NFL U Week 15 Photos

Check out Week 15 photos from around the the NFL of our proCanes. Click here or above on the proCanes Gallery link.

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Rashad Butler Likely To Start

Looks like Texans LT Duane Brown is nursing a serious knee issue, which means former UM OT Rashad Butler might start in his place.

If Rashad Butler starts at LT, that would mean the bookends of the Texans O-0line would be an all-UM duo: Butler & RT Eric Winston.

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49ers waived DE Baraka Atkins

Atkins was just signed as a project three weeks ago. The Niners needed his roster spot to sign another kick in case Joe Nedney has trouble coming back from a hamstring strain.

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Bruce Johnson Plays Well

With Ross and Corey Webster sidelined, the Giants started Kevin Dockery at cornerback opposite Terrell Thomas. (Webster was ruled out on Sunday with a sprained knee suffered last week against the Eagles.) Rookie Bruce Johnson worked as the third cornerback and recorded his second interception of the season on a botched fake field goal attempt by the Redskins at the end of the first half.

“The credit has to go to Kevin Dockery and Bruce Johnson,” Coughlin said. “Both of those guys got a chance to play an awful lot against a very talented receiving corps. They did an outstanding job, along with Terrell.”

Webster’s knee sprain is not serious and he might return this Sunday against the Panthers.

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Buchanon Injured

Lions CB/PR Phillip Buchanon sprained his shoulder and aggravated a knee injury in Sunday's loss to the Cardinals.

Buchanon is in danger of missing this week's game against the 49ers. Even though he has no interceptions on the season, losing Buchanon would make the Lions' secondary even worse -- if that's possible.

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Ravens’ Reed will have bothersome hip evaluated

Ravens safety Ed Reed will have his hip injury evaluated Wednesday in Miami, according to his agent, Eugene Mato.

Reed has missed the Ravens’ last three games with the ailment and will see specialist Dr. John Uribe.

Reed hasn’t been able to function normally at practice, though MRIs have come back negative.

“Ed is hopeful he can play Sunday, and he’s doing everything he can to be able to play,” Mato said.

Reed and the Ravens will know more Wednesday about the likelihood of his return to face the AFC North rival Steelers in a game with huge playoff implications. The Ravens hope Reed can play, and all involved are seeking ways to limit the pain and discomfort plaguing the 2004 NFL Defensive Player of the Year.

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

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Ray Lewis & Wal-Mart Team Up For Holiday Giveaway

Not all families could afford turkeys and toys this year, so one of the Baltimore Ravens stepped in to help.

Mike Schuh reports Ray Lewis took time out from training to play Santa.

The turkeys arrived by the truckload, and the gifts were all lined up by age groups. Next, 200 families who are all in need, showed up for Ray Lewis' holiday giveaway.

Then, like a bow on a present, number 52 arrived to meet the families.

Wal-Mart donated the gifts and the food. Rev. Frank Reid coordinated the distribution.

"There's no joy like it. The sad thing is that there are so many in our city and throughout this nation who need help like this," said Rev. Frank Reid III of Bethel AME Church.

Ray Lewis donated his time and reminded us how fortunate many of us are.

"Baltimore, there is no greater reward than when I come out to my city. I know I make a lot of plays on the field, but my reward is found in your guys' heart," said Lewis.

It was a sigh of relief for those lucky enough be chosen to be here.

"This is a true blessing to our community," said Lella Blakney, who received gifts.

"It helps me out a lot because this year with the recession going on and things like that, family had to pay rent and bills and stuff like that. Therefore, this helped me out a lot," said LaToya Jefferies.

"It helps us out because it was real hard this year. And it is just nice that they gave us something nice, but it helped us out a lot," said Teesha Banks.

Families were hand chosen to participate in the event.

Click here to order Ray Lewis’ proCane Rookie Card.

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Portis gives Shanahan a 'thumbs-up vote'

Jim Zorn still has two more games remaining as the Redskins' head coach, but if the team opts to make a change, former Denver coach Mike Shanahan has already received an endorsement from the team's unofficial "assistant general manager." Injured running back Clinton Portis said today "if they have a change, then of course they would get the thumbs-up vote for me for Coach Shanahan."

"If Coach Zorn is done, I would think that's a great direction to go in, if you can get Coach Shanahan," Portis said during his weekly appearance on "The John Thompson Show" on ESPN 980. "But I don't know if Coach Zorn will be gone."

Portis, who hasn't played since suffering a concussion Nov. 8 and was placed on the season-ending injured reserve liston Dec. 8, said he thinks he could again be an effective running back under Shanahan. Portis began his career playing for Shanahan in Denver, where he twice topped 1,500 yards and scored a combined 31 touchdowns in two seasons. He has topped 1,500 yards just once in six seasons in Washington and has never matched his Broncos touchdown numbers.

"You've seen my track record with Mike Shanahan," Portis said.

With Jon Gruden choosing to remain in the ESPN broadcast booth in 2010 and Mike Holmgren accepting a front-office position in Cleveland, Shanahan seems to be the likely front-runner. Redskins secondary coach Jerry Gray has also interviewed, according to multiple sources.

Portis said that he never had a problem with Shanahan, and that he left Denver on his terms.

"Mike Shanahan gave me an opportunity. He asked me, man-to-man, 'Do you want to be here? We can pay you and we'll keep you here. Or if you feel like you want to leave, I will allow that.' So I chose to leave," Portis said.
Since suffering a concussion, Portis has said on multiple occasions that the Redskins would face major changes at season's end, and he wasn't certain he'd fit into the team's plans beyond 2009. Speaking today for the first time since Bruce Allen was hired as general manager last week, Portis acknowledged the team's evaluation process and offered an endorsement for himself and his abilities.

"I think my evaluation would be great," he said. "It just depends on how people feel about you. I'll leave that up to them to decide."

Portis was asked what advice he'd offer Allen in that evaluation process, and it seemed like he'd already given the matter some thought.

"I think you find your playmakers and you put the game on them," he said. "You find out the niches of each of your playmakers and you feed them. ...We got so much talent and as a team, to be in this situation, to not have a go-to guy -- Who's our go-to guy? Who's our bread-and-butter guy? I don't think you can identify that.

