he didn't want to dwell on the past.

Shockey didn't exactly enjoy his last Super Bowl run, when the Giants won the NFL championship two years ago. Shockey suffered a broken leg late in the season, then began to feel alienated from the team during Super Bowl week. He felt slighted for having to purchase his own flight and not being able to join his team on the sideline during the game. The rift continued to grow from there, and he was eventually traded to New Orleans before the 2008 season.

"I'm past that," Shockey said when asked if that experience adds motivation to get back to the Super Bowl with the Saints. "I don't really want to talk about the past. I could sit here and talk to you for hours about whining or giving you excuses or what happened. You guys will all read it one day in a book, the truth. But I don't really want to discuss that.

"We need to concentrate on this game. We're not in the Super Bowl yet. Everyone's mentality in this locker room is this is the Super Bowl for us. ... The preparation on this team is as good as I've ever been around from a ballclub. That's key. Everyone is in it. Everyone knows how much is at stake. Most importantly we need to do this for our fans, our owner, this city that desperately deserves a world championship. We're doing everything we can to make that happen."

Click here to order Jeremy Shockey’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Chudzinski a good pick for Chicago Bears

As part of Rob Chudzinski's interview process, let me help prepare the potential Bears offensive coordinator by exposing him to the first of what would be regular second-guessing in this city.

Chudzinski is willing to leave the Chargers for this?

As decisions go, this seems like calling a draw to a backup running back on third-and-9 when you have a Pro Bowl quarterback to throw it.

Chudzinski does know Antonio Gates can't come too if he leaves the Chargers for the Bears, right? He does realize his current head coach, Norv Turner, just signed a three-year contract extension while his possible future boss, Lovie Smith, faces a playoffs-or-bust 2010 season?

His judgment alone, even to consider working here, makes Chudzinski seem like the kind of guy who takes stairs instead of the elevator and never valet parks. His favorite spring break destination is probably Minooka.

But talk to people around the league and the rationale for Chudzinski spending Thursday at Halas Hall becomes clearer. The man they call "Chud'' apparently likes a challenge, so in that way the sorry state of the Bears' offense suits him perfectly.

"Sure there's a lot of pressure in Chicago but he is cut out for it, I can guarantee you that, and knowing 'Chud,' I'm sure that's what excites him about it,'' said Cam Cameron, the Ravens' offensive coordinator who worked with Chudzinski in San Diego. "He's one of the best assistants I ever have been around.''

Cameron formed that impression when he was the Chargers' offensive coordinator and Chudzinski, 41, coached tight ends during the 2005-06 seasons on the staff of Marty Schottenheimer. Appearing Thursday on WMVP-AM 1000, Schottenheimer similarly gushed about Chudzinski's coaching ability.

"I would imagine that given the opportunity with the background he has and involvement with the San Diego offense, he would be terrific in that role [of Bears offensive coordinator],'' Schottenheimer said. "I would say if they sign him as offensive coordinator, you need to look toward the sky because the sun is now rising.''

The sun still will come up over Lake Michigan if the Bears don't hire Chudzinski, but just in case, they should make him an offer by nightfall.

Interviewing Chudzinski, the Chargers' assistant head coach/tight ends whose contract is expiring, represents the best development so far for a Bears coaching search that has struggled finding a clue. Finally, the Bears have targeted someone who offers experience, exuberance and execution. He served as offensive coordinator for the University of Miami, where the scrutiny resembles an NFL team, and for two seasons for the Browns (2007-08) — stints that surely prepared him for this challenge.

That makes Chudzinski more qualified than former candidate, Jeremy Bates, or current possibility Ken Zampese. And while his resume falls short of Mike Martz's, if the Bears were interested in Martz, they still wouldn't be interviewing candidates.

If Martz was your favorite for the job — as he was mine — relax. If Chudzinski brings "Ski Ball,'' to Soldier Field, it will bring the Bears' offseason back on course.

"He understands the running game and his strength is pass-protection and route concepts,'' Cameron said. "He has a knack for play-calling and a feel for the game.''

It's always going to be Norv Turner's offense in San Diego, a factor that may make the Bears more appealing to Chudzinski despite Smith's shaky status. Smith allowed Ron Turner the autonomy to be the de facto head coach in charge of offense, and that setup is unlikely to change. Even though Smith relinquished defensive play-calling duties, he still figures to be more involved on that side of the ball, his specialty.

The situation likely would resemble Chudzinski's working environment in Cleveland, where former Browns coach Romeo Crennel, now the defensive coordinator for the Chiefs, gave him free reign. Chudzinski once described his approach with the Browns as "a run-first, attack style.''

Bears fans could get used to an offense that gets off the bus attacking.

"The ideal situation for a play-caller is to work for a proven defensive guy like Lovie Smith as head coach because of that [independence],'' Cameron said. "Rob understands how offensive football factors into winning with defense and special teams. He's not just a guy who's going to help build stats.''

Hiring Chudzinski would only build confidence in an organization lacking it after a prolonged coaching search.

When Chudzinski interviewed with the Browns in 2007, former general manager Phil Savage noted Chudzinski's presentation didn't include a single misspelling even though he took an overnight flight to make the morning meeting.

That's the type of attention to detail the Bears' offense needs.

Hard to see how hiring Chudzinski wouldn't spell success.

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McClinton To Have Jersey Retired

University of Miami Director of Athletics Kirby Hocutt and head men's basketball coach Frank Haith have announced that three former Hurricane greats will be paid tribute to with the institution of honored jerseys. Jack McClinton (2006-09), Don Curnutt (1967-70) and Dick Hickox (1958-61) will have their jerseys raised to the rafters of the BankUnited Center during halftime of the home game versus Duke on Wed., Feb. 17.

"The University of Miami men's basketball program continues to grow and elevate its standards for excellence," Hocutt said. "With these honored jerseys, we take the opportunity to recognize some of the great Hurricanes players that have laid the foundation for where our program is today."

The honored jerseys will hang alongside the retired jerseys of No. 24 Rick Barry (1962-65) and No. 40 Tim James (1995-99). Although the numbers reflected on the honored jerseys will not be retired, they will hang in recognition of the great contributions to Hurricanes basketball made by McClinton, Curnutt and Hickox.

"There have been some awesome basketball players at Miami over the years," said Haith. "These three men in particular have meant a lot to this program, and were truly instrumental to the success of their teams and to Miami basketball as a whole."

The selection of the honored jersey recipients is determined by the Director of Athletics and head basketball coach, in conjunction with an anonymous advisory committee. Criteria used in the selection process include athletic achievements at UM, commitment and loyalty to the continued success of the university and its athletic department and a personal commitment to courage and integrity.

Miami's first two-time All-ACC First Team selection, McClinton led the Hurricanes in scoring for three-straight seasons - including 19.3 points per game as a senior in 2008-09, closing his career ranked seventh in UM history with 1,702 points. He is the ACC's all-time most proficient three-point shooter, converting a league-best 44.0 percent over his career, while averaging 3.01 treys per game - the fifth-highest average in conference history.

McClinton, a second-round draft pick by the San Antonio Spurs in June, scored a career-high 38 points in the 2008 NCAA Tournament first round win over St. Mary's (Calif.) and posted three-straight 30-point games as a senior versus Wake Forest (32), Duke (34) and North Carolina (35), becoming the first Hurricane to finish with 30-plus points in three-straight games in 20 years. The 6-1 Baltimore-native, currently playing professional basketball in Turkey, closed his collegiate career with a UM-best 35-game three-point streak - including hitting a career-high tying seven treys versus North Carolina and at Providence. He holds Miami records for career three-pointers (286), single-season three-pointers (101 in 2008-09), three-point field goal percentage in a game (4-4, 1.000) and career three-point field goal percentage (44.0).

