Check Out Our Full proCane Pro Bowl History

Did you know that a proCane has gone to the Pro Bowl every season but one (1984) since 1959? Ever wonder what proCane went to the Pro Bowl in 1975, or 1983? Click on the link below and we've go the entire proCane Pro Bowl History in one PDF.

Click Here To See the Entire proCanes ProBowl History





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McKinnie: I'm too injured for Pro Bowl

Vikings left tackle Bryant McKinnie has gone into damage-control mode after being kicked off the NFC Pro Bowl squad.

"Had to withdraw from Pro Bowl!" McKinnie tweeted Saturday afternoon.  "I've been playing thru pain the last month and need time 2 let my body heal."

This begs the question: Why did he accept the invitation in the first place? Plenty of McKinnie's banged-up teammates declined the opportunity to go to Miami.

"Been having some problems with my feet and ankle and I gotta give it a break," McKinnie replied minutes later to a question on Twitter.  "I had a long season + my body is hurting."

Perhaps most interestingly, McKinnie then gets into it with Willis McGahee on Twitter.  McGahee, his former college teammate, tweeted to McKinnie that his explanation was "b*ll sh*t."

We don't doubt that McKinnie is sore after an 18-game season.  But he is obviously not sore enough to stop clubbing, and clearly did not inform Pro Bowl coaches that he was injured.  Mark Craig of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports that McKinnie did not withdraw from the Pro Bowl on his own.  He was dismissed.  So McKinnie isn't too banged up to lie, either.

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


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(startribune.com)
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Ed Reed to miss Pro Bowl

OWINGS MILLS — Baltimore Ravens free safety Ed Reed has withdrawn from the Pro Bowl due to lingering injuries from this past season.

Reed dealt with hip and groin problems as well as his chronic nerve impingement issue in his neck and shoulder.

In an emotional state following the Ravens’ AFC divisional round loss to the Indianapolis Colts, Reed said that he’s “50-50” on whether he’ll retire. However, teammates and coach John Harbaugh expect Reed to play football again this fall.

With Reed out of the game, as well as Indianapolis Colts safety Antoine Bethea and Buffalo Bills safety Jairus Byrd, the AFC squad’s safeties are the New England Patriots’ Brandon Meriweather, the Denver Broncos’ Brian Dawkins and the Miami Dolphins’ Yeremiah Bell.

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


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(carrollcountytimes.com)
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Panthers' Beason headed to Pro Bowl Makes it 11 proCanes

Panthers middle linebacker Jon Beason expressed "anger as well as disappointment" earlier this month when he was informed he wouldn't make his second straight Pro Bowl.

On Friday, Beason got his wish.

He is headed to Miami, replacing 49ers inside linebacker Patrick Willis (knee).   Beason was a second-team All Pro in 2009, finishing fourth in the NFL in tackles behind only Willis, London Fletcher, and Barrett Ruud.

The Panthers ranked 22nd in regular season run defense, but Beason is the primary reason they didn't finish in the bottom five after losing nose tackle Ma'ake Kemoeatu to a season-ending torn right Achilles' tendon in training camp.  Without his wide-bodied shield, Beason had to take on more blockers than usual.  

Beason also set career highs with three sacks and two fumble recoveries, adding three interceptions.  He has yet to miss a game in three years as a professional.

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


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(profootballtalk.com)
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McKinnie Named To ESPN's Decade's Best in College Football

7. Bryant McKinnie, Miami McKinnie played only two seasons at Miami (Fla.) after transferring from a junior college. But McKinnie made a lasting impression at one of the sport's most underrated positions. The 6-foot-9, 330-pound left tackle never allowed a sack during his two-year college career. As a senior, he helped the Hurricanes win the 2001 national championship, beating Nebraska 37-14 in the 2002 Rose Bowl. McKinnie won the 2001 Outland Trophy as the country's best interior lineman and finished eighth in Heisman Trophy voting. (He even received 26 first-place votes.)

To see the rest of the list click here.

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


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(espn.com)
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Jimmy Graham Rising

TE Jimmy Graham, Miami: The Hurricanes' established history of churning out tight ends is in good hands with Graham, the ex-basketball player who returned to the gridiron for only one season. Graham won't wow you with his pop as a blocker, but he's remarkably smooth running routes and adjusting to poorly thrown passes for a man of his size (6-6, 260) and experience (one season with the Hurricanes).

Graham looked a lot more explosive off the snap than I initially thought and did a nice job all day slipping the bump off the line and cleanly getting into his routes. He’s a tight end who can also get up to speed quickly and was able to generate some vertical separation down the field. He still struggles when asked to adjust to the ball, but he’s a really intriguing prospect with a lot of upside and looks to be improving every time he sets foot on the field.


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(cbssports.com)
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Photos of the Week - Sinorice Moss Sports Authority Ads from 1999 & 2000

Check out these old Sports Authority ads featuring Sinorice Moss from 1999 & 2000. Moss tweeted these photos this week. We decided that they defenitely qualify as our photos of the week!



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Ailing Knee or Not, Jeremy Shockey Intends to Play

For the second time in three seasons, tight end Jeremy Shockey’s team is in the Super Bowl. But this time he hopes to play, after sitting out because of an injury when the Giants beat the Patriots after the 2007 season.

Shockey is still dealing with right knee soreness that limited him in New Orleans’s two playoff games — and kept him out of practice Thursday.
He injured his right knee in the Saints’ first playoff victory, against Arizona, but he said he would be ready on Feb. 7.

“The last two games you guys have seen me play, it wasn’t really me,” Shockey said. “I was out there on one leg. It felt like being on a pogo stick. This week I’ll have two pogo sticks instead of one.”

Earlier this week, Shockey flew to Birmingham, Ala., to get a second opinion from Dr. James Andrews, an orthopedic surgeon, on what Coach Sean Payton described as “more of a bruise.”

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


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(nytimes.com)
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Antrel Rolle due $12.1M total in 2010

Due an $8.1 million salary in addition to a $4 million roster bonus, Antrel Rolle's status with the Cardinals is up in the air this offseason.

Rolle has said he won't take a paycut, but there's no chance the Cardinals will pay him $12 million this season. Rashad Johnson isn't ready to take over at free safety, so the sides will have to work out a long-term deal or renegotiate Rolle's 2010 salary.

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


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(rotoworld.com)
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Ray Lewis: Ed Reed 'can't leave me'

In his 50th appearance at the Pro Bowl (at least that’s how many times Deion Sanders said his friend, “Sugar,” has been selected for the honor), linebacker Ray Lewis publicly expressed how he feels about Ed Reed’s impending 50-50 retirement decision.

And Lewis’ answer didn’t include the typical, “he needs to do what’s best for him” line either. Nope. The vocal defensive leader was clear – he wants Reed by his side, until the end.

“For me personally, Ed can’t leave me … you know that,” Lewis told “Prime” in this NFL Network video.

“We shouldn’t quit. We got to ride this thing out.

“Going through the emotions, the ups and downs of the season, bottom line, you go through all types of crazy emotions, but I think once he settles in, Ed is who he is.”

Reed was not present to share his own feelings about retirement and another year of playing alongside No. 52. The former NFL Defensive Player of the Year excused himself from the Pro Bowl because of the many injuries he sustained throughout the 2009 season.

“Ed fought a lot this year – a lot of different injuries,” Lewis explained. “You have to tip your hat to him because he just kept fighting, kept fighting, kept fighting. So the bottom line is, if you can get healthy, get healthy.”

Colts safety Antoine Bethea replaced the injured Reed on the AFC Pro Bowl roster, but Bethea (busy with the Super Bowl) was subsequently replaced by Dolphins safety Yeremiah Bell.

(Oh, and by the way… the Pro Bowl in South Florida really marks Lewis’ 10th appearance.)

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


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(baltimoreravens.com)
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Jimmy Graham's gamble paying off

MOBILE -- Jimmy Graham's decision to quit basketball last year and take a chance on football is beginning to look like sound judgment.

Few NFL prospects competing in the Senior Bowl this Saturday have potentially more to gain with a strong performance than Graham, the 6-7, 258-pound tight end who played just one season for coach Randy Shannon and the Miami Hurricanes. Graham already has met with representatives from nearly every NFL team this week and his draft stock appears to be rising after each practice at Mobile's Ladd-Peebles Stadium.

``I like what I've seen out of him,'' Miami Dolphins coach Tony Sparano said. ``He's a good prospect, without a doubt. This will be a great experience for him this week.''

Sparano and the Dolphins' coaching staff are instructing the Senior Bowl's South team, which includes Graham and former Hurricanes inside linebacker Darryl Sharpton. Kickoff is 4 p.m. Saturday on NFL Network.

Former Florida quarterback Tim Tebow is the fan favorite in Mobile, but lesser-known players such as Graham have received plenty of attention from NFL scouts, coaches and executives this week. Graham is currently being projected as a mid-round selection for April's NFL Draft.

``I feel like I've got my best years ahead of me and I've just kind of scratched the surface and just learning things,'' Graham said. ``I accomplished a little bit this year but hopefully I'll have an opportunity to accomplish a lot more at the next level. I want to play football for the next 15 years.''

GREAT POTENTIAL
Graham said on Wednesday that he has a one-on-one interview scheduled later this week with Dolphins' general manager Jeff Ireland.
Graham's potential and athleticism are obvious. The former Hurricanes basketball player has the pass-catching skills that every team in the NFL craves. He is the tallest player in the Senior Bowl and is beginning to draw comparisons to NFL tight ends Antonio Gates and Tony Gonzalez.

``I've been told I've got great hands and can get vertical and catch touchdowns,'' Graham said. ``I've been pretty busy the last couple days. Kind of coming from nowhere, people have a lot of questions.''

Graham has already met with a few general managers this week. He described the interviews as ``serious business'' but good experiences for the upcoming NFL Combine, when everything about Graham's personality will be scrutinized and analyzed. The one question everyone asked Graham this week: Why did you quit basketball?

``I tell them [football] was my first love and I turned down six figures overseas to play basketball,'' Graham said. ``I did that because I didn't want to go through the rest of my life saying what if. The `what if' turned into an `I can' and it's been a great experience.''

RISK BECOMES REWARD
Graham last played organized football as a freshman in high school before suiting up for the Hurricanes in 2009. As an underclassman, Miami's football players joked that Graham likely would have been a better football player than basketball player if the North Carolina native had grown up in South Florida.

The running joke turned serious when Graham sacrificed an opportunity to play professional basketball to play football. He added muscle to his frame, learned a few blocking techniques and became one of the Miami's top targets in the red zone. He finished 2009 with five touchdown receptions.

``I've been playing this game six months and I'm here,'' Graham said of his invitation to the Senior Bowl. ``I believe I had a great season. I caught five touchdowns and the first time I put on pads was in August.''

Graham signed with sports agent Jimmy Sexton after the season and trained with Tebow in Nashville for two weeks before flying to Mobile for the Senior Bowl. Tebow and Graham have forged a friendship over the past month. Florida's former quarterback is quick to gush about Graham's football potential.

``I think he's a very talented player with a very big upside,'' Tebow said. ``I think his football ability is just going to keep increasing. He's someone that can fill out and keep getting stronger.

``He's very athletic. He's like 6-7 with a 39-inch vertical leap. When he keeps practicing, he's just going to keep getting better and better and he's going to be a good NFL tight end.''


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(miamiherald.com)
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Sharpton impresses Tony Sparano

Count Miami Dolphins/South team coach Tony Sparano among those impressed with Miami Hurricanes inside linebacker Darryl Sharpton.

Sharpton may be undersized at a shade below 6 foot and 229 pounds, but he's a playmaker who fits the Dolphins' motto of finding guys that are tough, smart and disciplined. He does not, however, fit their size template for the position. 

"He's had a really good week, he really has," Sparano said here Thursday night at the Senior Bowl. "I’ve been really impressed with him. He flies all over the place, plays with a lot of energy, makes tackles. I think he shows great range in there. Pretty physical guy. Liked him in the pass rush stuff. Did a good job that way. Very well coached. Randy [Shannon] has done a tremendous job with him."

That's the second time this week that Sparano has gone out of his way to praise Shannon and his coaching staff. The Dolphins, like many teams, draft programs almost as much as individual players, so that's more than hometown loyalty talking. 

As for Sharpton, he made a good point to Shandel Richardson over on his UM blog, telling him to look at the Colts linebacker corps, who are mostly in his height range. Sharpton also told Shandel he plans to get into the 242-pound range by the Combine a month from now. 

"The week’s gone good for me," Sharpton told me. "I felt like I displayed my power this week and displayed my strengths. I felt like I had some good practices and I represented properly."

Easing his adjustment, he said, was the fact there was a "lot of carryover form the college level" for him. 

"It’s just different terminologies," he said. "What we call our base front [at UM], they call something different. It’s just like translating from one language to another. I think I’m fluent in both languages now."

The installation of the Dolphins' Senior Bowl 4-3 -- which is mandatory because it's an all-star game -- started on Sunday, and it didn't take Sharpton long to get the hang of it. 

"Once they explained it, I found a way just to acclimate myself with it and I was able to be effective in this new defense," he said. "I’ve met with some teams that run a 3-4. They tell me where I’d fit in and explain that scheme to me. 

"At the end of the day, football is football.  A linebacker needs to come downhill and be physical. No matter what type of defense you run, physically you’re going to have to execute a lot of the same stuff. I know how I’d fit into the 3-4."

As for where Sharpton might go in the draft, Todd McShay of ESPN pegged him as a third-rounder "at best," but added that Sharpton "improved his stock" this week. 

