McGahee on the upswing

OWINGS MILLS -- The fluid drained from Baltimore Ravens running back Willis McGahee's left knee filled up a large syringe last week, a painful procedure prior to a 27-13 victory over the Miami Dolphins.

McGahee still wound up producing his top performance of the season, rushing for 105 yards and scoring his second touchdown of the year.

Although he clearly wasn't 100 percent, McGahee generated his first 100-yard game since a Dec. 16, 2007 overtime loss to the Dolphins. He was upgraded to full participation in practice Thursday on the official injury report.

"I've been dealing with the knee all year, and, hopefully, it acts right this week," said McGahee, who had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee in August. "It's just football, it happens. I'm all right to play."

Unlike previous outings where he has been limited by eye, rib and knee injuries, McGahee finished the game and piled up a season-high 152 yards of total offense. He also lost a fumble after a 35-yard screen, but redeemed himself with a five-yard touchdown to close the game out.

"The first four games were really my preseason," said McGahee, who was inactive during the preseason and didn't play in the season-opener due to the knee. "I was a little rusty, but, hopefully, it can be this way week in and week out now."

McGahee has averaged 94.4 rushing yards in four games at Dolphin Stadium, excelling in familiar territory in the NFL after starring at the University of Miami.

"It's always a good feeling when you play in your hometown," McGahee said. "I've been playing every year since I've been in the league. It tends to get a little old, but you still have a little fire in you."

For the season, McGahee has gained a team-high 293 yards on 77 carries for a 3.8 average with 11 receptions for 105 yards.

Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron had envisioned making McGahee the centerpiece of the offense during the offseason. Now, he's hoping to increase McGahee's role if his health allows.

"I have a ton of respect for what Willis did last week, taking 30 cc out of a knee and then coming out with that type of performance," Cameron said. "That's something he's going to manage throughout the year.

"He's getting healthier, and we need to keep him healthy. I think we all know what type of player he is and can be. That's critical for our offense, especially through the grind of the season."

Bubba Injured

Bubba Franks, for the second straight day, wasn’t anywhere near the practice field. Franks is listed as having a hip injury and with him missing Wednesday and Thursday’s practice sessions, it’s not a stretch to speculate he probably won’t play Sunday.


Suns waive Robert Hite

PHOENIX — The Phoenix Suns picked up their option on swingman Alando Tucker for the 2009-2010 season and waived guard Robert Hite on Thursday.

Tucker, the Suns' first-round draft pick in 2007, split time as a rookie between the Suns and Albuquerque of the NBA Development League. He averaged 27.7 points and six rebounds in 21 games with Albuquerque.

The six-foot-six Tucker, the 29th pick overall, played collegiately at Wisconsin.

Hite averaged 7.7 points in six preseason games for Phoenix.


'Hester takes the snap ...'

n the win-at-all-costs world of professional football, conformity and uniformity tend to crush the will of the individual. The weekly grind of a season offers little time for the simple joys of life. Rarely does the thrill of creativity seize a team.

Which brings us to the bye week and the chance to reflect and tinker and maybe even have a little bit of fun. Things are going so well for the Bears -- well, for their offense, anyway -- that it might be a good time to dust off the old playbook and unleash some fun. Will the Bears work on the Wildcat offense during their bye week?

'We have played around with some of it,'' offensive coordinator Ron Turner said. ''We actually did some things last year in practice and in training camp this year that we haven't gotten to yet. You have to find ways to get your playmakers the ball. It's something we'll explore as our offense evolves.''

The Wildcat formation has taken the NFL by storm since the Dolphins unleashed it against the Patriots this season and produced four of their touchdowns in a surprise victory. If you haven't seen it yet, it's unique. The quarterback splits out wide and the ball is directly snapped to a running back, who either runs with the ball himself, hands off to another running back or begins some kind of gimmick play designed to stop a defense cold. Since the Dolphins used the formation to beat the Patriots and then the Chargers, it has found its way to Jacksonville, Cleveland, Atlanta, Oakland and most points in between. The Bucs unveiled a Wildcat play Sunday.

Ask any of the Bears' assorted playmakers about the possibility of taking a direct snap from center, and you will see their face light up.
''I would love to do that,'' said Devin Hester, the man most likely to get a direct snap in the Bears' offense. ''Oh, yeah. It's a great scheme. It seems like it is working for a lot of teams. ... I hope we get it in a game.''

Said running back Kevin Jones: ''It brings a little fun back to the game. That's some old-school stuff.''

Indeed, long before the Bears thrilled the nation with their T-formation, teams were running single-wing formations like the one the Dolphins have unveiled. The Dolphins adopted the strategy thanks to some wrangling and arm-twisting from quarterbacks coach David Lee, who came to the team from Arkansas, where Darren McFadden ran the Wildcat to much success last year. The Dolphins had Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams and figured it couldn't hurt to supercharge a moribund offense.


Cards' James irritated by criticism

Edgerrin James' numbers are in decline, but James insists that his talents are not. That is part of what has the veteran running back so frustrated about his role in the Cardinals offense, and irritated by the criticism generated by his decreased production.

James insisted he didn't want to cause controversy by answering questions about how he's being used this season. But he admitted several times on Wednesday that he's frustrated.

With 363 yards on 101 attempts, James is on pace to rush for 968 yards and 269 carries this season. Both numbers would be his lowest totals since 2001, when he missed 10 games with a knee injury.

"I don't know what's going on," he said. "I'm just here, just going to ride it out and get to the playoffs and, hey, that may be it right there."
That's a reference to his future with the team, not his career. James' contract runs through the 2009 season, but there are no assurances the Cardinals will keep him after this year.

He is due to make $5 million in salary next season, and the club has a promising young player in rookie Tim Hightower.

Asked if he wanted to return next year, James said he just wants to play.

"I don't want to just be on a team; I like to play," he said. "If I'm not playing, it's not serving a purpose. What purpose is it serving? I don't want to feel like I'm selfish but you want to play.

"Hey, I still got years in me, I know that. I can still play some ball. I ain't worried."

Eye for the records
James came to Arizona in 2006, signing a four-year $30 million deal, and he became only the second back in team history to gain more than 1,000 yards in consecutive seasons.

Statistics have always been important to James. When he came to the Cardinals from Indianapolis, he jokingly warned his offensive line not to mess up his Hall of Fame chances. He is just 30 yards shy of 12,000 career rushing yards and needs 105 more to pass Thurman Thomas to become 12th on the NFL's all-time list.

Those 105 yards won't be easy to come by this year. Hightower has emerged as the team's short-yardage and goal-line back. Ten times the team has called upon him when it's needed a yard on third and fourth downs, and he's converted each time.

Backup J.J. Arrington has played an integral role on offense in the past two games, while Hightower is likely to get more carries as the season progresses.

Coach Ken Whisenhunt views the depth at running back as something that will serve the team well, just as it did at receiver and on the defensive line.

"I'm glad that (James) wants more carries," Whisenhunt said. "I think that's a good sign for all competitive players; they want the ball. That's why Edge is where he is and why he's been so successful, but I think the trend, not just with us but throughout the league, is sharing the carries."

The main criticism of James is that he lacks big-play ability. In three seasons here, he has 762 rushing attempts but has only four carries of 20 or more yards.

Unreasonable expectations?
In the off-season, the Cardinals expressed a desire to acquire a speedier back. They settled on Hightower, a fifth-round choice out of Richmond not known for his speed. But he's made some explosive plays already this season, including a 17-yard touchdown run in a victory over the Bills.

James knows he's not much of a threat to go 70 yards. The Cardinals should have known it, too, when they signed him.

"When I came here, I came a certain way," he said. "I wasn't going to hit no 70, 80 (yards). I was going to non-stop grind, make my plays and keep wearing a team out.

"That's what I've always done and now it's like I'm supposed to be Superman. You want to have success, you want to do things and that's the most frustrating thing, I know I can play, I know I'm a good player."

The Cardinals are ranked 28th in the NFL in rushing, averaging 86.8 yards a game, but they are third in passing and sixth overall.

They have also won two consecutive games and at 4-2, have a two-game lead in the NFC West division.

"I don't want to seem like I'm bad-mouthing the system," James said. "I've never been somebody to just go off on somebody. I don't want this to appear negative because that's not my style."

But this offensive system, he said, is "totally different" from the one he expected the Cardinals would use when he signed in 2006. "And I have to take all the criticism," he said.

With the Cardinals winning, James doesn't want his frustration to become a focal point. It would be an accomplishment, he said, to make the playoffs at least once while with the Cardinals.

But James believes he still an elite player. The 30-something running back who has lost a step is "not me," he said, "but my career won't end like that. I know that."


Browns TE Winslow appeals suspension

BEREA, Ohio (AP) — Pro Bowl tight end Kellen Winslow appealed his one-game suspension for critical comments he made about the Cleveland Browns' handling of his hospitalization with a staph infection, the latest development in a bizarre back-and-forth squabble.

Winslow was suspended without pay by general manager Phil Savage on Tuesday for comments and behavior disparaging to the organization. Winslow was critical of Savage and said he only came forward to reveal he had staph — for the second time — out of concern for his teammates' health.

Denise White, a publicist with EAG Sports Management, said Winslow appealed the suspension and filed the appropriate paperwork with the NFL Players Association.

Union attorney Adam Kaiser will represent Winslow in an expedited grievance proceeding before an arbitrator in Cleveland on Friday or Saturday. If Winslow loses, he will sit out Sunday's game in Jacksonville and forfeit $235,294, his one-game paycheck. If Winslow wins, he could keep his money and Kaiser said it's possible the 25-year-old could be reinstated in time to play against the Jaguars.

Whatever the outcome, Browns coach Romeo Crennel feels Winslow's rift with the team can be fixed.