"Yesterday I was thinking, 'Who's going to win our offensive MVP at our Redskins' luncheon next year?' So who do you give that to? When you have a quesiton of who your MVP is on offense, I think that's a tough year. Just find a guy and make that your guy. Everybody else got to contribute around him."

Click here to order Clinton Portis’ proCane Rookie Card.

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proCanes Stats from Week 15 of NFL U

Andre Johnson: 9 catches 196 yards


Brandon Meriweather: 6 tackles, 5 solo tackles


Jonathan Vilma: 14 tackles, 10 solo tackles, 1 pass deflection, 1 sack, 2 tackles for loss

Santana Moss: 3 catches 55 yards


Rocky McIntosh: 11 tackles, 7 solo tackles

Calais Campbell: 1 solo tackle

Antrel Rolle: 3 tackles, 2 solo tackles

Kelly Jennings: Did not record a tackle, but was the long snapper

Frank Gore: 16 carries 107 yards, 3 catches 19 yards

Kellen Winslow: 6 catches for 93 yards

Roscoe Parrish: 1 catch, 10 yards, 1 punt return for 20 yards

Greg Olsen: 1 catch, 8 yards


Darrell McClover: Played but did not record any statistics

Willis McGahee: 4 carries, 9 yards, 3 catches 19 yards

Ray Lewis: 9 tackles, 5 solo tackles, 1 sack



DJ Williams: 8 tackles, 5 solo tackles, 1 pass deflection

Sinorice Moss: Was not active in Week 15

Jeff Feagles: 2 punts for 74 yards with a 37.0-yard average and 1 punt inside the 20-yard line

Bruce Johnson: 3 solo tackles, 1 interception returned 49 yards

Reggie Wayne: 5 catches 132 yards, 1 TD

Jon Beason: 3 solo tackles, 1 tackle for loss

Damione Lewis: 2 tackles, 1 solo tackle

Phillip Buchanon: 2 solo tackles

Antonio Dixon: 1 solo tackle

Spencer Adkins: 1 solo tackle

Orien Harris: Was not active in Week 15

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Childress takes blame for not aiding McKinnie

Bryant McKinnie described his struggles Sunday night as a "bad day," but Vikings coach Brad Childress said the coaching staff should have given the left tackle more help.

McKinnie gave up two sacks and had all kinds of problems containing Carolina Panthers defensive end Julius Peppers in a 26-7 loss.

Peppers, a four-time Pro Bowl selection, finished with one sack and three quarterbacks hurries and was around quarterback Brett Favre all game.

In hindsight, Childress said the team should have given McKinnie more help.

"Yes, that's me," Childress said. "I'll take that. We didn't do a good enough job with getting him help, whether it was chip help or tight end help or fading a guard that direction. We actually had it set up that way a couple of times but it didn't occur and it should have occurred. But then a lot of it was just a 1-on-1 type of operation. [Peppers] is a good player."

Childress replaced McKinnie with veteran Artis Hicks in the third quarter.

Asked about McKinnie's reaction, Childress said: "I didn't really take time to take a poll on that. Some of the things you do, you're doing by your feel and your gut. It won't change anything going forward."

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

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Vernon Carey’s sore back is causing problems for Chad Henne

Slowed by a bad back, Carey hasn’t looked like himself lately, allowing a total of two sacks in the past two games. Carey also was whistled for holding in Nashville.

The 340-pound Carey is more powerful than light on his feet, but he seems to be a little late at times in his pass blocking.

But Carey’s mouth seemed to be working fine because he was complaining to officials to all day.

Click here to order Vernon Carey’s proCane Rookie Card.

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AFC RUNNING BACKS....where they rank.

STEADY--Some players that have been All-Pro players or are just there year-in and year-out, putting up solid, if not impressive numbers

Willis McGahee, Baltimore, 6th year...Part of the three-headed monster in the Raven's backfiled, though Rice is taking more and more opportunities away. McGahee could be a starter for most teams. Provides steady yards. You know what you will get from him.

Click here to read the rest of the rankings.

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

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proCanes Extend TD Streak to 120 Regular Season Weeks

Did you know that a former Miami Hurricane/current proCane has scored at least one touchdown in 120 consecutive regular season NFL weeks? Dating back to Week 15 of the 2002 season where Clinton Portis scored 4 TDs, at least one proCane has scored a TD in each regular season week since then. There is still a Monday Night game to be played where Santana Moss, Rocky McIntosh, Jeff Feagles and Bruce Johnson will be playing. We will update the list if any of them score a TD tonight. We have chronicled every touchdown since 2002. See below:

Week 15 2009:
Reggie Wayne - 1 TD - Indianapolis Colts

Week 14 2009:
Andre Johnson - 2 TDs - Houston Texans
Willis McGahee - 2 TDs - Baltimore Ravens
Frank Gore - 1 TD - San Francisco 49ers

Week 13 2009:
Andre Johnson - 1TD - Houston Texans
Willis McGahee - 1 TD - Baltimore Ravens

Week 12 2009:
Frank Gore - 1 TD - San Francisco 49ers
Reggie Wayne - 1 TD - Indianapolis Colts
Santana Moss - 1 TD - Washington Redskins
Willis McGahee - 1 TD - Baltimore Ravens

Week 11 2009:
Frank Gore - 1 TD - San Francisco 49ers
Andre Johnson - 1TD - Houston Texans

Week 10 2009:
Frank Gore - 1 TD - San Francisco 49ers
Reggie Wayne - 2 TDs - Indianapolis Colts

Week 9 2009:
Greg Olsen - 3 TDs - Chicago Bears
Frank Gore - 1 TD - San Francisco 49ers
Kellen Winslow - 1 TD - Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Week 8 2009:
Frank Gore - 1 TD - San Francisco 49ers
Reggie Wayne - 1 TD - Indianapolis Colts

Week 7 2009:
Reggie Wayne - 1 TD - Indianapolis Colts
Brandon Meriweather - INT returned for a TD – New England Patriots
Devin Hester - 1 TD - Chicago Bears

