10 proCanes Named to the NFL Pro Bowl this Sunday

Ten proCanes were named to the 2011 NFL Pro Bowl. Antrel Rolle, Vince Wilfork, Andre Johnson, Reggie Wayne, Ray Lewis, Devin Hester, Ed Reed, Jon Beason, Jon Vilma and Brandon Meriweather were selected to play in the annual NFL All-Star game which will be held in Hawaii this year. Andre Johnson will not be playing on Sunday, due to injury and Ed Reed will also not participate because of the death of his brother.

As a sidenote, only one Florida Gator, 1 Notre Dame Fight Irish and zero Florida State Seminoles were selected to the Pro Bowl

Check out the full proCanes Pro Bowl History here dating back to the 1961 Pro Bowl.

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DJ WIlliams & Kyle Wright Talk About Being Ranked the #1 Recruits of their Year

D.J. Williams
LB, De La Salle High School (Calif.)
College: Miami NFL Draft: No. 17 pick (Denver Broncos) in 2004 Now: 2009 Pro Bowl alternate; owns four 100-tackle seasons

"I didn't like the whole recruiting process. I'd get embarrassed when people would interview me or talk about me. I'll never forget when John Madden, who was from the area and had seen me play, spoke at our team banquet. During his speech, he said I was probably the only high schooler he'd ever seen who could have gone right to the pros. That was the worst thing anyone could've said, because then that was on me."

Kyle Wright
QB, Montey Vista High School (Calif.)
College: Miami NFL Draft: Undrafted Now: Works for a medical company that sells spinal implants

"It's definitely something I can tell my kids about someday: 'Once upon a time, I was a pretty decent football player.' But in the end, football didn't work out for me. I'd worn down the cartilage in my knees to the point where it couldn't be replaced. So I had to make the transition to the real world."

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Bernie Kosar could join the New England Patriots or Cincinnati Bengals, according to reports

Back in the early ‘90s, Cleveland Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar set a league record (since broken by Tom Brady(notes)) by completing 308 passes in a row without an interception. While Kosar won his only Super Bowl as a backup to Troy Aikman with the Dallas Cowboys in the 1993 season, the Ohio native is beloved in Cleveland for his many years as the public face of the Browns.

Now the 47-year-old is trying to get into coaching and the Browns must not be interested because the Boston Globe reports that Kosar "has been poking around the (New England) Patriots the past couple weeks" in hopes of landing a coaching gig. And ProFootballTalk has it that WKNR Radio is reporting that Kosar has also been talking to the Cincinnati Bengals about getting a gig there.

Wonder how Browns fans would take it if Kosar ended up in Cincinnati.

Click here to order Bernie Kosar’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Bailey, Hankerson hope to achieve first-round status

MOBILE, Ala. – — During the linemen's one-on-one drills at the Senior Bowl Allen Bailey steamrolled Rodney Hudson twice, pushing Florida State's standout guard backwards so fast it appeared as if he was on skates.

In his next practice rep the Hurricanes two-year sack leader got stonewalled by Florida tackle Marcus Gilbert because he lacks the counter moves needed to compliment his power.

"I know I have a bull [rush] but I'm trying to add a few other things," said Bailey, who played defensive tackle and end at UM. "I'm switching things up a little bit."

Bailey better polish his skills in the next few weeks because he's one of three UM draft prospects who have a realistic shot of ending the Hurricanes' two-year first-round drought.

For a 14-year period, from 1994 through 2008, UM had at least one player selected in the first round of the NFL Draft. Safety Kenny Phillips was the last to get in when he was taken by the Giants 31st overall in 1998.

Four Hurricanes were selected in last year's draft, but tight end Jimmy Graham, who was taken 95th overall, was the highest. This year at least three players – Bailey, receiver Leonard Hankerson and cornerback Brandon Harris - are projected among the draft's top 50 talents.

But Bailey, Hankerson and Harris, who left school early, each have plenty of work to do. That's why Bailey and Hankerson are two of the four Hurricanes – with cornerback DeMarcus Van Dyke and linebacker Colin McCarthy - participating in the Senior Bowl with hopes of improving their stock.

Bailey's had mixed reviews of his Senior Bowl practices. But Hankerson consistently impressed, running good routes, continually creating separation, and showing off his ability to hawk down difficult passes.

"It's an honor to be out here with some of these guys. It's a lot of competition. Everybody is good. Everyone is the best player on their team," Hankerson said. "I just want to show the coaches the way I practice, and how quickly I can learn and pick up an offense."

Mike Mayock, the NFL Network's draft guru, said despite Hankerson's strong practices he's firmly placed in the second tier of receivers, behind Georgia's A.J. Green and Alabama's Julio Jones.

"[Hankerson's] a big body kid who runs well in a straight line. I'm trying to get a feel for him getting in and out of breaks," Mayock said. "Great receivers, especially the big guys, fluidly get in and out of their breaks."

Mayock said Bailey's athleticism and power has been evident. He believes Bailey's a natural pass rusher who could work in either a 4-3 or 3-4 defensive scheme.

"What I want to see [Bailey] consistently playing with proper leverage. Sometimes when you put the Miami tape on he plays high, especially when he's tired," Mayock said. "He's got the quick twitch, come off the end speed, but needs to work on his technique, especially his hand placement."

Once he masters that, and shows off his athleticism at the NFL combine, Bailey hopes he can corral first-round status.

"It would mean a lot to the program and to myself," Bailey said. "We got a pretty good feeling this is the year."

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Sam Shields could have been a Bear

Packers rookie cornerback Sam Shields is a huge reason Green Bay has reached its first Super Bowl in 13 years.

Shields, who went undrafted coming out of Miami (Fla.) last April, had two interceptions in the NFC Championship Game at Chicago Sunday. Shields swiped a deep ball for Bears speedster Johnny Knox near the goal line late in the first half, then undercut a route for Knox on what became the final offensive play of the Bears' season.

It would be tough not to give Shields Defensive MVP honors for his performance in Chicago.

What's interesting is Shields could have had on a Bears uniform instead.

After Shields went undrafted last spring, he estimated eight teams made him offers. One of those teams was Chicago.

But incredibly, the Packers' offer of $7,500 was higher than any other team. Shields also said he studied the various rosters and thought Green Bay offered the best chance to play.

"I knew Al Harris was trying to come back (from a knee injury) and they maybe didn't have the most depth," Shields said. "I thought it was the best place for me to make the team."

Shields weighs 182 pound and said he hit the "rookie wall" several weeks ago. Shields said he wants to be at least 10 pounds heavier next year to better handle the rigors of an NFL season.

For now, Packer Nation should be thrilled Shields chose them over Chicago — and his other suitors — nine months ago.

"I think it speaks volumes when you can take a young man like Sam, bring him into your program, and he's now just playing football," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "He's not thinking about his assignments. He's recognizing routes. He's playing at top speed, and he puts himself into the position to make those plays and ultimately the credit goes to Sam, because he had a huge day for us down there in Chicago with the two big interceptions and the sack."

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Pro Bowler Wayne takes Colts wide receiver to Hawaii

It's not unusual for a Pro Bowl quarterback or running back to thank his offensive line by taking its members to the annual AFC-NFC all-star game, which will be played Sunday in Honolulu.

Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne kept his invitations closer to home.

"Shout out to my big brother Reggie Wayne," Colts wide receiver Pierre Garcon announced Thursday via Twitter, "for taking all of the WRs to Hawaii with him."

Wayne will be making his fifth Pro Bowl appearance. That leaves him three shy of former teammate Marvin Harrison and one short of former Colts wide receiver Raymond Berry, a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Click here to order Reggie Wayne’s proCane Rookie Card.

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John Salmons could be back by this weekend

John Salmons (strained right hip) could be back as soon as Friday night, according to coach Scott Skiles.

Salmons missed his fifth straight game Wednesday night, but Skiles sounded optimistic. If Salmons can get through a full practice Thursday, we'd expect to see him against the Raptors on Friday. That would send Chris Douglas-Roberts back to the bench.

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Danny Valencia brings his "charisma" to Twitter

Denard Span had a rather humorous tweet a little while ago (above) as he prepares to come to this frozen state from Florida.

But the Twins' Twitter development of the day has to be Danny Valencia joining up this morning.

He seems to be enjoying himself in a *ahem* typically understated way. Sample tweets:

"Is 5,000 followers the first day a possibility? I think it is!!! Come out of hiding and follow, I don't bite!!!"

"That 'hide your daughters' thing really got blown out of proportion!!! Come out come out wherever you are....and follow me on here!!!! Lol"

"I decided to bring my charisma to twitter! I apologize in advance for anyones feelings who may get hurt!!"

That last tweet was Valencia's first-ever tweet. And it brings you to this photo. Nicely done, Mr. Third Base.

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Willis McGahee goes nude to support PETA

Who knew Willis McGahee loved animals? Who knew he loved them enough to bare it all?

As part of a People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) campaign, McGahee posed for photos nude, flashing his tattoos holidng a football made from synthetic materials (i.e., not pigskin). The campaign is called "Ink, Not Mink."

In a video posted on PETA's website, McGahee says "I don't think people really understand where [fur] comes from," said McGahee. "You don't want to electrocute an animal for its fur ... that's not right."

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

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Antonio Dixon Named to the 'All-Joes' Squad

Eagles defensive tackle Antonio Dixon and running back LeSean McCoy have been named to the 19th annual “All-Joe Team,” which honors unsung, underrated and overlooked NFL players for their accomplishments.