"I think it is repairable," he said. "Kellen is not a bad kid. I have a pretty decent relationship with Kellen. With me personally, I feel that relations are repairable and we will go forward."

The unusual case pitting star player and struggling franchise began on Oct. 9 when Winslow was admitted to the Cleveland Clinic with an undisclosed illness.

According to Crennel and Savage, the team and Winslow made a joint decision to keep the player's medical condition confidential. However, when he returned to practice last week after missing Cleveland's 35-14 upset over the New York Giants, Winslow said it was the Browns who didn't want to disclose his illness. He said he agreed with their stance.

But Winslow broke the apparent pact following Sunday's loss in Washington, revealing he had staph and saying the team, which has had at least six known cases of staph since 2005, asked him to conceal it. He also lashed out at Savage for not calling him during his three-day stay in the hospital and said he felt he was being treated "like a piece of meat" by the team.

Savage responded by suspending Winslow and called the fiery player's comments and behavior "unwarranted, inappropriate, and unnecessarily disparaging to our organization."

Winslow countered with his own statement, saying he spoke out because of a health concern and not because he's seeking a new contract from the Browns.

Despite the disturbingly high number of staph cases, Crennel said he abided by the team's understanding with Winslow and did not inform Cleveland's other players that the tight end had staph again.

"He was in the hospital and it was a personal issue," Crennel said in explaining the team's decision to keep Winslow's illness from his teammates.

This was Winslow's second bout with staph. He first contracted an infection following surgery on his right knee, which he severely injured in a near-fatal motorcycle crash three years ago. Winslow has had at least three other surgeries on the knee, which was most recently scoped during the past offseason.

While his suspension is in effect, Winslow is not allowed to attend practices, team meetings or be at the Browns' training facility.
Surprisingly, there was little reaction inside Cleveland's locker room to Winslow's suspension and not one player interviewed seemed alarmed by a new case of staph.

A few players, including center Hank Fraley and linebacker Andra Davis — two team captains — as well as tight end Steve Heiden were reluctant to address Winslow's situation.

"I don't even want to talk about it," said Heiden, who will likely start in place of Winslow. "We're trying to beat the Jaguars, that's all I'm worried about. I can't wait to have Kellen back, and when he gets back we'll go to work with Kellen."

Quarterback Derek Anderson admitted he was somewhat surprised by the team's decision to suspend Winslow, who has a team-high 21 receptions and has been one of the Browns' best players the past three seasons.

"A little bit," Anderson said. "Obviously, they made a decision and went with it. I just play here."

As for the team's problems with staph, kicker Phil Dawson said the Browns have been proactive in educating their players about how to protect themselves from becoming infected. During training camp, infectious control experts from the clinic visited the team and explained the risks of staph and how to combat the virus, which has become more common in the NFL.

"This thing is everywhere," Dawson said. "All the information was given to us, literature we could take home. With all that said, you still feel for a fellow player who gets it. Your heart goes out to them and it's a scary thing, but I don't think it's isolated to the Cleveland Browns."


Redskins running back Clinton Portis: I can't give no satisfaction

ASHBURN, Va. — It's become almost routine to hear Washington Redskins running back Clinton Portis sigh and utter these words: "Man, people are never going to be satisfied."

It's easy to understand his case. If he rushes for 1,300 yards, it's an off year. If he hurts his shoulder trying to make a tackle in the pre-season, he's suddenly injury-prone.

If he leaves a game because he needs a breather, he's a selfish diva - even though only two backs in the NFL have had more carries over the last five seasons.

If he makes the type of candid comment that everyone loves to hear, he's too outspoken.

If he wears funny costumes for a few weeks, fans implore him to keep doing it indefinitely - even though it was a wonderfully entertaining shtick from three years ago that could never really be replicated.

Could this be the year that Portis makes everyone happy? After all, he's by far the NFL's leading rusher, with 818 yards, seven touchdowns, a league-high 163 carries and four consecutive 120-yard games for a 5-2 team.

Portis doesn't think so. At least he doesn't want to think so.

"If I run for 3,000 yards, then it's 'Oh, Jason Campbell should have thrown the ball.' 'They gave him every carry - that's why he had 3,000 yards,"' Portis said Wednesday. "What we've got to go out and do is not try to satisfy the outside. We know what makes us happy and that's winning, and as long as we're doing that, we're good."

Portis said he might have been "excited and going crazy" about leading the league in rushing in his younger days, but the years have jaded him a bit. His fun-loving showmanship and his open disdain for practice have often been mistaken for a me-first persona, criticism that stings.

"You think I'm fun loving - most people think I'm a jerk," Portis said. "Most people think I'm stuck on myself or always throwing myself out to do something or being on my own schedule. It's always opinions. I can't make people understand me for what I'm worth. Y'all know what I do. I play around, laugh and joke. It ain't that serious to me, so I'm going to keep living no matter what they think."

Tight end Chris Cooley, also known to march to his own beat, offered his view of the real Portis.

"He's a lot of fun. At the same time, he's the hardest working, hardest playing football player that I've been around," Cooley said. "No one takes more hits and gives out more big hits in a game that Clinton Portis, and that kind of overrules all the goofiness and all the fun in the locker room. If you have a problem with Clinton Portis, put on a game film and watch him."

Or just count the sore body parts. Portis needed treatment on a shin, an ankle, his neck and a hip after Sunday's 175-yard performance in a 14-11 win over the Cleveland Browns. He was given the day off from practice Wednesday.

"Everything hurts, to be honest. Bumps and bruises, nothing major. I'll be fine. I had to get in the hot tub and have the water come up to here," said Portis, holding his hand up to his neck. "My ears hurt, but they haven't got a treatment for that yet."

Cooley said Portis is also appreciated for being outspoken, although sometimes the words don't come out right. Portis' most infamous foot-in-mouth moment was last year, when he made light of dogfighting during the Michael Vick investigation.

This year, Portis has fussed with former Redskins favourite Brian Mitchell on the radio because he felt Mitchell was unfairly criticizing him. He speculated what it would be like to run in a different scheme early in the season, comments seen by some as an insult to the offensive line. Two weeks ago, he said the Redskins "overlooked" the St. Louis Rams following a 19-17 upset loss, a point of view not shared by most of his teammates.

Given that the Redskins have been winning, Portis joked that he ought to keep finding ways to put down his teammates.

"If they took it to heart, I might need to stir it up again. So, I'm about to throw them under the bus," said Portis, who then laughed and started talking trash about each of his linemen.

It's hard to believe it was a little over a year ago that then-coach Joe Gibbs said Portis had become "interchangeable" with backup Ladell Betts. Now, Portis would be considered interchangeable only with the elite backs in the NFL.

His season has revived the debate over the trade that sent him from Denver to Washington.

Portis came to the Redskins in 2004 in exchange for Champ Bailey and a draft pick, a deal that still favours the Broncos because a shutdown cornerback is considered more valuable than a prized running back. Also, Bailey has made the Pro Bowl every year, while Portis has yet to get the Hawaii nod since arriving in the nation's capital.

Just counting this year, however, the deal could perhaps be called an even split.

"We're both in situations where we're enjoying it," Portis said. "Clinton loves it out in Denver; I love it in D.C. I think he's still one of the elite players at the corner position, and I feel like I'm one of the best at this position."


Ocho Cinco, Andre Johnson keep friendship alive

HOUSTON: One is the spotlight-seeking, trash-talking star of the Cincinnati Bengals. The other is the mild-mannered, soft-spoken leader of the Houston Texans.

Both are Pro Bowl receivers on losing teams, live in Miami and have "Johnson" on the backs of their jerseys. But that's where the similarities end with the Bengals' Chad and the Texans' Andre, who will share the field Sunday when Cincinnati (0-7) visits Houston (2-4).

Technically, they don't even share a last name anymore. Chad legally changed his to "Ocho Cinco" in August, but the NFL is still making him wear "Johnson" on his uniform for now.

The Texans' Johnson would never crave that kind of controversy.

"I am not a guy who likes to be around a lot of commotion," he said.

But the two have been friends for almost a decade through their Miami connection, proof that opposites attract. They work out together in the offseason and have many common acquaintances.

Ocho Cinco said he was going to call Johnson when he arrived in Houston and try to get a free meal out of him. He also said he was going to tell Johnson to relay some brash warnings to Houston's defensive backs.

So typical.

"Every time I play against him, he's always saying something crazy," Johnson said.

But for the most part, the Bengals' wretched start has put a muzzle on Ocho Cinco. He isn't having a great individual season, either, with only 27 catches for 268 yards.

Ocho Cinco said he's tried to tone down his act for the good of the team. So far, it hasn't helped much.

"It's very difficult," he said. "I'm very boisterous, I'm very flashy, flamboyant. I love to pose challenges to opponents. I'm always saying something out of the ordinary, to get myself motivated to play.

"But I have no room for it. I have no room to get myself going. I'm approaching every game quietly, and doing it in a way that I've never done it before. It doesn't seem to be going the way it should — not just for me, but for us as a whole."

The low-key method has always worked for Johnson, a two-time Pro Bowler who leads the AFC with 629 yards receiving and the NFL with 104.8 yards receiving per game.

"He's a Johnson," Ocho Cinco said. "What do you expect?"

Unlike Ocho Cinco, Johnson will probably never unleash an outlandish dance in the end zone after a touchdown or call out an opposing cornerback leading up to a game. About the closest thing Johnson did to cause a stir this year was reveal how frustrated he was after Houston's 0-4 start.

"I've never been a person that complains," he said. "If I wasn't able to touch a ball for the rest of the season, I'm not going to go to Kube's (Coach Gary Kubiak) office and complain to him or nothing. If the ball comes my way, it comes; if it don't, it don't."

That's probably not how Ocho Cinco would've handled the same situation in seasons past.

