Broncos' Webster thriving in return to natural spot at middle linebacker

There's no doubt the Broncos' defense has struggled, but sources in Denver say MLB Nate Webster has been one of the team's more pleasant surprises. Webster moved to the middle after playing on the strong side last season, and he's been a much better fit inside. He's fiery, and although CB Champ Bailey and WLB D.J. Williams were voted defensive captains, insiders say Webster is the one who brings the most energy to the defense. The Broncos signed Niko Koutouvides for a starter's salary in the offseason, and he was expected to get the nod at middle linebacker. However, Webster, who is in much better shape this season, sources say, outplayed Koutouvides all through training camp and took the job away. The ninth-year veteran doesn't have a whole lot of range or speed, but the coaches know his weaknesses and he typically is pulled off the field in passing situations.


McGahee Purposely Injured?

The Baltimore Ravens accused certain Cleveland players of intentionally gouging the eyes of tailback Willis McGahee on two occasions in last Sunday's 28-10 victory against the Browns.

The Ravens reported the incidents by sending tapes to the league office earlier this week.

"We talked to the league," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said during his weekly news conference Wednesday. "We asked them for their opinion on what happened, and we're waiting to hear back on it."

The Ravens are withholding the names they reported to the NFL. But in reviewing the tape, Cleveland middle linebacker Andra Davis is one of the players in question. Davis can be seen reaching under McGahee's visor and poking him in the right eye during a tackle near the goal line midway through the third quarter.

It is unknown who the Ravens believe is the second culprit, but they believe there were two separate cases Sunday that were intentional.

McGahee rushed for 64 yards on 15 carries and a touchdown in the victory against the Browns. So far, he has had limited participation in practice this week because of his eye injury.

"That thing is swollen up badly," Harbaugh said. "As long as he can see, he'll play. But if he can't see, he's not going to be able to play. So we'll have to try to get that swelling down."

This weekend, Baltimore (2-0) has a big game against the Pittsburgh Steelers (2-1) on Monday night in a battle for sole possession of first place in the AFC North. The teams split their season series last year.


One on one with Santana Moss

While wide receiver Santana Moss will never be confused for one of the biggest guys on the football field, there’s no doubting the impact he has during a game. When the Washington Redskins need a play late in the fourth quarter, history shows they get the ball into Moss’ hands. And time and time again he delivers. Like he’s famously quoted as saying, “Big time players make big time plays in big time games.”

While Moss may not be big on talking, preferring to let his game speak for him, he was kind enough to spend some time with us looking back at his record-setting college and pro career, dealing with the loss of Sean Taylor and what he looks for in a quarterback.

Where are you originally from and what was your childhood like?

I’m originally from Miami, Florida, and my childhood was great. I experienced it all – the good, the bad and some stuff you don’t want to hear about.

How early did you start playing football and when did you figure out that you were better at this game than most other kids your age?

I started playing on the street for a while, but I didn’t play organized football until I was 12. Mom wouldn’t let me do it until I got a little bit older, but I started playing way earlier than that. I was playing sandlot games with older guys from like the age of six.

Are you naturally athletic, or did you have to work harder to get to the highest level of competition? What other sports, if any, are you good at?

I think I was blessed with everything that I have, I just stayed at it. I just keep fine tuning it. Track was probably my best sport outside of football. I was pretty good at it through high school and college. I was telling the story the other day that I could have been in the Olympic trials one year doing the long jump in track, but I decided to go to football practice instead of going out there. Football was always going to be first.

Do you think if you would have stuck with it we would have seen you competing at the Olympics?

I’m not saying I know would I would have made it, but I’m pretty good at it. So if I would’ve stayed with it, you never know what I could have done.

As everyone knows, you went to the University of Miami. During your college career, you became the first player to earn Big East Offensive and Special Teams Player of the Year honors in the same season, and you set the Hurricanes’ all-time record with 2,546 receiving yards – erasing the record previously held by Michael Irvin. Why did you choose to become a Hurricane and what did you get out of your time at “The U?”

I look at it as the Hurricanes chose me, you know. I was selected to come there on a track scholarship and I feel like there was no better school I could have went to in order to be able to do both things – run track and play football. They gave me the opportunity to come in there on a track scholarship and also play football. They were the best school that gave me an offer. All the other schools were up north and I don’t think I was ready to go away from home yet.

Once I got there, it was hands down, what we went through and how I prepared myself, that’s how I was able to become one of the best receivers that’s come out of there. I just stuck to it, and I had a great class, so we all motivated each other and were able to become one of the best classes to ever come out of there.

Was it even more special being at Miami with it being your hometown team?

Oh yeah. Just not having to leave home for college and always being able to have a home-cooked meal on top of everything that Miami brought to you outside of football, it was lovely.

Who was the most-talented player on the Hurricanes during your time there?

When I was there, man, we had them all. If I were to name them all, you’d be amazed. I can’t pick just one guy out of there. If I had to look back and pick one, I think Ed Reed had the shot to be the most athletic outside of all the guys who were there. He was a safety, but he could do everything.

You were drafted by the New York Jets with the 16th overall pick in the 2001 NFL draft. Talk to me a little bit about what it felt like to hear your name called that day. What was your reaction when you found out you were heading to the Big Apple?

I was happy that I got drafted. I didn’t have no emotion on my face because I grew up not liking the Jets. I used to pick at my wife because her uncle played for the Jets, his name is Marvin Jones. We were dating at the time and I always used to tell her how sorry the Jets was back in college and in high school. Then, I was like “Man, I should have bit my tongue all these years getting on her about the Jets.” But overall, I was happy I got selected by them and was going to go there and play my hardest.

Was the middle of the first round kind of where you expected to go, and how many times have you given the Redskins front office a hard time for drafting Rod Gardner one spot earlier?

I’ve never brought it up, but I had heard from everyone when I was selected that I was going to be a Redskin. The whole week leading up, they had me circled as going to the Redskins. I think Dan Snyder wanted me to come here too, but when I got the call from the Jets and saw Rod Gardner picked before me, I wasn’t mad or anything. I think Dan Snyder was kind of mad because [Marty] Schottenheimer was the coach and he wanted a bigger receiver, so he picked Rod Gardner instead of me. It’s almost like destiny though because I’m here anyways. I think it was good for me to go away, learn and experience some of the things I experienced and when I got my chance, I’m here now.