Week 6 2009:
Jeremy Shockey - 1 TD - New Orleans Saints
Greg Olsen - 1 TD - Chicago Bears

Week 5 2009:
Clinton Portis - 2 TDs - Washington Redskins
Ed Reed - INT returned for a TD - Baltimore Ravens
Kellen Winslow - 2 TDs - Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Andre Johnson - 2 TDs - Houston Texans
Reggie Wayne - 1 TD - Indianapolis Colts

Week 4 2009:
Greg Olsen - 1 TD - Chicago Bears
Reggie Wayne - 1 TD - Indianapolis Colts
Willis McGahee - 2 TDs - Baltimore Ravens
Santana Moss - 1 TD - Washington Redskins

Week 3 2009:
Santana Moss - 1 TD - Washington Redskins
Willis McGahee - 2 TDs - Baltimore Ravens
Sinorice Moss - 1 TD - NY Giants
Devin Hester - 1 TD - Chicago Bears
Greg Olsen - 1 TD - Chicago Bears
Reggie Wayne - 1 TD - Indianapolis Colts

Week 2 2009:
Antrel Rolle - Blocked Field Goal Return for a TD - Arizona Cardinals
Andre Johnson - 2 TDs - Houston Texans
Willis McGahee - 2 TDs - Baltimore Ravens
Kellen Winslow - 1 TD - Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Frank Gore - 2 TDs - San Francisco 49ers
Bruce Johnson - 1 TD - New York Giants

Week 1 2009:
Willis McGahee - 2 TDs - Baltimore Ravens
Kellen Winslow - 1 TD - Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Reggie Wayne - 1 TD - Indianapolis Colts
Jeremy Shockey - 2 TDs - New Orleans Saints
Frank Gore - 1 TD - San Francisco 49ers
Devin Hester - 1 TD - Chicago Bears

Click below to see the rest of the list:

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Rashad Butler Starts the Second Half for the Texans

Taxans Quarterback Matt Schaub wasn’t sacked for the second game in a row, despite playing the second half with Rashad Butler at left tackle in place of the injured Duane Brown, who left with a sprained knee. Schaub didn’t throw an interception, but he did lose a fumble on a failed sneak.

Butler, the third backup lineman forced into the lineup, and his linemates protected Schaub so well that he posted his eighth 300-yard game.

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Ray Lewis' Mission In Baltimore

Click here to order Ray Lewis’ proCane Rookie Card.

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McKinnie's 'bad day' ends with benching

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — In a game in which many Vikings had a bad day at the office, Bryant McKinnie might have had one of the worst.

The left tackle's struggles in the Vikings' 26-7 loss to the Carolina Panthers on Sunday night at Bank of America Stadium earned him a place on the bench in the third quarter. He was replaced by versatile veteran Artis Hicks.

"Just had a bad day," McKinnie said. "It's pretty disappointing, because there is nothing you can do about it. You're just having a really off day."

Said coach Brad Childress: "You could say that about a bad day at the office for all of us."

McKinnie injured his ankle two weeks ago in the Vikings' loss at Arizona, but did not blame any health issues for his struggles.

McKinnie gave up a sack of quarterback Brett Favre in the first quarter, when rookie defensive end Everette Brown beat him.

McKinnie also gave up a sack to defensive end Julius Peppers. Some believed McKinnie was playing at a Pro Bowl level this season, but that was not the case Sunday.

McKinnie did not express any anger with the decision.

"I felt like if somebody else could go in there and help the team, that would be better instead of me just going out there and having a bad day," he said.

Asked if he could put his finger on what went wrong, he said: "I have an idea of what I can do to fix it. I'm going to make sure I get it fixed this week."

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

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Johnson leads Texans past Rams 16-13

ST. LOUIS — Big games from Andre Johnson and Matt Schaub helped the Houston Texans win by a narrow margin.

Schaub had his eighth 300-yard passing game and Andre Johnson set a season best with 196 yards receiving, but the Texans ended up leaning on field goals to hold off the lowly St. Louis Rams 16-13 on Sunday.

The Rams (1-13) lost their 12th in a row at home and for the 23rd time in 24 games overall only three days after canceling practice after a confirmed case of swine flu. St. Louis got all of its players back, but lost for the second time this season while wearing throwback jerseys honoring the 1999 Super Bowl championship team.

Schaub was 28 for 40 for 367 yards and a touchdown and Johnson hurt the Rams' secondary with four of his nine receptions going for at least 30 yards. The Texans consistently bogged down deep in St. Louis territory, though, and got the go-ahead score on a 28-yard field goal by Kris Brown, his third of the game, with 4:36 to go.

Johnson had catches of 38, 49, 30 and 44 yards. He finished with nine catches for 196 yards. In the last two victories, he’s caught 20 passes for 390 yards.

“It was ugly,” Johnson said. “Normally, when you play road games, the other team’s fans are energetic, but their fans weren’t at the beginning. I think that killed our energy. The atmosphere of the stadium was kind of dead.”

Johnson’s incredible performance resurrected an offense that was terrific until it reached the red zone. The Texans had one touchdown on four trips to the red zone – Schaub’s 3-yard pass to Kevin Walter.

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

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Kelly Jennings long snapping becomes Seattle highlight

SEATTLE -- Every Wednesday, when few - if any - people are watching, Seattle's Kelly Jennings stops being a cornerback and his 180-pound frame becomes ... a long snapper.

But that's just in practice. It would never happen in a game, right?

"You try and develop guys, but quite frankly, he is our best option," Seahawks coach Jim Mora said after Sunday's 24-7 loss to Tampa Bay.

And it was during that embarrassing loss to the previously 1-win Buccaneers that Seattle got it's lone bright spot in an otherwise gloomy loss that ranks among the lowest points for the franchise this decade.

After regular long snapper Kevin Houser was lost with a serious shoulder injury, there was the scrawny Jennings jogging out to snap a third-quarter punt.

The result? A perfect dart back to punter Jon Ryan, and sadly one of the few highlights in a dismal week for the Seahawks.

"Our backup long snapper is Kelly Jennings. You can draw your own conclusions from that statement right there," Mora said.