The team, selected by USAToday, was announced Wednesday morning. All players picked to the Pro Bowl team are ineligible for the All-Joe team.

Dixon became a first-time starter after Brodrick Bunkley suffered an elbow injury and started the last 11 games of the season for the Eagles. He had a couple sacks and provided solid run defense in place of Bunkley, who never regained his starting job even though he did eventually return to action.

Dixon went undrafted 2009 and was released by the Redskins after spending the summer in their training camp.

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NFL Scouts Dissapointed in Potential proCanes and their Development

The final day of full pads practice took place Wednesday at the Senior Bowl, and all that remains is to play the game on Saturday. Many of the coaches and scouts in attendance now head for home better informed on the players they hope to select in April. Just like the initial two days of practice, several prospects impressed future employers on the field and there was plenty of draft related news off the field.

One topic of conversation at the Senior Bowl is the marginal performance of the Miami Hurricane players. The once-proud program that placed a half-dozen players into the draft's first round in 2004 has fallen on hard times. Only five Hurricanes were selected in the past two drafts. Most believe the prospects are not properly developed and enter the league poorly coached. They point to players such as Sam Shields and Calais Campbell, underachievers in college who are developing fine NFL careers. The most glaring case this year is defensive lineman Allen Bailey. The once highly-touted prospect, who looked a chiseled 278-pounds during weigh-ins, has been nothing but ordinary the past three days in Mobile, Ala. Scouts are hopeful this will quickly change with Al Golden taking over the program.

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Leonard Hankerson looking like a No. 1 receiver

MOBILE, Ala. — The South receivers have not been getting much publicity at the Senior Bowl this week, but Miami’s Leonard Hankerson could be changing that.

Hankerson was exceptional during Wednesday’s practice, repeatedly getting open and making catches against tight coverage. He also seemed to emerge as one of the favored targets of the South quarterbacks, who knew he could make the play if they gave him a chance.

With his performance, Hankerson has elevated himself as one of the top wideouts in the draft. His combination of speed, route running and hands make him look like a potential No. 1 receiver at the pro level.

Hankerson goes through his routes with a smoothness and precision that will serve him well. He doesn't look as fast as he is because he does run so well, he manages to avoid the jerkiness you'll see from less practiced route runners. He's good on routes where he needs to come back or turn inside after faking an out, but he's not a guy who will blaze off a cornerback when he's running a crossing route. He's a bit slow on those types of routes - when he hits a hard cut, it takes him a second to get back up to speed. But he is a good lanky strider with excellent hands (after solving a drop problem earlier in his collegiate career) and he doesn't back off in traffic. If you want a player who understands route complexity and can execute it, Hankerson's a good place to start ... though I thought the same of Ohio State's Brian Robiskie(notes), and Robiskie hasn't shown a lot just yet.

I thought Hankerson was most effective outside, with a smaller, faster slot guy inside to take potential zone problems away with inside routes. Two of those players were Greg Salas of Hawaii and USC's Ronald Johnson. Johnson impressed me with his pure quickness on quick slants and crosses. He knows how to get into zones and create yards after catch, and he could make a career out of his ability to get the quick sideline pass and peel off the defender - it was driving the guys covering him nuts. Salas also showed a nice burst after catch, and he's a slightly bigger guy.

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(nfl.com + yahoo.com)

Frank Gore Ahead Of Schedule From Fractured Hip

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee reports that 49ers running back Frank Gore is well ahead of schedule from his fractured hip. Gore has been running on the hip for the past two weeks. Coming back from devastating injuries is nothing new for Gore and he appears to be in line to take part in mini-camps in June. The 49ers have to address the quarterback position this offseason, but if they're able to do so, Gore could be a top five running back once again in 2011.

Click here to order Frank Gore’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Sam Shields Playoff Report Card

Shields was a rookie free-agent signing after the draft. Shields was a wide receiver during most of his career at Miami. Going into his senior year, the coaching staff had depth problems at the corner position and moved Shields there. He proved to be a quick study with some flashes of excellent play. Add to that a strong workout in the spring and he was a hot commodity in the rookie free-agent market.

hields had the tools to be an excellent corner, he was just raw and inexperienced. He has excellent corner size at about 5-11, 185 pounds and sub 4.5 speed. When watching his workout, he showed a quick pedal and excellent turn and run ability. He also was able to transition very quickly. Being a former receiver he needed work on his tackling skills, but also because of his receiver experience he has excellent ball skills. Those ball skills paid off in Sunday’s game with 2 interceptions in very key situations. One pick came at the end of the first half and the other at the end of the game.

In the final minutes of the first half with Green Bay leading 14–0, the Bears were moving the ball and in position to get some points on the board. Jay Cutler threw a deep pass to Johnny Knox along the left sideline that looked like a sure TD. With his excellent speed, Shields accelerated to the ball and made a great leaping interception to end the Bears drive.

In the final minutes of the game with Green Bay up by 7 the Bears were again moving the ball and were in position to tie the game. On a 4th down play from the Green Bay 29, backup quarterback Caleb Hanie tried a skinny post play to Knox to get the first. Shields again closed very quickly to get the interception and returned it 32 yard to secure the Packers win.

Big plays like that will give Shields the added confidence needed to secure a starting role next year in Green Bay. He has all the physical tools needed to be an excellent corner in the league.

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New Orleans Saints DE draft prospects at Senior Bowl: Allen Bailey

Allen Bailey
Position: Defensive end
College: Miami
Height/weight: 6-3 ¼, 278

Generally regarded as a solid second-round pick who is creeping into the first round on some boards and might be available when the Saints draft. Has looked very good in practices.

"I'm more comfortable at the 4-3 at the time," he said. While he doesn't shy away from the versatility ascribed to the defensive end/outside linebacker hybrid players, he sees himself primarily as a defensive end, and he likes that position.

"I can't even keep count, I lost count in my head. I did six last night," he said when asked about teams he had talked with. The Saints had not approached him, he said.

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Ed Reed remembers his brother Brian

Ed Reed should have been in Hawaii this week, getting ready to play in yet another Pro Bowl. Instead, the Ravens highly decorated safety sat in Luling, La., grieving over the loss of a younger brother in a tragedy that left critical questions unanswered.

At a news conference in which authorities said the body pulled from the Mississippi River late Tuesday almost certainly was that of 29-year-old Brian Reed, it was left for Ed to serve as family spokesman and guiding light.

Reed, in obvious distress, spoke of "a loving kid" and doting father who got caught up in the "worldly ways" of our time.

"He had some mental stuff going on before, [but] there was truly no sign of this happening," Reed said. "Like Sheriff [Greg Champagne, of St. Charles Parish] said, we don't know what triggered it, we don't know what happened … between him running from the police officer and the decision he made.

"We know that there's bigger things in life, principalities, that we have to deal with spiritually. Maybe he was dealing with something and having more pain than we ever [knew] that made him make that decision. My brother was not that type of person to have that mentality of doing anything to himself. He was always real close to us and we were close to him."

On the morning of Jan. 7, Brian Reed left the family home in St. Rose, got in a car that belonged to his younger brother, Edwin, and drove away without permission. Family members were concerned enough that they asked police to find their son and bring him home.

When the car ran out of gas near the St. Charles-Jefferson Parish line, a sheriff's deputy stopped to offer assistance and helped Reed push the car to the side of the road. About that time, word came through the police radio that Reed was using the car without authorization, which is a crime. The deputy called Reed back and began to pat him down when Reed broke away and jogged off. The deputy knew of Reed's mental issues and followed him in his police car as Reed jogged down the road. Eventually, Reed crossed the levee and then went into the Mississippi before the deputy could reach him.

In a video of the news conference that appeared on the New Orleans Times Picayune's website, Ed Reed explained in agonizing detail why his mother and father, Karen and Ed Reed Sr., called the police.

"We knew; the parish knew; that day that my brother was having some mental issues and [his parents] contacted the police and had to report the car stolen to try to basically slow my brother down and bring him in, bring him home," Reed said. "Unfortunately, he thought otherwise and the officer was not able to apprehend him and bring him home. ... It was nothing illegal going on or anything like that. It was just an issue where concerned parents were trying to bring their child to safety."

Later in Wednesday's news conference, Reed said the family was concerned about Brian because of "disagreements" they had with him.

"We were trying to help him, knowing that he was going through, like I said, just some disagreements with my parents at the time," Reed said. "Parents know when something is going on with their kids. And they had an issue with him before that, mentally. He was on medication, actually. And they knew something was going on. That was the reason why they were seeking to get him help."

Ed Reed was in Baltimore on the day Brian went missing, preparing for a wild-card playoff game in Kansas City. Reed would play in the game, and Wednesday he talked about how much support he got from his teammates and Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti, who flew Reed to Louisiana after the victory over the Chiefs.

"Being around my teammates, who support me through so much, and like my brothers are very spiritual men," Reed said. "The team chaplain, Rod Hairston, all of them did a great job of just comforting me and helping me through. …

"Even the friends I have on the other teams, Kansas City, the [Pittsburgh] Steelers, those guys were just tremendous at showing support, knowing that life is bigger than the game I play. … We are human and regular people at the end of the day. We're not immune from the trials and tribulations that go on through life."