How do you look back on your time with the New York Jets?

My memories are great. I went to the playoffs three out of the four years I was there. I broke a couple of records here and there and I was a Pro Bowl alternate twice – two years in a row – once for punt return, one as a receiver. And I was hurt one whole year, my first year, so for me to do all of that stuff in three years, I think it was time well spent. I learned a lot, I grew up a lot and I think it prepared me to be where I’m at now.

In March 2005, you were traded from the Jets to the Washington Redskins straight up for Laveranues Coles. How did the trade come about and what were your thoughts about the Redskins before you arrived in town?

It’s a long story, but I think it’s the best thing that ever happened to me, especially for my career. I don’t even look back on it, I just thank the Lord for the opportunity to come over here and never look back at it.

What were your thoughts on the Redskins before you arrived in town?

I knew they had several players over here who were considered the top at their positions. I was just happy to be over here and be a part of this.

Speaking of 2005, that was a monster year for you, starting with your week two explosion in Dallas on Monday Night Football. We know how much those two touchdowns at the end of the game meant to Redskins fans, but what do they mean to you? Do they rank as some of your favorite memories?

I think they do. When it comes to big games and big moments as far as my NFL career that ranks up there. I look back on it and I always want that kind of start. It seems like right now we’re on our way to having that kind of pace and that kind of start, so I’m hoping to build on it.

You went on to set the Redskins single season record for receiving yards with 1,483, launched your team to the playoffs and earned a trip to the Pro Bowl. How did everything come together so perfectly for you that year?

I just took what they gave me. I took the opportunities of getting the ball the way I have and it was amazing. I hadn’t been in an offense like this – I was out there, but I wasn’t really used to the best of my ability. So, being a part of that, coming here and getting the ball every other down because they knew I could do something with it, it was a blessing just to have the opportunity. One thing I do, whenever I get an opportunity, I never let it slide. I just tried to make sure I capitalized on every opportunity and we just got onto a serious pace and a serious role where we fed off of all the stuff I did and the running game and we just – me and Clinton [Portis] just took it by storm. Me, him, [Chris] Cooley and Mike Sellers – those guys, we just had that offense in our hands and we just ran with it.

Fast forward to last year, and things didn’t go nearly as smoothly for you. A series of nagging injuries slowed you down on the field and then there was the Sean Taylor tragedy off the field. How tough was 2007 for you, and how did you personally deal with losing such a close friend?

You know it’s tough. Every year don’t always add up to be the same. You go through trials and tribulations, but you got to learn how to live and live through those things. That’s what makes you better as a man. I feel like obstacles are always going to come and tragedies are always going to come, but it’s up to you to handle them. You have to know how to deal with it and put it behind you, but at the same time never forget it. That’s what I’ve done. You know how that felt going through it and you just try to build off of it because you don’t want that feeling anymore.

You told me during training camp that you did some mixed martial arts training this past offseason. First of all, do you think it helped you, and if so, could you see more NFL players trying it out? And secondly, was that the most unique type of training you’ve participated in during your professional career?

I don’t know if it’s something for everyone to do. I did it because I was so used to working out every year and I wasn’t working out at the time, so I needed something to do. I did it to benefit from workout out instead of sitting around the house like a couch potato. It helped me a lot, keeping my core strong and keeping my wind, for when I got out here and started running around and stuff. There’s guys that have probably been playing this sport longer than me that have been doing it before me, that’s one of the reasons I got the idea. I heard of guys doing different things like boxing, martial arts and swimming just to do something other than football as far as training.

Is that the most unique offseason training you’ve ever done?

Yes, by far. Usually it’s just all football, all summer. Maybe I go running or something. This was the first time I’ve done something out of this world – doing something I never grew up thinking I’d be a part of. But over the years watching people play that sport or whatever, it became interesting to me.

During your time with the Washington Redskins, you’ve caught touchdown passes from Mark Brunell, Patrick Ramsey, Todd Collins and Jason Campbell. What traits do you personally look for in a quarterback?

Just get me the ball. (Laughs)

I don’t want nothing from them more than putting it in a spot where I can do something with it. That’s all I can ask for.

How tough is it to catch a deep pass 40 or 50 yards downfield?

Honestly, it’s tough. But when you do it for so many years, do it for so long, it’s exciting – especially when you can just get it and get in the endzone. You look forward to the opportunity and just take it from there.

What’s the biggest difference between Joe Gibbs and Jim Zorn?

It’s still too early to be judged. The offenses are way different, you know. We’re a pass happy and a run happy team. There’s going to be a lot of opportunities. I feel like you won’t be able to compare the differences until it’s all said and done.

How would you describe your friendship with Clinton Portis? You two seem like polar opposites, with you staying relatively quiet, while he’s never afraid to speak his mind.

Clinton’s going to be Clinton. I feel like we’ve known each other long enough, so you know what he’s going to bring to the table and what I’m going to bring to the table. However he does his, he does his and I does mine the way I does mine. We just know each other best because we’ve known each other and played together for such a long time. There’s lots of guys who can be friends, and be different. That’s one of the reasons we’re cool is because we respect each other for who we are and don’t worry about what we’re not.

What goes through your mind when you hear that your teammate Chris Cooley took a photo of a page from the playbook and accidentally posted a revealing photo of himself on his blog?

It’s something that I don’t really care too much to talk about because it wasn’t me. It’s something that don’t do nothing for me. He said it was a mistake, so it was a mistake. I think a lot of stuff gets blown out of proportion this day and age, so I just wish for the best for him and wish it don’t go no further.

Speaking of Cooley, you and several other Redskins players are involved in a fantasy football league. What do you know about fantasy football?

I don’t know much about it. I just do it and I’m learning on the go with it. I look forward to seeing the guys I picked get off.

What can fantasy football owners expect from Santana Moss this season?

I mean, I’m just going to do my thing, man. I don’t talk about it. I just let it happen.


Hester pushing hard to get back on field

Devin Hester doesn't appear to be 100 percent, but the Pro Bowl return specialist was well enough to return to Bears practice in a limited role Thursday.

It was Hester's first action since he tore cartilage in his lower left rib area during the Week 2 loss at Carolina. His status for Sunday night's game against Philadelphia remains unclear.

"I'm pushing for it," Hester said. "I'm still sore. I'm going to get some more treatment. I'mhoping I'll be ready."

