November 24 NFL U Roster Update

Check out the latest update to the 2009 NFL U Rosters. There is a new addition and a subtraction since our last update. You can also check out the MLB, and CFL rosters. Click here to see the proCane rosters.

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Bengals bring back DT Harris

The Cincinnati Bengals have re-signed defensive tackle Orien Harris and waived veteran guard Scott Kooistra on Tuesday.

Harris appeared in 14 games last season for Cincinnati and has 24 career tackles in 17 NFL games. This is his second stint with the club this season, having signed in October. He played in one game and was inactive for two others before being waived November 17.

Kooistra, a seventh-year pro, appeared in three games this season on special teams. He started the year with the Bengals, was released on November 3, and was re-signed six days later.

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Rams May Sign Brock Berlin

With Marc Bulger sidelined for 3-to-6 weeks with a fractured shin bone in his left leg, the St. Louis Rams have decided to go with just Kyle Boller and Keith Null at quarterback this week against Seattle. If the Rams decide to add a third quarterback at a later date, general manager Billy Devaney told the Post-Dispatch it would most likely be Brock Berlin. Berlin lost a close battle to Null for the No. 3 quarterback job coming out of training camp, and was with the Detroit Lions practice squad earlier this season.

Because of his familiarity with the offense, Berlin could get up to speed quickly. Almost any other QB might take a few weeks to get comfortable with the playbook, and by that time the season would be almost over.

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Vision problems for Portis

Clinton Portis hopes to return for the Redskins in 12 days against the New Orleans Saints.

Appearing on 980's The John Thompson Show, Portis said all of the MRIs and X-Rays have come back negative but he still experiences blurry vision when he moves his head quickly side to side.

Doctors are also limiting his physical activity to the stationary bike and walking.

"I've seen six or seven doctors but for the most part, everything is fine and checking out well," Portis said. "I think I passed all the tests I've taken. ... Now it's a matter of correcting my vision and getting back on the field."

Portis on being out of shape if he returns: "Being its midseason, I don’t think I would be out of shape that quick."
Portis on his vision difficulties: "I could sit still and read everything you put in front of me. But when you move me and shake me around, that’s when it happens."

Click here to order Clinton Portis’ proCane Rookie Card.

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Andre Johnson is far from quiet

Even Chad Ochocinco has tried to help.

Before the Texans and the Bengals played on Oct. 18, Ochocinco invited Andre Johnson to his home in Cincinnati where he tried, unsuccessfully, to get Houston's freakishly talented wideout to join him on Twitter and Ustream for some much-deserved pub. Instead, Johnson used all of his athletic abilities to duck, shift and spin away from Chad's ubiquitous camera lens and keyboard. It figures: Johnson has led the NFL in receiving yards per game since 2006 while simultaneously shunning the receiva diva style that permeates the league's loudest, neediest group of players.

"I just don't get caught up in who gets the most attention," Johnson told me. "It's not that I don't care or don't have an opinion, I'm just not the kind of person who really worries about that kind of thing." Thank god, say his teammates.

"The crime of it all is, in our sports culture we expect our stars to be loud, outspoken and outrageous," says Texans guard Eric Winston. "Andre has shown the league that, hey, you can be the best wide receiver in football and -- guess what? -- you don't have to act like an a--hole."

In truth, the only label Andre Johnson hates is "quiet." Why? Probably because he's not. He simply doesn't warm up to everyone immediately, and because that makes our job in the media a little harder, a little more complicated, we tend to dismiss players like Johnson as "quiet." But a few weeks ago, while working on the current cover story of ESPN The Magazine, I found him to be thoughtful and funny and an unquestioned leader in Houston.

And, after what should be his coming-out party against the Tennessee Titans on "Monday Night Football," I think the world will finally begin to appreciate Andre Johnson as, well, the next closest thing we have to Jerry Rice: a player so talented and driven that he ends up changing the NFL without ever having to change himself. "I. Am. Not. Quiet." Johnson says, emphatically. "Mess with me, talk junk to me, challenge me. I won't run my mouth back at you. But on the next play I'm gonna do everything I can to embarrass you in front of the whole world."

In the end, those who learn about the unspeakable amount of tragedy Johnson has endured on his way to the top of the NFL are usually the ones who end up speechless.

He grew up in Carol City, Fla., in the rough Miami neighborhood known as The Bajas. Raised by Karen Johnson, a single mom working as a letter carrier, Andre met his father, Leroy Richardson, only once, for a few hours when he was 8. (In August 2002, Richardson was shot to death in Mississippi.) Karen, who had Andre after her sophomore year at Tennessee State, where she ran track, asked her older brothers Andre Melton and Keith Francis to watch over her son.

Since then Melton has become Johnson's closest adviser, spending several weeks each year in Houston and traveling to every game. (He's the one who raised quite a stink last week when he told me if the Texans don't start winning -- and pronto, like, ya know, Monday night -- he has an exit strategy in mind for his nephew.)

According to Karen, Melton and Andre Johnson, Francis was a local high school football phenom at Miami Senior High School in the 1970s who was recruited by Barry Switzer and Bobby Bowden. He never played in college, though; instead, the family says he served time for drugs while Melton was a teenager. Andre was only 4 years old when Francis started throwing him a football in the yard at their grandmother's house north of the city where the Miami Dolphins' stadium loomed in the distance. And it was Francis who first recognized the freakish athletic potential in Andre while serving as a powerful warning against the lure of the streets. (Francis was killed in August 2004.) "Because of him, they were on me about everything," says Johnson. "Every conversation I ever had with him ended the same way: Don't make the same mistakes I made."