Jennings was given the role of backup long snapper at the beginning of the season after showing special teams coach Bruce DeHaven he was capable of handling the task last year. DeHaven took note of Jennings' ability when the fourth-year defensive back from Miami was joking around after practice one day.

But the idea of ever having to do it during a game seemed far-fetched at best. As a precaution, Jennings spends time every Wednesday during special teams sessions practicing his snaps at a pole "just in case."

Jennings was one of three Seahawks to start snapping on the sideline in the first half after Houser was injured. Joining Jennings was linebacker Will Herring and fullback Owen Schmidt, but if it came time for a needed punt snap, it was Jennings' job.

When Houser aggravated his shoulder injury trying to make a tackle in the second half, Jennings realized he was going to be called upon.

So with 25 seconds left in the third quarter, Jennings likely became the smallest long snapper in recent NFL memory.

"Not your prototypical long snapper in the National Football League," Mora said.

The Bucs noticed Jennings and appeared to think something was up with a number of players pointing out No. 21 standing over the ball just in case the Seahawks had a trick play in mind.

"When I actually came out they were alerting it, me being a small guy, they might think it was a fake play," Jennings said. "They had some commotion going on in the back, but we knew what we had planned to do if I had to come in."

Jennings said Sunday was just the second time he's ever snapped in a game. He was called into duty as an emergency backup during a high school game in 2000, then joked around with the skill while at Miami and with the Seahawks.

"It's harder than you think," Jennings said. "It has to be perfect every time. If not, it's a turnover or worse."

Click here to order Kelly Jennings’ proCane Rookie Card.

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An old Ray Lewis is still the Lewis of old

LAKE FOREST — Ray Lewis. The two scariest words in football in 2000 remain the two scariest words in 2009.

“He’s definitely intimidating,” Bears right tackle Kevin Shaffer said.

The fifth linebacker taken in the 1996 draft was once thought by some to be too small to play linebacker. He changed such thinking quickly, leading the NFL with 15 tackles for a loss as a rookie and leading the league in tackles in 1997 (184) and 1999 (168). By the time the Ravens won the Super Bowl in 2000 and set an NFL record for fewest points allowed, Lewis had firmly established himself as the baddest man in football.

Now in his 14th season, nothing has changed for the six-time first-team All-Pro, who played in his 10th Pro Bowl last year.

“He’s still one of the best in the game,” Bears coach Lovie Smith said. “Ray Lewis is Ray Lewis. He’s one of the guys you know you have to have a plan for every time you play the Ravens.”

Yet the toughest of all defenders, who faces the Bears at 3:15 p.m. Sunday when Chicago (5-8) travels to Baltimore (7-6), stays tough by, of all things, practicing yoga.

The 6-foot-1, 245-pound Lewis credits yoga for keeping him healthy. His career briefly appeared to be on the downslide after he missed 11 games in 2002 with a shoulder injury and 10 games in 2005 with a hamstring injury. He said he learned the second time that he couldn’t rely on “straight weight lifting” in the offseason.

“Yoga classes really save your body,” Lewis said on a teleconference, joking he was doing the interview with his legs crossed sitting on top of a garbage can.

But that doesn’t mean yoga is a joke. He said he “faithfully” attends 90-minute yoga classes.

“It stretches you that much,” Lewis said. “For us, being muscular people, it’s hard to keep your muscles flexible. When you’re young, you can keep that flexibility, but yoga can save a lot in your career (as you grow older).”

As long as he stays flexible, the 34-year-old Lewis said age is no detriment.

“If you look at the most consistent players in the league, you are going to find people of age,” Lewis said. “It’s based on wisdom, understanding the game, understanding how to get from Point A to Point B without taking three false steps, without reading the wrong things. Age is not too big of a deal. If you take care of your body, it will always show on the field.”

It certainly shows with Ray Lewis.

“He’s one of the very best linebackers in the National Football League, and that’s 14 years in,” said Ravens coach John Harbaugh, who called Lewis “amazing.”

You could also call him “fearsome.” Even if the reason he still thrives is because he likes to sit with his legs crossed.

“Whatever he’s doing, he’s doing it well,” the Bears’ Shaffer said. “He’s leading that defense the same way he was seven or eight years ago.

“If he’s in there, they click. If he’s not in there, it’s a totally different defense. He’s all over the field.”

He’s Ray Lewis. Still.

Click here to order Ray Lewis’ proCane Rookie Card.

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Cardinals' Calais Campbell 'almost' a sack machine

The statistics say Calais Campbell has six sacks this season for the Cardinals, which is a fact he can't dispute.

"Yeah, but I probably should have 13 by now," the second-year defensive end said, shaking his head in disgust.
And he is right. In his first year as a starter, Campbell has had his hands on a quarterback numerous times only to see him wriggle away.

It's to the point that his teammates have saddled him with a nickname.

"They're calling me 'Almost,' because I've got so many 'almost' sacks," Campbell said. "They're on me pretty tough."

Every player has missed a tackle or two, but if Campbell had finished what he started, he'd likely be leading the NFC in sacks. He also would be gaining national acclaim and Pro Bowl votes.

"I know. I know," said Campbell, one of the taller ends in the league at 6 feet 8 inches. "When I'm playing, I get too excited at times and I hesitate or put my head down and dive instead of finishing as well as I could.

"I've been worried about a fine or a penalty a couple of times, too, and that's definitely not something I should be thinking about out there. That happened to me against (Tennessee's) Vince Young and I ended up stumbling around instead of taking him down."

With three weeks left in the regular season, including Sunday's game in Detroit, Campbell has a shot to get his sack total into double digits. Only once in this decade has a Cardinals player finished with 11 or more in a season: Bertrand Berry with 14½ in 2004.

Campbell said his teammates, namely fellow defensive linemen Bryan Robinson and Darnell Dockett, have reminded him to "stay focused on the big picture" and "not get caught up in statistics."

But 13 sacks sound sexier than six.

"We hold each other accountable and that makes you want to play better and not make those mistakes," said Campbell, who was a two-time All-ACC selection with the Miami Hurricanes. "When I have a chance to make a play, I have to make that play.