Hester didn't play in Sunday's 27-24 overtime loss to Tampa Bay. The Bears could use his explosiveness against the Eagles, who average 30 points per game. But the question is: How explosive will he be coming off the injury?

The medical staff took it easy with him last week, and Hester missed Wednesday's practice.

"Sometimes it takes weeks, sometimes two months," Hester said. "It all depends on the person and their body."


Miami Hurricanes to add 5 to Ring of Honor

Cortez Kennedy had to catch his breath when he received the news. That is how humbled he was to learn he was one of five University of Miami greats selected for the UM Football Ring of Honor.

''I couldn't believe it,'' Kennedy, 40, a former defensive tackle, said by phone from his Orlando home. 'I'm in the Seattle Seahawks' Ring of Honor, and this has even more meaning to me. Just think of all the UM greatness that came before and after me.''

After a nine-year hiatus, UM's Ring of Honor has been revived -- and strengthened.

The five UM greats who were announced Thursday to become the newest members of the Ring of Honor during halftime of a Thursday night game against Virginia Tech on Nov. 13 are:

• Kennedy.
• Running back Edgerrin James.
• Quarterback Jim Kelly.
• Center Jim Otto.
• Quarterback Gino Torretta.

''It's great when you're considered one of the best your school has ever had,'' said Torretta, 38, who lives in Coral Gables with his wife and their 3-year-old daughter. He is the CEO of Touchdown Radio, a company that syndicates a college football game every week for national radio. He led the Hurricanes to the 1991 national title and won the Heisman Trophy in '92.

''It's a tremendous honor and brings back lots of great memories,'' Torretta said. ``When I signed my scholarship, I just wanted an opportunity to win a national championship. You never know if things are going to work out for you individually. Obviously, my teams had a lot of success.''

James, 30, is the youngest in the class. James, a cousin of UM tailback Javarris James, played from 1996-98 and was a first-team All-American before being taken fourth overall by the Indianapolis Colts in the 1999 NFL Draft. He now plays for the Arizona Cardinals.

''This is one of my biggest accomplishments,'' James said by phone Thursday night. ``To stand out among the greatest players at the University of Miami, that's super big-time. That is where I started. That is my family.''

James said his mother, Julie, will attend the ceremony in his place because he will be in the middle of his season and on a West Coast swing.

''She's super nervous and excited,'' he said.

The Ring of Honor began in 1997 to recognize the outstanding UM players through the decades. UM athletic director Kirby Hocutt said an anonymous committee of ''eight individuals with a long-standing history with [UM] and its football program and athletic department'' worked with himself and coach Randy Shannon to determine the honorees. Criteria for selection included athletic achievements at UM and on the pro level, commitment and loyalty to the continued success of the program and a personal commitment to courage, fortitude, honesty and integrity, according to a statement from the university.

''This was the appropriate time to do it,'' Hocutt said Thursday afternoon. ``[UM] has a tradition of excellence in the sport of football that is unmatched anywhere in the country. This is a way for us to recognize and embrace that tradition.''

Hocutt said he expects more names to be added before another nine years pass.

''We won't have an induction every year, but it's a process we hope to continue in the years to come,'' he said.

This will be the third class to be inducted. The first class was made up of quarterback George Mira (1961-63), halfback Jim Dooley (1949-51), defensive end Ted Hendricks (1966-68) and quarterback Vinny Testaverde (1982-86). The second class in 1999 had fullback Don Bosseler (1953-56), running back Ottis Anderson (1975-78), quarterback Bernie Kosar (1982-84) and defensive back Burgess Owens (1970-72).

Kelly and Otto had equally illustrious careers. Kelly, who starred at UM from 1979-82, went on to a great career with the Buffalo Bills and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2002.

Otto, a 12-time Pro Bowl selection with the Oakland Raiders, played center for UM from 1957-59 and was inducted into the 1980 class of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He now works in the front office of the Raiders.

The five will have their names unveiled on the Ring of Honor banner that will be displayed at UM home football games, beginning with Virginia Tech.

''I can't believe I'm in that top category,'' said Kennedy, a single father who is raising his 13-year-old daughter and works with Seahawks linemen during training camp. Kennedy was the MVP of the Hurricanes' 1989 national championship team.

''I respect every player that came through the U, because we sacrificed so much on and off the field,'' he said. ``It was hard for me to even tell some of the former players I was selected, because so many of them deserve to be in that ring.''

Shannon, a friend and former teammate of Kennedy's, said in the statement it was difficult to make the decision because of all the great players from which to choose.

''A tremendous group has been selected for this next induction,'' Shannon said. ``They truly understand what it means to be a Miami Hurricane.''


Braun delivers walk-off grand slam

MILWAUKEE -- Slumping star Ryan Braun hit a game-winning grand slam with two outs in the bottom of the 10th inning and the Brewers remained even with the Mets atop the National League Wild Card standings after a wild 5-1 win over the Pirates on Thursday at Miller Park.

Thanks to Braun's dramatic 36th home run -- his first career grand slam -- Milwaukee has won four straight games and finished the year 14-1 against last-place Pittsburgh. At 88-71, the Brewers and Mets are tied for the Wild Card with three games to play.

New York came back from a 6-3 deficit against the Cubs, scoring four runs over the final three innings for a 7-6 win at Shea Stadium.

That game was in the books when Rickie Weeks led off the bottom of the 10th inning against Pirates right-hander Jesse Chavez (0-1) with a single under the second baseman's glove. Weeks moved up on a bunt -- the Brewers' first runner in scoring position since the fourth inning - and an intentional walk to Ray Durham and an unintentional one to Craig Counsell loaded the bases with two outs for Braun, who was 0-for-4 in the game and had one home run in 91 at-bats this month.

He launched a 2-and-2 pitch into the left field seats and sent 40,102 fans on Fan Appreciation Night into a frenzy.

Lefty Brewers reliever Mitch Stetter (3-1) struck out Nate McLouth with a runner at second base in the top of the 10th inning to earn the the win.

Brewers right-hander Yoavni Gallardo made his first start since suffering a major right knee injury on May 1 and -- except for a solo home run he allowed to Pirates right fielder Steve Pearce -- delivered just what the Brewers were looking for. He worked around a pair of hits in the first inning with the first two of his seven strikeouts, and whiffed five consecutive batters in the second and third innings.

Bill Hall drove in a run with a double in the third inning.


