Ray Lewis tops 'devastating hit' odds

Ray Lewis is one of the favorites to be the first NFL player suspended for a devastating hit, according to BetUS.com

The Ravens middle linebacker is carrying 5-to-1 odds, which is the same for Denver safety Brian Dawkins and New York Jets fullback John Conner.

Chicago linebacker Brian Urlacher and Washington safety LaRon Landry have 8-to-1 odds.

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Quadtrine Hill vs. Francisco Diaz,

If having former University of Miami running back turned boxer Quadrine Hill on the Thursday, October 28th Battle In The Ballroom show that features four boxing and two mixed martial arts bouts isn’t enough, promoter Roy Englebrecht announced today that he has added two more bouts featuring two undefeated heavyweight boxers.

Set to go on the 28th will be 6-0 heavyweight Lionel Davis, who scored a 1st round KO last Saturday in Vegas against 2-3 Kelsey Arnold. Davis at 6’7” is a former Division I basketball player at Idaho State, and will face 3-4 Justin Reigle. Joining Davis will be his All American Heavyweight stable mate 5-0 Natu Visinia, who also won on Saturday at the Silverton Casino, taking only 37 seconds to KO Oklahoma’s Michael Ward.

In our featured boxing bout of the night set at 135lbs local Tustin talent Paul Velarde 2-1-3 returns to the ballroom to face Alejandro Artiaga 3-2-1 from Bakersfield. This fight is set to be a money fight!

In our featured MMA fight of the night fans will see the return of Fist Series belt holder Aaron Miller 10-8 go head to head with local rising Irvine talent in Joe Nicholas 7-3. Set at a catch weight of 150lbs this fight will not disappoint!

Plus don’t forget about Sutra Lounge after party that always follow our fights. That’s right free entry to Sutra Lounge following our fight night with any ticket purchase!

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Calais Campbell now splitting time with Branch

Judging from preseason, I thought defensive end Calais Campbell was ready to take a step into stardom. But now he's splitting time with Alan Branch. From what I hear, Campbell was one of the chief culprits of trying-to-do-too-much syndrome. When that happens, his technique fails. At 6-8, Campbell needs to play with good technique or else he gets too high and loses leverage. Campbell is a smart , diligent guy and coaches think he will make the necessary adjustments.

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Kelly Jennings still sidelined for Seahawks

Starting defensive players Brandon Mebane and Kelly Jennings remained sidelined Thursday as the Seahawks continued preparation for Sunday's showdown with NFC West co-leading Arizona.

Jennings, who has started all five games at cornerback this season, strained his hamstring during Sunday's victory at Chicago.

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What's with Greg Olsen's vanishing act?

Not only did Greg Olsen see his playing time diminish in last Sunday's loss to the Seahawks, the pass-catching tight end also was on the field for only 4 of 12 third-down plays.

And the Bears passed on all 12.

Olsen was on the field for 38 of the 59 offensive plays (64.4 percent), but didn't make a catch for the second consecutive game. Offensive coordinator Mike Martz's schemes have been known to rule out the tight end, but many believed Olsen would an exception to the rule.

"With some of the protection stuff we were doing, we were counting on Brandon (Manumaleuna) going in to be the extra blocker to try to help us push the ball down the field a little bit," Olsen said. "That's just sometimes how it happens."

Olsen stands fourth on the team in receptions with 15 for 179 yards and two touchdowns. He led the Bears with 60 last season.

"We're doing everything possible to get Greg involved,'' quarterback Jay Cutler said. "Some games he's going to be more involved than others."

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E.Reed's availability Sunday will be determined by Reed himself

There’s still some uncertainty within the Ravens organization about whether six-time Pro Bowl free safety Ed Reed will be make his season debut this Sunday against the Buffalo Bills. But defensive coordinator Greg Mattison said the best source to answer that question is Reed himself.

“Ed Reed’s played long enough in this league and has done so many great things in this league that Ed Reed will let us know when Ed Reed is ready to go,” Mattison said Thursday. “He’s not a guy you have to question. Ed Reed will only go out and play if he thinks he can play well enough to help us win and to do what he has to do. Now Ed Reed will go out and practice and he’ll continue to work on things and run the defenses and stuff like that, and if he feels like he’s ready to go, then that’ll be his decision, and we’ll go from there. But him being out there, I want you to know there were a lot of smiles when you saw him standing back there. I said this before: I’ve only been with him for three years, but my God, he looks good out there.”

Reed missed training camp and was placed on the physically-unable-to-perform list after undergoing surgery in the offseason to repair his ailing hip. The team has 21 days to activate Reed from the PUP list and place him on the 53-man active roster. Until then, the organization is not required to make any roster moves.

But Reed participated in his first practice with the team Wednesday, and he looks as sleek and as fit as a 32-year-old, nine-year veteran can look.

“Anytime you add him to the secondary and you look out there and you see that number, it’s different for me, I know that,” Mattison said. “And that’s not taking anything away from Tom Zbikowski. He’s done a tremendous job, but that’s Ed Reed. Just the vibrance, just to hear him talking back there and saying, ‘Watch this’ and ‘Watch that,’ that’s what he brings to the table.”

With the status of Reed and Zbikowski (bruised heel) still in limbo, could Haruki Nakamura be in line for his first career start alongside strong safety Dawan Landry?

“Haruki’s always prepped for starting,” Mattison said. “And you’ve heard me say this before: whoever’s the backup has got to look at himself as the starter. You’re always one play away from being in there anyhow. So we’ve got guys ready to do that.”

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Frank Gore helping to lift 49ers offense

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) - The San Francisco 49ers can't get Frank Gore off the field.

But with the Pro Bowl running back remaining healthy and productive, nobody is complaining. Gore is on pace for another tremendous season, and after a rocky start the San Francisco offense finally is feeding off the exploits of its backfield star.

Gore lifted the offense around him last week against the Oakland Raiders, rushing for a season-high 149 yards to lead the 49ers to their first victory after a 0-5 start.

"When Frank is going,'' offensive coordinator Mike Johnson said Thursday, "I think our passing game is better. When he's going, the line is blocking better and protecting better. He's one of our best players, and if he's going, then our offense is going to be pretty good.''

While San Francisco's offense finally appears to be going in the right direction, Gore has been going that way all season.

The sixth-year veteran leads the NFC and ranks second in the NFL with 755 yards from scrimmage. The all-purpose performer ranks fourth in the NFC with 471 yards rushing and is sixth in the conference with 33 receptions. He has produced 35 first downs, which also leads the NFC and ranks second in the league.

But Gore has had to work hard for those numbers. He's averaging 24.8 touches per game and is on course to handle the football more times in a season than ever before in his career.

"I just feel like, whenever I'm out there, I have a great chance of making plays and we have a great chance to win,'' Gore said. "I have to be smart with being out there so much, but it's just about us winning now, and I feel great.''

But that raises durability issues and injury concerns, and Gore is one player the 49ers can't do without as they attempt to resurrect their season.
The 49ers brought in two-time Pro Bowler Brian Westbrook during the summer and also have promising rookie Anthony Dixon to help spell Gore. But the 49ers have been reluctant to use those options, sticking instead with their workhorse in practically all situations.

Westbrook and Dixon have combined for just five carries in San Francisco's first six games. Gore has lugged the football 116 times, putting him on pace to approach his franchise-record 312-carry season of 2006, when Gore rushed for a franchise-record 1,695 yards and also had 61 receptions.

Johnson, the team's former quarterbacks coach who has been calling the plays since Jimmy Raye was fired as offensive coordinator Sept. 27, is faced with the challenge of getting the ball in the hands of his top weapon without overworking the catalyst of his attack.

"Frank Gore doesn't like to come out of the game,'' Johnson said. "He's a warrior, he likes to go and we have to make sure we keep him fresh. We are very mindful of that and have a plan going forward to make sure that he's not taking as many snaps. But the one thing about Frank Gore, when he's touching the ball, I think we're winning, or we are going to win.''

Gore has prospered since Johnson took control, rushing for 278 yards in the past three games. The offense also appears to be hitting its stride during that span, recording 364 yards and a season-high 24 points against Philadelphia two weeks ago and 349 yards last week against Oakland. Those are two of San Francisco's top three offensive outputs this season.

Gore showed his frustration last month as the offense bogged down around him during San Francisco's unexpected poor start. But it's a different emotion now with his teammates finally responding.

"When you do great things personally as a player and you don't get the win, it doesn't matter,'' Gore said. "But when I'm playing my 'A' game, Alex (Smith) plays better. The offensive line plays better. The receivers play better. That's real big, because when you do great things to get the W, you feel a whole lot better.''

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Skins want to add Bears' Devin Hester to the hit stick

There is no more dangerous return man in football than Chicago's Devin Hester, the fifth-year player from Miami who last week returned a punt 89 yards for a touchdown, the 13th kick or punt return for a score in his career. That ties him with former Redskins standout Brian Mitchell for the most all-time. The difference: Mitchell returned 1,070 kicks and punts in his career. Hester has returned 262.

"We have our hands full," said Coach Mike Shanahan, who watched Hester score two special teams touchdowns - one on a punt, one on a kickoff -- against his Denver Broncos in 2007 at Soldier Field.

Shanahan's team, though, might be more equipped to handle the task. The Redskins rank third in the NFL in kickoff return average, allowing opponents only 17.4 yards per return. The longest kickoff return against Washington this year is a paltry 27 yards; every other team in the league has allowed at least one return of 30 yards, and seven teams allow kicks to be returned an average of 27 yards or more.

The Redskins have not fared as well on punt coverage, allowing 10.8 yards per return, which ranks 24th in the league. But their coverage teams are gaining a reputation for delivering punishing hits. In different weeks, Mike Sellers, Lorenzo Alexander and most recently Chris Wilson made tackles that have jarred the opposing team and fired-up the Redskins - leading to a competition for who can dish out the most.

"We do the dirty work," Sellers said. "You got to find ways to let people know you can still play. Chris Wilson is figuring out me and Lorenzo's secrets, so we got to keep him out of the mix."

During the course of a conversation on how the Redskins have been able to free up for so many crushing special-teams tackles, Sellers pulled something called a "hit stick" out of his locker - basically a piece of wood made to look primitive or tribal. On it were three numbers - a 45, then a 97, then a 45.

The methodology: Someone who delivers a major blow on special teams gets their jersey number on the stick and then gets to keep it in their locker. The catch: Such a blow must come in a win.

So Sellers's No. 45 is on the stick twice for tackles he made against Dallas and Green Bay. Alexander's No. 97 is on for a ferocious tackle against Philadelphia. But Wilson, who delivered a powerful hit against Indianapolis, is still waiting to see his No. 95, because he hasn't come through in a win.

"Me and 'Zo plan on being the only ones on it," Sellers said.

How, though, can one team free up so many different players?

"When you put big plays on film like that, it has coaches worried about guys," Wilson said. "I know they're worried about Lorenzo, for example. So I take it on myself to say, 'OK, if they're going to double 'Zo, that's disrespectful to me. And vice versa. [If] they [are] going to double me, then Mike Sellers is like, 'Then that's disrespectful to me.' That works all the way down the line. The entire unit has that same attitude."

Among punt returners with at least five attempts, Hester ranks third in the NFL with a 17.0-yard average - one spot behind Washington rookie Brandon Banks, who averages 19.4 yards per return.

Danieal Manning and Johnny Knox are sharing the kick returning for Chicago. Manning averages 27.3 yards on 13 returns.

"The great ones, though, are going to make plays," Shanahan said. "You take the number of returns [Hester's] had and the number of touchdowns, you just kind of shake your head. You don't even think it's possible."