Wide receiver Derrick Mason was among the first to respond to Reed's loss. On his Facebook page, Mason wrote: "My heart goes out to my teammate and brother, Ed Reed. Ed's passions are God and family first, then football and helping others … so I've decided to make a donation to Ed's foundation in Honor and Memory of his brother and I hope you'll consider doing the same."

The tentative identification of Brian Reed was made as a result of tattoos he had, tattoos that matched the body recovered from the Mississippi.

"We knew of tattoos Brian Reed had, and we were able to get a tentative ID based on the tattoos," said Capt. Patrick Yoes, the public information officer for St. Charles Parish. "We're extremely confident [it is Brian]. He was found no more than 40 yards from where he went into the water. He got caught up in debris. The water is treacherous, particularly where he went in."

Yoes said Reed had become snagged in debris around an old, submerged dock just off shore.

An autopsy will be conducted by the Jefferson Parish coroner's office on Thursday. The autopsy was delayed from Wednesday to allow the family of victims who died during interactions with police to have an independent doctor examine the body of the deceased.

"They always afford this opportunity to the family [in these instances]," said Lt. Wayne McInnis of the Kenner, La., police. "It's a question of transparency."

Brian Reed was not married, but had a 2-year-old son. Brian Reed's twin brother, Clyde, lives in Baton Rouge.

"He was a loving kid," Ed Reed, 32, said of Brian. "He just was a good kid, man. He had a son that he cherished and loved and that was his reason for living. Like I said, there's things we have to deal with inside of us that sometimes kind of take control of you, get control of you, that you don't know how to handle."

In his loss, Ed Reed tried to reach out to other troubled kids, hoping this experience might make a difference.

"I just know with dealing with Louisiana in general … how these kids today are taking each other out or getting involved in different things to where it's taken control of them and making them do things that, as parents, we can't explain," he said. "That's the times we're living in. Hopefully, we can change it together because it's not one person that can change that — not me, not Sheriff [Champagne] by himself. And hopefully we can change that. You know, that's why we try to do things in the community. And hopefully we can try to make that one kid turn around and hopefully, that one kid can learn from this situation."

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

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Mel Kiper likes Hankerson, says Bailey has slipped

At the moment, Kiper feels cornerback Brandon Harris will be the only first round pick. He has him going to the Ravens with the 26th overall pick. “That’s a need area for the Ravens," Kiper said. "I think if Harris doesn’t go there, I think [he’ll be drafted] late in the first round. There’s a couple of other teams that certainly could look at cornerback – Chicago being one and Pittsburgh another."

> After Harris, Kiper has defensive lineman Allen Bailey going next. Bailey, who has received a lot of praise at the Senior Bowl this week for his 'Adonis body', has also been ripped this week by a few pundits. Kiper thinks Bailey will be a second round pick.

"You look at him as a 3-4 end, a 4-3 defensive tackle that I think he would fit the bill," Kiper said. "I think the ball location this year was a little lacking. There were times where it looked like he didn't have that awareness, getting in the backfield and making the play some other defensive ends had. Maybe, he felt that wasn't a position that could maximize his ability, that he feels comfortable at that spot when he was kicked out. I think inside maybe he'll feel comfortable as a 3-4 end. I think he can hold stout against the run and hold double teams. I think he's strong enough to do that. I just think his stock dropped from where it was. I thought he would be a first round pick potentially, now he's more of a second."

> If anybody has really shined or improved their stock, its receiver Leonard Hankerson. Kiper believes Hankerson is the best senior receiver in this draft class.

"Hankerson I've liked all year," Kiper said. "I've never put him in the first round. I've never had him in my Top 25. But as a senior receiver I thought he was the best out there. With his size, he runs good routes, I like the pacing of his routes. I think he's a little underrated in terms of the quickness out of his cuts. His hands are very good. He'd have a drop or two, which was very uncharacteristic -- it was more of a concentration issue, not a hands issue. He's not going to be a vertical stretch guy on a regular basis. But he runs well enough. I think he could come in and be a good complimentary good number two guy and be worthy of being a second or third round pick."

> Kiper on a few other Canes:
“In terms of the other players from Miami, offensive tackle Orlando Franklin has some versatility that he provides. I don’t think he played to the level of his talent in games that I saw. He’s going to have to define where he fits best into an NFL blocking scheme. He could be in that early Day 3 area, maybe late Day 2.

“For linebacker Colin McCarthy, probably Day 3 for him which isn’t bad. Day 3 starts with the fourth round.

“I think cornerback DeMarcus Van Dyke Day 3 as well. [Kicker Matt] Bosher free agent.

“You also have [running back] Graig Cooper who needs another year to come completely back from that [knee] injury. He came on a little late the year. He was [projected as] a second-round pick before the injury. You might be able to get him on Day 3. Remember James Starks was a guy was a guy that had an injury and fell to the sixth round and has a heck of a finish to the season for the Packers. I think Cooper could be in the fifth, sixth, seventh round and be a nice pickup for somebody once he gets back to where he was a few years ago.”

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Jerod Mayo turns to Ray Lewis

HONOLULU -- Jerod Mayo has big plans for his first Pro Bowl trip. And he planted the seeds last night during the AFC players orientation meeting. Mayo cozied up to Ray Lewis, formally introduced himself, shook the man’s hand, and basically told the Ravens linebacker he hoped to pick his brain during the week for pointers on how to get better.

And guess what? Lewis agreed.

"He seemed like a good guy," Mayo said. ”It was a quick meet-and-greet. But he welcomed me with open arms, and we’re going to get together and talk."

Now the Patriots [team stats] and Ravens aren’t quite to the degree of the Pats and Jets on the hate meter, but they’re up there, especially when Terrell Suggs starts yapping crazy things about Tom Brady [stats].

But being teammates in Hawaii on a Pro Bowl team apparently calls for a temporary truce. All of the barriers and walls tend to come down for the week when the NFL’s all-stars gather. So Mayo wanted to take advantage.

The one person he was hoping to meet and spend time with this week was the future Hall of Famer Lewis, who is among the greatest middle linebackers to ever play the game.

"He’s just someone I’ve been wanting to sit down with, and talk with, and pick his brain," said Mayo, who flew in from Boston yesterday. "I’ve watched him and just want to see how he’s been able to do what he’s done for so long that’s so amazing to me, and take what I can from him."

Lewis has certainly been a tone-setter for the Ravens defense. He plays with a fierceness and ferociousness that’s unmistakable. He’s always had a knack for making big plays at crucial times. At age 35 this season, he played well enough to make his 12th Pro Bowl after recording a team-high 139 tackles. He also had two sacks, two interceptions, forced two fumbles, and played 1,111 out of a possible 1,116 snaps. He is the standard for this generation of linebackers.

That’s why Mayo was happy he got the green light last night from Lewis after Pats coach Bill Belichick opened the proceedings with a meeting that lasted a little more than an hour. So along with seeing sights like Pearl Harbor, spending time with Lewis was high up on Mayo’s bucket list for the Pro Bowl.

What impresses Mayo the most about his rival?

"Just his overall assertiveness," Mayo said. "How he takes control of the defense, how he gets everyone in the right place at the right time. How he lines everyone up. I know he studies a lot of film, and he just seems to know where the play is going before everyone else does."

Mayo holds the same job, but obviously feels he needs to improve in that area in order for the defense to raise its level. While he has certainly grown more as a leader, Mayo is still young and still feeling his way.

It’s hard not to like this move by Mayo. Some young Pro Bowlers - and All Pros, for that matter, as Mayo became this week - think they have it made and have all the answers.

Pick Lewis’ brain? What for? What’s he going to tell me that I don’t know?

"Hey, I’m absolutely sure I can learn something from him," Mayo said. "Even if it’s something small, it’ll be good to hear what he has to say."
The Pats linebacker led the league in tackles this year, but he’s still trying to improve, still trying to get better, still trying to be a better leader on the defense.

Who says the Pro Bowl isn’t good for something?

Click here to order Ray Lewis’ proCane Rookie Card.

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Ryan Braun's Waterfront announces new executive chef

The former executive chef at Umami Moto will take the lead at Ryan Braun’s Waterfront under its new ownership, the restaurant said Wednesday in a news release.

Dominic Zumpano is developing a new menu and will oversee the kitchen when the 3rd Ward restaurant reopens in March.

“Zumpano will bring his Italian heritage to the menu at RBWF,” the release said. “Diners will savor fresh and authentic Italian cuisine, featuring the best local products and bold flavors Zumpano cooking is known for.”

Surg Restaurant Group, the Oak Creek-based owner of Umami Moto and other restaurants, bought Ryan Braun’s Waterfront after the previous investment group shut the restaurant down. Interior renovation plans are currently being finalized, and the restaurant should be open well before the Milwaukee Brewers home opener April 4, the release said. The restaurant will honor gift cards issued under the previous owners.

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Allen Bailey Not Impressing Yet?

We knew coming into the Senior Bowl that Miami DL Allen Bailey was a freak of nature and he proved it at the weigh in. However, I had severe doubts about the guy’s ability to play football. And after watching him today, I wouldn’t draft the guy at any point during the first three rounds. He’s a strong kid who has a good initial get off for his size and can gain leverage on contact. But he’s a linear pass rusher only who doesn’t use his hands/length at all to disengage from blocks through contact. Once you get a hold of him the battle is over and for a guy who only can only be effective as a bull rusher, I don’t see him ever being real effective getting after the passer.