"I'm encouraged because I know that's something that is easily changeable. I know how to tackle. I've been playing ball since I was a 6-year-old. But I'm maturing and learning so much more, that I know for next year and for years to come I'm going to get there and be faster and be better."


Jennings Makes Snapping Look Easy

Back when he was a superstar at Suwanee High School in Live Oak, Fla., Kelly Jennings was also his team’s backup long snapper.

On Sunday, Jennings was asked to reprise that role when Kevin Houser, the Seattle Seahawks’ usual long snapper, left the game with a shoulder injury.

Though Jennings was practicing long snaps on the sideline in the second quarter, he didn’t snap the ball in the game until the late seconds of the third quarter. Taking the field with Seattle’s punt coverage team, Jennings made an accurate snap to Seahawks punter Jon Ryan.

“I prayed about it before I went out there, and I got it back there,” said Jennings, a 5-foot-11, 180-pound cornerback.

Long snapping “is harder than you think,” he added. “It has to be perfect every time. If not then it’s a turnover or worse.”

Jennings had never snapped in an NFL game or before that in his years at the University of Miami.

“But I used to keep doing it (at practice), just joking around, because I did it in high school,” he said. “I was just joking around here one day (last season) and they saw me snapping, and then they started talking about it.”

After Houser’s injury, which probably occurred in the first quarter, Jennings was practicing long snaps on the sideline, as were teammates Owen Schmitt, a fullback, and Will Herring, a linebacker. Those three take occasional practice snaps during the week, Jennings said, “but I always knew I was the backup.”

“(Jennings) is not your prototypical long snapper in the National Football League,” said Seahawks coach Jim Mora. “God forbid that we would have had to try a field goal.”

Houser went to the hospital for treatment after the game, which Tampa Bay won 24-7. He was receiving attention on the sideline from Seattle’s medical staff, but continued to snap until his final play, which was on a punt midway through the third quarter.

Houser, who was involved on the tackle of Bucs return man Sammie Stroughter, stayed on the turf for several moments and then left the game for good.

It was not a good game for Houser in other respects, too. He was flagged for a personal-foul penalty on Seattle’s first punt of the game, and then sent a low snap to Ryan, the holder, on Seattle’s first-quarter field goal attempt. The ball caromed away from Ryan and place-kicker Olindo Mare was tackled after retrieving the loose ball.

Click here to order Kelly Jennings’ proCane Rookie Card.

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Johnson standing tall for the Texans

Normally doggedly reserved and deadly serious, Houston Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson couldn't help but break out in laughter at the sheer absurdity of the suggestion.

"So, Andre, do you own a sombrero?"

The reference was to Cincinnati wideout Chad Ochocinco, who donned the Mexican headwear and a poncho after scoring a touchdown Dec. 7 vs. Detroit. Ochocinco's latest antic resulted in a $30,000 fine by the NFL.

Unlike Ochocinco, Terrell Owens, Randy Moss and several others, Johnson doesn't qualify for the league's stable of diva receivers. He goes about his business with as little fanfare as possible.

"That's just me," Johnson said. "I really don't care about all the attention and things like that. I think the biggest thing is just having the respect among your peers, the guys you play against in the NFL. Me being talked about on TV every day or being on the cover of a magazine, that really doesn't matter to me."

What does matter to Johnson, who is rolling toward his second consecutive season as the league's leading receiver, is the playoffs. At 6-7, the Texans still have a shot — a very long shot, though. They'd have to win their final three games, starting Sunday vs. the Rams at the Edward Jones Dome, and get considerable help from others along the way.

"It gets frustrating," acknowledged Johnson, a seven-year veteran from Miami. "I want to be a part of helping the Texans get to their first playoff berth and hopefully win their first Super Bowl. That's something that drives me."

Johnson, 28, has been doing his part since the Texans made him the third overall pick in the 2003 draft.

He's already topped 1,000 receiving yards for the fourth time; at 1,237, he's just off the pace of his career best, 1,575, established last year. He has 81 catches; he's reached triple figures twice previously.

A fourth Pro Bowl invitation should be arriving just before New Year's for Johnson, a big-game specialist. Consider that:

Hall of Famer Jerry Rice has more 10-catch, 100-yard games (15) than any receiver since the NFL merged with the American Football League in 1970. He did it in 303 games. Marvin Harrison has 14 such outings in 190 games. Johnson and Tim Brown are tied at 13. It took Brown 255 games.

On Sunday, Johnson will be playing in just his 100th contest.

"Andre's been fighting the good fight here in Houston ever since he was drafted," Texans coach Gary Kubiak said. "He's been the one constant here on this team, and he's as hard a worker as we have. Great young man, very quiet, doesn't say much, just works very hard at his trade.

"You're going to get his best, week in and week out."

Only three teams have logged more passing yards than Houston. That doesn't portend well for the injury-plagued, flu-ridden Rams, who sport the league's sixth-worst defense.

The 6-foot-3, 225-pound Johnson is "a rare combination of size and speed," Rams defensive coordinator Ken Flajole said. "He plays very physical, very much like Larry Fitzgerald at Arizona. ... (The Texans) have a lot of confidence in him, and they find different ways in their offense to get him the football. ...

"You have to game-plan for a guy like that. He's special."

Johnson and quarterback Matt Schaub, who came to Houston in a trade from Atlanta in May 2007, have developed into one of the NFL's most prolific combos. Schaub already has established a career high with 3,814 passing yards, and his 68.5 completion percentage trails only Indianapolis' Peyton Manning (68.6).

"When Matt first got here, he called me and told me how excited he was to be a part of the Texans. He was ready to get to work," Johnson said. "He's definitely a good leader, and he's a tough guy. ... I really like Matt."

You can be sure that the feeling is mutual.

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

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Crothers: Missing U

Surfing the channels the other night, I wiped out on “The U,” the ESPN documentary about the g(l)ory days of football at the University of Miami. My favorite moment was the footage of Randal “Thrill” Hill scoring a touchdown during the 1991 Cotton Bowl, running halfway up the tunnel, then drawing mock six-shooters and gunning down the Texas players as the Hurricanes strutted, preened, high-stepped and crotch-grabbed their way to a 46-3 pantsing of the Longhorns.

