Braun to play in minors game on Saturday

Ryan Braun took batting practice Friday and is set to test his sore right intercostal muscle in a minor league game Saturday.

"He'll play under controlled conditions and we'll have an assessment made and proceed from there," said manager Ken Macha. Braun has been out since Wednesday. He isn't in danger of missing Opening Day just yet, but this will be a situation worth monitoring up until the start of the season.


Former Alouette Payton eyes return to CFL

A former Alouettes running back with one of the most famous pedigrees in the sport could make a return to the Canadian Football League this season, The Gazette has learned.

Jarrett Payton, Montreal’s leading rusher in 2007, appears to have attracted the interest of at least two CFL teams, Winnipeg and Toronto. According to a source, the Blue Bombers are considering flying him in for a workout. The Argonauts, according to the source, also have expressed interest in looking at the son of legendary Chicago Bears running-back Walter Payton.

“I’m interested in playing for anyone who needs a running back,” Payton said, remaining vague. “But you look at two teams and I see the need. I have a couple of years left … good years.”

Payton was general manager Jim Popp’s prized signing in 2007, Popp’s only season coaching Montreal. Once the Als released Robert Edwards, Payton replaced him, gaining 852 yards in 13 games while scoring eight touchdowns. But the team had a poor 8-10 record under Popp.

Popp was replaced as head coach last season by Marc Trestman. Payton, who missed most of training camp with an ankle injury, was released in early July.

“People thought I was hurt, or that I’m still hurt. That’s not true,” said Payton, 28. “I’m ready to play.”

Although Payton said his agent has been in contact with both Winnipeg and Toronto, Texas-based Lance Riddle was reluctant to talk, other than admitting a “couple of teams” are interested. Neither Mike Kelly, the Bombers’ GM and head coach, or Argos GM Adam Rita returned messages.

The Bombers, scheduled to conduct two more free agent camps shortly, have Joe Smith and Fred Reid returning to the offensive backfield. Smith is more of a power back, much like the 6-foot, 218-pound Payton.

Payton could have more luck cracking Toronto’s roster, where five players are returning but only two, Jamal Robertson and Da’shawn Thomas, are imports. Also, the Argos’ new head coach, Bart Andrus, coached Payton in NFL Europe, at Amsterdam.

“I feel confident, but it’s not up to me. It’s up to somebody else to see if I’m ready,” Payton said. “I know I am. I’ve worked my butt off since I left Montreal, keeping myself ahead of the curve.

“All I want to do is play.”

Payton might still be playing for the Als had Popp remained head coach. But Trestman decided on the diminutive Avon Cobourne, who remained patient for two seasons waiting his opportunity. The 5-foot-8, 193-pound Cobourne, a slashing scat-back, didn’t disappoint, gaining 950 yards in only 12 games. Cobourne was third in the CFL in rushing. He undoubtedly would have challenged Calgary’s Joffrey Reynolds (1,310 yards) for the rushing crown had he remained healthy.

“New coaches come in. They have what they want. Maybe I didn’t fit into the puzzle,” Payton said. “They did well.”

Back home in Chicago, Payton started a line of clothing and shoes last year along with recently getting married. He said there’s also talk of producing a movie on his late father.


Salmons' 27 points lead Bulls' win over Heat

John Salmons scored 27 points on 12-of-22 shooting with two rebounds, five assists, two steals, and one block in the Bulls' 106-87 win over the Heat on Thursday.

Salmons has gotten all the run he can handle in Chicago, and has been putting up a ton of points, but the peripheral stats have been a concern. Tonight, he had his highest assist total since February 10, and the steals and block were nice. The Bulls' win brought them into a tie with Detroit for seventh place in the East.


Braun's MRI reveals no damage

PHOENIX -- An MRI scan of Ryan Braun's right side gave the Brewers some peace of mind but no further clues about the injury that has sidelined their All-Star left fielder.

The Thursday morning scan revealed no damage, according to a team spokesperson, but Braun continued to feel tightness at the back of his rib cage and was barred from the batter's box. His trip to the doctor came a day after Braun played four innings of defense against the Dodgers and never took the bat off his shoulder in two plate appearances before making an early exit.