Johnson followed in his uncle's athletic footsteps, becoming a Parade All-American at Miami Senior before moving on to the University of Miami. As a sophomore, Johnson led the Canes to the 2001 national title with 199 yards and two touchdowns against Nebraska in the Rose Bowl. He followed that up with the 2002 Big East track title in the indoor 60 meters and outdoor 100 meters. On a college team considered the most talent-rich in history (over three drafts, 23 players were taken from Miami's 2001 team, including 11 in the first round) teammates singled out Johnson and began referring to him as "Superman."

Occasionally, teammates mistook his stillness for aloofness or anger, not knowing that in the span of two years, from 2002-04, Johnson's father, his uncle and his best friend, Cyril Jones, had all been shot to death. Texans scouts saw a thoughtful, mature kid who was able to command respect without saying a word. At a chiseled 6-foot-3, 228 pounds with a 4.35 40, Johnson could run over linebackers, run past defensive backs and, literally, beat most coverages with his eyes closed. (Johnson's pre-draft physical revealed the need for corrective Lasik eye surgery.)

Too nervous to sleep the night before the draft, Johnson drove around half of south Florida in a limo with his godson. When his name was called on draft day, Johnson wept openly on his mother's soft shoulder for several minutes. When people call him quiet and grounded and mean it as a compliment, this is what they're thinking of: mother and son, ignoring the phones, well-wishers and cameras and, instead, holding each other tightly to commemorate what is essentially a miracle in a place like Miami.

"That's where a lot of my attitude and approach comes from," says Johnson. "I still feel like I'm living my childhood dream every day, only I know it could all be over at any moment."

It was always a childhood dream of Johnson to own courtside NBA seats. He's got them now, and recently when he tried to sneak out of a Houston Rockets game a few minutes early, fans in Olajuwon jerseys chucked their ThunderStix and chased him out to the concourse. There, a crowd began to form featuring one mother who, without hesitating, handed her toddler over to Johnson for a photo op.

It seemed a little nuts, at the time, just how quickly and completely the woman trusted Johnson with her baby. But the folks in Houston have known for a while now what the rest of the world will probably figure out on Monday night:

In Andre Johnson's hands, that kid was in the safest place in the world.

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

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Portis on concussion, playcalling, team's heart and soul

Redskins running back Clinton Portis, scheduled to miss his third straight game Sunday at Philadelphia because of a concussion suffered Nov. 8 in Atlanta, said he still struggles with blurred vision when he moves his head quickly, but he hopes to play again Dec. 6 against New Orleans.

During his weekly appearance on "The John Thompson Show" on ESPN980, Portis said he has seen six or seven doctors and passed a battery of tests, but won't play until his vision is back to normal.

"My vision, just sitting still, it's fine," Portis said. "Moving is when now and then it's blurry. I can sit still and read everything you put up in front of me, but when you move me, shake my head around, that's where my blurriness comes in and we [are] having the focus issues."

Portis touched on a number of topics during the interview, appearing befuddled by the Redskins' play-calling structure and saying the organization "always go[es] the difficult route for everything we do." He said he did not know until last week, when he heard Coach Jim Zorn speak about the system in a press conference, that offensive consultant Sherman Lewis called the team's passing plays while offensive coordinator Sherman Smith called the running plays. Co-host Rick "Doc" Walker, a former Redskins tight end, asked Portis if he had ever heard of such a structure.

"I never have, man, but that's the NFL," Portis said. "That's the Washington Redskins. We somehow, some way, we're going to make things harder. Everything's going to be exposed. ...

"If you look at us play, it's hard to find our identity. I don't even know our bread-and-butter plays. I can't go and tell you, 'This is our bread and butter. Whenever it's on the line, this is what we're going to call.' "

With Portis out again against the Eagles, and backup Ladell Betts now done for the year with torn knee ligaments, special teams captain Rock Cartwright will start in Philadelphia. Cartwright gained 67 yards on 13 carries and caught seven passes for 73 yards in Sunday's 7-6 loss at Dallas.

"I think everybody on our team know who the heart and soul of the Washington Redskins is, and that's Rock Cartwright," Portis said. " ... Once [wide receiver James] Thrash retired, the man of the Washington Redskins, the mascot, the player that you look for to say, 'That's the Redskins,' is Rock Cartwright.

"He go out on special teams, he gives you everything you got day in, day out. He's going to be a vocal leader. He [is] gonna speak his mind. He's going to fight. He's going to be scrappy. And you're seeing that."

Portis has been known to use his Tuesday appearances on Thompson's show to speak his mind about various situations with the team. But when Thompson asked Portis directly whether he was frustrated with the Redskins as a whole, the outspoken Portis took the high road.

"I can't sit here and say I'm getting frustrated with the Redskins," Portis said. "That's where I work at. That's where I'm employed at, and I've got to go out and do everything I can to help the Redskins win. I think everybody in that organization get[s] frustrated at some point about something going on. But I'm not the one to make the decisions. I can't change it. ...

"They're not going to change the Washington Redskins to suit Clinton Portis, and I'm okay with that. I'm not trying to make them change that. whatever role I'm asked of, that's the role I'll pay. I'm not going to go out and be disgruntled. I'm not going to go out and be unhappy. I'm going to continue to smile. I'm going to continue to go to work. I'm going to continue to feel fortunate about having a job in this economy. And when I get my opportunity to get back on the field and help, I'll try to do that."