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Mike Rumph Workout with Demarcus Van Dyke Photo Gallery

Check out photos from our photoshoot last week with proCane Mike Rumph and current Miami Hurricane defensive back Demarcus Van Dyke. Mike Rumph has been training Van Dyke after Van Dyke called Rumph the day after the Hurricanes' loss to Wisconsin and told him he wanted to get to work to get better. Rumph and Van Dyke share the common bond of wearing the number eight during their playing days at "The U."

Click here to view the photos and stay tuned to our exclusive "Tracking proCanes" interview with Mike Rumph.

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Shockey Misses Practice

Metairie, LA (Sports Network) - The New Orleans Saints had four players sit out practice Wednesday leading up to Sunday's NFC Championship Game against Minnesota, including tight end Jeremy Shockey and safety Darren Sharper.

Shockey and Sharper are resting knee injuries while cornerback Malcolm Jenkins also sat as he continues to be plagued by a sore hamstring.

Click here to order Jeremy Shockey’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Gore going to Pro Bowl

Frank Gore is headed for the Pro Bowl after all.

Originally selected as an alternate, Gore was added to the squad Wednesday when St. Louis Rams running back Steven Jackson bowed out because of an injury.

Gore, who rushed for 1,120 yards and 10 touchdowns, will be making his second Pro Bowl appearance. He also made it in 2006.

This one has extra meaning for Gore, who will be playing in his hometown of Miami for the first time as a professional. Gore was a star at Coral Cables High School before going on to star at the University of Miami.

The 49ers played at Miami during the 2008 season, but Gore was sidelined by an ankle injury.

"It's amazing," Gore said. "It's the first time that I will get to play in Miami since I left. Last year, I couldn't play because I was injured, and now God blessed me to play this year.

"To be in the Pro Bowl, it means a lot. I felt that missing some games this season, and to still be able to make a special game like this is a great opportunity. All I can say is that it's a blessing."

Gore will have company. Tight end Vernon Davis, linebacker Patrick Willis, punter Andy Lee and Gore give the 49ers four Pro Bowl players for the first time since 2002.

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

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Vilma-Designed Saints T-Shirt To Benefit Haiti

GRETNA, La. -- Saints fever is everywhere you look these days, and clothing is no exception. A T-shirt shop in Gretna is working overtime to print a special shirt designed by Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma, with part of the proceeds going to the Haiti earthquake relief effort.

The black and gold t-shirt has the phrase "Domeland Defense" on it.

"My idea of the design? It's killer. Better than anything I've been a part of," said Todd Robinson of Bonza Graphics, which is printing the shirt.

And though Vilma designed the shirts to celebrate the Saints' success, he is also looking to help earthquake victims. The linebacker's parents are Haitian, and he still has two aunts and uncles who live there. He said they're all doing fine, but he wants to do what he can to help.

Because of game preparations, he can't devote his full attention to the crisis.

"I don't want to just hand money over to anybody," he said. "I want to make sure it goes to where the help really needs to be, so after this game I'm really going to take some time to understand where I can help and do whatever I can."

So in the meantime, some of the money raised from T-shirt sales will go toward a Haitian relief fund of Vilma's choice. It's one way Saints fans can help out the disaster victims.

"We're proud to be part of what I think will be a really good thing for Haiti," Robinson said.

The shirts are available at stores around the area, including Sports Avenue and some Walgreens, and at

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

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Rice lobbies to retain McGahee

Ray Rice was unavailable to talk during Monday's open locker room session, but it wasn't his fault. The running back was feeling under the weather, but he did address the media on Tuesday after coach John Harbaugh offered his end-of-the-season assessment.

One of the things Rice discussed was the future of fellow tailback Willis McGahee, who backed up Rice and has not shot down speculation that he would like to start somewhere else. Although McGahee's presence cut into Rice's touchdown totals, Rice said he would like McGahee to remain a Raven.

"Willis is a guy that I definitely use as a mentor," Rice said. "He’s been great to me, a great teammate, a great friend. What he’s meant for me is everything. He battled through adversity and is still a great back in this league. I’d definitely love to see him back here. He’s a great back, and what you can see is we’re different backs. You can see that when we’re both rolling, we’re tough to stop. I see us as a tandem, and we can give a lot of defenses problems just because of his style of running and my style of running."

Rice was also asked about free safety Ed Reed and wide receiver Derrick Mason, both of whom are contemplating retirement. Although Rice said he had not spoken to either Reed or Mason, he said he understood their stances.

"Those guys have to do what’s best for their families and their careers," Rice said. "But everything pans out. You’ve got to see what happens. They’re great teammates and great Ravens players. You’ve just got to see how everything pans out. You never know what’s going to happen. That’s what they’re feeling at the moment, but anything can change. I’m sure whatever decision they make, that has to come from within. People don’t just joke about retiring. This is your career, your livelihood. This is a thought that something is going on. But I’m sure that after everything pans out, the final decision will be up to those two guys."

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

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Bears to interview Chudzinski

The Chicago Bears will interview San Diego Chargers assistant head coach Rob Chudzinski for their offensive coordinator position, a source familiar with the situation confirmed.

Chudzinski also is the Chargers' tight ends coach and is a former Cleveland Browns offensive coordinator.

The story was first reported by the Chicago Tribune.

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Former `Cane Ashley Woods Inks Pro Volleyball Contract

Coral Gables, Fla. - Former University of Miami right side hitter Ashley Woods is set to play professional volleyball having signed a professional contract on Tues., Jan. 19 with Club Voleibol in Benidorm, Spain - located by the western Mediterranean Sea.

As a four-year letterwinner under head coach Nicole Lantagne Welch from 2005-08, Woods finished her career at UM seeing action in 367 sets through 117 matches. In 2008, she helped UM to its second-best season in Division I history - leading the Hurricanes to a 26-6 overall record and a 14-6 mark in the ACC. She also served as a captain for the Hurricanes on the year.

"I am excited to continue playing after being out for a year," stated Woods. "I've realized that there is so much more player left in me and I'm so thankful for the chance to continue doing what I love. I hope that I can compete for a few more years and heighten the level of my game."

The 6-2 Round Rock, Texas-native left her mark on the UM record books throughout her career, finishing ranking among the top 10 all-time in seven categories for the Hurricanes. Woods ties for third in career matches played (117), while ranking eighth in block assists (209), eighth in total blocks (38), ninth in attack percentage (.256), ninth in points (825.5) and 10th in sets played (367).

In addition, she was selected as co-winner of the 100% Award in 2006 - a distinction given annually by the UM coaching staff recognizing a student-athlete who exemplifies a dedication of 100 percent day-in and day-out.

"Being at Miami has instilled a tremendous amount of work ethic, and I hope that it carries over into positive results for this team," said Woods.

Ashley Woods received her undergraduate degree from the University of Miami, while immediately going on to earn her Master's Degree from UM in spring 2009.

Congrats to NEW proCane Ashley Woods. We look forward to covering her professional volleyball career!

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Hurricanes' Beverly Goebel Selected in WPS Draft

PHILADELPHIA - Beverly Goebel a three-year starter on the University of Miami soccer team was selected in the in the third round of the 2010 Women's Professional Soccer Draft on Friday at the Philadelphia Convention Center.

The Moreno Valley, Calif. native was selected by the Washington Freedom with the seventh pick of the third round, 27th overall.

"It's been a dream of mine since I was a little girl to be drafted and I was shocked when I found out," said Goebel. "I thank God for the opportunity and I know that I'm going to have to work very hard to fit in with all the talented players already in the league."

