Follow Our Future proCanes With Our NFL Combine App on Facebook

Follow the Nine future proCanes at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis starting today and all weekend through our Facebook App. Become a fan of our Facebook page and show your love for The U, by "like"ing it app! You’ll be able to track all stats including 40 times, weight lifting and a lot more! Click here to get the app!

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Orlando Frankling Looks Good at Combine Weigh In

Miami offensive lineman Orlando Franklin came in at 6054, 316 pounds and possessed 35-inch arms. He looked to be in good shape, was thick in the lower half and passed the eyeball test.

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Jeremy Shockey passes physical for Miami Dolphins

Former Miami Hurricanes tight end Jeremy Shockey passed a physical for the Miami Dolphins on Thursday, ESPN's Adam Schefter is reporting, citing a league source.

It is not known, however, if the sides are negotiating a contract.

Shockey, 30, was released Tuesday by the New Orleans Saints after three seasons. He spent the first six seasons of his NFL career with the New York Giants, who drafted him in the first round in 2002 (14th overall).

Shockey's agent, Drew Rosenhaus, has said that Shockey -- who owns a home on South Beach -- would welcome playing for the Dolphins.
Shockey has been plagued by injuries during his career and has never played a full NFL season. He has caught 510 passes for 5,688 yards and 33 touchdowns in his NFL career.

Rosenhaus said: “I can’t speak for the Dolphins but I will tell you Jeremy does have an interest in Miami,” Rosenhaus said on the air. “Jeremy lives in Miami, has always been a big fan of South Florida, obviously, going back to his great days at the University of Miami. … From our standpoint we are very interested in the Dolphins but I cannot comment on whether that feeling is mutual at this time.”

Shockey caught 41 passes for 408 yards and three touchdowns in 13 games last season. The Dolphins' starting tight end, Anthony Fasano, caught 39 passes for 528 yards with four touchdowns.

After he was released Tuesday by the Saints, Shockey told ESPN's Rachel Nichols: "It's a business, I understand. I'll just go play hard for someone else. Whoever gets me, it's going to be a steal."

Ironically, with Shockey gone from New Orleans, another former UM standout, Jimmy Graham, is expected to take over the primary tight end duties.

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

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Ravens extend restricted tender to Tavares Gooden

Aaron Wilson of the Carroll County Times reports that the Ravens have extended restricted free agent tenders to linebackers Dannell Ellerbe and Tavares Gooden.

Ellerbe and Gooden are three-year players, so they would’ve received restricted tenders regardless of the labor uncertainty.

Wilson reports that Ellerbe received a “low” tender, and Gooden an “original pick” tender. Because Ellerbe was originally undrafted, the Ravens would not receive compensation if another team signed him to an offer sheet, and Baltimore failed to match.

Gooden is highly unlikely to receive interest in restricted free agency at the original pick tender. He was originally a third-round pick, and no team would be willing to give up such a selection for the injury-prone linebacker.

Each player’s tender will be worth just over $1 million.

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Quadtrine Hill Wins Another Fight Now 4-1

COSTA MESA — Fight Club OC delivered a knockout performance in its debut Thursday night.

Fans saw two fighters go down by knockout. The fighters failed to get up, but the fans at the OC Fair & Events Center rose to their feet and applauded.

The sold-out event in Costa Mesa was a rousing success, as 1,568 fans packed the Hangar to see a seven-bout card featuring five boxing matches and two in Mixed Martial Arts. Most of the fighters were unknowns, except for the two in the main event.

Quadtrine Hill, the ex-running back, and Chad Davis of Phoenix, Ariz., went all four rounds, but Hill recorded a unanimous decision and improved to 4-1. Davis fell to 2-8.

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James Jones, John Salley discuss going vegetarian

When James Jones goes on the road, he racks up a huge food bill.

But not for the reasons you're thinking.

"Room service is tough. The side dishes are the most overpriced thing on the menu," said Jones. "I'm ordering five side dishes of steamed broccoli, five dishes of steamed asparagus and a bowl of brown rice. My bill for that right there might be $70, but that's the trade-off if you want to eat right on the road."

That is, if you're a vegetarian. Jones, a reserve small forward with the Miami Heat who won the 3-point competition during this year's NBA All-Star weekend, described himself as a "very heavy meat-eater" before becoming a vegetarian in 2007. His go-to meal in the old days? Macaroni and cheese with barbecue chicken.

James said that becoming a vegetarian opened him up to lots of new grains, rices and oatmeal. And though it has closed him off to meat, he's not beyond knowing that everyone else loves a good meal piled high with animal protein.

So that's exactly what he made when he was a celebrity chef on Gordon Ramsay's Fox reality TV show "Kitchen Nightmares" last summer.

Along with members of the Miami Dolphins and Florida Panthers, James was faced with making the perfect pizza in three minutes. So what did Jones pile on?

Well, meat of course.

"But you see, I didn't eat the pizza. I'm the weird guy. I only eat pizza with straight sauce," said Jones, who became a vegetarian during the 2007 NBA playoffs when he was busy knocking down 3-pointers for the Phoenix Suns.

Making the change was as tough as getting a few minutes on the floor behind the Big Three. What with fast food, arena food and room service making up three of an NBA player's food groups, what's a vegetarian to do?

Ask John Salley. Now a vegan, Salley was 27 when he signed with the Heat (1992-95) and decided to become a vegetarian.

"For me, I was gaining weight and I was depressed. Everyone thinks that life in the NBA is the best life you can have, but then it's like baseball and you run into a slump," said Salley, who has launched John Salley Foods, an organic and vegan food company.

"That's the way it goes when everyone treats you well and you are having steak dinners at restaurants, and it's 'surf and turf,' and the manly thing is not to order a salad. I had to get out of that."

Both Salley and Jones made the decision to drop meat for health reasons. Salley saw family members struggle with food and their health while Jones is concerned about how his body will fare in the future.

But it's not easy.

"I'm by far the weirdest eater. I go straight to dessert first, and then I'll go for some side dishes," Jones said. "For me, I want to make sure I get the good foods in first -- baked potatoes, asparagus, broccoli -- and then if I'm still hungry, I'll do some beans. I might have some fish or substitute with some tofu."

Salley has found a unique way to spread his gospel of food -- the seven-day "John Salley New You Cruise," featuring Caribbean destinations, nutrition lectures and cooking classes. The cruise goes out of Fort Lauderdale on Sunday, and Salley will take the chance to pop into Miami.

"I'm planning to make a stop in Miami around then, and hopefully talk to Dwyane Wade," said Salley. "Because the reason he's having the problems with his legs is he's dehydrated and not getting anything to satisfy what his muscles do, and no one is telling him."

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Fantasy Sleeper: Chris Perez

Chris Perez: OK, so Perez isn't exactly a nobody in Fantasy. He'll get drafted in every league, in fact. But most Fantasy owners don't seem to grasp just how impressive his breakthrough 2010 season was. From June 28 on, he posted a 0.53 ERA, striking out 37 batters in 34 innings. He allowed less than a hit every two innings during that stretch. A pitcher can't get any more effective than that. True, he pitches for a bad team, but that hasn't stopped Joakim Soria from earning elite status in Fantasy. At a time when so many big-name closers have so many concerns, Perez is more valuable than anyone gives him credit for. He's a late-rounder who's almost sure to perform like a middle-rounder, if not better.

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Morgan takes bunting lessons from Alex Cora

VIERA, Fla. -- The Nationals were doing bunting drills Thursday and the most interesting scene was watching center fielder Nyjer Morgan taking lessons from infielder Alex Cora, who told Morgan not to try to surprise the opponent with a bunt. The most important part is putting the ball in the right place for a hit.

"Everybody knows Nyjer is going to bunt. For him, I think placement is very important, [more] than hiding the bunt," Cora said.

Cora learned the art of bunting when he was with the Dodgers. He said he became an experienced bunter by listening to Dodgers Spring Training instructor Maury Wills.

"I came up through the Dodger organization, and we had the best teacher of them all," Cora said. "You can use Maury's knowledge and spread it around. For Nyjer, it will benefit him. I've seen him play the last two years in the National League. I played against him, and I can see his strengths and his weaknesses. I'm here. That's what you do as a teammate."

How did Morgan feel about getting bunting tips on Thursday? Morgan wishes he had Cora as a coach earlier in his career.