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Dan Morgan: Randy Shannon needs to “show some passion”

I’ve seen a lot of great defensive players during my many years of covering UM, but none was more consistently outstanding than Dan Morgan, who finished his collegiate career (1997-2000) as the school’s all-time leading tackler (532).

Morgan played seven seasons for the NFL’s Carolina Panthers before retiring prior to the 2009 season, but the ex-middle linebacker is still hitting hard as a UM pre-game analyst for WQAM. I spoke to Morgan on the phone earlier this week to talk about the Hurricanes. Here is some of what he had to say:

How this team found it’s identity yet?
“I talked about this on the radio this past week. I still think they’re trying to find their identity offensively. They’re not sure if they’re a running team or a passing team. Obviously, Jacory [Harris] has struggled so they’re more effective running the ball than passing the ball. Defensively, I still think we’re trying to find our identity over there even though we’ve been successful. Stat-wise we’re doing OK, but if you look at the players, guys are getting shuffled in and out. DeMarcus Van Dyke is replaced by Ryan Hill then he’s back in and then you get Colin McCarthy out of there and somebody else coming in. So I think they’re still trying to find the right group of guys to click together. And I think they’re just trying to find leaders.”

Dan Morgan set a UM record for tackles before playing seven NFL seasons with the Carolina Panthers.

We all thought Jacory would be the leader, but because he’s struggling so much, it hasn’t happened. What’s been wrong with Jacory this season?
‘Do I think Jacory is a smart, talented guy? He’s definitely that. But the thing he needs to start doing is not try to win games by himself and putting the pressure on his shoulders. A lot of these [interceptions] that he’s thrown are just him looking for the big play. He needs to be more patient out there and he needs to recognize coverages better.”

The Hurricanes seemed flat against both Florida State and Duke. Is there enough passion on this team?
“I think there’s guys on the team that show passion, there’s spurts of it. But like everything else, nothing is consistent with this team. I just don’t think there is that leader on this team. And another thing that makes me worry about this team and this [Saturday’s] game is the early-morning practices. Randy has these kids waking up at 5 a.m. to practice. I’m just beginning to wonder and question practicing that early. It’s got to be making these guys tired, especially for night games. I don’t think that they’re having fun out there, either. And I’m starting to wonder why. It’s got to be wearing, not only physically but mentally. I just don’t know how much young guys get accomplished waking up that early in the morning, even in the meeting room.”

How do you see this game against North Carolina on Saturday night?
“When you’re trying to predict these games, I’m wondering what Miami team is going to show up. Is it the team that showed a little bit of enthusiasm like they did against Clemson or Pitt or is it the team that showed up against Ohio State or Florida State? It’s an unknown with this team because we don’t ever really know what we’re going to get. North Carolina is obviously coached by a great coach in Butch Davis. Butch is real good at keeping a team together, especially in adverse times. We had some of those when we were at Miami. He just keeps teams together. It’s going to be a tough game for us to win.”

The talent at Miami just hasn’t been as good as when Butch Davis was here. Why do you think that is?
“Look at Butch’s recruiting classes. He expanded Miami’s recruiting horizons. Look where he went. He went to Canada to get a Brett Romberg. He went to Pennsylvania to get a Martin Bibla and to California to get Ken Dorsey. It just doesn’t seem like we’re doing that and if we are, I haven’t heard about it. It just seems we’re sticking to a certain area which is Miami. That’s good because some of the best players come out of there. But to have a great team, you need a good mixture of players. Different personalities from different places. I don’f feel like we have that. I think we have too many of the same guy.”

How much of this – the FSU game and the general struggles this team has endured– is on Randy Shannon?
“I’ve been a hard critic on Randy. Randy was my coach and I have a lot of respect for him, but I have to be objective. Yeah, it does lie on the head coach. But the players too. They have to share the same amount of responsibility. These turnovers and these things happening, I see it happening partly because of coaching and partly because of players not being hard enough on other players. That comes back to leadership. You have to have someone holding these players accountable for the mistakes. It doesn’t need to be the head coach. It is also the players holding each other accountable, and I don’t see that yet.

“Going back to Butch, he was always at the center of the actiion. With Randy, he tries to be too stoic on the sideline. I’ve said that before. [UM radio analyst] Don Bailey Jr. has the argument of, look at the Tom Landrys and some of these other [low-key] coaches. But we’re not the Dallas Cowboys. We’re the Miami Hurricanes with 17-, 18-, 19-year old players. You need to have a coach show some passion. If the kids don’t see the coach getting excited, the kids aren’t going to be excited. Especially the young kids. That’s why I said on the air last week that I’d just like to see a little more fire out of him. Get in somoebody’s face, grab somebody by the facemask and say, ‘Get your butt together.’ Like [San Franscisco 49ers coach] Mike Singletary did to [quarterback] Alex Smith [during a Monday night game earlier this season]. Guys need to get kicked in the butt every now and then.”

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John Salmons closes in on return

Columbus, Ohio - John Salmons was on the court taking some shots before the Bucks' exhibition game against Cleveland on Thursday night, and Bucks coach Scott Skiles said the veteran guard might be able to return to the lineup Friday against Minnesota.

"He's doing better," Skiles said. "We might do something with him tomorrow in the morning a little bit, we might do some 2-on-2 live. Then maybe play him a little bit in the game (Friday)."

Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (sprained right ankle) and Corey Maggette (left ankle surgery) were ruled out of the game against the Cavaliers, Skiles said. Jon Brockman (sprained left ankle) was not with the team.

Skiles said the Bucks starters would be Carlos Delfino and Drew Gooden at forwards, Andrew Bogut at center and Chris Douglas-Roberts and Brandon Jennings at guards.

Cleveland's Mo Williams was at the team's morning shootaround at the Schottenstein Center on the Ohio State campus. But the former Bucks player had to leave due to personal reasons and was not available for the game, according to Cavaliers coach Byron Scott.

The Cavaliers issued a statement saying Williams had been excused from the team to accompany his family to Mississippi due to the death of his father-in-law.

Another former Bucks guard, Ramon Sessions, moved into the starting lineup in place of Williams.

The Cavaliers (5-2) are trying to forge a new identity in the absence of LeBron James, who jolted the franchise and the city of Cleveland with his off-season move to Miami.

"They've got a nice mix of young players and good veteran players," Skiles said. "Obviously it's very difficult losing a player of that caliber, to say the least.

"But there's guys down there that have pride. It wouldn't surprise me at all if they have a very good year."

Skiles knows something about being underestimated after the Bucks went from 34 victories to 46 last season.

"It's human nature to think that losing LeBron is a death blow or something," Skiles said. "But these guys are all pros up here."

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Beverly Goebel is available in Women's Professional Soccer's expansion draft.

Local products Kelsey Davis (Thousand Oaks HS) and Beverly Goebel (Moreno Valley HS) are among 22 players available for Women's Professional Soccer's new Western New York franchise in the Nov. 4 expansion draft.

Davis, a backup goalkeeper for Chicago last season, started her college career at UCLA and transferred to Portland. Goebel, a midfielder for Washington, played collegiately at Sacramento State and Miami. Both were left unprotected by their clubs.

Former USC star Rosie Tantillo, a reserve midfielder for WPS champion FC Gold Pride, also is on the list. The biggest name among the 22: U.S. national team defender Heather Mitts, who played for Philadelphia.

The Western New York team, which will debut next season, may take nine players in the draft, but no more than two from any club.

The WPS on Wednesday also released a list of free agents. Included were Redondo Beach's Shannon Boxx (South Torrance HS), a midfielder who helped Gold Pride to the WPS title; Mission Viejo's Kasey Moore (Capistrano Valley HS), a defender for Boston; San Clemente's McCall Zerboni (San Clemente HS/UCLA), who played for Atlanta; Arcadia's Brittany Klein (Arcadia HS), a midfielder for Washington; Hermosa Beach's Lindsay Tarpley, who finished strong for Boston; and former UCLA midfielder Tina DiMartino, key to Philly's drive to the title game.

Boxx, Tarpley, goalkeepers Hope Solo and Nicole Barnhart, midfielder Carli Lloyd, defender Catherine Whitehill and forward Natasha Kai are U.S. national-teamers on the free-agent list.

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Texans work out Damione Lewis

After bringing in nine offensive players for tryouts on Tuesday, the Texans brought in three more today — all defensive tackles.

Damione Lewis, Louis Leonard and Tank Tyler tried out Wednesday at the Methodist Training Center. None was signed.

The players have off this week because Sunday is their open date. They return to work Monday to prepare for their nationally televised game at Indianapolis on Nov. 1.

They will have two roster spots — one for injured linebacker DeMeco Ryans and one for waived linebacker David Nixon.

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Willis McGahee says lack of playing time against Pats wasn't disciplinary

Willis McGahee chuckled at a question asking whether he might have been held out of action in the Ravens' 23-20 loss to the Patriots because he was being punished for some rules violation the team is trying to keep quiet.

"Where is everyone getting this punishment thing from?" McGahee said. "You all think I'm this bad guy who did something wrong? I was on time for everything. I went to every meeting. ... There was no punishment. Not that I know of. I didn't do anything wrong. I hope it wasn't a punishment."

McGahee said he didn't have any real insight into why he played zero plays for the first time in his Ravens career. A 17-7 loss to the Bengals in 2009 was the only previous game for Baltimore in which McGahee was healthy, but didn't have a single carry. But McGahee did play two series in that game. Against the Patriots, he didn't even step on the field.

Did McGahee think he was about to be traded?

"I don't know. That's been going on for like a year and a half," McGahee said. "It is what it is. I can't do nothing about it. [My agent] told me he'd let me now if anything was going to happen. But I wasn't sitting by the phone or anything. I wasn't watching ESPN. I was playing video games. I went [and] bought me a new Spiderman game."

McGahee reiterated that he's not unhappy, even though he would like to play more. He shrugged his shoulders when asked if the Ravens gave him any assurances that he'd play more the rest of the season.

"I'm just sitting back and waiting for my number to be called," McGahee said. "When my number is called, that's when I step up. I've got a light switch. I can turn it on and turn it off."

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Wilfork: ‘You’re going to have hits’

FOXBORO — Vince Wilfork briefly spoke to the media Wednesday from his locker at Gillette Stadium. The defensive lineman talked about the change in NFL policy regarding hits to the head and what that will mean for the Patriots.

How does the change in policy about hits to the head affect you and the team?
“I don’t know, I think as a defensive player, we don’t try, you know, big hits that we make. I don’t think there’s anyone in this game that plays the game and tries to injure anyone, but sometimes really in the heat of the moment, a split second, you just try to make tackles. So it is what it is, you know? I mean, it may slow some people down, because you start looking at game pace now, you know, suspension. You’ll have to take a look at it. I mean, as a defensive player, that’s definitely something we’re going to probably do now is try to alter our game. So, it is what it is. We’ll move forward and when it comes up again, you know, hopefully it don’t, never come up again, but, you know, this is football. This is a collision sport. You’re going to have hits. Sometimes people don’t understand this is a violent sport. It is what it is man.”

Is it naïve to think that it’s all about tackling or big hits?
“I mean, getting the ball, that’s what it’s about. Sometimes as a defender you’ll be out of position, or you fall in a certain way, or whatever it may be. Like I said, it’s only a couple seconds, or a split second. Not even seconds. I mean, just the timing is so quick when things happen. Like I said, I don’t think there’s anybody in this league that plays this game that tries to injure people on every play. That’s not what it is, but you do want to be physical. You do want to help, you know, your team needs. And you want to get the ball out, or whatever it may be. You want to be in the situation like that to make plays. But like I said, we just got to find a way to do it the right way, because they’re obviously cracking down on it, and it’s going to get tougher, so we’ll see where it leads.”

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Ed Reed makes his return to Ravens practice


In the words of Ed Reed, “I feel pretty good.”