A captain on the 2009 Hurricanes, Goebel scored the game-winning goal over the eventual national champion North Carolina Tar Heels on Oct. 25. Known for her ability to find the weaknesses in the opponents' defense, Goebel was tied for second on the team with three goals and also added a pair of assists.

"I am very proud of Beverly and wish her success playing professionally for the Washington Freedom," said Miami head coach Tricia Taliaferro. "I can remember our first conversation and how adamant she was to be in a program and conference that would challenge her to develop the necessary tools to play at the next level. She has done the work to create the opportunity and I am fortunate to be part of the experience."

Goebel started 51 of her 53 games at Miami and is the first player that has been drafted by any professional league in school history.

The Atlantic Coast Conference was well represented in this year's draft. Of the 63 picks, 18 came from the ACC. The next closest conference was the Pac-10 - with nine selections.

For more information on the 2010 WPS Draft or Goebel's new team, please visit and

Congrats to NEW proCane Beverly Goebel. We look forward to covering her covering her professional soccer career!

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The Rock On the Jay Leno Show

A big thanks to fan Adam Barocas for letting us know that "The Rock" appeared on the Jay Leno Show on January 14th and not only threw up a "U," but also talked about giving the commencement address at the University of Miami. He also reflected on his days as a University of Miami Football Player.

Check out "The Rock" with Leno here: and start watching at the 19 minute mark. Enjoy!

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Video: Andre Johnson Photo Shoot

Click here to read ESPN's feature on Andre Johnson

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

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Once castoffs, Jeremy Shockey, Jonathan Vilma fueling Saints

NEW ORLEANS — Before his 2005 death, iconic New York Giants co-owner Wellington Mara summoned two players to his Rye, N.Y., home — running back Tiki Barber and tight end Jeremy Shockey.

Shockey grew up without a father in Ada, Okla., and cherished his bond with the Giants' patriarch, who died of lymphoma at 89.

Shockey feels Mara's encouraging spirit with him still as the New Orleans Saints tight end prepares for Sunday's NFC Championship game vs. the Minnesota Vikings.

"I know he's looking over me now with a smile," Shockey said of Mara. "He was the best.

"We had a grandfather-grandson relationship. After he passed, it was never really the same for me in New York."

Barber understands.

"It wasn't an accident that Wellington's two favorite players at the time of his death were myself and Jeremy," the NBC analyst said. "Despite how different we were, Jeremy might have been my favorite Giant because of his passion.

"Whether he was practicing or playing, he did everything full bore. This playoff run is somewhat of redemption for Jeremy in the public's eyes. But he always gave every bit of himself on the field."

Shockey has regained a trust he felt was broken when he said the Giants didn't fly him to Super Bowl XLII after he broke his leg Week 15, 2007.

His reunion with Saints coach Sean Payton (Giants offensive coordinator, 2000-2003) and University of Miami teammate, Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma has amounted to a new beginning in New Orleans. Shockey and Vilma arrived via 2008 trades from the Giants and Jets.

During games, Shockey and Vilma seek each other out the way they did during two seasons at Miami, including a 2001 national championship season.

"Jeremy gets me fired up, I get him hyped up," Vilma said. "Everybody knows how good of tight end he is. But he brings that little chip that makes our offense a little nasty."

The 6-5, 251 Shockey's touchdown on an injured toe in Saturday's 45-14 divisional win was the fourth with 48 catches for the four-time Pro Bowler. Vilma was selected to his second Pro Bowl with a team-best 130 tackles.
"Jon and I want to win a Super Bowl for this city," Shockey said. "I want to retire a Saint."

Vilma chafed when then Jets coach Eric Mangini said he didn't fit his 3-4 defense.

"That gave me that little chip on my shoulder, wanting to prove to my teammates, to the rest of the league that I can make plays," Vilma said.

Vilma is Saints quarterback Drew Brees on defense. The starting units go at it every day in practice in either red-zone or two-minute drill.

"It's already competitive," Brees said. "But then Jon and I will put $100 or bet dinner on who wins."

The payoff? The tenacious way Payton's top-seeded Saints play.

" Just like they did at 'The U,' Shockey and Vilma are tempo setters, smart, productive team players," said ESPN analyst Jon Gruden.

A first-generation American born of Haitian parents, Vilma feared for family members after last week's deadly, 7.0 earthquake. "I was fortunate to have my mom and dad get in touch with my relatives and was able to know that everyone was okay," Vilma said. "Once our season is done I'll focus in and decide how best to help."

Click here to order Jeremy Shockey’s or Jonathan Vilma's proCane Rookie Card.

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Tavares Gooden To Consult With A Biomechanics Expert

After another injury-plagued season where he dealt with groin and knee problems and was replaced in the starting lineup by undrafted rookie Dannell Ellerbe, inside linebacker Tavares Gooden is planning to consult with a biomechanics expert. “I’ll be in Miami looking for the best guy to work with me on my groin so I don’t have these issues,” he said. “I don’t have weight or strength problems. Flexibility is going to be a key this offseason. I’m taking everything to heart. I need help mentally and physically. I’m going to take it personal and find ways to get better.” He expects to compete with Ellerbe and Brendon Ayanbadejo for playing time next season. “You can call me Shakespeare because I make plays,” he said. “You know my style of game. The coaches will tell you exactly what I need to improve on.”

Click here to order Tavares Gooden’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Cards to rework Antrel Rolle's deal

The Cardinals will have to restructure the final year on FS Antrel Rolle's contract this offseason.

Rolle hit escalators in his incentive-heavy rookie deal, pushing his 2010 salary to a whopping $8.11 million. The Cards won't sever ties with their best option at free safety, but will have to get creative about reducing his pay.

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

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Harbaugh: McGahee's salary could be problem

Ravens coach John Harbaugh admitted Tuesday that Willis McGahee's 2010 salary of $3.6 million could be a problem when the team makes offseason roster decisions.

Harbaugh says he'd like for McGahee to stay in Baltimore, but the 28-year-old might be the highest paid backup running back in the league. The Ravens may ask McGahee to take a pay cut, though he'd certainly refuse.

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

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Chudzinski seems a long shot in Chicago

San Diego Chargers assistant head coach Rob Chudzinski seemed an ideal candidate for the Bears to interview to become their offensive coordinator.

But it just doesn't appear to make any sense for Chudzinski to leave the Chargers, especially after the club announced the signing of head coach Norv Turner to a three-year extension Monday.

Indications are Turner values Chudzinski insight and intelligence.

Chudzinski could have picked from three different coordinator positions last off-season. But he chose the Chargers, accepting the title of assistant head coach. With that came additional duties that Turner said freed him up to do other things.

Chudzinski is under contract through 2010. Given his situation, it doesn't make sense to leave the Chargers' 10th ranked offense, which includes numerous stars, to work with an unproven Bears offense with some question marks. In addition, Lovie Smith certainly doesn't have the same job security as Turner.

If the Chargers are good again in 2010 -- and there's no reason to doubt that -- then Chudzinski could have his pick of coordinator jobs or may be even become a head coach, a job some believe is inevitable.

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Harbaugh optimistic Reed will be back

Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh held his season-ending press conference Tuesday, and Pro Bowl safety Ed Reed was a hot topic of discussion.

Reed said Saturday after Baltimore's playoff loss to the Indianapolis Colts that he was "50-50" on retirement. The eighth-year safety has been dealing with a nerve condition in his neck for the past couple of years, in addition to groin and foot injuries this season.

Harbaugh said the two had a conversation about Reed's decision, and afterwards Harbaugh felt optimistic Reed will return in 2010.