"Cora has been in the game a long time," Morgan said. "He understands what it takes to be a successful bunter. By listening to him, I understand what Maury Wills taught him. Alex passed it on to me a little bit. I'm glad Alex has that background to help out my game."

Morgan is hoping the tips from Cora can help him get on base often. Last year, Morgan had hit .253 and had an on-base percentage of .319.

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Photos From Rashad Butler's Birthday Party

Rashad Butler celebrated his 28th birthday in Miami this February at The 400 at LUX Nightclub. Check out some photos below!

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Hurricane NFL hopefuls intend to impress in Indy

The University of Miami football program has taken a step back since the late 1990s, but they haven’t stopped churning out NFL stars. Recent success stories include Cardinals defensive end Calais Campbell, Packers cornerback Sam Shields, Saints tight end Jimmy Graham, Giants safety Kenny Phillips, and Panthers linebacker Jon Beason.

Miami sends nine players to this year’s Scouting Combine, and PFT had the chance to speak with two of them Wednesday.

First up was cornerback Demarcus Van Dyke, a projected middle-round selection. Van Dyke earned an invite to January’s Senior Bowl, and has been mentioned as a candidate to run the fastest forty-yard dash in Indianapolis.

A humble Van Dyke wouldn’t get specific about projections, saying his goal is to “just run a fast time.” Van Dyke mentioned Fort Valley State receiver/returner Ricardo Lockette and Kentucky running back Derrick Locke as also in the mix to blaze the track in Indy. ”D.V.D.,” as he’s known, helped break the University of Miami record in the 4×100 sprint relay as a Canes track star.

Van Dyke had two pass breakups and four tackles in the Senior Bowl game. He said the Bills and Cowboys, especially, have shown interest in him.

Running back Damien Berry was impressive to speak to, recalling his early-career days as a kickoff coverage ace for The U.
“I love special teams,” stressed Berry.

Berry believes he’s been unfairly pegged as a 4.5-type athlete, but is confident he’ll hit the 4.4s at the Combine.  He said the Dolphins and Jaguars have seemed keen on him so far, but it “really doesn’t matter” where he lands.

“I just love to win,” he said.

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Video: Shockey optimistic about future

The New Orleans Saints are done with Jeremy Shockey. But the tight end says he’s not done with football.

He says he already has a physical lined up with another team Thursday. He also said the Saints should be in good shape at tight end with Jimmy Graham, who like Shockey, came out of the University of Miami.

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

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Chris Myers underwent surgery

Texans C Chris Myers had arthroscopic surgery on his left elbow in late January. He's fine now- said rehab only took a few weeks.

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Saints would only want Shockey back as a backup

The Saints haven’t closed the door on a possible return to the team by Jeremy Shockey, according to Jeff Duncan of the New Orleans Times-Picayune.   But they would only want him to return as a backup to Jimmy Graham.

Translation: The door is only open a crack, and only if Shockey was very desperate.

As Duncan points out, the decision to cut Shockey was more about Graham’s emergence as a future star than Shockey.

It’s worth wondering, however, how many starting jobs Shockey will be offered.  His speed has diminished rapidly the last few years and he’s always fighting through injuries.  There is very little chance he will make close to the $4.7 million he was scheduled to earn in New Orleans.  He has the reputation of carrying himself like a superstar without the production to match.

Speculation immediately started regarding whether Shockey could end up with the Dolphins.  Shockey would surely like to play in his college town and Sean Payton is close to a lot of Dolphins staff members.

We’re not sure whether Payton sharing inside information would help or hurt Shockey’s chances of landing in Miami.

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

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Jeremy Shockey schedules a physical

A day after he was cut by the Saints, Jeremy Shockey says he’s drawing interest elsewhere.

Shockey told ESPN today that he has a physical scheduled for tomorrow with a team that’s interested in his services. Curiously, he didn’t name the team.

Although Shockey is presumably healthy enough that he can pass a physical, he’s been no stranger to nagging injuries that have slowed him down or taken him off the field. He missed three games in 2010 and has never played all 16 games in any season.

Shockey, who will turn 31 in August, had career lows in catches (41) and yards (408) last season.

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

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Greg Olsen prefers the route that keeps him with Bears

Toward the end of the 2010 season, when it was clear his statistics would be down in every key category, Bears tight end Greg Olsen provided a glimpse into his character.

During a three-game stretch, he hauled in just three passes for 20 yards. But the fourth-year player didn’t complain about his limited opportunities or question his role.

Instead, he highlighted his growth in other areas and the challenges of becoming a more complete tight end.

‘‘I’ve had a lot of fun growing into the offense,’’ Olsen told me then. ‘‘When you have so many roles, it makes it a lot of fun. Each week in practice, it’s a challenge to try and learn it all.’’

Olsen and I chatted alone for a while just outside the locker room, and one of the topics I didn’t write about then was his future. Olsen is entering the final year of his rookie deal, which is set to pay him a base salary of $900,000 — about $500,000 less than blocking tight end Brandon Manumaleuna. That doesn’t include a $1 million roster bonus Manumaleuna is scheduled to receive as part of a five-year, $15  million contract he signed last offseason that included $6.1  million in guarantees.

‘‘My No. 1 priority is that I stay for here for a long time,’’ Olsen said. ‘‘Hopefully, both sides feel that same way. But I know I do. I want to stay in Chicago.’’

I asked him if his contract status was on his mind at all.

‘‘To say it [isn’t] would be a lie,’’ he said. ‘‘It’s not what it’s all about, but it’s definitely a factor. But I’m confident that if I continue to play well and help our team win, then everything will take care of it itself.’’

Olsen insisted he wouldn’t issue any ultimatums to Bears management.

‘‘I’m not going to storm in and say this and that and the other thing,’’ he said. ‘‘I’m going to continue to work hard, try to be consistent and make the plays they ask me to and build on what I’ve done the last couple of years, and things will take care of themselves.’’

But a resolution could be complicated.

The collective bargaining agreement is set to expire March 3. A salary cap hasn’t been established, and the Bears already have a litany of expensive veterans on their tab. In addition, key players are set to hit the open market, including defensive tackle Anthony Adams.

And the team’s decision to sign two unrestricted free agents has created an awkward situation. When the Bears signed perennial Pro Bowl defensive end Julius Peppers, they also invested in two other veterans, Manumaleuna and running back Chester Taylor, who didn’t have breakout seasons. Their younger counterparts, Olsen and Matt Forte, are scheduled to make be paid less than those two in 2011.

Clearly Olsen deserves a raise, but how much?

The NFL’s highest-paid tight end is Vernon Davis, who signed a five-year extension with the San Francisco 49ers that averages $7.35 million per year. Brent Celek signed a six-year extension with the Philadelphia Eagles in December 2009 that averages about $5 million a year.

One positive is that Bears general manager Jerry Angelo has completed several deals with Drew Rosenhaus, one of the most prolific agents of NFL players.

But before he engages in any serious talks, Angelo needs to figure out what offensive coordinator Mike Martz plans to do with Olsen.

Martz traditionally hasn’t focused on the tight end in terms of moving the football. Davis, one of the NFL’s best overall athletes, even had a forgettable season under Martz in 2008 when Martz was the 49ers’ offensive coordinator. Olsen’s numbers dipped dramatically from 2009 to 2010; he caught 19 fewer passes and scored three fewer touchdowns.

Martz, though, doesn’t blame Olsen.

‘‘Greg’s numbers in the passing game are not what they could and probably should be for his abilities, but what we’ve done with him is he lines up at the line of scrimmage, and he’s the point of attack,’’ Martz said in January. ‘‘But he’s also lined up at fullback and has been a lead blocker. We line him up at wide receiver. He does so many things for us, and just by being able to do that flexibility, it puts a lot of pressure on the defense, though his numbers wouldn’t indicate that.’’

So the Bears will have to figure out what to do with Olsen. Unlike the situation with Forte, they at least have a promising young player behind Olsen: Kellen Davis.

But in an age when skill players care more about ‘I’ than ‘T-E-A-M,’ Olsen takes the right approach. So, too, it seems, does Davis.

‘‘There are a lot of guys who get a ton of catches a game, and granted everyone wants that,’’ Olsen said. ‘‘But there’s a difference between getting a lot of balls and catching balls that are meaningful. Guys around here understand that. It’s not how many but the ones that you get.’’