He unsuccessfully lobbied for a trade this offseason and threatened to sit out if he didn't get his way. He also skipped voluntary workouts and missed most of training camp with ankle and shoulder problems, while the Bengals stood their ground and refused to release him.

Since the season started, Ocho Cinco has been on his best behavior — acting more like Johnson always does.

"I haven't complained about the opportunities that have come my way. If the opportunities come, I just make the plays," Ocho Cinco said. "I'm trying to do everything I can to get us out of this funk right now. I've been as positive as possible, with the situation that we're in, despite what I said in the offseason."

Right now, Johnson can relate to what Ocho Cinco is going through better than anyone.

The Texans have been one of the worst teams since entering the league in 2002, and Johnson has endured all but the first season. Houston was 0-6 in 2005 on its way to a 2-14 season.

"I'm pretty sure it's really frustrating for him," Johnson said. "It's a rough time for him. He's probably not even thinking about some of the things he used to think about. He's probably just trying to figure out how he can get his team to win games."


Peter King on Andre Johnson

They rise slowly, like an air bubble. Yes, I, too, am impressed by Andre Johnson's , knock'em dead statistics -- 11 catches for 141 yards in this case. Three straight games over 100 yards receiving. He gets overworked in this offense, however. Takes a beating, then he'll get tired and drop one or two. A solid Pro Bowl player, though.


Fantasy Steals

We are a "what have you done for me lately?" society, and while that may benefit Janet Jackson, it has made people forget how hot we all were for Olsen just a year ago. He was shaping up to be a top-tier tight end until Week 10 last year, when the rookie appeared to hit the wall and watch his production fall off a cliff. This year has been the opposite, as Olsen only saw seven targets in the first three weeks, but has had 26 balls come his way in the four games since. Right now, Olsen has more yards and as many receptions and touchdowns as any receiver on the Bears. In many leagues, owners are tempted to drop non-elite tight ends during their bye weeks. Give Olsen's owner another option. Make a small offer and get a guy who looks like he has another four scores in him this year.


NFL U Week 7 Pictures

Check out Week 7 photos from around the the NFL of our proCanes. Click here to see the photos.

Q&A: No. 55: Sherko Haji-Rasouli

How nice a guy is B.C. Lions offensive lineman Sherko Haji-Rasouli? He dragged himself away from all-you-can-eat chicken at the Leo's facility to chat with The Province's Marc Weber. Now that's one nice guy -- with one greasy handshake.

Q: You were born in Shiraz, Iran. How important is that heritage to you?
A: It's my culture. You've got to be able to adjust and live where you live, but at the same time you've got to keep in the back of your mind where you're from. My ancestry goes back thousands of years and I've been here 20 years, so you have to appreciate it and pass it on to your kids.

Q: Have you been back?
A: I have not, just given the political situation, and my mom always feared that I'd be kept for the military -- "my son, he's a very big guy." I'd love to go back at some point. I'd need a lot of time to visit a lot of family. My mom is one of 14 kids so I have over 60-70 cousins.

Q: Your suspension last year, what did your mom have to say?
A: It's part of the sport. Sometimes you lose your cool, and she understands that. Her brothers were wrestlers and boxers in Iran. She wasn't terribly disappointed but she didn't talk about it too much.

Q: At the University of Miami you played in three national championship games, and that 2001 team is regarded as one of the greatest ever in college football. What does it mean to be a part of that?
A: It's funny because I didn't know too much about college football, growing up in Canada, being of Iranian descent. I was forced by my father to go to that school because it's a private school and has small classes. It turned out to be a great decision because I personally wanted to go to Ohio State. We had a great run and I look back on those days with a lot of pride.

Q: Is there a lot of college chatter in the Lions' locker room?
A: Oh yeah. The worst one was when Maryland beat Miami last year. I was pretty distraught over that. Geroy [Simon] dug deep into my pockets on that one.

Q: Sixteen guys on that 2001 team ended up being first-round NFL draft picks, guys like Phillip Buchanon, Willis McGahee and Jeremy Shockey. Who stood out most for you back then?
A: They recruited athletes to that school. You looked at every one of them and they were just physical freaks. When you ask about one or two, I just can't say. One of the greatest athletes I saw was a guy named Jason Geathers, and he's playing Arena because they [NFL people] didn't know where to play him. He can play receiver, DB, quarterback, running back.

Q: Do you keep in contact with any of the guys in the NFL?
A: I'm not very good at communicating. I don't do Facebook, I don't do MySpace, I'm not very good with my cellphone. But when I see them it's just like old days.

Q: Do you follow them a little more closely on Sundays?
A: Yeah, if guys I know are playing I will watch them. One of the craziest things is that every single starter on offence my junior and senior year was in the NFL when I was in Montreal [with the Alouettes] in 2003-2004. Every guy, except me.

Q: How did that make you feel?
A: I was a little bitter about that. Maybe that's why I don't call them.

Q: Outside of the football, what stands out for you as the best memory from university?
A: Have you ever been to Miami, Florida? I went through five years of cargo shorts and flip-flops and free T-shirts from university.

Q: You once built a barbeque before leaving for a game. That makes you different from the typical athlete. What's the weirdest thing you've been doing before a game?
A: I think putting together the barbeque. That's when Rob Murphy was staying with me. He was so surprised, being a guy who played in the NFL, usually you stay in a hotel, even when you play at home [to focus better]. He was shocked that his O-line mate was putting together a barbeque. I just go about my day. I focus in once I get to the stadium.


Winslow was quietly dangled before trade deadline

In the days and hours leading up to last Tuesday’s trade deadline, players such as tight end Tony Gonzalez and wide receiver Roy Williams constantly were tracked.

The one player who went overlooked publicly, but not privately, was Cleveland tight end Kellen Winslow, who was dangled before the deadline.

The Browns explored the possibility of trading Winslow, according to multiple league sources, but never could get enough in return to consummate a deal. Cleveland declined to comment on the proposed trade –- Browns general manager Phil Savage emailed Tuesday that “a number of calls are made ahead of the trade deadline regarding different players … those conversations are confidential in nature” -– but it is easy enough to figure out why Cleveland would have considered dealing Winslow.

For starters, he is seeking a new contract that could be difficult for the Browns to squeeze under their salary cap. Also, Cleveland traded its third-round pick in the 2009 draft for a fourth-round pick in this year’s draft, which it used on tight end Martin Rucker -– and now is looking to add more picks. Plus, there is the public dispute the team has gotten into with Winslow over his staph infection.

So it’s not overly surprising that the Browns explored a deal. It’s just surprising that they were able to keep it so quiet.


Browns suspend Winslow for one game

Pro Bowl tight end Kellen Winslow drew a one-game suspension for his angry comments concerning his treatment by Browns general manager Phil Savage following Sunday's 14-11 loss at Washington.

Starting Wednesday, Winslow will not be able to practice or attend meetings. After missing Sunday's game at Jacksonville, he can return to the team Monday.

Unless he appeals, the suspension will cost Winslow one game check, which amounts to $235,294, 1/17th of his $4 million base salary.

The Browns announced the decision in a statement from general manager Phil Savage today. Winslow is the first Browns player suspended since Savage and coach Romeo Crennel took over in 2005.

''Kellen has expressed his desire to be a productive member of the Cleveland Browns,'' Savage said in the statement. ''His comments and behavior on Sunday evening, however, were unwarranted, inappropriate, and unnecessarily disparaging to our organization. His statements brought unjustified negative attention to our organization, and violated the team-first concept of our football squad. Therefore, disciplinary action will be taken in the form of a one-game suspension without pay for conduct detrimental to the club.''

Drew Rosenhaus, Winslow's agent, did not respond to requests for comment.

Winslow was upset that Savage did not call him while he was hospitalized for three days in the Cleveland Clinic earlier this month. Winslow revealed Sunday he was being treated a staph infection, the second of his four-year career. Winslow and Savage had a heated confrontation outside the locker room in Washington and later Winslow said, ''Sometimes you just feel like a piece of meat.''

The sixth-overall pick in the 2004 draft is also seeking a renegotiated contract. His current deal has three years remaining and will pay him $4.75 million in 2009 and $4.75 million in 2010. Savage has repeatedly said a new contract for Winslow, who has undergone at least four surgeries on his right knee since a 2005 motorcycle accident, is not a high priority.

Winslow was also unhappy that the Browns chose not to reveal the nature of his undisclosed illness. He told he felt his teammates needed to know. Savage addressed that subject in Tuesday's statement.

''The Cleveland Browns are committed to winning and taking care of our players,'' Savage said. ''We are also committed to protecting the privacy of our players, particularly with regard to medical issues. To that end, following discussions with Kellen Winslow and his representation, the Browns agreed to make every effort to maintain the confidentiality of his recent medical condition.''

Savage said the Browns conducted an ''extensive presentation by experts in the field of infectious diseases'' during training camp and that Winslow attended the session.


Most Dissapointing Cardinal

I'll admit that I mistakenly threw this guy's name into Pro Bowl consideration during the offseason. Maybe I expected too much out of the guy while he's learning a new position or maybe he just doesn't have what it takes to be a top-flight player in this league. Antrel Rolle has taken a lot of heat for the secondary's inability to stop the big play in the passing game and for taking bad angles at times. The Cardinals have been burned by big pass plays several times and on at least a couple of instances it looked like Rolle bit on a play-action pass. In this defense, Rolle is being asked to play centerfield while Adrian Wilson roams all over the field and if Rolle can't stay deep, this secondary is very flawed. It does seem that he's got the physicality to play the position and he just has to get his head wrapped around a new role on the defense. Rolle was put in a tough situation because he was injured for half of the preseason, which slowed his progression, but he's got to get up to speed in a hurry. Hopefully Rolle continues to learn the position because if he becomes even an average safety and keeps plays in front of him, this defense has the talent and play making ability to terrorize opposing offenses.