"I'd like to see him get a little bit bigger," McShay said on a national conference call Thursday. "But he gets through traffic and he always seems to be around the ball. Every drill I watched, he was always the first one to react, the first one to sniff it out. I was impressed with how instinctive he is and how quickly he can play the game."

McShay, like Sparano, praised Sharpton's pass-rush ability, and said, "even through he's a little bit raw, he's very instinctive and understands how to get off blocks. He shows a good closing burst."

For a team looking for help at both inside and outside linebacker, spending a third- or fourth-round pick on a playmaker like Sharpton seems to make sense. Agreed? Or do you have real concerns about his lack of overwhelming size? 


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(omar kelly - sun-sentinel.com)
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Jimmy Johnson Q&A

I had coaching great Jimmy Johnson on the show Wednesday. Man is he a great interview. Anyway, here's a transcript of the key questions I asked him.

Q: How well do you know new Dolphins defensive coordinator Mike Nolan and should Dolphins fans be happy with him?
A: "I've got tremendous respect for Mike Nolan. I've known him for a long time. I think he's done a quality job every place he's been. I think he's really, really going to help the Dolphins."

Q: What is your take on high-maintenance NFL receivers like Brandon Marshall? Do you take a chance on a guy that's a good player on Sunday but he's a pain in the ass?
A: "It's got to concern you. Jerry Jones and I had this conversation at the Super Bowl last year because he was aking me whether or not to keep Terrell Owens. It depends a lot on your head coach. These receivers that come in with a lot of baggage . . . what that does is it takes away from your head coach's time because you're continually putting out fires. That's part of the job and as a head coach you've got to do that. But there's only so much you can put up with. You have to weigh everything and say, 'Is he that good that it's worth it?' Obviously, everybody wants to have Andre Johnson. He's the best in the league as a player and as a person. But there's not that many Andre Johnsons out there. There's a lot of Braylon Edwards, Terrell Owens and Ochocincos."

Q: What kind of a year do you think Randy Shannon had with the Hurricanes?
A: "Randy Shannon had a really good year. When you consider all the injuries they had and how young the team was . . . I thought he had a good year. Now, you'd like the team to finish on a winning note against Wisconsin. But I think they'll be much better next year."

Q: With National Signing Day less than a week away, are all those recruiting lists overrated as far as where UM ranks?
A: "I think Randy and his staff have zeroed in on what they need to improve as a team. Look at some of the great classes that we had. Jimmie Jones did not have a single offer. Russell Maryland had one offfer. Rob Chudzinski . . . Villanova was the only offer. So we took a lot of players that we wanted, but weren't highly recruited. I think Randy is doing the same thing. He has proven in the last few years that he knows talent and he knows how to recruit."

Q: Were you happy with the way "The U" documentary came out?
A: "I liked a lot of things about it. I was disappointed they didn't emphasize the graduation rate as much as what they should have. When I went to Miami the graduation rate was 33 percent. When I left it was 88 percent. They graduated everybody last year. They talked a lot about us taking guys from the inner-city. But it was almost like, 'We took them from the inner-city, and we went out there and beat everybody, but then left it hanging after that.' Those guys got their degrees, and that's something I'm very proud of. So I was disappointed in that.
"Michael Strahan told me he loved it. He said he watched five minutes of "The U" and said, 'Man, I wish I would have played for you.' He said it looked like y'all had a ball. . . . Some of the stuff was funny. I know it was controversial and I wasn't there when it happened, but when Miami played Texas and Randall Hill coming down that ramp shooting those guns -- I was cracking up."

Q: Who do you like in the Super Bowl?
"I like the Colts because they have Peyton Manning and are consistent on defense. The Saints are going to have a problem because they have lived by the blitz. I just ddon't think that you can blitz Peyton Manning because he'll catch up with you. You may hurry him, but eventually he's going to make big plays on you. And the Saints have had so many holes in their defense."


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(sun-sentinel.com)
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Darryl Sharpton disproving skeptics

The biggest knock on former UM linebacker Darryl Sharpton has been size.

At 229 pounds, many have said he's too light to play in the NFL. So far, he's proved them wrong at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala. Sharpton has impressed with some big hits this week.

Here's what Matt Miller of New Era Scouting had to say about Sharpton: "...He is fighting an uphill battle because of his lack of size, but he plays a lot bigger than he is."

Sharpton said he feels he's done enough to impress scouts, possibly improving his stock.

"All in all, I've been physically dominating, blowing up blockers and making plays," Sharpton said. "I feel like I'm really putting my strengths on display here in Alabama and scouts have taken notice. I've been doing well."

Sharpton, who skipped the East-West Shrine Game in Orlando, said he arrived in Mobile lighter because his trainer had him shed weight. He isn't concerned with the critics and expects to play at around 242 pounds at the next level.

"I've really displayed my power here," Sharpton said. "Look at the Colts linebacking corps, only one linebacker is over 6-foot tall. What does that mean? Really, look at the roster."

In all, Sharpton has enjoyed the experience. He's bonded with the likes of USC safety Taylor Mays, Alabama defensive tackle Terrance Codyand Alabama cornerback Javier Arenas.

"Been hanging with these guys all week, learned a lot about them," Sharpton said. "You know guys you watch on Saturdays before or after your games, and being in the same huddle all together is cool."


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(shandel richardson - sun-sentinel.com)
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Vince Wilfork, time to hold out

I’m Vince Wilfork [stats]. I saddled myself with a ridiculous six-year rookie deal, but I took my medicine. I did the right thing: I played it out, I played for my team, I played for my teammates, I played through injury. I honored the contract like I said I would, and now I’m in Miami preparing for my second Pro Bowl.

And I didn’t just slide in the backdoor because a bunch of people dropped out. I earned this, just like the last time. I’ve said and done all of the right things. There were no holdouts. I may have missed some optional team activities, but that was just so they knew I wasn’t a robot and wouldn’t be down the road.

I don’t know if it’s bad business to sign me to a long-term deal with all this labor strife and uncertainty going on, but that’s what I want, that’s what I feel I deserve, and that’s what I feel they should deliver.

I’ve been productive, I’m effective at the nose in a 3-4 scheme, and this year, I moved to wherever I was needed. Aren’t you supposed to get compensated for doing what you’re told, and having success?

I’m a big boy. I understand the Pats have all the leverage in this proceeding, but I’ve done everything they’ve asked, and more. They haven’t reciprocated.

I’m a family man, and as I’ve stated repeatedly, they come first. This is a violent game. I should get a long-term deal, and if I can’t get it here, I should be able to seek it somewhere else.

Why is that too much to ask?

There really haven’t been any substantive talks. I’m not hearing anything about a deal. All I’m hearing are whispers about a franchise tag. For me, that would stink for a lot of reasons. While it’s a lot of money, you only get one kick at the can in this business, and this is my shot for money and long-term security.

I could follow Asante Samuel [stats]’s lead and hold out. He eventually got his wish. He got out the next year and got his money and security in Philadelphia.

Should I follow his lead? Do I have any other choice?

Well, Vince, if you really mean what you stated rather firmly on WEEI yesterday and what I’ve essentially paraphrased above, if you truly mean it’s not acceptable to get slapped with a franchise tag, and if you want that long-term deal you deserve, be it with the Pats or someone else, there is no other choice:

You must hold out.

If the Pats do tender you with the franchise tag, which is expected, you can’t just sign it and hope everything works out for the better. That’s not what happened with Samuel. That’s also not what happened with Deion Branch, who was ultimately traded.

You mentioned Samuel, Adam Vinatieri, Branch, Daniel Graham [stats] and Richard Seymour [stats] in terms of contract situations that didn’t work out, with players landing elsewhere. While Seymour’s situation is still to be determined, there is a common denominator to Samuel, Vinatieri, Branch and Graham. While they had to leave to accomplish their goal, they did get paid.

You sure sounded willing to move on. Now you have to prove it.

A writer from the Palm Beach Post asked you yesterday following the AFC’s practice if you’ve considered holding out if the team does slap that unwanted franchise tag on you.

“That’s so far from here,” you said. “I’ll handle it the appropriate way. Whatever way I think that is, that’s what I’ll do. We don’t know what they’re gonna do. We’ll see in the next couple weeks.”

That sure sounds like you’re leaving the door open to the possibility, because the “appropriate way” for you at this stage is not showing up. You’ve been operating in good faith. To this point, as you said, there’s been no reciprocation. Why do them a favor by signing the tender, unless of course there’s a sign-and-trade deal in the works, or the long-term deal you so crave with the Pats coming on the heels?

Sure, the Pats are holding all the cards, but they’re slowly losing some of their grip with the fan base. There was no playoff appearance last season, and getting bounced in the first round just doesn’t cut it around here. Two of the biggest issues the team needs to address this offseason are defense and a lack of leadership.

So why would they want to alienate their best player on defense? And, after losing a ton of character players on defense, many of their quality leaders, why part with one more? You called yourself a leader yesterday, one who leads by example. Why eliminate another?

You’re a building block. They need you. They should tie you up long-term.

If they’re not willing to do that, it’s time for you to take a stand.

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


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(bostonherald.com)
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Jimmy Graham turning heads at Senior Bowl

Former UM tight end Jimmy Graham is one of two Hurricanes competing in this week's Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala. He and linebacker Darryl Sharptonwere given a week-long opportunity to impress NFL scouts.

So far, Graham has garnered the most attention. Even though it's early, he could work his way into becoming a mid-to early-round pick in April's Draft.

"I think it's been a good week for me," Graham said. "I think it's been a great week and great experience so far." 

Graham said he mostly received positive feedback from scouts and coaches. The one thing he needs to improve is blocking.

"I've been told I've got great hands," Graham said. "I can get up (vertically)and I can catch touchdowns. They've been teaching me all the little (blocking) techniques and all that stuff."

The most time-consuming thing of the process are interviews with the teams, mostly general managers. His sessions last longer because he's so new to the scene. Graham, a former UM basketball player, played football for the first time since his freshman year of high school. He's met three representatives from each NFL team, calling it "intimidating."

"I've been pretty busy for the last couple days," Graham said. "Kind of coming from nowhere, I guess you could say people had a lot of questions. I've met with a few (general managers) and everyone asks pretty much why did you switch from basketball to football. I just tell them it was my first love."

Another highlight to experience was spending most of the week working with former Gators quarterback Tim Tebow. He said he's earned a greater respect for one of college football's most popular players. 

"Me and him train together every day and I've had the opportunity over the last couple days to get to know him," Graham said. "He's a great kid and kind of everything you see in the media, that's true. He just has a great heart. And beyond everything, he works his tail off."


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(shandel richardson - sun-sentinel.com)
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Vince Wilfork: Playing in Florida would be 'a dream'

FT. LAUDERDALE - New England nose tackle Vince Wilfork has been the good soldier long enough. This offseason the two-time Pro Bowl selection either wants some financial security, or he wants to be set free by the Patriots.

Wilfork, who starred at Santaluces High School and the University of Miami, said he and his representatives have been badgering the Patriots for a contract extension the past two seasons, but the talks were never fruitful.

He knows the Patriots will likely place a franchise tag on him instead of offering the long-term contract he desperately seeks for family security. And if they do so Wilfork said he's prepared to play hardball.

Wilfork said he participates in the offseason programs without balking, never held a holdout, and at times played through pain last season. The 28-year-old warned that likely won't be the case in 2010 if he's hit with a franchise tag, which will pay him over $6 million in a one-year deal.

"We've been waiting for two years. Been trying to talk for two years. I did all the things I could do. Did all the right things to the point people questioned me why I did it. Why I was the good soldier. Why I playing through pain and risking my career for one year. But I loved the game of football," said Wilfork, who contributed 43 tackles and one forced fumbled during a 13 game season shortened by a knee injury. "I signed a six-year deal [as a rookie] when a lot of people weren't. I played it out. I did the right thing and it's time for me to move on. This is definitely not on me. We'll see where it goes from here."

Wilfork, who has started 80 games for the past six seasons, wasn't shy about admitting that playing in Florida either for the Dolphins or Tampa Bay - would be "a dream come true." The Dolphins need to address the nose tackle position because of Jason Ferguson's age, season-ending quadriceps injury, and free agent status.

While Wilfork says he can see himself playing for the Patriots rival, he openly admits his first preference is to sign a long-term deal with New England.

"I love great weather. I love football. It doesn't matter where I play. I just want to have security for my family," he said. "I would love to stay in New England if I had the chance. I love New England because of my teammates, my family. My son, the friends and connections we've made up there, it's some great people up there. But if it doesn't work out I'll weigh my options I tell you that."

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


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(sun-sentinel.com)
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This time, Shockey not the invisible man

NEW ORLEANS -- Of all the people you'd expect to see wearing a cute Burberry bucket hat, Jeremy Shockey isn't one of them.
Jennifer Aniston, sure. Maybe some stick-figure fashion model guy from Finland. I'd even buy, say, George Karl wearing the plaid.
But Shockey? Never saw it coming.

Then again, nobody saw Shockey making a triumphant return to the Super Bowl. Not after the New York Giants put him in the recycle bin and had him, his injuries and his tabloid headlines shipped in mid-2008 to the New Orleans Saints for second- and fifth-round draft picks.
But here he is, standing in front of his locker with a smirk on his face and a designer bucket hat on his head. He still isn't 100 percent healthy, but he's 100 percent happy.

Who dat? Dat your starting tight end for the NFC champion Saints, dat who.

