Photos From Willis McGahee 29th Birthday at Eden in DC

Baltimore Ravens RB running back, Willis McGahee celebrated his 29th birthday on Monday at Eden in D.C. McGahee was all smiles after starting on Sunday against the Bills. he didn’t run a down against the Patriots. McGahee ran for  64 yards and scored the only rushing touchdown of the game.

He was kept company by Washington Redskins QB Donovan McNabb and TE Fred Davis and teammates Curtis Steels and Justin Harper

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Javarris James Could Carry the Ball For the Colts on Sunday

Head coach Jim Caldwell tells the Indianapolis Star that Mike Hart will have a big role if Joseph Addai is unable to play in Week 8. "If (Addai) doesn't go, obviously Mike Hart has to be the guy to step it up a little bit, and Javarris James will have to carry a few duties as well," Caldwell says.

Our View: Addai is doubtful at this point, and Caldwell didn't mention Donald Brown in that sentence. It's possible that Brown (hamstring) could play this week, but it looks like Hart could be first in line for a big role.

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Rex Ryan makes up with Ray Lewis

When the Ravens celebrated the 10th anniversary of their 2000 Super Bowl team over the weekend, one of the assistant coaches to come back was New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan.

Ryan said he participated in a dinner Saturday night. He left afterward, heading back to New York, because the Jets began preparations for their game this weekend against the Green Bay Packers. It would have been interesting to see the crowd reaction Sunday if Ryan were introduced with former Ravens assistants Jim Colletto and Matt Simon.

"The event was great," said Ryan, a former Ravens defensive line coach and coordinator. "I stay close with of a bunch of these guys like Tony Siragusa, Rob Burnett and Larry Webster. I coached Brad Jackson in Cincinnati and I hadn't seen Jelly Roll [ Lional Dalton] in a while. The current guys were just coming out of a meeting so I got a chance to say hello to Haloti [Ngata], T.J. Housh [Houshmandzadeh] and Joe Flacco."

Ryan also said he got a chance to talk with Ray Lewis, and they settled any differences they may have had heading into the season opener in New York. The Ravens beat the Jets, 10-9.

"The kiss-and-makeup thing went well," said Ryan, laughing. "I spent 10 years with Ray, and I know what happens going into the week before a big game. No one has to tell me how competitive he is, and we just needed to make sure it wasn't personal.

"Ray is a Baltimore Raven, he is an icon, which is why it was funny to hear people say I tried to bring him with me," said Ryan. "I wouldn't have done that, but that didn't mean I didn't think about it.

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

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Ray Lewis & Ed Reed reunion timed perfectly for Ravens

BALTIMORE (AP) — On the same day the Baltimore Ravens welcomed back members of the 2000 Super Bowl team, linebacker Ray Lewis — the lone remaining active player on that squad — celebrated a return of a different sort.

Lewis was joined in the Baltimore huddle by Ed Reed, who made his long-anticipated season debut Sunday against the Buffalo Bills. After missing six weeks recovering from hip surgery, the six-time Pro Bowl safety intercepted two passes, forced a fumble and made four tackles in a 37-34 overtime victory.

Just as important, Reed reclaimed his role as field general of Baltimore's defensive backfield.

"There's no greater leader back there to command," Lewis said. "Ed came in and made some great plays. And just him being back there, communication picks up and things like that. It's always big getting a personality like Ed back."

When the Ravens (5-2) return from Sunday's bye to host the Miami Dolphins on Nov. 7, Lewis and Reed — who own a combined 24 years of experience — will head the chain of command on one of the league's most feared defensive units.

"They are great leaders. And I'd put two more guys in that category: Haloti Ngata and Terrell Suggs," coach John Harbaugh said. "Those are four star players in this league that are great leaders and have great work ethic."

Ngata has become one of the premier defensive linemen in the NFL and Suggs is a formidable pass rusher, but Lewis and Reed are game changers. Lewis is on course to lead the Ravens in tackles for the 13th time in 15 years and Reed has a knack for converting turnovers into touchdowns.

"It was pretty cool to see Ed out there doing his thing," Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco. "He's been doing that for a while."

In an effort to reach the Super Bowl for the first time since that landmark season a decade ago, the Ravens worked this offseason to improve a passing attack that was lacking in 2009.

The maturation of Flacco, along with the addition of receivers Anquan Boldin and T.J. Houshmandzadeh, has made Baltimore's offense much more versatile. When injured speedster Donte' Stallworth — another newcomer — comes back in a week or two from a broken foot, the Ravens' air game should be even better.

"Everybody knows Donte' is a fast guy. He's able to stretch the field," said Boldin, who leads the Ravens with 38 catches and five touchdowns. "He just brings another playmaker to the offense."

But it is the defense, led by Lewis and Reed, that will ultimately be responsible for guiding the Ravens to the playoffs for a third straight season.

Such was the case against winless Buffalo. Even though the Ravens yielded more than 500 yards and 34 points, Reed repeatedly took the ball away from the Bills and Lewis forced a fumble in overtime that set up the game-winning field goal.

Reed expects to contribute even more after a welcome bye.

"It's kind of like I'm going through training camp right now," he said. "I'll take this week to get even more healthy."

The Ravens are playing this season without cornerback Domonique Foxworth (torn ACL) and top draft pick Sergio Kindle (fractured skull). But special teams standout Brendon Ayanbadejo returned Sunday from a leg injury, Stallworth is nearly ready to contribute and linebacker Tavares Gooden could be back from a shoulder injury as soon as next week.

"We're pretty much totally healthy as a team," Lewis said. "I think Tavares will probably be the last one that we've got to get back. Just sitting where we are, kind of what I told the guys, bottom line is, to go through the stretch that we went through and now to be sitting at 5-2, completely healthy, you can't ask for nothing more."

Over the first seven weeks, Baltimore beat the New York Jets and Pittsburgh on the road, lost away games to New England and Cincinnati by a combined eight points, and went 3-0 at home.

"We're right in the thick of things," Boldin said. "We're right at the top, so we're still in a position to achieve all the goals that we set out at the beginning of the season."

The main objective, of course, is to reach the Super Bowl. Then, maybe a decade from now, this team can have a reunion of its own at the stadium.

"It's good to see those guys come back," Ngata said, "because that's where we want to get to."

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

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The Amazing Story Of Antonio Dixon

Antonio Dixon’s first paycheck from the Eagles hangs proudly framed on his apartment wall. It is symbolic of a promise kept and poverty broken. A reminder that nothing further is guaranteed.

That paycheck got gobbled up pretty quick. His single mother, Corenthia – who goes by Peaches — along with his four siblings back in the Miami area had all their Christmas present requests in, ready to hand to Antonio when he walked through the door last year. He had told them to get a list together, and boy did they ever.

There were plenty of pressing needs to tend to as well. Antonio’s younger brother Jarvis had gone down the wrong path and stopped going to school, claiming he had no clothes or shoes to go in. So Antonio took him shopping, and said: “Now you have no excuses.”

And then there was the living situation…

This was all part of the plan that had been in the works for years. Peaches paints the picture of little Antonio at the homeless shelter, steadfast in his conviction that he was the key out.

“He would say, ‘Momma, I’m going to get us out of this situation. I’m going to play football and we’ll be rich one day.’ I used to laugh and say, ‘That’s so sweet,’ ” said Peaches.