Texans Moving Andre Johnson Around

The Houston Texans' official website reports Texans HC Gary Kubiak said the team has been moving WR Andre Johnson around more in their formations to prevent against constant double teams.


Burrell's future as Phillie uncertain

The Phillies' 2008 payroll exceeded $100 million and given the season of Ryan Howard (probable National League Most Valuable Player Award winner) and Cole Hamels (League Championship Series MVP) it will only go higher once the organization decides who will succeed Pat Gillick as general manager.

That reality could be bad news if you're a Pat Burrell fan as he signed a six-year $50 million contract extension before the 2003 season and is facing free agency.

A nine-year Phillie, who has played over 1,300 games in left field, Burrell is at that strange crossroads that accompanies 30-something-year-old outfielders (he turned 32 on Oct. 10). His 33 homers in the regular season were his highest total since 2002, but there are other indications that he may have played his best baseball already.

Consider that ...
1. He scored 74 runs, his lowest total since 2004.

2. His 86 RBIs were also his lowest since 2004.

3. He fanned 136 times, his highest total since 2005.

4. On the positive side, his doubles (33) were his highest total in six years, but his on-base percentage (.367) was his lowest mark, again, in four years.

5. His .250 batting average is his lowest in five years.

The problem with all these numbers is that while he remains an acceptable offensive option and is a fair enough hitter behind Howard, the pricetag may not equate with the production.

In 2008, Burrell made $14.25 million. Howard will soon be making that type of money, if not more, but one cannot equate a player who has averaged 143 RBIs over the last three seasons with Burrell's numbers. Burrell has not driven in 100 runs since 2005, never homered more than 37 times (in a hitter-friendly park) and never scored more than 80 runs over the last six seasons.

Defensively, he is open to interpretation. In 2008, he made only two errors and had 12 assists (nice numbers). But he is perceived as having limited range and being helped by the presence of outstanding center fielders (Aaron Rowand in 2006-07 and Shane Victorino this year).

It's a strange time to part ways with Burrell, who in this postseason has given Phils fans glimpses of the player who had 116 RBIs in 2002, 117 in 2005 and carried the Phils for much of the second half of 2007. There was the two-homer game in Milwaukee in the League Division Series and the game-winning homer in Game 1 of the LCS. But on a team that must commit to its young stars, the team may be able to find cheaper, younger alternatives.

Are the World Series games the final ones for Pat the Bat in Philly?

An uncertain offseason awaits.


NFL U Week 7 Video Highlights

Check out the return of our NFL U Video Highlights. Like we did back in 2006, will provide our fans every week video highlights of all of our NFL U stars along with pictures from the current NFL Week. Click here to check out our Week 7 Video Highlights or click above on NFL U Video Highlights. Enjoy this week's highlights which feature a Greg Olsen TD, a Clinton Portis TD, Andre Johnson TD, Brandon Meriweather Interception and more!

About Santana's Touchdown Celebration

Santana Moss's fourth quarter touchdown led to the image of the game, seen above. First he whirled his arm at his side, then he pointed the football to the stands and swiveled from side to side. And the meaning?

"What was it?" Antwaan Randle El wondered. "I know he was doing something with his arms. I don't know."

"Like a Gatling gun, huh?" guessed Casey Rabach, which is also what several media members had thought.

("You crazy? I'm not trying to shoot anybody," Moss responded. "I can't shoot in the stands, I can't shoot the fans.")

Which left, what, winding up the hose? Cranking up the stadium blinds? Firing a fast-pitch softball?

"Santana thinks he's a rock star," explained rookie receiver Devin Thomas, and indeed he was right. Moss said today that he was first winding up his "gittar," and then "just partying like a rock star." And the style of rock?

"What you mean what style?" Moss said with disbelief. "Metal. Hard. Heavy. It was electric, but it was heavy metal. You didn't hear it? You didn't hear the stands? They was rocking, and I was rocking with them."

And so, among other things, we learned today that the Moss has been to one rock show in his life. It came about a decade ago while he was in college, when he went on a class assignment to see "some band." We learned that he considered his pyrotechnics in line with Kiss and Guns N' Roses, "when the fireworks are behind you and everything." We learned that his son plays Guitar Hero all the time, and that he tried it once. "I sucked," Moss said.

But when he got into the end zone for a key score after two straight frustrating weeks, the musical impulse took hold, without any previous planning, and suddenly this Moss had turned into a Rose. Way to stay current with the Guns N' Roses and Kiss references, by the way.

"The stands was rocking, [fans] were rocking and I just wanted to rock," Moss said. "I don't know if I've got any more celebrations in me. I'll just throw it to my homeboy," he said, flashing his Sean Taylor 21 gesture, "and keep it going like that."

(Rabach, meantime, was already planning his own end zone celebration.

"Dude, if I ever get a touchdown, I'm for sure getting a 15-yard plus," he said. "I'd try to do the Lambeau Leap, but I don't know if I'll get up there, so that'd look bad. I always wanted to do the beer can slam, just crush it on my head.," he said, mock-opening a beer can and mock slamming it on his skull. "That'd be pretty cool.")

In a related story, Moss has been accusing Devin Thomas of theft.

"He's saying I try to take his swag," Thomas said, "but you know, I'm a rock star too....He knows I've got that kind of swag too, where I like to have fun and celebrate. Hopefully I can get a touchdown and it doesn't get called back so I can celebrate, too....If you see the way I play and see my swag, you can see it. It's like, 'That guy right there, he plays the game like it's supposed to be played.' Just check me out. You'll see it. Look on the field, look at me, you'll see the way I act."

Thomas left, with Moss calling after him that he was stealing his swag. Thomas's locker is right by Ryan Plackemeier's. So I asked the new punter whether he has swag.

"Swag...." Plackemeier said. "I don't know what swag is. No idea. What's swag?"

"Short for swagger," I summarized.

"Gotcha," Plackemeier replied. "I don't think punters are allowed to have swag."


Portis Wants to Celebrate Super Bowl in Puerto Rico

During yesterday's post-game presser, just before he met Alex Ovechkin, Clinton Portis talked about going to Puerto Rico. Part of this made Mike Wise's column, but here's the full passage.

"You know, of course you always come in, 'I want to make the Pro Bowl, I want to be league MVP.,' " he said. "Everybody not going to do that, and having the opportunity to be at the pinnacle in Denver, being one of the best backs in the league, having the opportunity to have the money, having the opportunity to have the fame, I never had a ring. All that don't matter when you go into the offseason and you high-fiving somebody else, telling them congratulations when you really don't feel like it was deserved, you would have rather it been you in the situation.

"To see other guys celebrate, jump around and show off their rings? You know, after the Colts won I ended up in Puerto Rico with the whole Colts team. You know, they've got their rings and celebrating, and I felt like the odd man out. You know, I had to go sit over in the corner. I couldn't enjoy their conversation, so I left Puerto Rico, you know? I don't want to sit around and y'all talk about Super Bowls and here I am out of the playoffs. So I think just for us, to win as a team, I would love to have our whole team on the island, celebrating, talking about the Super Bowl."

Field trip!

Other Portis highlights:
On his ever-changing post-game sunglasses: "I guess you've got to stay up with the latest trends, my brother."

On his fumble: "Only thing I was thinking, if I get a corner, it's [shawls] to the wall....All I could think was 97 yards. I could see the end zone and I felt like I was gonna get there. I was running wild, trying to dig and the guy made a great play on the ball."

On his relief at the fumble not costing a win: "I don't know what's the best relief you done have in your life, but it was one of those."

On the focus this week: "When I say not being focused it's only when you turn the ball over and have penalties, not that players just don't know what's going on, when you turn the ball over on the field, you're not focusing on protecting the ball. When you have penalties, holding, offsides, you'ree not focusing on the snap count. I think this week guys really made an effort. I was the only one that turned the ball over, so I guess I wasn't focused this week."

On whether he should keep missing practice, for good luck: "Not practicing boring now, all of a sudden. Back in the day I probably would have told you yeah, but not to be a part of practice now it's kind of boring, sitting on the sideline, watching everybody else work. Guys come by, 'Aw man, you good, stay focused,' but you want to be out there....You want the opportunity to jump around and have fun in practice. Sitting over on the side by yourself trying to take a mental rep, you know, if you slip for one second all of the sudden I'm cracking jokes and playing with Devin or somebody like that, and I think that's taking the focus out of them, so I just sit off to the side."

On his recovery from the injury: "At the beginning of the week I really didn't think I'd play. Later in the week, after a couple massages, I felt great."


New Orleans Saints LB Jonathan Vilma Interview

Q: How do you feel about the timing of that game, given the result yesterday and having to adjust to London?
A: I don’t think the timing’s that bad. I think we would have been a whole lot better off if we had won in Carolina and was getting ready for San Diego. We have the bye week after this, so it’s not like we have to get back to the states and immediately get ready for another game. We have some time off. The injuries, unfortunately it is what it is for us as a team. We’ve been battling that all year. I don’t think this trip makes it any better or worse.

Q: Did you watch game film on the plane or focus on the Carolina game at all on the plane?
A: I just slept really. The flight was long and it was better to try to take your mind off of what had happened. Of course we’re going to watch the film and get the corrections. We just wanted to get some rest on the plane and get over here and get acclimated to London.

Q: What’s your impression of the facilities here so far?
A: It’s been very nice. The hotel’s very nice. The rooms are very nice. We went outside on the field and even though it was a drizzly day, the field held up well as we were running around out there. Right now, my impressions are great. They’re fantastic.

Q: How does it feel to represent the league in another country?
A: It feels great. When we knew we were going to London at the start of the season, we were honored and flattered that they picked us and San Diego to be the hosts of the NFL in Europe in London. That’s great for us. We know that last year, the team that won ended up winning the Super Bowl. We hope we can repeat that success.