"I'll be playing in this game, unlike the last one,'' Shockey said. "It still hasn't hit me. God works in mysterious ways, man. It's a blessing to be part of this organization and this team.''

He means it, too. When the Giants reached Super Bowl XLII after the 2007 season, Shockey was more off the team than on it. A broken leg suffered in Week 15 turned him into the invisible man. He wasn't on the Giants' charter to Arizona, wasn't in the team hotel and wasn't on the sideline for the game against the New England Patriots.

"He was almost a castaway that year,'' said Saints veteran offensive tackle Jon Stinchcomb.

The Giants beat the Hoodies, gave Shockey a Super Bowl ring and then gave him a new NFL address. It's just as well. The relationship between Shockey and Giants general manager Jerry Reese had turned toxic.

"Things happen, but I'm not dwelling on that,'' Shockey said. "I'm dwelling on the fact that we'll be in Miami, my adopted city, so we're all excited about that.''

Shockey, who played college ball at the University of Miami, gave the Super Bowl ring to his mom. He gives all his rings to his mom. But even if he didn't, the XLII jewelry wouldn't have spent any quality time on his finger. That's because he didn't spend any quality time on the field that day.

"The New York media made it out to be I was the villain, that I was, duh-duh-duh-duh-duh,'' Shockey said. "I was very happy for my teammates.''

He picked the Giants to beat the then-undefeated Patriots, by the way. Told a New York columnist that very thing. Shockey wants everyone to remember that.

And if he still holds a grudge against Giants management, he holds it lower and mostly out of sight. He said he loved watching his teammates hoist the Lombardi Trophy, that they "deserved what they got. They deserved that championship.''

But don't kid yourself: Shockey wasn't thrilled about paying for his own airfare to Arizona that year. And he would have rather been in uniform than on crutches and watching the game in a University of Phoenix Stadium suite with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Bloomberg's daughter, Roger Federer and Giants co-owner and chairman Steve Tisch -- nothing personal.

"[A] lot of people thought I was bitter because I didn't get a chance [to play],'' Shockey said. "Well, hell, of course I was upset. I was hurt. What competitor would not want to play in a game like that?''

For the record, the Giants' position is this:

Shockey wasn't on the team charter to Arizona because he was in Miami, not in New York, at the time. Otherwise, there would have been a seat for him on the flight.

He wasn't in the main team hotel because he was on injured reserve. The Giants housed their IR players at a different, but nearby hotel.

The IR players were seated in the stands for the game. Shockey was the only IR Giant to be seated in the owner's suite.

All ancient football history. That's the official Shockey line now.

"The trade happened,'' Shockey said. "I was happy as hell to be here. Knowing that Sean drafted me, his offensive mind, mismatches and that nature, just to be part of this team. Everyone welcomed me with open arms.''

"Sean" is Sean Payton, coach of the Saints. Payton was the Giants' offensive coordinator in 2002, Shockey's rookie season in New York. Payton is also the guy who took a flier on the Jeremy Reunion Tour.

"I don't know that it was a leap of faith,'' Payton said, "but I think it was a fit for both teams.''

It took awhile. Shockey caught 50 passes last season, but no touchdowns. He also had his usual injury episodes (a sports hernia, ankle).
This year, while battling a toe injury (healed) and knee injury (not healed, but getting there), Shockey had 48 receptions and three touchdowns in 13 regular-season games. As usual, he still plays as if his long blond hair (and bucket hat) is on fire.

"Your first impression is, if he's able to fit in this locker room, he's really going to be something special,'' Stinchcomb said.

Yeah, the Saints players were a tiny bit nervous about Shockey's arrival. Wouldn't you have been nervous? They had heard and read the same stories as everyone else.

"There might have been a little [concern],'' Stinchcomb said. "I think the approach is welcome with open arms. He hasn't caused a single problem. It was more of a 'You're going to have to prove to us that you don't fit,' rather than a 'You're going to have to prove to us that you're one of us.'

"He's proved us right time and time again.''

When healthy -- and Shockey was less than full strength in the NFC Championship Game ("Felt like a pogo stick out there on one leg,'' he said) -- he's a matchup nightmare. Linebackers are too slow. Safeties too small. He wears them out.

Actually, he wears everybody out, including the Saints. He talks from the moment he walks into the huddle, through the play, through the next play and every play after that.

"Talking about checks,'' Stinchcomb said. "Talking about scheme. Talking about how we're going to block it. Talking about what he sees. But I have truly enjoyed playing next to him.''

Shockey got a second act in his career and now gets a second Super Bowl. He returns to Miami, but he said, "If it was in Antarctica, I'd be happy to participate in this game.''

The Super Bowl in 2007 counts, but not really. He was there, but played as many snaps that day as Federer.

This time, at whatever they're calling the stadium these days, Shockey will make his actual Super Bowl debut. He'll be on the Saints' plane, in the Saints' hotel and, best of all, in the Saints' XLIV lineup.

The Bloombergs will have to entertain themselves.

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


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(espn.com)
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Rays Still Trying To Trade Pat Burrell

Recently, we have heard the Rays linked to Jim Thome and Johnny Damon. The common denominator in these rumors is Pat Burrell. Thome (who has since signed with the Twins) and Damon are DH-types at this point in their careers, and the Rays are only adding a DH if they are able to unload Burrell and his $9 million salary for the 2010 season.

So while we continue to hear about the Rays “interest” in these players, maybe the more telling message is that Andrew Friedman is still actively trying to trade Burrell.

During the winter meetings we heard endless chatter about a possible deal in sending Burrell to Chicago for Milton Bradley. The Rays appeared to be firm on their price and the trade never materialized.

Since then, whispers of teams interested in Burrell died down. But quiet is the way the Rays like to operate. And just because we don’t hear the rumors doesn’t mean the Rays aren’t still shopping.

One thing we can be certain of, is that the Rays are not going to just cut Burrell to make room for another veteran DH. The Rays are not a team that is just going to swallow $9 million as a sunk cost. While Damon may be worth $4-5 million, he is not likely to be worth $4-5 million more than Burrell. Releasing Burrell means the Rays would be paying $13-14 million for Damon’s production this season (Burrell’s $9m and Damon’s $4-5m).

The Rays may be interested in players like Damon and Thome, but that means little until Burrell is traded, something the Rays are clearly trying to do.


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(raysindex.com)
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Gore and Johnson Head To Pro Bowl



Frank Gore and Andre Johnson head into their first meeting of the 2010 Pro Bowl.

Click here to order Andre Johnson's or Frank Gore's proCane Rookie Card.


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Check Out Pro Bowl Events This Weekend Featuring proCanes








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Former UM players enjoying Pro Bowl spotlight

FORT LAUDERDALE _ Antrel Rolle has been quite the popular guy among the NFL Pro Bowlers.
With him being a South Floridian and former UM player, his peers often go to him for food and nightlife recommendations.

"All the time," said Rolle, a safety with the Arizona Cardinals. "(Darnell) Dockett even tried to get me to chauffeur him around (Tuesday) night and I ditched him. I'm going to take care of him tonight. I got him tonight."

Rolle is among the league-record 10 former Hurricanes in town for the Pro Bowl. All are proud to be part of such a prestigious fraternity, especially with many of them playing in their hometown.

"It means a lot that obviously we have a good establishment there (at UM)," Rolle said. "They've grown some young men into great adults and great teammates. We're all teammates. You don't get here alone, no matter who you are."

San Francisco 49ers running back Frank Gore felt the same. He and Rolle still workout at the UM facility when they return home.

"It’s big, real big. I haven’t played in front of my college fans and high school fans in a long time," Gore said. "Last year we got the opportunity to play Miami at home and I couldn’t play. Now, God made a way that I can get in the Pro Bowl and it’s being played down here."

All the former Hurricanes were disappointed to see the program fall on hard times a few years ago, but are thrilled about the resurgence under coach Randy Shannon, who is entering his fourth season. Rolle said Shannon has things headed in the right direction, but it's up to the players to complete the turnaround.

"What (Shannon's) been doing is phenomenal," Rolle said. "He's turning an organization that was once great and was starting to go bad and he's bringing it back up. It's up to those guys to buy into what he's saying. If they buy into his program, they definitely will have a winning program."

Here's a list of UM players in this year's Pro Bowl:
Receiver Andre Johnson (Houston Texans) Receiver Reggie Wayne (Indianapolis Colts) Defensive lineman Vince Wilfork (New England Patriots) Linebacker Ray Lewis (Baltimore Ravens) Safety Ed Reed (Baltimore Ravens) Safety Brandon Meriweather (New England Patriots) Offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie (Minnesota Vikings) Linebacker Jonathan Vilma (New Orleans Saints) Running back Frank Gore (San Francisco 49ers) Safety Antrel Rolle (Arizona Cardinals).

NOTE: Vilma and Wayne will not participate due to their preparation for Super Bowl XLIV.

Click here to order any of the above players' proCane Rookie Card.


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(shandel richardson - sun-sentinel.com)
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Wayne Talks

WR Reggie Wayne, among those traveling to Miami on Sunday as part of the NFL edict that requires even guys who won't play to show up, was asked about if he was excited about it. I take it that he really wasn't: ""I am, because that's what the schedule is. Everybody has their opinion about it, but these are the cards we're dealt. We have to roll with it. I'm assuming it's still going to be an exciting game. I hope it is. I mean, this is the sport that I participate in, so I always want it to do well. I think we all are looking forward to just going down there and giving the AFC team a good pep talk."

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(blogs.indystar.com)
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Jimmy Graham and the Senior Bowl

One of the best things about coaching in the Senior Bowl is you get a chance to make very specific points to individual players -- on the field -- and see how they react. 

If a kid looks back at you with glassy eyes, maybe he's not so smart. If a kid resists or doesn't immediately put into practice what you're trying to get him to do, maybe he's not so coachable. 

Along those lines, I found it interesting Tuesday when Miami Dolphins/South team coach Tony Sparano took a few players aside for quick tutorials. One of those was South Florida free safety Nate Allen. Another was University of Miami tight end Jimmy Graham, who -- oh, by the way -- has signed on with Tennessee-based agent Jimmy Sexton (who also happens to represent Sparano and a guy by the name of Bill Parcells). 

At one point, Sparano, a former tight ends coach, took Graham out of a drill and basically led him by the hand into the right flat. Graham nodded, Sparano patted him on the butt and it was back to work. 

"We were just talking about fundamanetals on a particular route," Sparano said when I asked him about it later. "I was just talking about a particular route that he was running and some of the techniques he might want to use."

Earlier this week, Sparano was highly complimentary of Graham and UM players in general. Linebacker Darryl Sharpton is also here; he's a Drew Rosenhaus client. 

"I like what I've seen out of [Graham]," Sparano said. "He’s a good prospect without a doubt. Miami does a great job. Randy [Shannon] does a great job with his players. They’re very well coached. This will be a good experience for him this week."

Remember, when Parcells and GM Jeff Ireland recently attended a UM practice leading up to their bowl game, they reportedly watched Graham very intently. Graham's upside remains tremendous because the former basketball player came to the sport so late. 

If Anthony Fasano moves on in March, most likely as a restricted free agent, the Dolphins might want to take a mid-round run at Graham. Even if Fasano stays, Graham could be on the Dolphins' radar. It wasn't like Joey Haynos set the world on fire last season. 

Graham, by the way, measured at 6 feet 6, 259 pounds with 34 3/4-inch arm length and hands that measured 10 5/8 in diameter. Those hands are the biggest among the six tight ends here this week. 

By comparison, Mike Hoomanawanui came in at 10 1/4 inches. Joe W's buddy Ed Dickson (Oregon) was at 9 3/4. Wisconsin's Garrett Graham was at 9 3/8, while Alabama's Colin Peek (9 5/8) and USC's Anthony McCoy (9 3/4) were in the same range. 


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(omar kelly - sun-sentinel.com)
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Senior Bowl Q&A: Jimmy Graham

After playing basketball for three years at the University of Miami, Jimmy Graham decided to give up hoops for a potential career in professional football. Scout.com's Chris Steuber sat down with Graham at the Senior Bowl and asked him why he made this decision. Learn more about the rising TE from Miami inside.

Chris Steuber: How are you enjoying the Senior Bowl experience so far?
Jimmy Graham: It’s been great so far. It seems like every time I turn around something positive is happening and everything is lining up perfectly for me. But it’s also a lot of hard work.

CS: You only played one year of football at Miami, after playing for the basketball team your first three years in school. What made you decide to pursue football?
Graham: Football was the first sport I ever loved, and while I was playing basketball in school I always wondered, “What if?” I wondered, what if I continued to play football? What would happen if I decided to go back to it? I was given an opportunity to pursue it, and I took it. Bernie Kosar was a big help, and he kind of guided me throughout the process. He was honest with me about football and the expectations that I should have playing the sport.

CS: I know that Bernie Kosar went to Miami, but how did you two strike up a relationship, and why did football become a topic?
Graham: We’ve known each other for a little while. Bernie told me, “Jimmy, I think you would be the perfect hybrid tight end.” He said, “You’re so athletic.” So, one day we went into the backyard and started throwing the ball around, and he realized that I had pretty good hands. And then it kind of went from there.

CS: There’s been a few success stories about college basketball players that turned to football after they realized basketball didn’t hold a future for them. I’m sure you were realistic about your future and saw how guys like Tony Gonzalez and Antonio Gates made the transition. Does their success give you confidence that you can also be successful in the NFL?
Graham: Absolutely. I feel like the path has already been laid out, and it can be done. I feel like if it’s done the right way, you’re going to have success. Their success gives me hope that it can be done and that I can also be a special player.