I know I should condemn that kind of behavior. I know. But I can’t. That’ll be me at the next meeting of Trashtalkers Anonymous admitting that I have a problem. “I miss The U.” There, I said it.

As a sportswriter I miss the color, the nerve, the soap opera script created by the Hurricanes of that era. The U was a rap video on grass with Luther Campbell of 2 Live Crew, the team’s most ubiquitous celebrity fan, at the mike. Those Canes were a collection of self-proclaimed thugs from the toughest ‘hoods in Miami. They gathered as one at a school nicknamed Suntan U. in bucolic Coral Gables, lured by some dude named Howard Schnellenberger, who sported a cartoon mustache and a pipe. Once there, they took a third-world football program that had nearly been euthanized and transformed it into a dynasty. As a writer, most of my work was done for me.

Miami had more personalities than an American Idol audition. Michael Irvin and Jerome Brown and Jesse Armstead and Thrill Hill, whose six-shooter routine wasn’t even his most famous shtick. (He was best known for strutting around like George Jefferson.) It was a team with so many celebrities that a defensive tackle named Dwayne Johnson, who would come to be known as the pro wrestler “The Rock,” was totally overlooked.
They were a team of outlaws who treated opponents like in-laws.

They were the Convicts to Notre Dame’s Catholics. Hell, they wore fatigues to the Fiesta Bowl. What a delicious paradox. Wearing camouflage to stick out.

But The U became The U because of the almighty W. Miami won four national titles in nine seasons between 1983 and 1991 under three different coaches. Schnellenberger won one and then handed the whip and chair to Jimmy Johnson. He won another and then fled after five seasons at least in part because he wanted to The U to stay The U while his own administration wanted the circus to leave town instead. Then Dennis Erickson coached the Canes to two more national titles, but to hear his players talk about it, he might as well have been a cardboard cutout on the sideline. The documentary compares Miami players to the Deltas in Animal House and Miami’s school president at the time, Edward Thaddeus Foote II, to Dean Wormer. Who wouldn’t root for Bluto over Wormer?

Why is this relevant? Well, one of the few things I despise about college football in 2009 is when some receiver catches a 93-yard touchdown pass, cracks a smile and the next thing you know his team is kicking off from its own 15-yard line. That type of football sharia can change a game. (See: Georgia v. LSU.) It has happened enough this fall that there’s a good chance that the result of one of this season’s bowl games—hopefully not the only one that actually matters—will be influenced by a celebration penalty.

Today’s touchdown police trace directly back to The U’s glory days, when the NCAA actually rewrote the rulebook and designated exactly what would no longer be tolerated after a score by more of less screening Miami highlight videos.

The NCAA wreaked its revenge on The U by condemning the program to probation in 1995, concluding that the university had lost institutional control over the football program. Duh. Not long after that Sports Illustrated was telling us Why the University of Miami Should Drop Football. By the time Kellen Winslow, Jr. channeled his inner Michael Irvin in 2003, we’d crossed the rubicon of political correctness and Winslow, “the f—-ing soldier,” was all but dishonorably discharged.

Under Randy Shannon in recent seasons there is a hint of The U back at Miami. Maybe a u. But the current face of the Canes, Jacory Harris, is just too humble, so damn sportsmanlike that he makes his ancestors like Kosar and Testaverde and Walsh look like badasses.

Sure, there are parts of The U that crossed the line. Luther Campbell strongly suggesting that he paid “bounties” to the Miami players for slobberknocking hits probably set off some radar detectors at the NCAA office. It would have been interesting to hear from Shannon, who played at Miami in the heyday of The U, began his coaching career there as a grad assistant in 1991 and no doubt knows where all the skeletons are hidden, but he was conspicuously and shrewdly absent from ESPN’s film. Shannon surely didn’t want to have to answer the same questions Luther Campbell was fielding.

Alas, the NCAA’s ass gets tighter with every passing season as The U fades farther into the ether of history, but the current players still embrace Miami’s traditional sign of defiance. They still put the tips of their thumbs together and form the U shape with their other fingers. They just don’t wiggle those fingers and stick their tongues out anymore.

2 bad.


After registering first career tackle with Falcons, Naples grad Adkins 'ready for another one'

ATLANTA — Early in the fourth quarter of last Sunday’s Atlanta Falcons game against the New Orleans Saints at the Georgia Dome, Atlanta’s Spencer Adkins had a moment that, in his words, “will never be duplicated.”

Playing in only his second game of his professional career, Adkins, a rookie from Naples High and former Miami Hurricane, dropped New Orleans’ Courtney Roby on the 17-yard line after a kick return of only 15 yards, registering the newcomer’s first tackle in the NFL.

“It felt really good to make my first tackle,” said Adkins, the 2004 Broxson Award winner, awarded to the Naples area’s best all-around high school football player. “But I’m ready for another one.”

Adkins had been inactive for 11 of Atlanta’s first 12 games, only seeing very little action on the special teams unit at Dallas on Oct. 25. However, because injuries had recently hobbled the team, Adkins participated in three of four phases of special teams against the Saints.

The Falcons selected Adkins in the sixth round of the draft this spring, making him the only Hurricanes player chosen. While at Miami, Adkins was primarily a situational linebacker, starting only five games his entire collegiate career, all during his junior season.

During his pro day at Miami, Adkins displayed an impressive athleticism for his 5-foot-11, 230-pound frame and an uncanny speed for an inside linebacker, catching the attention of scouts.

Speed was something he utilized as a four-year contributor on Miami’s special teams, playing there almost exclusively his freshman and sophomore seasons.

“The special teams were a big part of our game plan at Miami,” Adkins said. “Like here (in Atlanta), Miami took its special teams very seriously. We even had some starters who played a lot of special teams.”

Click here to read the reast of the story.


Transcript: CB Bruce Johnson

Q: RE: Starting on Monday night.
A: I have been playing all year so I'm just ready whenever I'm called. So it's not a sure thing if I will start or not. But if I do, I will just be ready. So I take every week like I'm going to start.