Q: How tough is it to avoid distractions leading up to the game?
A: We know we’re still here for business to get ready for San Diego. We have meeting rooms and the film room set up, practices set up. We know what we’re here for. At the beginning of the week, we had those days where we could go out and about the city and sightsee and things like that. As the week closes out and winds down, we have to focus more on San Diego.

Q: Is there anything in particular you want to check out tomorrow?
A: No, to be honest with you. I just want to get out of the hotel for a little while and check out some sights.
Q: Have you ever been here?
A: No, this is my first time?

Q: After that game yesterday, a week before you talked about the defense developing a mentality of not giving up 100 yards rushing or 100 yards passing, what are your feelings after that game and what do you think happened?
A: My feelings after the game were disappointment. I was disappointed in not just the defense, just overall performance. We didn’t execute the way we wanted to. I think what caused our performance on the defensive side was third down. I didn’t think we got down the field enough on third down. I thought we gave up one too many big plays. We gave up the long touchdown pass to Steve Smith. We gave up the long touchdown run to (Jonathan) Stewart. Those were the things uncharacteristic of us the last couple weeks. It wasn’t anything they schemed us on. We didn’t play the ball well enough on the long bomb. We gave up 100 and change in the running game in the running game in that one long drive in the fourth quarter. We’re actually shutting them down pretty well and then on a third down they get a first down and get three more downs throwing the ball. When you look at it and put it in perspective, if we correct some of those things as far as the long plays to Steve Smith and the long runs, we played pretty good defense.


Johnson responds to pressure from Kubiak

Texans coach Gary Kubiak didn’t shy away from putting a little pressure on Andre Johnson earlier this season.

After Johnson failed to make a play on two potential touchdown passes thrown his way against Tennessee on Sept. 21, Kubiak had a talk with his star receiver.

“My message was, ‘You have to make those plays for this team. That’s how much they count on you,’ ” Kubiak said. “Is that asking a lot of a kid? You bet it is.”

Johnson hardly shied from the challenge, and less than a month later he is on the best three-game stretch of his career. In the Texans’ 28-21 victory over the Detroit Lions on Sunday at Reliant Stadium, Johnson finished with 11 catches for 141 yards — his third-consecutive 100-yard game.

Leading receiver
Johnson has 450 receiving yards in the past three games, and is a key reason the team has won two straight after starting 0-4.

“He is the heart and soul of this place,” Kubiak said. “He’s a special player in the NFL. When he plays at that level, he raises everybody else.”

Despite his strong play, Johnson said he is trying to catch up after missing so much of the offseason and preseason because of knee surgery.

Johnson said he and quarterback Matt Schaub are trying to make up for all the time they missed, and that they aren’t as comfortable on the field as they were a year ago.

In the first two games of 2007 prior to Johnson’s knee injury, Johnson had 262 receiving yards and three touchdowns.

“I guess when you have a nine-catch game then a 10-catch game and then an 11-catch game, you would think there is some type of rhythm there,” Johnson said. “But I still don’t think there’s the same type of connection that we had when I was here and Matt first got here.”

Clearly, some of that connection is returning, though. In the first three games of the season, Johnson had just 179 receiving yards and no touchdowns. He had 178 receiving yards against the Miami Dolphins alone last week, and he has two touchdowns over the past three games.

Kubiak said they have expanded Johnson’s role because of his talent and his high level of confidence. The Texans move him around constantly to try to keep defenses from taking him out of games.

Having fun at work
And even with the added responsibility and expectations, Johnson said he’s tried to stay relaxed and have fun on the field.

It’s a combination that is proving difficult for opponents to stop.

“I’ve been given a lot of opportunities in these past three games,” Johnson said. “I’m just out there playing and having fun.

“I can say that the first three games, there was a lot of frustration and things like that. I told myself right before the Indy game, no matter what happens, I’m going to put everything behind me.

“I’ve just started to go back out there and have fun, and when I get opportunities just make the play on it. That’s been my attitude since (Indy), and it’s working out well for me.”


McGahee back home, back in gear

MIAMI - Willis McGahee continues to make himself at home in South Florida.

The Ravens running back rushed for 105 yards and his first touchdown of the season in the 27-13 victory over the Miami Dolphins.

Not surprisingly, it was McGahee's first 100-yard game since the last time he played here (Dec. 16, 2007). The former University of Miami star has averaged 94.4 rushing yards in four games at Dolphin Stadium.

"It's always a good feeling when you play in your hometown," he said. "I've been playing every year since I've been in the league. It tends to get a little old. But you still have a little fire in you."

It was the best game of the season for McGahee, who had 152 yards of offense.

But it was his play in the passing game that led to what he called "the worst highlight of my career."

After making a remarkable run off a screen pass, McGahee fumbled at Miami's 5-yard line when the Ravens led 20-13 early in the fourth quarter.

On the next series, McGahee capped the drive with a 5-yard touchdown run.

"[The fumble] could have turned the game around. But the defense stepped up and made up for it," McGahee said. "I had to go out there and make a touchdown."


Hester says he's feeling better

Devin Hester said the bruised quad that knocked him out of Sunday's game was feeling a lot better on Monday.

Hester was injured on the opening kickoff of the second half when he took a helmet to the thigh, but he anticipates being back for the Lions after this weekend's off date.

The two-time Pro Bowl return specialist did not have an answer for his inability to break a long return yet this season.

"I don't know," he said. "I couldn't even answer that question."

At this point last season Hester already had 3 of his NFL-record 6 kick-return touchdowns. But, as he points out, that performance along with his 5 kick-return touchdowns in 2006, raised expectations to an unrealistic level.

"For the first two years we set a high expectation, and if we're not returning any punts or anything like that, then it's bad because you set your expectations so high," Hester said. "Right now we're working at it and getting better and better each week, and sooner or later it will come."

Hester's 22.1-yard kickoff-return average is just off his career average of 23.2, but he's averaging just 5.4 yards on punt returns, almost 9 yards below his career average of 14.1. Opponents continue to use every alternative to make it difficult for Hester to beat them.

They're just doing what they've been doing since last year toward the end of the season," Hester said. "A lot of bloop kicks, squibbing a lot, hanging the ball up in the air giving the defense time enough to get down, stuff like that."


Crennel chastises Winslow

Browns coach Romeo Crennel confirmed Monday that Kellen Winslow suffered a staph infection and also chastised him for going to the media with his complaints about Browns General Manager Phil Savage.

"If he has an issue, he should address it with the organization and not to the media," said Crennel. "I don't know how much you gain by that. He should come to the organization first and try to reach some kind of agreement. Then, if he's not satisfied, he can go elsewhere."

Crennel, who spoke to Winslow on the plane ride home from the game, indicated that he could fine or suspend him for conduct detrimental to the team.

"We'll investigate it, and then we'll determine if anything needs to be done," said Crennel. "My policy is to keep family business in the family. Whatever I do, I'm not going to broadcast it. It's the organization's call. I will consult with everybody."

Winslow revealed to The Plain Dealer on Sunday night that his previously undisclosed illness was a staph infection and that he was upset that he didn't hear from Savage during his three-day stay in the Cleveland Clinic last week. He also was miffed the Browns said it was Winslow who wanted to keep it private when, according to Winslow, the team wanted to hide the fact it was staph.

Savage said in an e-mail response that he probably will comment today.

In an interview with early Monday, Winslow said, "Nobody knew that I had staph on the team because the Browns didn't want it to get out. But it's my teammates' right to know what's going on at the facility to protect them. Their safety is at risk, too."

Winslow's second bout with the infection over the past two weeks was the sixth known staph infection by a Browns player since 2005 and seventh since 2004. Still, Crennel said Winslow going public was a distraction for the 2-4 team.

"Not only is it a distraction for the organization, but it's a distraction for Kellen, and it'll be a distraction for the players in the locker room because they'll get asked a lot of questions," said Crennel. "All of those things are taking away from football and their focus and concentration on the next game."

Crennel said the fact it came after a loss -- 14-11 to the Redskins -- made it a little more difficult to take, but win or lose, "if you've got an issue, let's come and put it on the table."

Winslow, who's also upset that the Browns aren't acting on his request for a new contract, said he told Savage how he felt before talking to the media in what was described by observers as a heated discussion outside the locker room. Crennel surmised that Winslow's unproductive game, coupled with the confrontation, caused him to vent. He caught two of the seven passes thrown his way, and he and Derek Anderson were way off on most of the others.

"Kellen is a very emotional player," said Crennel. "He's competitive and wants to win. He was coming off an injury situation and didn't probably play as much as he wanted to. Sometimes the emotions of the game and your personal situation overflow."

Asked if Winslow and the Browns can co-exist after the outburst, Crennel said: "Sure, yes. Kellen has a good relationship with the organization and likes the players on this team. I think he'll play for the Cleveland Browns."

Crennel said he represented the Browns when he called Winslow at the Clinic. "We value all our players, and when they're injured, we check to find out how they're doing, give them encouragement and tell them we want them to get better as soon as they can. . . . They're my guys. I'm with them every day. That's part of showing them that you care."

Crennel also said the Browns are doing everything they can to keep staph in check, including sanitizing the building regularly, having it coated with an anti-bacterial agent, and educating the players about prevention.

"We're doing everything we can to try to keep our players safe," said Crennel. "No [player] has come to me and said we aren't doing enough. If we knew [where they were picking it up], we could pinpoint it and address it. Some of them have been pre-op, some have been post-op, some of them have been after the guy's left the hospital and gone home. There are a lot of different circumstances."

Tight end Darnell Dinkins, the players' union rep, said he's certain the team is taking every precaution.

"Anybody who has staph, you're talking about your life," said Dinkins. "It's bigger than football. It's bigger than a game. Kellen's a good friend of mine. Anyone who has a condition or issue like that, you want to make sure he's protected and he's healthy."