CS: As good as you were in your first year of college football, you’re still raw and learning the game. Is that encouraging for you looking down the road?
Graham: Oh yeah, it seems like each game I play in I get better and better. It feels like each step I take is a new step. It all started for me in the redzone on third downs at Miami, and from there my game took on a life of its own. And I hope I can take my game to the next level in the NFL.

CS: What teams have you met with so far?
Graham: I’ve met with a lot of teams, but a few that stand out are the Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots, Carolina Panthers, and Cleveland Browns.

CS: I’m sure scouts are salivating over the possibilities of you catching passes for them. Have you received a lot of meeting requests from teams?
Graham: I feel like everyone has come up to me already. I guess since I’m like the new guy in town, everyone wants to know about me. They want to know about my personal life and everything that goes along with that. They want to judge my intelligence on and off the field. But overall, it’s been a wonderful experience meeting with all of these scouts and teams. Meeting head coaches and GM’s; it’s out of this world. I’m really excited for what’s going to happen next, and hopefully I’ll continue to have a good week here.

CS: The biggest knock against you and most tight ends is blocking ability. How do you improve your blocking technique during a process where you’re being closely observed?
Graham: That’s a good question. I kind of got thrown into the game a little bit. I was just told, “Jimmy, make sure they don’t hit the quarterback.” But I’m a quick learner, and I work really hard. I’ve been working at D-I Sports and have been working on my pass blocking, because I know I have to get better to play at the next level.

CS: You’ve been on the practice field for three days now, who’s been the best defender that you lined up against?
Graham: I had to stretch block on Taylor Mays, and he came from about 20 yards out, so that was pretty exciting. He’s a great player and that was a pretty good matchup. I’d say he’s been the best so far. He’s a big kid who’s real fast and plays hard.

CS: What’s your favorite part about being a tight end?
Graham: The redzone; I feel like I’m unstoppable in the redzone. If the ball is in the air, I know that I will come down with it. I also enjoy third down situations. When it’s third and long, I get excited. I feel like that’s my time, because I know I’m a big target and I get a large cushion over the middle. So if it’s crunch time and a big play is needed on third down, throw it anywhere in my direction and I’ll snatch it up.


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(sdg.scout.com)
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Analysis of Vince Wilfork situation

Patriots nose tackle Vince Wilfork’s interview on sports radio WEEI on Wednesday was notable not just for what he said, but also for how he said it.

The tone was powerful. After listening to it, it sounds like Wilfork is drawing decisive contractual battle lines, almost as if to say “No more Mr. Nice Guy.”

The part that stood out and what I believe is at the root of Wilfork’s displeasure was when he said early in the interview:

“We never asked for a six-year deal from the get-go. Right after we signed a six-year deal [as a rookie], they came out with a rule about no six-year deals. Honestly, somebody is seeing something wrong with guys getting six-year deals. I didn’t like the six-year deal but I did honor it. … We tried for a five-year deal and we didn’t get [it].”

My feeling is that Wilfork felt a six-year contract was forced upon him in 2004, and that has him ready to dig in his cleats in negotiations with the team.

As a first-round draft choice in 2004, the 21st overall selection, Wilfork had little leverage with the Patriots having won two Super Bowls in the previous three years. That meant the team was in a position to essentially say, “If you don’t want a six-year deal, we’ll move on without you.”

Tight end Benjamin Watson, another first-round draft choice that year, was in a similar situation. He was a holdout before ultimately accepting a six-year pact (his original agent wouldn’t sign the deal, so Watson hired a different agent).

The Patriots, it should be noted, were operating fully within the rules at the time. It should also be noted that the Patriots have offered Wilfork a long-term deal, which would provide him more security, but it is below what he feels is his market value.

In the end, like many contract negotiations, leverage is a big part of the game.

Wilfork seems to have a bad feeling about how the Patriots used their leverage back in 2004, and probably realizes he has little leverage now given the NFL's uncertain labor situation. He's in a tough spot.

His tone in today’s radio interview with Michael Holley and Lou Merloni on the "Dale and Holley Show" reflected that, and is setting the stage for what could be a contentious situation.

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


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(espn.com)
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Pro Bowl Visit with 49ers RB Frank Gore



MIAMI – Frank Gore is back in his hometown as a member of the NFC Pro Bowl squad, along with 49ers teammates Vernon Davis, Andy Lee, Justin Smith and Patrick Willis.

Gore, who played at the University of Miami after a standout career at nearby Coral Gables High School, has never played a professional game in South Florida, which makes his second career Pro Bowl selection extra special .

The 49ers played at Miami in 2008, but Gore was sidelined by an ankle injury.Gore rushed for 1,120 yards and 10 touchdowns last season.

Q: You’d probably prefer to be here in your hometown playing in a Super Bowl but is this a nice consolation. FG: Yeah, it’s very nice. I haven’t played in Miami in a long time. Now I get an opportunity to play in the Pro Bowl and play in front of my fans, from high school and college, and my family. I’m happy to be here.

Q: Does it matter to you that you’re not in Hawaii? FG: It don’t matter. I’m just happy that I got the respect that I got around the league, to get a chance to play here. I’m overjoyed and I’m happy.

Q: What was it like to be with guys that you’ve never played, was [practice] sort of discombobulated on the first day? FG:  My first time, yeah, it was different but now I’m at my second one and I’m used to it. So, it’s good. I’m cool with it.

Q: Frank, what’s it like representing The U? You’ve got a lot University of Miami players on both sides. FG: It’s good, man. It’s like a family reunion, meeting in the Pro Bowl. We’ve got a lot of players that made the Pro Bowl and it just lets everybody know how good the organization is at Miami.

Q: Is it a little more special for you, though, being in that game and it’s in Miami where you grew up. FG: Very special. Not playing in front of my high school fans, my college fans in five years – now I get a chance to play in the Pro Bowl in Miami and I’m happy about that.

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


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(csnbayarea.com)
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Shockey spent Tuesday in Birmingham

Saints coach Sean Payton is known for protecting his injury information closely.  His players don't always take the same approach.

On Jeremy Shockey's Twitter page Tuesday, the hobbled tight end revealed an interesting piece of information.

"Damn just got back from b'ham," Shockey wrote, referring to Birmingham, Alabama.  "i missed our team diner... Gnight everyone."

Shockey doesn't say what he did during his "long ass day" but Birmingham is the location of Dr. James Andrews' office.  Shockey been slowed in the playoffs by a knee injury.

"I felt like a pogo stick out there on one leg, but I have no doubt in my mind it'll be a lot better in two weeks," Shockey said Monday. "It's probably a three- or four-week injury, but there was no way I was going miss that game. There's no way I'm going to miss the next one, either."

No matter what was found regarding Shockey's knee Tuesday, it would be a shock if he spent another Super Bowl in a luxury box.

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(profootballtalk.com)
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Kenard Lang Had Expressed Interest in USF Job

TAMPA - Skip Holtz got the job, but in the days after the University of South Florida fired former head football coach Jim Leavitt, coaches from around the country began sending USF officials materials showing an interest in the job.

However, Holtz wasn't one of them. USF officials contacted him first, leading to his hiring Jan. 14.

On Jan. 8, the day USF President Judy Genshaft and athletic director Doug Woolard announced at a noon news conference that the university had dismissed Leavitt, at least nine resumes/applications were e-mailed to USF officials either directly from coaches or their agents. The materials were obtained Tuesday by The Tampa Tribune as part of a public records request.

The list of applicants painted a broad stroke across the coaching landscape: Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster, New York Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride, Harvard head coach Tim Murphy, Syracuse special teams coach Tim Casullo, former NFL assistant Jack Burns, former Tennessee State head coach James Webster, Bucs assistant coach Rich Bisaccia and Louisiana Storm (semi-pro) assistant head coach Tyrone Hughes, a former player with the New Orleans Saints, all expressed interest the first afternoon the job opened.
The most off-beat applicant: Michael Moore, a high school student in Texas who has no coaching experience but decided to e-mail university officials about the job.

Many of the application packages contained specific plans for the job, including an impressive submission from Michigan offensive coordinator Calvin Magee that included USF logos and very specific details about the job. Magee, a former USF assistant under Leavitt, interviewed for the job and was considered a strong candidate.
Other coaches to submit application materials: former NFL All-Pro receiver Mel Gray, now freshman head coach at Auburn High in Rockford, Ill.; Orlando Jones High head coach Kenard Lang; former Virginia offensive coordinator Gregg Brandon; Southern Mississippi coach Larry Fedora, whose name surfaced as a leading candidate early in USF's search; Rutgers offensive coordinator Kyle Flood; Joe Maglia, a football consultant at Nebraska and former Ameritrade CEO; Oklahoma offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson and Nebraska offensive coordinator Shaun Watson.

Former USF defensive coordinator Joe Tresey officially applied, and Florida assistant Dan McCarney's agent sent a package on his behalf. Finally, former University of Louisiana-Monroe head coach Charlie Weatherbie also contacted USF officials about the opening.

Not every candidate sent USF officials material highlighting his coaching career.

Bucs player personnel director Doug Williams interviewed for the job and former Tennessee coach Phil Fulmer, among others, expressed indirect interest in the position before USF hired Holtz as the second coach in school history.


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(tbo.com)
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Alonso named top prospect

CINCINNATI -- Two Reds corner-infield prospects received further acknowledgment on Wednesday that their big league futures should be bright.

MLB.com revealed that first baseman Yonder Alonso and third baseman Juan Francisco were included in MLB.com's Top 50 Prospects list. Alonso was ranked No. 30 while Francisco came in at No. 48.

The Top 50 Prospects list is back for the seventh year, but this was the first time that the announcement was simulcast on MLB.com and MLB Network.

In 78 games combined for Class A Sarasota and Double-A Chattanooga, the 22-year-old Alonso batted .300 with nine home runs and 52 RBIs. He missed two months on the disabled list with a broken hamate bone in his right hand that required surgery.

After the regular season, Alonso was moved up to Triple-A Louisville and played five games in the postseason.

"A list like that is an honor, but, honestly, it doesn't mean much," Alonso said. "It doesn't take me to the big leagues. It doesn't get me called up, but it's definitely an honor when you look at the guys on the list. I could be 50 or I could be one, it's an honor just to be there."


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(mlb.com)
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Chris Perez: Ankle 95 percent healed

Chris Perez said he is "95 percent" healed from October surgery, removing a loose bone and cyst from the back of his left ankle.

Perez pitched through the injury during 2009, and says the injury didn't affect him due to a leg brace he wore. He expects to be healthy for Spring Training although the right-hander's left ankle is still a little weak. Worst case, he will pitch with the brace again. The 24 year old posted a 4.32 ERA in 33 1/3 innings after joining Cleveland and will pitch in a late-inning role.


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(rotoworld.com)
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Vilma & Shockey Will Practice at Greentree

proCanes Jeremy Shockey and Jon Vilma who are playing in next week's Super Bowl as New Orleans Saints will feel at home when the Saints take the field to practice in South Florida. The Saints will be practicing at the University of Miami's Greentree practice field, the same field Vilma and Shockey practiced on throught out their college days at "The U." Also, the Saints will be using the Hurricanes' lockeroom the day of the Super Bowl. DeMarcus Van Dyke on his twitter page said: "whoever use my locker they better leave some gloves in my locker."

Click here to order Jeremy Shockey’s or Jon Vilma's proCane Rookie Card.


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Vernon Carey Has A Solid Season

On first look Vernon Carey seemed to suffer through a down year but the metrics told another story. He ended up on two All Pro teams – CNNSI and ESPN at right tackle – and finished up grading out as the 8th best tackle in the NFL and the third best RT.

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


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(sun-sentinel.com)
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Bruce Johnson Had a Strong '09

BRUCE JOHNSON:

Rookie free agent who started off strong and finished off week. Probably ran into a rookie wall. Talented, but needs experience. In a few years, could be a really good player. Will probably be the fourth corner next year. Better to ease him in, anyway.


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(giantsgab.com)
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Celebrity Drive: Tampa Bay Buccaneers Tight End Kellen Winslow



Quick Stats: Kellen Winslow Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end
Daily Driver: 2007 H2 SUT (Kellen's rating: 10 on a scale of 1 to 10)
Favorite road trip: Cleveland to San Diego
Car he learned to drive in: 1999 Ford Expedition
First car bought: 2004 Yukon Denali

Tampa Bay Buccaneers' offensive threat Kellen Winslow had been hankering for a Hummer since he saw it in a Robert De Niro movie, which is the kind of response any marketer would envy.

After pondering for a while, Winslow finally bought what is his current daily driver, a 2007 H2 SUT. "I like everything about it," he raves. "I have a body kit on it and four exhaust pipes coming out in the end. My tires, I don't feel any bumps, so it's like a tank, man. They're all-purpose tires and I just run right over stuff. So, it's pretty cool."
When it comes to his taste in cars, Winslow has a penchant for SUVs and takes some of his cues from the movies.

For Winslow, the H2 is a definite 10 out of 10 rating. "I've been wanting a Hummer since the movie 'The Fan' with Robert De Niro and Wesley Snipes. It was back in the day. But that car, that Hummer always made me want a Hummer. I just planned on it." In the 1996 thriller, De Niro's character is an overzealous baseball fan who kidnaps the son of Snipes' character in a Hummer.

Car he learned to drive in Winslow, who is in the running to play in this year's Pro Bowl, was born and raised in San Diego. His father was another well-known tight end - Pro Football Hall of Famer Kellen Winslow of the San Diego Chargers. While the elder Winslow has probably given his son some valuable tips on the field, he also taught him how to drive in a 1999 Ford Expedition.