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ESPN The Magazine's Feature on Andre Johnson

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

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proCanes Extend TD Streak to 116 Regular Season Weeks

Did you know that a former Miami Hurricane/current proCane has scored at least one touchdown in 116 consecutive regular season NFL weeks? Dating back to Week 15 of the 2002 season where Clinton Portis scored 4 TDs, at least one proCane has scored a TD in each regular season week since then. We have chronicled every touchdown since 2002. See below:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click below to see the rest of the list:

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proCanes Stats from Week 11 of NFL U

Andre Johnson: 4 catches 78 yards 1 TD

Vince Wilfork: 5 tackles, 3 solo tackles, 1 tackle for a loss

Brandon Meriweather: 5 tackles, 1 solo tackle, pass deflection

Jeremy Shockey: 2 catches 17 yards

Jonathan Vilma: 6 solo tackles, 1 INT returned 6 yards

Santana Moss: 5 catches 38 yards, 1 punt return for 10 yards


Rocky McIntosh: 6 tackles, 5 solo tackles

Calais Campbell: 2 solo tackles

Antrel Rolle: 5 tackles, 3 solo tackles, 1 tackle for a loss

Kelly Jennings: 1 solo tackle

Frank Gore: 7 carries 59 yards, 3 catches 9 yards, 1 TD

Kellen Winslow: 5 catches for 29 yards

Roscoe Parrish: 2 punt returns for 0 yards

Greg Olsen: 6 catches, 42 yards

Devin Hester: 4 catches, 18 yards, 3 punt returns 16 yards

Darrell McClover: Played but did not record a tackle

Willis McGahee: 6 carries, 25 yards, 1 catch for 7 yards

Ray Lewis: 8 tackles, 4 solo tackles

Ed Reed: 4 solo tackles, 1 INT returned 42 yards, 2 punt returns for 12 yards

Tavares Gooden: 6 solo tackles

DJ Williams: 6 tackles, 5 solo tackles, 2 tackles for loss


Jeff Feagles: 3 punts for 123 yards with a 41-yard average

Bruce Johnson: 4 solo tackles

Reggie Wayne: 7 catches 89 yards

Jon Beason: 8 tackles, 8 solo tackles, 1 tackle for a loss

Damione Lewis: 1 solo tackle, 1 tackle for a loss

Phillip Buchanon: 4 solo tackles 3 pass deflections

Antonio Dixon: 1 blocked field goal

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ESPN's press release on The U

Fall Slate of ESPN Films’ “30 for 30” Series to Conclude with The U

ESPN Films’ critically acclaimed “30 for 30” series will conclude its fall slate Saturday, Dec. 12 at 9 p.m. ET, immediately following the Heisman Trophy presentation on ESPN, with The U – a two-hour documentary about the dramatic rise of the University of Miami football program in the 1980s. Directed by Miami native and alum, Billy Corben (Cocaine Cowboys), and produced by rakontur and ESPN Films, the film is an intimate look at the program’s sudden and jolting transformation into a football powerhouse that essentially changed the rules of the game as told by the players, coaches, students and administrators who were there. 

With music by long-time Canes supporter and rap artist Luther “Uncle Luke” Campbell and Honor Roll Music, The U peels back the layers of a program that claimed four national titles from the 1983 thru 1991 seasons and produced a steady wave of NFL stars. Bennie Blades, Melvin Bratton, Alonzo Highsmith, Michael Irvin, Bernie Kosar, Santana Moss, Brett Perriman, Jeremy Shockey and former head coaches Dennis Erickson, Jimmy Johnson and Howard Schnellenberger are among the 38 program insiders who were interviewed about what propelled Miami to the top and kept it there as the brash, controversial team its competition loved to hate.

Johnson: “When I first came to the University of Miami, the TV series Miami Vice was very popular and I wanted to play on that. That’s why we took the swagger that we did.”

Perriman on criticism of the program: “It was a lot of bigotry and it’s because we were young African Americans, for the most part, bringing a bravado, a different style that the University of Miami had never seen.”

Irvin on the team’s reputation: “It wasn’t any conspiracy or the media – they didn’t do anything. We were bad boys and we were enjoying being bad boys…”

Campbell on allegations he was paying players: “If they needed $50 to buy some food that weekend, no, I would never give it to them because that was against the NCAA rules…Giving a kid $100 to buy him some sneakers so he won’t go jump in some other kid’s dorm room, steal his stereo, no, I wouldn’t give a kid any money.”

**A conference call for interested media members will be held Wednesday, Dec. 2 with Corben and ESPN executive producers to discuss the film and series. Call-in information will be issued after the holiday.

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Andre Johnson catches four passes and a TD

Andre Johnson caught four passes for 78 yards and a touchdown in the Texans' Week 11 loss.

Johnson was targeted 11 times, but Matt Schaub had Titans' defenders in his face for much of the night and often had to throw off his back foot. The 78-yard, one TD output is weak compared to Johnson's previous games against Tennessee. Look for him to get back on track against the Colts next week.

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

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No Ed-bashing here

Go ahead if you want. Smack around Ravens safety Ed Reed -- the sports-talk shows are doing it -- for fielding a punt and trying to lateral in the final seconds of the Ravens 17-15 loss to the Indy Colts.

It didn't work. The ball bounced like an errant grape and was recovered by the Colts Freddy Keiaho at the Ravens 40. Indy then ran out the clock. But you'll get no griping about Reed's play from this corner of the Toy Dept.

  The guy was trying to make a play. He's made a ton of them in his brilliant career here. That's the way the guy plays, with reckless abandon. And most of the time, his plays turn into something good for the Ravens.

 Besides, the way the offense was playing, I have absolutely no faith that Joe Flacco and Co. would have been able to move the ball into field goal range with just 28 seconds remaining.