Click here to order Greg Olsen’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Jeremy Shockey's greatest hits: Go-ahead touchdown in Super Bowl XLIV

Arguably the biggest play of Jeremy Shockey's three-year stint with the New Orleans Saints came on the biggest stage, trailing the Indianapolis Colts in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl XLIV.

In this excerpt from a June 22 article by Mike Triplett, Coach Sean Payton breaks down the play:

Now at second-and-2 from the Colts' 28-yard line, the Saints called a run play, but Brees changed it at the line of scrimmage when he saw that only one safety was lined up deep instead of the two-deep zone the Saints expected. He completed an 8-yard pass to receiver Marques Colston.

Payton said defenses will often try to disguise what they're doing at the line of scrimmage -- "they'll sugar it sometimes, " as he put it. But he said the Colts weren't able to disguise their alignments because the Saints' tempo from play to play was so quick.

The next play was also supposed to be a run, but Brees again decided to change it up. This time, instead of calling an audible at the line, he decided to make a quick throw out to receiver Robert Meachem on the far right side of the field, a "smoke" option that was built into the play.
It actually might have been the wrong decision. Payton pointed out that there appeared to be a decent hole available for the run. But Meachem did a great job of fighting off an early tackle and turning the play into a six-yard gain.

The next play was a "simple stick route" to tight end David Thomas on the left side, a nine-yard gain that gave the Saints first-and-goal from the 5-yard line.

"They're coming, but not in chunks here, " Payton said again.

The next play was a three-yard run by Pierre Thomas that did exactly what it was designed to do: get the Saints down closer to the goal line. Payton had already called the next play even before Thomas ran the ball. It was a quick pass designed for Shockey if he got the right matchup.

And sure enough, the Saints got the matchup they wanted. Shockey was lined up outside, and the Colts opted for zone coverage with cornerback Jacob Lacey directly across from him.

"If you listen to the audio, you'll hear me say, 'He's going to throw to Shockey here, '" said Payton, who indeed predicted the touchdown before the ball was snapped, according to the raw footage from NFL Films, which had put a microphone on the coach for the game.

"If this corner, who's short, matches up on Shockey and we feel like Shockey can get inside technique, which Drew sees right now" Payton explained as he highlighted the key players with his coach's clicker. "We've got just what we want. Soft coverage and the big athlete on the small corner. Shockey's just going to run what we call a bullet, and Drew will take one step and he's going to throw this.

"It's just a big player on a small player. The corner didn't play it badly at all. It's like an inbound on a basketball court."

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

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Saints cut Jeremy Shockey, Jimmy Graham To Step Up

NEW ORLEANS -- For flamboyant tight end Jeremy Shockey, the party is over -- at least in New Orleans.

Shockey was released Tuesday by the Saints, who appear ready to move on with promising second-year pro and 2010 third-round draft choice Jimmy Graham.

"It's a business, I understand," Shockey told ESPN's Rachel Nichols. "I'll just go play hard for someone else. Whoever gets me it's going to be a steal."

Shockey was no stranger to the Big Easy social scene and also helped give the city a reason to celebrate like never before. He made a crucial touchdown catch in the fourth quarter of the Saints' lone Super Bowl victory over Indianapolis in Miami just more than a year ago.

But with one season and $4.2 million in base salary left on Shockey's contract, the Saints decided the best way to pursue a second championship would be without the 30-year-old, nine-year veteran.

"Jeremy played an important role in helping our team bring a Super Bowl championship to New Orleans," coach Sean Payton said. "He contributed to the success of our offense, both as a pass-catcher and run blocker, and we're appreciative of his efforts."

Acquired from the New York Giants in a trade at the onset of 2008 training camp, Shockey spent three up-and-down seasons in New Orleans and labored through injuries in all of them.

Last season, Shockey made 41 catches for 408 yards and three touchdowns in 13 games.

Shockey's agent, Drew Rosenhaus, did not answer his phone, but Shockey posted a note on his Twitter page: "Always will remember my time in New Orleans. What a city, you all welcomed me like one of your own, and we had a great run. Onto the next chapter, the Deep Unknown."

Shockey, a former Miami Hurricanes star who makes his offseason home in Miami's South Beach, is an adventure traveler and avid free diver. While he played for the Giants, who made him a first-round draft pick in 2002, he was popular and productive, but also seen as a malcontent and a distraction by the time his stay in New York had ended.

In New Orleans, he rejoined Payton, who had been his offensive coordinator in New York during his rookie season, which remains one of his best seasons statistically, with 74 catches for 894 yards and two TDs.

After Shockey arrived in New Orleans, he often sidestepped reporters and for the most part avoided generating negative headlines.

Not entirely, though. In 2008, he was critical of the team's handling of his sports hernia injury, which he contended was misdiagnosed. Off the field, he made news for being hospitalized after passing out because of dehydration at a pool-side party in Las Vegas in the summer of 2009.

As he looks for a new team, Shockey's resume includes 510 catches for 5,688 yards and 33 TDs in his nine-season career. The questions now are how many good seasons he has left and which teams want to take a chance on him.

In his three seasons in New Orleans, he caught 139 passes for 1,460 yards with six touchdowns in 38 regular season games, 34 of them starts.

Last season, Shockey made an effort to serve as a mentor for Graham, who also attended Miami, but entered college as a basketball player before a lone season of football with the 'Canes.

Graham improved steadily as the season wore on and became a trusted target for quarterback Drew Brees, who raved about his rapid development. Graham finished his rookie season with 31 catches for 356 yards and five touchdowns, with one play going for 52 yards.

Graham routinely credited Shockey for teaching him the NFL game and Saints officials said they appreciated not just Shockey's effort on game days, but his willingness to hasten the development of his understudy.

"I'd like to thank Jeremy for the contributions he made to our team," general manager Mickey Loomis said. "These decisions are never easy to make and we wish him the best."

Shockey through Twitter said: “Always will remember my time in New Orleans. What a city, you all welcomed me like one of your own, and we had a great run. Onto the next chapter, the Deep Unknown.”

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

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Sam Shields celebrates SB title

SARASOTA - Hundreds of well-wishers gathered Saturday afternoon at Newtown Estates Park to pay homage to local football hero Sam Shields.

Shields, a 2006 graduate of Booker High, completed his NFL rookie season earlier this month by winning a Super Bowl ring as a cornerback for the Green Bay Packers.

Shields was a key member of the team that defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers, 31-25, to capture the NFL title.

"Actually, I'm still trying to soak it in now," said Shields' father, Sam Shields Jr. "As these moments go on, it's getting better and better."

The elder Shields, who was sporting a No. 37 Green Bay jersey in honor of his son, was quick to point out that his son is actually Sam Shields III.
Lots of fans were sporting Green Bay jerseys with that number as they enjoyed live music and some barbecue.

"We thought it was important to thank everybody," the elder Shields said. "You can't always do that with everyone, so we thought this would be the best way to do it. Come on in and have a hug and have something to eat."

"I love it," said Shields when asked about holding a celebration in his hometown. "The family came out here for support and that's what we look for. That's what we're trying to do, give back to the community."

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Ryan Hill Talks Combine & Current State of Canes

Recently HSN got a chance to catch up with former cane defensive back Ryan Hill. Ryan Hill was one of the few players that played for both Larry Coker and Randy Shannon. Hill dedicated himself to the Hurricanes as he switched positions throughout his career. Ryan played receiver, corner, and safety and never complained once. Right now Ryan is getting ready for the NFL draft. Here is what he had to say.

HSN: What have you been up to since you finished your senior season at Miami? How have you been getting ready for the draft?
Ryan Hill: I’m here in Boca Raton getting ready for my Pro Day right now. I’m working on everything I can to get myself better and ready for the NFL. Everyday I’m lifting, running, and doing drills to improve my skills.

HSN: Were you upset that you weren’t invited to the NFL combine?
Ryan Hill: To tell you the truth, yes. It hurts that I wasn’t given an opportunity to show my skills at the NFL combine, but I believe that everything happens for a reason. I use it as a form of motivation to prove to the world what kind of player I really am.

HSN: What do you think went wrong with the team this past season?
Ryan Hill: It was a combination of a lot of things. I can’t really explain, players and coaches just weren’t seeing eye to eye anymore. There was definetly a conflict of interest on the team.