Braun played through a similar strain last summer and fall and continues to insist that the injury, which flared up again earlier this month during his stint in the World Baseball Classic, is not serious. He declined an MRI scan during the Classic and only reluctantly accepted the "no hitting" mandate on Thursday.

"I could hit, for sure," Braun said earlier in the day. "In my opinion, with this injury, to get back to 100 percent, you have to take swings, you have to throw, you have to run at full speed, you have to do all of those things. It's a fine line between going out there, hurting yourself and getting worse, versus getting through that last little part. That's what we're trying to figure out, whether it's better to push it or rest it."

He underwent treatment on Thursday morning. Braun believes that learning to manage injuries is part of the education of a budding big leaguer.
"For sure," he said. "You learn your own body, how to deal with injuries and how your body responds to certain types of events and workouts. Maybe we have to change something I do in my workouts. Who knows? You try to make adjustments as you go."


James Jones Struggling

Why has James Jones' accuracy declined to 26.4 percent on three-pointers and 34.5 overall? Jones -- third in the NBA in three-point shooting at 44.4 percent last season -- said his surgically repaired wrist ``is still weak and shaky . . . about 80 percent.


Sanchez Still Trying to Earn a Spot

Gaby Sanchez is projected to be the Marlins' starting first baseman on opening day. He's battled through a slow spring, but he hopes to build upon a .314-.404-.513 season in AA that earned him a September call-up. He's more of a gap doubles hitter who has the bat speed and strike-zone judgment to hit for a high average. He began his pro career at third base, but his range and hands are more than adequate at first base.

Sanchez is still a day or two away from returning to the active lineup as he continues to take it easy with his bruised left knee. He is still penciled in as the Marlins' starter at first, and no one with the Fish appears overly concerned at the moment, at least with his health that is. As for his work on the field, he is hitting only .200 without a single RBI in 30 AB. He needs to get going or he would obviously be in danger of losing some playing time at best, or at worst he could find himself returned to the minors to rediscover his lost stroke.


Chris Perez Returns to Action

JUPITER, Fla. - Manager Tony La Russa just got through explaining how he will balance managing the remainder of exhibition games as though they counted versus getting relievers enough work to prepare themselves for the season.

Chris Perez represents one example. Perez is expected to appear in this afternoon’s Grapefruit tilt against the Houston Astros. It will be his first game appearance since March 11. Perez told trainers the next morning he was experiencing persistent shoulder stiffness after throwing and had some trouble loosening beforehand. Once considered a leading candidate to close games but now fighting for a spot on the Opening Day roster, Perez was shut down and has been on a mound only twice since.

Perez said earlier this week he hoped to make six appearances before the season. La Russa countered Wednesday, “I don’t know if he can pitch six times in the last games. I would err on the side of trying to get him in games whenever he’s cleared to pitch.”

“There are certain priorities,” La Russa said. “The first priority is the starting pitcher. Then it comes down to the rest. But he is one of the priority guys.” 

Jason Motte, for example, has appeared four times since Perez’ last outing. Josh Kinney and Trever Miller have been seen five times. Perez now operates at a deficit.


Braun leaves early with right side discomfort

Ryan Braun left Wednesday's game against the Dodgers early due to what is being called "right side stiffness."

This is the same area as the intercostal strain that troubled Braun last year and has slowed him this spring, leaving Braun uncertain as to what the next step might be. "I don't know. I really don't," he said. "It's a frustrating injury but I think I'll be all right." When asked if he would play on Thursday, Braun responded, "We'll find out tomorrow." Expect the Brewers to exercise caution until Braun is closer to 100 percent.


Cardinals may keep unhappy Edge

Most of us have assumed that Edgerrin James would become an ex-Cardinal this off-season. And while that's still likely, don't rule out the possibility of James returning to the team for the final year of his contract. I talked to coach Ken Whisenhunt for a few minutes this morning between meetings at the NFL owners confab at Dana Point, Calif. I asked him about a few subjects (I'll have more later), but regarding Edge, Whisenhunt said he would like to shore up the running back position before deciding to release James. The Cardinals signed Jason Wright in free agency, and he could be the team's third-down back. The Cardinals are expected to draft a back to share time with Tim Hightower. But even with those three players, the position is thin. Whisenhunt said he could foresee James returning, depending upon personnel moves over the next month to six weeks or so. And it seems certain that James won't be released before the draft in late April. That's not going to make James happy. He wanted to be released right after the season in order to have a better shot at landing a featured role somewhere else. The Cardinals, however, have paid James $25 million of the $30 million contract he signed three years ago. They figure that kind of money gives them the right to cover themselves until the need at running back has been addressed. Despite his unhappiness, James has been a diligent worker and he proved late last season that he can still be effective. It will be hard for the Cardinals to release him and place the workload on Hightower, in his second year, and a draft choice.