Prior to his first practice of the 2010 season, the six-time Pro Bowl free safety told a large contingent of reporters that he has progressed from his offseason hip surgery to the point where he feels well enough to prepare for this Sunday’s opponent, the Buffalo Bills.

“I’ve been working out tremendously hard to come back from this surgery,” a well-conditioned and relaxed Reed said Wednesday. “Like I said, I’m feeling good, but I’ve still got some things in there. We’re going to play ball when we’re out there.”

Reed said he still feels some soreness in the hip that forced him to sit out training camp and begin the regular season on the the team’s physically-unable-to-perform (PUP) list. He also said that he’s still battling the nerve impingement in his neck and shoulder area that has limited his ability to tackle in recent years.

“I think time off definitely helped it, but getting back into the game, it’s going to come right back,” Reed said of the impingement. “It never left. I still have the impingement. But I worked out hard to try to strengthen it. At some time, I’ll have to take care of it, but hopefully, God willing, I won’t have anything major. But like I said, it’s football. Things happen. It’s a violent sport, a physical sport, and people get hurt.”

The Ravens have a bye after Sunday’s game, and Reed conceded that there is some consideration to missing the contest against the Bills to take advantage of a couple more weeks of rest and recovery.

“We definitely talked about that, and that’s one thing I knew Coach [John] Harbaugh was looking into, and the organization,” Reed said. “That’s why I went on PUP. From a surgical standpoint, it was an important six-month period of getting back to full strength, a year-long process of getting back to full strength. We’ve still got time for recovery, and I still have some soreness in there and everything. So I’m pretty sure that’s the thought up there.”

Reed is the franchise’s all-time leader in interceptions (46) and has scored 13 touchdowns in the regular season and playoffs. Reed, however, declined to assess his impact on a Ravens defense that ranks second in the NFL in points per game and third in both total yards per game and passing yards per game.

“Just play my part,” he said. “Do what I’m supposed to do and then hopefully, I can continue to do the things that I did in the past.”

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

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Duane Starks ten years after INT return in Super Bowl XXXV: “the longest 49 yards of running ever”

On January 28, 2001, former Ravens corner back Duane Starks remembers clearly a particular play that would not only impact his life, but one of an entire city looking for a team to call “World Champions”.

That date of course was the day that the Baltimore Ravens, fresh off a 12-4 regular season and three playoff wins over the Denver Broncos, Tennessee Titans, and the Oakland Raiders, earned the franchise’s first ever Lombardi Trophy in Super Bowl XXXV, winning of course by a score of 34-7 over the NFC Champion New York Giants.

It brought the city of Baltimore their first championship since 1983 with the Baltimore Orioles, and its first ever football title since 1970 when the Colts brought home the NFL title in Super Bowl V.

And of course, the play was Starks’ 49-yard interception return in that Super Bowl, one of four touchdowns and interceptions for the Ravens on the night.

This Sunday at halftime versus the Buffalo Bills, the Ravens will honor  30+members of the championship team, including the likes of quarterback Trent Dilfer, safety Rod Woodson, running back Jamal Lewis, and many others.

And while Duane Starks will not be in attendance Sunday, he said he will be their in spirit with his former teammates. He keeps in contact with most of his fellow champions.

“There’s a group of us that stay in touch,” Starks told Thyrl Nelson on “The Mobtown Sports Beat Wednesday.”I’m always in contact with Lional Dalton, Ray Lewis, Jamie Sharper, and all these guys, even Jermaine Lewis.”

Starks was drafted by the Ravens with the tenth overall pick in the 1998 draft out of Miami, and combined with Raven draft picks in former Hurricanes teammate Ray Lewis, Chris Mcalister, Peter Boulware, Jamie Sharper, Starks became a pivotal and key component to the best defense in NFL history when it came to points allowed in 2000.

And he not only was big in helping the team reach the Super Bowl, his interception of Giants quarterback Kerry Collins may have put the nail in the coffin for the Giants.

In his four years in Baltimore from 1998-2001, Starks grabbed 21 picks and was also a big run-stuffer from the secondary despite only measuring 5-10, 175 pounds.

In that Super Bowl, Collins would throw several interceptions to the likes of Chris Mcalister, Kim Herring, and Jamie Sharper was desperately trying to get his team back in the hunt after falling behind 10-0 with minutes remaining in the third quarter.

Collins took a three-step drop and immediately threw the ball to Giants wide receiver Amani Toomer. Starks, who had also grabbed a pick in the AFC Championship game against Oakland, stepped in front of the slant pass and took it back 49 yards for a the score, making it 17-0 in favor of Baltimore.

Starks remembers the moment as clear as day.

“I intercept the ball and the first thing I was like, ‘just catch the ball’,” Starks told Thyrl.  “I caught the ball and after that as I’m running, I’m like ‘Please nobody clip. Nobody clip. No penalties. No penalties.’ It would have been sad to have a penalty there because the play happened so fast.”

“That was the longest 49 yards of running ever.”

Starks looked back as he crossed the Giants goal line to see if there were any flags on the play, but none came down.

Starks’ play not only put the Giants deeper in the hole, it also set off a series of plays that will rarely be seen again in Super Bowl history.

Following Starks’ interception return, the Ravens kicked off to the Giants, and Giants KR Ron Dixon returned it 97 yards for a touchdown.
It was a game now. For at least a few more seconds.

The Giants on the opposing kickoff kicked the ball to former Maryland Terp Jermaine Lewis, who matched Dixon’s return with an 84 yard return of his own.

It was the first time in NFL history that each team returned kickoffs in the Super Bowl, and the first time they had been done back-to-back. It also finished a period of three consecutive plays where a touchdown was scored in a span of just 30 seconds.

The Ravens nearly earned the only shutout in Super Bowl history, but they were able to bring Baltimore a world championship and came home to celebrate on the streets of Baltimore.

Starks, who will be unable to attend Sunday’s festivities due to a previous engagement, said he still calls Baltimore home and will remain in contact with the Ravens for the rest of his life.

‘I’m not going to be able to make it to Baltimore, but I’m always visiting Baltimore and going to the office. I hate that I’m going to miss this glorious occasion.”

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Martz likes Greg Olsen at tackle

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Watch some game tape, Mike Martz said.

According to the offensive coordinator, the Bears have been using tight end Greg Olsen as a tackle on occasion for quite a while when they’ve utilized an unbalanced line.

Olsen lined up at tackle against the Seahawks, as the Bears allowed six sacks of quarterback Jay Cutler. Yet Martz doesn’t consider it a gamble to use Olsen at tackle on occasion in his high-flying offense.

“Heavens no, we like him. I think he’s pretty good, don’t you?” Martz asked. “I think he’s done a pretty good job. We’ve done that all year, have you watched the tape? I like him over there. I don’t have any hesitation putting him out there. He was on [Julius] Peppers all of camp if you watched him. That’s how he earns his paycheck, too, as well as being a receiver. I don’t consider that a gamble, that’s what he does. The tight end has to do that stuff.”

Apparently, it doesn’t matter whether he’s successful at it. Of all the Bears' tight ends, Olsen -- because of his still-developing blocking skills -- would seem the least likely to fit as a tackle responsible for blocking a defensive end or 3-4 stand-up linebacker.

The club specifically brought in Brandon Manumaleuna as a blocker. Third-year player Kellen Davis and veteran Desmond Clark would also seem to be more ideal candidates as blockers.

“We put all our tight ends in that position,” Martz said. “The way [Seattle] lined up may be different than we would expect. Maybe a different guy ends up over there, but you better block him. If the guy we saw them [use] in unbalanced was a different guy, well, they changed it, and it gives us a bigger guy. You’ve still got to block him. That’s the way it goes. Did we put him over there thinking that was the guy he was going to get? No. But that’s what happened.”

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Big man in the middle: Vince Wilfork profile

You see him on the playing on the field, you hear him talk after the game on TV or radio. It sure seems like the Patriots’ Vince Wilfork is a good guy who has it all together, a guy who has it all.

Vince Wilfork is on the cover of the latest edition of the Improper Bostonian. You'll be fascinated by the story of Vince and his wife, Bianca, a couple who truly are made for one another. The story is written by our good friend, Michael Holley of Sports Radio WEEI. Watch Gene’s interview for more.

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Redemption for Gore as he carries load for SF

SAN FRANCISCO — Frank Gore pledged to redeem himself after his 52-yard, two-fumble performance last week. Consider the Niners running back absolved.

Gore had 149 yards on 25 carries in San Francisco's 17-9 win over the Raiders on Sunday after he entered averaging a career-worst 3.7 yards a carry and hadn't a rush of more than 20 yards this season.

Coach Mike Singletary had said Gore's problems were tied to the offensive line. But there has been speculation that it could also be the hard-running Gore's workload over his six-year, 1,259-carry career.

In the second half, though, Gore flashed his old form, collecting 123 yards on 18 carries and ripping off a 64-yard, fourth-quarter gain to set the stage for the 49ers' final touchdown.

Gore passed Ken Willard and moved into third place on the Niners' career rushing list with 6,032 yards. He trails Roger Craig (7,344) and Joe Perry (7,064).

Establishing Gore has long been a key to San Francisco's success.

Since 2005, the Niners are 16-6 when Gore rushes for 100 yards and 16-48 when he doesn't hit the century mark. They are 13-0 when he has at least 24 carries. Gore finally got it going after managing 26 yards on seven first-half carries.

“We just had to calm down. We just had to be us,” Gore said.

“Like I told everybody, I told Alex (Smith), ‘Let's just go out there like it's practice. You know how in practice we do everything right? Let's just go out and do the same thing, we're just playing against guys in a different jersey.”

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Healed from concussion, Rocky McIntosh back on the practice field

Washington Redskins linebacker Rocky McIntosh returned to the practice field after sitting out the last week with a concussion.

Briefly speaking to reporters in the locker room before today's practice, McIntosh -- who suffered the concussion against Green Bay and was inactive against the Colts -- was asked how he was feeling.

"Good," he said. "And Coach Shanahan will handle all you guys' questions."

McIntosh, who normally declines all interview requests and had to be coaxed by the team's media relations staff to speak today, refused to give his take on the extra measures that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is taking to help prevent concussions.

"I have nothing to do with that," McIntosh said.

When asked if he would have to start tackling differently to avoid suspension caused by head-to-head contact or "devastating hits," McIntosh simply replied, "I have nothing to do with that."

McIntosh did, however, say that it wasn't easy watching the Redskins play the Colts.

"It's just hard, you want to be out there with your teammates, give them the best chance to win," he said. With McIntosh sidelined, the Redskins started H.B. Blades at the inside linebacker spot next to London Fletcher. Rookie Perry Riley also saw time at that spot.

McIntosh is quietly having his best season despite having moved from outside linebacker to inside linebacker in the 3-4 defense. He has 46 tackles in a sack through five games.

When asked about the key to his success this season, McIntosh said, "I'm just playing, doing my thing. Each and every year, I try to get better."

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Giants embracing the power of Aubrey Huff’s “rally thong”

Aubrey Huff started wearing a “lucky” red, rhinestone-encrusted thong around the clubhouse on August 30 and the Giants are 25-12 since then, so suddenly the “rally thong” is a very popular item in San Francisco.

In fact, Andrew Baggarly of the San Jose Mercury News reports that the company producing Huff’s preferred brand of thongs sent three giant boxes of their products to the Giants prior to yesterday’s game.

As they say, hilarity ensued.

Baggarly writes that “Huff became a giddy, thong-flinging Santa Claus this morning, distributing them to everyone in the clubhouse” and even handed them out to various media members covering the team. Oddly enough, Huff got into some trouble a few years ago for doing a radio appearance alongside a woman who wasn’t wearing any underwear.