"I think I understand where he's coming from," Harbaugh said. "I think he wants a little time just to try to get healthy and look at some things to come back. That was my encouragement. Whatever he can do to put that stuff behind him as much as he can, he'll try to do.

"I'm real hopeful, and I believe he's going to come back and play, and I'm going to go on that assumption until he tells us differently."

Baltimore's top receiver Derrick Mason, 36, also says he is contemplating retirement.

Mason, who led the team with 1,028 receiving yards, will become an unrestricted free agent in March.

"We have to see how that plays out over the next couple of months," Harbaugh said. "We've told Derrick that we want him back, we want him on this football team, and we're going to do everything we can to keep him on this football team for next year."

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

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Harbaugh defends Lewis' helmet-to-helmet hit last Saturday

In the second quarter of Saturday night's 20-3 loss to the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Divisional playoff round, middle linebacker Ray Lewis was flagged when he launched himself into Austin Collie and appeared to crash helmets with the rookie wide receiver after he caught a pass from Peyton Manning in the end zone.

Although Lewis forced Collie to drop the ball, Lewis was cited for what referee Carl Cheffers called "a blow to a defenseless receiver." After the game, coach John Harbaugh initially defended the tackle, but acknowledged that he hadn't fully reviewed.

On Tuesday, Harbaugh reiterated his previous stance on the matter when he was asked if he thought the NFL would fine Lewis for the hit.

"I don’t think the league will fine him," Harbaugh said. "It was not a cheap shot. I had a chance to look at all those plays, obviously. That was a good, hard football tackle, and Ray Lewis made a perfect form tackle. The receiver caught the ball, was going to protect himself, and dropped his head to a certain level that was below his shoulder-pad level after Ray had committed to the tackle. At that point in time, you’re committed to the tackle. You’re not going to stop. You can’t stop in mid-air. It’s not humanly possible. So when he went in to make that play, he was definitely in the strike zone. The player ducked and got hit in the head. That’s how I saw it."

Click here to order Ray Lewis’ proCane Rookie Card.

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Salmons catches the flu bug, isn't with Bulls

John Salmons did not travel with the Bulls from Golden State to Los Angeles because he is sick.

It sounds like the flu bug is running through the Bulls as an ill Kirk Hinrich missed Monday's game. Beat writer John Jackson speculates that Salmons stayed behind to undergo tests at a local hospital, and coach Vinny Del Negro said a determination on Salmons' status will be made at Wednesday's shootaround. Even if Salmons can go, Hinrich will start.

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Alex Cora returned to action...

Alex Cora hadn't played since Dec. 9th when he left a winter league game with what was translated as an aggravated back. Tonight Cora returned and played 3B, going 0-3. At least in returning we know that his back is ok, there hasn't been a report since the initial injury and with him not playing it was becoming concerning that it might be something more serious, that could effect his season.

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proCanes Divisional Round Weekend Photos

Check out our Divisional Round Weekend photos from around the the NFL of our proCanes. Click here or above on the proCanes Gallery link.

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proCanes Stats From 2nd Round of NFL U Playoffs

Jeremy Shockey: 3 catches, 36 yards, 1 TD

Jonathan Vilma: 1 solo tackle

Calais Campbell: 3 solo tackles

Antrel Rolle: 3 tackles, 2 solo tackles

Willis McGahee: 2 carries, 7 yards, 1 catch 7 yards

Ray Lewis: 8 tackles, 6 solo tackles, 1 pass deflection

Ed Reed: 2 tackles, 1 solo tackles, 1 pass deflection, 1 Interception returned 38 yards

Tavares Gooden: 1 solo tackle

Reggie Wayne: 8 catches, 63 yards 1 TD

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LaTosha Allen-Moss, Wife of Redskins Santana Moss Wedding Pictures

LaTosha Allen-Moss is the wife of Washington Redskins Wide Receiver Santana Moss. The two have known each other from High School and have children together... Many people don't know but her Uncle played for the Jets and Santana had this to say: "I was happy that I got drafted. I didn’t have no emotion on my face because I grew up not liking the Jets. I used to pick at my wife because her uncle played for the Jets, his name is Marvin Jones. We were dating at the time and I always used to tell her how sorry."

The wedding was back on the 15th of March 2008. Click here for our past entry on the wedding with additional photos and the electronic invite.

Click here to order Santana Moss’ proCane Rookie Card.

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Peter King On Ed Reed Possibly Retiring

I really hope Ed Reed doesn't retire.

You want to see great players make great plays in big games like these. Well, I do anyway. Reed had the most compelling three minutes any player has had in a while against the Colts on Saturday night. In the span of six plays on the same drive in the third quarter (technically, they are two different drives because of the change of possession and then the change back within seconds), Reed twice intercepted Peyton Manning. The first pick he fumbled back to the Colts. The second interception was negated because of a pass-interference call against nickel back Corey Ivy and robbed the Ravens of their last chance to get back in the game.

Reed, 31, said after the game a nerve impingement in his neck may force him to retire. "You'll know soon enough,'' he said. That would be sad for football, because this is the best ball-hawking safety of our time (maybe ever), and the most instinctive defensive back of this era. Intercepting Manning twice in a span of six plays ... that's absolutely stunning. And it's no fluke.

On the first play, a long throw down the right sideline for a seemingly open Pierre Garcon, Reed stayed in centerfield (well, maybe right-centerfield) until he saw Manning bring his arm forward, which is a different motion than Manning's pump-fake, and then sprinted in front of Garcon to intercept the ball. Obviously, by Reed not protecting the ball and getting it punched out by Garcon on the return, the Ravens took a big hit.

But five plays later, Reed did the same thing in straight-away center, on a ball I'm surprised Manning threw. With Ivy in tight coverage on Dallas Clark, Manning tried to squeeze a line drive into Clark; there was some jostling, a flag was thrown on Ivy, and then Reed stepped into the picture and picked Manning again. The interference wiped it off the books.

Someday, if Manning stays healthy for six or seven more years (a big if), we might be talking about him as the greatest quarterback of all time. If you talk to corners and safeties around the league, they'll tell you he's virtually un-baitable. That's what makes Reed, who has studied the difference in mechanics between Manning's pump-fakes and his real throws, so special. Even though one of them didn't count, I don't think you'll ever see such a great quarterback as Manning picked twice by the same guy on such instinctive plays.

If Reed retires, it'll be like some of the greats who went out in their prime -- Otto Graham, Jim Brown, Barry Sanders, etc. "I've been thinking about it often, and I'm thinking about it now,'' a stone-faced Reed said quietly in the Ravens' locker room. I'm not sure Manning would miss Reed, but the game certainly would.

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

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Clinton Portis in Wale's music video

After so many weeks of vaguely negative coverage of Clinton Portis, nice to see him finally getting back to the good stuff. In this case, appearing in Wale's "Pretty Girls" music video, along with Ray Rice, who managed to find time to shoot the video the week before the Ravens faced the Colts.

Brightest Young Things has an excellent photo gallery, featuring shots of Wale with his pants sagging, young women in tight jeans, young women in tight tights, young women in tight spandex contraptions, young women who don't seem ever to actually face the camera, Clinton Portis grinding with young women, and white guys standing behind cameras. Highly recommended. And can't wait for the video.

In other Redskins news, Cumberland County Commissioner Gary Eichelberger is lobbying for the Skins to return to Carlisle for training camp, telling The Sentinel that with Carlisle's mayor acting like a "civic cheerleader, the region could make a "very persuasive" argument.

"This opportunity certainly warrants support from county-based entities," he said. I've no doubt that Clinton Portis would volunteer to examine various county-based entities.