Sanchez makes good impression

WASHINGTON -- When you're named a player of the year at any level, it shows you are held in high regard.

Marlins first baseman Gaby Sanchez was recognized as the Southern League MVP based on his .314 average with 17 homers and 92 RBIs for Double-A Carolina this season.

Called up on Sept. 16 after the Mudcats lost in the Southern League Championship Series, Sanchez made his first start as a Marlin on Wednesday night. The Miami native went 3-for-5 with two doubles and an RBI.

Making the night even more special was the fact his parents were at the game.

"He had some good at-bats a couple of times as a pinch-hitter," Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "He's got a good approach. His parents were here. He had a pretty good night."

Sanchez had been hitless in three pinch-hit attempts before Wednesday. After he struck out in the second inning, the 6-foot-2, 225-pounder ripped an RBI double off the wall in left field for his first Major League hit.

"It's definitely a big relief," Sanchez said of collecting his first hit. "As soon as you get it, you feel like the whole weight has been lifted off your shoulders. It probably shouldn't feel that way."

If Mike Jacobs doesn't return in 2009, Sanchez will be in contention to win the starting first-base job. Jacobs is up for salary arbitration, and the Marlins must decide if they will bring him back.

In the meantime, Sanchez is taking his first big league experience in stride.

"It's something where you are not expecting too much," he said. "It was my first start, and I knew I would get more than one at-bat. Once I got that first hit out of the way, I was able to relax and calm down once the nerves started going."


McGahee Update

McGahee returned to full capacity Sunday, and he did rush for 64 yards and a TD. Unfortunately, he suffered a cut over his right eyelid, but according to the Baltimore Sun, he is expected to play this week. A word of caution is in order, though. Everyone in Baltimore -- the coaches and the running backs themselves -- seems to be very comfortable with the concept of a running-back rotation, so expect McGahee, Le'Ron McClain and Ray Rice to continue to share time.

In the wake of McGahee being struck in the eye Sunday in an episode that opened up a cut on his right eyelid and also being poked in his left eye by the Cleveland Browns’ defense, the Baltimore Ravens have filed a complaint with the league office.


Bills' Parrish out 4-6 weeks for thumb surgery

Well, those of you that hit the waiver-wire on Sunday night or Monday to nab Bills' WR Roscoe Parrish, your effort was all for naught.

Parrish underwent thumb surgery to repair a damaged ligament.  He suffered the injury late in Sunday's win over Oakland.  He played through the injury the rest of the game, including his touchdown late in the fourth.

Replacing Parrish will be rookie James Hardy and second-year vet Justin Jenkins, who is yet to register a stat this year.  On special teams, rookie Leodis McKelvin will resume the punt return duties, where he has experience during his years at Troy.

“Roscoe, we anticipate, will be out for a good while,” said head coach Dick Jauron. “We’re hoping four to six weeks, in that range. That obviously sets us back a little bit."

It's really a shame based on Sundays break-out performance, but it's in Parrish owners' best interest to drop him, and ignore his replacements.  Parrish's real value was in the asset of his punt return ability, but now the Bills will have a separate player (McKelvin) to fill in.  Parrish isn't expected to return until their first meeting with New England on Nov. 9.


Beason showing his star potential

Three games into his second season, Panthers LB Jon Beason shows no signs of slowing down in his race to become a star.

Beason is easily the team leader in tackles with 34, 21 of them solo, according to team statistics. He's also recovered a fumble and defensed a pass.

Behind him is Thomas Davis, who is having an impact after shifting from strongside to weakside LB. He has 28 tackles. Safety Chris Harris is third (19 tackles), followed by LB Na'il Diggs (17). CB Chris Gamble and S Charles Godfrey have 16 each.

DE Julius Peppers leads Carolina with five quarterback pressures so far, but no Panther has more than one sack. Four (Peppers, Damione Lewis, Godfrey and Diggs)are tied with one apiece.


New hearing set for Nov. 18 in McKinnie case

MIAMI (AP) — Minnesota Vikings left tackle Bryant McKinnie had another court date in his assault case set for Nov. 18 at a status hearing Wednesday.

McKinnie has pleaded not guilty to four charges stemming from a street brawl outside a Miami nightclub in February, including felony battery. McKinnie was not present at the hearing Wednesday, where lawyers updated the judge on the status of the case.

He is eligible to return from a four-game suspension for violating the league's personal conduct policy following Minnesota's game at Tennessee this weekend.

Coach Brad Childress says he is not ready to say whether McKinnie will return to his starting position. Artis Hicks has been playing in his place.


With Martz, Gore is confident again

SAN FRANCISCO - Frank Gore moved into seventh place on the 49ers' all-time rushing list over the weekend.

That's nice, he said.

But hold the champagne.

"I want to be No. 1, you know?'' Gore said. "That would be great."

Anything seemed possible to the running back Monday, a day after another productive game under offensive coordinator Mike Martz.

Gore rushed for 130 yards and a touchdown and caught four passes for 32 yards.

That helped the 49ers beat the Detroit Lions 31-13 and top 30 points and 300 yards for a second consecutive game.

"It just seems so easy,'' Gore said.

A year ago, it seemed so hard. Gore fell woefully short after publicly declaring his goal was to break Eric Dickerson's single-season NFL rushing record of 2,105 yards.

He avoided similar proclamations this season - until Monday. In the span of a few minutes, Gore said he wanted the franchise's all-time rushing record, the NFL rushing title and the league lead in total yardage.

Oh, and he wants to be the NFL's best blocking running back, too. Gore managed to say these things without a hint of brashness. He's soft-spoken by nature.

He was just trying to give a sense of how the universe has opened up with the arrival of a new offensive coordinator.

When I talk to Coach Martz, I tell him that,

'Coach, I want to be all I got.' I even asked him if he can help me be the best back in this league,'' Gore said.

He is also delivering as a blocker. Gore and tight end Vernon Davis were called upon to pass protect against the Lions' blitz late in the second quarter. They bought quarterback J.T. O'Sullivan enough time to hit tight end Delanie Walker for a 24-yard touchdown.

"Whoever you're playing against, you have to do all three things - run, catch and block,'' Gore said.

He said he checks the league leaders weekly to see how he stacks up against the NFL's top threats. He noticed, for example, the Dallas Cowboys' Marion Barber rushed for 142 yards Sunday night.