HSN: You made some comments after the bowl game that some of the players on the team needed to “stop acting like boys, and grow up and act their age.” What did you mean by this statement?
Ryan Hill: Let me put it this way. There were some guys on the team that weren’t acting their age. Some of the guys on the team needed to grow up and become men. I know guys that are 21-22 years old that have families and jobs and they support them by themselves. I’ll tell you a little story to explain to you what I mean. We were at the bowl game in El Paso and were losing 21 to 0. There were players on the sidelines throwing snowballs at each other. Thats what I’m talking about when I say that the team had maturity issues.

HSN: While all of this was going on with the snowballs were there any seniors that went over to those players who were goofing off to confront them?
Ryan Hill: At the time this was happening I was on the field playing defense. I heard later on about what happened on the sideline. The seniors and coaches can only do so much. There comes a point where everyone has to take responsibility for their own actions and it just wasn’t happening.

HSN: I know your from Tallahassee,but you chose the Hurricanes over the hometown Seminoles. Did you receive a lot of heat from back home when you chose Miami?
Ryan Hill: I get asked this question all the time because I’m from Tallahassee. It was very difficult. What it really came down to was that Miami was just in my heart. It was the right fit for me at the end.

HSN: If you had to make your decision all over again after all the turmoil that has gone down with the program would you have still chosen Miami?
Ryan Hill: I would choose Miami 1000 times over. What people don’t realize is that its not all about winning National Championships. Yeah its great to do that, and that was always my goal but it’s more than just getting a ring. When you win a National Championship you get a ring and a pat on the back and that’s all. Maybe I shouldn’t say this but I will. I’ve seen a lot of old players that went to Miami and who won championships come back to visit and they are broke with no money. These guys were good players, but they didn’t make it to the NFL and they are broke now. The University of Miami is about the overall experience. I became a man at the University of Miami. When I came there I was a hothead kid from Tallahassee that had been arrested 2 or 3 times. Coach Coker and Coach Shannon taught me how to become a man and be respectful towards others and remain humble. Many people don’t know I left there with a Masters Degree. Now if things don’t work out for me in football I still have a chance to be successful in life and take care of my family. That is the reason I would choose Miami again without a doubt.

HSN: What was your most memorable moment on the field for the Hurricanes?
Ryan Hill: It would have to be my sophmore season against Oklahoma. I scored my first touchdown in that game.

HSN: Have you met the new coaching staff? What are your thoughts on Al Golden as the new head coach?
Ryan Hill: I have not met the new coaching staff, but I am optimistic that they will do well. The main thing they have to do is change the culture of the program.

HSN: Can you tell the fans a player to watch out for next season that they may have never heard about?
Ryan Hill: Watch out for Kacy Rodgers.That kid is a hard worker and his father is a coach for the Miami Dolphins so he knows what it takes to become a player. Laron Byrd is another guy that has really worked hard over his career. This will be his senior season so hopefully all that hardwork will pay off. Travis Benjamin also has the potential to do some really big things. He got down on himself a lot last year, but thats just a part of college football he should be able to bounce back.

HSN: Did you get motivated watching your ex teammate Sam Shields become a Superbowl Champion for the Green Bay Packers after not even getting drafted out of Miami?
Ryan Hill: Sam is my bestfriend I’m actually going to see him tomorrow. Watching Sam do good just motivates me to get into the league and do the same. I know now that I can get drafted and make things happen in the NFL.

HSN: Do you plan on coming back and working out in Coral Gables again like many of the Canes alumni do?
Ryan Hill: Right now I’m just so busy I don’t really have time to do anything except train and get ready for the draft. I don’t really know for sure if or when I will be able to come back and visit with the team etc.

HSN: Tell me a funny story about your time at the U?
Ryan Hill: Well I’m from the country so I was known as the “wildlife guy” on the team. I like to fish and hunt and collect all kinds of animals and stuff so one time I was walking around campus and I caught a water moccasin. I ended up putting it in a bottle and taking it home. When I got home I skinned it, cleaned it and ended up cooking it for Jacory Harris, Stephen Wesley, and Dedrick Epps. I didn’t tell those guys what they were eating and they were like “this stuff tastes like chicken what is this?” When I told them they were eating a water moccasin everyone started cracking up.

HSN: Thanks for your time Ryan and good luck in the NFL.

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Martin Bibla Still Going

It’s not even the fear his glory days will end once he’s no longer a gridiron great.

It’s the contact he craves more than anything else.

“There’s nothing like beating up the guy in front of you,” Bibla said.

He has chased that thrill from Crestwood High School to the University of Miami. He has tracked it indoors and outdoors, through four very different professional leagues, across two countries and over nearly a decade.

At age 31, and supported by his wife Anna and children Magnus, Lincoln and Mariusz, Bibla sees no reason to stop now.

“I still like to play,” he said.

Somehow, he keeps playing his way to the top of the mountain.

Bibla was a high school All-American as a two-way lineman at Crestwood, where he began his career under J.P. Meck and developed rapidly under Jim McGovern.

“We saw his size as a ninth-grade kid. We got him to come out for the freshman football team,” Meck said. “You can’t coach height. He had the height.”

It was the beginning of big things for the 6-foot-4, 306-pound offensive guard.

Bibla started every game his last three seasons at the University of Miami, and helped the Hurricanes win college football’s 2001 national championship – which remains his best memory on a football field.

“By far,” Bibla said during a charity auction this weekend at Mohegan Sun Casino. “The most memorable, most exciting. We went perfect. How many teams in college football go perfect? We had 11 first-rounders drafted that year, 13 players overall who went to the NFL.”

Bibla was one of them.

The Atlanta Falcons made him a fourth-round draft choice.

And although Bibla lasted just three seasons as a backup lineman and special teams player who started only two games, his NFL career was far from a bust. His first start came against Warren Sapp in 2003, and Bibla earned a game ball as team MVP for his performance that day.

“Every little kid wants to be a professional athlete,” Bibla said of his Atlanta days. “Just to be in that city and to play in the NFL … there are only a handful of guys from this area who went.”

He didn’t get to a Super Bowl with the Falcons, who lost to the Philadelphia Eagles in the 2002 playoffs and 2004 NFC championship game while Bibla was there.

But Bibla found his first pro title – and most elaborate diamond-studded ring – as a starting lineman for Jon Bon Jovi’s Philadelphia Soul ArenaBowl championship team which captured the indoor football league in 2008.

The Arena League shut down after that season, but Bibla didn’t.

After an abbreviated stint with the BC Lions of the Canadian Football League, Bibla hooked on with the upstart United Football League. And won another championship in 2009 as a starting lineman for former New York Giants coach Jim Fassel’s Las Vegas Locomotives.
“He’s really determined,” Meck said.

He’s still going.

Bibla will enter his second season with the UFL’s Sacramento Mountain Lions this summer, which will mark his 10th season as a pro.

“I always told myself I was going to have a long career,” Bibla said.

One way or another, he keeps finding ways to make good on that promise.

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James Jones Miami Heat 2011 3-Point Shootout Champion

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James Jones’ Career Is Revived With a Flick of the Wrist

Coming into Saturday’s three-point shootout, many people had Ray Allen as the favorite to win the competition, but thanks to James Jones’ smooth shooting stroke, the Miami Heat finally beat the Boston Celtics at something this season.  Miami’s deep threat held off Celtics’ teammates Ray Allen and Paul Pierce in the final round to win his first three-point shootout, scoring 20 points in the final round.  The win was sweet redemption for him because two years ago his career was in jeopardy when he ruptured a tendon in his right wrist requiring reconstructive surgery.  It took him two years and a lot of hard work to get to this point but a solid showing in both rounds was enough to take home the trophy.

James Jones joined WQAM in Miami to talk about if Blake Griffin deserved to win the Dunk Contest, whether winning the 3-Point Competition is the highlight of his career, and if he went into the Contest thinking he was going to win.

If Blake Griffin deserved to win the Dunk Contest:
“Nah.  He was not my pick…  That was a great event.  A lot of creativity, tremendous athleticism but JaVale McGee, the people underestimate and what people don’t realize the difficulty of the dunks, the things that he did for someone his size.”