Not that she dismissed what her son was saying, but being rich hardly seems within reach when you are homeless.

Peaches had her first child, Darrell, when she was 15, and Antonio two years later. In that time period Peaches’ mother died.

“I was just a kid lost out in the world with nobody to help me. Everyone was saying they were going to do this and that. But once we buried my mom, we were on our own,” she said.

Antonio’s dad wasn’t an option. He was a drug dealer and served 17 years in prison for cocaine trafficking (he was just released last year). So Peaches took her family to Atlanta to stay with her sister. But there were quickly complaints that the house became overcrowded, and they were asked to leave. For the next seven or eight years, the family would be in and out of shelters between Atlanta and Miami.

All the while, Antonio was at work on his plan. And there was much work to do, as the boy was born not just impoverished but also impaired. He suffered from dyslexia, and was unable to read until he was in sixth grade. Plus, he had a significant stuttering problem. To this day when he is the least bit excited or nervous his mind will get stuck, and he’s forced to slap his arm or pound his chest to get the word out. He was often teased for how he spoke and would get in the occasional fight as a result.

He kept his focus, though. Even though he went to about 10 different middle schools between all the moving and was battling a learning disability, the mission to get rich never went off track. Even when Peaches went into rehab for drug abuse, and he was placed in foster care with the rest of his siblings for 11 months, the picture was still clear.

Antonio’s schedule went: School, then home. Once football was introduced, it went: School, then football, then home. He never went out with his friends, instead coming home to crack open books and will himself to read and learn. Antonio’s older brother and Peaches would assist, helping to do the homework to ensure Antonio would continue to advance from grade to grade.

Things stabilized in high school thanks in large part to football, as he spent all four years at Booker T. Washington in Miami. By his senior year he was around 350 pounds. After a successful year at the preparatory school Milford Academy he was heavily recruited, and ultimately chose the University of Miami.

Antonio had a pretty good collegiate career but was not drafted by the NFL. The Washington Redskins picked Dixon up as an undrafted free agent but then waived him on Sept. 5, 2009. On Sept. 6, the Eagles claimed him.

“He called and said, ‘Momma, I got signed by the Eagles,’ ” said Peaches. “Everyone in the house started screaming: ‘He did it, he did it! He said he was going to do it, and he did it!’ ”

Dixon got limited playing time last season, accruing 15 tackles and a sack for the Eagles. This season looks like it’s going to be a breakout year for him. After Brodrick Bunkley went down with an injured elbow in San Francisco, Dixon has taken over the starting defensive tackle role and was a big key to the defense’s success against a pair of strong running attacks in the Falcons and Titans. It looks like he has his coach’s attention, especially after a monster day against the Titans where he racked up six tackles, a sack and helped contain Chris Johnson.

“Dixon was a bright spot in this game [and] really the last few weeks. He’s played very well so he’ll continue to have opportunities,” said Andy Reid, who was asked to comment on the personal accomplishments of his newfound defensive tackle.
“I mean Antonio’s had to overcome some things just in his life. He has a speech impediment, and so on, and he’s worked through that and he’s one of the team favorites, just as far as being a person. He’s playing very good football right now and he works at it, he really worked in the offseason about keeping his weight down and kind of reforming his body and it’s paying off for him. He’s playing very good football [and he’s a] very, very strong player and really enjoys playing the game so I’m happy for him. He’s doing well.”

Antonio has been on the team long enough to string some paychecks together. Besides bringing Christmas to his mother and four siblings back in Miami, in February he took the whole family out for Peaches’ birthday. They went to the movies, out to eat, and he even bought his mom a gold necklace.

“Whatever I ask for, he gets it for me,” said Peaches.

Including a new home.

Back in Atlanta when they weren’t in a shelter, the whole family lived in a single room, sharing the bathroom and kitchen with three other families. The girls would sleep together in the bed, the boys on the floor. Thanks to Antonio, the family is now in a three-bedroom house in the Miami area, complete with a big back yard. They are renting for now.

“I’m real happy now,” said Antonio. “She’s secure, and has a place to lay their head and a place to call home. We’re happy about that.”

Antonio, meanwhile, is staying in a one-bedroom apartment in Philadelphia, with plans to upgrade mildly. His mom has continued to preach cautious spending, as the next hard moment might be right around the corner.

“I’m not getting a house until I sign another contract. I’m still grinding,” he said. “I’m still trying to make it. I haven’t made it yet. I can get hurt tomorrow and never play again, so I’m trying to be smart about it.”

But as he heads home to Miami during this bye week, he enters a house he helped pay for with a salary he gets from the National Football League. What were once just words spoken at a homeless shelter is now a family’s reality, however unimaginable.

“Whenever he said he’d do something he’d always do it,” said Peaches. “It may have taken a long time but he’d do it.”

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Ray Lewis doesn't believe defense got tired before bye

In the first five games of the season, the Ravens' defense only allowed an average of 14.4 points.

In the fourth quarter alone of the past two games, this defense gave up a total of 20 points to New England and Buffalo.

Middle linebacker Ray Lewis was asked if the Ravens defense got tired the past couple of weeks.

“I don’t know what that means," he said. "Unless you sit down and watch film with us to see what getting tired is, it [isn’t] about getting tired. Both of these games that we were in, a fourth-quarter, field goal changes both games."

Lewis added, "So, the bottom line is when you’re talking about defense getting tired, we went into New England and put them three-and-out three times in overtime. So, when you get into all that stuff, all you have to do is turn on the film, and the film speaks for itself. Bottom line is where we’re sitting right now, I think we’re happy.”

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

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Bernie Kosar, Republican slate impresses crowd at bus tour

A confident slate of eight Republicans and one former Cleveland Browns quarterbackstopped at the soon-to-open Wood and Wine restaurant in Avon yesterday to urge a packed house to make a change in Ohio.

Jim Andrews, who said the Wood and Wine on Chester Road should open next week, said Republicans understood the need to support small business owners. He introduced Dave Yost, candidate for Ohio auditor who in turn introduced Judith Lanzinger (Supreme Court Justice), Maureen OConnor (Supreme Court Chief Justice,) former Senator and Ohio Attorney General candidate Mike DeWine, Secretary of State candidate Jon Husted, Lt. Governor candidate Mary Taylor, Congressman Rob Portman (Senator) and the Republican candidate for governor, John Kasich.

The forum was part of a statewide bus tour. The Avon stop was orchestrated by Avon Lake Councilwoman Jennifer Fenderbosch.

Former Cleveland Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar addressed the crowd as a Rob Portman supporter, leading Mary Taylor to gush that days after meeting California Gov. Arnold Schwartzenegger, it wasnt as much as a thrill as sitting next to Kosar.

Portman, currently an Ohio Congressman, said Ohios unemployment rate is in the top 10 bracket in the United States.

Thats not a top 10 you want to be in, he said.

Candidates took the opportunity to tout change in Ohio and the United States should Republicans get elected.

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John Salmons struggles badly in loss

John Salmons had five points, two rebounds, zero assists and four turnovers in 32 minutes of action Wednesday night.

Strange. Salmons came into the game with a knee injury, but the Bucks were confident in his health and tonight's minutes prove that.

Salmons said his knee was fine after scoring just five points in 32 minutes Wednesday night.