 Desperate times call for desperate measures. When you're fielding a punt with 28 seconds left and your team trailing on the scoreboard, things are pretty desperate.

You do what you can to make a play.

That's what Ed Reed tried to do. This time it didn't work.

But you don't kill a guy for trying.

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Does it matter that Ray Lewis and Ed Reed often won't talk after losses?

Curious to know how Ray Lewis felt about the Ravens 17-15 loss to the Colts on Sunday? Want to know what Ed Reed was thinking on that last-minute lateral?

Me too.

Only problem was, neither player was interested in talking to the media after the game. Lewis kept his back to reporters, facing his locker, while he was getting dressed and then declined to even acknowledge a few questions asked by several media members as he left the locker room. Reed took a similar approach, declining to answer any questions before slipping out the back door.

It's probably important to point out this isn't exactly abnormal behavior from either of them. Reed's silence is at least consistent with his personality, since he'd usually prefer not to answer questions in either victory or defeat. (Although if he ran that punt back for a touchdown, I suspect he'd have talked. Just a hunch.) But Lewis' reluctance to answer questions after losses has become more troubling in recent years. He wouldn't talk after the AFC Championship game loss last year. He wouldn't talk after the Ravens home loss to Cincinnati earlier this year, and quickly got on his cell phone and didn't take questions after the Ravens lost to the Bengals on the road.

To be fair, he did talk after the Ravens losses to the Patriots and Vikings.

I'm somewhat torn as to whether this matters. Whether it's meaningful, or meaningless. So I turn the question over to you, but not before I attempt to see both sides of the issue.

On one hand, I can see why Lewis might feel like it's in his best interests not to speak, especially with emotion and adrenaline still pumping through his veins. Even as a media member, I do understand how difficult it must be to have 30 strangers stick tape recorders, notebooks and television microphones six inches from your face 15 minutes after a gut-wrenching loss. Lewis and Reed weren't fined for their post-game comments about the officiating after a loss to the New England Patriots earlier this year, but they easily could have been. (It was almost surprising that they weren't, considering how much the league abhors criticism of its referees.) If you know you might say something you'll regret, either financially or because it might affect morale, maybe it is in your best interests to walk away and speak later when you're calmer. Maybe Lewis and Reed said all they felt they needed to say right after the game before the locker room doors were open to the media.

On the other hand, someone does have to talk after the game, win or lose. And before you launch into a rant about the media's arrogance, let me say up front that this is not about that. Take the media out of it for a moment, because in this situation, it's not as if Lewis or Reed talked to the NFL Network, or the Ravens' team blogger or website reporter, and blew off everyone else. They didn't want to talk to anyone, period. Don't you, as a fan, want to know Lewis' opinion on why the Ravens can't win close games? Why the season, once so promising, seems on the brink of coming apart? Lewis isn't shy about talking after victories, I'll point out. And in his weekly session with the media, he certainly makes it clear he still feels he's the leader of this team, a distinction he's certainly earned during his Hall of Fame career.

The fact that he's not the same player he was at 25 is irrelevant as long as he's still considered the leader of the team, and is paid, at least in part, handsomely for that leadership. Ozzie Newsome and Steve Bisciotti both cited his leadership as a reason he was re-signed to a deal that probably paid him more than his market value. So shouldn't a leader be there to stand up and take the heat, or at least offer explanations, when things don't go well? Isn't that part of the reason why Lewis makes more than Jarret Johnson at this point in their respective careers? Because if Ray Lewis or Ed Reed doesn't want to talk, someone else is going to get those questions. I think it's a little bit unfair to constantly preach accountability to your teammates, then selectively choose when to apply it in your own life.

Sometimes I think fans hear media grumbling about a player not wanting to talk, and assume the reporter feels he or she is being personally slighted. And maybe that's occasionally true. But I don't think it's the case here. Personally, I don't care if he talks or he doesn't. He silence speaks volumes if I'm trying to write a story.

But if you're a Ravens season ticket holder, or if you spend four hours every Sunday glued to your television, living and dying with the results of every game, you're essentially paying the salaries of these players. Don't let anyone tell you different. Maybe you don't care what the men beneath those purple and black helmets have to say. And maybe you'd enjoy the game just as much if it was played by mute robots.

But I suspect that's not true. I suspect you would like to know, if only for a few seconds, what the team leader thinks about all this.

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Harbaugh defends Reed, Lewis

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Baltimore Ravens coach Harbaugh acknowledged that free safety Ed Reed shouldn’t have lateraled the football during a punt return in the final seconds of a 17-15 loss Sunday to the Indianapolis Colts.

Reed wound up fumbling away possession back to the Colts, allowing them to run out the clock and close out the game.

“I talked to Ed about it this morning and about a lot of different things,” Harbaugh said. “It was a great conversation. It was an excellent game, and he had no intention of flipping that ball before that ball was punted and when it was in the air. He just made a mistake. I kind of related it to my mistake.

“I think we both made an overaggressive mistake in an ancient moment, trying to do something a little too fast to try to find a way to make something happen and we both overreached. He overreached on that play. That’s one play in the game. It’s not the reason we lost the game, but I think it’s indicative of things we can all do better.”

Harbaugh defended the former NFL Defensive Player of the Year who had one interception against Peyton Manning.

“Ed Reed probably had his best game of the season,” Harbaugh said. “He tackled extremely well. Weren’t we talking about tackling a couple of weeks ago with Ed Reed? Ed Reed came out and fronted up and tackled people as well as you could do it. And he covered very well, had the pick on Peyton where he set Peyton up a little bit and got him to throw where he wanted to throw it.”