Whether winning the 3-Point Competition is the highlight of his career:
“Personally I would say this is probably the best individual award I have ever won because I think this is the only individual award I have ever won, but it holds s special place for me because I called it redemption because this was an event I aspired to participate in and I felt like I was on my way ther eprior to my wrist injury, and once my wrist injury occurred I wasn’t really sure if I would ever get to this to plateau.  I wasn’t really sure if I would reach this point, so to be able to go there and represent my hometown team and also win it against the all-time greatest Ray Allen, it was special.  Like I said it was just for one day I beat the best.  Now I have to go back to work and try to beat the best in a seven-game series.”

What kind of trash Paul Pierce and Ray Allen talking:
“It was the light banter back-and-forth.  Ray does not talk trash.  Ray is a guy that just does it.  He becomes a leader because he just goes out there every night and he just shoots and he does it without a lot of hoopla and fanfare because that is his craft, that is his skill.  Paul always has something to say.  That is just his nature but nothing too serious because it was all in fun and this was an event that was really for the fans and I think we gave them a pretty good show.”

What he said to Paul Pierce when he knocked him out of the tournament:
“I am not a talker.  Talk does not work for me.  I have never been a guy that talks so when I won those guys congratulated me.  I congratulated them for being a part of it because they definitely fueled my fire and helped me focus, but like I said, it was just shooting the basketball, shooting three-pointers something that I do every single day.”

If he went into the Contest thinking he was going to win:
“Yeah, I went in saying that if unless something crazy happens, unless I just laid an egg, that I was going to win it.  I felt that competition suits me and really there is no pressure for me because that is what I do every day.  Those guys, for the event, they might have to focus in a little bit more.  For instance, they are jump shooters.  Ray is a jump shooter so for him the amount of effort and the amount of consistency you need to make those shots, it takes a lot more than for a guy like me that is just straight up and down, easy stroke.  So guys like K.D., Daniel Gibson, and the same way.  They are jump shooters and it takes its toll when you are talking about mentally focusing in to try to shoot the same shot 25 times straight.”

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Restaurant to reopen as Ryan Braun's Graffito

The soon-to-reopen Ryan Braun restaurant in the Third Ward will feature Italian food and be called Ryan Braun's Graffito.

Executive chef Dominic Zumpano's menu "will showcase a wide range of Italian cuisine" and include locally raised beef and produce, new owners SURG Restaurant Group said in a statement Tuesday. SURG, which owns seven other restaurants and bars, including Umami Moto, Charro and Carnevor Steakhouse, announced in December that it was buying the former Ryan Braun's Waterfront, 102 N. Water St. The restaurant had closed after being open less than a year.

SURG holds a licensing agreement with Braun, the Milwaukee Brewers star leftfielder. Braun is not an owner.

Zumpano, who helped open Umami Moto, an Asian fusion restaurant downtown, was a semifinalist for best chef Midwest for the James Beard Awards in 2009.

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Brandon Harris Next Ravens Star?

CB Brandon Harris, Miami
5-foot-11, 195 pounds
First-second round*

A starter for each of his three years with the Hurricanes, Harris earned All-ACC honors the last two seasons -- first team in 2009 and second team in 2010. An impressive cover corner with good speed, hips, footwork and ball skills, Harris recorded a team-high 10 pass breakups for Miami in 2010 after ranking second nationally with 15 in 2009. Also a solid defender in run support, Harris tallied 162 tackles during his three seasons with the Hurricanes.

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Willis McGahee would make more than almost every Ravens starter

The biggest reason why the Ravens are expected to cut running back Willis McGahee is his 2011 price tag.

McGahee's $6 million salary would exceed every Ravens starter currently under contract for next season except one -- safety Ed Reed, who is scheduled to receive $6.5 million in 2011. (Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata is technically not under contract right now because he hasn't signed his $12.5 million franchise tag tender).

In fact, 11 players on the Ravens roster are under contract to make at least $3 million in 2011:

Ed Reed, safety: $6.5 million
Anquan Boldin, wide receiver: $6 million
Todd Heap, tight end: $4.6 million
Ray Lewis, linebacker: $4.5 million
Derrick Mason, wide receiver: $4.5 million
Joe Flacco, quarterback: $4.48 million
Domonique Foxworth, cornerback: $4 million
Jarret Johnson, linebacker: $3.5 million
Kelly Gregg, nose tackle: $3.5 million
Terrell Suggs, linebacker: $3.4 million
Matt Birk, center: $3 million

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

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More Details About Bryant McKinnie's Bar Tab

Minnesota Vikings superstar Bryant McKinnie was the ULTIMATE baller during a celebrity party at a Hollywood nightclub Thursday night -- dropping more than $100,000 on his bar tab ... TMZ has learned.

Sources at the NBA All-Star "Kick Off Party" at MyHouse nightclub -- hosted by rapper Rick Ross and model Rosa Acosta -- tell us the 6'8", 335 lb lineman ordered more than 15 bottles of expensive champagne ... among other things.

We're told some of the bottles of champagne were so big -- the entire club stopped to watch the wait staff bring them to Bryant's area to crack 'em open.

FYI -- Bryant is reportedly due to make $4.9 million in 2011 (barring a strike).

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

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Ravens expected to cut Willis McGahee? No surprise there

My Baltimore Sun colleague Mike Preston put his football hat back on Monday and reported that the Ravens will likely release veteran running back Willis McGahee. According to Preston's source, the Ravens' brain trust decided during their recent evaluation meetings that they wouldn't bring back McGahee -- and his $6 million salary -- for the 2011 season.

It is hard not to see this one coming, though the potential release has little to do with his performance the past couple of seasons. Paying $6 million to a backup running back is unjustifiable, especially when you're trying to retain a Pro Bowl fullback who is willing and capable of taking on a larger role as a ballcarrier.

McGahee has been a productive player over the past two seasons, rushing for 924 yards and scoring 20 total touchdowns in that span. But Ray Rice's star has simply been brighter.

The pint-sized powerhouse had a breakout season in his second year in Baltimore, finishing second in the league in yards from scrimmage in 2009. Rice validated his big season by carrying the load again in 2010 without showing signs of breaking down.

Meanwhile, McGahee had just 100 carries this past season. If the Ravens were to keep McGahee and hand the ball to him 100 times again in 2011, he would get paid $60,000 per carry. Yeah, not going to happen.

But with 207 carries over the past two seasons and 1,541 in his career, McGahee, 29, probably still has a couple of productive years left in him. Don't be surprised if some other team gives him a chance to prove it in a more evenly-distributed ball-carrying committee.

And good for him. McGahee was a team player after Rice rocketed past him on the depth chart, and he deserves a larger role elsewhere -- if he wants it -- should he be released.

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

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Ravens likely to cut McGahee, but need to bring him back

The Ravens need to be careful in the way they handle backup running back Willis McGahee during the offseason.

According to an NFL source, the Ravens decided at their recent evaluation meetings not to bring McGahee and his $6 million in base salary back for the 2011 season.

McGahee is under contract to the Ravens for 2011, but 2012 ($6.5 million base salary) and 2013 ($7.2) are option years, according to the seven-year contract he signed in 2007.

When asked if the Ravens were going to cut McGahee, Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome replied: "I have said there will be no players released before March 3."

When asked if McGahee would be on the Ravens roster before the beginning of next season, Newsome said: "Right now, there are a lot of things that could happen before next season."

Newsome must have been pretty good as a youngster playing dodge ball.

But we can read between the lines. The Ravens were content to pay McGahee $3.6 million as a backup last season, but it will be hard to pay him nearly double that amount in the same role in 2011.

Newsome, though, is playing it right. He needs to be tight-lipped because it's to the point now where almost every team needs two good running backs to make it through a season, and the Ravens could use McGahee again as a complement to starter Ray Rice (1,220 yards on 307 carries).

McGahee's agent, Drew Rosenhaus, did not return phone calls to his office the past two days. But it's safe to assume he knows the Ravens will probably cut his client, and McGahee will test the free-agent market.

Although he can still start for some teams in the NFL, a lot of teams won't be willing to pay McGahee top dollar anymore. He isn't as quick and decisive as he was four years ago.

McGahee also might be at the point in his career when he wants the regular beatdowns on Sunday afternoons to come playing for a contender instead of a pretender.

And that's where the Ravens have to be smart and careful. McGahee isn't what he used to be, but what's left is good enough for the Ravens. One thing they learned from last season is that Rice isn't a runner who can endure 25 to 30 carries a game, especially in his dual capacity as a threat in the passing game.