Q: In a rookie season you are always going to have ups and downs. What are the things that you really need to clean up here down the stretch, especially with a bigger role?
A: Pretty much I just have to clean up my focus. Like they say, you don't want to hit that rookie wall at this time. And I talked to a couple of the older guys and they said that they know exactly where I'm coming from because they hit it, too. I wouldn't necessarily say I hit a wall. So pretty much I just have to keep focused each week and each practice rep during practice and stay in the film room and don't get tired of it. I have to keep doing that more and more and want to learn more.

Q: You talk about the wall. Is that more of a mental thing or it is just the fact that the season is a lot longer than you are used to?
A: You could say that it is a mental thing. But like I say, you have to just take it day by day. You are right, in college the season is shorter than what it is right now. So your body is used to just stopping right around this time. You just have to keep going and know that you have a couple more games to go. And try to fight it.

Q: Did you take reps with the first team?
A: No, not with the first team. When they called the nickel group I came in, like I have been doing all year.

Q: Was Kevin Dockery in there?
A: Yeah, Kevin was taking reps, yeah.

Q: Because all of you guys have played so much, do you feel the secondary is equipped to handle the loss of those two?
A: I think so. We have been short of corners all year. We know what we have to do even with the shortage of the corners that we have already. So we have been going through this since the first game .........and we have done pretty well. So everybody knows what we have to do and where we have to fill in. Everybody knows their role and what they have to do. So we are feeling pretty good.


Zach Railey Named US SAILING’s 2009 Olympic SportsMan of the Year

Zach Railey took a short break after winning a silver medal at the 2008 Olympic Games and then jumped right back in to a competitive Finn fleet to win several national and international medals. This year, he won a silver medal in a highly competitive fleet of 87 sailors at the Finn Gold Cup, the world championship held in Vallensbaek, Denmark. He also won the U.S. Finn National Championship and finished second overall at the Finn Midwinters Championship. Railey showed strong performances on the ISAF Sailing World Cup circuit, winning bronze medals at US SAILING’s Rolex Miami OCR and Sail for Gold. Railey also finished fifth at the Delta Lloyd Regatta, another ISAF Sailing World Cup event. This is the second year in a row Railey has won this award; Railey has also been named to the shortlist of US SAILING’s 2009 Rolex Yachtsman of the Year award.


Salmons' shooting struggles mirror those of the Bulls

Kirk Hinrich whipped a pass across the top of what passed for New York's defense. John Salmons caught it and ducked under a lunge by Knicks guard Chris Duhon, whose momentum carried him by. That left Salmons, at 3-point range, with a clear view of the rim late in the Chicago Bulls' game at United Center on Thursday. And almost too much time to think about it.

Instead, fortunately, this time, Salmons did not. He simply hoisted his shot and watched it drop, bumping an 87-81 lead up to nine with 47.7 seconds left, a game-icer that elicited a brief but discernable little hop off the floor from the normally stoic Salmons.

So that's one in a row now. Can he and the Bulls make it two? Can Salmons do it night after night, or at least more often than not?

The questions hanging over Salmons aren't any different. He and the Bulls just hope the results are.

If there is one player who has been the poster guy of Chicago's disappointing 9-15 start to 2009-10 -- the victory Thursday was only their third in 14 games -- it is Salmons. He's the player who came over last February in a trade with Sacramento who proved to be such a help and a bonus. He's the guy who was going to step into the void left by Ben Gordon, after Bulls management decided not to negotiate for the streaky scoring guard at the $55 million nose-bleed level established by the Detroit Pistons.

Salmons is the one who was supposed to help the Bulls take their next step. Instead, he's the one catching most of the flak for what so far has been a stagger. So in the locker room afterward, even if the seventh-year swingman wasn't showing or admitting to much relief, it was there on the faces of Salmons' teammates and even in the tone of the queries lobbed his way.

"Going through a struggle like that, you've just got to keep your faith,'' Salmons said, after finishing with 20 points, seven rebounds and four assists in the 98-89 victory. "Eventually it will come. I'm still feeling my way through. Trying to get it all together.''

The pressure, Salmons admitted, had been mounting, as much from within himself as from the boobirds at United Center or the critics around the league. There was his four-point effort Saturday in a dismal loss to Boston, and then a two-point non-performance against the Lakers Tuesday on a night when a little more might have made a difference.

"It's definitely been tough. Especially after last game. I think that's when it hit me hardest,'' he said. "The only way I can get through it is through God and keeping my faith. If it wasn't for that, I don't know where I'd be right now.

"Even today, I had a turnover. I was on a semi-break and I kind of hesitated a little bit and threw the ball away. It was not being 100 percent confident. It's been tough. Hopefully, I can keep getting better, back to where I was. It's one of them things, for whatever reason, I'm going through. People struggle at their jobs all the time. It's just, mine is a little more public.''

Salmons' struggle is not over. His 20 points against the Knicks were misleading, because he had only six on 2-of-5 shooting in a first half in which the Bulls trailed by as much as 17 points. They only got within two at the break because New York went so three-crazy (launching 29 in the half, including 2-of-16 in the second quarter). Salmons had only 13 points by the time he hit his key three, then he added four free throws in the final 47.7 seconds that weren't exactly crucial.

"He's struggling in some areas, there's no question about that,'' coach Vinny Del Negro said. "Tonight it was good to see him hit a couple of big shots for us. Penetrate and make plays. ... Y'know, we need him to play well. We need his points, we need his activity on the defensive end, his versatility. So it's a long season. Hopefully he'll build from this, because we need him to play well.''

For Salmons, it was only his sixth game with 20 points or more this season, and only the third time both he and forward Luol Deng (24 points, 13 rebounds) managed it in the same game. Salmons is averaging 13.5 points on 38.7 percent shooting, compared to the 18.3 and 47.3 percent he contributed last spring when so much less was expected.