Contrary to rumors, Harbaugh indicated that Reed didn’t just wave Carr off the field and put himself in for the final punt return. Per Harbaugh, Reed communicated beforehand with special-teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg.

“Jerry and Ed have a communication system where if Ed feels like he can take it and if Jerry wants him out there, they’ll give him the thumbs up,” Harbaugh said. “We put him out there. Pretty obvious why we did it. He’s got a chance to make a play, and he made a real nice play on the bouncing ball.”

Reed repeatedly declined interview requests after the game and has yet to comment on the play.

Meanwhile, All-Pro linebacker Ray Lewis was embarrassingly juked by Colts running back Joseph Addai on his touchdown run.

He was also exposed in pass coverage against the Colts’ tight ends.

Harbaugh defended the two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year who led the Ravens with eight tackles Sunday. He also forced a fumble.

“I think Ray played really well,” Harbaugh said. “Every player is not going to make every play. It’s give and take and backs can make people miss. He came back and caused the fumble on the two-yard line that stopped that drive cold.

“Ray is an accomplished player, he’s a future Hall of Famer and he’s still playing at that level, at a really high level. No problem with the way Ray’s playing.”

Lewis declined an interview request after the game. He hasn’t conducted interviews after losses several times this year with the exception of defeats against the New England Patriots and the Minnesota Vikings as he didn’t talk after both games against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Harbaugh was also accountable about his timeout/challenge miscue late in the game.

The second-year coach said that he’s fully aware of the instant replay rules and timeouts.

Harbaugh has drawn criticism for calling a timeout and then throwing a red flag to call for an instant replay with officials charging the Ravens the timeout and not letting him withdraw his challenge.

Ultimately, the Ravens squandered both of their final two timeouts during the sequence.

“It’s not generally aware of the procedures, I know the procedures inside and out,” he said. “I basically got it backwards. If I had to do it all over again, throw the flag. You throw the flag to get the timeout and take a chance at maybe you get a different spot than what you got.

“Once I had called the timeout, I tried to get too much done. I tried to flip it and get the challenge before the timeout and that was the mistake. That was my mistake. It was a bad job on my part. I should have taken a minute and thought it through a little better in the heat of battle and done a better job with that."

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

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Wilfork an anchor man

FOXBOROUGH - Vince Wilfork will never have three interceptions in a game, the way Leigh Bodden did yesterday.

The big nose tackle has yet to register a multiple-sack performance - the way Tully Banta-Cain did against the Jets - in his 87-game career. He certainly won’t ever achieve the kind of statistical prowess Wes Welker marked with 15 catches against whatever was left of the Jets secondary beyond Darrelle Revis.

As such, Wilfork may not ever get the spotlight he richly deserves.

So here’s something you can put in three-inch headlines: Wilfork is as good an all-around football player as there is on the Patriots roster. No kidding.

Is he more important than Tom Brady? No. Does he keep a coordinator awake at night the way Randy Moss can? Maybe not.

But as far as doing everything his position requires at the highest possible level, Wilfork is right there with anyone. And the way yesterday’s 31-14 Patriots win played out was proof positive.

“I consider him one of the best players in the league,’’ said Jets center Nick Mangold, who’s tangled twice a year with Wilfork since 2006. “You have to worry about him. You have to consciously always know where he’s at. And know how you’re gonna work to defeat him. That adds pressure.

“Instead of worrying about the defense as a whole, you have to worry about that one guy.’’

The Jets didn’t do a good enough job of that early on.

On their rookie-piloted offense’s first series, they immediately churned out a first down, then ran into the problems Wilfork creates. Their fourth offensive play, a second and 7, went like this: Wilfork controlled Mangold, a Pro Bowler, at the point, quickly diagnosed the play, got in the backfield, and dropped Thomas Jones for a 3-yard loss.
That left the Jets in third and 10, a situation that Mark Sanchez looked woefully unequipped to handle, and failed to convert.

And that encapsulated how the Jets’ first half really went. Continually, they let their quarterback get into bad down-and-distance situations, many facilitated by Wilfork’s play, and watched him throw up all over his shoes.

His first pick? Third and 8. His second pick? Third and 8. How do you get the offense into those situations consistently? By holding the league’s top-ranked running game to 28 first-half yards at a 2.3-yard-per clip.

Doing that, to be sure, is an 11-man effort, with a particular emphasis on the front seven. But there’s no mistaking what the man in the middle means.

“Huge,’’ Brandon Meriweather said of Wilfork’s impact. “As you can see, if he’s not in there, they hit us for 8, 9 yards a carry. And when he’s in there, it’s a yard or two, if that.’’

The difference this year is not in his versatility as much as it is in how the Patriots are putting that versatility to work. He’s played as a shade nose (center’s outside shoulder) and 3-technique tackle (guard’s outside shoulder) in the nickel, and as the standard nose tackle, straight up on the center.

Two weeks ago, against Miami, the coaches decided he was the best choice to deal with mammoth left tackle Jake Long, so they played him as a 5-technique defensive end on the right side.

Last week, the club played almost exclusively in its nickel and dime packages - a situation that would seem to be a tough one for a player some wise guys derided as a “two-down’’ defensive tackle. Yet, somehow, he played 74 percent of the team’s snaps against Indy.

Yesterday it was back to the nose for most of the game.

In the second quarter, the Jets rolled receiver Brad Smith (a college quarterback) out in the Pistol formation to run a speed option, with rookie Shonn Greene as his pitch man. So the Patriots moved Wilfork out, playing him at left end. Proving his ability to move laterally, Wilfork worked through blocks down the line and dropped Greene for a 4-yard loss.