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NFL fines Bradon Meriweather $50K

The NFL imposed huge fines on three players Tuesday for dangerous and flagrant hits in last weekend's games and warned that, starting with this weekend's contests, violent conduct will be cause for suspension.

Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison was docked $75,000, and New England Patriots safety Brandon Meriweather and Atlanta Falcons cornerback Dunta Robinson each were fined $50,000 by the league.

Baltimore Ravens tight end Todd Heap took a vicious hit from Meriweather on Sunday and called it "one of those hits that shouldn't happen." Robinson and Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson were knocked out of their game after a frightening collision in which the Falcons' cornerback launched himself head first to make a tackle. Both sustained concussions.

Harrison and Meriweather will lose the equivalent of nearly two game checks in the fines. Harrison makes $44,411.76 in base salary per game, and Meriweather receives $32,352.94. Robinson is paid $294,117.65 per week in base salary, so the $50,000 fine is just one-sixth of a game check for him.

Texans offensive tackle Eric Winston -- who was Meriweather's teammate at the University of Miami and Robinson's from 2006 through last season in Houston -- saw dissimilarities in the tackles involving those players.

"I love Brandon to death, but that was a flagrant foul. That's what the league is talking about," Winston said. "Dunta's hit, that wasn't even with the helmet. That was just a collision."

Winston said the difference was that Meriweather launched himself at Heap.

Andre Johnson, the Texans' All-Pro wide receiver, said stiffer penalties would make players more hesitant to make hits, and Minnesota Vikings defensive end Ray Edwards didn't support suspensions.

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Antonio Dixon Getting Praise

Defensive tackle Antonio Dixon, making his first career start, also won praise for his play against the Falcons' vaunted running game.

"Dixon really stepped up and solidified some things," Reid said.

It was a second straight solid performance by Dixon in place of Brodrick Bunkley. He and Cole dropped Turner for a 4-yard loss in the third. Dixon did a good job on a 3rd-and-2 in the first. And he tackled Turner after a gain of 4 in the second. Good hustle by Dixon to chase Jason Snelling down after a 7-yard reception in the first. He played just under 47 percent of the snaps.

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Willis McGahee ready to roll

Unless he runs into some off the field problems or has an injury, running back Willis McGahee will most likely get touches in the first half of the team's 10 remaining regular season games.

McGahee didn't play Sunday against the Patriots because the Ravens thought starter Ray Rice was on the verge of breaking a long run and didn't put McGahee into the game.

But after reviewing the strategy, the Ravens plan to get McGahee touches.

It's a good move by the team, and look for the Ravens to use more of the three-back rotation with McGahee, Rice and fullback Le'Ron McClain.
A fresh McGahee would have come in handy against the Patriots, especially late in the game, when the Ravens wanted to pound the ball.

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Andre Johnson Visits Bastian Elementary School

With anticipation running high for the Houston Texans' Andre Johnson's impending visit, instructional coordinator Jearine Jordan tried to calm down the children at Mamie Sue Bastian Elementary as they cheered out the All-Pro wide receiver's named in excitement. Johnson was joined by the Houston Texan Cheerleaders and H.E.B. mascot H. E. Buddy in his third year to come to Bastian, and ESPN was on hand to cover the events. Johnson gave out several autographed prizes including an autographed football and two mini helmets; the cheerleaders wore pink in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Muscle milk gave out free drinks to the children and staff.

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Ed Reed to start practicing Wednesday

OWINGS MILLS - The Baltimore Ravens' stingy defense is about to get even stronger.

Star free safety Ed Reed is going to start practicing Wednesday after spending the first six weeks of the regular season on the physical unable to perform list following offseason hip surgery. This is the first week that he's eligible to be activated.

Although Reed is not a lock to play in Sunday's game against the Buffalo Bills, the former NFL Defensive Player of the Year has displayed good mobility in drills while working on the side at practices.

It's unclear if Reed will start or see limited action, and Harbaugh said his status is up in the air.

"We'll just see how it goes," Harbaugh said. "I think it's going to be something that we're going to have to figure out. I know he's worked really hard, and when you look at him, he looks very fit.

"But the hip is the issue. How is the hip going to hold up with the football-related stuff? We'll have to see."

The Ravens rank third in pass defense.

They have intercepted three passes in six games.

With Reed's impactful presence in the secondary, the Ravens could become more opportunistic on defense and more aggressive with blitz packages.

"It's only going to get better with Ed Reed back there," Harbaugh said. "He's going to add a dynamic that is going to be a problem for offenses. You never know where he's at in coverage. He sees things that other guys don't see."

The Ravens will have to create a roster spot for Reed as well as three-time Pro Bowl special-teams ace Brendon Ayanbadejo, who's also scheduled to practice this week after being on the PUP list following a torn quadriceps tendon suffered last year.

The Ravens can wait as long as 4 p.m. Saturday before making a roster move, either by cutting a player or placing them on injured reserve.

The Ravens could possibly place offensive tackle Jared Gaither on injured reserve.

Gaither is dealing with a thoracic disc injury suffered during the first week of training camp and has practiced only once since Aug. 5.

"I asked him how he's feeling and he said it's unchanged through the weekend," Harbaugh said. "So, that's going to be part of the equation."

Harbaugh acknowledged that Gaither is a potential candidate for injured reserve. The back just isn't improving.

"I don't know the likelihood of anybody right now," Harbaugh said. "I haven't thought about percentages. I'm looking forward to getting those guys back and not looking forward to losing anybody. That's the tough dilemma of it."

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Beason understands value of staying in school

GASTONIA, N.C. – Linebacker Jon Beason appears to have the world at his feet, but just a few years ago, Beason walked in the same shoes as many of the students he addressed Tuesday morning at Hunter Huss High School.

"I remember being in the same situation as you guys, not too long ago," the 25-year-old Beason told the student body. "My story is very similar to a lot of you guys. I come from a tough upbringing, a tough background."

Beason gave up part of his day off to encourage students at a school where just three out of every five that enter ninth grade graduate. That's well below the state average of three out of four students.

Growing up in inner-city Miami, Beason knows he could have been among the casualties. Instead, he's among the success stories and told those gathered that they can achieve similar success.

"I'm envious of you guys because you have your whole life ahead of you," Beason said. "I want to encourage you guys to find something in yourselves that is going to motivate you to strive for greater things.

"Who's to say you can't be the next professional athlete or next governor or lawyer or teacher?"

Beason received a warm ovation before addressing an auditorium full of students, and afterwards he received a key to the City of Gastonia from Mayor Jennie Stultz, the first "key to the city" he's ever received.

It wasn't that long ago that Beason was looking for the key to escaping the inner city.

"As a little kid, I was very headstrong. I wouldn't say I was bad -- but I was bad. I had the attitude that I had everything figured out," Beason said. "I was very fortunate that I had somebody in my corner. The person in my corner was my mom."

Beason's mother, Terry, raised him and his older brother, Adrian, with a dogged determination to help them avoid the fate that befell her siblings. Her older brother disappeared when she was 19, and her younger brother is in prison.

"For her," Beason said, "it was about doing what she could do to save her kids."

To accomplish that, Beason's mother removed her sons from an unhealthy school situation, driving them to a better school every day before work. The first key to staying in school, as Beason told the students gathered Tuesday, was to physically stay in school.

"I'm not going to sit here and say I was the best student, but my mom made me go every day," Beason said. "I missed one day of school from kindergarten all the way until I graduated from high school. My brother made it all the way through perfect.

"Just showing up is half the battle. If you get up and go every day, your chances of success are far greater."

Then, through the resources of teachers and a free education, Beason encouraged the students to identify their individual skill set and find something – football in his case – that drives them.

Next, with a positive attitude, continued enthusiasm and a desire to do more than is expected, Beason said he believed the students could move mountains – or, in his case, move giants.

"I'm not the biggest person. Offensive linemen in the NFL weigh about 315 pounds. I weigh 230," Beason pointed out, standing beside a similarly sized Hunter Huss student to illustrate his point. "I've got to deal with five of those guys and I've got to deal with a fullback that's 245, and then I've got to find a little running back who is hiding from me.

"I've dealt with struggles. I've dealt with setbacks. That's something that everybody in this room is guaranteed to go through. Everyone in here has had a bad day, but it's how you overcome it."

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Clinton Portis reports no setbacks

Making his weekly appearance on the Mike Wise Show with Holden Kushner on 106.7 The Fan, Washington Redskins running back Clinton Portis said that his rehabilitation from a third-degree groin pull continues to go well, and that he has suffered no setbacks.

Portis suffered the groin pull on Oct. 3 against the Philadelphia Eagles. The diagnosis at the time was that he would be out four to six weeks. Portis hasn't granted interview requests since his injury, but has maintained his commitment to his radio appearance.

Portis told Wise and Kushner today that he still is aiming to return within that time frame. The Redskins have a bye on Nov. 7, so if that projection is accurate, he would be back in action either Nov. 15 against the Eagles, or the following week against the Tennessee Titans.

If and when Portis does return, he might have to fight to get his starting job back. Second-year player Ryan Torain has done well in Portis' absence and on Sunday rushed for 100 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries.

Portis praised his replacement, however, and said that he is glad to see him doing well for more than one reason.

"When you look at Ryan, what you see is the first tackler will never, ever get him down, and in the open field ... he really punishes them," Portis said. "For the time being, for Ryan to go out there and play the way he's playing and carrying this team, it makes me have an opportunity to fully recover even better. It means there's no rush or no pressure from the staff, like 'We need you this wee,' Ryan is carrying the load, he's helping the team until I can get back on that field."

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Antrel Rolle says more regulation of helmet hits is 'absolutely ridiculous'

The NFL is ready to crack down on dangerous helmet-to-helmet hits. But Antrel Rolle thinks that's "absolutely ridiculous."

Rolle, the Giants' 27-year old safety who has already amassed more than $30,000 in fines in his six-year career, said the NFL is already doing more than enough to protect offensive players during his weekly interview Monday afternoon on WFAN. Anything more, he said, will result in "a very, very tentative" game, which he obviously doesn't want.

"This is the game of football," Rolle said. "This is a game of speed. This is a game of power. This is a game of physical guys going to battle. Once you start saying to guys 'You'll get suspended for a game,' that's when you're going to get a very, very tentative football game.

"And you know, it's fine for the offensive players but I'm on the defensive side of the ball. So are you telling me that now I have to slow down? I think we're already being cautious of what we're doing and how we're attacking the ball or how we're trying to make a tackle. I think that's absolutely ridiculous because under any circumstances you can't just absolutely have control over your body when you're pursuing a tackle."

The NFL obviously disagrees since, for the second straight day, NFL Vice President Ray Anderson spoke out on the epidemic of helmet-to-helmet hits that left several players with concussions and other injuries on Sunday. After reviewing the carnage, he promised again that suspensions and heftier fines are coming.

And, in an earlier interview on ESPN Radio, he made it clear that he's already heard the concerns Rolle expressed and he absolutely doesn't agree.

"We get the pushback all the time that, 'What's a defender to do?'" Anderson said. "Well, we, in these situations, have to say the defender has to adjust his target area. The player has to wrap up. He has to do the things more fundamentally that we used to do when we used to tackle back in the day. We would like them to do more of that."

Rolle, however, said that suspensions would be unfair because it would imply the dangerous hits were intentional when "A lot of times it's receivers or offensive guys that maybe are ducking their head or maybe they're running up high. Who's to say what? No one is at fault. Nothing's intentional.

"You suspend someone for doing wrong, or misbehavior, or things of that nature," Rolle added. "But now you're just suspending people for playing the game. And like I said, No one tries to hurt anyone, but sometimes in the game of football it's going to happen."