Linebacker Andra Davis supported Winslow but said: "This is something we definitely don't need right now because we're 2-4. We need to focus on winning games. All this other stuff will take care of itself. If we don't focus on the Jaguars, they're going to beat our heads in. They don't care what we're going through."


Cora’s return tied to future of Lugo

BOSTON — If they had their choice, Sean Casey and Alex Cora both would like to play for the Red Sox again next season.

Those two, both free agents, were among the few players in the team clubhouse yesterday afternoon after the 5 a.m. arrival from Tampa.

“I love it here,” Cora said. “It’s something we’ve got to look at. … We’ll go through the right channels and see what happens.”

Cora, a favorite of manager Terry Francona and a potential manager-in-waiting, might not have control. If Julio Lugo returns, Cora could be out, since Jed Lowrie has established himself. If the Sox decide to deal Lugo, it likely would help Cora’s chances.


Portis runs for 175 as Redskins beat Browns 14-11

LANDOVER, Md. (AP) — It's easy to focus on talkative rookie coach Jim Zorn, whose West Coast offense surprisingly comes with a heavy dose of smashmouth. Or on Clinton Portis, who had a 175-yard game and is running better than ever.

Or on Santana Moss, whose three spin moves essentially produced two touchdowns. Or on the fact that two straight games have hinged on long field-goal attempts in the final seconds.

But how about some props for the Washington Redskins' defense? With several big plays, the Redskins shut down the Cleveland Browns 14-11 Sunday, throttling a team that looked unstoppable against the world champions only a week earlier.

"Somebody's got to do the dirty work," said defensive tackle Kedric Golston, who batted away one of five passes deflected at the line of scrimmage, "and we take just as much pride in doing the dirty work as we do making the play."

The game's first 14 possessions ended in 13 punts and a missed field goal, but Portis kept churning away, breaking a scoreless tie with a 3-yard touchdown run midway through the third quarter. Portis, who entered the weekend as the NFL's leading rusher, had 27 carries despite a nagging hip flexor that limited him in practice most of last week.

Portis' fourth consecutive 100-yard game brought his season total to 818 yards. His only faux pas was a fourth-quarter fumble that led to the Browns' lone touchdown.

"He didn't practice much this week and he threw out a 175-yard rushing game. I'm not going to encourage that," Zorn said with a smile.

Jason Campbell went a modest 14-for-23 for 164 yards, but he still hasn't thrown an interception all season. Moss, kept quiet the previous two games, caught four passes for 75 yards. He made two spin moves on a 35-yard reception that set up Portis' touchdown, then spun around again at the 1 on his 18-yard scoring catch that put the Redskins ahead 14-3 early in the fourth.

But the Browns nearly recovered. Unable to score despite a first-and-goal at the 1, they got the ball back after Portis' fumble and found the end zone on Joshua Cribbs' 1-yard catch and added a 2-point conversion. Cleveland then forced Washington to punt and drove to the Redskins 36 in the final minute, but Phil Dawson missed what would have been a career-long 54-yard field goal with 25 seconds to play.

The scene on the sideline was similar to last week, when the Redskins lost on a 49-yard kick on the game's last play.

"Very nervous," cornerback Fred Smoot said. "Especially after last week's field goal, which broke my heart. Once I saw it go to the right, it was a relief."


Jon Beason: Beauty of 'The Beast'

Watch any Carolina Panthers game nowadays and it is impossible to miss Jon “The Beast” Beason.

At age 23, the Panthers' middle linebacker has turned into a defensive star in his second NFL season.

His sideline-to-sideline speed, coupled with an uncommon maturity and a superb work ethic, have made No.52 a Pro Bowl caliber linebacker and the soul of the Panthers' defense.

To many of his teammates, Beason has become the Jake Delhomme of the defense, tapping into the same emotional extremes as the Carolina quarterback. “In my mind, Jon is the future here,” says nine-year Panthers veteran linebacker Na'il Diggs.

Beason's play prompts many teammates to recall the pre-injury work of former Carolina linebacker Dan Morgan, who like Beason was once a standout at the University of Miami.

Beason says he would like to eventually be compared to both Morgan and to the late Sam Mills, a former linebacker and assistant coach for the Panthers. Mills, who died of cancer in 2005, was known throughout his career as a ferocious player and dignified man. He is the only former Panthers player inducted into the team's Hall of Honor.

How Beason got to this point is a story threaded with hope. It includes a resolute single mother who banned the words “stupid,” “dumb” and “can't” from her house. It includes the older brother who inspired Beason, the high school coach who mentored him and the father who rarely saw him. Bill Belichick makes a brief appearance, as do Beavis and Butt-Head.

They all helped shape Beason into the player and man he is today entering Carolina's 1p.m. home game against the New Orleans Saints, who boast one of the NFL's best offenses with quarterback Drew Brees and running back Reggie Bush.

The Panthers trust Beason as a defensive team captain. He tells his teammates that he loves them before big defensive stands. He makes Delhomme laugh with an on-field exuberance that reminds the quarterback of himself.

“Jon is a guy who wants to be great,” Delhomme says. “And anytime he makes a play, he does a bunny hop. That's fun when you have somebody with life like that.”

On the field, Beason can be “on the verge of being out of control,” Diggs says.

Off it, he prides himself on staying in control and doing things right the first time. He's a young man of contrasts – one who has embraced Charlotte and says he can feel the city hugging him back.

For 23 years, Terry Beason has been Jon's mother, protector and guiding force.

“My mom is my backbone,” Beason says. “You think I'm good? She's the real overachiever in our family.”

Terry Beason didn't know what her boys were going to do when they grew up, but she knew how she wanted to raise them. As a single mother in Liberty City, one of the poorest sections of Miami, she fought difficult odds.

“I decided early on that I was going to make sacrifices for them, and I haven't really stopped,” Terry Beason says. “My whole life has been devoted to Jonathan and Adrian. My success stories are my children.”

On most mornings, Terry Beason rose at 5 a.m. and began cooking dinner for that night. The boys would put it in the oven when they got home from school. That way Adrian – the elder brother by 16 months – and Jon could always have a hot supper.

Once Terry finished supper, she moved on to cooking breakfast – a real breakfast. She would no more have sent them out the door with a single piece of toast than she would have let them mutter “yeah” instead of “yes.”

Then she would ferry both boys 25 minutes away to a school in Pembroke Pines rather than the neighborhood school in Liberty City, which she had judged to be inferior.

From there, she would drive to her own job in downtown Miami. “Mom wouldn't eat lunch sometimes so we could have an extra dollar to get ice cream in elementary school,” Jon Beason says.

Says Terry: “We didn't have a lot, but we tried to double up on character and love.”

The three of them lived with Jon's grandparents in Liberty City for roughly the first decade of the boys' life. On most Saturday mornings, the Beasons went to the Barnes & Noble bookstore to read. Terry Beason banned the boys from speaking the neighborhood slang.

Adrian and Jon received some teasing for the way they talked from their friends in Liberty City.

“They'd say we were trying to ‘talk white,'” Adrian recalls. “But it wasn't that. We were trying to learn how to present ourselves. You wouldn't go to church in your beach clothes, would you?”

Says Panthers tight end Dante Rosario, one of Beason's closest friends: “A lot of people like to think football players are dumb brutes. Jon is a very intelligent person, and you get that right away from speaking to him.”

When Jon was 10, Terry Beason took a leap. She moved out of her parents' house and moved with the boys into a condominium complex in a better neighborhood.

The condo was unfurnished except for a tiny TV mounted underneath a kitchen cabinet.

Both Beason boys remember turning on the TV and standing there, amazed, as “Beavis and Butt-Head” flickered onto the screen. They had heard about the MTV show, but had never seen it because they had never lived in a house with cable.

Their mother was strict about what TV shows her children watched, but relented for a few moments when she saw how awe-struck her boys were.

Beason still remembers it as one of the greatest nights of his life.

Then Terry Beason listened to the show's language for a while, smiled and said: “Turn it off.”

An inspiring brother
Adrian and Jon Beason sprawled on their bunk beds in their new condominium one evening, watching the Atlanta Falcons play. Suddenly, a Falcons player named Deion Sanders intercepted a pass, made a dazzling move and high-stepped into the end zone.

Adrian was hooked. “It was like I had this fire in me,” Adrian remembers, laughing. “I ran through the whole house, then into my mama's room. I said, ‘Mom, I want to play football!' ”

Terry Beason's reply was quick. You're not playing football, she said. You might get hurt.

Ten seconds later, younger brother Jon came sprinting in, as well, declaring: “Mom, if you sign Adrian up for football, you have to sign me up, too!”

No, Terry Beason said firmly. Nobody's playing football.

Both boys burst into tears.

But Terry Beason was tough. A few tears didn't change her mind. “She was very overprotective then, and she's very overprotective now,” Jon says.

For three weeks, the boys alternately dreamed of football and pouted about not getting to play.

Then Jon found a book in the school library that contained the ammunition he needed. It contained a single paragraph on the benefits of team sports and how studies had shown kids who participated in them usually did better in school, too.

Jon brought the book home and showed it to his mother. “He pleaded his case very well,” she remembers.

And so she signed the boys up.

For years, they played on the same teams. Jon was determined to keep up with his older brother, so he always played up one age group.

“The moment I knew Jonathan was the deal,” his brother says, “came when we were down by a TD and they put him in at halfback to run the halfback pass. He was about 10 years old. He rolled out to the right, planted and threw the ball at least 50 yards. It went to another kid for a touchdown. That's when I knew: he was ahead of his time.”

Adrian Beason wasn't small for his age, but Jon was big for his. “They were practically twins,” their mother says, “except in school, where I started Adrian early so he was two grades ahead.”

They played high school football together, too. Adrian was the first brother to get a full scholarship, to Fordham as a defensive back. He played there and earned his business degree. Although his career was slowed by a knee injury, he did play a year of Arena Football in 2008 in Albany, N.Y.