There has been speculation that fullback Le'Ron McClain could replace McGahee, but McClain is expected to become an unrestricted free agent later this offseason. Plus, he is a power runner and limits the running game.

McGahee still can run inside with power, or occasionally break a long one on the outside. He blocks well and last year rushed for 380 yards on 100 carries.

Soon after the Ravens release McGahee, they should stay in constant contact, and make him another offer. The team had personality conflicts with McGahee during his first two seasons in Baltimore, but he has made positive contributions since.

Soon after the end of the 2010 season, both owner Steve Bisciotti and head coach John Harbaugh emphasized improving the running game. The Ravens now have a quarterback that can beat you, but the No. 1 option is to still to run the ball. They can do that if they find a quality left tackle. They can do that if they move Michael Oher back to right tackle and Marshal Yanda to right guard.

And they can do that if tRice humbles himself a little more like he did during his first two years. Another key could be re-signing McGahee, who already knows the offense and his role.

The Ravens just have to find a mutually satisfying contract. Until then, they need to be careful with McGahee, who sometimes has a very sensitive side.

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

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A return to racing for Detroit's Lauryn Williams

It wasn't at the finish line, but at the start, when sprinter Lauryn Williams knew she was back.

Before she stepped into the blocks for the women's 60-meter final at the Millrose Games on Jan. 28 at Madison Square Garden, Williams battled a surge of emotions that had been missing from her racing for a long time.

It was an old friend called anxiety.

"I had the kind of butterflies that I hadn't really experienced at all in 2009," she said. "It was all coming back for that first race."

For Williams, 27, dealing with her nerves again settled her in a way that only she understood: "They convinced me that I made the right decision."

Williams, the 100-meter world outdoor champion in 2005 and 2004 Olympic silver medalist, is back on the track after taking a year off from competition. She didn't race in 2010, she said, because she realized midway through the 2009 season that her heart wasn't in it.

"I was just existing," Williams, a Detroit native, said last week by phone from Miami, Fla., where she has made her home since graduating from the University of Miami (Fla.) in 2004. "Looking back, now having a chance to reflect on it, I would say it was a solid 2009, but it was the first time I was going through the motions. I even said to myself at the time, 'Even though you're going through the motions, you can still make the world championship team and make it to the finals' -- which I did (finishing fifth).

"But I didn't want to be out there getting fifth place and participating -- just competing to compete. So I decided to take a break, to regroup and get myself back together so that when I do step on the track, I'm stepping onto it to do my best and reach a higher level of competition."

It didn't take Williams long to find the reason she lost her passion for the sport.

In October 2008 -- two months after finishing fourth in the 100 in the Beijing Olympics -- her father, David Williams, died of leukemia at 55.

"It wasn't until June or July of '09 that it really did hit me," Lauryn said. "I tried to call him one day and realized, 'I can't call him. He's dead.' "

With the support of her mother, Donna Williams, and longtime coach Amy Deem -- whom this past week was named the U.S. women's track and field head coach for the 2012 Olympics -- she gave herself time to heal and explore life away from the sport.

"Lauryn is a very bright young woman," Deem said Friday. "I wanted her to reflect. I said, 'Don't come back if you can't commit. Don't come back halfway.' I wanted her to figure out how much it meant."

Williams, who has a degree in finance and a real estate license, became involved in a faith-based camp for athletes last year that she said challenged her "to go above what you're physically capable of, in addition to mentally and spiritually."

She signed with a new shoe sponsor (Saucony). She began working 20 hours a week in the athletic department at Miami as a life skills and community relations coordinator. Williams said the job is up her alley; she helps students become "well-rounded individuals."

As for Williams' track future? Count her in.

Before racing well in her indoor debut of the season last month in New York -- Williams took second in the 60-meter final to Veronica Campbell-Brown in 7.22 seconds -- she gathered her "team" at a dinner at her house. She told them of her commitment to go for her third Olympics in 2012.

As for 2010, don't call it a lost year, Williams said, because the time away gave her the chance to address the two biggest questions in her life: "Who am I?'' and "Where am I going?"

Williams said: "I'm closer to the person I want to be."


Report: Bryant McKinnie runs up a 100K Bar Bill

It was a little more than a year ago when Bryant McKinnie pulled off the unthinkable – he got kicked off the NFC Pro Bowl team because it seems practice and team meetings were not at his hanging spot – KOD’s.

McKinnie got the boot because he spent the week tweeting about the good times he had at the strip joint in Miami. The Minnesota Vikings left tackle hasn’t done anything to live down his large partying image.

Mount McKinnie got down Thursday night at a club in Hollywood. According to the Web site, McKinnie ran up a bar tab of $100,000 at a kickoff party for the NBA’s all-star weekend at MyHouse nightclub. He ordered more than 15 bottles of champagne … and then some.

Earlier this offseason, McKinnie tweeted about the work he was doing with a personal trainer. Perhaps he was just unwinding a little in Los Angeles.

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

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D.J. Williams likely to play weakside LB

The Denver Broncos likely will use LB D.J. Williams at weakside linebacker in their new 4-3 defensive alignment next season, reports Mike Klis, of The Denver Post.

Click here to order DJ Williams’ proCane Rookie Card.

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Vernon Carey still dealing with a 'pretty bad limp'

Dolphins RT Vernon Carey is reportedly still walking with a "pretty bad limp" after landing on injured reserve in December with right knee issues.

It's concerning that he's still limping two months after the fact, especially since the Dolphins decided he didn't need surgery. However, Carey hadn't missed a start since 2005 before landing on IR, and is still likely to be good to go by the time Dolphins training camp opens this summer.

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

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Leonard Hankerson knows what time it is

Leonard Hankerson can see the irony that a couple hundredths of a second could cost him millions of dollars.

Never mind what this former St. Thomas Aquinas standout did on the field for the University of Miami, breaking all kinds school records, arguably putting together the best statistical season in Hurricanes history. 

Never mind that Hankerson, who is compared to former UM standout and Colts star Reggie Wayne, was one of the top performers at the Senior Bowl during the week’s practices, or starred at the game by catching five passes for 100 yards and a touchdown.

At this early point in the draft process it’s all about silencing the critics, and the biggest knock on Hankerson are questions about his speed considering he wasn’t a deep threat at UM.

Hankerson’s done an excellent job addressing the inconsistent hands issue (thanks to Mark Duper, who coached him for the past two years) and silencing erratic route running concerns.

Now all that’s left is a fast 40-time.

Hankerson said he’s presently shaving off a few hundredths of a second on his 40-time, L-cone drills, and shuttle run while training at Pete Bommarito’s Performance Systems. He’s optimistic he’ll get into the 4.4 seconds range in the 40-yard dash either at the combine, or UM’s workout day for draft prospects.

Hankerson knows if he can produce a sub-4.5 40-time it’s possible he could sneak into the first round.

“I’ve proved myself in every category, doing whatever I have to do. Only thing people worry about is how fast I am,” Hankerson said during this video you should check out by clicking on the link.

Most draft experts have Hankerson rated amongst the top seven receivers in this draft. He’s placed somewhere behind Georgia’s A.J. Green, Alabama’s Julio Jones and Pittsburgh’s Jon Baldwin, and on par with Maryland’s Torrey Smith, Troy’s Jerrell Jernigan and Boise State’s Titus Young in most rankings.

But unlike Hankerson, Smith, Jernigan and Young are perceived as deep threats, which is something teams like the Miami Dolphins are specifically looking for to complement their receiving corp. Hankerson is perceived strictly a possession receiver, which plenty of teams are also searching for. Just not the Dolphins, which already have Brandon Marshall, Davone Bess and Brian Hartline in the fold.

It’s very likely that Hankerson, who is rated by as the No. 44 prospects in the 2011 class, will be selected in the second round. But a quick 40-time, and impressive combine, school workout, and individual team workouts could push him up.

Hankerson ranked among the ACC’s best in receptions (72), receiving yards (1,156) and broke Michael Irvin’s school record with 13 touchdown grabs.

His drastic improvement over the past two seasons should be enough to make him the first senior wide receiver drafted, but this long-strider knows that 40-time he runs will be critical, determining how much of a signing bonus he lands.

“I’m getting faster and faster and working on my speed mechanics,” said Hankerson, who never ran track in high school or college. ”This is the first time I’ve ever trained for speed…. It’ll be a big difference when I get there. I feel like I’m faster, and I know I’ll be faster [at the combine].”