Rolle should know. The safety, who signed a five-year, $37 million contract with the Giants during the offseason was fined $7,500 this summer for "unnecessarily striking a defenseless receiver" when he illegally hit Ravens receiver Mark Clayton in a preseason game. Last season, when he was with the Cardinals, he got the same fine for a brutal, helmet-to-helmet shot on Giants tight end Kevin Boss. He also has a $12,500 fine for a facemask tackle in 2006 and a $5,000 fine for a horsecollar tackle in that same season on his resume.

Regardless of anyone's intent, though, Anderson made it clear that the NFL needs to be on the side of protecting players. 

"With the seriousness of the head and neck trauma and concussions generally," he said, "we've got a responsibility to just make sure that players understand and adapt."

"We will take all the criticism and all the backlash against those that say we are acting too aggressively in this regard," Anderson added. "We are not going to be apologetic. We are not going to be defensive about it. We are going to protect our players and hopefully players at the lower levels as well by example."

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Santana Moss Re-establishes Himself In Redskins' New Offense

The Redskins have overhauled their wide receiver corps in the last year.

First, Antwaan Randle El was released last offseason. Then veterans Joey Galloway and Roydell Williams were brought on board.

Change continued into the regular season. On Oct. 9, Devin Thomas -- the Redskins’ 2008 top draft pick -- was released. Then first-year receiver Anthony Armstrong emerged as a starter last Sunday vs. Indianapolis.

Even 5-9, 150-pound rookie Brandon Banks has been involved, running a deep route late in the Redskins’ 27-24 loss to the Colts.
Through it all, there has been one constant.

Santana Moss remains the Redskins’ No. 1 receiver.

And it seems Moss is re-establishing and even redefining himself in his 10th NFL season.

Moss, 31, is on pace for his best season in terms of receptions.

Through six games, he has 37 receptions for 485 yards. That translates to 98 catches for 1,290 yards in a 16-game regular season.

With his 37 catches, Moss is ranked fourth in the NFL and second in the NFC.

His previous best season was 2005, his first in Washington. That year, he posted 84 catches for 1,483 yards – a Redskins franchise record – and nine touchdowns. He earned his only Pro Bowl berth following that season.

To hear Moss tell it, hard work has always been the key to his success.

As he has gotten older, he varied his workouts to include martial arts such as kick boxing. He eats smart to fuel his body correctly.

He wants to be able to focus on his job – playing football – knowing that his body won’t break down.

Hard work has been especially important this year as the Redskins learn a new offense under head coach Mike Shanahan and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan.

“You can’t always live on the high road,” he said earlier this season. “You can’t always feel like it’s going to come together on game day. You have to put that time in to get better. And that’s how you get better as a team. As a new team together, we have to really focus on some of the little things.”

Coaches have put 5-10, 205-pound Moss more in the slot instead of solely on the outside.

In the middle of the field, Moss can run crossing patterns and downfield routes. He is finding more open space than he did running along the sideline.

And he has established a great rapport with quarterback Donovan McNabb, the 11-year veteran who arrived in Washington from Philadelphia last offseason.

It seems like Moss and McNabb have been playing together for years.

“I love him,” Moss said of McNabb. “Just knowing that we have him, it changed my whole mentality of who I can now, who I can go out there and be as far as being a receiver. You just see him out there time after time, even when he is pressured, and you feel like there is nothing that he can’t do. He just finds a way.”

Added McNabb: “We definitely have a good chemistry going.”

Moss’s new role in the offense and his rapport with McNabb has allowed him to become more versatile.

Of course, he remains a presence in the deep passing game – his only touchdown of the season has been a 21-yarder in Week 3 vs. St. Louis – be now he is more effective as a mid-range receiving option as well.

“In my years of playing receiver, I’ve had to work for everything,” Moss said. “Usually if I’m getting a touchdown, it has to be from 60 yards, or 40 yards, or I have to run a long way. As a receiver, honestly, you get tired of that.

“Let me get some easy ones. I see receivers running into the end zone five yards and getting little freebies. When you get scores like that, from Donovan finding you, it just shows you his eyes are everywhere and you know to stay alert out there because he’s going to look for you.”

For his career, which includes four seasons with the New York Jets, Moss owns 537 catches for 7,928 yards and 47 touchdowns.

Moss has 386 catches in a Redskins uniform. He is just seven catches behind Hall of Famer Bobby Mitchell for sixth place in franchise history.
You won’t hear Moss lobby for the ball from McNabb, but he does to be a sparkplug for the Redskins’ offense.

“I’m a guy who’s trying to make a difference every time I’m out there because I know one or two plays can change a game,” he said.
His accomplishments have made him a leader in the locker room and on the football field.

Even if he goes about it in a quiet, subtle way.

“I’m not the guy to go around and talk,” he said. “I talk when I need to talk. I might say something in the huddle or on the sidelines, but I’ve been a guy who leads by example. The way I work, if you watch me, then you realize how much the game means to me.”

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Clinton Portis: Crackdown on hitting could make game less exciting

Running back Clinton Portis is concerned that the NFL's crackdown on certain types of hitting could take some of the excitement out of the game, he said Tuesday during a radio interview.

In his weekly appearance on 106.7 The Fan's The Mike Wise Show with Holden Kushner, Wise and Kushner asked Portis about his views on the NFL's decision this week to suspend players, even first-time offenders, for "devastating hits" and "head shots."

The league is responding to its ongoing concussion problem, and Portis, who suffered a concussion last season, understands the need to protect defenseless receivers when they go "up to catch a ball and somebody knifes or spear at you," he said. "But as far as dude running the ball, or running with the ball, and somebody hit you helmet to helmet, I think you got an opportunity to go down. You got an opportunity to slide.

"So, you know, if you start suspending for helmet-to-helmet hits, I think you gonna see a lot more broken tackles and less big hits in the game. I think it's going to take the excitement away from the game and hurt. At the same time, with safety issues, they gotta do what they gotta do."

Redskins tight end Chris Cooley suffered a concussion in the second quarter of Sunday's 27-24 loss loss to the Indianapolis Colts at FedEx Field. He continued to play after halftime and remained in the game until the end of the third quarter.

Portis's 2009 season was cut short after he suffered a concussion in Week 9 against the Atlanta Falcons. A month after his head injury, the Redskins assigned him to the season-ending injured-reserve list because of health problems stemming from the concussion. The two-time Pro Bowler continued to experience vision problems for months after the injury, and doctors prescribed corrective lenses to help him.

"This game always been violent," Portis said. "People like to see the mano a mano side of things. Like to see people collide. That's what makes football ... the greatest is the violent side. At the end of the day, somebody gonna be proven to be No. 1. It's everybody colliding, and who gonna be standing there at No. 1 at the end. I think that's the excitement of football and it's always been that way. For it to come in and change now, I know people are bigger, stronger and faster, so the collisions are getting tougher. But at the same time, I think that's what makes the game of football football."

New top back Ryan Torain had the first 100-yard game of his career against Indianapolis, gaining 100 yards on 25 rushes (a 5.0-yard average) and scoring two touchdowns in a display of powerful running. The second-year player ran through defenders throughout the game, often spinning through the grasp of would-be tacklers to extend running plays.

"If you look at Ryan, what you see is the first tackler will never, ever, ever tackle Ryan Torain," Portis said. "And if it's in [the] open field, that cornerback or that safety, when he get on the next defender, he pretty much punish 'em. And that's a good thing. He running hard, and I think he's gonna play the game the way it's supposed to be played. You want to play tough-man football and make opposing defenders feel you."

Torain's 100-yard performance was the team's first since former Washington back Ladell Betts had 114 yards on 26 carries (a 4.4-yard average) in a 27-17 victory over the Denver Broncos in Week 10 of the 2009 season. Redskins backs have rushed for 100 or more yards only three times in the last 27 games.

Portis last rushed for 100 yards in Week 6 of last season. He gained 109 yards - including 78 on one rush - and had a 7.3-yard average during a 14-6 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs at FedEx Field.

After Portis's groin injury was diagnosed, the Redskins announced he would be sidelined four to six weeks. Portis and Torain split time in the two games before Portis was sidelined, and it seems Torain is establishing himself as someone who could be a big part of the Redskins' future.

So if Portis does return this season, it is possible he would play a secondary role to the former practice-squad player. In base salaries and bonuses, the Redskins are paying Portis $7.7 million this season. Torain has a salary of $395,000.

"For the time being, for Ryan to go out and play the way he's playing and carrying this team, it makes me have an opportunity to fully recover even better," Portis said. "There's no rush or no pressure coming form the staff like, 'We need you this week.' While Ryan's carrying the load and doing the things he's capable of doing, he's helping the team until I can get back on that field."

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John Salmons takes important step

St. Francis - The injury news in Bucks camp has centered on Andrew Bogut, who returned to the floor against Minnesota on Sunday in Sioux Falls, S.D., his first NBA game since April.

Next up is shooting guard John Salmons, who took part in practice Tuesday for the first time since camp opened in late September. Salmons did some running and participated in the non-contact portions of the practice session.

"He ran hard yesterday (Monday) and shot a couple hundred shots," Bucks coach Scott Skiles said of Salmons, who played a crucial role in the Bucks playoff drive last season. "He's getting close."

Salmons suffered a sprained right knee before camp opened, when he was playing a pickup game in his hometown of Philadelphia.

"I did some running and a little bit of shooting," Salmons said of his activity Tuesday. "Not a whole lot of cutting yet. Maybe do some of that tomorrow and just go from there.

"Just go day-by-day and see if the swelling goes down. It's feeling pretty good right now."

Skiles said he felt Salmons would be able to start in the regular-season opener in New Orleans on Oct. 27, barring any setbacks in the next week.

"We want John to be healthy and playing," Skiles said. "I would anticipate by then he'll be ready to play and be fine.

"It's just a question can he get any exhibition minutes and how much practice time he has leading up to that game."

Salmons said he hopes to be able to play in the Bucks' exhibition finale Friday night against Minnesota at the Bradley Center.

"The next one (Thursday against Cleveland in Columbus) might be far-fetched, but we'll see what happens Friday," Salmons said.
Asked about playing in New Orleans, Salmons said, "Yeah, I'm very confident."

Bogut said he was glad to have Salmons back on the practice floor.

"It's great to see him running," Bogut said. "He's an integral part of our scoring system, especially last year when we had lapses scoring the ball. He would come in and knock down shots for us."

Skiles also said forward Corey Maggette took part in nearly the entire practice. Skiles did not speculate on whether Maggette, recovering from off-season ankle surgery, would play in one of the two remaining exhibition games.

"He went through quite a bit of it and he's getting closer as well," Skiles said.

Forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (right ankle) and center Jon Brockman (left ankle) remained out of practice, Skiles said. But both players indicated they were making progress and hoped to return soon.

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Danny Valencia will not need surgery

Rookie third baseman Danny Valencia had an MRI on his right elbow, but Smith said it wasn't a surgical case. Right-hander Jon Rauch is also set to have his left knee looked at in the coming weeks.

"We've got a number of guys we're going to follow up on," Smith said. "The trainers are doing a great job of continuing to monitor the players. We've only been out about a week. So, we'll let them get home and get about a week's rest. There will be a few guys that I'm sure will pop up with a few questions and we continue to monitor that and basically get a weekly report through the offseason."

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Antrel Rolle To Talk To Current Hurricanes

Antrel Rolle spoke to Michael Irvin on his radio show on WQAM yesterday and said that he would head down to Miami today and talk to the current crop of Hurricanes and try and help motivate them to finish off the season with an ACC Championship. You can also listen to interviews with proCanes Dan Morgan, Lamar Thomas and Bernie Kosar. Click here to listen to the interviews.

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D.J. Williams Milestone

Denver linebacker D.J. Williams played in his 100th career game Sunday and was productive as ever.

He recorded a team-high 11 tackles with one sack, one tackle for loss and two passes defended.