And the Jets knew it was coming, because it made sense for the Patriots to put their best run defender over there.
“The reason he moved over to my side is we run the ball so heavily to our right,’’ the Jets’ Damien Woody said. “He can line up at nose, he can line up at 5-technique, that’s two totally different worlds. To be able to do that, you gotta be versatile. And to do it at three different positions?

“He can line up on one side of the ball, or the other side, that’s like me lining up at left tackle.’’

Wilfork had five tackles yesterday, one for a loss.

And all this goes back to Wilfork’s commitment to the game. Misguided or not - you can check out Leon Washington’s situation for the other side of this - he declined to hold out of any mandatory activity in advance of his contract year, simply because that’s who he is.

“He’s one of the best example-setters on the team,’’ Meriweather said. “He never misses practice, he’s always doing the little extra things that makes someone great. As a young guy, I want to follow someone like that.’’

How long Meriweather and Co. will be able to do that is open to question.

But for now, he’s all the way on board with the Patriots, and they know exactly what they have.

“First, it’s hard to find a [325-pound] guy that good, and second, a guy who can do as many different things as Vince does,’’ coach Bill Belichick said. “His intelligence, his preparation, his natural instinctiveness playing on the defensive line, those are all positives in his favor. He’s able to make it happen.’’

And make it happen at as high a level as anyone on a pretty well-decorated team.

Click here to order Vince WIlfork’s proCane Rookie Card.

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John Salmons getting rejected at record pace

Bulls swingman John Salmons has had an incredible 40% of his close-range shots blocked this season.

A commenter on made the following astute observation: "Mardy Collins led the league last year with a 26% rate. Joakim led all full-time players at 23%. This isn’t just breaking the record, this is DiMaggio’s hit streak."

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James Jones on the block

The Heat are willing to trade forward James Jones, according to the Miami Herald.

If he is not traded, he will likely be bought out next summer. Jones is averaging just 3.2 points per game this season.

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Salmons' defense will be vital against Blazers

The circus road trip continues for the Bulls on Monday night in Portland and this game obviously figures to be a challenge.

The Blazers (10-5) made an interesting move over the weekend, scrapping the three-guard starting lineup featuring Andre Miller, Steve Blake and Brandon Roy, even though the team won games using that combination.

In Saturday’s win over Minnesota, Portland coach Nate McMillan sent Miller to the bench and started Martell Webster at small forward. Webster responded with 21 points and 13 rebounds.

“I want to give the team back to Brandon,” McMillan said in the Oregonian. “It's his team.”

Some might read this move as a sign that McMillan thought Miller was keeping the ball away from Roy and maybe he does. Roy’s scoring average is down slightly from last season.

Regardless, the Bulls will see plenty of Roy on the attack tonight, which makes this an important game for John Salmons. It’s no secret that Salmons has been in a shooting slump early this season, but he’s also a reason the Bulls’ defense has improved.

If Salmons can do a decent job guarding Roy, one of the league’s toughest covers, it would deliver a message about his value as the starting two guard.

Last year, the Bulls lost by 41 points in Portland, but had to play the second leg of a back-to-back after losing to the Lakers. Maybe this meeting can be different. The Blazers are 10-5, but have beaten eight teams with a losing record, including Minnesota three times.

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Williams named Public Service Award winner

MIAMI: Lauryn Williams, the 2005 women’s world 100m champion and 2004 Olympic silver medalist, has been named one of ten winners of the 2009 Jefferson Awards for Public Service, which recognizes the top athletes that have given back to their community.

Organizations from across the sports world nominated 53 athletes from 10 sports, with each athlete having a track record of community outreach as well as a sincere passion for service. Fan voting was conducted online or via text message, with over 25,000 votes logged during the process.

The 2006 USA Track & Field Visa Humanitarian of the Year for her contributions to victims of Hurricane Katrina, through Williams’ generosity, 20 families received much-needed funding to get back on their feet.

Williams is also involved with Fun 4 Kidz, a program that helps underserved children in South Florida participate in after school classes, activities and leagues. As part of her involvement with Fun 4 Kidz, Lauryn launched the Lauryn Williams Mentoring Program, which pairs 25 kids with 25 student-athletes from the University of Miami football and track teams. She is currently learning sign language through her work with deaf children in Arcola Middle School.

Williams, who lives and trains in Miami, Fla., has been heavily involved with USA Track & Field’s Win With Integrity program for many years, has been an Athlete Ambassador with Right to Play, an international humanitarian organization that uses sport and play to improve health, develop life skills and foster peace for children and communities in some of the most disadvantaged areas of the world. Williams traveled to Sierra Leone to see the impact of the programs and share her positive attitude and love of sport with a group of children affected by war, poverty and disease.

Williams became inspired to help those in need when she received assistance from others in covering travel and equipment expenses during her track and field career. People who saw potential in her came to her aid, and that’s when she realized how important it is to reach out to others.

Winners of the 2010 Jefferson Awards For Public Service Include:
Nnamdi Asomugha: Defensive back, Oakland Raiders, NFL
Curtis Granderson: All-star outfielder, Detroit Tigers, MLB
Stuart Holden: Forward, Houston Dynamo, MLS
Dwight Howard: All-star forward, Dallas Mavericks, NBA
Dirk Nowitzki: All-star forward, Dallas Mavericks, NBA
Tyrus Thomas: Forward, Chicago Bulls, NBA
Justin Tuck: All-Pro defensive end, New York Giants, NBA
Venus Williams: Olympian and Grand Slam Champion
Ryan Zimmerman: All-Star third baseman, Washington Nationals

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Antonio Dixon Has Crucial Field Goal Block

Antonio Dixon blocked the Bears’ Robbie Gould's 48-yard field goal try with 11:01 remaining. The Bears were leading 20-17 when Dixon blocked a 48-yard field goal by Robbie Gould. McNabb then led the Eagles (6-4) on a 62-yard touchdown drive that McCoy capped with a neat 10-yard run, sending Chicago to its fifth loss in six games and delivering another big hit to its playoff hopes.