Perhaps Salmons should have said his knee was bothering just so he would have an excuse for his awful performance. There was likely some rust, even if Salmons didn't realize it. Don't panic here, Salmons remains a good bet to average 18+ points per game with a 3-pointer and a steal nightly.

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Aubrey Huff shares field with his idol in World Series

Reporting from San Francisco — Aubrey Huff does not have to search far or wide to find his boyhood hero.

He is right there, across the field. He is Nolan Ryan, the president of the Texas Rangers, a hero to two generations of Texans.

Huff, the first baseman for the San Francisco Giants, grew up in Fort Worth rooting for Ryan and the Rangers. Now, the team that Ryan put together is the one standing between Huff and a World Series championship, and yet Huff offers nothing but admiration for Ryan.

The Rangers, after all, are in their first World Series. They had not even won a postseason series before Ryan took over.

"To see what he's done with that organization is pretty special," Huff said. "He's turned it from a big banging offensive club into being able to pitch."

Huff, like so many boys in Texas, wanted to grow up to be just like Ryan.

"I wanted to be a pitcher," Huff said. "I didn't have the arm."

He had the bat, and still he could not keep his eyes off Ryan.

"I had tickets to Nolan Ryan's sixth no-hitter, and my mom was too tired from work that day to take us," Huff said. "He threw a no-hitter that night, and we missed it. I was so upset."

That might be a little bit of a Texas tall tale. Ryan threw his sixth no-hitter in Oakland. He threw his seventh and final no-hitter in Texas, in 1991, striking out 16 in a 3-0 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays.

Huff was 14.

The Rangers moved from Arlington Stadium — a glorified minor league ballpark — into their new home in 1994. That stadium is now called Rangers Ballpark in Arlington — that Ameriquest Field deal did not work out so well — and it will play host to its first World Series game Saturday.

"That was the most unbelievable park I had ever seen," Huff said. "I just remember Dollar Hot Dog Night when I was a kid … just up there in upper deck eating hot dogs all day.

"And we've got the World Series coming up there, so it's pretty cool."

Huff's father died when he was 6, shot and killed as he tried to disarm a man involved in a domestic dispute. Huff was raised by his mother, and by her parents, the ones most responsible for getting him hooked on baseball.

The grandparents have passed on now, but Huff remembers them often. He thought of them the other day when he asked his mother whom his grandparents might be rooting for in this World Series.

"I'm sure they're rooting for you to do well," Huff recalled his mother saying, "but they're probably rooting for the Rangers."

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The Big Five with … Giants 1B Aubrey Huff

SAN FRANCISCO — Parade around the clubhouse in a victory thong, and the fact that you led the National League champions in homers, RBI, runs, slugging percentage and OPS can get lost in the shuffle. That’s Aubrey Huff‘s fate these days, and he couldn’t be happier. He answers The Big 5 here:

So if Giants fans wear fake beards for Brian Wilson, long-haired wigs for Tim Lincecum and panda hats for Pablo Sandoval, what’s the  fitting tribute for you?
Through a slightly embarrassed smirk: “Wilson has been here his whole career, and he’s such a warrior out there; fans have grown to him. Timmy is the face of the franchise. This is my first year here; I’m just trying to fit in with these morons. I had to go over the top. I’m pretty tame compared to these guys. We’ve got a lot of characters. It’s strange to say, but the weirder you are, it seems the more you win.”

On playing in the post-season, and the pressure involved: “I’ve always been a guy who’s played the game kinda loose, not a lot of nerves. But I gotta tell you, there have been some nerves. Especially in Game 6 in Philly. That was probably the most-nervous I’ve been playing a baseball game.”

On growing up in Fort Worth as a Texas Rangers fan, and his favorite player: “I was at the final game at the old park, watched the ceremony when they moved (home) plate over to the new one. The next year, I went to the new park, and thought that was the most-unbelievable park I had ever seen. I remember $1 hot dog nights; 12-14 years old, sitting in the upper deck, eating $1 hot dogs all day. Now the World Series is coming up there, so it’s pretty cool.

“Nolan Ryan. I’m a hitter, but I grew up wanting to pitch. I had tickets to his sixth no-hitter (May 1, 1991 against Toronto), and my Mom was too tired from work that day to take us. He threw a no-hitter, and I was so upset.”

On the likely possibility of designated hitting in Games 3-5: “That’s up to Boch (Giants manager Bruce Bochy). He’s nailed the lineups all postseason. Obviously, I’m comfortable DH-ing. I’ve done it a lot. At this point, I don’t care where I am. If I’m hitting (in the) eight-hole, I’m fine with it. I’ve hit six-hole the last two nights, and it’s working. I’ll hit behind the pitcher; I don’t care right now.”

On postseason hitting hero Juan Uribe: “He’s so strong, and he swings so hard. He runs into so many balls late in games. It’s gotta be 8-9-10 homers late in games that have tied it or put us ahead. He’s really, really clutch. We love him as a teammate. He’s got a lot of energy. He’s a fun guy – if you can understand him.”

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CONFIRMED: Pat Burrell is The Machine

A few days ago, dong-shot specialists Deadspin ran a video of Giants closer Brian Wilson doing an appearance with Chris Rose on his Fox Sports show Cheap Seats via satellite from his house when a man wearing a gimp outfit casually walked behind him mid-interview. Then later on, during a post-victory NLCS locker room celebration, Rose once again interviewed Wilson, but this time he referred to the leather-clad fella who mysteriously showed up at his house as “The Machine.”

Here’s some video to fill you in (wait until the :43 second mark):

So Deadspin asked, who is The Machine?

After narrowing down the suspects, they decided that the culprit was more than likely Pat Burrell, former left-fielder for the Philadelphia Phillies and Wilson’s current teammate. Now that’s some mighty fine investigative work by the Deadspin boys, because for the last couple of years, I have been sitting on a picture of Pat Burrell in all his gimp-outiftted glory, but never ran it because the guy who gave me the picture didn’t want to get caught.

Well, that was a few years ago when Pat Burrell was a Phillie, and since he’s now with the SF Giants, and it’s basically public knowledge anyway, I’m gonna go ahead and share the picture with everyone…

I don’t really want to go into detail about how I acquired this picture, but it was taken at Pat Burrell’s house in Arizona during a Christmas party in (I believe) December of ’04 (possibly ’05). According to my picture-taking accomplice, every year during his Christmas party — which is attended by a veritable who’s who of baseballers who spend their winters out in AZ — Pat wanders upstairs and slips into his assless-chapped gimp outfit to entertain his party guests while making them feel extremely uncomfortable all at the same time.

Another reason I never shared the pic is because the quality is just god-awful. It was taken on one of those ancient 1.2 megapixel camera phones from the mid-00′s. Plus, the person who gave me the pic put that little “man or machine” thought bubble in there which certainly detracts from the photo, but is kinda funny in retrospect considering his gimpy character name is now known as The Machine.

So, without further ado — here’s The Machine (Pat Burrell) from about 5 years ago wearing the same outfit that he wore in that Brian Wilson video:

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Andre Johnson not 100 percent but feeling good

Houston Texans WR Andre Johnson (ankle) said he is not sure when his ankle will be 100 percent healthy but it is feeling better than it did a few weeks ago, reports Nick Scurfield, of "I'm feeling pretty good – got 10 games left to gut out," Johnson said. "I still wear my (ankle) brace when I practice and whatnot. I'll continue to wear it until I feel comfortable not wearing it… But now I'm used to it. It doesn't limit me in any kind of way."