Former UM offensive line coach and Cane player Art Kehoe, who has had a part in all five national championships won by the Hurricanes, will be honored by his peers as part of festivities at the first annual Spring Game Alumni After Party March 28 at Miami Prime Grill in North Miami Beach.
Kehoe, 52, will be presented with the first Canes 4 Life Lifetime Dedication Award, which is being sponsored by

The event, which is being presented by the alumni group Canes 4 Life,, 790 The Ticket and Miami Prime, will be held from 1-6 p.m. at Miami Prime, which is located at 16395 Biscayne Blvd. in North Miami Beach.

Admission is free, and there will be food and beverages, music, Canes Merchanise by All Canes, a Canes trading card show, autograph signings, kids zone and more.

A special edition of the CaneSport Live Radio Show will be broadcast live on-site from 4-6 p.m.

The goal is to make the event an annual celebration of the Hurricane family.

Among the players who have RSVP's to attend are Mike Adams (1975), OJ Anderson (1975), Jessie Armstead (1989), Andy Atrio (1995), Tolbert Bain (1984), Don Bailey (1979), Rudy Barber (1990), Tolbert Bain (1984), Robert Bass (1991) Coleman Bell (1990), Edgar Benes (1987), Donnell Bennett (1991), Kenny Berry (1987), Brian Blades (1984), Bennie Blades (1985), Dominic Brandy (1967), Melvin Bratton (1984), Kevin Brinkworth (1991), Nate Brooks (1995), Freeman Brown (1994), Hurlie Brown (1988), James Burgess (1993), Dinavin Bythwood (1992), Mark Caesar (1989), Lamont Cain (1994), Larry Cain (1973), Kenny Calhoun (1981), Carlos Callejas (1996), Marcus Carey (1990), Wesley Carroll (1989), Jermaine Chambers (1992), Bernard Clark (1986), Ryan Clement (1993), Tony Coley (1992), Ryan Collins (1991), Horace Copeland (1990), Frank Costa (1991), Mike Crissy (1993), Gerard Daphnis (1992), Marvin Davis (1992), Pat Del Vecchio (1996), Otis Fowler (1989), Corwin Francis (1991), Jammi German (1993), Chris Gibson (1992), Frank Glover (1974), Derrick Golden (1988), Yatil Green (1994), Casey Greer (1989), Derrick Ham (1995), Bobby Harden (1986), Kelvin Harris (1987), Terris Harris (1991), Jonathan Harris (1991), Derrick Harris (1991), Alonzo Highsmith (1986); J Ina (1992), Cliff Jackson (1993), Carlos Jones (1992), Chris T. Jones (1991), Chris C. Jones (1993), Trent Jones (1993), K.C. Jones (1992), Carlo Joseph (1995), Kenard Lang (1993), Larry Latrell (1991), Mike Lawson (1993), Earl Little (1992), Kenny Lopez (1990), Nick Luchey (1995), Zev Lumelski (1991), Larry Luttrell (1994), Rohan Marley (1991), Jason Marucci (1990), Russell Maryland (1986), Ryan McNeil (1989), Darius McCollum (1992), Damond Neely (1994), Chad Pegues (1995), Malcolm Pearson (1991), Booker Pickett (1992), Eugene Ridgley (1994), Pat Riley (1992), Nelson Rodriguez (1996), Omar Rolle (1995), Robert Sampson (1997), Eric Schnupp (1997), Leon Searcy (1988), Al Shipman (1992), Baraka Short (1991), Darrin Smith (1989), Michael Smith (1996), Roland Smith (1987), Darryl Spencer (1988), Duane Starks (1996), Brian Stinson (1998), Daniel Stubbs (1987), Alan Symonette (1991), A.C. Tellison (1991), Lamar Thomas (1989), Syii Tucker (1991), Chad Wilson (1991) and Marcus Wimberly (1992).