It takes Winslow a second to recall what kind of car he learned how to drive in. There's a slight chuckle because his wife Janelle (who shooting the picture of him at home, for this column), whispers it to him. "She knows better than me," he admits. "She knows way better than me. We met when we were 13. She went to La Jolla High School, I went to another high school."

When it came time to get his driver's license in high school, learning how to drive was pretty uneventful, under his dad's tutelage. "We drove around the nearby parking lot, just working on turns," Winslow remembers. "My dad was with me, teaching me how to drive the whole time."

First car bought After graduating high school, Winslow played for the University of Miami Hurricanes. In 2002 Winslow set school records for a tight end with 57 receptions for 726 yards and eight touchdowns. He also won the John Mackey Award and earned All-American honors. Winslow played in the 2003 Fiesta Bowl, for the BCS Championship, setting a Fiesta Bowl record with 11 receptions for 122 yards and a touchdown in overtime. Some people consider it one of the greatest college football games in history.

Despite his achievements on the field, off the field, like many fellow freshman, Winslow relied on friends for rides. "I was the tag along. I didn't have a car until second semester of my sophomore year," he says. "So I struggled a little bit."

But that all changed when Winslow bought a Yukon Denali, after he had an idea he would be going to the NFL because he was invited to participate in the NFL Scouting Combine, where athletes take various tests to try out for the NFL in front of scouts. "I was headed into my second semester and I just trained for the NFL Combine and went and purchased the Denali," he says.

Inspired by yet another famous flick, Winslow tricked out the Denali. "I hooked that up, with everything you could imagine done to it," he says. "I was doing 'Fast and the Furious' type stuff to it. I'm glad I kind of did it though, just to get it out of my system. I messed the Denali up. The guy who was working on it was an amateur and I just got references. But he basically destroyed the car, man, because of what I was getting done to it."

Winslow learned his lesson and says it's something he probably won't do again. "He put in Lamborghini doors, but they were bolted to the hinges so it wasn't working right," he says. "I pushed the seats back, so it could be like limo seating, the back seat I pushed all the way back to get a lot of leg room."

He rented an Expedition when the Denali was getting customized. He kept the Denali for his first three years in the NFL, while he was playing for the Cleveland Browns. After the Denali though, Winslow graduated to his current set of wheels, the Hummer.

Favorite road trip
When he was with the Browns, Winslow enjoyed driving with his wife from their Cleveland home back to San Diego to visit family. "Just so we could bring the car with us and the whole bit," he says. "It takes about four to five days."

These days Winslow likes cruising around Tampa in his H2 and is dedicated to the Buccaneers.

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Ed Reed expected to play in 2010

MOBILE, Ala. -- Baltimore Ravens free safety Ed Reed continues to contemplate retirement, but a league source and several teammates have told National Football Post that the former NFL Defensive Player of the Year is definitely expected to play football this year.

It would take a major setback with his nerve impingement in his neck and ligament tears in his hip and groin for Reed to stop playing football.

The All-Pro defensive back didn't change his public stance during an interview with Sirius Radio. Reed said following a playoff loss to the Indianapolis Colts that he was contemplating retirement.

"I'm feeling good," Reed said. "It’s still early in the offseason. The comment was made right after the game because that’s the truth of the matter. I’ve got some things I got to take care of before I continue to go there. But the comment hasn’t changed, it still is what it is.

“I mean, for most people in the world, 50/50 is just that. If you’re able to go, you know, most people who know me, when I’ve been hurt over the years, and lately, these last two years, a lot. But if I can walk and talk, I’m out there communicating and making plays.”

So, count him in for 2010 barring an unexpected change.

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Super Bowl vets Phillip Buchanon, LaCasse join Super 60 field

NEW YORK - A pair of Super Bowl veterans with nearly identical sprinting speed, but opposite builds, have joined the field of the Super 60 - or Super LX, for Roman numeral buffs - at the 103rd Millrose Games on January 29.
Cornerback Phillip Buchanon and defensive end Ryan LaCasse join the previously announced Super 60 field that includes Willie Gault and Tim Dwight. Former New York Giant David Tyree will not compete.

The 17th overall pick in the 2002 draft, Buchanon wore the black-and-silver of the Oakland Raiders for Super Bowl XXXVII in 2003. With 4.3 40 speed, the cornerback spent three seasons at Oakland before playing for Texas, Tampa Bay and his current team, the Detroit Lions. In his time with the Raiders, he recorded 122 tackles and 11 interceptions.

"I have always been a big fan of track and field, and I know I'm one of the fastest guys in the NFL," Buchanon said. "With the last name Buchanon, I plan on shooting out of the starting blocks like a cannon. The other guys better watch out, I'll be flying by them before they know it."

Buchanon, 29, played college football at the University of Miami, earning All-America honors as a returner, the BIG EAST special teams player of the year award and being named a finalist for the Mosi Tatupu Award, which goes to the top collegiate special-teams player in the nation. At Lehigh (Fla.) High School, he was a star athlete in football, basketball, baseball and track, recording best times of 10.5 in the 100 meters and 21.8 in the 200.

Anyone who thinks big men can't run hasn't seen LaCasse in spikes. Drafted by the Baltimore Ravens in 2006, the defensive end was traded to the Indianapolis Colts, where he played 12 games and earned a Super Bowl ring in the Colts' 2006-'07 championship season. Standing 6-2 with a playing weight of 257, LaCasse has a 40-yard time under 4.5 and was the second-fastest defensive lineman at the NFL combine in 2005. He no doubt will have a built-in cheering section of men's shot putters at Madison Square Garden.

A native of Stoughton, Mass., the 26-year-old LaCasse was the 2003 All-New England champion and state champion at 100 meters, with a best time of 10.5, putting him in a virtual dead heat with Buchanon. He played defensive line and running back at Stoughton, totaling 1,407 rushing yards and 28 touchdowns as a senior. LaCasse played college football at Syracuse, where he was first-team All-BIG EAST, before being drafted by the Ravens. Although a plantar fascia injurycut his NFL career short, LaCasse now works as a strength coach at Syracuse, where he is pursuing his MBA.

The Millrose Games is the first stop of USA Track & Field's Visa Championship Series. The longest-running annual event held at fabled Madison Square Garden and one of the best indoor track and field meets in the world, The Millrose Games features some of America's and the world's top track and field talent. The meet will be televised live on ESPN2 from 8-10 p.m. Eastern Time.

For ticket information for the 103rd Millrose Games visit: www.millrose-games.com . USATF welcomes you to pay with your Visa.

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Reed dodges retirement question on radio

Since Ed Reed said he was "50-50" to return to the Ravens after the team's loss to the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Divisional playoff round, the free safety has been reluctant to shed any further light on his thoughts.

Reed was a guest Saturday on SIRIUS XM’s Mad Dog Radio, and here is a partial transcript of his conversation with host Glenn Younes. (Thanks to Andrew Fitzpatrick of Sirius for the transcript.)

Glenn Younes: "How are you feeling?"
Ed Reed: "I’m feeling good. I’m just spending time with my family."

Younes: "All right, you want to go into your 50/50 comment or are we going to leave that alone?"
Reed: "Yeah, we’re going to leave that alone right now. It’s still early in the off-season. The comment was made right after the game because that’s the truth of the matter. I’ve got some things I got to take care of before I continue to go there. But the comment hasn’t changed, it still is what it is."

Younes: "If you’re healthy, God willing, most likely you’ll play next year, yes or no?"
Reed: "Yeah, yeah."

Younes: "Ok, there we go. Let me hear you say it so we can use it as a sound bite. 'If I’m healthy I’ll play with the Ravens in 2010.'"
Reed: "I mean, for most people in the world, 50/50 is just that. If you’re able to go, you know, most people who know me, when I’ve been hurt over the years, and lately, these last two years, a lot. But if I can walk and talk, I’m out there communicating and making plays."

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Vinny Testaverde Was Better Than You Think

Vinny Testaverde has virtually no chance of making the Pro Football Hall of Fame, even though he ranks seventh all-time in passing yards. The common perception of his career is that he was a late bloomer and a compiler who stuck around long enough to put up an occasional good season. He played in only two pro bowls, with the first coming at age 33. He stuck around to throw over 700 passes after turning 40 years old.

I'm here to tell you that Testaverde actually aged very much like a typical quarterback, peaking in ability and performance in his late 20's and early 30's. Oh, and he was probably every bit as good as the collective group of Hall of Fame contemporaries that played during the course of his career and in the generation before he arrived.
As impossible as it may be, I want you to wipe away any pre-conceived notions you have of Testaverde and his career. Let's pretend like we are talking about a hypothetical quarterback. All you know is the following:

1. This quarterback signed with a national collegiate power that was the quarterback factory of the time period.
2. Our hypothetical quarterback won the Heisman trophy and was the first overall pick in the NFL draft.
3. He played until he was 44 years old, and threw 6,701 passes in his career.

So, how good was our hypothetical quarterback? You would pretty guess he was a Hall of Fame caliber player with that info before and at the completion of his career. And the funny thing is . . . you might be right. When quarterbacks get up for their induction speeches in Canton, they always thank their teammates . . . and they should. Because, but for the grace of God, they could have been Vinny Testaverde instead.

I wish I could tell you how Vinny Testaverde would have done with an elite offensive unit, so we could compare him to the Hall of Fame quarterbacks. I can't though, because Testaverde never came close to playing with the offensive players that those others did. Here are the average career AV's of the ten other starters for each year that Vinny Testaverde was the primary starter for a team. I also list my current passer rating of choice, the adjusted net yards per attempt index, for Testaverde each of those seasons.

age

year
team
teammates

ANYA index

25

1988

tam
29.0

75

26

1989

tam
27.7

89

27

1990

tam
35.6

97

28

1991

tam
33.3

78

29

1992

tam
34.0

96

30

1993

cle
41.0

116

31

1994

cle
42.7

98

32

1995

cle
41.2

119

33

1996

rav
52.9

117

34

1997

rav
41.0

99

35

1998

nyj
59.0

129

37

2000

nyj
46.3

96

38

2001

nyj
50.7

97

41

2004

dal
48.0

99


How bad were Vinny Testaverde's teammates early in his career? Well, Mark Carrier was a starting wide receiver, and he had a solid career. Paul Gruber was a rookie left tackle in 1988, and would go on to start for 12 seasons in Tampa, but never made a pro bowl. After that, well, there wasn't much that could be considered more than replacement level now that we can look back at history and see what those players did (or in this case, didn't do) for the rest of their careers. None of the quarterbacks who started their career since 1970 and made the Hall of Fame played a single season with a starting offensive group as bad as those first two in Tampa for Testaverde. Steve Young played for the same organization two years earlier, and with an offensive group with a 37.3 career AV average (slightly better than any Testaverde played with in Tampa), posted an 83 ANYA index score at age 25. You might be tempted to think that Dallas in 1989 was worse. They weren't good, but that offensive team had a 37.8 career AV average, and Aikman was far worse as a rookie than Testaverde was over his Tampa career.

Okay, so we can't really compare Testaverde's early part of his career because no Hall of Famer played with so many bad players during his career. We also can't see what Testaverde would have done if he played a team like the Air Coryell Chargers or the San Fransisco 49ers of the late 80's and early 90's, because he never played with a team that approached that many Hall of Famers or near Hall of Famers at the other offensive positions. That leaves us with what's left, the other seasons for Testaverde in his prime (Cleveland, Baltimore and the Jets) compared to Hall of Fame quarterbacks in seasons where they had similar supporting casts to Testaverde during their primes. I'm going to define "prime" as seasons between the ages of 26 and 35 for Testaverde as well as the following quarterbacks: Terry Bradshaw, Ken Anderson, Dan Fouts, Joe Montana, John Elway, Jim Kelly, Dan Marino, Steve Young, Troy Aikman, and Brett Favre. Everyone but Anderson and Favre is in the Hall of Fame, and I'm including Anderson since he seems to be everyone's choice for Hall of Fame snub. I didn't feel I could include guys like Manning and Brady since their prime years are still occurring, and we don't have an accurate gauge on the careers of their teammates since so many are still active.

Testaverde's best supporting cast was easily in 1998 at age 35 with the New York Jets. That offensive starting team had a career AV average of 59.0. Curtis Martin was the best back that Testaverde played with, Keyshawn Johnson was the best lead receiver he had, and Kevin Mawae was at center. The Jets also had Keith Byars as a veteran receiving fullback, a solid complement at the other receiver position in Wayne Chrebet, and the best tight end (Kyle Brady) that Testaverde would play with until he was a 41 year old throwing to a 21 year old rookie Jason Witten in Dallas (let that sink in). Overall, it was a pretty good offensive group though not historically elite. With that group, at age 35, Testaverde went 12-1 in the regular season and the Jets advanced to the championship game, and Testaverde posted a 129 ANYA index rating. To explain what that is, 100 is an average performance. Every 15 points above or below 100 is equal to one standard deviation better than or worse than the league average. Thus, Testaverde was almost two standard deviations better than the league average in 1998.
How did the elite quarterbacks do with a similar supporting cast to the 1998 Jets during their primes? Here is every season by those quarterbacks with an offensive team career AV average within 3 points of the 1998 Jets.

player


year
team
age
ANYA index

anderson


1983
62.0
34
108

bradshaw


1979
61.7
31
119

kelly


1993
61.6
33
106

bradshaw


1978
61.4
30
127

montana


1984
61.0
28
137

anderson


1984
60.8
35
104

aikman


1997
60.8
31
100

fouts


1979
60.5
28
119

aikman


1998
60.0
32
122

bradshaw


1981
59.9
33
124

bradshaw


1982
59.9
34
111

fouts


1984
59.1
33
111

moon


1990
57.9
34
127

anderson


1980
57.4
31
85

fouts


1980
57.3
29
124

bradshaw


1975
57.3
27
114

kelly


1994
57.0
34
99

moon


1991
56.1
35
110

HOF AVERAGE



59.5
31.8
113.7


Of those 18 comparable seasons, the only one with a higher ANYA score was a 28-year old Joe Montana in 1984. Testaverde was almost three years older than the average player in this group, and over a full standard deviation better. This is only one season, though, so let's dig further.