Williams entered the game as the Broncos' leading tackler with 45 (33 solo) and was tied for the team lead with 1.5 sacks. He is the only player in the NFL to accumulate 650-plus tackles, double-digit sacks and 35-plus tackles for a loss since 2004.

Click here to order DJ Williams’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Ravens to welcome E.Reed back to the fold

Prior to the Ravens’ 23-20 overtime loss to the New England Patriots Sunday, the NFL Network reported that six-time Pro Bowl free safety Ed Reed had been cleared to return to practice.

Reed, who is expected to be removed from the team’s physically-unable-to-perform list this week after undergoing hip surgery in the offseason, could bolster a pass defense that has allowed a combined 606 yards and three touchdowns to the Denver Broncos’ Kyle Orton and the Patriots’ Tom Brady.

Outside linebacker Terrell Suggs said the team would welcome Reed.

“We feel good about getting Ed Reed back,” Suggs said. “He’s one of the best players in the game, but we’re definitely not happy about being 4-2 because we could have easily been 5-1. So I guess we’ve just got to go back to the drawing board next week, work, and get ready for Buffalo.”

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Phillip Buchanon's best game yet

Nickel cornerback Phillip Buchanon got off to a rough start in his first season with the Redskins.

In the Week 2 loss to Houston, Buchanon blew his assignment late in the fourth quarter on a play that resulted in a 34-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Matt Schaub to wide receiver Andre Johnson. The Texans tied the score on the successful point-after attempt and won in overtime, 30-27.

The nine-year veteran also was demoted from the first-string punt return job after he had three fair catches and a 0.5-yard average on two returns. Rookie wide receiver Brandon Banks has thrived in the role since.

Focused exclusively on defense now, Buchanon had his best performance with the Redskins in Sunday night's 27-24 loss to the Indianapolis Colts at FedEx Field. Buchanon played well in coverage and was credited with five tackles, including four unassisted.

Of his three passes defensed in the game, two occurred in the final 3 minutes, as the Colts attempted to run out the clock. In press-man coverage against Pro Bowl wideout Reggie Wayne, Buchanon twice broke up passes.

Only 14 seconds elapsed on the clock from the time the Colts received the ball until they punted. The Redskins could not pull closer than three points, but Buchanon did his job.

"What was going on in my mind was, coach [Jim Haslett] says we was going to call man to man," said Buchanon, who defended three passes in his first five games. "I just said, 'I'm gonna line up and press 'em. I just got to do what I got to do.' That was my decision. I just said, 'Whatever happens, I'm just going to play hard.' "

Colts quarterback Peyton Manning made things especially difficult for the Redskins' defense. Of course, that's what Manning usually does.

"Peyton, he was hurrying up and he was snapping the ball real quick and we were kind of off balance," Buchanon said. "He kind of got us to think too much and overanalyzing. I know I overanalyzed on two plays. He kind of had us on our heels."

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Frank Gore performing despite 49ers’ offensive issues

Behind QB Alex Smith, the 49ers' offense has been far from pretty this season. But that hasn't stopped RB Frank Gore from putting up numbers reminiscent of his breakout 2006 campaign.

Gore ran for a season-high 149 yards on 25 carries Sunday vs. the Raiders, but the real reason he has been one of the league's most productive backs is because of his contributions in the passing game. Although he didn't catch any passes this week, he had hauled in at least four in each of the previous five games, giving him 33 receptions for 284 yards and two TDs.

Those are unbelievable numbers for a running back, and they're exactly why he has 755 yards from scrimmage, second most in the league behind Arian Foster. And to this point, nobody has touched the ball more than Gore, who has done so 149 times. If he continues to run and receive at this rate, he'll eclipse 2,000 total yards for the season.

The one place the Niners' poor offense has hurt Gore is in the scoring department, as he has just three TDs despite his significant number of touches. However, if he keeps churning out these ridiculous yardage numbers, his owners will be more than satisfied. After all, in his 2,180-yard '06 season, he had a relatively modest nine scores.

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Harbaugh on McGahee: "Absolutely no way he's being traded"

With the NFL trading deadline approaching tomorrow, some took Willis McGahee's absence from yesterday's game against the Patriots to mean that the Ravens were considering trading the veteran running back and they didn't want to get him injured.

Head coach John Harbaugh said today that isn't the case at all, and made it clear that the Ravens are not thinking about trading McGahee.

"There is no Willis trade talk, unless there is something I don't know about, which I think is almost impossible," Harbaugh said. "There is absolutely no way he's being traded. He will be on our team this week and the rest of this season, and he'll be a huge part of what we're doing."

McGahee was one of only two Ravens who were active on Sunday that didn't see the field at any point throughout the 73-plus minutes of game action. Backup quarterback Marc Bulger was the other.

Harbaugh said that McGahee's lack of playing time wasn't related to any off-field incidents or behind-the-scenes issues ("Willis has been great. Willis is 100 percent on top of everything. Been working really hard. He's been tremendous."), but it was strictly a reflection of the Ravens feeling that Ray Rice gave them the best look throughout the game.

"I think to define it in an X and O sense, it's just week-to-week," Harbaugh said. "It's how you feel about how the game is going. I think the biggest thing is we felt good about Ray. It wasn't a defined plan that Willis wasn't going to see the field, by any stretch. I think we all felt that Willis was going to play.

"I think as we started calling the plays and Wilbert [Montgomery, running backs coach] and Cam [Cameron, offensive coordinator] were rotating the backfield, they just felt like Ray was going good. The plays we were calling were good for Ray. The team we were playing, the surface we were on was good for Ray, and we just decided to stick with Ray. But, you'll see plenty of Willis as we go forward."

Rice, who torched the Patriots for 159 yards and two touchdowns in the playoffs last season, had 88 yards rushing on 28 carries yesterday, and added 38 receiving yards on eight catches. Fullback Le'Ron McClain also got three carries for seven yards and had one reception for four yards.
Harbaugh said that on a team that now features so many offensive playmakers, there is bound to be someone each week that doesn't get a lot of playing time or touches. This week, Harbaugh said, it just happened to be McGahee.

"The thing about our offense - we've got a lot of really good players," Harbaugh said. "It's a good thing, but it's also a thing [where] I think every week we're probably going to be answering these questions. Why didn't this guy get carries? Why didn't this guy get throws? That's probably going to be a weekly thing you guys are going to ask, which is going to be fair, but it's going to be tough to have everybody involved completely every single week."

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Frank Gore finally breaks through, with game-turning run

Coming into Sunday's game, 49ers running back Frank Gore was second in the NFL in touches and second in yards from scrimmage this season, and yet the 49ers ranked 30th in NFL rushing, leading to the question, "What gives?"

The Raiders gave, all in one backbreaking play.

Gore ran right, cut between two blockers and tore off a 64-yard run to vault him over the 100-yard mark and help lift the 49ers to a 17-9 victory over Oakland on Sunday at Candlestick Park.

"I'm just excited that we finally got one," Gore said.

Gore was a big-gain monster last year, with three rushes of 64-plus yards. This season, he had no gains of more than 20.

Then, with a 10-9 lead and 8:21 to play, Gore squeezed between fullback Moran Norris and pulling center David Baas and didn't stop until the Raiders' 16-yard line. One play later, after a penalty, the 49ers had a 17-9 lead.

"I think we were fine until the run," said Raiders cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, who was blocked downfield by 49ers receiver Michael Crabtree. "After that run, you saw momentum completely shift."

Gore finished with 25 carries for 149 yards, both season highs. He pushed his franchise record to 22 100-yard games. He passed Ken Willard into third place in franchise history with 6,032 career rushing yards.

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Vince Wilfork: Brandon Meriweather illegal hit sparked Patriots

Patriots defensive lineman Vince Wilfork made his weekly appearance on the Dale & Holley show as part of WEEI’s Patriots Monday. To hear the interview, check the Dale & Holley audio on demand page.

Wilfork said Sunday’s win over the Ravens was as physical at it looked.

“It was a very physical game,” he said. “I think that’s probably one of the most physical games I’ve ever been in. We knew what Baltimore was going to come in and do. We knew our game plan. We knew they weren’t going to back down, and we weren’t going to back down. It was from whistle to whistle.”

Added Wilfork: “They wanted to be physical. They wanted to run the ball. And you know what? We answered the call. We knew that they wanted to do that. And don’t forget, we’re built the same way. We’ve been around here for a long time, too. We’re built to stop the run. We’re big and we’re physical. That’s one thing we said: We have to play up to our potential. And I think yesterday we did.”

Patriots defensive back Brandon Meriweather was hit with a 15-yard penalty and faces a fine from the league for his helmet-to-helmet hit on Ravens tight end Todd Heap after an incomplete pass in the second quarter. “Brandon wasn’t happy with himself,” Wilfork said. “That’s something that he’s going to have to deal with. … From a guy that’s been fined [for rough play], the last thing I want to do to him is go harp on it. Because he’ll hear it from every point — from the media, from friends, from family, from the Patriots. He’ll hear it from everywhere. The last thing I want to do is be that voice also. I’m the voice for him, ‘Hey, look, that’s bygone. What going to happen is going to happen. But don’t allow it to happen anymore.”

However, Wilfork said Meriweather’s hit may have served to inspire the Patriots. “I just think at that time, it was like, ‘Wow, somebody’s out here trying to be play some football and trying to be physical.’ Yes, it’s a penalty. But at the same time, something happened in that play. After that, I think after that everybody was, like, in tuned. We were in tuned. That was one thing I saw happened after that play.

“Like I said, I didn’t wish anything on anyone on anything like that there. The last thing I want to see is guys get hurt — and the penalty, a 15-yarder for Meriweather. But it was like after that play, it was like, ‘OK, let’s play some football.’ We started rolling from that. … Whatever it was, it worked. I hope it wasn’t the 15-yard penalty that got us riled up or got us going. But whatever it did, we were ready to play.”

Wilfork said the Patriots did what they had to to make sure the Randy Moss situation would not be a distraction to the team in the days leading up to the Ravens game. “That’s one thing we didn’t want to happen,” he said. “Guys understood that. … Whatever’s being said outside of here, let it stay outside of here. When we come to work, let’s work.”

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Patriots get warnings from Ray Lewis

Not sure if it’s bravado or confidence, but Ravens linebackers Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs said the New England Patriots might want to avoid a re-match in the postseason.

The Patriots’ 23-20 overtime win Sunday gives them a perfect 6-0 record against the Ravens in the regular season. But the Ravens routed New England, 33-14, in the teams’ first playoff meeting on Jan. 10.

“If we see them in the playoffs, we will be ready again,” Lewis said after Sunday’s loss. “I don’t think they did anything different other than throw the passes they always throw.”

Suggs was even blunter in his assessment, saying, “Like I said, he just better hope that he doesn’t see us again.”

Lewis also had a sentiment to share about the winless Buffalo Bills, who visit M&T Bank Stadium next Sunday.

“We are going home and then we are going to the bye week,” he said. “It’s going to be rough on Buffalo.”

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Pat Burrell likes playing the field

The designated hitter role didn't fit Pat Burrell in the one-plus season he was with the Tampa Bay Rays, and the Phillies' former leftfielder suggested it was simply difficult for him to stay in the game between at-bats.

"For me, it has something to do with being in the flow of the game, playing in the field, being active in the game," Burrell said late Saturday, after his run-scoring double off the glove of Raul Ibanez helped the Giants to a 4-3 win in Game 1 of the NL Championship Series. "I'm not saying that's right or wrong. I just think for me that was an important part of it."

Early in the season, the Rays released Burrell and the Giants signed him to a minor-league contract in May. It was one of several in-season moves that worked well for the Giants. Burrell hit 18 homers and had 51 RBIs for them in 96 games.