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Mano a mano: Adrian Peterson vs. Jonathan Vilma

Peterson gained only 63 yards on 26 rushing attempts (2.4 average) in Sunday's victory over Dallas, marking the eighth consecutive game in which the Pro Bowl running back has failed to run for 100 yards. But that performance came against a Dallas defense that was ranked fourth against the run during the regular season. The Saints haven't had nearly that much success against the run.

New Orleans, which will need a big game from the veteran Vilma in the middle if they are to slow Peterson, was 21st vs. the run and gave up a 70-yard touchdown run to Arizona's Tim Hightower on the first play from scrimmage Saturday in the Saints' 45-14 rout of the Cardinals in the NFC divisional playoffs.

The Saints also were 26th against the pass this season, so it will be interesting to see how they approach trying to contain Peterson while keeping Brett Favre in check. If Peterson needs any motivation, and it's likely he won't, he was held to 32 yards on 21 carries in the Vikings' 30-27 victory over New Orleans in October 2008 in a Monday night game.

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

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McKinnie, O-line hold up just fine

Bryant McKinnie heard the tone of the talk all last week. He understood there was a perception from the outside that he might struggle against Dallas pass-rushing defenders like DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer.

McKinnie’s performance Sunday in a 34-3 win against the Cowboys allowed him to stand tall – with him that’s really tall – after the game.

“I just felt like there was a lot more talk about me being careful of Ware and he was going to be the person that changed the game – him and Spencer,” McKinnie said. “Being in college, that’s how I got drafted, being an underdog, so being an underdog isn’t new to me. I don’t fold under pressure so I was good.”

He didn’t Sunday. Ware and Spencer, the Cowboys’ two outside linebackers who are often brought on blitzes, each had one sack. Ware’s sack came when he went unblocked from the right side of the Vikings offense.

Vikings coach Brad Childress said that was a miscommunication on the line, but Childress also used the buildup of the Cowboys in the national media to his advantage.

“The Tasmanian Devils … were coming from Dallas that were about to bombard the state of Minnesota and run through us like Sherman through the South,” Childress said. “That was the aura that was left after last weekend’s games. All of us kind of felt that quite palpably. All of it, and then we had about enough of it come Tuesday, they did a great job with that. It’s hard to get guys like this to stifle themselves.”

McKinnie especially was under the spotlight after he struggled against another premier pass-rushing defender in Carolina Panthers defensive end Julius Peppers in December.

“Both lines, offense and defense, felt like it was going to be won in the trenches. Everybody talked about their O-line and D-line and how it was a mismatch almost,” McKinnie said. “I feel like people took offense to that and went out there and played at a high level.”

McKinnie said he was trying to alter his stance in the Carolina game and decided to forget about making changes for now and just block how he’s most comfortable.

He also said he came into Sunday’s contest with a game plan for blocking Ware, who was lined up across from McKinnie most of the time.

“I had already played the game mentally in my head a few times and some of the moves that he likes to do. Just to be able to react fast and just to visualize yourself doing it already.”

Loadholt, a rookie second-round pick playing right tackle, said it was easy to focus on this game with it being the postseason.

“It was for something. Obviously every game means a lot, but with the playoffs, just like every other level – whether it be high school, everything – playoffs mean a little bit more to everybody,” Loadholt said. “A little harder, a little faster, a little more physical.”

That basically described the play of the Vikings linemen, as they earned another chance in the NFC Championship Game.

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

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Jarrett Payton Podcast: Finishing My Football Career Back In Chicago

Lost Lettermen: This is Jim Weber from and I’m joined by Miami’s Jarrett Payton, son of the great Walter Payton.Jarrett, what’s the reaction like in Chicago to be signed by the Chicago Slaughter of the Indoor Football League?
Jarrett Payton: It’s actually been kind of crazy. I think Chicago fans and people are kind of excited because they’ve watched me grow up as a little kid and watched me play high school and kind of watched me become a man and then follow my career. And now it’s funny I end up in Chicago and people have a chance to actually come watch me play a sport in Chicago. It’s actually, really a dream come true.

LL: When did you first hear about the Slaughter and when did you know this was going to be a reality moving from Toronto back to Chicago?
JP: Once I figured out that Toronto really wasn’t going to use me to all of my abilities and I just kind of felt like it was time for me to come home. November 1st was the ten-year anniversary of my dad’s passing, so my foundation and family kind of needed someone to be here, to actually be able to hold the fort down. And when I came home, I was actually not even thinking about football anymore. I was thinking about my different career moves and then next thing you know I got a call. And it just kind of fit.
I would say it’s like a marriage. When you meet that right person you kind of feel like it’s right and that’s how this felt. And I just feel like I was just going to go with it and enjoy my last few years of football playing here in Chicago.

LL: What’s it going to be like playing for his old teammate, Steve McMichael?
JP: Steve is an unbelievable guy, a competitor, a guy who loves to win; kind of the same mentality as my dad and all those guys from the ’85 Bears team are very special. But to be with him is kind of surreal. He played with my dad and I get to play with him. I know when I signed my dad was watching down, kind of smiling, thinking, “Oh no, this is going to be crazy.”

LL: Yeah, what’s it going to be like when you run out on the field? Are you definitely going to have it in the back of your mind, playing in Chicago?
JP: Oh definitely, and now having the number 34 and wearing that and what that symbolizes and everybody’s talking about “We have another 34 back at home” – it’s very special. I don’t really feel any nerves or feel like I have to do this or do that, it’s just really calming I can compete back at home with my family and friends. A lot of my friends didn’t get to see me play because I used to play in Tennessee or I was in Montreal or Toronto and now that I’m back at home, people are just very excited to be able to come out and watch me play.

LL: Could you talk a little bit more about your connection with the city of Chicago? As you’ve said they’ve watched you grow up, you gave your father’s Hall of Fame speech, you were married at Soldier Field. Everyone just connects you with that city.
JP: Yeah, you know it’s funny. When people think about my dad, they think of him as being from Chicago and he was born in Mississippi. So Chicago has adopted us as their family and it’s funny that some people say my family is the Kennedys of Chicago. I laugh at that all the time because people have watched us grow up. My mom says all the time that there’s no door that you can’t go to and knock on that a person from Chicago not take her in if she ever needed anything. And I think that’s a special part of being here.

I laugh and joke because I don’t think we’ll ever be able to leave Chicago. And I’m fine with that though, because this is the place that I call home and the people of Chicago are like a second family to me.

LL: I wanna also talk to you about your music career. How much time are you going to have for that now that you’re going to be playing for the Slaughter?
JP: Music is actually going to … I think it’s a good thing that I’m home because now I actually get a chance to be in my studio here in Chicago and I’m actually in the process today of going to record more stuff for finishing up the next mix tape called “More Bars in More Places.”

It’s actually going to be featured, hopefully on, there’s a Web site called So that’s where I’m going to probably release it when it comes out, hopefully in the next month.

Football and music go hand-in-hand and without each other I don’t feel whole. So I try to do both and if I can’t record, I’m always writing. But at this time football will come first.

LL: What do you think of a remix to the Super Bowl Shuffle? I’m sure you’ve been asked that question many times.
JP: (laughs) Yeah I have. All I know is if someone does it … people have been telling me a lot of different stories that Kanye West wants to remix it and all these different things. I just want to put it out there if anyone is going to remix my dad’s part, I better be a part of it. (laughs)

LL: Also we’ve seen the Peeze blog. You’ve seemed to build a really big following there. How did that get started and why the Lil Wayne-inspired name?
JP: Well the Lil Wayne-inspired name … we actually got the name probably around the same time. When I was in college my sophomore year is when Lil Wayne got his name. And I was staying in the Sigma Chi dorm in Miami in the summer time because it was right across the street from campus and it was only like $100 dollars every month. And you know, as a college kid, your budget is kind of small.