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Calais Campbell Struggling

Granted, it has been four years. But Pro Football Weekly hears the Cardinals are hardly complaining about how long it has taken DE Alan Branch to live up to the billing they expected when they traded up to get him at the top of the second round in the 2006 draft. "He's finally showing why they made that move," one team insider said of Branch, who had his best game as a Cardinal with two sacks, four QB hits and a forced fumble in Week Seven. "He's finally getting it. He's really keeping his weight down and providing steady penetration." It's been a much different story, however, for struggling starting DE Calais Campbell, who talked about registering double-digit sacks this past offseason but has only two entering Week Nine. "The way he looked this summer, we thought he could be as good or better than (Darnell) Dockett," the insider said. "But he has been a disappointment. Poor technique - playing too high - has hurt him in run situations."

Click here to order Calais Campbell’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Quadtrine Hill to Fight ‘til the End

Fledgling heavyweight Quadtrine Hill- who started at the University of Miami football squad at fullback between 2002-2005- learned a valuable lesson about the fight game. In his second pro bout back on September 15th in Las Vegas, he had built up a sizable lead over the first three rounds against Yohan Banks and was seemingly cruising to a four-round decision. Then it happened.

With less than 30 seconds to go from the final bell, an uppercut floored Hill, who was eventually counted out.

In football, there is no such thing as the 50-point touchdown or the 10-run home run. There is in boxing though. The only real “prevent defense” in this sport is to keep fighting hard and never, ever letting down your guard.

"Oh, yeah, there's no lead that's safe," agreed Hill, who faces Javier Francisco Diaz on Thursday night at the Irvine Marriott. "I was beating the guy down; he couldn't hit me. I hit him whenever I wanted to but I came in underprepared, got a little lazy, got a little cocky and got caught. In boxing, there is always the great equalizer- a good clean shot."

According to Hill, who has only been boxing for a few years, this was not the biggest shot he has ever taken.

"Nah, not even close," he claimed. "It definitely was not one of the hardest punches I've taken. I've been hit a lot harder, a lot worse. Maybe he just hit me on a good spot when I was kinda tired, out of air and I wasn't prepared for it. My body was tired because I didn't get a full training session in before the fight. I wasn't physically prepared for that fight. I had two weeks for that fight. I had two weeks with a new trainer for that fight. Two weeks, you're not going to really train the whole two weeks. You have days off leading up to the fight. So it was one of those things where I didn't have everything right. It wasn't the hardest I've been hit or taken. I really don't know how it dropped me."

It's one thing to take on an oncoming linebacker through the hole; it's a whole different thing to take one on the chin from a heavyweight. But it's all part of the steep learning curve Hill faces. The former Hurricane moved to Los Angeles in early September from Florida and soon began working under the guidance of Eric Brown at the famed Wild Card Boxing Club in Hollywood.

The trainer says of his boxer, "The thing is, your offense and defense have got to complement each other. You can't be one or the other. Be one or the other and you're lacking something in the middle. So I like for Quadtrine to be offensively-minded but at the same time, I pay attention to the way he throws his punches and the way he positions himself when he is punching. Because that's part of your defense and if you don't pay attention to those things, which in his case can be detrimental because of the simple fact he's not a boxer, per se, he's learning. He's a work in progress."

And according to Brown, progress is being made.

"Yeah, definitely,” Brown said. “The thing I like about Quadtrine is he wants to get better. He wants to be a good fighter and of course, when he first came in, he came in telling me about all the things he did before, which is all happy and good, but I told him, 'That's all good but that was then. This is what you're going to do now.' And there's a little give and take, here and there, because he was a professional athlete at one time. But what he did before is totally alien to what he does now. He has to understand that. I think somewhere in his mind, a lot of it still applies to what he's doing now and it really doesn't. But he's gifted; he's unorthodox; he's very skilled; he's a natural athlete and the thing is, he's got some lessons he's gotta learn on the job."

Turning a tailback (which “Q” always considered himself) into a heavyweight is a long process. But Hill says he and his trainer have gotten in tune with one another. "We've definitely gotten in sync with each other. He's had more times to learn what my strengths are, different things I like to do, tendencies that I have. Different strengths I like to utilize more naturally than others. We've been working with the other parts of my ability and talent to get them to be more natural in the boxing ring. We've definitely merged and gotten a lot of my bad habits out, lot of the new-guy stuff I had from being a fresh boxer or fresh to the sport of boxing.

"He's knocked a lot of those things out. So it's been a good relationship."

Hill, who boxes as a southpaw, began his foray into the sport in Florida at “The Heavyweight Factory,” which featured a host of former football and basketball players. There was a time long ago that these big, strapping American athletes would've been in a boxing gym as youngsters. Nowadays, they only seem to gravitate toward the “Sweet science” if they don't latch onto the NFL or NBA.

Trainers often wonder what they could do with athletes like Hill from a much earlier stage of their life.

"Oh, hell yes. I wish I could've had him when he first decided he wanted to fight," Brown stated, "instead of taking him up after he developed a lot of bad habits. You got a guy who is athletic; that's a plus. It's a plus to have that- but you don't want to rely on that because when you rely on that, you forget about fundamentals. You don't have nothing to fall back on. And that's basically where he was at when I first got him."

Asked if we'll see an improved boxer, Hill answers without hesitation, "It's going to be night and day. The last time I think I was in the gym, I was doing like three rounds of sparring and I was feeling kinda gassed. I may have done four rounds once. But I was dead in the water by four and then it showed in the fight. This time last week, I did eight rounds of sparring and felt good. I've had a lot more time to train and be physically prepared for a fight than last time, which kinda crept up on me.

"Athletically and talent-wise, the last fight was a wash,” added Hill. “I beat that guy every time if I'm in good shape. This time I'm in great shape and I've improved my skill. I feel great about it."

Just days after his KO loss, Hill was back in the gym. Oftentimes when novices suffer such hardship in this sport, they are never seen again or discouraged to the point of no return. Not so with Hill.

"I was wondering if he was going to come back," admitted Brown, of the immediate aftermath of that disappointing evening. "I wondered if he was going to be gun-shy or just not show up. But he came back even stronger. He came back willing to work and I put him in some sparring sessions."

If it were up to Brown, there would've been more time in the gym in between these fights. Like a teacher who wants a bit more classroom time before the next test. "Just let things become more second nature to him," explained Brown. "But he came in with an open mind, willing to work and he's picked up quite a few things and I'm looking forward to see how much he can take to the ring with him."

Walking away was never considered by Hill.

"I just know I'm so much better of a fighter than that," he said. "To go through a fight and completely dominate an opponent the whole way through and have a guy I could have taken out earlier in the fight but I didn't. I was hitting him at will; he couldn't hit me if he wanted to. It was one of those things; he caught me with a lucky punch when I was being lazy or tired. I just know what I have in front of me. I have a great future in front of me in boxing in the heavyweight division and have too much talent and ability to quit because I lost a fight.

"I'm not a quitter. Not an ounce of quit in my blood."