Dixon is the first Eagle to block a field goal since Trent Cole on Dec. 7 last season against the Giants.

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Johnson denies he wants out of Houston

Andre Johnson denied an ESPN The Magazine report that he plans to force a trade if the Texans don't make the playoffs.

Johnson's uncle and agent, Andre Melton, made the claims. "That didn't come from me. ... I make my own decisions, and I plan on being here until I retire," Johnson said. Johnson signed an eight-year, $60 million contract in March of 2007 and it's very unlikely he's going anywhere before that deal is up. The Texans are at 5-4 right now but still have a solid shot at making the postseason for the first time in franchise history.

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Gore gets only ten touches in loss

Frank Gore ran seven times for 59 yards, but caught three passes for nine yards and a touchdown in the 49ers' Week 11 loss.

The 49ers are going to make sure that their best playmaker gets more than 10 touches in every game going forward, but Gore's receiving skills saved his fantasy day. The Niners fell behind 23-3 at halftime and were forced to throw the rest of the game. Gore ran a swing route out of the backfield for his touchdown, beating Charles Woodson to the cone for six. Keep him going against Jacksonville in Week 12.

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Buchanon Settling In

Phillip Buchanon and Will James have finally settled in as the Lions' starting cornerbacks.

It only took half a season for Detroit to find the "right" mix. They still have the NFL's No. 32 pass defense. The Lions targeted Buchanon to be their No. 1 corner in the offseason. He was benched early on and has regained his job, but hasn't picked off a pass all year. He has 25 tackles and a forced fumble.

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Jennings Improving

Kelly Jennings started for the Seahawks on Sunday.

“He’s gotten better,” Mora said of Jennings. “You’ve seen his confidence grow and he’s made plays on the ball, and it’s really good to see him make that kind of improvement. Kelly has been a hard worker for a long time, and to see him bear the fruits of that is good.”

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Roscoe Rusty in his Return

Wide receiver Roscoe Parrish's first appearance in five games did not go as he hoped. He didn't catch a pass and was tackled for a 5-yard loss on a reverse.

He also made a bad decision by fielding a punt and getting tackled at his 2-yard line. Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and wide receiver Terrell Owens bailed out Parrish by connecting on a franchise-record 98-yard touchdown pass.

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Colts win with help from Ed Reed

Baltimore Ravens safety Ed Reed is one of the best players in the NFL. But his bonehead play late in today's game helped the Colts sneak out of Baltimore with a 17-15 win.

Fielding a punt with less than 30 seconds to play and the Ravens down by two and just needing to get into field goal range, Reed attempted to lateral to a teammate, fumbled, and looked on helplessly as Freddy Keiaho of the Colts recovered. Reed's knee looked like it might have touched the ground before he let go of the ball, and it also looked like the pitch might have actually been a forward pass, but the referee reviewed the play and upheld the ruling of the fumble.

With that, the Colts simply ran out the clock and walked off the field the winners of yet another close game.

Colts quarterback Peyton Manning got off to a less-than-stellar start, throwing two first-half interceptions. But he played turnover-free football in the second half and finished the game 22 of 31 for 299 yards.

Colts wide receiver Pierre Garcon had a big day, catching six passes for 108 yards. Tight end Dallas Clark had only one catch for three yards, but it was a one-handed grab in the end zone for a touchdown.

The Colts are 10-0 and marching toward home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs.

Ravens receiver Derrick Mason had a huge game, with nine catches for 142 yards, but the rest of the Ravens' offense didn't show up today. The Ravens are now 5-5, and if they're going to make the playoffs, they're going to need more big games like they got from Mason, and fewer big mistakes like they got from Reed.

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Portis having concussion evaluated

ASHBURN, Va. -- Washington Redskins running back Clinton Portis was at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center on Friday to have his concussion evaluated.

Portis saw the same doctors who examined Eagles back Brian Westbrook, who has suffered two concussions in the last month. Portis was hurt two weeks ago against Atlanta. He did not play last week against Denver and has been ruled out for Sunday's game at Dallas.

"We're going to make sure we take care of all the details. We're for Clinton getting well," coach Jim Zorn said. "Each day Clinton's done a great job of communicating how he's felt, and that's what it's going to take.

"I want to be involved with those conversations, not so much to see 'how fast can we get him back,' but just to make sure the young man is improving and getting better."

Portis gave his own update via Twitter: "Hey fans! Trying to get healthy to finish the season strong, want to make sure there aren't lingering affects before returning to the field."

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Salmons’ role has changed with Bulls

The walk from the Arco Arena floor to the loading dock where the visiting team’s bus routinely parks is a short one.

But that didn’t keep former Kings swingman John Salmons from losing his way Tuesday, veering more toward his old team’s nearby practice facility before realizing the error of his ways.

He’s Chicago’s property now, an eight-year pro who was afforded his best opportunity yet when the Kings traded him and Brad Miller in a six-player deal in February. As his Bulls bosses have learned early on this season, they need Salmons to stay on track if they’re going to go down a road similar to the one they took late last season.