Shane Victorino recalled how Burrell resisted being the DH during the 2008 World Series.

"Pat hates to DH," Victorino said Sunday. "I know that for a fact. I remember the World Series when we played Tampa, and Charlie [Manuel] thought about DH-ing him. He said, 'No, Charlie, I'm going to play defense.' "

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proCanes Stats From Week 6 of the 2010 NFL U Season

Andre Johnson (Texans): 8 catches, 138 yards, 1 TD

Darryl Sharpton (Texans): DID NOT PLAY DUE TO INJURY

Vince Wilfork (Patriots): 6 tackles, 5 tackles for loss and 2 tackles for loss

Brandon Meriweather (Patriots): 3 tackles, 2 solo tackles

Jeremy Shockey (Saints): 2 catches 21 yards

Jonathan Vilma (Saints): 1 tackle

Santana Moss (Redskins): 8 catches, 77 yards

Clinton Portis (Redskins): DID NOT PLAY DUE TO INJURY

Rocky McIntosh (Redskins): DID NOT PLAY DUE TO INJURY

Calais Campbell (Cardinals): BYE WEEK

Antrel Rolle (Giants): 6 tackles, 5 solo tackles, 1 pass deflection and 1 interception returned for 36 yards.

Kelly Jennings (Seahawks): Played but did not record any stats and was injured in the 2nd quarter.

Frank Gore (49ers): 25 carries 149 yards

Kellen Winslow (Buccanneers): 7 catches for 43 yards

Roscoe Parrish (Bills): BYE WEEK

Greg Olsen (Bears): Played but did not record any stats.

Devin Hester (Bears): 2 catches, 26 yards, 1 rush for 10 yards. 2 punt returns for 93 yards including an 89-yard return for a TD.

Willis McGahee (Ravens): Did not play due to coaches’ decision.

Ray Lewis (Ravens): 9 tackles, 7 solo tackles, 1 tackle for loss



DJ Williams (Broncos): 11 tackles, 8 solo tackles, 1 sack, 1 tackle for loss and 2 pass deflections to lead the Broncos defense.

Sinorice Moss (Giants): DID NOT PLAY on IR Will miss the entire 2010 Season

Bruce Johnson (Giants): DID NOT PLAY, INACTIVE

Kenny Phillips (Giants): 7 solo tackles, 1 tackle for loss and 2 pass deflections

Reggie Wayne (Colts): 6 catches 71 yards

Jon Beason (Panthers): BYE WEEK

Phillip Buchanon (Redskins): 5 tackles 4 solo tackles, 3 pass deflections.

Antonio Dixon (Eagles): 3 tackles, 2 solo tackles

Sam Shields (Packers): 3 tackles, 2 solo tackles

Jimmy Graham (Saints): 1 catch for 11 yards

Leon Williams (Cowboys): DID NOT PLAY, INACTIVE

Spencer Adkins (Falcons): Played but did not record any stats.

Javarris James (Colts): 1 solo tackle


Eric Winston (Texans): Offensive Lineman, did not record any stats.

Rashad Butler (Texans): Offensive Lineman, did not record any stats.

Bryant McKinnie (Vikings): Offensive Lineman, did not record any stats.

Chris Myers (Texans): Offensive Lineman, did not record any stats.

Vernon Carey (Dolphins): Offensive Lineman, did not record any stats.

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proCanes Extend TD Streak to 128 Regular Season Weeks

Did you know that a former Miami Hurricane/current proCane has scored at least one touchdown in 128 consecutive regular season NFL weeks? Dating back to Week 15 of the 2002 season where Clinton Portis scored 4 TDs, at least one proCane has scored a TD in each regular season week since then. We have chronicled every touchdown since 2002. See below:

Week 6 2010:
Devin Hester - 1 TD - Chicago Bears
Andre Johnson - 1 TD - Houston Texans

Week 5 2010:
Willis McGahee - 1 TD - Baltimore Ravens
Jeremy Shockey - 1 TD - New Orleans Saints
Frank Gore - 1 TD - San Francisco 49ers

Week 4 2010:
Willis McGahee - 1 TD - Baltimore Ravens

Week 3 2010:
Jeremy Shockey - 1 TD - New Orleans Saints
Santana Moss - 1 TD - Washington Redskins
Greg Olsen - 1 TD - Chicago Bears
Devin Hester - 1 TD - Chicago Bears

Week 2 2010:
Greg Olsen - 1 TD - Chicago Bears
Devin Hester - 1 TD - Chicago Bears
Clinton Portis - 2 TDs - Washingon Redskins
Andre Johnson - 1 TD - Houston Texans
Reggie Wayne - 1 TD - Indianapolis Colts
Frank Gore - 1 TD - San Francisco 49ers

Week 1 2010:
Reggie Wayne - 1 TD - Indianapolis Colts
Roscoe Parrish - 1 TD - Buffalo Bills
Willis McGahee - 1 TD - Baltimore Ravens

Click below to see the rest of the list:

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Devin Hester ties NFL record for career TD returns

More rare than a Devin Hester return for a touchdown is a score by him on special teams in a loss.

Hester was forced to celebrate his place in the NFL record book after the 23-20 loss to the Seahawks on Sunday at Soldier Field. His 89-yard punt return in the fourth quarter tied him with Brian Mitchell at 13 for the most combined kickoff and punt return touchdowns in league history. The Bears are now 8-3 in games in which Hester takes a return to the end zone.

The score, sprung by a huge block by Earl Bennett on punter Jon Ryan, gave the Bears a chance with an onside kick with 1:54 remaining, but it failed.

Hester had a huge lane up the middle of the field, but the return called for him to swing wide left and he did that. His teammates provided a wonderful wall and he's now scored twice in the last four games.

"I'm not satisfied with tying (Mitchell's record)," Hester said. "I want to break it. I don't want to have two names up there. That might be a selfish goal but at the end of the day I want to make sure these 10 (blockers) have their names on the list with me."

Hester certainly looks to be in better rhythm with the 10 men in front of him on returns this season. He reached the record in 262 career returns. Mitchell retired with 1,070. The Bears are using Hester less offensively as roles for Bennett and Devin Aromashodu are expanded. He was on the field for 34 of the 59 offensive snaps a week after getting just 19 of 64 in a run-heavy attack at Carolina.

"When you have guys like D.A. sitting on the sideline, that hurt us," Hester said, "He's a great athlete and I love to see him out there. When he's on the field he makes plays. So I don't mind the way things are going now and it's going to keep me fresh as well."

Ryan complained of sore ribs afterward but said initial X-rays were negative. He had done a masterful job of keeping the ball away from Hester. But it just takes one.

"He's very dangerous," Ryan said. "You want to keep the ball away from him. I executed that last kick the way I wanted it but it just didn't work out for us."

Ryan said he saw Hester get tackled by two punters on film and wanted his chance. But he never saw Bennett coming.

"I wasn't trying to kill a guy," Bennett said. "I hope he is all right. I congratulated Devin on it and wish him many more. I know he is going to get a lot more."

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Ravens didn't intend for Willis McGahee to sit

Coach John Harbaugh insisted in his post-game press conference that going into the game the Ravens did not intend to have Willis McGahee ride the bench for all of Sunday's loss to New England.

McGahee was active, but didn't set foot on the field. "It wasn't part of the plan or anything like that," Harbaugh said. "I am not sure as far as a rotation. This is a kind of game that Ray (Rice) can excel in, with the type of plays we were running and the surface of the field. Ray was doing OK, too." It appears McGahee either had a poor week of practice, or the Ravens wanted to keep him healthy with the trade deadline coming on Tuesday.

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

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Ed Reed cleared to practice

Ravens FS Ed Reed (hip) tells NFL Network's Albert Breer that he's been "cleared to move around and start practicing."

Reed took part in the team's pre-game warmups in Week 6, and is on track to return in Week 7 when he's eligible to come off the PUP list. The Ravens take on the Bills' 30th-ranked passing offense in Week 7 and have a Week 8 bye, so Reed might not play until Week 9.

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Franks Gore slices up Raiders defense for 149 yards

Frank Gore gashed the Raiders defense to the tune of 149 yards on 25 carries to lead the 49ers past the Raiders, 17-9, in Week 6.

He was surprisingly shut out of the passing game, with Alex Smith overthrowing him continually on five targets. Gore was caught from behind doing the Tecmo Super Bowl "bob-and-weave" on a 64-yard run in the fourth quarter. He then salted the game away down the stretch, breaking tackles to move the chains. On pace for 1,500 rushing yards and 900 receiving yards, Gore is an elite RB1 at Carolina next week.

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

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Edgerrin James would rather Tailgate than play for a Loser

Edgerrin James took a steady slide off the NFL radar over the last several years but he's here to tell you it's by his own doing. Edge tells Michael Irvin on WQAM radio in Miami that he could be on an NFL roster right now, but he's been holding out for a Super Bowl contender:

"I'm chilling, man. I don't know what I'm doing.

I work out. I'm in shape. I do all that stuff. I've gotten calls but not the right calls.

After you win and after you've been the best, you don't want to just go anywhere. I'm not looking just to be on some roster. It's not a financial thing for me. It has to be the right situation and you want to win.

The last time I got out there, I barely got out there to play and we wasn't winning and it had nothing to do with me. It was like just a bad situation and I was like, 'Man, never again,' because you don't want the feeling of going through that.

I'd rather go stand on the sideline at University of Miami games and tailgate and do all that stuff versus being in a locker room and have to go through the losing. It's not worth it. I don't like to lose.

I ain't going to run like I did when I was 21, 22, 23. I can tell you that right now. That's not going to happen but I still can knock somebody's head off as a blocker. They're paying these quarterbacks $20 million, I know they need somebody to protect them every now and then."

Click here to order Edgerrin James’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Antrel becomes big 'producer' on Giants defense

Antrel Rolle's hybrid position in the Giants defense is still too new to have an intimidating nickname just yet.

But it might only be a matter of time.

If the veteran defensive back plays like he did the past two weeks, then it won't be long before Rolle's refashioned spot earns one of those ominous monikers usually reserved for pass rushers like Jason Taylor, Charles Haley and the late Derrick Thomas.

While Thomas terrified quarterbacks as "The Falcon" in Kansas City, Haley was "The Elephant" for San Francisco and Taylor simply "Jack" -- as in jack of all trades -- with Miami.

For now, Rolle is content to be known merely as "producer" in New York.

"The nicknames will take care of themselves," Rolle said yesterday as the surging Giants prepared to take on the hapless Lions this weekend at New Meadowlands Stadium.

Rolle, a former Pro Bowl safety and cornerback for the Cardinals until Big Blue lured him away in free agency, technically was listed as a free safety the past two games.

But with new defensive coordinator Perry Fewell reacting to linebacker injuries and an abundance of talent in the secondary by using three safeties, Rolle was all over the field in successive wins over the Bears and Texans.

Last week's rout of Houston, in particular, showed what the 6-foot, 208-pound Rolle can do when he drops down to defend the run. He finished with a team-high six tackles, including five solo, as the Giants limited the Texans' top-rated rushing attack to just 24 yards in 15 carries.

As a result of that strategy shift the week of the Bears game, Big Blue go into Sunday's contest with Detroit boasting the NFL's top-rated defense, including ninth against the run.

"It's a combination of what Antrel did as a corner and a little bit as a safety, but it's also a new frontier for him," Fewell said yesterday. "We're exploiting his talent. We're taking advantage of all the little things he can do from a [cornerback] standpoint, as well as a from physical safety standpoint."

Though Rolle wasn't con sidered a big hitter in his five seasons with the Cardi nals, the added physicality of the new role didn't scare him off when Fewell first unveiled it against Chicago.

It did amuse Rolle, though.