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At least two weeks until Clinton Portis returns

Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said that running back Clinton Portis has been jogging as part of his rehabilitation program but is at least two weeks away from seriously testing his injured groin.That would seem to indicate that Portis could be in danger of missing at least one more game after the bye week.

"It's still going to be, for sure, a couple of weeks. It takes some time," Shanahan said. "With a third degree separation, you don't want to push it too hard. We just kind of have to wait and see. To me, it'll be a minimum of two weeks before he's able to even push it."

Portis injured his groin Oct. 3 and Shanahan initially said he'd miss four to six weeks. This Sunday's contest in Detroit will mark Portis's fourth straight missed game. The Redskins then have a bye week before playing host to Philadelphia on Monday, Nov. 15.

Shanahan hopes Portis can test his groin in the week leading up to the Eagles game.
"He's still got to get in football shape," Shanahan said. "But I don't put anything past Clinton. He's working extremely hard right now. He might be ready for the Philly week. I really don't know. Just my past experience with that third-degree tear, it takes a while. It doesn't happen over night."
Portis has 195 yards and two touchdowns on 49 carries in four games this season.

Click here to order Clinton Portis’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Denver defense gears up for 49ers' Frank Gore

ENGLEWOOD, Colo.—On a day when the last running back they faced won AFC player of the week honors for trampling all over them, the Denver Broncos tried to regroup defensively in anticipation of an even bigger challenge—containing the San Francisco 49ers' Frank Gore.

"I think he is the best running back we've faced so far," Broncos defensive coordinator Don "Wink" Martindale said Wednesday. "What he is good at is finding your mistakes."

The Broncos made plenty of them last Sunday in a 59-14 loss to the Raiders in which the newly anointed player of the week, Darren McFadden, ran for a career-best 165 yards with touchdowns of 57, 4 and 4 yards, to go with a 19-yard catch-and-run for another score. McFadden's performance was part of a Raiders rushing attack that gained 328 yards and dropped Denver's rushing defense to a No. 30 ranking. The Broncos are allowing an average of 156.6 yards per game. Only winless Buffalo (174.4)and Tampa Bay (157.7) have allowed more.

"Any time something like that happens, it's going to be a rough week if you're a competitor at all," said Martindale, whose preparations also were complicated by the team's 10-hour overseas trip later this week to play the 49ers in London on Sunday.

"We just need to be more consistent. We've shown some spurts. We've played well against some really good running backs and then that happened to us last week and I'd be sitting up here telling you a lie that I wasn't shocked that that happened to us. We're all in this together and this hurt our pride, no doubt about that, and we're making a conscious effort to being exact on every single play this week in practice."

While the 49ers have managed only one win this season and are now dealing with a quarterback change to Troy Smith because of a shoulder injury to Alex Smith, Gore has continued to bedevil defenses. Gore rushed for 102 yards in last week's 23-20 loss at Carolina—his club-record 23rd 100-yard game—and he leads the NFL with 914 yards from scrimmage (573 yards rushing, 341 yards receiving).

"He's a big part of the offense and we expect that to go up," Broncos linebacker Mario Haggan said, referring to the anticipated increased workload for Gore because of the quarterback change. "He's a very explosive runner and very underrated in this league, if you ask me. He can find holes, he catches the ball a lot out of the backfield and he definitely makes you pay for the mistakes that you make on defense."

The Broncos have had success at times defending the run, most notably limiting Tennessee's Chris Johnson to 53 yards on 19 carries in an Oct. 3 victory over the Titans. They used outside linebackers Robert Ayers and Jason Hunter to hold the edges and funnel the runs back inside, where inside linebackers Haggan and D.J. Williams typically made the tackles.

But Ayers broke his foot a week later at Baltimore and remains sidelined and the defensive line has been banged up. Strong safety Brian Dawkins, the top run defender in the secondary, also sprained his knee against Baltimore. He has missed the past two games but resumed practicing this week and indications are that he'll be available for Sunday's game. Veteran cornerback Andre Goodman, who has missed four of the last five games with a thigh injury, also is practicing this week and should be available, barring a setback.

Coach Josh McDaniels believes the return of Dawkins and Goodman will help restore some of the defensive "togetherness" critical to swarming to the ball and slowing down the run.

"The run game, the run defense is a lot of things that work well together," McDaniels said. "It's not just a single thing that you have to do right, it's everybody has to take care of their responsibility in the front so that you don't give (Gore) any opportunities to find a bunch of easy yards.

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

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Antrel Rolle praises team's coaching staff for not 'panicking' early against Cowboys

Giants safety Antrel Rolle said no one on the Giants sideline, including the coaching staff, was ruffled by an early deficit to the Cowboys.

A few weeks ago, Antrel Rolle was dismayed by what he saw from the Giants’ “so-called leaders hanging their heads” before the blowout loss to the Colts was over.

It was assumed, rightfully, Rolle was talking about the leaders in the locker room. But after the victory over the Cowboys, Rolle said the “coaching staff showed me a lot” by not getting “down” in the face of a 10-0 deficit.

It appears Rolle expected more from the coaches earlier in the season as far as encouragement, and that he’s finally getting what he wants from them.

“It works hand-in-hand – players, coaches, everyone,” the Giants’ safety said Wednesday. “We were down by a large margin in the early part of the game. Things weren’t going the way, obviously, we wanted to go. No one panicked, the coaches didn’t panic, there wasn’t any screaming or shouting on the sideline. It was kind of, ‘Okay, we’re in a hole, we know how to dig ourselves out. Let’s go play ball.’

“When you see that as a player, it gives you a boost of confidence to understand these guys have trust in us to go out there and do what we need to do, so lets go out there and show them we’re going to get it done.”

As I noted in my game review, the ESPN cameras caught a shot of Tom Coughlin after the first touchdown. Reading Coughlin’s lips, it was clear he asked someone in his headset, “Who had the flat?”

Coughlin didn’t yell. He didn’t flail his arms. He just tried to gather the information to address the issue. Rolle agreed the entire coaching staff showed such poise under fire and has done so even during the week.

“That’s something that carries over in practice. No one’s going to be perfect on each and every play,” Rolle said. “Sometimes guys are going to bust (big plays), sometimes there’s going to be some missed assignments. But it’s how you can make that adjustment. Is he going to bust again? You can’t have the same repeated mistakes.

“The thing is they understand we’re a veteran unit. We work together and work hand-in-hand with the coaches. They understand if they tell us something we’re going to do our best to get it done.”

* * * *
Rolle said Tuesday in his weekly interview on WFAN he believes the Giants are the best team in the NFL right now.

"I say what I feel," Rolle said. "It might not have been the political thing to say, but I don't care. I just feel that we're a great unit, we're a very worthy opponent and I think we're working great as a team and we're playing great team ball. Monday was a great display. Being down from that margin, honestly I don't know how many teams I've been on that would have come out of the game the way we did, scoring 31 unanswered points. It was great looking at it from my standpoint, so I can only imagine what the outsiders felt."

* * * *
On another note, Rolle said something Wednesday I haven’t heard a Giants defensive player say since at least the early part of the 2008 season: “The communication on the field is excellent.”

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

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James Jones Scores 20 in Heat's Frist Win of 2010

James Jones scored 20 points and outscored LeBron James, 16, and Chris Bosh, 15. Jones who played for 30 minutes was 7-10 including 6-9 from three-point land. Jones also had a one steal, one rebound and one blocked shot in the Miami Heat’s first win of the 2010 season over the Philadelphia 76ers 97-87.