"I thought, 'OK, next week I have to do this,' " Gore said.


Gaby Sanchez Makes His Major League Debut

The Marlins halted a four-game losing streak and welcomed the major league debut of first baseman Gaby Sanchez, who had three hits and drove in a run. Sanchez, who played collegiate baseball at the University of Miami, was called up from Class AA Carolina one day after Florida was eliminated from playoff contention.


NFL U Week 3 Photos

Check out Week 3 photos from around the the NFL of our proCanes. Click here to see the photos.

Moss keeping it short and sweet

It is uncertain whether the Washington Redskins' coaching staff will continue to use its best receiver as a punt returner. But Jim Zorn already is giving Santana Moss opportunities to use his return man-like instincts by calling for quick passes that don't cross the line of scrimmage.

Although still a legitimate deep threat, Moss has never been shy about running shallow crossing routes or quick slants that take him into traffic. Zorn's decision to re-introduce the "slip screen" has become another way for the Redskins to exploit Moss' talents while also allowing quarterback Jason Campbell to throw high-percentage passes.

In Sunday's victory over visiting Arizona, Moss caught three passes at or behind the line of scrimmage and gained 35 yards after the catch, including a game-winning, 17-yard touchdown.

Moss has equaled his 2007 touchdown total (three) and is tied for fourth in the NFL with 19 catches and 276 receiving yards.

"He attacks the game," Campbell said. "One word he always says to me is opportunity. He wants opportunities to make plays. ... And he has his legs back - that's the key. He's healthy and running at full speed."

The Redskins hope their efficiency with short passes will draw cornerbacks and linebackers closer to the line of scrimmage. That would increase the chance for Moss and tight end Chris Cooley to get behind defenders and catch passes downfield.

Moss has shown his versatility on his three touchdowns: a 12-yard shallow cross against the Giants, the 67-yard home run ball to win the New Orleans game and the screen against Arizona.

"I love the underneath stuff because that gives me a chance to be a runner and it opens up things downfield - you just have to be patient," he said. "If you get me started underneath, there's no telling what I can do downfield because I have the confidence and will to go out and be a beast someplace else."

The downfield stuff hasn't come just yet for Moss or the Redskins. A breakdown of Campbell's throws through three games:

cPasses completed at or behind the line of scrimmage: 11 of 19 for 76 yards and one touchdown.

cPasses that travel 1-5 yards: 26 of 30 for 210 yards and two touchdowns.

c6-10 yards: 17 of 24 for 189 yards.

c11-20 yards: 6 of 14 for 116 yards.

c21-plus yards: 1 of 6 for 67 yards and a touchdown.

Moss has played 167 out of 185 snaps and been the intended target 28 times. Nine of his catches have traveled 1-5 yards but for a total of 91 yards.

A former Big East special teams player of the year at Miami, Moss averaged 11.8 yards on 82 punt returns (two touchdowns) for the New York Jets from 2002 to 2004. But as an every-down player for Washington in 2005, Moss had seven returns that year and none since. He was in return formation for Arizona's first punt last week but didn't make a return.

On the quick throws, Moss can go back to those return days of making quick cuts in traffic and accelerating to avoid defenders.

"It's another way to make the defense defend the whole field," left guard Pete Kendall said. "Santana is exceptionally quick and has great change of direction and the other thing is, he's straight-line fast. If Santana can get out in space and he makes a guy miss, he has the ability to pull away from the pursuit."

The play is timing-based starting from the throw. Campbell has to put some zip on the ball but not so much heat that Moss can't handle it.

"It's a tough throw to make because you have to get it around tall guys on both the offensive and defensive lines," Campbell said.

The blockers have to be on the move so Moss can be sprung. On the touchdown against Arizona, Cooley and right tackle Stephon Heyer had key blocks and Randy Thomas made one 15 yards downfield.

Three regular-season games into a new passing offense is a small body of work, but the early results have Moss excited about the opportunities for big plays.

"Every day and every week, we all need to get better within this offense and we can't say, 'We've got it,'" he said. "I'm thrilled to see how Jason's progressing, and that helps us as receivers because we need the quarterback."


Broncos LB Williams finalist for award

Broncos linebacker D.J. Williams is one of five finalists for the GMC Sierra Defensive Player of the Week award.

He is competing with Miami linebacker Joey Porter, a Colorado State product; Atlanta defensive end John Abraham; Philadelphia defensive end Juqua Parker; and Minnesota cornerback Antoine Winfield.

Fans can vote for the award until 2 p.m. MDT Thursday at The winner will be announced Thursday night at

Williams made a game-high 16 tackles in the Broncos’ 34-32 win against New Orleans.

Porter recorded three sacks, a forced fumble and six tackles (three for a loss) in the Dolphins’ 38–13 win over New England.

Abraham had two sacks in the Falcons’ 38-14 victory over Kansas City. He finished with three tackles and one forced fumble.

Parker had 2.5 sacks, five tackles (two of them for loss), a forced fumble, a pass batted down and four quarterback hits in the Eagles’ 15-6 win against Pittsburgh.

Winfield notched his first sack of the season, forced a fumble, recovered the ball and ran it back 19 yards for a touchdown that tied the score in the Vikings' 20-10 win against Carolina.


McIntosh On the Upswing

In the next two weeks, the Redskins will need all the playmakers they can muster, with NFC East road games at Dallas and Philadelphia just ahead.

Rocky McIntosh, for his part, has been taking steps in that direction.

The third-year linebacker out of Miami continues his comeback from a serious knee injury suffered last year on Week 15 at the Meadowlands.

The last three weeks, he has exhibited that he can be a force in the Redskins’ defense.

In Sunday’s 24-17 win over Arizona at FedExField, McIntosh may have played his best game as a Redskin.

Statistically, he led Greg Blache’s defense with 10 tackles.

He also forced running back Edgerrin James into a fumble recovered by Carlos Rogers in the first quarter and combined with Andre Carter to sack Kurt Warner with just under 11 minutes left in the game.

The week before, when the Redskins outscored New Orleans 29-24, McIntosh forced a fumble by Jeremy Shockey and in the Sept. 4 opener versus at the Meadowlands he posted eight tackles.

He may be rounding into shape at just the right time.

Certainly, he’ll be tested next week when matched up, as the flow of the game dictates, versus Pro Bowl tight end Jason Witten.