“Football is over for me now, though,” Adrian says. “I'm ready to get onto the next stage of life.” At age 25, Adrian Beason Jr. is now studying in Miami to get a teaching certificate. He plans to teach and coach high school football in 2009.

An absent father
Adrian Beason Sr. has flitted in and out of his boys' lives. His relationship with his son Jon has been spotty, and the two rarely talk these days.

“My parents were married once,” Jon Beason says. “They tried to make it work when I was really young, but it never got to the point of moving in together again. When I was about age 6 or 7, they just said, ‘That's it.'”

Adrian Beason Sr. has worked for years as a longshoreman at the Port of Miami, helping load and unload cruise ships. “We saw him about once every four to six months,” Adrian Jr. says. “When we saw him, it was more like he was one of the boys. He'd throw us some passes to us or something.”

Both Beason brothers say they didn't realize they were missing anything until they were older. But now Jon sees fathers who are close to their sons and longs for a relationship he never really had.

Sometimes, in the aftermath of a Panthers game, Jon Beason glances over at reserve linebacker Adam Seward visiting with his own parents. Adam Seward's father is a former college football player and coach.

“I watch them,” Beason says. “They tell funny stories to each other. His dad is really involved in how he does. That'd be nice, you know? I don't regret it. I'm stronger for it. But it would be nice to have both your mom and dad meet up with you after a game.”

A caring coach
Beason's life was deeply influenced by Mark Guandolo, his high school coach.

“I consider Jon a son,” Guandolo says. “I get choked up just talking about him.”

Guandolo then coached the private high school in the Fort Lauderdale area that offered Beason a scholarship in ninth grade. Beason played fullback and strong safety for Guandolo, never leaving the field and picking up his “Beast” nickname.

“Jon was our captain and our team leader,” Guandolo says. “He wanted to win so bad. That was always his motivation.”

In Beason's first season, before Guandolo came, Chaminade-Madonna was 2-8. By his senior year, the team was 14-0 with 11 shutouts entering the 2002 state championship game. They lost it, 6-0, and Beason has never quite gotten over it.

“It still eats at Jon,” Guandolo says. “He was devastated when it happened.”

Chaminade-Madonna would win the state championship the next season, without Beason. That eats at him, too, as does the fact that the University of Miami never made the national championship game when he played there.

Both Adrian and Jon Beason played for Guandolo. “He's just a great, great man,” Jon says. “He transforms kids. Stresses education. Lays down the law. And works you really hard.”

After one of Guandolo's intense practices, most of the players would collapse on the ground, aching and spent. Beason would go the extra mile, literally – running one final mile after practice concluded.

“He was a true beast in the way he prepared himself,” Guandolo says. “The nickname has always fit.”

The day after Beason signed a scholarship to Miami, he delivered a personal thank-you letter to members of the school's faculty and administration. “He never forgot anybody,” Guandolo says. “I'm sure his mother had something to do with those letters, but still. You don't see that much. He's special.”

A drink of water
Recruited as an “athlete,” Beason briefly played as a fullback at Miami, then switched to linebacker, where he found his niche. By the end of his redshirt junior year, he was a sure first-round pick. He promised his mother he would return to get his degree, then declared a year early for the NFL draft.

In the flurry of private workouts that followed, Beason developed a liking for several teams, including Carolina and the New York Giants, and a dislike for a couple of others. One of the teams he didn't admire was New England. Beason felt the Patriots weren't loyal enough to their veterans; plus he didn't like the weather and didn't want to play in coach Bill Belichick's 3-4 defensive scheme.

Belichick came to Miami to work out safety Brandon Meriweather and Beason individually. From other former Hurricanes, Beason knew that Belichick would concoct a difficult workout.

“So he was just trying to kill us,” Beason remembers. It was then that Beason tried to gently sabotage his chances with New England.

Remembers Beason: “I said, ‘You know what, Coach? I need some water.' I knew he wouldn't like it. Brandon was like, ‘C'mon, Beast!' But I stopped and got some water.”

On Draft Day, 2007, New England picked 24th, right in front of Carolina after the Panthers traded down. Both Meriweather and Beason were still available. New England picked Meriweather (now a backup safety).

That left Carolina, at No.25, to take Beason. When his name scrolled across the TV screen, Beason felt a part of the NFL for the first time. “I didn't think I would cry,” Beason says. “But I cried, man. I cried like a baby.”

‘A pro bowl linebacker'
Beason irritated some of his veteran teammates with an eight-day contract holdout at his first training camp in 2007. Says Diggs: “I had a misconception. Because of the holdout, I thought he was one of those prima donna guys. Then I met him.”

Diggs and Beason bonded quickly – they now live in houses next door to each other. “He had his head on right when he got here,” Diggs says of Beason. “He played his butt off in that first camp, and he's still playing his butt off now.”

Beason began his rookie year starting as an outside linebacker, taking the injured Diggs' spot. When middle linebacker Morgan got hurt early in the season, the Panthers tried the rookie in the crucial spot.

Beason learned the new position quicker than anyone could have imagined. He was faster in pads than he was on a track. At 6 feet even, he wasn't as tall as the prototype middle linebacker. But Mills – the best inside linebacker the Panthers have ever had – was only 5-9. And, like Mills, Beason seemed to never get caught out of position.

By the end of the Panthers' disappointing 2007 season, Beason had become the bright spot. He was runner-up for NFC Defensive Rookie of the Year to San Francisco's Patrick Willis.

As a rookie, Beason set a Panthers team record for tackles. He is on pace to break it this season. “Beason is a Pro Bowl linebacker right now if you ask me,” Tampa Bay coach Jon Gruden says. “He's their heart and soul.”

Beason stays on the field for every defensive snap. Adept against both run and pass, his goal is to eliminate his mistakes completely.

What motivates Beason?

He wants to win the championship he never did in high school or college. He would like to be a consistent Pro Bowler. He would like to serve as a role model for children. And he wants to set down deep roots in Charlotte. He wants to be gentle away from the game and beastly while playing it.

“I like to be a ‘moment' guy,” Beason says. “People say things sometimes and it's a lot of hot air. I want to be in the moment – always. To be spontaneous. To enjoy what I'm doing right then.

“I want what I say to mean something.

“And I want my life to mean something.”


Clinton Portis For President

Naturally, in this town and in this month, the Redskins would cover the FedEx Field grounds with "Vote the Redskins Ticket" yard signs, urging fans to punch their players into the Pro Bowl. And naturally, two homemade signs in the end zone would advocate CP for President, Santana Moss for Vice President and, somewhat bizarrely, Jason Campbell for Secretary of State, which isn't technically an elected position.

"It's not a recession; it's Redskin-cession," the sign read, which also was initially puzzling but made perfect sense once you realized the creators were the mother and close friend of Clinton Portis, who, the way he's playing, might as well expand his portfolio. MVP might not be enough.

"He's the only dude in the nation that can win this race," said Marlon Jackson, who described himself as Portis's "brother from another mother," as he held the signs skyward. "Barack, you need Clinton," he told us. "You need Clinton for your backup, Barack. Trust me."

"Who would be better?" asked Portis's mother, Rhonnel Hearn. "We will help people keep their houses. Everyone will have somewhere to stay. We don't bail out Wall Street and then everybody goes to the spa." (AIG execs: Clinton Portis's mom just served you!!!!)

"You know we'll fix the schools," Jackson added. "Everybody's struggling, CP's the way to go."

Before we delve into their feelings about meeting with foreign leaders absent preconditions or taxing small business with net income over $250,000, let's take a quick breather to get Portis's thoughts. Clinton?

"Hey man, you want to have a world that's off the chain...." Portis said, imaging the possibilities. "It would be OFF...I mean, it would be great. It would be great, man, but I don't think I can run this country. I would love to give you my opinion on who I think should be in office, but I'll leave it alone."

His family members were less reticent, although they acknowledged that Portis isn't technically old enough to claim the White House, if you're a strict constructionist.

"We got to wait 'till we finish the Redskins season first," Jackson said. Maybe by then, the Redskin-cession will have ended.


Willis McGahee and Ravens wear down Dolphins

MIAMI GARDENS — Miami native Willis McGahee returned to South Florida and dominated the Dolphins' defensive front in the second half Sunday.

McGahee, a star at Miami Central High and the University of Miami, found his rhythm after halftime and picked up 45 of his game-high 105 yards on his first four carries of the third quarter.

He gained nine yards on his first run and 14 on each of his next two. He followed up with a back-breaking 8-yard end-around on 3rd-and-2 to keep the Ravens moving.

The Ravens' drive lasted 13 plays and more than six minutes, resulting in a field goal that gave Baltimore a 20-6 lead. They went on to win 27-13.
"We were wearing them down," Baltimore left tackle Jared Gaither said. "We're a hard-nosed offense and we'll run straight at you."

McGahee did exactly that. He averaged more than 5 yards on his five runs up the middle, and finished with 105 yards and a touchdown on 19 attempts.

The Ravens relied on rookie Ray Rice early in the game, then turned to McGahee and mixed in bruising fullback Le'Ron McClain to average four yards per carry.

The Dolphins insisted that they knew Baltimore would lean on its ground game to take the burden off rookie quarterback Joe Flacco, but that knowledge did not seem to help.

"They had their way with us," safety Yeremiah Bell said. "It's frustrating defensively not to be able to execute when we knew what they were going to do."

McGahee nearly scored a second touchdown on a screen pass, but Bell jarred the ball loose when he was just 8 yards from the end zone. Dolphins linebacker Charlie Anderson recovered the fumble with 12:43 left in the game. The gain was 35 yards, Baltimore's second-longest play of the afternoon, but McGahee was embarrassed afterward.