Kehoe has been absent from Miami football since he was terminated after the 2005 season as part of the fallout from the program's decline in the final years of Larry Coker's tenure. But as his final UM media guide bio stated, Kehoe is "The modern day Mr. Miami Football to many fans."

Kehoe first came to Miami in 1979 as a transfer from Laney Junior College in Oakland, Calif., and he started at guard for the Hurricanes for two seasons under Howard Schnellenberger. He was offensive captain both years. Little did he know then that he would be part of the program for five national titles.

And he was inducted into the University of Miami Athletic Hall of Fame in 2002.

Kehoe was involved as a coach or player at Miami for part of four decades - from 1979 until 2005.

After Kehoe's playing days were over at Miami he was a student assistant football coach for one season, a graduate assistant for three seasons then in 1985 became the offensive line coach. From 1992-94, Kehoe also tutored tight ends in addition to his duties with the offensive line.

In 2002 he was rewarded with the title of assistant head coach while retaining his primary responsibilities as offensive line coach.

Kehoe worked with five different coaches - Howard Schenllenberger, Jimmy Johnson, Dennis Erickson, Butch Davis and Larry Coker.

During his time as a football coach at UM, Kehoe was part of 21 bowl games. He has coached some of the greatest players to ever wear a Hurricane uniform - he has produced six players (Brett Romberg in 2002, Bryant McKinnie in 2001, Joaquin Gonzalez in 2000, Richard Mercier in 1999, K.C. Jones in 1996 and Leon Searcy in 1991) who received first-team All-America honors.

His offensive lines protected Bernie Kosar, Vinny Testaverde, Steve Walsh, Craig Erickson, Gino Torretta and Ken Dorsey.

He recruited and coached 2002 Rimington Trophy winner Brett Romberg and recruited and coached 2001 Outland Trophy winner Bryant McKinnie.

Overall Kehoe coached 19 offensive linemen who went on to play professionally.

As amazing as some of Kehoe's accomplishments are, perhaps none is more noteworthy than the fact that in 2000 and 2001 the offensive line allowed, combined, only seven sacks. Those units are widely considered among the finest in recent college football history.

Kehoe's offensive lines played a key role in producing six of Miami's eight thousand-yard rushers.

Kehoe received his Bachelor of Arts degree in business administration from Miami.

Bears' Hester excited about upcoming commercial shoot

Plans for Devin Hester to participate in a promotional air stunt Thursday had been, well ... up in the air.

As part of his new partnership with Red Bull energy drink, the Bears wide receiver/kick returner originally agreed to ride in an "acrobatic" helicopter that can perform flips.

Then came word Monday morning that tornadoes along the East Coast would prevent the Red Bull stunt helicopter from leaving its base in Florida.

The decision was made Monday night to have Hester ride in an Albatross aircraft, which is capable of landing on lakes, rivers, oceans or runways. The Albatross will make its way from Tennessee to Palwaukee Airport for Thursday's event.

A Bears official said the team's contract concern regarding Hester's off-the-field activity with Red Bull depends on exactly what he winds up doing. A player could get hurt doing almost anything off the field and there is a non-football injury list for that.

It was also pointed out that players often discuss their proposed risky activities with team officials to reach accord.

Hester, who returned an NFL record 11 kicks for touchdowns in his first two seasons (none last year), admits Thursday's ride will demand more of a daredevil attitude.

"It will be an experience for me. It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I want to take advantage of it and experience it," he said. "Whenever you can get exposure, it only helps you."


Hester needs help

Based on their inactivity in the free agent market, it’s obvious the Bears are counting on Devin Hester to be their go-to wide receiver. But they’re impeding his progress by not acquiring another threat to distract defenses that will realize what most of us already know: there are no other reliable weapons among the Bears’ wide receivers.

Last year, the combined total of the five other wide receivers currently on the Bears’ roster – John Broussard, Devin Aromashodu, Rashied Davis, Brandon Rideau and Earl Bennett -- was 35 catches and 445 yards, all by Davis.