Workouts at the Combine would seem to help Bailey...hello Al Davis, and maybe he turns out fine with a little coaching. But, it's a good reminder about how not every prospect pans out. Part of the risk teams have to take. Bailey measured at 6’3” 278 lbs.

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Leonard Hankerson Impressing Scouts at Senior Bowl

Miami WR Leonard Hankerson is getting rave reviews. While his height was a mild question mark (apparently he was 2 inches shorter than what was listed in the "U"’s Media Guide), Leonard caught everything thrown in his general vicinity. He could really improve his stock and shake his inconsistent label. Hankerson measured just 6'1" 205 lbs.

Hankerson proved to be a handful for whomever attempted to cover him. He continually created separation and beat multiple cornerbacks deep to make the downfield catch. Hankerson did not drop a pass all day and made several difficult receptions in practice.

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Are Bucs looking at Miami DE Allen Bailey?

University of Miami defensive end Allen Bailey is among the players the Bucs have paid close attention to here at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala.

In fact, the Bucs conducted an interview with Bailey on Monday night, according to the player, with both general maanger Mark Dominik and coach Raheem Morris present. With the draft more than three months away, it's much too early to assume this means anything, but given the Bucs' glaring need at defensive end and the fact both Morris and Dominik watched Bailey up close for extended periods on Tuesday, it's not a stretch to think Bailey is a player the Bucs are closely evaluating. Bailey is projected by some as a first-round talent, while other prognostications paint him more as a second-rounder.

One of the things the Bucs and other teams will want to determine is how he will fare as a full-time pass rusher. Bailey was moved between end and tackle quite often at Miami, but after weighing in at 278 pounds on Monday, it's not likely he'll be viewed as a good fit to take on NFL interior offensive linemen.

But Bailey is determined to prove himself to NFL teams as the week goes on.

"I’ve been playing on the D line for three years, but I’ve been bouncing around a lot," he said. "I want to show my pass rush basically. I tried to keep it to one position (at Miami) but you have to help out where you have to help out. I know I have a bull (rush) but I’m trying to add a few other things to the arsenal. I’m switching things up a little bit."

As for the interview with the Bucs, Bailey thought it went well, for what that's worth.

Asked his impression of Morris, Bailey's face lit up.

"Man," he said, "he's really cool."

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Jonathan Vilma could have minor surgery

Saints MLB Jonathan Vilma, RT Jon Stinchcomb and DL Anthony Hargrove could undergo minor "cleanup" surgeries on their knee this offseason.

It sounds like Stinchcomb will definitely undergo an operation, while Vilma's and Hargrove's statuses are still up in the air. The surgeries would be minor in nature and shouldn't affect the availability of any of the trio for possible offseason activities.

Click here to order Jon Vilma’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Bernie Kosar Looking To Get Into Coaching

Heard former Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar has been poking around the Patriots the past couple weeks. He hopes to get into coaching.

Click here to order Bernie Kosar’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Search Teams Recover Body Of Brian Reed

KENNER, La. -- The body of Brian Reed, brother of Baltimore Ravens safety Ed Reed, has been found in the Mississippi River, search officials confirmed Tuesday evening.

Searchers returned to the area of the river for a seventh day of searching early Tuesday.

Tim Miller, of Texas EquuSearch, confirmed that Brian Reed's body was found in the river in the area of 153rd Street in Kenner.

Miller said that despite heavy fog and intermittent rain, three boats using sonar and dragging operations scoured the currents for eight to 10 miles down river.

Crews searched downstream from where a man believed to be the 26-year-old jumped into the river on Jan. 7, after being confronted by a deputy sheriff.

The Reed family issued the following statement Tuesday night:

"We would like to thank all the agencies that worked persistently to recover our loved one. First, Mr. Tim Miller, with Texas EquuSearch, Team Watters, Inc., the diver's from Madcon Corporation, and the St. Charles Parish Sheriff's Department, who worked endlessly and would not give up. We would also like to thank St. Tammany Parish Sheriff's Department, who also helped in the search. We appreciate all prayers and support from everyone throughout this trying time."

Kenner Police Department officials said they could not confirm the identity of the body found until an autopsy is performed on Wednesday by the Jefferson Parish Coroner's Office.

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

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For Jones coach Kenard Lang, early offers are an issue


Approaching National Signing Day in 1993, Evans High defensive end Kenard Lang’s top five schools were Miami, Florida, Notre Dame, FAMU and Clemson.

He visited Notre Dame on Heisman Trophy weekend. Raghib “The Rocket” Ismail was there. So was Tim Brown. It also was very cold, and Lang came prepared, wearing a big coat with lots of fur.

“I must have looked like a bear,” Lang said.

The cold weather wasn’t for him, though.

When he visited Florida, the sprawling campus proved too overwhelming.

“I realized that wasn’t for me because the campus was humongous,” Lang said. “Then I went to the University of Miami. The feeling at Miami was more intimate. At Florida, you felt like a Social Security item.”

He was so impressed with the Hurricanes that he decided not to visit Clemson. He had FAMU on his list because that’s where his parents, Calvin and Johnnie, went.

Lang said he made his decision roughly 10 days before National Signing Day that year. That didn’t keep schools from trying to change  his mind, though, in that short time frame.

Lang said one school came up to him and said, ‘”You don’t look like a Miami guy.’ ” It was a reference to the Hurricanes’ outlaw image at the time.

Another coach, who was at Michigan at the time, said, “What’s a Michigan education when compared to a Florida A&M eduction?” Lang said he walked out on that coach.

Lang said if there is one thing he could change about National Signing Day today, it would be to limit early offers to recruits. Between committing and decommitting, the recruits sometimes can be unfairly labeled through the process.

“They are still kids,” Lang said. “A lot of them don’t have the mind-set of adults. We still have adults who are 40 years old who make mistakes.”
NSD has changed plenty in the almost two decades since Lang was recruited. He said he is fine with the increased exposure recruits receive.

“I love it,” he said. “I catch myself watching to see who the University of Miami is getting. Twenty years down the road, it’ll probably be bigger than this.”

Click here to order Kenard Lang’s proCane Rookie Card.

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John Salmons doesn't know when he'll return

John Salmons (hip) said he does not know when he'll be able to return.

Salmons has missed four straight games as he continues to take it day by day. The fact that he doesn't sound too confident makes us skeptical about his status for Wednesday's game against the Hawks. We should know more after Tuesday's practice.

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Cesar Carrillo arrested for trespassing at a casino

Houston Astros pitcher Cesar Carrillo was arrested and charged with trespassing at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Tampa early Saturday morning. He was cuffed after refusing to leave the casino and released several hours later after paying his $500 bond.

According to the Seminole Tribe spokesman, Carrillo left the casino after receiving a warning, but came back 15 minutes later and that’s when the arrest was made. The details surrounding this incident have been kept quiet, but we can safely assume that his parking will not be validated.
The Astros have not released a statement following the arrest, but we doubt that his career record of 1-2 with a 13.06 ERA will help his case in any way.

Carrillo was a standout pitcher for the University of Miami, starting his college career with an impressive record of 24-0, but has seen little success since being selected in the first round of the 2005 MLB Draft by the San Diego Padres. He struggled in the minor leagues and underwent Tommy John surgery before giving up three home runs in his major league debut in 2009.

During spring training 2010, Carillo failed to make the team and was sent back to Triple A. On September 2, he was designated for assignment by the Padres and claimed off waivers by the Philadelphia Phillies on September 9, which lasted a total of three days before they designated him for assignment. He was then reclaimed off waivers by the Padres and then claimed off waivers a week later by the Houston Astros.

Needless to say, it was a rough September for Mr. Carrillo and his agent.

Unfortunately this arrest mixed with his inability to keep up with the big shots of the MLB will most likely lead to his termination from professional baseball. It’s a sad story for a kid that was deemed the No. 1 prospect in the Padre’s organization by scout.com, but it just goes to show you that nothing lasts forever… except for criminal records, of course.

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Jon Beason added to Pro Bowl

For the third time this morning, we’ve received news of an NFC South player being added to the Pro Bowl.

This time, it’s Carolina linebacker Jon Beason. He’s been added as an alternate to replace Chicago’s Lance Briggs, who had to withdraw due to injury.

This will extend Beason’s streak of consecutive Pro Bowls to three. He’ll join Carolina center Ryan Kalil and tackle Jordan Gross in the all-star game in Honolulu later this week.

Click here to order Jon Beason’s proCane Rookie Card.