“This is a game that can really get us going,” the 6-2, 232-pound McIntosh said.

“The Cardinals are a good team,” he added. “You have to say that about any team with Pro Bowl-caliber wide receivers, with a Pro Bowl-caliber quarterback and running back. A win over that team is a big win.”

But McIntosh knows the intensity level will be elevated the next two weeks.

“Your motivation has to be really high for NFC East games,” he said. “But really, any time you’re playing in the NFL, you’d better be motivated to do your job.”

The Redskins’ best moment last season came when they traveled to the Meadowlands in mid-December and handled the New York Giants, who went on to win the Super Bowl, 22-10.

But for McIntosh, that trip to Giants Stadium was a personal disaster as he went down with a knee injury that required surgery and a long rehab.

The way he’s played through the first three games of 2008 suggests he’s back on an upswing.


Wilfork's high school jersey will be retired

LANTANA, Fla. — A South Florida high school is retiring the jersey worn by New England Patriots defensive lineman Vince Wilfork.

Wilfork wore No. 75 when he played for Santaluces Community High School in Lantana. He also had the number when he starred at the University of Miami.

School officials said Tuesday that Wilfork will attend a ceremony to retire the jersey before the Chiefs' game Friday night.


Moss ties franchise record Week 3

Kent Somers and Bob McManaman, of The Arizona Republic, report Washington Redskins WR Santana Moss caught a touchdown pass in his sixth consecutive game, including playoffs, Week 3. He tied former NFL WR Bobby Mitchell for the franchise record in that category.


Huff happy for old Rays teammates

Aubrey Huff remembers vividly when Tampa Bay was a last-place team. Now that the Rays are headed to the playoffs, he's delighted to see a few old friends enjoying success.

Huff spent five long seasons in Tampa Bay. He was traded to Houston late in the 2006 season, and signed with the Orioles as a free agent in January 2007. The Orioles are in last place, and his former team has clinched a spot in the postseason.

"I am happy for a few guys I played with," Huff said Tuesday. "If we're not going to be in there, I'd love to see them in there and go all the way."

Huff played 799 games with Tampa Bay -- second-most in club history. He is the career leader in home runs, RBIs, doubles and extra-base hits.
When Huff played in Tampa Bay, the Rays never won more than 70 games. The Rays began Tuesday's doubleheader against Baltimore in first place in the AL East with 93 wins.

"I knew they'd be good. I had no idea they'd be that good," Huff said.

Huff hoped that when he signed with the Orioles, they'd be able to contend. He still thinks that can happen, in part because the Rays did it.

"If they can, we can. They turned it around in two years," he said. "There's no reason this organization can't do it as well. (Tampa Bay) stockpiled a lot of young talent, and gave it time to develop."


NFL U Week 3 Video Highlights

Check out the return of our NFL U Video Highlights. Like we did back in 2006, will provide our fans every week video highlights of all of our NFL U stars along with pictures from the current NFL Week. Click here to check out our Week 3 Video Highlights or click above on NFL U Video Highlights. Enjoy this week's highlights which feature a Santana Moss Touchdown, a Roscoe Parrish Touchdown, a Frank Gore TD and more!

D.J.'s speed produced end of last drive sooner than Saints wanted

Broncos reporter Mike Klis breaks down a key play from Denver's 34-32 victory over the New Orleans Saints on Sunday at Invesco Field at Mile High:

The play: The Broncos led 34-32, but the Saints had third-and-1 at the Denver 24 with 2:19 left. The Saints handed off to their short-yardage back, Pierre Thomas, who was tackled in the backfield by Broncos linebacker D.J. Williams for a 1-yard loss. On fourth-and-2, the Saints had Martin Gramatica try a 43-yard field goal. He missed, wide right, and the Broncos won.

Point/counterpoint: On the pivotal stop, the Broncos lined up eight players on the line of scrimmage, with Williams on their far right. Another Broncos linebacker, Jamie Winborn, was on the far left. Saints coach Sean Payton filed a complaint with the league saying Winborn lined up offside — and still pictures and replays suggest New Orleans has a beef. Someone should complain to Payton for not accounting for Williams, who was lined up fair and square and made the play even though it was run away from him.

"D.J. was free on the backside, and with his speed and quickness he was able to make the tackle on the backside," Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said.

Had the Saints gotten the first down, Payton said he would have run the clock down to about four seconds before having Gramatica attempt what would have been a shorter kick. Thus, the significance of Williams' play can't be underestimated.

Future prospects: Williams isn't resting on the fat, five-year contract extension he received two days before the season opener at Oakland. His 16 tackles against the Saints moved him from outside the NFL's top 45 tackle leaders last week to a tie for sixth this week with 28. His 14 solo tackles against the Saints were a career high, and one of his assists came against Thomas on a fourth- and-goal stop from the 1 late in the first half. It's early, but Williams has a great chance to make his first AFC Pro Bowl squad this season.


49ers' Gore wants to win NFL rushing title

Frank Gore moved into seventh place on the 49ers' all-time rushing list over the weekend.

That's nice, he said.

But hold the champagne.

"I want to be No. 1, you know?'' Gore said. "That would be great."

Anything seemed possible to the running back Monday, a day after another productive game under offensive coordinator Mike Martz.

Gore rushed for 130 yards and a touchdown and caught four passes for 32 yards.

That helped the 49ers beat the Detroit Lions 31-13 and top 30 points and 300 yards for a second consecutive game.

"It just seems so easy,'' Gore said.

A year ago, it seemed so hard. Gore fell woefully short after publicly declaring his goal was to break Eric Dickerson's single-season NFL rushing record of 2,105 yards.

He avoided similar proclamations this season — until Monday. In the span of a few minutes, Gore said he wanted the franchise's all-time rushing record, the NFL rushing title and the league lead in total yardage.

Oh, and he wants to be the NFL's best blocking running back, too. Gore managed to say these things without a hint of brashness. He's soft-spoken by nature.

He was just trying to give a sense of how the universe has opened up with the arrival of a new offensive coordinator.

"When I talked to Martz before the season, I asked, 'Can you help me be the best back in the league?' '' Gore said.

Heading into play Monday night, Gore led the NFL in yards from scrimmage with 412. (He has 287 rushing yards and 125 receiving yards.)