Jones was the triggerman on this night, and he rarely missed. He drained his sixth three-pointer of the game with 1:36 left in the third quarter to give the Heat a 76-53 lead. It capped a 25-8 run that offered a glimpse of the Heat's offensive potential. Wednesday was the first time Jones played back-to-back games in two seasons, and his role has expanded quickly since sixth man Mike Miller fractured his thumb last week.

``Tonight it happened to be James, but it was the unselfishness of the guys setting screens, creating some kind of situation where the ball can move, hunt down the open man and find the ball in his hands,'' Spoelstra said. ``That's what we anticipated two years ago when we signed [Jones] -- to space the floor and also shoot it quickly, and that's what he did tonight.''

The 6-8 forward found his form in the first half with four three-pointers and then put the game away in the third with two more, which sandwiched a three-pointer by Eddie House. His six three-pointers tied a career high.

``I couldn't be more fortunate than to have the players that I do on this team,'' Jones said. ``To be physically feeling the way I am now, which is strong, stable especially with my wrist. I'll just continue to get better and try to become a more reliable more efficient shooter because I'll need to do that to make the game easier for these guys.''

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Aubrey Huff's rally thong

Eight years ago, the Los Angeles Angels of Orange County rallied around a card-carrying monkey to beat big-headed Barry Bonds and the San Francisco Giants in the 2002 World Series. When this year's installment of the Fall Classic begins Wednesday night in San Fransisco, the Giants are hoping the red rally thong of former Orioles fan favorite Aubrey Huff can tip the scales against the Texas Rangers.

In late August, the Giants first baseman was stuck in a slump, so he did what most major-league players would do in that situation: start wearing a woman's thong. The Giants responded to win 20 of their last 30 games, sneak into the playoffs and ride Huff's banana-hammock magic all the way to the World Series.

"It was just something to kind of loosen the guys up when it started, and it turned out to be kind of a nice run," Huff recently told The Mercury News in this interesting feature. "I couldn't stop and it's actually gotten quite comfortable in the last month and a half."

Cliff Lee and Josh Hamilton are superstars, but there's no way I'm betting against Huff's magical underpants. Throw in Brian Wilson's Grizzly Adams beard and Big Time Timmy Jim, Tim Lincecum, and I'm taking the Giants in six.

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Pat Burrell willing to DH for Giants, if that's what it takes

SAN FRANCISCO - Playing every day rescued Pat Burrell from baseball's scrap heap, breathed new life into a career that seemed over when the Tampa Bay Rays released him in May.

He hated being a designated hitter, struggled with the inactivity of the role. But starting tonight, Burrell insists, he will embrace any role the Giants give him, hit anywhere. And when this series moves to Texas over the weekend, he will embrace the DH if that's the design.

"Here's the thing," he said before yesterday's workouts at AT & T Park. "With a group of guys who have played long enough to know how rare and important these moments are, I don't think you need any added motivation. That's kind of why I go back to the organization doing their homework on the guys they brought over. This is all about winning. You put personal stats and all the other stuff on the side and you take on any role.

"Because this is a chance to do something really good."

Burrell played in 96 games for the Giants, hit 18 home runs, knocked in 51 runs in the regular season. He has six hits this postseason, including a home run and three doubles, one that proved the difference in the Phillies' Game 1 loss in the National League Championship Series at Citizens Bank Park.

"I'm sure if he has to be a DH in the Series, it's not the same as being a DH every day," said Giants centerfielder Aaron Rowand, another ex-Phillie.

Rowand, of course, is a big reason Burrell is again an everyday leftfielder, again in the postseason. It was Rowand whom Burrell called when he was released, and it was Rowand, with Giants first baseman Aubrey Huff, who talked Giants management into offering Burrell the minor league deal that began his reclamation.

"I always had the utmost conviction that he wasn't done," said Rowand. "DHing wasn't for him. And I think he knew it before he even went there.

"I knew right away, too, especially with his personality. He's always tuning, always preparing. He's a very smart baseball player. Sitting around and going to hit and sitting around and going to hit is not the style of baseball that's going to make him be his best.

"I knew if he had an opportunity to actually go and play, that he was going to be the Pat Burrell everybody expects him to. He's going to hit between .250 to .270, he's going to hit 20 to 30 home runs. He's going to take his walks. He strikes out occasionally.

"That's what he does."

Like many of the Giants, Burrell is relishing his second chance, his second postseason. Once seen as distant and aloof, he was heartfelt as he discussed what it was like to come back to the town he grew up near, playing for the team he rooted for as a kid, playing in front of his folks and family.

"I can't complain about anything," he said. "It's been great. I've been very lucky to get some pretty good opportunities. You have to be thankful. And seize the opportunity, have a good time and hopefully win another one."

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NFL U Week 7 Photos

Check out photos from Week 7 of the 2010 NFL U season of all of our proCanes. Click here or above on the proCanes Gallery link.

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Argos' QB Ken Dorsey a coach in waiting

Ken Dorsey stands perhaps 20 yards behind the line of scrimmage with his helmet clasped in both hands behind his back as Cleo Lemon and Dalton Bell share snaps.

Occasionally he peeks at the play list strapped to his arm, maybe sneaks a glance at his two-year-old scampering around the sideline puddles.
Ken Dorsey has become a professional onlooker.

For most of the Toronto Argonauts' practice it is about as close to playing football that the club's No. 3 quarterback gets these days.

"I love playing. I love being out there and passing and running the offence, but sometimes you have to make a decision that's best for the family," says Dorsey, allowing that his seventh pro season is a watershed moment.

He hasn't played a down all season. He came to Toronto clinging to the dream that made him a Heisman candidate and national champion at the University of Miami.

Didn't happen.

Instead, he has learned to dream a new dream.

Dorsey, who turns 30 next April, has begun putting together his own playbook as he moves from life as a quarterback to a career as a football coach.

"I wouldn't have said that at the beginning of the year. But the way things turned out I just feel like if I'm not playing in the long term, that getting a start on my coaching career makes the most sense for me and my family."

The family includes, Tyler, 2, his wife and university sweetheart Jordan, and an infant daughter, Logan.

"They had to come up (from Florida) for the season. I miss them too much and they keep my sanity," says Dorsey, who has turned disappointment at failing to win the starter's job into opportunity.

He is eight years removed from the glory that made him a Miami legend and two-time NCAA quarterback of the year. There were stopovers with the 49ers, the Browns, and an autumn of unemployment before the Argos called last May.

"I wasn't playing so I helped out at Lakewood Ranch High school in Bradenton (as quarterback coach) and it kind of made me realize that coaching was the next career step for me," he says.

When the Argos brought him in as one of five quarterbacks, he thought he might revive his career. But Lemon won the No. 1 job and with Bell playing football paramedic, Dorsey spends more time in the film room than he does behind centre. He keeps coach's hours.

He shows up early according to team officials; leaves late. "I help the coaches with breakdown things; I'm drawing a few cards up for the scout team looks; interacting with coaches about a few game-plan things. It's a way of helping the coaches and the team, plus it's great preparation for a career in coaching."