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3 proCanes Named To 1st Team NFL ALL-Pro's

Quarterback-Tom Brady, New England.
Running Backs-Jamaal Charles, Kansas City; Arian Foster, Houston.
Fullback-Vonta Leach, Houston.
Tight End-Jason Witten, Dallas.
Wide Receivers-Roddy White, Atlanta; Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis.
Tackles-Jake Long, Miami; Joe Thomas, Cleveland.
Guards-Logan Mankins, New England; Jahri Evans, New Orleans.
Center-Nick Mangold, New York Jets.
Kicker-Billy Cundiff, Baltimore.
Kick Returner-Devin Hester, Chicago.
Ends-Julius Peppers, Chicago; John Abraham, Atlanta.
Tackles-Haloti Ngata, Baltimore; Ndamukong Suh, Detroit.
Outside Linebackers-Clay Matthews, Green Bay; James Harrison, Pittsburgh.
Inside Linebacker-Patrick Willis, San Francisco; Jerod Mayo, New England.
Cornerbacks-Nnamdi Asomugha, Oakland; Darrelle Revis, New York Jets.
Safeties-Troy Polamalu, Pittsburgh; Ed Reed, Baltimore.
Punter-Shane Lechler, Oakland.
Running Backs-Michael Turner, Atlanta; Adrian Peterson, Minnesota.
Fullback-Ovie Mughelli, Atlanta.
Tight End-Antonio Gates, San Diego.
Wide Receivers-Brandon Lloyd, Denver; Calvin Johnson, Detroit, and Dwayne Bowe, Kansas City (tie).
Tackles-Jason Peters, Philadelphia; Sebastian Vollmer, New England.
Guards-Chris Snee, New York Giants; Carl Nicks, New Orleans.
Center-Maurkice Pouncey, Pittsburgh.
Kicker-David Akers, Philadelphia.
Kick Returner-Leon Washington, Seattle.
Ends-Osi Umenyiora, New York Giants; Justin Tuck, New York Giants.
Tackles-Vince Wilfork, New England; Kyle Williams, Buffalo.
Outside Linebackers-Cameron Wake, Miami; DeMarcus Ware, Dallas.
Inside Linebackers-Brian Urlacher, Chicago; Ray Lewis, Baltimore.
Cornerbacks-Devin McCourty, New England; Charles Woodson, Green Bay.
Safeties-Nick Collins, Green Bay; and Antrel Rolle, New York Giants, Eric Weddle, San Diego, Malcolm Jenkins, New Orleans, Quintin Mikell, Philadelphia, Chris Harris, Chicago, Michael Huff, Oakland, Michael Griffin, Tennessee, and Darren Sharper, New Orleans (tie).
Punter-Mat McBriar, Dallas.

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Mississippi River search halted for Ed Reed's brother

NEW ORLEANS -- A private search team called in by Baltimore Ravens safety Ed Reed and family members suspended a search of the Mississippi River late Monday, but planned to return "no matter the weather" at first light to continue looking for the body of Reed's missing 28-year-old brother.

Texas EquuSearch on Sunday had located what it believed to be the body of Brian Reed tangled in debris about 20 miles northwest of New Orleans. But Kenner Police Lt. Wayne McInnis said divers were unable to find it.

"We had the perfect image," said Tim Miller, director of EquuSearch. "There's no doubt it was him but it was in an area that has so much debris that doing anything there, it's really hard."

Divers trying to get to the body may have dislodged it as they moved debris, Miller said.

"And if they did it could have moved five feet or five miles. The current out there is pretty swift," McInnis said.

Miller said his crew was sifting through the sonar images taken throughout the day to see if they can narrow the search.

"We were really optimistic Sunday and this morning. Not so much now. We definitely have a difficult task ahead of us," Miller said.

Miller halted the search Monday after rain moved into the area. They were looking in the area where the man believed to be Brian Reed went in on Jan. 7, when he apparently jumped into the river after being confronted by a deputy sheriff.

Karen Reed, the mother of Ed and Brian Reed, said investigators found her son's shoes and jacket. She said the car the man ran from belonged to another brother.

On Monday the search was still centered on the area where he was last seen, about 200 feet downstream and about 50 feet out from the bank, Miller said.

"It's very tough on the edge of the Mississippi River," McInnis said. "There is a lot of debris from the bank out 30, 40 feet. You can't see more than a few feet in there even during daylight."

Boats were also making surface searches of the river up to eight miles downstream, Miller said. He continued to use sonar at the upriver site, and divers were also in the water.

"The conditions are very bad," Miller said. "Divers are finding 100 percent black water, the current is strong, and there are big ships going past steadily."

The river is only 15 feet deep at the original search site, Miller said, but quickly drops off to 30 feet, then 80 feet.

EquuSearch had promised the family it would search for one day, Miller said. Monday was the sixth day of looking.

"We've just been begging for that little bit of luck to go along with everything else," Miller said. "But so far we have not gotten it. At some point you have to say it's time to stop searching."

The St. Charles Parish Sheriff's Office said a deputy spotted a parked car that matched the description of one reported stolen. When the deputy told the man believed to be Brian Reed to put his hands behind his back, he bolted and ran into the river, authorities said.

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

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Sam Shields: Defensive Player of the Week

According To Peter King of CNNSI:

In Green Bay, you can say the same thing about Starks, who's gotten some tough love from McCarthy, and free-agent cornerback Sam Shields, who has been terrific as the season's gone on. Great story, this Shields.

An all-state receiver in high school in Sarasota, Fla., the 5-foot-11, 185-pound Shields went to Miami to play receiver, which he did for three years. Entering his senior season, the Hurricanes had a corner need and moved him to defense. "Never played corner in my life,'' Shields said after the Pack survived and advanced. "But it's what the team wanted, and I thought it might be better for my future.''

When the Pack scouted him after the season, regional scout Brian Gutekunst saw his raw speed and recommended him as a free agent. Sunday, in the biggest game of the year, he played about 70 percent of the snaps.

"Why? Because he's gotten better in a hurry every week,'' defensive coordinator Dom Capers told me afterward. "Plus, every practice he's been in since he's come here, he's made a play. When you make plays like that, you get noticed.''

Maybe the Bears should have noticed him more. Late in the first half, driving at the Green Bay 41, Jay Cutler threw a deep ball up the left side for Johnny Knox; Shields leaped high and snagged it, sending Green Bay into the half with a 14-0 lead. Late in the fourth quarter, down 21-14, Caleb Hanie had the Bears at the Green Bay 29. On fourth-and-five, Hanie threw into double coverage and Shields stole his second ball of the day.

"I'm speechless,'' Shields said meekly, grinning widely.

Shields reminded me of Brown the week before, when I saw him in the Steelers' locker room in Pittsburgh after the win over the Ravens. Giddy, almost. Just happy to be there. Now these college football afterthoughts nearly a year earlier are headed to the Super Bowl as important players. It's a crazy game.

Defensive Players of the Week
Sam Shields, CB, Green Bay.

The rookie corner from the U (University of Miami, for you who don't watch the players introduce themselves during prime-time games) strip-sacked Cutler late in the second quarter, forcing a fumble and a Bear punt; then intercepted Cutler and Hanie in the second and fourth quarters, respectively, to clinch the win. Charles Woodson began the postseason as the most famous and accomplished Packers cornerback, but now here come Tramon Williams and Shields with back-to-back two-interception games to spark playoff wins in Atlanta and Chicago.

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Jeremy Shockey To Participate in The 2011 DRAMBUIE Pursuit

New Orleans Saints Jeremy Shockey will participate in the 2011 DRAMBUIE Pursuit.

DRAMBUIE Pursuit is a legendary, outdoor adventure race across the wild terrain of the Scottish highlands. Shockey, the winner of the first-ever pro football rookie award in 2002 and a two-time pro football champion, is no stranger to rugged and aggressive competition – and looks forward to bringing his skills on the football field to the field of competition in the 2011 DRAMBUIE Pursuit.

Seeking to compile an elite team of fierce athletes and modern-day rebels, Shockey will lead a group through the terrain in the footsteps of the legendary Scottish Prince, Bonnie Prince Charlie.

DRAMBUIE – a unique combination of aged Scotch whiskies, heather honey, and a blend of herbs and spices – was created more than 260 years ago exclusively for Bonnie Prince Charlie. After his attempt at taking over the British throne ended in defeat at The Battle of Culloden in April 1746, he went on the run for his life with a price of 30,000 pounds Sterling on his head – about 15m pounds today – before escaping to France and then exile in Italy. Prince Charles left his loyal subjects the recipe for DRAMBUIE, which remains top-secret to this day.

The DRAMBUIE Pursuit is inspired by his flight across the Scottish Highlands and features a once-in-a-lifetime 100-mile race course consisting of archery, mountain biking, boating, and other outdoor challenges. Teams from around the world will meet up to pay homage to Bonnie Prince Charlie and compete with each other in the epic two-day race. As captain of one of the U.S. teams this year, Shockey is currently seeking applicants to join his rebellious team.

Possessing extraordinary athletic talent and known for his abilities to run routes and make crucial blocks, Shockey is also well-known for his competitive attitude off the field. As a star player in college, Shockey first rose to national attention as a sophomore, receiving numerous honors before becoming an integral part of the 2001 National Championship Miami team. The following year, Shockey was selected 14th in the first round of the 2002 pro football draft. He quickly thrived in the professional arena and, in 2005, Shockey signed a five-year contract, making him the highest paid tight end in the game. Since then, he has gone on to win two championships, has been an all-pro selection four times, and also caught his 500th career reception this year – one of only six tight ends to ever reach that mark.

Jeremy Shockey said “The DRAMBUIE Pursuit is an incredible opportunity to showcase athletic prowess and participate in one of the fiercest competitions in the world. I look forward to putting together an unbeatable team to tackle the Scottish highlands and knock out the competition.”
From white water rafting to archery and mountain climbing, TEAM JEREMY will enjoy the experience as a lifetime as they race in the footsteps of the legendary Scottish Prince in the 2011 DRAMBUIE Pursuit.

Additionally, as part of his participation in the 2011 Pursuit, Jeremy will be making a donation to The Heath Evans Foundation. Founded by Jeremy’s teammate, Heath Evans, the foundation is dedicated to fostering hope and healing in the lives of children and families affected by sexual abuse.