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Allen Bailey To Be Combine's Workout Warrior?

This was a great question posed by one of our readers during Wes Bunting’s live draft chat on Wednesday, with Wes’ answer echoing the sentiments of many scouts and analysts from around the country.

As of the current moment, it looks like the consensus pick for this year’s “workout warrior” goes to Miami defensive tackle Allen Bailey.

Standing next to Bailey in Alabama, I couldn’t help but think that the famous statement, “all men are created equal,” was a bit flawed. Measuring in at 6-4 and a chiseled 285 pounds, Bailey’s right bicep muscle is bigger than my entire torso.

But while the mountainous defensive tackle certainly looks the part, Bailey has been known to disappear on tape for long stretches in key games. The senior defender racked up a combined zero sacks in crucial matchups against Ohio State, Florida State, Clemson, Virginia Tech and South Florida. Coincidentally, the Hurricanes went 1-4 in those contests (beat Clemson).

Don’t be surprised if Bailey puts up some impressive numbers next week in Indianapolis, but remember, workouts and interviews only account for a fraction of the evaluation.

Tape never lies.

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Santana Moss wants to stay with Redskins

Impending free agent Santana Moss suggested on PFT Live Friday that his preference is to re-sign with the Redskins this offseason.

"My mind is nowhere outside of Washington," Moss assured. "That's where I want to be when it's all said and done." It's good news for the Redskins that Moss isn't even thinking about other teams, but he conceded that a new deal will have to wait for the labor situation to be finalized. The Redskins still need to find a true No. 1 receiver to pair with Moss.

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James Jones: From Miami playgrounds to NBA's three-point contest

LOS ANGELES — It wasn't hard, growing up in Miami, for James Jones to identify the shooters. All someone had to say was that they usually played in parks like Lake Shore and Buccaneer, parks attractive for their smooth concrete rather than choppy asphalt, but which still featured challenging elements.

"If you can shoot outdoors, with the wind, with the rain, you can shoot anywhere," the Heat forward, now 30, learned as a kid.

Saturday night, Jones will shoot in the controlled climate of the Staples Center, as one of six contestants in the All-Star three-point contest. He'll face Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Kevin Durant, Daniel Gibson and former Heat teammate Dorell Wright, and try to become the fourth player representing the Heat (after Glen Rice in 1995, Jason Kapono in 2007 and Daequan Cook in 2009) to earn the title.

Jones, tied for 15th in the league in three-pointers made, had hoped for an invitation, and his mere presence here is an accomplishment. It shows he successfully transformed himself from an inside player at American High and the University of Miami to outside gunner in the NBA.
And it is a tribute to his perseverance following 2008 wrist surgery, which has forever altered his shooting mechanics.

Still, that doesn't mean he set aside extra time in Los Angeles to practice.

"You don't want to make it more than it is," he said. And he had plenty of other commitments, as the Heat's player representative in labor talks, enough that he chose to leave his family back home.

"I'm the lone ranger," Jones said.

He'll have some support, however. Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh are all expected to attend All-Star Saturday night, to cheer their only teammate in any of the events (which also include the skills challenge, the dunk contest and the shooting stars competitions). Through Wade, who is close friends with Wright, will be torn.

"He'll be low-key," Wright said of Wade rooting for him.

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Chris Perez enjoys feasting on late-inning adrenaline

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Indians closer Chris Perez placed one foot on the chair in front of his locker, rested an arm on his knee and stared off, trying for the life of him to remember the first time he notched a save as a professional pitcher.

"Quad Cities," Perez said after a long pause. "It would've been July."

So far, so good.

It was July 10, 2006, and Perez was on the mound for the Class A Quad Cities River Bandits, facing the Dayton Dragons. A 16-mph wind was blowing out to right field at Fifth Third Field in Dayton, Ohio, and Perez -- a Cardinals farmhand at the time -- was asked to work the 10th and final frame.

Did any of that ring a bell?

"I don't remember that at all," Perez said with a laugh. "I do remember the stadium. They've got a big dragon out there that shoots out flames. It was pretty cool."

Having a short memory is an important trait for any closer, so perhaps it is fitting that Perez does not recall all the details of that brief appearance. He got three outs and, in the end, that is all that really matters. In the years since, Perez has solidified himself as one of baseball's top young stoppers.

Closing out games in the big leagues was always Perez's dream, too.

Well, at least it has been his dream ever since he realized he was not going to cut it as a starter at the University of Miami. When he figured out he was not going to be the ace of the Hurricanes' staff, or even a member of the rotation, Perez decided there was only one thing left for him to do.

"I wanted to be the best guy out of the bullpen," he said. "That's the closer."

Perez is coming off a spectacular season as the Tribe's ninth-inning man, giving him a firm hold on the same role this year. Last summer, all the 6-foot-4 righty did was fashion a 1.71 ERA (second lowest among American League relievers) while saving 23 of the Indians' 69 victories.

Perez also struck out 61 hitters in 63 innings and held batters to a .182 average. From June 28 through the end of the year, the righty posted a 0.53 ERA. With runners on base, he limited hitters to a .133 batting average.

Perez made manager Manny Acta's life a little easier in the process.

"It's a nice thing to have as a manager," Acta said. "Chris Perez gives us that sense of security. He's our security blanket back there."

Perez certainly looks the part, sporting a beard and long brown hair that darts out from under his cap to give him an intimidating presence on the mound. He also allows himself to have fun along the way -- plenty of evidence can be found in that regard by following his Twitter account (@ChrisPerez54).

His overwhelming success of late in the ninth inning has earned Perez the nickname "Pure Rage" and that -- the adrenaline rush that comes with taking the mound in the final frame -- is what has always made closing out games his ultimate goal.

Perez has always had a personality suited for working late innings. He knows that is a main reason why he was not going to make it as a starting pitcher.

"I'm not one to hold back stuff on my pitches," Perez said. "The way I throw, the way my arm is, I throw 100 percent every time. I did that as a starter, too, and the fifth inning would come around and I'd be dead. I never learned how to pace myself.

"There's nothing like coming in in a close game after your team has battled back, or held on to a lead the whole game, and you come in and it's just on you. If you have a good day, you win. If you have a bad day, it's on you and you lose."

Perez has certainly experienced the latter.

In 2008 as a rookie, Perez suffered a handful of blown saves for the Cardinals when St. Louis was in the hunt for a playoff spot. Two came in back-to-back outings in September and Perez cringes at the memory of the postgame walk to the clubhouse.

"It's hard. It's on you," Perez said. "You have to walk in the room and see 24 other veterans who are busting their butts. You come in and one swing and it's done. It is tough, but I learned how to get over that."

Early in his career, it was not so easy.

Perez said he would worry too much about trying not to blow a save rather than concentrating on attacking the hitter. Or, Perez would look ahead to see who was due up in the opposing lineup, taking himself out of the game mentally before he even took the mound.

Perez said the biggest difference he experienced last season with the Indians, who acquired him in a trade with St. Louis in 2009, was on the mental front. He stopped caring about who was in the batter's box. He stopped worrying about what he did -- good or bad -- in his previous appearance.

Perez began taking the mound with supreme confidence. And it worked.

"As a closer you have to have that self confidence," Perez said. "You have to have that confidence of, 'I don't care what the situation is, I know I can get out of it. I know I can strike out these next three guys if I need to.' I know I can do that. That's what I believe.

"So whatever the situation is, I always believe I can strike my way out of it. Sometimes I don't, but most of the time I do."

Perez is even working on a new weapon.

He already featured a hard fastball and a strong slider, but now Perez is using this spring to add a changeup to the mix. When it works correctly, the pitch has a sinking action. He began toying with it while playing catch last year and he tested it out in a few late-season games.

Other than the new pitch, Perez said his goal for this season is simple.

"I'm going to try to get ahead of the hitters," he said. "When I do? I'll just do my thing."

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Excitement takes place of nerves for Aubrey Huff

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Aubrey Huff's "rally thong" will spend its foreseeable future stashed with other underwear, in a sock drawer or wherever idle thongs go to rest.

Huff has placed his fabled thong on irrevocable waivers. The red fashion accessory that he wore late last season as the Giants accelerated their march to the World Series will not accompany him in his efforts to help the club defend its championship.