The second best supporting cast that Testaverde played with during his prime was the 1996 Baltimore Ravens (the first season in Baltimore). The reason this season stands out above the other Cleveland/Baltimore years is because the Ravens dug up a 34 year old Earnest Byner at RB, and added rookie Jonathan Ogden along with Tony Jones on the left side of the line (they would let Jones go the next year and move Ogden to LT). The receiving corp of Derrick Alexander and Michael Jackson was very good for Testaverde's career standards, but not for other elite quarterbacks. Still, with this group, at age 33, Testaverde posted a 117 ANYA rating. When Football Outsiders went back and broke down the play by play from the 1996 season, they concluded that Baltimore had the #1 offense that season (and the second worst defense). So, how did the Hall of Famers do with a similar supporting cast to that 1996 Baltimore team?

player


year
team
age
ANYA index

marino


1992
54.9
31
117

marino


1994
54.9
33
118

aikman


2000
54.5
34
82

marino


1993
54.4
32
133

fouts


1977
54.0
26
113

moon


1988
54.0
32
128

aikman


1999
53.8
33
105

favre


2002
53.2
33
107

moon


1987
53.1
31
108

kelly


1987
52.5
27
106

marino


1995
52.1
34
119

anderson


1975
51.8
26
129

fouts


1985
51.7
34
127

fouts


1986
51.6
35
98

moon


1989
51.5
33
116

kelly


1986
51.2
26
109

favre


2001
50.4
32
125

montana


1982
50.2
26
117

marino


1990
49.8
29
113

favre


2000
49.6
31
102

bradshaw


1980
49.6
32
112

marino


1991
49.2
30
117

favre


2004
49.2
35
119

favre


2003
49.1
34
107

HOF AVERAGE



51.9
31.2
113.6


You might notice that the two seasons that Testaverde made a pro bowl coincide with the two seasons that, according to career AV, he had his two best offensive starting units. He wasn't quite as dominant this season compared to the Hall of Famers, but he still outperformed the average and was almost two years older than the average HOF with a similar supporting unit.

In the other four seasons, in Cleveland and Baltimore, his offensive teams might generously be described as slightly below average. There were some good parts and also some holes, and certainly no Hall of Famers. Tony Jones, and one season of a disgruntled Andre Rison, were the best players according to career AV that Testaverde played with before he turned 33. In those four seasons (1993-1995, 1997), he posted two basically average statistical years, and two very good ones where he was more than a standard deviation better than the league. The average ANYA index score for those four seasons was 108, or about half a standard deviation better than average. Very few of the Hall of Famers played with offensive units that were this mediocre, and here's how they did:

player


year
team
age
ANYA index

favre


1999
45.4
30
100

anderson


1976
45.2
27
112

marino


1989
44.9
28
112

favre


1998
44.9
29
110

favre


1995
44.8
26
130

elway


1986
44.6
26
110

elway


1988
44.5
28
96

moon


1985
44.3
29
91

anderson


1978
43.7
29
90

favre


1996
43.1
27
121

elway


1993
42.3
33
117

elway


1992
40.9
32
86

moon


1984
38.9
28
103

elway


1991
38.8
31
103

HOF AVERAGE



43.2
27.1
105.8


Yet again, Testaverde was older than the HOF comparables, and outperformed them slightly when playing with similar supporting casts.

What conclusions can we draw from this? I suspect that saying that Testaverde was better than Hall of Fame contemporaries like Jim Kelly and Troy Aikman would feel controversial. At some level, we know that teammates matter, and that quarterback statistical performance is highly variable precisely because there are so many other moving parts that contribute to the final numbers. But I'm not sure that we will be fully comfortable with the results if we could ever more accurately measure those contributions.

Testaverde never played with a receiver better than Keyshawn Johnson, let alone a receiving combo like Rice/Taylor or Rice/Owens or Reed/Lofton or Joiner/Winslow/Chandler. He got one year of Curtis Martin (and we saw how he performed), whereas a lot of the Hall of Famers played with elite running backs for a good chunk of their primes. He got one season of Jonathan Ogden as a rookie (and we saw how he performed), whereas almost all of the Hall of Famers played with lines that had four or five linemen that would prove to start 10+ years in the league, during those quarterbacks' best seasons.

I don't think Testaverde peaked late--I think he just had his best teammates late in his career. At age 26, he took a historically bad offensive unit, and put up merely below average passing stats. He was probably already pretty good by then. In his last year in Tampa Bay at age 29, he took a clearly sub-par offense and put up almost league average numbers. Still, the quarterback gets blamed and he was sent away, though history shows that he was clearly not the problem. His first year in Cleveland at age 30, he took a below average offensive cast and produced a well above average passing performance, and in my opinion, that was his peak year once we account for his teammates. Over the next several years, he would continue to produce numbers that, once you account for his teammates, shows a very good quarterback. And when he got to finally play with above average offenses that had multiple good players, he was among the league leaders, despite being at an age when some of his Hall of Fame contemporaries were slowing down when their offenses went from elite to merely above average.

I submit that Testaverde didn't discover some fountain of youth or manage to delay the aging process. He was just really good. And when you are really good at age 30-35, you can afford to lose a little and still be able to play in the NFL to age 40. I can't help but wonder what would have happened if Testaverde had managed to end up with an offense that had a few more good players when he was entering his late 20's. My guess is that he would be practicing his Canton speech.

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Ryan Braun Talks Brewers & New Clothing Line with Jim Rome




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Montegranaro cut Robert Hite

Montegranaro decided to split ways with Robert Hite (188-G-84, college: Miami, FL). The 25-year-old guard joined the team at the start of the season. Robert Hite averaged 9.3 points, 2.6 boards and 1.3 assists per game in Seria A. Last season Robert Hite signed for TAU Ceramica. Later the guard moved to Oostende in Belgium. There Hite tallied 16.3 points, 4.8 rebounds and 1.9 steals per game in D1. Robert Hite played for the Miami Heat and Phoenix Suns in the NBA.


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Hurricanes' Goebel Drafted By Washington Freedom

Not certain about her future, Beverly Goebel prepped a resume for potential job interviews.

She's hoping she won't need it.

Goebel, a University of Miami soccer player, was drafted on Friday in the third round by the Washington Freedom of the Women's Professional Soccer League.

She's expecting to join U.S. national team players Abby Wambach, Briana Scurry, and Cat Witehall in Washington in the coming months to get ready for the upcoming season.

Initially, there weren't many expectations for Goebel, who graduated with a degree in sports administration from Miami in December.

"I didn't know that I was going to get drafted," said Goebel, who finished with three goals and two assists as a midfielder for the Hurricanes this season.

"I didn't even know I was on the draft list until the Freedom called me last week."

Well, she was. But Goebel didn't allow friends or family members near the computer as the draft took place online. Her mother kept sneaking peeks on her iPhone without her daughter's permission while the two played Yahtzee.

"I didn't watch the draft because I was scared. I want to play on the next level so badly, and I wasn't even sure that I would get the nod so I didn't want to be dissappointed if my name didn't come up," said Goebel, who helped Miami knock off a the eventual champion North Carolina Tar Heels on October 25th.

"I thought, if anything, I would get drafted in the sixth round, so I was really surprised."


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proCanes Conference Championship Weekend Photos

Check out our Conference Championship Round Weekend photos from around the the NFL of our proCanes. Click here or above on the proCanes Gallery link.





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IRS Hits Cardinals' Antrel Rolle With $2.2 Million Bill

The Internal Revenue Service says Arizona Cardinals safety Antrel Rolle understated his taxable income by more than 50% during his first two years in pro football, sending him a $2.2 million bill for back taxes, interest and penalties.

The IRS claims are contained in a previously unreported lawsuit Rolle filed in U.S. Tax Court against the agency. His petition asserts the IRS violated the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, denied him due process and failed to treat him in a "fair, professional and courteous manner." He complains the agency refused to transfer his tax audit from Sacramento to Los Angeles where his advisors and records were located and would not accept proffered documentation.

However, Rolle does not specifically dispute the IRS audit findings, which he attached to his pleading. The IRS findings state that it was discrepancies and inconsistencies in Rolle's own filings that accounted for most of the bill. Cited points included nonexistent or unlikely addresses, huge deductions claimed by Rolle for a personally run executive business and hard-to-locate churches listed as recipients of big cash gifts, with the amounts and descriptions of these donations changing.

Hiram M. Martin, the lawyer for Rolle in the tax case, declined comment Tuesday on specifics. Calling the matter "confidential," he said it was "totally inappropriate" for Forbes to have obtained his pleading. "I am outraged," he said. By law, Tax Court lawsuits are public record at the clerk's office in Washington, D.C.

Rolle is a new twist on what has become an epidemic of legal troubles plaguing NFL players. His case is a civil tax matter, and Rolle is the plaintiff. Recently New Orleans Saints defensive end Bobby McCray and Atlanta Falcons receiver Eric Weems were arrested for driving while under the influence, while Green Bay Packers defensive tackle Johnny Jolly and Falcons lineman Jonathan Babineaux were charged with drug offenses. None has admitted guilt. Player legal problems are so widespread that there is even a blog devoted to NFL-related crimes.

The hard-tackling Rolle, 27, just finished his fifth season in the National Football League, where he has developed into a top defensive free safety with a knack for turning interceptions into touchdowns. His last game was on Jan. 16, when a head injury forced his first-quarter departure during the Cardinals' 45-14 divisional playoff loss to the New Orleans Saints.

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Wayne should play in SB XLIV

Pro Bowl receiver Reggie Wayne had swelling in one of his knees and may miss some practice this week but should be ready in two weeks. Polian did not say which knee Wayne hurt.

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Jeremy Shockey on limited snap count

Saints coach Sean Payton confirmed that Jeremy Shockey (knee) was on a limited snap count in Sunday's NFC title game.

Shockey caught just one pass for nine yards as David Thomas took over the pass-catching tight end role. With two weeks to rest before the Super Bowl, Shockey figures to be closer to 100 percent when New Orleans takes on Indy.

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McGahee looks to be on the outs in Baltimore

According to Ravens beat writer Mike Preston, 2009 was "likely" Willis McGahee's last season in Baltimore.

If so, McGahee went out on a high note. His 5.0 yards-per-carry average and 14 all-purpose scores were both career bests. The Ravens may ask McGahee to take a pay cut, but he'd be smart to refuse. He'll be the most sought-after tailback on the unrestricted free agent market this spring.

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Magic Benton Teaches Youth Strength & Conditioning In Naples

YOUTH STRENGTH AND CONDITIONING CLASS

Key info: Put on by Magic Benton and 24/7 Sports. 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays. Cost is $30.

Contact: Brian Dodd 277-0700, brian247sports@yahoo.com.


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Vinny Testaverde sued by longtime agent Michael Azzarelli

TAMPA — Former star quarterback Vinny Testaverde is being sued by his longtime agent, Michael Azzarelli, who says the former Buc profited from ongoing financial advice but didn't produce his end of the bargain — a 15 percent cut.

According to a lawsuit filed in Hillsborough Circuit Court on Friday, the two operated under an agreement for years in which Azzarelli gave Testaverde investment advice and was entitled to 15 percent of the net profits.

The lawsuit alleges breach of contract. It says Testaverde has made money but hasn't paid Azzarelli his fees. Azzarelli demands documentation substantiating the cash flow received on investments. The suit doesn't estimate how much money is at stake.

Testaverde's Odessa home is valued at $2.7 million, according to the Hillsborough County Property Appraiser. He last played for the Carolina Panthers in 2007 and was the first overall draft pick of the Bucs in 1987. He won the Heisman Trophy while at Miami in 1986.

Azzarelli became Testaverde's agent in 1991.

Azzarelli and Testaverde declined to comment on the suit.

The two are former next-door neighbors and, according to stories through the years, close friends.

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Shockey relishes opportunity to play in Super Bowl

This whole Super Bowl thing isn't completely foreign to New Orleans Saints tight end Jeremy Shockey. He already has been a member of a team that played for the NFL championship, a team that actually won Super Bowl XLII in an epic upset.

But the similarities cease there.

Shockey's team in 2007, the New York Giants,  played in that game. Shockey, then an injured tight end,  only attended the game. Reportedly,  after a falling out with management, he flew to the game in Arizona on his own dime, wasn't allowed to stay in the team hotel and watched from the press box because he wasn't allowed on the Giants sideline.

His relationship with the Giants had deteriorated, and Shockey was traded to New Orleans in exchange for second- and fifth-round draft picks before the 2008 season, which is why he's bordering on giddy in anticipation of battling the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLIV on Feb. 7 in Miami.

"It's completely different," Shockey said. "I'll be playing in this game, unlike the last one. It's a surreal feeling. It still hasn't hit me. God works in mysterious ways, man. It's a blessing to be a part of this organization and this team. A lot of hard work has paid off.