Antonio Pujala, Brand Director for DRAMBUIE said “We are excited to see the level of competitiveness Jeremy will bring to the DRAMBUIE Pursuit, as this is the first time we have enlisted a professional athlete. 2010 has been an exciting year for revitalizing and modernizing the brand, and we look forward to continuing that momentum by enjoying the participation of a star from the NFL in the 2011 DRAMBUIE Pursuit.”

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

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Sam Shields playing like first-round draft pick

There were 52 defensive backs selected in last year’s NFL draft, more than any other unit. Sam Shields wasn’t one of them.

But if there was a draft do-over today, Shields not only would be selected, he might well be a first-round pick. Combine Tramon Williams’ improvement this year with Shields’ meteoric rise from nowhere, and it’s an amazing development.

Shields probably outplayed three of the five corners taken in the first round during the regular season — Houston’s Kareem Jackson, the New York Jets’ Kyle Wilson and New Orleans’ Patrick Robinson — and he has played even better in the postseason. In Sunday’s NFC championship, Shields became only the fifth player since 1982 to intercept two passes and register a sack in a playoff game. One interception was a spectacular play; the other the game-clincher.

A year ago, when the Packers had to play Jarrett Bush as their nickel back in the playoffs, they gave up 51 points and allowed 375 yards passing in a one-and-done showing. In this year’s three games, they gave up a total of 51 points and an average of 213 yards passing.

On the flip side, the Packers were the ones abusing their opponents’ weak links in the secondary: Atlanta’s Chris Owens in the second game and Chicago’s starting left corner Tim Jennings on Sunday.

The Shields Factor
That was another shrewd game plan by Dom Capers: Pulling Charlie Peprah in base and replacing him with Shields. That allowed Charles Woodson to lock up on a tight end or play on the edge. And it took Greg Olsen, the Bears’ tight end, out of the game.

At this point, Woodson probably matches up better on a tight end than a wide receiver. Plus, when he was on the edge, he was taking on lead blockers, and other guys were making the tackle. He had a heck of a game. Shields has virtually become an every-down player. And having two good corners like Williams and Shields allows the Packers to do more one-on-one stuff and blitz more. And they’re less vulnerable when they blitz.

If Capers had to run Bush out there, it’s a different ballgame. Shields gives Capers so much more flexibility. Capers doesn’t have to worry about covering home base first. In other words, he doesn’t have to figure out where the other team’s offense can hurt his defense before installing all his special stuff. If you’re scared of putting a corner in one-on-one coverage, that’s where you have to start in your weekly preparation. You leave that guy on an island, it can be six points.

Obviously, on defense, it all starts with Clay Matthews. But it’s the corners who have allowed Capers the flexibility each week to game plan to take away the other team’s strengths and not worry first about covering up his defense’s shortcomings.

Most teams have one good corner. Having two is a real luxury. And to have three has to be a coach’s wildest dream. Plus, without Shields, Capers wouldn’t have the flexibility to do what he does with Woodson. Against the Bears, Woodson was playing the role that Brandon Chillar played early in the year, and playing it better.

By blitzing Shields, Capers also added another wrinkle to his defense that Pittsburgh is going to have to prepare for. And the beauty is Shields is so fast, he doesn’t have to tip it off that he’s coming. When he shot that window on his sack, he closed ground so quickly, it was startling.

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Kenard Lang: Cutler already 'labeled a quitter'

Jones High School football coach Kenard Lang was watching the NFC Championship Game on Sunday and saw Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler leave with an injured left knee.

He and a former teammate were communicating at the time, and they had the same thought.

"Could you ever imagine Brett Favre doing that?'' Lang said."No.''

Cutler has been a source of controversy since his falling-out with then-Denver Broncos coach Josh McDaniels led to a trade to the Bears after the 2008 season. That controversy has heightened as some NFL players and fans have questioned how hurt Cutler was and whether he could have continued playing with a shot at the Super Bowl at stake.

When Cutler was replaced by Todd Collins in the third quarter, the Bears trailed 14-0. Third-string quarterback Caleb Hanie engineered a comeback, but the Green Bay Packers prevailed for a 21-14 victory.

"You have to be taken off the field on a stretcher to come out of a game like that,'' said Lang, who played 10 NFL seasons with the Redskins (1997-2001), Browns (2002-05) and Broncos (2006). "Once you get a reputation, it sticks with you.''

Cutler said he is scheduled for an MRI on his left knee Monday. Lang said the results may not change how Cutler is viewed by the public.

"The damage is done, MRI on not,'' Lang said. "They've already labeled him as a quitter.''

Lang made two playoff appearances in his career, with the Redskins after the 1999 season and with the Browns in 2002. He never advanced past the divisional round.

Then there is the case of former NFL player Ken Harvey, a friend of Lang's. Harvey played 11 seasons in the NFL and never made the postseason.

"When you get to the playoffs and then to the NFC Championship Game, there is no such thing as an injury,'' Lang said. "You might walk with a limp for the rest of your life, but is it worth it to get to the Super Bowl?


Click here to order Kenard Lang’s proCane Rookie Card.

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The legend of Ray Lewis continues

During his introductory press conference last week, Ravens defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano was asked how much linebacker Ray Lewis has left in the tank. Pagano revealed that during the 2010 season, the 35-year-old linebacker played 1,111 out of a possible 1,116 snaps, which is crazy. "And we chewed him out when he came out for that, for missing five plays," Pagano joked.

Lewis was selected to his 12th Pro Bowl this season after recording a team-high 139 tackles. He had two sacks, two interceptions and forced two fumbles. Lewis also jacked up Saturn.

I've been asked a few times about Lewis potentially retiring, but trust me, it's not happening any time soon. Sports Illustrated's Peter King wrote on Monday that "Ray Lewis is telling friends he definitely wants to return for a 16th year, whenever that may be."

As long as he is still a productive player and has at least two or three of his limbs intact, you can pencil Lewis into the middle of the Baltimore defense. I see Lewis playing out the final year of his three-year contract then signing a shorter deal (or two) to retire with the Ravens. 

That being said, the Ravens need to start looking for a long-term replacement for Lewis, and by replacement, I mean someone to eventually fill his spot on the depth chart because it's highly unlikely they will find someone to fill his Canton-bound cleats. Young linebackers Jameel McClain, Dannell Ellerbe and Tavares Gooden are all complimentary players, so the Ravens need to find an impact player in the next draft or two to man a spot in the middle once Lewis hangs them up.

Now, if that linebacker can go to a dozen Pro Bowls, play 99.6 percent of his snaps at age 35 and carry the organization that way Lewis has -- and blow up a planet, too -- consider this city blessed.

Click here to order Ray Lewis’ proCane Rookie Card.

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Jerry Reese talks about Rolle, Phillips

New York Giants general manager Jerry Reese said he has spoken with Antrel Rolle and Kenny Phillips pertaining to recent comments the two made about Tom Coughlin.

Reese said both safeties did not intend to say anything critical of Coughlin in a recent interview with a Miami radio station.

“Well again, when things go bad and your season doesn’t end like you want it, anything you say can be misconstrued,” Reese said in an interview with YES Network's Kimberly Jones in the upcoming “This Week In Football." “I talked to both of those players. They’re very remorseful about how it was spun. Both said they’re not that kind of people and I believe them, I think they’re both good people.”

While praising the Jets’ playoff run and Rex Ryan’s coaching style, Rolle said Coughlin could loosen up with his coaching style. The safety did go out of his way to say that he and the Giants head coach have a great relationship but he admitted to “not having the fun.”

Phillips, who joined Rolle during the radio interview with Miami’s WQAM, said he still was trying to figure out who Coughlin is outside of his coaching style. He also said that Ryan was the type of coach he and other players would like to play for. Phillips did not intend for his comments to be interpreted as jabs at Coughlin and immediately came out the next day and clarified his remarks.

Rolle, who in his first year with the Giants has been forthcoming in interviews, explained his stance to Reese that he did not mean to criticize Coughlin. Reese said he has spoken to the safety about saying less. Earlier in the season, Rolle questioned the leadership in the locker room and whether the team had too much of a controlled atmosphere.

He later sat down with Coughlin and Rolle was one of several players to defend the head coach at the end of the season when Coughlin’s job status became a hot button topic when the Giants collapsed against the Eagles and were crushed by the Packers with a playoff berth on the line.

“That’s some of the things that he and I talked about,” Reese said of Rolle. “I had a private conversation, but those are some of the things that we talked about… Less is more with the media. Hey, you do more on the field. You leave more on the field. You do your things on the field. You let your plays do the talking… and he said he was 200% in, and I believe him.”

As for his two safeties, Reese said they would likely be talking about something different had they made a few more defensive plays down the stretch. Reese made it clear in his press conference at the end of the season that he was disappointed at times with the amount of “explosive plays on the back end of the defense” allowed last season.

“If we make a couple plays, if Antrel makes a play back there, if Kenny Phillips makes a play back there, we’re not having this conversation,” Reese said. “We’re probably still playing and everybody’s saying, ‘Wow, Tom Coughlin’s got a great formula.’ That’s how it goes. Whoever is winning has the best formula for that year.”

Click here to order Antrel Rolle’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Jemile Weeks Going Camping

The A's have invited 2B prospect Jemile Weeks to spring training as a non-roster invitee. Weeks is considered Oakland's fifth-best prospect, according to Baseball America.