So we only had one phone in the house and one of my dorm room guys, he used to just yell my name just “Peeze!” And it kind of just stuck and the blog came after all that. I don’t know, I like to talk to people. I think this whole social media thing is unbelievable and I need to talk to people who are fans of mine, fans of my dad and interact with people all day long. And I’ve created a base on all of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Facebook is where there’s almost about 70,000 people. So to be able to be in contact with that many people is unbelievable.

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John Salmons starts and scores 25 points despite battling nausea

John Salmons scored 25 points in a fill-in start for Kirk Hinrich on Monday. He made 9-of-17 FGs with four 3-pointers, four rebounds, four assists and two steals in 42 minutes. Salmons though didn't score at all in the final 16 minutes because he was battling nausea.

That's all the information we have, and it sounds like this falls under the "flu-like symptoms" umbrella. He played through it on Monday, which bodes well for the Bulls next game vs. the Clippers on Wednesday.

This is Salmons' seventh game with 20+ points this season, but he's never done it in consecutive games. He could eventually retake the starting gig but for now he'll probably move back to the bench when Hinrich returns.

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NFL U Playoff Update

Who's in and Who's Out?
After the second round of NFL U playoffs some proCanes were eliminated and other made it to the next round. It is guaranteed that at least one proCane will be representing the NFC in the Super Bowl in Miami.

Who's in?
Jeremy Shockey: The Saints Defeated the Cardinals and Play the Vikings Next
Jonathan Vilma: The Saints Defeated the Cardinals and Play the Vikings Next
Reggie Wayne: The Colts Defeated the Ravens and Play the Jets Next
Bryant McKinnie: The Vikings Defeated the Cowboys and Play the Saints Next

Who's Out?
Calais Campbell: The Cardinals were Eliminated by the Saints
Antrel Rolle: The Cardinals were Eliminated by the Saints
Willis McGahee: The Ravens were Eliminated by the Colts
Ray Lewis: The Ravens were Eliminated by the Colts
Ed Reed: The Ravens were Eliminated by the Colts
Tavares Gooden: The Ravens were Eliminated by the Colts
Antonio Dixon: The Eagles were Eliminated by the Cowboys last week
Orien Harris: The Bengals were Eliminated by the Jets last week
Vince Wilfork: The Patriots were Eliminated by the Ravens last week
Brandon Meriweather: The Patriots were Eliminated by the Ravens last week

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Reed mulling retirement

INDIANAPOLIS - If you believe Ed Reed, one of his last plays as a Raven could be a free-wheeling, loose play that perhaps cost the Ravens any chance they had of mounting a comeback against the Indianapolis Colts.

Reed's inability to protect the football after he had intercepted Indianapolis quarterback Peyton Manning in the third quarter quashed any hope the Ravens might have harbored of overcoming a 14-point deficit as the Colts cruised to a 20-3 victory in an AFC divisional playoff game Saturday night at Lucas Oil Stadium.

After the game, Reed, a six-time Pro Bowl selection who is one of the best ball-hawking safeties to play the position, acknowledged that he is considering retirement.

"I've been thinking about it," said Reed, who has returned seven interceptions for touchdowns and is the only player in NFL history to score off an interception, a recovered fumble, a blocked punt and a punt return. "It kind of hit me on the sideline. It hit me now because I don't know how much I'm going to be able to have going forward. It'll be a long offseason just thinking about. It hurts just thinking about it."

Reed missed four games this season because of a strained groin and played last year despite a nerve impingement in his neck. He labeled his percentage on returning as "50-50."

"It's my decision at the end of the day to play with injuries," he said. "We'll see. I take good advice from my doctors. It's been great up to this point, fighting through. I wanted to battle this year even with the injuries I had last year and the injuries I had this year. There were no excuses coming into this season about injuries. That's why I was never frustrated when I injured my groin. Injuries come especially at this point in my career. You fight through. You lose like this, it's hard to lay it down. At the end of the day, you have to think about family. I have a family now. We shall see."

If Saturday night is his last game in the NFL, Reed's ability to dazzle and befuddle were on full display.

Against the Colts, Reed gathered his seventh interception in seven career postseason games, tying him with Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Asante Samuel for the most playoff interceptions among active players.

The pickoff occurred in the third quarter when Reed stepped in front of a long pass by Manning to wide receiver Pierre Garcon. (It was the fourth time in his past five meetings that Reed had intercepted Manning.)

But while racing down the left sideline, Reed, who seemed to dangle the football away from his body with his right arm, had the ball punched out from behind by Garcon at the Colts' 27. The loose ball was recovered by tight end Dallas Clark.

Reed chastised himself for his gaffe, saying: "You make a pick and turn it over. You can't do that. You've got to give our offense a chance to score."

Said coach John Harbaugh: "Great play by Garcon. Obviously, that hurt us. Just like any ball carrier out in the open, you have to put that ball away. If the ball comes off your body low like that, it's got a chance to be knocked out."

Not only did the play return possession to Indianapolis, but the miscue was also reminiscent of Reed's ill-advised lateral attempt on a punt return that cemented the Colts' 17-15 win against the Ravens on Nov. 22.

Reed seemed to make amends for his transgression when he intercepted Manning again in the third quarter, grabbing a long pass intended for Clark. Reed returned the ball 24 yards to Indianapolis' 11, but the play was negated when cornerback Corey Ivy was cited for interfering with Clark.

"I didn't know there was a flag thrown, and after I saw the replay, didn't think a flag should have been thrown on that pass interference," Reed said. "But I'm not the ref. Ain't nothing you can do about it. Once the call is made, you play the game."

Reed has always been able to read and react in a split-second. His assessment of his future will take slightly longer.

"There's too many emotions flying right now to make a decision," Reed said. "You'll know soon."

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

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Chudzinski in mix for Bears' OC slot

CHICAGO -- ESPN's Chris Mortensen mentioned two more possible candidates for the Bears' offensive coordinators position via his Twitter account: San Diego assistant head coach in charge of tight ends Rob Chudzinski and Indianapolis assistant head coach in charge of receivers Clyde Christensen.

According to the Chicago Tribune, the Bears could ask for permission to interview him early next week. Formerly the offensive coordinator of the Browns, the highlight of Chudzinski's resume is turning Derek Anderson into a Pro Bowl QB in 2007. Colts WRs coach Clyde Christensen has also been mentioned as a possibility in Chicago.

Chudzinski served as the Cleveland Browns offensive coordinator from 2007-08, while also calling plays for his alma mater Miami from 2001-03. It would be interesting to see the feedback Chudzinski would receive from fellow Chargers' coaches about potentially coming to Chicago, since after all, head coach Norv Turner is the brother of ex-Bears' offensive coordinator Ron Turner. Not to mention, San Diego's staff also includes Ron Rivera, Steve Wilks and Don Johnson, all of whom were let go at one point by Lovie Smith.

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McGahee not worried about his future in Baltimore

OWINGS MILLS –  As running back Willis McGahee packed his suitcase in the locker room following a 20-3 AFC divisional playoff loss to the Indianapolis Colts, he wasn’t certain whether it was his last game playing for the Baltimore Ravens.

Signed to a seven-year, $40.12 million contract following a trade from the Buffalo Bills three years ago that included $15 million in guaranteed money, McGahee is due a $3.6 million salary next season.