"Some things happened (with the Giants), but I'm not dwelling on that. I'm dwelling on the fact that we'll be in Miami, my adopted city, and we're all excited about that in this locker room."

Few, of course, are as excitable as Shockey.

He is the peerless towel waver, willing smack talker (to opponents), excitable playmaker. The chance to do all of that, and more, for the Saints in Super Bowl XLIV -- just two seasons after the four-time Pro Bowler was labeled a pariah in New York -- well . . . there's no way the thought can't create a smile.

"I think it's certainly a goal of his to get back in this game and to be a participant rather than to have to watch it,  as tough as that is," New Orleans Coach Sean Payton said. "But people forget how important he was to that team the year they won the Super Bowl.

"When you go back to look at the early two-thirds of the season that year before his injury,  he had a lot of big plays. It's just hard, I'm sure, for any player when you can't finish the season -- and then you see the team that you've played for having success, and you can't be a part of that. I think that is difficult for any player."

You have to figure that even if Shockey can't play against the Colts (he has been slowed by a knee he injured against the Arizona Cardinals in an NFC divisional playoff game, and he didn't do himself a favor while playing against the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC championship game), the Saints will welcome him on the team plane,  in the team hotel and on the team's sideline.

"We'll see (with the injury)," he said. "We've got a lot of time. Two weeks in the NFL is like two years for a person. We'll take it day by day and be smart about it, (and) get an early start on (looking at) our opponent. There's no doubt in my mind that everyone in this locker room knows how much is at stake. We didn't come this far just to make a trip to Miami to get a suntan.

"I felt like a pogo stick out there on one leg, but I have no doubt in my mind it'll be a lot better in two weeks. It's probably a three- or four-week injury, but there was no way I was going miss that game. There's no way I'm going to miss the next one, either."

No, you figure Shockey is going to do everything he can to be on the field this time.

That would benefit the Saints, whose offense isn't quite the same when he isn't on the field.

There's a reason New Orleans acquired Shockey, who caught 48 passes for 569 yards and three touchdowns during the regular season. Simply, he was an upgrade and remains the preferred choice.

No one knows better what Shockey can do than Payton, who was an assistant with the Giants from 1999-2002, the last three years as offensive coordinator. Shockey was drafted by New York in 2002 and caught 74 passes for 894 yards and two touchdowns as a rookie.

No one appreciates more than Shockey what Payton offers as an offensive mind.

"I knew it would work (in New Orleans) because I've worked with Sean before," Shockey said. "He believed in me and drafted me coming out of college. I'd seen the Saints on offense a number of times, and I'd seen (quarterback) Drew (Brees) play a number of years in this league.

"I knew it was going to work. It was just a matter of me staying healthy and being able to be on the field and help the team win. Sean taught me, when I came into the league, about mismatches and about the things that defenses have to think about. Just the personnel matchup. He's the best at that. He instilled that in my brain at an early age in the league,  and I'm just happy that he taught me that."

Together, they'll learn what it's like to experience the Super Bowl, not just attend it.

"It's going to be fun," Shockey said about returning to Miami, where he played college ball. "But first and foremost, we're going there to win the Super Bowl. I'm not going there to have a party. I've had plenty of those there."

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(nola.com)
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WILFORK SAYS JOHNSON SHOULD BE NEXT PATS’ DC

Patriots nose tackle Vince Wilfork said he wants defensive line coach Pepper Johnson to become the teams’ next defensive coordinator. In an interview with ESPNBoston.com, Wilfork said Johnson should be the one to succeed former defensive coordinator Dean Pees.

“Playing under him, I want to see him as coordinator, I think he deserves it,” Wilfork said. “He has all the tools to be [a defensive coordinator].”

Johnson and linebackers coach Matt Patricia — who has gotten similar support from some of the New England linebackers — figure to be the top two in-house candidates to replace Pees, whose contract ended at the end of the 2009 season.

One thing that Patriots coach Bill Belichick has talked about on occasion is the advantage that Johnson has as a coach — he’s the only one on the current staff who has played the game at an NFL level, having had several years of experience as a player in Belichick-coached schemes in New York and Cleveland.

“I think the big thing that Pepper brings to our staff that is really unique is that he’s played in this system and he’s actually done it out there on the field,” Belichick said earlier this month. “That’s been important, not just [to] our defense, but to our entire team, talking to players.

“He’s got a wealth of experience, and he’s very good at sharing that.”

It was a point echoed by Wilfork.

“He is a player’s coach and a big part of that is that he actually played the game,” Wilfork said. “A lot of things happen on the field, and because he’s been in the same predicament as us, he understands exactly what we see and how blocking schemes develop. It’s real easy to play for a coach like that.

“It also makes it a lot easier for a group of guys in a room, when somebody is talking to them about playing a certain technique, or a fit here, when it’s coming from a guy who has done it. So those are different people — the Xs’ and O’s and then somebody talking X’s and O’s who has played the game and understands it, like Pepper.”

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NFL U Playoff Update

Who's in and Who's Out?
After the Conference Championship Round of NFL U playoffs we know that both the AFC and NFC teams will be repreented by proCanes in the Super Bowl. Who are they? See below.

Who's in?
Jeremy Shockey: The Saints Defeated the Vikings and Play the Colts in the Super Bowl
Jonathan Vilma: The Saints Defeated the Vikings and Play the Colts in the Super Bowl
Reggie Wayne: The Colts Defeated the Jets and Play the Saints in the Super Bowl

Who's Out?
Bryant McKinnie: The Vikings were eliminated by the Saints
Calais Campbell:
The Cardinals were Eliminated by the Saints
Antrel Rolle: The Cardinals were Eliminated by the Saints
Willis McGahee: The Ravens were Eliminated by the Colts
Ray Lewis: The Ravens were Eliminated by the Colts
Ed Reed: The Ravens were Eliminated by the Colts
Tavares Gooden: The Ravens were Eliminated by the Colts
Antonio Dixon: The Eagles were Eliminated by the Cowboys last week
Orien Harris: The Bengals were Eliminated by the Jets last week
Vince Wilfork: The Patriots were Eliminated by the Ravens last week
Brandon Meriweather: The Patriots were Eliminated by the Ravens last week


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proCane Stats From the Conference Championship Round

Jeremy Shockey: 1 catches, 9 yards

Jonathan Vilma: 5 solo tackles, 1 INT returned 3 yards and 1 fumble recovery

Reggie Wayne: 3 catches, 55 yards


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2010 proCane Pro Bowlers Update

The NFL 2010 Pro Bowlers were announced with 11 proCanes named on the AFC and NFC rosters.

AFC:
- Andre Johnson - WR - Houston Texans - Starter
- Brandon Meriweather - S - New England Patriots - Starter
- Reggie Wayne - WR - Indianapolis Colts - Starter
- Vince Wilfork - DL - New England Patriots
- Ray Lewis - MLB - Baltimore Ravens - Starter
- Ed Reed - S - Baltimore Ravens - Starter
- DJ Williams - OLB - Denver Broncos - Alternate

NFC:
- Bryant McKinnie - OL - Minnesota Vikings - Starter
- Jonathan Vilma - MLB - New Orleans Saints
- Antrel Rolle - S - Arizona Cardinals - Starter
- Frank Gore - RB - San Francisco 49ers - Starter

*Updated 1/25/10


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Peter King's Defensive Player of the Week : Jon Vilma

Jonathan Vilma, linebacker, New Orleans.
The Saints did let the Vikings march up and down the field on them to be sure, but Vilma stopped two drives with an interception and fumble recovery, forced another fumble, had five tackles and two passes deflected ... and changed the defense on the crucial Brett Favre interception from man to zone, which cornerback Tracy Porter credited for giving him the chance to pick off Favre and save the game for New Orleans. Vilma's second year with Saints after his trade from New York is turning into a special one. He's the defensive signal-caller, and defensive coordinator Gregg Williams trusts him to change any play call at the line if he sees certain offensive tendencies.

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FAU hosting Mike Rumph football camp Jan. 30

Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton is hosting the Mike Rumph Youth Football Camp for ages 6-13 on Jan. 30. The camp will run from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Instructors include former and current NFL players Mike Rumph, Patrick Surtain, Duane Starks, Damian Cook and Santana Moss.

Register at www.aetrainingsystems.com. The first 100 registrants receive free tickets to the FAU vs. FIU basketball game. For information, contact (954) 873-2508 or info@aetrainingsystems.com.

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(palmbeachpost.com)
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Lewis calls fine 'kind of embarrassing' for NFL

Ravens middle linebacker Ray Lewis disagreed with the NFL's decision to fine him $5,000, insisting his end zone hit in the divisional playoff game in Indianapolis was legal.

“To be brutally honest ... I look at that being kind of embarrassing,” Lewis told ESPNews. “A man is just trying to do his job. If I directly went after him helmet to helmet, I would understand that. But you’re talking about a man who’s been playing for over 14 years and who respects this game to the utmost and who never leads with his helmet first and foremost.”

Lewis added, “I hit him with my shoulder pad and I know I hit him with my shoulder pad. For them to fine me, I’m a little disappointed.”

He was disciplined "specifically on a pass play [where] he made helmet to helmet contact with the opponent," an NFL spokesman said. It’s the second time that Lewis has been fined this season for a hit.

Lewis also commented on the success of Rex Ryan, his former defensive coordinator who has guided the New York Jets to the AFC championship game.

“I respect the guy to the utmost,” Lewis said. “The way his players respond to him, that defines the coach’s success. Rex is a very lovable guy.”

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(baltimoresun.com)
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Former Packers star praises Knox, knocks Hester

The Bears' trade for Jay Cutler came with an added bonus: the fifth-round draft pick that Denver included in the deal turned into Johnny Knox, who caught 45 passes for 527 yards and five touchdowns as a rookie.

Former Packers All-Pro wide receiver James Lofton was impressed, but not surprised.

"You're getting a good receiver in Johnny Knox," Lofton said Friday on "The Mully & Hanley Show" on WSCR-AM 670. " I like Johnny Knox. I worked him out during the off-season and I was really high on him. I was a little worried that he's not real big, but there are some guys who aren't real big that can play in the NFL, and he's one of them."

Asked about Bears' so-called No. 1 receiver Devin Hester, Lofton replied, "(Let's) leave it on a high note."

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(chicagobreakingsports.com)
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Wayne's first pupil? Bears' Aromashodu

INDIANAPOLIS -- Before Reggie Wayne began mentoring Pierre Garcon and Austin Collie, the young wide receivers who combined for 274 yards in today's AFC Championship Game victory over the New York Jets, he was working with a young receiver named Devin Aromashodu.

Aromashodu's stay with the Colts, which included a role on the practice squad in Super Bowl XLI, was a short one. But Wayne can say now that he saw long ago what the Bears found out about Aromashodu late in this season. Armoashodu had seven catches for 150 yards and a touchdown in the Week 16 victory over Minnesota and scored two touchdowns in the season finale at Detroit. Wayne knew he just needed a shot.

"I think he can make it as a starter and a big-time guy in this league because he works hard," Wayne said. "They just have to give him the opportunity. If they give him the opportunity, he'll be able to show everyone what he can do."

Aromashodu also spent 2007 in Indianapolis and appeared in six games, making seven receptions. He was originally a seventh-round pick of the Miami Dolphins in 2006, and the Bears signed him off the practice squad of the Washington Redskins in 2008.

"I absolutely saw (what he did at the end of the season) in him when he was here and that's why I worked with him every single day, because I saw the potential in Devin," Wayne said. "I'm just happy for him to be able to get somewhere and show what he is able to do. Hopefully, they stick with him."

Wayne said he talks to Aromashodu all the time. He's proven to be a pretty good teacher based on the seasons Garcon and Collie enjoyed. He still helps Aromashodu whenever he can. He couldn't say if Aromashodu having to wait nearly the entire season was challenging for the young player.

"I have no idea, man. I don't have a clue about that," Wayne said. "I'm just happy he got a chance at the end of the season."

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Some additional thoughts on Ed Reed and team leadership

Anyone who has ever read anything I've written on this blog, or for the Sun, probably knows I'm a little long-winded. It's rare in this day and age of daily newspapers to get a ton of space for stories, so it is a credit to my editors that I was able to write a lengthy piece in this Sunday's Sun exploring just how valuable Ed Reed is to the Ravens and what it might mean if he really does decide to retire because of injuries to his neck, hip and groin.
Even with all that space, there are a few other tidbits that didn't make it into the story that I thought were worth sharing, if you're interested. I find Reed to be a fascinating person and player. He's also a hard person to get to know because he has almost no interest in speaking with the media on a weekly basis.

Reed really is the most popular player in the Ravens locker room, in part because he's as friendly and engaging with the practice players as he is the Pro Bowlers. It's really easy to get people to say kind things about him. Professional locker rooms can be just as cliquish as high school and college locker rooms, with pecking orders and jealousy playing a role in team harmony. But if you truly believe in the concept of TEAM, then someone like Reed can be invaluable.

"By far, the most genuine guy there is," said defensive lineman Trevor Pryce. "By far. There is no waffling in him, no talking bad about you behind your back, no locker room gossip or any of that stuff comes out of him. He's the best teammate. He's the kind of teammate you've always wanted to have."

How does that translate into on-field success? I asked Chris Carr that question, and he gave what I thought was an interesting answer.