That deficiency must be addressed in the draft – and early. The good news is that the Bears now have four picks in the first 99 selections, including the late-third-round compensatory pick they were awarded Monday. The Bears were also given a pair of compensatory picks in the seventh round.

Those compensatory picks were the Bears’ reward for losing Bernard Berrian, Brendon Ayanbadejo and John Gilmore last year in free agency, while not signing any free agents. The Bears now own the 18th, 49th, 84th, and 99th picks, in addition to one pick in the fourth, fifth and sixth rounds, plus the two compensatory picks in the seventh.

During last week’s minicamp, Hester said: “It’s important for me to play like a No. 1 receiver. That’s my biggest goal. I feel like I have the ability to play as a No. 1 receiver, and I’m feeling real good and confident.”

But, if the Bears don’t provide Hester with a legitimate threat to prevent constant double teams, he’ll struggle to realize that ability, no matter how much natural talent he has.


Jeremy Shockey Out On South Beach

Sean Taylor Flag Football Tournament

There will be a Flag Football tournament in honor of Sean Taylor on April 4th and 5th at his former high school, Gulliver Preperatory High School located at 6575 North Kendall Drive, Miami, Florida 33156.

For more information email

Hester welcomes high expectations as Bears' No. 1 receiver

LAKE FOREST, Ill. – Sitting atop the depth chart at wide receiver, Devin Hester knows that the Bears have high expectations for him this season—and that’s just fine with the electrifying playmaker.

“It is important for me to play like a No. 1 receiver,” Hester said. “That’s my biggest goal. I feel like I have the ability to play as a No. 1 receiver, and I’m feeling real good and confident.”

Hester performed well in last week’s minicamp at Halas Hall, exploding in and out of his breaks and catching virtually everything that Kyle Orton threw in his direction.

“Kyle is coming out here throwing great passes and organizing the receivers and putting them in the right spots,” Hester said. “That’s what it’s all about; being on the same page as the quarterback.”

Hester began to emerge during the second half of last season, catching 25 passes for 347 yards in the final six games after compiling 26 receptions for 318 yards in his first nine contests. His production improved after he gained a firmer grasp of the Bears offense.

“He’s just got to keep working,” said offensive coordinator Ron Turner. “He’s got to keep making the progress that he made at the end of last year. He wasn’t thinking; he was just going out and playing, and you could definitely see that, and he’s picked up [at minicamp] right where he left off.”

While some outsiders have questioned whether Hester is polished enough to play such a significant role on offense, Bears coaches are not among them.

“He definitely has No. 1 receiver-type ability,” Smith said. “At the end of the year, Devin was definitely playing like a No. 1 receiver, and I’m excited about this second year of him being a full-time wide receiver.”

“He’s going to make a huge step this year, which he did at the end of last year, just because he’ll know so much more,” Turner said. “Last year, every day it was learning something about playing the position. The only way you can learn is through experience; getting reps and seeing the different looks.

“Toward the end of the year last year, he started playing a lot faster. He’s picked up where he left off, so he’ll be fine, and he’ll be able to handle all that we can give him.”


Chicago Bears' Devin Hester must show progress quickly

Watching Devin Hester run past defenders in minicamp this week made it easy to forget that his move to full-time wide receiver last season clearly was a failure if viewed within the context of a one-year vacuum.

Unless, that is, your idea of success if finishing 49th in the NFL in receiving yards and not having a single 100-yard receiving game.

The Bears clearly are counting on Hester progressing and becoming better this season. That is not an unreasonable expectation, given his inexperience and ability.

But how much better will he be?

The thinking behind putting Hester at wide receiver full time was to get the ball in his hands more often. That barely happened. He had 120 touches in 2008, only seven more than the previous year when he was primarily a return man.

His inexperience at receiver hurt his progress. According to Stats, Inc., Hester was thrown to 91 times but he caught only 56 percent of those passes. By comparison, Carolina's Steve Smith, the player with whom Hester often is compared, caught 60.5 percent of the passes thrown to him.

What Hester can give a team is rare big-play capability. That was diminished, however, as he returned fewer kicks.