Even if this does turn out to be an uncapped year if a new collective bargaining agreement isn’t brokered,  it’s still a lot of money to pay a backup running back with Pro Bowl selection Ray Rice entrenched as the starter.
Whatever happens, McGahee said he’s unconcerned about his future after tying a franchise record by scoring14 touchdowns in a reserve role.

“No doubt about it, I still have a lot left in my tank,” McGahee said. “Right now, I’ll let them handle it when the time comes.

“Man, I ain’t even worried about it right now to tell you the truth. If I do, I do. If I don’t, I don’t. It is what it is. Who knows what the future holds for me? Sky’s the limit.”

McGahee predicted that the roster will undergo some changes.

That could include potential retirements from wide receiver Derrick Mason and free safety Ed Reed. Reed said it’s a “50-50” proposition whether he continues to play due to a nerve impingement in his neck and shoulder that has hampered him for the past two years.

“I don’t think we have a long way to go,” McGahee said. “We’re right there. It’s just the fact that we won’t have the same players next year. Things are going to change.”

One year removed losing in the AFC championship game to the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Ravens are faced with another offseason of tinkering with the parts of the team to try to take the next step forward.

“You look at the whole big picture, obviously we’re not where we want to be right now,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “We want to be to the point as a football team where we  can win a divisional playoff game, we can win the AFC championship game and we can win the Super Bowl. We tried like crazy to be good enough to do that.

“But we’re not good enough yet. We’ve got to find a way to make our team better, and that’s what we do in the offseason. You do the best job you can to become a better team next year.”

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

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If Reed retires, they would understand

It would be understandable if Ravens free safety Ed Reed retired for health reasons, former NFL players said this weekend.

Reed, 31, said after Saturday's 20-3 playoff loss at Indianapolis that it's "50-50" whether he retires this offseason. The six-time Pro Bowl selection has been dealing with an impinged nerve in his neck for the past two years.

"He has to do what's best for Ed Reed," said Trent Dilfer, an ESPN analyst and former Super Bowl-winning quarterback for the Ravens. "If health is a concern, get out of football."

The most notable NFL players in recent years to retire in their prime have been running backs Barry Sanders, Tiki Barber and Robert Smith.

"Sometimes your heart gets in the way and you want to play this game, but your body never lies to you," said Marshall Faulk, an NFL Network analyst who played running back for 13 years.

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

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How Bryant McKinnie handled Cowboys' DeMarcus Ware

No pregame matchup was more analyzed than the one between Dallas linebacker DeMarcus Ware and Minnesota left tackle Bryant McKinnie. Conventional wisdom among the league’s talking heads was that McKinnie had no answer for the 6-foot-4, 260-pound rush specialist.

But Ware finished with one sack, getting to Brett Favre for a nine-yard loss when he broke around the left end unblocked.

Afterward, McKinnie admitted he was tired of hearing about Ware.

“You know I was. Even when you tried to avoid the news, somebody would call you, or it would be on Twitter,” he said. “You’re trying to avoid it, but people are still trying to bring it to your attention. It just made me focus and buckle down even more.

“I watched them when they played Philly those two times, and I saw some of the stuff he likes to do. I just studied and tried to execute the plan I had.”

It worked. Ware finished with a solid eight tackles, but he didn’t supply the consistent pressure that was expected to give Favre fits.

“(The media), the guys on ESPN, the announcers, they basically just had us counted out, that we couldn’t keep up with Dallas’ front seven, and I just felt like they didn’t even give us a chance,” McKinnie said. “People kind of took it personally a little, just to prove that we were capable of doing it. They said we weren’t playing at the same level we were at at midseason.”

McKinnie was modest in his postgame assessment, but many of his teammates allowed themselves to gloat after hammering a team many experts had picked to win.

“It’s the playoffs. You’ve got to show up, and we showed up,” guard Anthony Herrera said. “All week long the talk was about how Dallas was going to get to Favre with the pass rush and the Vikings better look out. Well, we did what we were supposed to do. And we’re moving on.”

Even normally stoic coach Brad Childress acknowledged feeling slighted, saying the Cowboys were “about to bombard the State of Minnesota and run through us like Sherman through the South. That was the aura that was left after last weekend’s (wild-card) games.

“All of us kind of felt that quite palpably. All of it, and then we’d had about enough of it by Tuesday.”

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

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Shockey plays through injury, scores TD

Jeremy Shockey caught three passes for 36 yards and a touchdown against the Cardinals in the Divisional Round of the playoffs.

Shockey dragged his leg 17 yards to the end zone for an early touchdown and caught all three passes in the first quarter before leaving with a right knee injury. Though he did return later, he was no longer a factor in the passing game. David Thomas played almost strictly at fullback.

Click here to order Jeremy Shockey’s proCane Rookie Card.

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McKinnie's season will end close to home

One way or another, Bryant McKinnie's eighth NFL season is going to end in Miami, his adopted hometown.

The Woodbury High School graduate and Minnesota Vikings left tackle was selected to his first Pro Bowl, which will be held in McKinnie's offseason home of Miami. McKinnie played his last two college seasons at the University of Miami, winning the Outland Trophy and a national title his senior year.

"It will be nice to play in Miami, I'll have a lot of family and friends there," said McKinnie. "It will be nice to be part of the only Pro Bowl in Miami."

The Super Bowl will also be held in Miami this season, with the NFL experimenting with holding the Pro Bowl at the Super Bowl site on the off week between the conference championship games and the Super Bowl. The game had been played in Hawaii the week after the Super Bowl.

Players on teams participating in the Super Bowl will not play in the Pro Bowl, so McKinnie's preference would be to play in the game on Feb. 7 and not the one on Jan. 31.

While McKinnie has been to the playoffs on two previous occasions, he feels this is his best chance to reach the Super Bowl. The second-seeded Vikings face the third-seeded Dallas Cowboys on Sunday in an NFC divisional playoff game at 1 p.m.

Minnesota earned a first-round bye and the No. 2 seed when the Eagles lost to the Cowboys the last week of the regular season. Dallas then beat the Eagles again in the playoffs to earn the matchup with the Vikings.

"I'm getting calls from a lot of Eagles fans who want us to beat the Cowboys for them," said McKinnie. "I have a better feeling this year, because I feel I'm part of a better team than any I've been on in the past.

"We have the experience you need in a playoff game. We definitely used the bye, because a lot of guys in the O-line were banged up and we needed the week of rest."

Part of the Vikings' experience comes from 40-year-old Brett Favre, the latest in a revolving door of quarterbacks in Minnesota but certainly the most accomplished of the group. Favre came out of retirement midway through training camp and wound up having one of the best seasons of a Hall of Fame career.

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

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49ers' offensive style no longer concerns Gore

Although the direction of the Niners' offense remains up in the air heading into the offseason, one thing is for sure: Frank Gore remains "the bellcow." Although we hear Gore wasn't overly excited initially when the team decided to get away from a power run attack in favor of a pass-happy, spread-shotgun scheme that better suited QB Alex Smith, the fifth-year back told team insiders at the end of the year that he believed his 2009 season was even better than his '06 campaign, when he romped for 1,675 yards. Despite missing essentially three games due to injury, Gore still managed to gain 1,120 yards rushing and score a career-high 10 TDs. "He is still the most talented offensive player on the team and proved he could be effective in any scheme," one team insider said. "He's always been an excellent receiver out of the backfield and — a lot like the Ravens' Ray Rice — he rarely ever goes down after initial contact."

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Shockey Still a Brash and Emotional Presence

NEW ORLEANS — Jeremy Shockey was a member of a Super Bowl championship team in the 2007 season as a tight end for the Giants. But it was hard for him to enjoy it because his season ended in Week 15 when he broke his left leg.