Where that future takes him next season and beyond is uncertain. He still has many contacts from Miami, he's enjoying Toronto but "coaching is a lot like playing in that you often don't pick where you end up. The first step is getting your foot in a door ... it looks as difficult to break into this game as a coach as it is as a player."

As a young quarterback, it didn't help Dorsey's career to have eight offensive co-ordinators in seven seasons.

"Let's see, my rookie year was Gregg Knapp, second year was Ted Tollner, third Mike McCarthy and he left for Green Bay. Next year I started with Norv Turner and got traded and was with Maurice Carthon. He got fired and Jeff Davidson took over. The next year I had Rob Chudzinski and now coach (Jaime) Elizondo."

What hurt then, may help him now, in his football afterlife.

"It's given me a lot of contacts and I've got a lot of different offensive schemes in my head."

When he goes back to the U.S., he'll take along a few nuances from the Canadian game. Dorsey believed in a power-running team with play action.

"But that doesn't work here. So, it's been good for me because my offensive philosophies had to evolve from a two-back offence to a more spread offence. That's what I love about this experience. You can learn a lot from this style of football. It's really broadened my outlook. I'll take a lot away from here."

Meantime, he's already learned the first rule of a career coach: Find out where the light switches are because every morning and night the guy turning them on and off will be you.

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More Snaps for Antonio Dixon To Come

Defensive tackle Antonio Dixon has a sack in both games he has started since Brodrick Bunkley suffered a serious elbow injury, so Andy Reid was asked yesterday whether Dixon might remain the starter when Bunkley returns.

"No. 1, I don't think [Bunkley] will be 100 percent here coming out of the bye week," Reid said. "So, Antonio will probably be in there a majority of the time anyways, and we'll just have to kind of spoonfeed [Bunkley] in and see how much he can do.

"Dixon, again, he was a bright spot in this game, really the last few weeks. He's played very well, so he'll continue to have opportunities. But I think with [Bunkley's] injury, I think it's just going to be easing him back in, and I can't tell you how that's going to go until he gets out [on the field] and he has to really grab somebody and pull them."

Bunkley said yesterday he isn't sure whether he will need surgery on the elbow after the season.

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Kelly Jennings could practice Thursday

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said the hope is that both RCB Kelly Jennings (hamstring) and DT Brandon Mebane (calf) will be able to return to practice Thursday.

They'll probably both be listed as questionable again for Week 8, but check back later this week. Mebane has missed the last two contests, while Jennings sat out this past week.

Click here to order Kelly Jennings’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Vince Wilfork deserves an 'up'

At the end of each Patriots game, a look at three players/units whose performance is "up" is usually posted on the blog. Along with it is three players/units whose performance is "down".

Sometimes re-watching the game can offer a new perspective.

So based on a suggestion from the comments section last week, here are a few additions to the ""up" list from Sunday's 23-20 win over the Chargers:

Vince Wilfork -- Veteran defensive lineman is playing at a high level, regardless of what the stats might say in the final gamebook. Teams are having trouble running on the Patriots and Wilfork is the main reason why.

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

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49ers' Gore Sees Slight Play-Time Reduction

SAN FRANCISCO -- Running back Frank Gore, who rushed for 102 yards on 19 carries, saw a slight reduction in his play time Sunday. He was on the 49ers' sideline for eight snaps in the 49ers' 23-20 loss to the Carolina Panthers.

Gore played 96 percent of the 49ers' offensive snaps in the first six games. On Sunday, he played 86 percent.

Rookie Anthony Dixon was the 49ers' No. 2 back, ahead of veteran Brian Westbrook, who appears to be just a specialty back. In the first half, Dixon was on the field for four offensive plays, while Westbrook saw action on just one snap. Westbrook was in the same backfield as Gore on his one first-half snap.

Dixon took a 6-yard loss on his one rushing attempt, while Westbrook was stopped for a 1-yard loss on his only carry. Westbrook played four snaps in the second half, including the final play on which the 49ers went with 10 skill players.

But Westbrook will probably be the undisputed backup on Sunday against the Denver Broncos, as Dixon sustained a hamstring strain in the fourth quarter and might not be available for action until after the bye week.

For the season, Gore has carried 135 times for 573 yards (4.2 average) and one touchdown. Meanwhile, Dixon has rushed four times for 8 yards and a TD, and Westbrook has three carries for 5 yards. Gore also leads the 49ers with 37 pass receptions. Westbrook has three catches for 25 yards, while Dixon has not caught a pass.

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

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Gailey's faith leads to Roscoe Parrish's rebirth

It was a simple gesture that didn't go unnoticed by Bills receiver Roscoe Parrish.

After catching a third-down pass on the Bills' first drive of the game Sunday against Baltimore, Parrish fumbled after he was hit along the left sideline by Ravens safety Ed Reed. The ball pinballed in the other direction and was recovered by Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick but not before a loss of 17 yards that forced the Bills to punt.

The Bills didn't hesitate to put the ball right back in Parrish's hands on their next possession. He went in motion from the left side and took a handoff from Fitzpatrick around right end. The gain on the play was 6 yards, but the message to Parrish was clear: We've got your back.

"He's dangerous when the ball is in his hands, so you try and get it in his hands when you can," Bills coach Chan Gailey said.

"That was a good look," Parrish said. "Chan Gailey is a good guy. On a play like that, you don't want your player to lose confidence, and when he came back to me, that kind of made me be like, 'Ok, I've got to step up.'‚"

Just a season ago, such a sequence would have been unimaginable. Parrish was glued to the bench under former coach Dick Jauron. He had a career-low three catches for 34 yards ... over the entire season. He fumbled five times and lost three of them.

After a fumble on a punt return in Week Five of the 2009 season, which set up Cleveland to kick the winning field goal in a dreadful 6-3 loss, Parrish was made a healthy inactive for four straight weeks.

He made it clear he would welcome a trade. Things changed, however, when Gailey was hired in January.

"When Chan Gailey got the job, he called me in the offseason and told me I can make some plays in this offense, but nothing's going to be given to me," Parrish said. "I have to continue to work. That was one good sign, that he gave me the call and gave me the opportunity."

Parrish has made the most of it, reviving his career and proving he can contribute as a receiver.

"He's an exciting player. He's got amazing quickness," Gailey said. "He's got great hand-eye coordination. He's making plays for us. A guy continues to make plays, you continue to find ways to get him the football."

Parrish has 22 catches for 226 yards this season. He's on pace to finish with 59 catches for 709 yards, numbers that would blow away his career-best 35 catches for 352 yards in 2007.

Parrish said that despite the hardships, he never doubted himself last season.

"I won't say my confidence ever went down because I continued to practice throughout the week and just worked on my craft because in this league you never know what will happen tomorrow. That's something I had to learn," he said. "A couple of the older guys told me just stay in tune with everything and just never lose confidence, because that's the worst thing that could happen."

Parrish is also back in his familiar role as punt returner. The Bills' all-time leader in virtually every notable punt return category has a healthy average of 9.2 yards per return this season.

But it's his contributions on offense that have given the Bills an added dimension.

"The good thing is right now I think we've got three or four guys that fall into that category that can make plays for us, so we're not having to be one-dimensional or having to get it to one guy," Gailey said. "We can spread it around. The more we can stay balanced, the more dangerous we'll be."