In 2008 on offense and special teams combined, Hester had 15 plays of 25 yards or more. The year before, despite having fewer touches and despite opponents making a more concerted effort to prevent him from returning the ball, he had 22 big plays of 25 yards-plus.

When he was primarily a returner in 2007, 19.4 percent of his touches went for big plays. When he was primarily a receiver last year, 12.5 percent of his touches were big plays.

The quality of his big plays was better the year before too. He averaged 46.9 yards on his plays of 25 yards or more in 2007, compared with 33.6 yards on them last year.

Ultimately, this is what it is all about—two years ago Hester put the Bears in position to score more points than he did last year. They scored 76 points in 2007 either with his big plays or on the ensuing drives and only 45 last year.

When Hester had a big play in 2007, points were the result 54 percent of the time, compared with 46 percent last season.

For all the offensive snaps he had in 2008, he had only five more big plays as a wide receiver—seven total—than he did the year before. But he had seven fewer as a punt returner and five fewer as a kickoff returner.

Hester, obviously, was not as effective as a return man when he was a full-time wide receiver.

Consequently, the Bears were more dynamic when his principal duties were on special teams.

The Bears won't reduce his role on offense now, in part because they don't have any other wide receivers who could take his place.

Moreover, they already have bet too much on this hand to fold at this point. There still is a chance that they can win the hand—and win big.

Former NFL quarterback Ron Jaworski, who probably watches more game tape than any current NFL quarterback in his job as host of ESPN's "NFL Matchup," has studied Hester's transition. And he is thinking like Bears coach Lovie Smith.

"He has improved dramatically as a wide receiver," Jaworski said. "He has improved in every area, … I thought he learned how to run routes, he learned how to read coverages on the move and he learned now to stem and separate from cornerbacks and safeties.

"I saw a guy who got better and better and better the more experience he got. I think he is going to make a significant contribution as a wide receiver."

The Bears need for Jaworski to be right.

But if Hester does not improve rapidly and dramatically in 2009, going back to special teams would be the best return he ever could make.

Paintball With Rocky McIntosh

When Rocky McIntosh invited me to go paintballing with him and his friends on Saturday, a few thoughts went through my mind.

First, I wondered how good an idea this was. There's a brief history of Redskins and paintball, and between Redskins players being badly outnumbered in a charity tournament and the team's 2007 first round pick missing minicamp with a paintball injury to the groin, not much of it can be considered very good.

Second, I found myself wondering exactly why Rocky McIntosh -- who has become a regular on this blog for his holiday antics, his office antics, and his refusal to give Intern Bridgette a straight answer to basic interview questions-- was described to me as a non-talker. Really.

When I first started working here, different people would offer advice for what to expect from the various players and coaches. Not much of that advice was consistent from one person to the next, but the one thing everyone agreed on was that McIntosh was a quiet guy who really kept to himself. This opinion seemed to be borne out when McIntosh went so far as to disguise himself as Khary Campbell in an attempt to avoid the media, so this outgoing version of Rocky McIntosh is continually surprising.

And third, I wondered what I was supposed to do with the 25 pound weight vest he had handed me.

What I did NOT wonder, although as it turns out I maybe should have, were who his friends were. If you had asked me at the time, I'd have said that I assumed it was Rocky's peers -- presumably not other players, otherwise he would've mentioned it, but friends of about his age, background, and so on.

I can safely say that I wouldn't have come up with the actual answer:

A fourteenth birthday party.

At this point, though, it's just Rocky being Rocky.

The kids picked teams, and Rocky was selected first overall; as I waited to see where I would be taken, I realized that the feeling of waiting to be picked never, ever changes, no matter how old you get. Much to my surprise, I was picked well before last, to be teammates with Rocky and the birthday boy.

The downside of this is that I have no amusing stories of Rocky shooting at me. On the upside, I can tell you that everyone else took tremendous pleasure in shooting him. Even after he was eliminated from a round, the kids would pop out just to take a few shots at him as he walked off the field -- the back of his jacket and pants were continually covered with paint from shots fired as he departed.

As for me, I was used as target practice for just about everyone with a paintball gun. One of the boys' fathers, a more experienced paintballer, offered me two pieces of advice before we started: don't get hit in the throat, and don't get hit in the exposed hands.