In his sixth season at that point, all with the Giants, Shockey had worn out his welcome and did not watch the game from the bench area. He was traded to the New Orleans Saints before the next season.

Shockey now has another chance to reach the Super Bowl as the Saints prepare to host the Minnesota Vikings in the National Football Conference championship game next Sunday.

But his condition to perform in it is uncertain, and Shockey was not willing to discuss it Saturday after the Saints’ 45-14 victory over the Arizona Cardinals.

“You guys have to stand somewhere else,” Shockey abruptly told reporters who gathered near his locker.
They had hoped to ask him about his health, particularly a possible recurrence of a toe injury after Shockey caught three passes for 36 yards from Drew Brees.

The final catch was on a 17-yard play for a touchdown that put the Saints ahead, 14-7, midway through the first quarter. Shockey had missed the last three games of the regular season — all Saints defeats — with a toe injury.
But after his touchdown catch, Shockey limped to the sideline, sat down and was surrounded for a few minutes by Saints medical personnel. Although he later returned to the game, his limp was noticeable, even when jogging in motion before the snap of the ball.

In the early minutes of the game, after Arizona took a 7-0 lead on a 70-yard run by Tim Hightower on the game’s first snap, Shockey was a factor in many ways. He excited the 70,149 fans with exaggerated body language. After one reception, he exchanged body bumps and harsh words with Antrel Rolle, an Arizona safety.

Shockey pounded his fists into his own helmet. He has never lacked for swagger, having played in college for Miami, when it was the best team in the nation and one of the most self-confident.

At 6 feet 5 inches and 251 pounds, Shockey still has that air about him. On the field, he is a multiple threat because he can block or can catch passes long and short. His presence and potential open up space for Brees’s other receivers.

Against the Cardinals, Brees completed 23 of 32 passes for 247 yards and 3 touchdowns. One of them was to receiver Marques Colston, who had six catches for 83 yards, as the Saints reached the N.F.C. championship game for the first time since the 2006 season, when they lost, on the road, to the Chicago Bears, 39-14.

Like Shockey, Brees is a veteran who started his career with another team, in his case, San Diego. Shockey sometimes wears a T-shirt that Brees promotes to raise money for the city of New Orleans. On the front are the words “Our City, Our Home”; on the back are the words “Finish Strong.” Funds from the shirt sales aid local philanthropic causes.

Brees and many of the Saints players speak often about how the city is still recovering from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and how they have bonded with their fans.

“This city deserves it,” Brees said of football success. “The ‘Who Dat?’ Nation deserves it. We want to do it for them.”

The Saints have already had the best season in their 43-year existence. But after starting 13-0, they lost their last three games before a first-round bye in the playoffs.

Skeptics wondered whether they had peaked too soon or if they would be stale coming back against the Cardinals, who had defeated Green Bay, 51-45, in overtime the previous week in the wild-card game.

Coach Sean Payton playfully taunted the doubters when he began his postgame news conference. “So much for being rusty,” he said.

But the questions had permeated the locker room. Carl Nicks, a guard, said, “We needed to prove it to ourselves first of all” that the Saints deserved to be favored.

“We’re a No. 1 seed; it hurt for people to say, ‘One and done,’ ” Nicks said. “Now, we’ve shown we’re the same Saints that won 13 straight.”

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When facing elite arms, bet on Braun

The Setup
There's a lot of crummy pitching out there in this modern baseball world of ours. You might have noticed that.

Well, even if you haven't, the hitters have surely noticed it. And they're eternally grateful for all that crummy pitching, too, because it's infusing a lot of dollars into their favorite checking accounts. Their numbers wouldn't be the same without it.

Let's give you an example:

In 2009, according to Bill James Online, the Cubs' Aaron Miles -- a fellow who hit a robust .185 for the season -- actually had a higher batting average against pitchers with an ERA over 5.25 than Ichiro Suzuki or Derek Jeter.

This is a true fact. Take a look:
Miles .324 Jeter .308 Ichiro .299

On the other hand, when those three men faced pitchers with an ERA of 3.50 or lower, the numbers looked slightly different:
Ichiro .338 Jeter .302 Miles .085

So you've now learned something about what separates the best hitters on earth from the .185 hitters on earth:
The best hitters (feel free to sing along) hit good pitching. And your .185 hitters? Ehhhh, not so much.

Fortunately for those .185 hitters and their pals, there were 100 pitchers -- yes, 100 -- who had ERAs over 5.25 last season (among guys who worked at least 25 innings). But we don't care whom those pitchers hate to see heading for home plate.

What we cared about, for the purposes of this piece, was uncovering a hitter whom pitchers like Johan Santana, Roy Halladay and Tim Lincecum hate to see stepping into that box -- aside from the obvious choices (Albert Pujols, Joe Mauer, yada yada yada).

And the answer is …

Ryan Braun, ladies and gentlemen.

The Proof
How did we conduct this study? We started by working with ESPN Stats & Information whiz Mark Simon to look at how all active hitters have fared in their careers against the following illustrious group of pitchers:

Santana, Halladay, Lincecum, Roy Oswalt, Josh Beckett, Mariano Rivera, Brandon Webb, Jake Peavy, John Smoltz, Chris Carpenter, Randy Johnson, Billy Wagner and Trevor Hoffman.

We tried to pick a cross-section of pitchers who had track records as dominators, who gave us a sample size that included hitters in both leagues and whose ranks included the three most successful closers of the past decade.

Then we took the hitters with the best stats against that list, broke down the numbers further and ran the final candidates by a panel of scouts. In the end, two men separated themselves -- Derrek Lee and Braun.

Lee would have been a fine choice. The Cubs' sweet-swinging first baseman hit .317 last year against pitchers with ERAs of 3.50 or better. He has a .400 lifetime average against Webb, a .600 average against Halladay and a .500 average against Beckett, Rivera and Wagner. And he's been doing it for a long, long time.
-- A scout

But the more we looked, the more overwhelmed we got by the greatness of Ryan Braun.

The Brewers' left fielder just turned 26. He's been in the big leagues since May 2007. But his numbers against great pitchers are amazing. Such as:
.538 (with a .692 slugging pct.) versus Santana .500 (with a 1.286 slugging pct.) versus Oswalt .462 (with a .923 slugging pct.) versus Lincecum

Want more? Braun has hit .364 against Smoltz, .667 against Beckett, .400 against Brad Lidge and .455 against Tim Hudson. He has slugged .750 against Johnson, .917 against Cole Hamels, .583 against Matt Cain and 1.250 against Jeff Francis.

Against pitchers with an ERA of 3.50 or better, he hit .292 (with an .830 OPS) last year. He was even better against that group (.302, with a .937 OPS) the year before.

"What makes him great is, he makes adjustments," said one scout. "He really sees the breaking ball, and he really sees the changeup. And there aren't a lot of young hitters like that. You can come back with a quality changeup away, right after you just threw him a good heater at 94-95 [mph], and he'll hit it hard to right field. That's where he's very Pujols-like. There are not a lot of guys who can do that."

The Conclusion
If we asked your average baseball fan which hitter the best pitchers in the game would most hate to face, we wonder how many names they'd rip through before they got to Ryan Braun. Heck, we wonder how many would even make Braun the first Brewer they'd pick (as opposed to, say, Prince Fielder).

But ask anyone who has to prepare a game plan against that lineup. They know.

"When I scout, I like to watch how the real premium pitchers pitch a guy -- your real closers or your No. 1 starters," said the same scout quoted above. "And they pitch Ryan Braun like it's a huge out in a World Series game. He's a guy who any pitcher with any sense knows he has to fear."

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