He is also delivering as a blocker. Gore and tight end Vernon Davis were called upon to pass protect against the Lions' blitz late in the second quarter. They bought quarterback J.T. O'Sullivan enough time to hit tight end Delanie Walker for a 24-yard touchdown.

"Whoever you're playing against, you have to do all three things — run, catch and block,'' Gore said.

He said he checks the league leaders every week to see how he stacks up against the NFL's other top threats. He noticed, for example, that the Dallas Cowboys' Marion Barber rushed for 142 yards Sunday night.

"I thought, 'OK, next week I have to do this,' '' Gore said.


For Portrait in Tribute to Slain Player, a Legal Snare

Like many Washington Redskins fans, artist Jason Swain mourned the death of 24-year-old Sean Taylor when the player was shot in November. But instead of buying a "21" jersey or expressing his sorrow on sports blogs, Swain created a six-foot portrait of the fallen athlete.

The painting is a montage of Taylor's football career, from his days at the University of Miami through his 3 1/2 seasons as a Redskins safety. Football fans can view the painting at Champps Americana restaurant in Arlington's Pentagon Row, where it has hung since the Sept. 4 start of the Redskins season.

But the tribute painting has seen kudos and conflict on its way to the tavern wall.

After about 200 hours of work, Swain finished the painting and contributed it to an art exhibition that he had already committed to at Children's National Medical Center. While it hung there in March, a group of players visited the hospital as part of the "Redskins Read" literacy program. It caught the attention of Betti-Jo "BJ" Corriveau, the team's vice president for community and charitable programs, and wide receiver Santana Moss. Corriveau expressed casual interest in buying the original; Moss wanted to order three prints.

This is when the trouble began.

In an e-mail exchange, Swain quoted Corriveau a price of $20,000. She responded by asking him if he would donate the portrait so that it could be displayed at FedEx Field. He said no.

"I thought it was fairly insulting," Swain says. "I wouldn't call the Redskins and say I want season tickets and free hot dogs for the rest of the year. I expect to pay something."

Swain had signed a contract to give 25 percent of the proceeds to the children's hospital. A donation would have meant a loss of $5,000 to the hospital.

The next e-mail that Swain received from Corriveau read:

"I understand that you need to sell your painting and the prints but please know that you need to remove our logo and the NFL logo from all images."

The sale fell through, and Swain hasn't removed any of the logos from the painting. It made its way to the Champps wall after Swain cold-called the restaurant about hanging the artwork for its Redskins kickoff party. "Better other people see it than sitting in the house collecting dust," he says.

Swain, 41, is an Australian immigrant who lives in Kensington and runs a landscaping business. This isn't his first celebrity tribute painting. In 2006, his portrait of "Crocodile Hunter" Steve Irwin hung at the Mansion at Strathmore. He has also painted Bill Clinton, Halle Berry and Diane Sawyer.

Swain is afraid the Redskins will take legal action against him, so he has consulted with an intellectual-property lawyer and taken the painting off the market. At Champps, a small placard lists Swain's phone number but no price.

This squabble has legal precedent, says Georgetown University law professor Rebecca Tushnet. Tiger Woods sued sports artist Rick Rush in 2000 over a painting of Woods winning the Masters. The golfer lost.

"Courts have been confronting these issues, and they are increasingly coming down on the side of the arts," Tushnet says. Although Woods was protecting his image and not a logo, both cases fall under the umbrella of intellectual-property law. "Basically, almost anything can be a trademark," Tushnet says. Think Michael Jordan flying toward the hoop.

The Moss transaction has hit a dead-end. Moss's manager Lily Stefano balked when Swain quoted her $5,000 to produce and ship the three custom four-foot-tall giclee prints (high-resolution reproductions of the original, produced from digital scans) to Moss in Miami. Stefano says she thought Swain's price was "sky-high," and she advised Moss to back off. Swain hasn't had contact with Corriveau or Stefano since April.

Reached by telephone last week, Corriveau didn't recall where she had left her dealings with Swain. "We had some conversations but never anything solid," she said. "It's a beautiful portrait." She didn't think Swain would be offended by her directive to remove the logos from the painting.

As product placements invade our world, so will they sneak onto canvases, Tushnet says: "The idea in general is that we want artists to be able to portray the world as they see it, and we live in a heavily branded world."


Lewis still a hit with Ravens

Baltimore- Ray Lewis dropped an interception just before halftime. Early in the third quarter, Baltimore's inside linebacker delivered the pivotal hit.

His collision with Browns tight end Kellen Winslow led to Chris McAlister's interception and triggered a 21-point flurry to help the Ravens rally for a 28-10 victory Sunday.

The play energized Baltimore's defense, which notched three interceptions and registered five sacks against Browns quarterback Derek Anderson.

Lewis, a two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year and MVP of Super Bowl XXXV, added four solo tackles.

"Were ya'll shocked?" said Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs, who posted two sacks. "I knew it was coming. It was just a matter of when."

Down, 10-7, Baltimore had to cope with watching a teammate, safety Dawan Landry, strapped to a gurney carried off the field late in the second quarter. At halftime, Lewis rallied the team, Suggs said.

"I don't think there is a more vocal leader, and just a leader, period, in the NFL than Ray Lewis," Suggs said. "He knew we had to make a play."

Three plays into the third, with the Browns facing third-and-3 on its 17-yard line, Lewis struck. He hit Winslow, who was running a 7-yard route in the middle of the field.

The ball fell into the arms of McAlister, who returned it to the Cleveland 12. Four plays later Le'Ron McClain scored on a 1-yard touchdown run to put Baltimore ahead for good.

Lewis said he didn't think Anderson would make that throw.

"I had two choices," Lewis, a 13-year veteran, said. "Either go for the interception or the receiver."

Baltimore cornerback Samari Rolle said Lewis relies on instincts.

"People put entirely too much emphasis on age," Rolle said. "He knows the game. He's the greatest middle linebacker in history of this league."

Reed said extensive film study helped lead to his 32-yard interception return for a touchdown on Cleveland's next possession on Anderson's throw behind Syndric Steptoe.

Reed said the Browns ran the identical play two downs earlier. He told McAlister to provide deep coverage so he could play the ball.

"I just felt it," said Reed, who posted his ninth career interception return for a score. "I knew that was it. So when [Anderson] threw it, I just thought, 'Catch it.' "


Edge has become an afterthought

He came to the desert, flashed that bright smile of his, and we were hooked.