I lasted through one game following this advice, getting eliminated by a videogame-perfect headshot. (For those of you desperately interested, the photo evidence is here.) After that, though, it was direct hit to the finger -- drawing blood and raising a welt that still hasn't settled down -- followed in rapid sequnce by direct hit to the throat and multiple hits to the legs, all of which caused bruising.

So for those of you wondering if maybe Rocky's size made him a bigger target in paintball and negated any advantages his athletic abilities might have given him, I can confidently and painfully say that you're wrong. My abject lack of athletic ability caused me to get shot much more than Rocky's size did him.

We made it through with no terrifying injuries, and McIntosh was at Redskins Park today continuing his offseason conditioning without pause. The birthday boy seemed thrilled to have had him there, and assured me that he would still have picked McIntosh first even if he had all to do over again, and the rest of the guests were continually impressed at McIntosh's enthusiasm for the game -- his full-out dive into a hut during a game of capture the flag earmed particularly rave from the assembled teenage boys.

That said, here's some video evidence of Rocky getting himself eliminated at exceedingly close range by some much smaller competition.


Ravens' Lewis: In his own words

This is a transcript of Ray Lewis' news conference on March 19, which included Lewis, owner Steve Bisciotti, general manager Ozzie Newsome and coach John Harbaugh. Special thanks to the Ravens' public relations staff for the transcript.

Ozzie Newsome's opening statement:
“To me, it’s something that’s really rewarding for myself being able to continue this relationship. I’ll begin in that I was a little bit selfish in wanting to re-sign Ray because I couldn’t go to the drug store, I couldn’t go to dinner, I couldn’t stop at the gas station without someone asking me whether we were going to re-sign Ray. So now, I can have my life back. It’s good to have Ray aboard. The other thing is, you’ve often heard me talk, I think we have a good system in place with the cap system, free agency and so forth. But I think one of the minor flaws is a lot of the veteran players don’t get the opportunity to retire with the club they are drafted into. I’ve talked about that with other players that have had to go to other organizations and then have to come back for that one-day retirement. I’m glad that did not happen with Ray. But, the other part of it -- and it think Ray can understand the appreciation -- right now, Ray, to me, is what Rod Woodson and Shannon Sharpe were to Ray. He’s a veteran who’s still playing at a high, high level, but he [also] has unbelievable leadership ability in the locker room, in the weight room and out on the practice field. He helps our young kids not just be football players, but to become professional football players. And that makes a big difference.” Steve Bisciotti's opening statement:

“Obviously, this is a happy day for ownership and a happy day for Baltimore. I’m thrilled that this process worked out the way it did. We all know the options out there and how things go in free agency. I remember talking to Ray earlier in the season four games in, and they were still talking about a contract extension. I remember saying to Ray, ‘You should wait. You should wait for the end of the year. That’s something I want you to be happy with doing.’ At the time, we didn’t know what we were going to get out of Joe Flacco and our offense, and I quite honestly thought if we went 5-11 that Ray might take less money to go somewhere else where he can win a championship. So to me, I’m happy for both things. I’m happy that Ray is here, but I’m happy that we produced a team that gave him the confidence that he could win a championship here because he deserves that and the fans in Baltimore deserve that. We’re very lucky to have the kind of year that we did and the success that we had. Bringing John in and the kind of relationship he was able to develop with the players made this even more sweet. I would hate to be signing Ray to finish his career here if he wasn’t confident with the direction of the club. Good timing is everything in life, and we benefited from that good timing.”

John Harbaugh opening statement:
“Real quickly before Ray starts here... I can’t tell you how excited that we are as coaches from a football standpoint because of all the things Ray Lewis brings to the table as a leader and a man. He also brings even more to the table as a football player. We have a great football player, and free agency is an important time for a football team in this league. Ozzie is in the middle of it, and he is competing. And Eric DeCosta, Pat Moriarty and Vince Newsome are doing a great job. We added by keeping a great football player on our football team, and Ray can play. That’s the main thing, and that’s what I’m excited about. Beyond that are the things that he brings to the table. I think Ray Lewis exemplifies what it means to be a Raven. We talk to our team about what it means to play like a Raven. It’s hard-working, it’s tough-minded and it’s humble. By choosing to stay a Baltimore Raven he’s made a decision to have a career-spanning impact on a football team and a community. To me, that’s a very giving decision. We’ve talked about this so many times, what it means to be a man and what it means to have a legacy. What Ray is talking about doing here in terms of his legacy is something that goes beyond just a football career. He’s choosing to take his extraordinary gifts as a football player and use them to uplift others. I think that’s what Ray’s all about. We’ve talked about that a lot. That’s what I’m so proud of, and I’m fortunate enough to be the coach when this is happening. We were joking about this before: It’s time to put press conferences behind us and go to work and build a championship.” Read More...