"I didn't know I was such a big guy to stop all these running backs and offensive linemen pull ing," he said with a laugh. "I've never had to worry about being physi cal, though, and it's good thing be cause I'm giving the coaches flexibility to do what they want to do."

Poor safety play was considered one of the biggest reasons for the Giants' 2009 meltdown, which is why they loaded up on veterans at that position in Rolle and Deon Grant while hoping Kenny Phillips could make it back from left microfracture surgery.

Rolle's ability to play what amounts to a linebacker position -- and play it well -- is letting Fewell maximize the Giants' talent without having to worry about it fitting a scheme.

"We haven't given [Rolle's position] a name yet," Fewell said. "We're just trying to use him in a creative way, and he's responded."

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

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Andre Johnson explodes for 8 grabs, 138 yds

Andre Johnson caught eight passes for 138 yards and a touchdown in the Texans' Week 6 win over the Chiefs.

He's, um, over his ankle injury. Johnson was an absolute terror down the sidelines and over the middle, torching Chiefs RCB Brandon Carr on a regular basis. Look for another explosive effort against Indianapolis in Week 7.

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

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Jonathan Vilma hosting celebrity server event for charity

New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma is teaming with Morton's and A Confidential Transportation to host a celebrity server event with fellow Saints players at Morton's Steakhouse on Nov. 1 at 6 p.m.

The money raised will go to The Jonathan Vilma Foundation to build a charter school in Haiti.

Vilma, whose parents were born in Haiti and who still has family in the country that was devastated by an earthquake in January, has been involved in relief efforts ever since.

Tickets are $300 per guest or $400 for VIP access to a reception before the event hosted by Rouses Supermarket. For more information and to make a reservation, contact Kim Trouard at 504.566.0221 or kim_trouard@mortons.com, or log on to mortons.com/saintsvip.

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

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Kenny Holmes wants to give back to his community

VERO BEACH — This is not a political endorsement.

Likewise, this is not NOT a political endorsement.

This column is politically neutral, in no way intended to sway the good people of Indian River County toward or against any particular candidate in the Nov. 2 elections.

It’s your county commission. It’s your vote. Cast your ballot for whomever you believe will do the best job for your community.

What I would like to do, however, is recognize — maybe even celebrate — something we don’t see enough of in America today.

I’d like to applaud a successful, former professional athlete who cares so much about his small, hometown community that, his playing days behind him, he now feels called to public service at a very local level.

I’d like to call attention to Kenny Holmes, the Gifford native who starred in football at Vero Beach High School, became a first-round draft pick at the University of Miami and spent seven years as a starting defensive end in the NFL, first with the Tennessee Oilers/Titans, then with the New York Giants.

“I was born here, I grew up here and I love it here,” Holmes was saying the other day, sparing a few minutes between campaign stops and his duties as Vero Beach High’s defensive coordinator. “This is my home. I care about what happens here. I care about the people. That’s why I’ve been as involved as I have. That’s why I’ve always tried to give something back, whether it was through charity work or donating my time or just being a good citizen and good neighbor.

“I want to make a difference, same as when I played football,” he added. “I want to do as much good as I can. And early this year, I decided I needed to do more. So why not start at the top?”

The county commission? In Indian River County? The top?

Well, yeah ... for Holmes, anyway.

“I have no ulterior motives,” Holmes said. “I don’t see this as any kind of stepping stone or launching pad for a career in politics. I’m not looking to use this to get into any other office. This county is very dear to my heart, and I plan to stay here and eventually retire here.”

That’s what makes his story so different.

True, there are plenty of other former professional athletes who’ve taken their sports fame to the political arena, a distinguished list that includes: basketball’s Bill Bradley (U.S. senator, New Jersey), Dave Bing (mayor, Detroit) and Kevin Johnson (mayor, Sacramento); football’s Jack Kemp (U.S. representative, New York), Steve Largent (U.S. representative, Oklahoma) and Heath Shuler (U.S. representative, North Carolina); baseball’s Jim Bunning (U.S. senator, Kentucky); and bodybuilding’s Arnold Schwarzenegger (governor, California).

Most big-name athletes who venture into the political realm, however, not only aim higher — they start higher.

Often, they’re recruited by influential leaders of political parties. Holmes wasn’t. This was his idea.

“Coming back home after my NFL career, hearing all my family and friends talk about the job situation and the unemployment rate in this county, I felt I needed do this,” said Holmes, who retired from the NFL after the 2003 season and will turn 37 later this month. “Career politicians tell you what you want to hear and, as a result, there are a lot of people out there who feel they don’t have a voice in government.

“I’m not a politician, but I want to be that voice.”

An independent voice.

Beholden to no political party.

“Timing is everything, and the independent movement in this country is starting to roll,” said Holmes, who is running against incumbent Republican Peter O’Bryan and Democrat Steven Deardeuff for the commission’s District 4 seat. “I’m excited about what’s happening.”

And a lot of people here are excited for him. They know him. They like him. They appreciate what he has done.

Even his football buddies from UM and the NFL, he said, have shown support for what he’s trying to do here.

“All I’ve gotten from anyone,” Holmes said, “is encouragement.”

Let’s offer some admiration, too.

Whether you vote for him or not.

Click here to order Kenny Holmes’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Santana Moss may testify in doctor's trial

Dr. Anthony Galea was indicted on smuggling charges by a federal grand jury in Buffalo on Thursday, meaning that Washington Redskins wide receiver Santana Moss might eventually have to testify in his case.

Moss told teammates last spring that he was treated by Galea three times, but he never knowingly was administered HGH.

"There are no athletes charged with criminal activity," U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul Jr. told the Buffalo News. "They are viewed as witnesses, rather than as defendants, in this case. Any one of these athletes treated by Dr. Galea could be called as trial witnesses."

If Moss has to testify, the details of his relationship with Galea might be publicized. And if it is proven that Moss put into his body a substance banned by the NFL, he could face a four-game suspension.

Regarding his availability to the Redskins in the short-term, though, it's fairly safe to assume that the NFL wouldn't take any action against players until the legal process with Galea has played out, and that could be a while. No date has been set for his trial.

The Redskins, meanwhile, are totally confident Moss' availability will not be affected by this matter.

Click here to order Santana Moss’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Extra incentive for Joe McGrath

For as close as the Edmonton Eskimos and B.C. Lions have been in the standings all season, they are leagues apart for Joe McGrath.

Seven weeks ago, the veteran offensive lineman was picked up by the Lions after being thrown under the proverbial bus by the floundering Eskimos.

Although both clubs got off to equally dismal 1-7 starts, McGrath took advantage of his fresh start in Vancouver.

“It was one of the better things to happen in my career. I’ve got great teammates out here with (former Eskimos defensive back J.R.) LaRose and some other guys I’m familiar with,” McGrath said.

“When I made my move over here, we both pretty much had identical records.”

Besides a two-week stint in training camp with the Saskatchewan Roughriders in 2009, McGrath spent the entire previous six years of his career in Edmonton.

And with the playoff implications Saturday’s potential tie-breaking game has, he couldn’t ask for a bigger stage to face his former club.

“There’s just one more team in our way to pretty much seal the deal with the playoffs,” McGrath said. “If we get by Edmonton, we’re pretty much in the playoffs, I’d say.

“That’s the CFL, it makes it exciting. It’s always a race down to the end and there’s nothing better than a good ol’ West rivalry between the B.C. Lions and Edmonton Eskimos.”

Good being the operative word, because the Lions feel McGrath’s presence has made them better.

“We’ve stabilized our offensive line a little bit,” said Lions head coach Wally Buono, who also picked up Calgary Stampeders cast-off Jesse Newman.

“It’s a blessing to be out here and play for a guy like Wally,” said McGrath, who expects to have a little more in the tank Saturday.

“It’s not even just with Edmonton, it’s just to get pumped up because these are playoff games.

“They haven’t started yet, but these are ones where you’re jockeying for playoff position here. It’s a little extra incentive that it’s against my former team.”

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John Salmons still missing practice

John Salmons (knee) still doesn't have a timetable for his return to practice, although earlier in the week coach Scott Skiles said he was making good progress.

The fact that he's spent so much time out of action is a bit ominous for an injury that Skiles has been shrugging off for almost three weeks now. The Bucks are probably just playing it safe, but it may be worth adding a red flag for him in terms of injury-risk.

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Pat Burrell's style no mystery to his former skip

PHILADELPHIA -- Pat Burrell's resurgence as a hitter following his brief, barren tenure with Tampa Bay has surprised some observers. But Philadelphia manager Charlie Manuel believes that the reasons behind Burrell's fluctuating performance aren't difficult to discern.

"When he played here, [he was] a hot-and-cold hitter," Manuel said. "A lot of players are that way. And when he's not hitting, you have to find some room to sit him, and also don't forget about him and always go back to him."

Burrell hit .218 with 16 home runs, 77 RBIs and a shockingly low .672 OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) in 146 games beginning in 2009 before the Rays released him this year in mid-May. But he hit .266 with 18 homers, 51 RBIs and an .872 OPS in 96 games for the Giants. Burrell has acknowledged that he couldn't adjust to serving as Tampa Bay's designated hitter. That made plenty of sense to Manuel.

"If he had ever gotten comfortable and had some success in the DH role and he knew how to spend that downtime, I felt like he definitely would have liked it," Manuel said.

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Pat Burrell has hand in triumphant return to Philly

PHILADELPHIA -- Pat Burrell had already been back once before. But this was different. This was October.

Once a fixture in Philadelphia's outfield, Burrell returned to the city he once called home, this time clad in orange and black. The 34-year-old has played 373 games at Citizens Bank Park, though Saturday marked just the fourth in which Burrell has taken the field from the visitor's dugout.

His career appearing revitalized and his future looking much brighter than it did five months ago, Burrell was greeted mostly with cheers by the Philadelphia faithful during pregame introductions. Many of those cheers turned to jeers after the first pitch was thrown, though that hardly sapped the emotions Burrell experienced with this return.

"I spent a lot of time here and have some really great memories, was a part of something real special," said Burrell, who was a part of Philadelphia's 2008 world championship club. "It's hard not to think about that when you get out in the field."

Of course, Saturday night wasn't all about the sappy homecoming story. There was a game to be played, one with much higher stakes than the August series that brought Burrell to Philadelphia for the first time since he left as a free agent after the '08 season.

And as it turned out, Burrell played a critical role in the Giants' 4-3, Game 1 win.

"I'm not saying it's easy to not think about some of the things that have happened to you while you're here, but I'm on a new team and the same goal, you know, to win," Burrell said. "Once the anthem's over, it's time to go out there and compete."

Burrell's sixth-inning double padded San Francisco's one-run lead and furthered a two-out rally that led to the Giants holding a 4-1 advantage by the end of the frame.

The hit was Burrell's third this postseason, as he has now driven in four. It didn't come without a hint of controversy, however, as Roy Halladay seemed plenty certain that his previous pitch -- an 0-2 fastball -- caught enough of the plate that the inning should have been over without Burrell ever taking a cut.

"Yeah, I did," Halladay said when asked if he thought the 0-2 pitch was a strike. "But that's part of it. There were obviously calls that they wanted, too. It's part of the game. If you don't get a pitch, you have to make a pitch on the next one."

Burrell's take?

"Well, it was a ball," he said. "I don't know. I haven't checked."

As for Burrell, his contributions to a Giants club trying to advance to the World Series for the first time since 2002 simply make the story of his season that much more compelling. Released by the Rays less than two months into the season because of his ineffectiveness, Burrell now finds himself three San Francisco wins away from a second World Series appearance in three years.

"You know, obviously starting on a different team and having it turn out the way it did is not what you hoped for," Burrell said. "[The] Giants gave me an opportunity to come out here and play, and I just tried to make the most of it."

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