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Aubrey Huff has experienced a more relaxed winter

For Aubrey Huff, the difference between this off-season and last is sort of like the difference between boxers and that red thong for which he became famous last year.

This winter has been much more relaxed.

A year ago, Huff had trouble finding a job. He had been a tough out in the A.L. East for years but was coming off a poor season during which he hit .189 after being traded to the Tigers for the stretch run.

Only one team called, the Giants, and all they offered was a $5 million pay cut for one year. Huff accepted the $3 million deal.

"That was the only option I had," he says. "I don't know if it was a product of being on bad teams my whole career. You see a lot of guys who are good players but seem to be forgotten when they're on teams that never get much publicity or they don't win. I think that had a lot to do with it."
He admits his weak showing in Detroit did, too, but still "it was surprising more teams didn't want to take a shot."

Flash forward a year and Huff's career could not have worked out much better. In 2010, he led the Giants in runs, homers and batting average, won a World Series and re-upped for a guaranteed two years, $22 million.

Along the way, he attracted much attention for his stretch-run fashion statement. The infamous red thong that, if you're wondering, has spent the winter in his closet.

"At the time, winning 20 out of the next 30 would get us to 92 wins, which is usually what you need to make the playoffs," Huff says. "I thought it would be a funny deal to go in there with that and tell the boys, 'This is worth 20-10 and we'll make the playoffs.' We went 19-10 til the last day of the season and we ended up winning. It was kind of a funny deal."

Though he does not plan to don the thong in 2011, he still expects the good times to continue.

"I seriously hated baseball for the four years before San Francisco the way my career had gone," he says. "It definitely was a blessing to be able to go there. I wanted to go back. The Giants wanted me back. I've fallen in love with that city. And it was definitely a sigh of relief to get (the contract) done early."

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Danny Valencia wins praise at Twins Caravan

SIOUX CITY – Minnesota's Twins might again finally have a top-notch third baseman.

At least that's what longtime Twins radio announcer Dan Gladden, a former two-time World Series winner, believes.

Danny Valencia, who was in Sioux City Monday morning on the Twins Caravan, hit .311 and knocked in 40 RBIs in just 85 games for the Twins last season after being called up from the minors in June.

“I got called up for four days and it turned into four months,” said Valencia.

Gladden noted that Valencia was third in the American League Rookie of the Year voting and appears to be the strong third baseman the Twins have been looking for since the hard-hitting Corey Koskie left the team in 2004.

Valencia, the former University of Miami standout from Boca Raton, Fla., was drafted by the Twins in 2006. He said last season was “the best summer of my life.”

And, Valencia hopes for more ahead. He thinks the Twins again are the “team to beat” in the Central Division.

As far as beating the Yankees, who have eliminated the Twins in the playoffs the last two years, both Valencia and fellow infielder Matt Tolbert, who was also on the Caravan, said they can't pinpoint why the Yankees seem to have their number.

But maybe the Twins are ready to make another run as they are happy to retain veteran designated hitter Jim Thome, starting ace Carl Pavano, all-star reliever Joe Nathan and all-star first baseman Justin Morneau this season.

Thome and Pavano signed contracts last week, while Nathan is coming back from Tommy John surgery and Morneau is returning from a concussion.

“Nathan was really ready to play late last season,” said Gladden. “I think he's in better shape than he has been normally. And we learned a lot from (Francisco) Liriano, who also had Tommy John surgery.”

Morneau, meanwhile, has been working out in Arizona, Gladden said, and he is ready to get to spring training and see how things go there.

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Gale Sayers: Devin Hester’s not as good as me

The Chicago Bears may have had the two best kick returners in NFL history in Gale Sayers and Devin Hester.

Sayers would endorse that comment, as long as you name them in that order.

In an appearance on ESPN’s Mike and Mike in the Morning, Sayers was asked whether he or Hester was more dangerous with the ball in his hands. Sayers chose himself.

“It has to be me,” Sayers said. “I ran from the line of scrimmage also. Remember that. I ran from the line of scrimmage.”

Sayers has a point there: He led the NFL in rushing in 1966 and 1969, and he led the league in yards per carry and yards per game in 1968, although he didn’t win the rushing title because he missed five games. Hester has never been nearly that kind of offensive threat.

But as a pure returner? Well, Sayers is the only player in NFL history to average more than 30 yards a kickoff return in his career, and he seems to think he tops Hester there, too.

“I ran back punt returns and kickoff returns and I played a pretty good game,” Sayers said.

But Sayers made clear that he’s not knocking Hester.

“Devin is a super young man,” Sayers said. “He’s done a great job running back punts and kickoffs. I would not kick to him. I would find some kind of way to kick down the sideline because if he gets his hands on the ball he is so quick and so fast. . . . I think they will kick away from him.”
Even if Hester is only the second-best return man in Bears history.

Click here to order Devin Hester’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Undrafted Rookie Sam Shields was Hero of the Game

Throughout the playoffs it was the studious Tramon Williams coming up with huge picks against the opponents, but in the NFC Championship it was rookie Sam Shields -- not once but twice.

With Chicago driving at the end of the game, trying to, at the least, tie the game up, on a fourth-down pass Shields came down with the pick yards away from the end zone to seal the Packers' victory.

"I just played my responsibility got my head around the ball, and I attacked the ball just like a receiver do and, you know, interception!" Shields said humbly when we caught up with him in the locker room.

He also had a big interception to stop a Chicago drive cold just before halftime.

Did he ever imagine, as an undrafted free agent, to have a major play in the NFC Championship game his rookie year?"Never thought this. Been a receiver all my life, then coming to the Green Bay Packers and being a corner, making plays, it was a dream come true."

Tramon Williams made himself a household name -- at least among opponents. Now it's Shields's turn in the limelight.

"I take it as being patient. The plays don't come, and that's something I continue to do. His plays came, some other guys' plays came, I guess my play came tonight. It's just being patient, that's it."

And patience does pay off. Shields had two interceptions all season long. He matched that Sunday in a big game.

He played receiver all throughout college, made that switch just before his senior year at Miami. He's come in and made an impact.
Now the Packers are going to the Super Bowl.

"I don't think it hit me yet," Shields said, "but probably I'll get on that plane, get back home, it's going to hit me. Right now it feels exciting. The guys around me, everybody's excited."

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Body of Ed Reed's brother possibly found

The body of the missing brother of Baltimore Ravens safety Ed Reed was believed to have been found Sunday in the Mississippi River in Kenner, La., according to police.

Kenner police said a body suspected to be that of 29-year-old Brian Reed was discovered by volunteer searchers about 3:45pm — but when a diver went to recover it, the body could not be found and the search was suspended for the night.

According to The Times-Picayune, the body was found about one mile (1.6km) from where Brian Reed jumped in on January 6 as he attempted to flee from police over an alleged stolen vehicle.

Police called off the search on January 9, but on Wednesday the Reed family brought in volunteer outfit Texas Equusearch. Using sonar and divers, it was able to locate a body in about 15 feet (4.5m) of water, 25 to 30 feet (7.6-9m) offshore.

"We just want some closure at this point," Brian Reed's sister-in-law, Javona Sanchez, said. "We wanted him back regardless."

Ed Reed, 32, who has played in seven Pro Bowls as a star safety for the Baltimore Ravens, was at the scene but declined to comment.

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

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Greg Olsen ignored by Cutler again

Greg Olsen caught three passes for 30 yards in Chicago's NFC Championship Game loss to the Packers.

After busting out in the Divisional Round, Olsen faded back into his usual background role. He had no catches until Caleb Hanie came in and got the offense going late in the third quarter. Olsen did not express displeasure with his meager usage throughout the season, but did reportedly ask for a trade before the year. If tight end unfriendly coordinator Mike Martz is back, we wouldn't be surprised to see Olsen raise a stink again. He won't be a free agent until 2012.

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

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Ravens to talk with Ray Lewis about PED report

The Ravens plan to speak with Ray Lewis about his inclusion in a Wednesday report detailing his association with a company that provides "alternative PEDs."

Said GM Ozzie Newsome, "Ray is one person that I think that we all can talk to, and he’ll explain any and everything to us about what he’s doing [and] why he’s doing it. So, if need be, we’ll have that conversation." In short, multiple players including Lewis supposedly took illegal PEDs that could not be detected under the league's current testing. The team is clearly aware of the ongoing situation, though at this time it's hard to speculate just how seriously they will take the implications.

Click here to order Ray Lewis’ proCane Rookie Card.

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Antrel Rolle must fall in line

The Giants were not happy to hear the borderline comments made by FS Antrel Rolle about head coach Tom Coughlin, even if they were not incendiary. "Honestly, I'm not having the fun I'm used to having," Rolle said after the season. "When you're talking about the coaching side of things, do I feel like things are a little too uptight? Yeah, I do." Rolle then went on to praise Jets head coach Rex Ryan and was joined in near chorus by fellow secondary member, Kenny Phillips. Although Rolle had a good season and the Giants want to continue with him as their starting safety, they were disappointed that Rolle would step outside what they believe to be their inner sanctum with comments to the media. The Giants feel they are extremely close to something special heading into the offseason, coming off a 10-win year with a talented roster, and the last thing they need is for players such as Rolle and Phillips stepping outside Coughlin's design for a tightly knit unit where coaches are not questioned publicly.