2009 College Football Hall Of Fame Ballot Released

Russell Maryland, Miami (Fla.)-Defensive Tackle-1990 unanimous First Team All-America selection and Outland Trophy winner...Led Miami to four consecutive bowl berths and national championships in 1987 and 1989...Registered 45-3-0 record during career.

Gino Torretta, Miami (Fla.)-Quarterback-In 1992, he earned unanimous First Team All-America honors, won the Heisman Trophy, Davey O'Brien Award, Maxwell Award and was named Walter Camp Player of the Year...Led Miami to a the 1991 National Championship.


Jon Jay among cuts to Cardinals’ roster

JUPITER, Fla. — Outfielder Jon Jay’s bottom-of-the-ninth single scored the winning run Sunday and made a winner of Blake Hawksworth, who pitched a scoreless inning to give the St. Louis Cardinals a chance at the game-ending rally.

Their reward: They were both sent to Class AAA after the game.

“Must be a good team when the wining pitcher and the guy with the game-winning hit don’t make the team,” manager Tony La Russa said.
Five players were trimmed from the major-league camp roster on Sunday afternoon, the traditional day at Cardinals camp for cuts. (It gets each player their full per diem for the week.) Hawksworth and Tyler Greene were optioned to Class AAA, and pitcher Fernando Salas, catcher Bryan Anderson and Jay were reassigned to the minor-league camp. This is Greene’s first year on the 40-man roster and thus his first option year has been used.


Chris Perez a “little rusty” but “pain-free” during bullpen

JUPITER, Fla. — Chris Perez threw about 25 pitches in a bullpen session this morning and said his shoulder is pain-free and game-ready. Now if only the St. Louis Cardinals’ reliever could get in a game.

“It was 100 percent,” Perez said. “A little rusty. But the shoulder fine. No pain.”

Perez plans to throw on flat ground Wednesday morning to work some of the kinks out of his delivery and his slider, and then he hopes to return to game action that afternoon. His plan would be to appear in six games — essentially every other day from here to the end of spring training — in hopes of making up for lost time in the closer competition. He has not appeared in a game since March 11.

In his absence, Jason Motte has excelled in ninth-inning opportunities.

The righthander threw “max’d out” in the bullpen session. He tried all of his pitches: fastball, curve, slider and two-seam fastball. He lacked command and polish, but said that likely comes from having more than a week off from the mound.

Perez had been diagnosed with impingement or tendinitis in his right shoulder. He had a “knotting” sensation in the front of his shoulder that sent the Cardinals scurrying for MRIs and exams.

No structural damage was found in any of the scans.

“I think this was just normal spring training wear and tear,” Perez said. “We didn’t know what it was so that’s why we went had the MRI and the tests and all that stuff. But maybe it was just normal to feel this way a this point in spring training. If I was a 10-year veteran I would have known what it was and gone in for treatment. It’s something now that I’ve learned.”


Graves among Astros' cuts

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- The Astros made another round of cuts on Sunday morning, reassigning five veteran non-roster players to Minor League camp -- right-handers Clay Hensley and Danny Graves, lefty Neal Musser and infielders Matt Kata and John Gall.

General manager Ed Wade granted Graves permission to talk to other teams about possible openings on their Major League rosters. Graves had heard that the Padres are in need of veteran relievers, but he has no idea at this time if anything will come of that.

Innings run thin this time of the spring, when starters begin to pitch into the fifth and sixth, leaving few for the remainder of the relievers. As disappointing as it is not to make the team out of Spring Training, demotions also mean increased playing time, which is a welcome element for pitchers trying to get ready for the season.