"That was the worst highlight of my career," he said. "It was a good screen, a good run and it wasn't a good finish — like it was all for nothing."

Aside from that mistake, McGahee's performance was reminiscent of his UM years (2000-02). McGahee, who had his best game of the season, had been slowed by knee and rib injuries. Last week, he had only eight carries in a 31-3 loss to Indianapolis.

His success Sunday alleviated pressure on Flacco, who produced his best game, completing 17 of 23 passes for 232 yards and a touchdown.


Texans' Andre Johnson continues to prove his worth

HOUSTON — Somewhere in his life, Houston Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson must have missed a memo.

In the evolution of this grand game that occupies so much of our fall weekends, it was determined that the pass catchers are supposed to make a spectacle of themselves every time they make a great play or score a touchdown.

Not Johnson.

He treated Sunday afternoon like just another day at the office, catching 11 passes for 141 yards in Houston's closer-than-it-should-have-been, 28-21 triumph over winless Detroit at Reliant Stadium.

"I've been given a lot of opportunities the last three games and made the best of them," Johnson said after finishing his third consecutive game with more than 100 yards in receptions.

He could have said that it's about time the Texans recognized his vast talents, or that if they want to win, they better give him the ball.

Not Johnson.

"I've never been a person who complains," he said. "Whatever's given to me, I take it and make the best of it. I don't need that attention."

And this guy played in college at the University of Miami, the same school that introduced swagger into the vernacular of college football and produced such demonstrative athletes as Michael Irvin, Warren Sapp and Ray Lewis.

Cincinnati's Chad Johnson and Dallas' Terrell Owens seem to talk more than they play football. Andre Johnson may be the antithesis of those receivers, but he won't disparage them.

"I think it's just people's personalities," he said. "I'm going to go home and turn on ESPN and see who dances.

"They're just having fun because it's their personalities."

Andre said he and Chad, who also grew up in Miami but are not related, are good friends.

Andre Johnson would prefer to talk about his teammates when the Texans win. Tight end Owen Daniels caught six passes for 66 yards and two touchdowns Sunday.

"Owen is showing he's one of the top tight ends in the league," Johnson said.

The Texans' coaches and players know how much Johnson means to this team.

"He's a special player on his way to a special season," coach Gary Kubiak said of Johnson, who has grabbed 45 passes for 629 yards in six games. "He's got a lot of confidence right now and we've expanded his role."

Kubiak said he talked with Johnson after the second game of the season, when the Texans lost to Tennessee 31-12 and he missed some plays.
Johnson listened and responded.

"I expect a great deal out of him and we're getting it," Kubiak said. "He's the heart and soul of this place."

Johnson is the most effective offensive weapon in franchise history, and defenses still appear clueless about how to stop him.

"They reminded me of the Indianapolis defense," he said of the Lions. "They had holes, but you had to find the spots because they're well disciplined."

"It surprised me how he caught so many balls (today) after the week he had (last Sunday)," Texans guard Chester Pitts said of Johnson, who caught 10 passes for 178 yards the week before against Miami. "When you're that caliber of player, it doesn't matter what they do. He's as good as they come."


After struggling in return, Shockey rips Saints

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Jeremy Shockey was hurting, frustrated and angry after a miserable return to the New Orleans Saints on Sunday following hernia surgery.

Shockey questioned how the team has handled his injury and was unsure if he'll play next week in London.

The four-time Pro Bowl tight end, who had missed the past three games with a sports hernia, practiced last week and was cleared to play. But on the first play of Carolina's 30-7 win, Shockey said he "did the splits" and felt pain.

"I feel a spot in my leg that wasn't there before," said Shockey, who indicated he was hopeful he only dug up scar tissue and did not suffer more damage.

Shockey was clearly slowed by the injury. Later, after a catch, Shockey had the ball stripped by Julius Peppers and Carolina recovered. It led to the Panthers' go-ahead touchdown in a rout that left Shockey in a foul mood despite leading the team with five catches for 50 yards.

"I had a fumble that hurt the team. I missed a backside cutoff block," Shockey said. "That's on me, 14 points I felt like I gave up today, not because of effort, but just because physically I'm not healthy."

Shockey said he may have come back too soon from the surgery, and also indicated the Saints erred by misdiagnosing him in training camp.

"I'm worried that this thing could have been taken care of in camp, like it should have been," said Shockey, who the Saints acquired from the New York Giants in July for two draft picks. "If it wasn't misdiagnosed in camp like it was there'd have been no problems. ... Next time I know. When I get hurt I'll get three or four opinions besides just the team's."

Shockey underwent surgery four weeks ago, and had practiced without limitation the week before facing the Panthers.

"It's not a three-to-six-week recovery time," Shockey said. "It's really a five-to-seven-week."

Shockey's injury concerns were part of a horrible day for the Saints' offense, which was held to seven points by Carolina and watched running back Reggie Bush and center Jonathan Goodwin leave with left knee injuries.

Shockey said he would know more about his status Monday.

"I want to help this team win that brought me here," Shockey said. "I'm just disappointed in myself. I'm making plays and everything, but I'm just not healthy."


Bubba Injured

Jets tight end Bubba Franks exited the game against Oakland in the first quarter with what appeared to be a hip injury.


Hester hurts quad

CHICAGO (AP) — Chicago Bears kick returner and wide receiver Devin Hester injured a quadriceps muscle in the third quarter Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings and had to leave the game.

It was not immediately known how Hester got hurt, but he did return the second half kickoff and was initially charged with a fumble before video review reversed the call and gave the ball to the Bears.

Hester had two catches for 22 yards in the first half. On Minnesota's second kickoff of the third quarter, Hester was not back to return the kick.

Hester scored 11 TDs on kick returns during his first two regular seasons, seven on punts and four more on kickoffs. He also returned a missed field goal 108 yards in 2006 and ran back the opening kickoff in the Super Bowl against Indianapolis in February 2007 for a touchdown.

He has not returned a kick for a score this season, but has two touchdown catches.


Santonioo Thomas Contributing

To the credit of defensive coordinator Mel Tucker, the Browns are getting a lot of mileage out of Santonio Thomas and Louis Leonard -- neither expected to play significant roles at the start of the year.


Browns' Winslow says he had staph infection

LANDOVER, Md. (AP) — Cleveland Browns tight end Kellen Winslow confirmed a staph infection caused his recent hospitalization and criticized the team Sunday for treating him "like a piece of meat."

After the Browns' 14-11 loss to Washington, Winslow said he was upset the team wanted to keep the infection quiet and blamed him for not wanting it revealed.

Winslow was hospitalized for three days last week, and Browns coach Romeo Crennel refused to discuss his condition, citing privacy laws and Winslow's preference not to disclose any medical information.

Winslow said he was upset general manager Phil Savage did not call him while he was hospitalized.

"I heard from Romeo Crennel and I heard from my position coach (Alfredo Roberts) when I was in the Clinic. I heard from my teammates,"
Winslow told the (Cleveland) Plain Dealer. "But I never heard from the main man — Phil Savage — and that really disappoints me. Sometimes I don't even feel a part of this team."

Winslow said he considered asking for a trade before last Tuesday's deadline. He said he spoke to Savage on Sunday and voiced his frustration.

"I feel I've done a lot for this team, played through a lot of pain and given it my all," Winslow said. "I just thought there'd be a little more 'How are you doing?' by him."

It was Winslow's second staph infection and the sixth by a Browns player since 2005.

"There's obviously a problem (with staph) and we have to fix it," he said. "Just look at the history around here. It's unfortunate, because it happens time and time again."

Winslow's NFL career has been hindered by injuries, with at least four surgeries on his right knee, which he severely injured during a near-fatal motorcycle crash in 2005. His knee was later infected with staph, which had to be cleaned out and delayed his comeback.

"I'm just frustrated with a lot of things," he said. "I feel it's been going on for a while. I don't get treated right and it's not fair. Sometimes I just feel under-appreciated. I felt it was time to say something."


Has Edgerrin James Lost His Edge?

It's too early in the season to tell for sure if running back Edgerrin James' role in the offense will diminish, but that might be the case. In his first two years in Arizona, James was the Cardinals workhorse, averaging about 330 carries a year. But those numbers have dropped this year.

Through six games, James has carried 101 times; an average of about 17 carries a game. At that pace, he'll finish with 272 carries, his lowest total since 2002 when he was with Indianapolis.

It's hard to say if the fewer number of carries is a trend or just a result of offensive schemes in a small sample of games. James carried nine times in the victory over Dallas, for instance, but had 21 the week before the victory over the Bills. He carried just nine times against Miami in Week 2, mostly because the team relied on the pass in the victory.

But there are indications too, that James' backups are assuming larger roles in the offense. Rookie Tim Hightower appears ready to become more than just the team's short-yardage and first-down back. He's more of a one-cut running back and is more explosive than James, whose strength is his vision and agility.

While Hightower doesn't have blazing speed, he appears faster than James. And it's important to note that in three seasons in Arizona, James has just four runs of 20 yards or more. And he's carried the ball 762 times.

J.J. Arrington, the team's No. 3 back, is playing a larger role on offense too. Inactive for the first four games, Arrington is an excellent situational back, and his speed makes him dangerous if the team can get him in some open space, usually through screens and draws.


Hite Performing Well for Suns

The Suns also have to decide what to do with shooting guard Robert Hite, the lone nonroster invitee still in camp. Hite has impressed Porter and almost brought the Suns back in the fourth quarter of Friday's loss, scoring 12 points in nine minutes on 5-for-8 shooting. And just as Barbosa's absence gave Alando Tucker a chance to shine during the first week of preseason, Tucker's injury has given Hite an open door.

"I tried to give us a boost when I came in, and I've definitely gotten some opportunities here, so I have to take advantage," Hite said. "I'm feeling a little better about my chances, but you never know in this league. All you can do is show what you have."