"That's in a bag. It's retired," Huff said of the thong Thursday before an informal workout at the Giants' Scottsdale Stadium complex. Position players are due to report Friday, with the first full-squad workout scheduled for Saturday.

Huff's thong attracted nationwide attention after word leaked that he wore it daily during the stretch drive. The first baseman/outfielder was enthusiastic about the garment then. But he indicated that it could be a distraction if he brought it back this year.

Huff said he intends to "just play baseball this year and try to keep the antics at home." That wasn't the case last Nov. 3, when Huff reached into his jeans and whipped out the thong while speaking at the ceremony following the World Series parade through San Francisco.

Huff said that baseball's Hall of Fame asked him for the garment to place in an exhibit. Brad Horn, the Hall's senior director of communications and education, cited the generosity displayed by Huff and other Giants who donated items to the shrine. But, Horn added, the thong was not among the requested memorabilia.

"That's one bare essential we do not need," Horn said.

Manager Bruce Bochy jokingly welcomed the thong's disappearance. "It wasn't easy on the eyes," Bochy said. "I can go in the clubhouse a little more now."

After batting .290 and leading the Giants with 26 home runs and 86 RBIs, Huff wants to experience the rush of advancing through the postseason all over again. That partly led him, during a brief dip into the free-agency pool, to spurn an offer from the Dodgers and sign a two-year, $22 million contract to rejoin the Giants. After spending most of his career with Tampa Bay, then a non-contender, and still-struggling Baltimore, Huff reiterated his appreciation for San Francisco's success.

"It's not about the ring for me," Huff said. "It's about the competition and getting in the playoffs and competing at that level with all the excitement. That was so much more fun than I can ever imagine. That's what you play for your whole life, getting in situations like that. I was starved for that for nine years. [I] never had an opportunity to taste that kind of competition in baseball."

Asked how the Giants can avoid complacency, Huff replied, "It's a good question. Throw everything out the window. My motto is, live in the now. I can't look to the future or the past. Try to get ready for this season. Everybody's going to be gunning for you. We're not going to sneak up on anybody this year."

If Huff believes some of his teammates need to adjust their attitude, he'll probably tell them. "He was one of our captains and leaders on and off the field," right-hander Sergio Romo said. Huff often worked in concert with left fielder Pat Burrell, his University of Miami teammate, to police the clubhouse and motivate teammates.

"If they had something to say, they said it," Romo said. "And it was usually productive."

When Huff needed to spur himself to exercise this offseason, he'd watch a DVD replay of the final out of the World Series. "Sometimes you don't want to work out, so I'd pop that on," Huff said. "Then I'd go get my workout in. It's definitely a rush, something they can never take away from you -- ever."

Huff's regimen included certain arm exercises to help his throwing. He started 57 games in left and right field last year, and could play outfield again if rookie Brandon Belt emerges as the Opening Day first baseman. Said Huff, "The old arm started barking just a tad toward the end. I did a little adjustment this year." Huff's outlook also has changed since last February.

"Yesterday, on the way here, I was thinking to myself how nervous I was coming here," Huff said. "But this year it's excitement. I've never been more excited to start a Spring Training."

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Jon Jay gets No. 15 thanks to Edmonds' retirement

JUPITER, Fla. -- It took fewer than 24 hours for Jon Jay to get his number back.

Jay wore No. 15 last year as a member of the Cardinals. However, when the club announced that Jim Edmonds would be returning to the club on a Minor League deal, Jay surrendered Edmonds' famous uniform number. Jay expressed interest in No. 19, but Ramon Vazquez took that one, so Jay ended up with No. 22.

Once Edmonds announced his retirement, though, the wheels went in motion quickly. Jay wore No. 15 on Saturday, his first day on the field after the Cardinals announced that Edmonds would not be coming to camp.

Then again, a uniform number may not be the main benefit to Jay. With Edmonds out of the competition for a roster spot, Jay's chances of making the club for Opening Day can only improve.

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Yonder Alonso getting his feet wet in the outfield

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- There are two immutable truths that will continue to surround prospect Yonder Alonso during his time with the Reds.

Truth one is that Alonso won't play first base as long as 2010 National League MVP Joey Votto is around and healthy. And because of truth one, truth two is that Alonso will be one of the first names mentioned in trade rumors involving Cincinnati.

While Votto appears to be the immovable object, especially after he signed a three-year, $38 million contract last month, Alonso isn't letting that stop him. Some evidence is visible with the four gloves that sit right above his locker.

Only one glove is a first baseman's mitt, the other three are for the outfield.

"[Votto] is going to be here until whenever he wants, bottom line," said Alonso, whose locker is right next to Votto. "They're going to try and find me a position so I can be in the lineup or do whatever they think I can do.

"I'm just excited because they're trying to find me a spot. It's kind of like they care and they think I can play out there, which is good."

Alonso took some balls in the outfield last spring and played 30 games in left field during the 2010 season at Double-A and Triple-A. This spring, his work has been more intensified, and he's working daily with coach Billy Hatcher taking fly balls and trying to get more used to the position.

Hatcher, the Reds' first-base coach and a former Major League outfielder, has a willing and enthusiastic pupil.

"He's improved a lot," Hatcher said. "The one thing with the kid is he is willing to put the work in. He's still a first baseman, but get him in the outfield just in case, you never know. He's willing to put the time in. He put the time in during the offseason and mentally prepared for it. He's a worker, so he has a chance."

Alonso is known primarily for his bat and not his skills defensively -- even when he's at first base. He's not a fast runner, which can limit his range in the outfield.

"I think the kid is very athletic," Hatcher said. "He's never been in the outfield. It comes with time and getting the opportunity to play. We've got all of Spring Training and we'll work every day."

Asked how the 23-year-old spent his offseason, Alonso didn't take long to explain.

"Mucho fly balls. Mucho," said Alonso, who trained at the University of Miami with big leaguers Jorge Posada, Melky Cabrera and occasionally his friend, Alex Rodriguez. "I changed my whole workout. I did a 20-week workout and some hitting. I didn't do much traveling or take much of a rest. I hit it."

Having organizational depth and talented players knocking on the door to the Majors without a place to play is an issue the Reds didn't have very often a few years ago. The farm system is deep at multiple positions, and while the Major League team is contending with the players it has, prospects are waiting their turn.

Some longer than others.

"He only played a half a year at Triple-A. He's still got some playing to do. Things work themselves out," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "When I was on the Dodgers, we had everybody backed up. That's what good teams and good organizations do. I remember one time when I came up with the Braves, we were loaded with outfielders. I remember my roommate, Ralph Garr, led the league at .364 and he had to go back because there wasn't room. He hit .384 the next year and I hit .325 and had to go back.

"It's a good problem to have here for us. It's a good problem if we need to go get something."

Hence the reason that players like Alonso will always hear their names floated around as prospects that could be used as trade bait. Last year, when the Reds attempted to trade for pitcher Cliff Lee from the Mariners, Alonso's name was prominent in the rumors. The Reds never confirmed those rumors, however.

Alonso made it clear where he would like to establish his baseball roots.

"At first, I was all right with it and got over it," Alonso said. "Then I was like, 'You know what? I want to stay here. I like it here. I know everybody here.' It got kind of annoying, make no doubt. I want to stay here. I want to be a part of this. We're all young and having a good time. It's good."

Baker was not able to promise that Alonso would get time in left field during spring games, especially with Jonny Gomes, Fred Lewis, Jeremy Hermida and others likely to get action in the outfield. Alonso will continue to play first base behind Votto as well and try to earn a place on the Reds' bench out of camp.

The left-handed power-hitting Alonso, who turns 24 on April 8, batted .290 with 15 home runs, 69 RBIs and a .362 on-base percentage in 131 games for Double-A Carolina and Triple-A Louisville.

A September callup followed, which provided Alonso with his first taste of the Majors. Used primarily as a pinch-hitter, he batted .207 (6-for-29) with two doubles in 22 games.

"I think it helped in every way possible," Alonso said. "I did the hardest thing that any hitter can do, which is pinch-hit. I had good at-bats and did well with it. It's just a matter of keeping it going and learning from it. I definitely did that. I watched other guys and got a feel for what it is. I feel a lot easier coming in and doing my thing and working. I don't feel like, 'Oh my god, everyone is watching me.' It's not a surprise anymore."

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