Chicago has several other issues -- no low-post scoring, no 3-point marksmen, lots of injuries -- but until Salmon becomes more reliable, the victories come more frequently or, preferably, both, there will be scrutiny. And noise.
"It'll come for John. It's been a slow start, but it'll come,'' Deng said. "He's fine. He's been in the league for a while. He's gone through ups and downs. If he was a rookie, then we'd be worried. But he understands that he has to stick with what he's doing and trust it.''

Said center Joakim Noah, as open in his emotions as Salmons appears closed in his: "A lot of pressure is put on him. It is a different situation for him -- when BG [Gordon] was here, it definitely opened up the court a little more. I think it's just a question of him figuring it out, and also putting him in better situations where he can be more comfortable on the court.''

About then, Salmons quietly slipped out the locker room door that is next to Noah's stall. "I know it's frustrating for him at times,'' the Bulls center said. "But today he hit a big shot to seal the win. I just wish he could express that, y'know what I'm saying? I guess everybody's different ... But let me make a three like that to win the game [and see how I'd react].''

The Bulls care less about the reaction, frankly, than the action at this point.


Salmons remains confident despite drop in production

John Salmons hasn't been scoring as well as expected this season, but he hit a particularly deep rut in the past week, scoring a total of 6 points in consecutive games against the Lakers and Celtics.

Needless to say, it was a relief for Salmons to bounce back with 20 points in Thursday's win over the Knicks. Salmons knocked down a 3-pointer with 47 seconds left that essentially put the game out of reach.

After the contest, the soft-spoken Salmons didn't hesitate to show his spiritual side.

"It's definitely been tough. It's not easy dealing with stuff like that," he said after the New York game. "I'm just trying to look to God, give him all the praise, and hopefully he'll come through. That's what he did today."

One of the questions heading into this season was whether Salmons could match his surprising production of last season, when he averaged a career-best 18.3 points. So far, he hasn't. After Thursday's game, Salmons is averaging 13.5 points and shooting 38.7 percent from the field.

Late last season, Salmons played small forward while Luol Deng was sidelined with a leg injury. This year, Salmons is primarily a shooting guard, and perhaps facing quicker defenders is one reason he hasn't been driving to the basket with as much frequency.

"I don't know. I think I've always been known for taking it to the basket, driving," he said. "But to me, I've always been a midrange player. I was taking it to the hoop and finishing at a high level (last season), so people kind of thought I was more of a driver.

"This year, I know I haven't been taking the ball to the hole as much as I did in the past, but I am confident. A lot of times, I'm taller than the people I'm playing against. I try to get to a spot and shoot over them. That's one of the reasons why I've been shooting a lot of jump shots, because I've been trying to shoot over smaller guys."


Williams looks to inspire T & T young female athletes

Port-of-Spain, Trinidad: Former World 100m champion Lauryn Williams says she is looking forward to share her experiences with the up and coming female athletes of Trinidad and Tobago.

Williams, who collected silver at the 2004 Olympics in Athens and the 2007 Worlds in Osaka will host a seminar for female athletes at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on Saturday (19th December) from 1:30 pm. She is hoping to “encourage the girls, that you can do anything.”

“The sky is the limit as far as you want to achieve. It is a matter of how hard you work (that) will determine how successful you will be. You will have barriers, like monetary, that prevent you from travelling. If you are working hard you will always find someone willing to open the door for you. People will recognize that you are willing and will give to you when once they know you have potential. So I am going to encourage them to stay on track, make sure they are out there exercising even though they are not going to be no Olympian or World Champion,” said Williams.

The 26 year old Nike-sponsored sprinter adds that she will be promoting sports for healthy living. “Sports is good for your health and teaches you life skills. If you participate in sports and continue to participate in them they will teach you things not only like how to win but how to be a good loser.”

Williams is in Trinidad with her 80 year old paternal grand-mother. They arrived in Trinidad on 14th December and will leave for the US on 21st December.


Williams: Hard work pays off

To be a success at track and field, or any other field, nothing can substitute hard work.

That was the message from US 2005 100-metre World champion Lauryn Williams to some of Trinidad and Tobago’s young female track athletes yesterday at the Hasely Crawford Stadium.

Williams, whose father David was born in Charlotteville, on the North Eastern tip of Tobago, was on vacation in T&T, retracing her roots, when the National Association for Athletics Administration (NAAA) invited her to come and speak to some of the young local athletes. She graciously accepted, and was greeted by the gathering with great enthusiasm.

At the Stadium, the 26-year old athlete spent time in a mostly informal session, answering questions and giving advice to the youngsters interested in pursuing a career in athletics. She told them that although she didn’t fall in love with the sport early on, it was her natural ability, competitive nature and desire for success that made her pursue it. Success, she said, demanded it.

’What got me going was that when I wasn’t working hard, I was losing,’ Williams explained. Although she did not come from a wealthy family, Lauryn also saw that track could send her to college, and she was determined to do so.

’(I thought) if to get that all I had to do was to run around this little circle, then that’s what I’m going to do,’ she related, adding: ’that was the thing that mattered most to me’.

Soon Williams was regularly succeeding at national trials, training ’with a vengeance’ as she put it, and the 2002 World Junior 100-metre women’s champion was rewarded with success a year later when she landed the 2005 senior ’Worlds’ title.

She was injured for part of the 2006 season, but was just happy to claim second place when she returned to action at the 2007 World Championships.

’Second place never felt so good,’ she reminisced.

The highest point of her career, claims Lauryn, was triumphing at the 2004 National Championships. Her lowest? Her effort over 200m in the 2009 edition.

’It’s the first time I’ve never finished a race to the best of my ability. My coach worked hard to get met here

’I was just cruising to the line,’ she added, ’and I was so embarrassed not to finish the race knowing that I had quit on the race, that is not my character, that is not the kind of person I want to be.’

One of the things that has plagued Williams’ career has been the 100m relay at major events, three times in fact, including the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

’To not even carry the stick around the track is a real disappointment to all of us (on the US team). But to bounce back from that shows your character.’

That character, she told the young track hopefuls, needs to be a little ’selfish’ to achieve success.
’ Track and boys don’t mix,’ she warned with a smile.

’Groupies work both ways. When you’re doing well, everyone wants to be your friend, but not everyone has your best interest at heart.’