"The first thing you notice, as soon as you meet him, there is just a comfortability there," Carr said. "Sometimes it takes awhile to warm up to somebody and really get to know them. It really takes awhile to get to know anybody. You feel comfortable talking to him from the get go. You can be here for a month and you feel like you've known him for a year. He just kind of has that disposition where he's very friendly and has a warm personality that's very friendly to talk to. As a defensive back, not only is he a great friend, when somebody has that disposition, it's very easy to talk to them about coverages and assignments and you know that 'This is the best who's done it.' It's very easy to talk to him and get suggestions. He humbles himself that way, so I should humble myself that way too."

Reed and Domonique Foxworth had never met before Foxworth signed with the Ravens this season, but Foxworth explained that Reed met him at the facility one day and quickly embraced him. Before long, the two of them were bouncing ideas off one another about different coverages they could play during the season.

"I think he recognized I was a pretty bright guy and that we could do some pretty complex things with the defense and the secondary," Foxworth said. "From then to now, we always bounce ideas off one another of different ways to cover different routes and ways to change up the defense to keep people on our toes. Sometimes we draw up some crazy things and pass them back and forth to each other. One of us has to be the voice of reason and say 'Nah, that's too much.' It just works out and creates plays on Sunday."

With Peyton Manning and the Colts in the Super Bowl, you're going to hear a lot of discussion about whether or not a second Super Bowl ring would help solidify him as perhaps the greatest quarterback of all time. And those who argue in Manning's favor are going to use how well he reads coverage as a point in his favor. But as two games against the Colts this season demonstrated, Reed might be as adept as any defender in the league at getting inside Manning's head.

In the regular season game between the Colts and Ravens, Reed intercepted Manning on a play that looked, to me, like Manning simply made a dumb throw into double coverage. But when the Ravens faced the Patriots in the first round of the playoffs and New England coach Bill Belichick was singing the praises of Reed, he called that play "the defensive play of the year in the NFL, as far as I'm concerned."

I couldn't understand why he would say that, since in essence, it looked like little more than a foolish throw by Manning, but Foxworth -- without giving away the specifics of the coverage -- agreed to expound on what unfolded. (And what Belichick seemed to understand had taken place.)

"We know how smart Peyton is," Foxworth said. "So, we try to use his intelligence against him. Some quarterbacks won't notice if someone is out position or won't notice if someone is playing a route a certain way. But Peyton does. This is something that Ed and I have always talked about, especially talked about facing Peyton before the season even started. We both know him to be one of those guys who sees everything. It's important for us to show him stuff that we wanted him to see, and make him think we didn't want him to see it."

What Foxworth is saying, essentially, is that he and Reed made Manning think he was out-smarting them, that they were giving away tendencies, when in reality he was playing right into their hands.

"That's the best way to describe that interception," Foxworth continued. "It requires the entire secondary to work together. It's funny, a lot of times in the media, everything gets over simplified. Wow, what an amazing play. It kind of annoys me sometimes because it doesn't give us the intellectual credit we deserve. People think, 'Oh what an amazing athletic play Ed Reed had.' It was an amazing athletic play. I can't expect anyone to know all this, but that play we had been setting that up weeks prior, setting it up throughout the course of the game to get one play, and everything fell where it was supposed to fall, and he threw it right to Ed Reed."

All of this isn't to suggest Reed is perfect. I think he drives a lot of old school football types bonkers with his penchant for lateraling the ball every time he gets his hands on it. He does freelance at times on defense, although I don't think any of us know whether the coaches encourage it, or disapprove of it and simply can't stop it because he's Ed Reed.

But Reed's also never gone on his radio show to criticize his head coach, or turned his contract negotiations into a soap opera. He's never engaged in petty feuds with former teammates or, as far as I know, held himself up to be bigger than the team. Maybe he'll be back next year, and maybe he'll retire. Only Reed knows what's in his heart. Either way, you may want to take a few seconds to appreciate, and enjoy, what Reed means to the Ravens.

For however long it lasts.

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


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If Ed Reed retires, he'll just vanish

At some point in the future, Ravens safety Ed Reed is going to retire from football. It could be in a month, or it could be in five years.

When it comes to pass, in all likelihood, there will be no news conference. No ceremony or celebration to recognize Reed's remarkable career. He wouldn't go for that kind of pomp and circumstance. According to teammates who know him best, it will just be a phone call to the Ravens, and he'll be gone.

You'll probably see it on the news crawl one morning, maybe while you're making breakfast or attempting to wrangle your kids out the door and off to school. You might do a double-take, just to make certain you saw it correctly. Ed Reed? One of the best free safeties in NFL history is walking away? Can that be right?

Someday it will be. Reed's recent admission that he's mulling retirement because of injuries is not a bluff. Even before this season, Reed contemplated walking away because of a pinched nerve in his neck. No one took it particularly seriously, not even the Ravens. But there was real doubt there. He hated the idea of not being able to pick up his young son and play with him someday years from now because he didn't listen to his body today.

Now, a year later, the neck injury is essentially unchanged. He is 31 years old. He played much of the past season with ligament tears in his hip and groin but was still selected to his sixth Pro Bowl despite missing four games. Moments after the Ravens' 2009 season ended with a 20-3 loss to the Indianapolis Colts - a game in which Reed intercepted Peyton Manning but was stripped of the ball from behind after a lengthy return - he surprised the media and fans, but not his teammates, by putting the odds at 50-50 for returning in 2010.

Coach John Harbaugh said in a news conference last week that after talking with Reed he expects him to return, but acknowledged that it's up to Reed.

"It kind of hit me on the sideline," Reed said. "It hit me now because I don't know how much I'm going to be able to have going forward. It'll be a long offseason just thinking about. It hurts just thinking about it."

Whether he returns or retires, there has never been a more appropriate time to take stock of what Reed means to the Ravens. There is a good chance, no matter how closely you follow the team, that you don't realize the depth of his influence. It goes well beyond game-changing interceptions and school-yard laterals.

To an outsider, this is still Ray Lewis' team. It's a mantra drilled into our heads every time the Ravens appear on television. It's part of the narrative virtually every time the Ravens are talked about or written about. Lewis' personality drowns out all the other story lines.

But behind the scenes - on the practice field, in the film room and in the hallways of the Castle - this team belongs to Reed as much as it does to Lewis.

"He's one of the few people who is not tainted by the business part of the game," Ravens cornerback Domonique Foxworth said. "To some degree, it creeps into all of us, especially guys who have been around it for a while. But he's one guy who I can say honestly, he reminds me of a high school kid. You kind of get hardened by your professional experiences. He's managed to remain genuine in everything he does. While he's in the building, genuinely 100 percent for the betterment of the team, which I don't know that you can say that about anyone else, coach or player, that I've ever met in the league."

'He just loves football'

In the complex realities of an NFL locker room, leadership takes on many forms. And Reed's behind-the-scenes influence might be one of the least talked about, but most important, factors in the Ravens' success.

"A lot of people see this as Ray's team and Ray's defense. Everything about the Baltimore Ravens, a lot of it is focused on Ray," Foxworth said. "And that's the thing about Ed is, he doesn't care. He gives those impassioned speeches that motivate us as a team from time to time. When there is a gripe on the team, or when we need some rest, he'll go upstairs and confront Coach Harbaugh just as much, if not more, than Ray. But that doesn't get reported, and Ed doesn't care. Because he's genuine. It's not about how it looks. It's not about who's going to be [mad] at him. It's not about who is going to love him. It's about what he thinks is best for the team."

That isn't to suggest that there is a rift between Reed and Lewis, or that a power struggle exists. Both are important to the Ravens' ebb and flow. In the modern NFL, no one man has the ear of 52 others, and both players seem to understand that. Lewis is an important mentor to countless younger players, and he deflects and absorbs the majority of the attention, in both good times and bad. It is rare, however, to hear broadcasters or columnists sing hosannas to Reed's leadership skills the way they do to Lewis'.

"By far, Ed is the most popular guy in the locker room," Ravens defensive end Trevor Pryce said. "By far. The greatest compliment I can give to him is he wants none of the attention. A lot of guys around here, and a lot of guys in the NFL, could learn from that. Let other people talk about you. If you're good enough, they'll talk about you. I don't think he cares one way or another. And I genuinely mean that. I really mean it. He [doesn't care] about being in the paper or having his picture out there, that type of thing. That is rare as it gets. Other people, they think a lot differently. They want that attention, they want to talk to the press, they want to be a personality. He just wants to be a football player."

That popularity can be explained in other ways as well. When Reed was injured in the second half of the season, Ravens safety Tom Zbikowski filled in admirably and the secondary didn't suffer the major drop-off many expected. Did that mean Reed wasn't irreplaceable?

That's not the way Zbikowski saw it. Reed wasn't just coaching Zbikowski behind the scenes, going over specifics of where he needed to be and the tendencies of opposing quarterbacks. He was also genuinely thrilled, according to several Ravens, when Zbikowski played well. That's not how it often works in the NFL.

"I don't know what it would be like if you were filling in for other people, but when I was in there, you can genuinely tell he wants you to do good," Zbikowski said. "He wants to help you out. He's constantly giving you pointers, telling you everything he knows. He just loves football. He wants to be around it and wants to see people do good. A lot of good things happen to people like that, but it's because of who he is, not necessarily because of his talent."

Under the radar
Reed does not grant many one-on-one interviews, and for the most part he is elusive when it comes to speaking with the media. Although he is proud of his charity work, done through his Eye of the Hurricane foundation and with students at Booker T. Washington Middle School, he prefers to keep it quiet.

But he is more playful about his reluctance to answer personal questions than he is defiant. Asked recently whether it were true he is making plans to pursue a business degree in graduate school, that his plans for life after football have already begun to take shape, he smiled, then expressed mock outrage that someone had been revealing his secrets.

"Somebody is lying about me," Reed said. "I am going to graduate school, but that ain't got nothing to do with football. I'm still in the process of doing it. It ain't got nothing to do with you all [in the media]. And whomever told you, it ain't got nothing to do with them either."

Reed is not without his faults as a player. He has become a gambler on defense in recent years, a risk-taker who sometimes sacrifices fundamentals in pursuit of a game-changing play. But Foxworth counters that criticism by explaining there is a method to what some people perceive as recklessness.

"Ed is not worried about putting himself in the best position," Foxworth said. "He'll put himself in a bind if it's what's best for the team, and he'll try to create a situation that will make plays for other people. One of the good things about him having so much success, coaches give him a little more leeway to be creative in the way we do things. Some of the things we do out on the field are not always to make Ed's life easier, but they're ways to create plays for other people. It just makes the whole team better and builds confidence. That's why everybody already loves Ed."

No goodbyes
In the end, when this turbulent season finally came to a close, even some of the Ravens still wanted a piece of Reed to hold on to.

The Monday after the playoff loss to the Colts, the players returned to Owings Mills to have their final meetings with the coaching staff and clean out their lockers.

Some of the younger players - Edgar Jones, Prescott Burgess and Dannell Ellerbe among them - were making the rounds in the locker room with jerseys and helmets, trying to collect signatures from everyone who remained.

There is so much uncertainty in the life of a professional football player. When seasons end, many seek something tangible to take with them, something to prove, years from now, they were there, alongside Hall of Fame players like Lewis and Reed.

"He's the best player I've ever played with," cornerback Chris Carr said. "But I always tell people that if Ed Reed wasn't a good player, he'd still be one of the coolest teammates I've ever had. That's just who he is. That is rare to see somebody who talks to everybody, doesn't matter whether they're a free agent or a star, there is that comfort level."

Several times, players walked toward the back of the locker room, hoping Reed would appear, if only briefly, to sign a jersey or say a quick goodbye.

But Reed never showed.

At that very moment, he was leaving the building, having slipped away, outfoxing most of the media.

He walked toward his car with his head down, moving forward but also lingering just a bit. He answered a few questions, but not many.

He looked like a man with so much on his mind, someone who honestly couldn't say when, if ever, he would enter that locker room again.

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


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(baltimoresun.com)
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Chudzinski won't be joining the Bears

Scratch another candidate off the list of potential Bears offensive coordinators. A source close to the situation said Rob Chudzinski, who interviewed with the team Thursday, will not be coming to Chicago.

Chudzinski finished the season as the assistant head coach and tight ends coach of the Chargers. His contract is expiring, and it is believed the Chargers want him back. He also could be drawing interest from other teams.

If Chudzinski and the Bears had come to terms, he would have been given control of the Bears offensive game planning and play calling. In San Diego, head coach Norv Turner is the man most responsible for the Chargers offense. The team also has an offensive coordinator in Clarence Shelmon.


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(chicagobreakingsports.com)
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Rematched in Berlin II: Williams vs Stewart.

Lauryn Williams and Kerron Stewart have faced each other in four global finals and so far scores are tied at two all. Williams busted on the world stage at the 2002 world Junior Championships in Jamaica when she won the 100m title in 11.33 seconds beating Stewart into fourth spot(11.53). That final saw US vs Jamaica with Simone Facey taking the silver for Jamaica and Marshevet Hooker collecting the bronze for the Americans. The next matchup came at the 2007 World Championships in Osaka, Japan where Williams was second in 11.01 with Stewart back in seventh place (11.12). Williams lost the gold in a photo finish to Stewart’s Jamaican counterpart Veronica Campbell-Brown. Then it was at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China where Stewart finished ahead of Williams taking joint second with Sherone Simpson (10.98) and behind Shelly-Ann Fraser as Jamaica swept the top three positions. Williams was fourth in 11.03 seconds. And in the latest contest at the 2009 World Championships in Berlin, Germany, Stewart again finished ahead in second place (10.75) with Williams in fifth 11.01.


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(trackalerts.com)
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