Click here to order Antrel Rolle’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Ravens haven’t spoken to Ray Lewis about banned substance report

OWINGS MILLS, Md.—With All-Pro middle linebacker Ray Lewis(notes) along with former Ravens assistant coach Hue Jackson linked to a product called "The Ultimate Spray" that contained a banned substance, general manager Ozzie Newsome defended the NFL drug-testing program.

“No. 1, I think we probably, in professional sports, have the best testing of all the four major sports,” Newsome said. “ Our testing for performance enhancers goes year-round [and] they’re random. So, if there’s anything that any of our players are taking, then they will be found out about because they will test positive for it, and there would be a suspension.

“That being said, if there is a product that he’s taking, and he’s passing the tests, then I can’t explain that one. That’s up to our league and the testing that we go through. Now, Ray is one person that I think that we all can talk to, and he’ll explain any and everything to us about what he’s doing, why he’s doing it. So, if need be, we’ll have that conversation. But I trust, and I know because five times a week I walk into this building and people are here to test our guys, that nobody is getting away with anything.”

Lewis, Cincinnati Bengals safety Roy Williams, New York Jets running backs coach Anthony Lynn and Cincinnati Bengals tight ends coach Jay Hayes were all linked to the spray in a report by PostGame.com.

And Jackson was ordered by the NFL to end his promotional relationship with the supplement company selling the spray.

“I’m no longer affiliated with this company,” Jackson told the Associated Press. “I don’t even know about a banned substance.”

Per the report, the spray contains IGF-1, a banned substance.

The owner of the supplement company, Mitch Ross, said he has sent over 25 bottles of the spray to Lewis.

He showed text messages and receipts from Lewis, according to the report.

“I use the spray all the time,” Williams said. “Two to three times a day. My body felt good after using it. I did feel a difference.”

St. Louis Rams linebacker David Vobora(notes) sued the company when he was suspended by the league for a positive steroid test, claiming the spray triggered the failed test.

“I didn’t know [IGF-1] was on there,” Williams said. “I’ve never failed a drug test. I don’t want to be associated with something that is banned.”

Ross told the website that he gave the spray to Jackson, Lewis, Hayes and Lynn.

“In April of '08 I gave various alternatives to steroids, including spray, to Hue Jackson at the Ravens’ training camp,” Ross said. “I also gave the spray to Jay Hayes of the Bengals and Anthony Lynn of the Jets. I want to prove that my protocol reverses the aging process on aging athletes and promotes the healing of injuries in a legal manner.”

Added NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy: "We have a long-standing policy that prohibits coaches from any relationship with a supplement company. Coach Jackson is now in compliance.”

Hayes denied giving the spray to players.

"I did not dispense the spray to players at all. Mitch gave me a sample," he said. "I still have it. I know Mitch, but I am in no way affiliated with S.W.A.T.S.”

Ray Lewis didn't comment for the story.

There was a text message allegedly from Lewis, saying, "Yes, send me all the stuff."

Lewis and Williams haven't failed drug tests, though.

The NFL doesn’t test for human growth hormone, which can only be detected through blood tests. The NFL, in conjunction with the NFL Players Association, only uses urine tests.

“I’ve read the report, but we haven’t had a chance to really follow up and see what’s behind it,” team president Dick Cass. “We’ll obviously look into it. It’s really hard to comment when we haven’t really talked to Ray and really don’t know the facts yet.”

Click here to order Ray Lewis’ proCane Rookie Card.

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What Went Right: Roscoe Parrish

When it came to the 2009 NFL season, the only drama surrounding Roscoe Parrish each week would be waiting to see if his tenure in Buffalo would officially come to an end via a pink slip.  After all, unofficially it already pretty much over.

Parrish was inactive for four games in 2009 and hardly mattered when he did get to suit up.  In fact at times Parrish would be listed active only as the team’s emergency third quarterback. For the entire season Parrish had three receptions for a whopping 34 yards. Once one of the premier punt returners in football, Parrish was a disaster there as well.   He had a mind-blowing five fumbles last season, including two in one game, both lost against Cleveland as the Browns dealt the Bills an embarrassing 6-3 loss.

Naturally, it led to Parrish’s benching and endless speculation that then-head coach Dick Jauron was getting ready to drop the hammer on his uninspiring Buffalo career.

Certainly this wasn’t what Tom Donahoe envisioned when he plucked the University of Miami product in the second round of the 2005 draft with the first pick the Bills had.  Parrish entered the league with the expectations of being one of the game’s most dangerous return men (he has been at times) as well as a game-changing receiver capable of generating six points on the board any time he touched the ball.
It didn’t exactly work out that way.

Parrish only caught 15 passes his rookie season and hauled in 23 his second year.  In his third season with the club he finally got more chances to exhibit big play potential; catching 35 passes for 352 yards while averaging 16.3 yards per punt return with a touchdown.  Unfortunately the receiving numbers would go on to be his career-best.

That is, until 2010.

The hiring of Chan Gailey as the Bills head coach unquestionably shot energy through the body of Parrish, who was disgruntled about his lack of playing time under Jauron’s watch but seldom involved himself in public lamenting.

One of the first things Gailey discussed when taking over the job was his aspiration to find better ways to utilize Parrish.  It sounded like a broken record to Bills fans, who heard similar sentiments echoed by Jauron time and time again.

Only this time, Gailey was resolute in his words.

From day one of training camp it was noticeable Parrish would be afforded every opportunity to substantiate his worth to the new coaching staff… he did that and then some.

When the season opened with a home game against Miami, Trent Edwards was the starting quarterback.  As we all know by now, it also became the foundation for the end of the Edwards era.  He did nothing right that game with the exception of one play.  Facing fourth and 11 in Dolphins territory in the fourth quarter, Edwards dropped back and hit a streaking Parrish over the middle for a 31-yard touchdown strike.  It was the Bills lone touchdown score of the afternoon.

After another uneventful performance the following week in Green Bay by Edwards in which Parrish caught two passes for 34 yards, Edwards’ journey as the starting quarterback became officially defunct.

Ironically, it took only two weeks for Parrish to surpass his entire 2009 offensive output.

Ryan Fitzpatrick took over the offense in week three at New England and by no coincidence the offense started to gel.  It was also no accident that Parrish took his play to another level.  In the 38-30 loss Parrish was one of the best players on the field; catching five passes for 83 yards as he caught a pass for at least 21 yards for the third straight game. It was also the most yards he had in a game since 2006 when having 104 yards against the New York Jets.

Parrish had four receptions for 58 yards two weeks later against Jacksonville and following the Bills bye had a career-best eight catches for 57 yards at Baltimore.

Two weeks later Parrish was having arguably his finest game of the season before one play brought everything to a screeching halt.  By the time the fourth quarter came Parrish already had seven catches for 60 yards and a touchdown as the Bills struggled overall offensively.  Fitzpatrick put up a pass near the right sideline in Bears territory that Parrish leaped for.  He couldn’t come down with the high pass inbounds and on the way down, fell awkwardly on his wrist and broke it.

Just like that, his storybook comeback crusade was over.

At the time of the injury, which amounted to exactly a half season of play for Parrish, he had far exceeded his best single-season receiving numbers. He finished with 33 receptions for 400 yards and a pair of touchdowns.  For those mathematically challenged, Parrish was on pace for over 65 receptions and 800 yards.  Those are outstanding numbers for any team’s third wide receiver.

He was also back to being a threat in the punt return game.  Three of his 12 returns went for at least 20 yards and he was averaging 10.9 per attempt.

While Parrish deserves the credit for turning his career around through all the hard work put in, he’s quick to deflect praise towards the head coach who gave him the opening to illustrate his skills.

“If you take this in a way that we had a defensive-minded guy as our head coach for four years here,” Parrish said.  ”Now, you’ve got an offensive-minded guy as our head coach. So, he’s able to see talent even more from the previous coaches that we’ve had. He was more of a prototype guy who every position on offense had to be six [foot] one to play receiver and a certain size to play running back. With [Chan Gailey] it doesn’t matter. If you prove yourself that you can do it and know your job and your assignment you’ll get your opportunity.”
Despite what could be measured as magical compared to previous struggles in Buffalo, Parrish will have to prove himself all over again.  Stevie Johnson and barring a trade, Lee Evans are established as the Bills starters at wide receiver.  David Nelson had a lot of success as a rookie and both Donald Jones and Naaman Roosevelt proved they’re capable of breathing down anyone’s neck for a roster spot.  Plus, the team invested a fourth-round pick last year in Marcus Easley, who missed the entire season with a knee injury. He’s sure to get a long look from Gailey this summer.  To summarize, it’s a congested position and most will have little room for error.

Gailey confirmed his confidence in Parrish during a press conference immediately following the season, saying he expects the same from Parrish as he got in 2010.

“I expect him to be back 100-percent and picking up right where he left off,” Gailey said.  ”That’s what I expect.”

In fact, it’s guys like Parrish that get Gailey keyed up about the offensive potential as a whole.

“To be honest with you, I’m looking forward to it very much so,” Gailey said. “And I think our offensive line is going to be a lot better next year. I think that we’re going to be able to do better things with C.J. Spiller next year. I’m really looking forward to what I think our offense can be this coming year. If we can have a good offseason and get everybody working together, I’m looking forward to it.”

Click here to order Roscoe Parrish’s proCane Rookie Card.

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