The Cardinals signed Edgerrin James? Are you kidding?

But it wasn't a joke. The Bidwills were about to move into their new stadium and they were putting their money where their luxury suites were, signing James to a four-year, $30 million contract.

It was heralded as the most significant free-agent signing in franchise history, and who could argue?

James was a four-time Pro Bowl selection, the yin to Peyton Manning's yang in Indianapolis.

He was a symbol of hope and a promise of better days ahead.

"We're serious about winning," vice president Michael Bidwill said.

Thirty months have passed. The Cardinals are still serious, but James no longer is the front man, the face of the franchise. Instead, he has become an afterthought, the commercial pause while Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin catch their breath.

James' skills haven't completely eroded. He had 93 yards Sunday - averaging 5.2 yards per carry - and he's on pace to rush for 1,321 yards, which would be his most since 2005, his final season in Indianapolis.

But James isn't having the kind of impact - either on a Sunday afternoon or over the course of the season - you'd expect from a $30 million player.

Last year, James' longest run from scrimmage was 27 yards. His longest gain this year is 16 yards, making him the only back in the top 10 in rushing who doesn't have a carry of at least 20 yards.

To be fair, James never was a home run threat. His longest run over his last six seasons in Indianapolis was 43 yards.

But he seems to have reached the point of his career where defenses no longer fear him.

Some of that is beyond James' control. One of the reasons he was so effective with the Colts is that he was playing with Manning, Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne and behind a good offensive line. Defenses were preoccupied with Indianapolis' passing attack, which gave James room to run.

In addition, the Cardinals haven't made James a focal point of their offense. He no longer carries the ball in goal-line situations - rookie Tim Hightower has both of Arizona's rushing touchdowns - and he rarely has the ball thrown to him.

James, 30, caught a combined 207 passes in his final four years in Indianapolis. But he had just 27 receptions last season, and he's caught only three balls this year.

Here's the thing, though: If James were still one of the NFL's best backs, wouldn't the Cardinals make it a point of emphasis to get the ball in his hands?

No, the truth is, James has lost just enough bounce in his step that he's become an average back.

The Cardinals know it. The team considered waiving James after last season, but only if it could acquire a younger, every-down back.

There's already talk, after three games, that Arizona needs to give Hightower more carries because he has the explosiveness James lacks.

James isn't going to disappear. Barring injury, he'll carry the ball 300 times or so and rush for more than 1,000 yards.

But the running back who once represented everything the Cardinals were going to be has become a supporting actor.

And when James' days do end here - his contract runs through 2009 - he likely won't be remembered for the yards he gained, the passes he caught or the touchdowns he scored.

He'll be defined, instead, by what the Cardinals did in the first round of the 2007 draft.

Content with James, they took Penn State tackle Levi Brown with the fifth overall pick.

And passed on Adrian Peterson.


Saints' Shockey to undergo hernia surgery

METAIRIE, La. (AP) - Tight end Jeremy Shockey, the Saints' second-leading receiver through three games, is expected to be out for three to six weeks because of a sports hernia.

Shockey, who was acquired from the New York Giants in a trade shortly before training camp, had 16 receptions for 151 yards during the Saints' first three regular-season games. He played Sunday in New Orleans' 34-32 loss at Denver, catching five passes for 56 yards.

On Monday afternoon, Saints spokesman Greg Bensel confirmed a report on the (New Orleans) Times-Picayune's Web site that Shockey was scheduled to have surgery this week.

A sports hernia is the weakening of muscles or tendons in the lower abdominal wall. For Shockey, it's the second serious injury in as many seasons. He broke his left leg last December and missed all of the Giants' postseason run to a Super Bowl championship.

Shockey's absence also is the second major blow to the Saints' receivers this season following the loss of Marques Colston in Week 1.

Colston, who led the Saints in receiving in each of the previous two seasons, needed surgery to repair a torn ligament in his left thumb and is not expected back for another month.

Shockey lobbied for a trade to the Saints in the offseason, hoping to rejoin head coach Sean Payton, who was the Giants' offensive coordinator in 2002, the flamboyant tight end's rookie season.

Shockey caught more passes (74) for more yards (894) that season than any other in his career and was the rookie of the year. With the Saints, he was expected to play a major role in a pass-oriented offense led by quarterback Drew Brees.

So far, the Saints' leading receiver this season is running back Reggie Bush, who has 26 catches for 250 yards and two touchdowns.

With both Colston and Shockey out, the Saints may have to rely more on receivers David Patten, Devery Henderson, Lance Moore, Robert Meachem and Terrance Copper. However, Patten pulled his left groin during Sunday's game and is unsure of his status for this week, while Copper was inactive last weekend with a pulled hamstring.

The Saints also have two other tight ends in Billy Miller and Mark Campbell, although Campbell also was out last weekend because of a pulled hamstring.

Payton met with reporters earlier on Monday afternoon, but did not mention Shockey's injury.


Andre Johnson Drops 2 TDs

The Houston Chronicle reports Texans WR Andre Johnson accepted total blame for uncharacteristically dropping two potential touchdown passes in the first half of the Texans' 31-12 loss to the Tennessee Titans at LP Field on Sunday. "The first one, I was trying to hold the ball and keep my feet in bounds," said Johnson. "I had the ball on my finger tips, trying to bring it in, and didn't bring it in. No excuse about it. For me to be the elite receiver I want to be, I have to make that play. I accept full responsibility for both of them. The other play, I thought I was by myself. Instead of attacking the ball, I let the ball come into my arms. When CB Nick Harper swung at it, he hit my arm and it slipped right out. It's my fault."


Ortega Signed To Practice Squad

TE Buck Ortega was signed from the practice squad because the Saints needed an extra tight end with TE Mark Campbell out with a hamstring injury. Ortega will likely be brought back to the 53-man roster off the practice squad.


Jerome McDougle Update

DE Jerome McDougle said his calf and knee are both giving him a bit of trouble, which is why he was inactive yesterday.


Burrell's three-run blast helps seal win

Pat Burrell drove in three runs as the Phillies defeated the Braves 6-2 on Monday night.
Burrell launched a three-run homer just after the Phillies had broken a 2-2 tie on a failed fielder's choice in the eighth, giving the bullpen a comfy four-run lead to protect in the ninth. Burrell is hitting just .172 in September and .247 overall, but he maintains a solid 865 OPS.