After the Bulls went 17-11 with Salmons and Miller, they pushed Boston to seven games in a first-round playoff series that lacked neither style nor substance. Salmons played as big as any of his new teammates at many of the most crucial times, averaging 18.1 points in the series. His 35 points in the Game 2 victory in Chicago helped make it clear this would be no Celtics rout.

The Bulls are 6-6, and there is much talk in the Windy City about Salmons’ slow start and how the team’s offensive game isn’t yet what it was before.

Salmons entered Saturday’s game shooting just 35.7 percent overall and 32.7 percent from three-point range. His scoring is down (14.4 points per game after 18.3 last season), which is not surprising given that the defensive attention paid to him is up.

“We need him to play at a high level,” Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro said. “And I expect him to.”

The changes around Salmons have certainly played a part, as the Bulls lost scoring machine Ben Gordon via free agency to Detroit and opposing defenses feel far too comfortable filling the lanes to slow second-year point guard Derrick Rose. There has been a position change of sorts, too. Salmons mostly played small forward last season because of an injury to incumbent three-man Luol Deng but is now the team’s starting shooting guard.

Salmons said the overall outlook remains rosy, with his age (he’ll be 30 on Dec. 12) and place in life (he and his wife recently had their first daughter after having their first son 17 months before) helping him handle the inevitable ups and downs.

“The Windy City is cool,” said Salmons, who had 23 points in the Bulls’ win over the Kings on Tuesday. “Coming to Sacramento, when I first came here, I saw that as a blessing. Being here (in Sacramento) definitely helped me to grow as a person, as a player.

“But (the playoffs with Chicago) was part of the blessing of going there. Being able to play in a playoff series, let alone play in one like that. I grew up a lot, learned a lot about myself that I couldn’t have learned in Sacramento just because we weren’t in that position. It was definitely fun.”

Recent struggles aside, Salmons has never felt so validated as a player. Not in his four seasons in Philadelphia, when the presence of the league's longest shadow otherwise known as Allen Iverson meant Salmons would never have a prominent role. And not in Sacramento, where Salmons' production reached career-high levels in his twoplus Kings seasons but he was hardly part of a successful core.

“I think people know who I am now,” Salmons said. “Are they 100 percent sold (on his abilities)? I don’t know, but people know who I am.”

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John Salmons shooting starting to improve

LOS ANGELES -- A regular sight following any Bulls practice is seeing John Salmons leaving the court last, hundreds of extra jumpers in his wake.

"That wasn't working," Salmons said with a chuckle after Friday's practice at USC.

What Salmons has been doing -- and what has paid dividends thus far on this six-game trip -- is getting extra shots in before practice as well.

"I was just trying to get a rhythm back," he said.

Salmons scored 23 points against the Kings and 18 points against the Lakers thus far on the trip, making 51.6 percent of his shots. That's far above the 31.7 percent he carried West.

Perhaps it's no coincidence Salmons no longer is settling for mostly jumpers and, particularly against the Lakers, attacked the rim early.

"Shooting 3s is never my first option," Salmons said. "I always try to get to the basket first. If I'm open, I'm definitely going to take the 3. But you can get caught up in shooting 3s. Once they start going in, you can lose yourself a bit. And you always want to stay true to yourself."

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Salmons regains touch

DENVER -- After busting out for 41 points on 16-for-31 shooting in the first two games of the road trip, John Salmons has raised his average to 14 points and his shooting percentage to .357.

He was averaging 12.6 points on 31.7 percent shooting when the Bulls began the five-game Western road trip and was mired in a horrific slump.

So after putting together two solid performances in a row -- including 18 points on 7-for-13 shooting despite second-half foul trouble in the Bulls' 108-93 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday night -- Salmons was asked after practice Friday if he was back.

''I'm just taking it one game at a time,'' he said with a big smile.

''I'm feeling better. I'm sure you saw me taking extra shots after practice, but I wasn't really concerned. I took extra shots before practice and after practice just trying to get a rhythm back. The biggest thing for me is just keeping the faith.''

Despite some ugly shooting lines during Salmons' struggles, coach Vinny Del Negro never lost faith.

''It was just a matter of time for him,'' Del Negro said. ''He's too good of a player. He knows how important he is for us.

''He's a slasher, he's a scorer, and I thought maybe at times he was relying too much on his jumper instead of really attacking the basket. But he'll pick his spots, and he's really difficult to guard in the open court.''

Although Salmons technically is replacing Ben Gordon in the starting lineup, he's a completely different player than the sharp-shooting Gordon, who never passed up a three-pointer.

''Shooting threes was never my first option,'' Salmons said. ''I always try to look to get to the basket first. If I'm open, I'm going to take the three, but I'm always gonna try to look to get to the basket.''

Still, some of his early-season troubles could be attributed to taking too many jump shots, if not three-pointers. Without Gordon, the Bulls don't have a deep threat to keep defenses honest.

''Shooters always spread the court,'' Salmons said. ''That's just how it is. The more shooters you have, the more open the court's gonna be. It definitely would be good for us to make some threes, but we have to be true to ourselves and not try to force up threes. We have to be true to ourselves and do what we do best.''

Salmons is 18-for-55 (32.7) from three-point range, and the Bulls are shooting just 29.9 percent on threes as a team.

Because of the problems in the halfcourt offense, Del Negro wants his team to run whenever possible. That's especially true tonight against the Denver Nuggets.

''[Joakim Noah] is doing a great job for us, but we need everybody to get in there and get some long rebounds and help the bigs a little so we can get out and run and get some easy baskets,'' Del Negro said.

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