The Bills started the game against the Ravens in a two-receiver set, with Stevie Johnson joining No. 1 wideout Lee Evans. Johnson had a breakout game with eight catches for 158 yards and a touchdown, so that look -- which is a change from Parrish being on the field in two-receiver sets -- could continue.

Parrish, who was targeted eight times against the Ravens, is fine with that.

"We all know we're going to get opportunities for playing time, so it doesn't matter who's starting," he said.

"Whether it's Lee or Stevie or Roscoe, those guys have confidence," Fitzpatrick said. "... Offensively, it was good to finally see some results."

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

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10 Questions for Cardinals DE Calais Campbell

PHOENIX - It isn’t always the big events that make us turn our head when we hear about politicians, celebrities and athletes.

Sometimes, we just want to know that when you boil it down, they’re all ordinary people like us.

What's in their fridge? What are they reading? What do they do in their off time?

Each Tuesday, is asking the same 10 questions of a newsmaker.

But don't jump to any conclusions these aren't the typical interview questions.

They are not meant to be probing or controversial. Instead, they're fun questions that let you get to know the person – in ways you probably don’t already.

This week, we're getting to know Arizona Cardinals defensive end Calais Campbell.

Campbell started dominating the football field at South High School in Denver, Colorado.  He was widely regarded and ranked as one of the nations top defensive end prospects.

Campbell was also an All-State high school basketball star.

After turning down at least a half dozen football scholarship offers, Campbell chose the University of Miami, where he was named MVP in 2006.
Following his junior season at Miami, Campbell was drafted to the Arizona Cardinals.  At 6'8", he was the tallest lineman ever to suit up for the Hurricanes and was the tallest defensive lineman in the 2008 draft.

Campbell, #93, wouldn't mind turning his success on the football field into a career in Hollywood.  Read more...

10 Questions for Calais Campbell:
1. What is your all time favorite movie or song?
The Matrix or Forrest Gump

2. Do you have a Smartphone? If so, what's your favorite app?
I think the one I use the most is Lumosity or Brain Toot 2. It is kind of cool to keep my brain sharp and play the different games to see how smart I am.

3. Who do you count as your mentor(s)?
Growing up it was my father. Ray Lewis is one of my favorite people to watch and then outside of football I like Jay-Z on the business side about how he took entertainment and made it a business.

4. What was your very first job?
I worked at a small construction site during the summer time in college but really I consider the NFL to be my first job.

5. If you could change one thing about yourself what would it be ?
I like who I am right now so I wouldn’t change anything.

6. What do you consider your greatest success?
It is definitely making it to the NFL. I worked so hard for it my whole life and for it to come true is huge.

7. Tell us something about you most people don’t know?
I have scoliosis. I think that probably helps me on the football field. My spine is kind of twisted. They call me big tilt because sometimes my shoulder is higher than the other.

8. If you could have dinner with any three people, living or dead, who would they be?
Barack Obama, Michael Jordan, and Halle Berry

9. What is in your fridge right now?
A lot of fruit, some turkey bacon and then steaks and frozen burritos in the freezer part and probably some kind of frozen fish for when my mom cooks. For drinks I have Gatorades and Vitamin Waters.

10. If you could have a different career, other then what you’re doing now, what would it be?
I am going to get into movies when I am done playing. I think it would be kind of cool to be a movie star but it would also be kind of cool to be a basketball player. I think I would be pretty good at basketball. I like football a lot more then basketball but if football didn’t work out I think that is what my next goal would be.

Click here to order Calais Campbell’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Clinton Portis says he will accept any role when he returns

Veteran running back Clinton Portis will accept whatever role he is asked to play, even if he must serve as Ryan Torain's backup, if he returns this season from a severe groin injury, Portis said Tuesday during a radio interview.

During his weekly appearance on 106.7 The Fan's The Mike Wise Show with Holden Kushner, Portis said he still has no timetable for his return. Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan has declined to commit to Portis beyond saying he would be given a chance to contribute, and the nine-year veteran has been around long enough to understand how things work.

"I mean, there's no guarantees in life, man," Portis said. "I think what I need to do is go out and be able to help this team however I can. I think that's a decision for them to make. And when they make the decision, I still got to come to work and I still got to get the job done."

During his Monday news conference, Shanahan ruled out Portis from the upcoming game against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field. The Redskins begin their bye week after the game.

Shanahan hopes that Portis, who will continue to undergo treatment during the break, will be well enough to return to the lineup when the Redskins resume their schedule Nov. 15 against the Philadelphia Eagles at FedEx Field.

Portis would "really love to be back for that game" against Philadelphia, he said. "That's a big divisional rivalry for us. That's gonna be a big game. So if I could be back on the field for that game it would be great."

Whenever Portis does return, however, he has no assurances of regaining his starting job.

"We are going to play the best players and the people we think give us the best chance to win," Shanahan said Monday. "A big part of that goes to how somebody practices and we see where they are at when the game comes. It doesn't matter what position they are at -- offense, defense or special teams. We evaluate them during the week and play the guy we think gives us the best chance to win."

The backfield is big enough for Portis and Torain, Portis said.

"He's a hard runner, downhill, and that's gonna provide a lot for us," Portis said. "With the [New York] Giants last night [against the Dallas Cowboys], you sit and watch the combination of [Ahmad] Bradshaw and [Brandon] Jacobs, and I'm sure me and Ryan can work at the same time."

In an effort to best help the team, Portis wants to be fully healed when he returns.

"I want to get back soon," he said. "I really feel like they [the team] giving me the opportunity to fully heal, and be able to come back down the stretch run and help this team."

On Oct. 6, Shanahan announced Portis would miss four to six weeks with a third-degree separation of his left groin. Portis suffered the injury during the third quarter of a 17-12 victory at Philadelphia, a game in which he rushed for 55 yards.

For the second time in as many games, Torain rushed for at least 100 yards Sunday while helping the Redskins hold off the Chicago Bears, 17-14, at Soldier Field. Torain gained 125 yards (with a 6.0-yard average) and the Redskins' offense (308 total net yards) overcame another shaky overall performance from quarterback Donovan McNabb.

Torain ran hard again and became the first Redskins running back with consecutive 100-yard games since Portis did it in October 2008. Moreover, Torain's blocking on blitz pick-ups has improved considerably.

"I think he is making some strides," Shanahan told reporters the other day. "It is tough being a running back. You ask people to run but you are not really comfortable picking up base blitzes and nickel blitzes.

"He has come in without a lot of playing time and he has been in situations where he hasn't had a lot of reps. Getting a chance to play, getting a chance to get a lot more reps in practice, he should start to feel more comfortable in it and he should have a lot more success."

Click here to order Clinton Portis’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Antrel Rolle: Giants the best in NFL

Antrel Rolle is so confident in what’s going on with the alone-in-first-place Giants that Tuesday on his weekly WFAN radio spot he said, “I don’t think, I know it, we are the best team in the NFC. Hey, we are the best team in the NFL and that’s hands down.’’

Funny how four-game winning streaks prompt players to make such proclamations. Rolle wasn’t operating on much sleep after the return flight home from Dallas after Monday night’s wild 41-35 victory over the Cowboys but he certainly sounded clear-headed as he lauded his own team and did not back away from making strong and bold statements.

“Our defense is the best defense in the business, no doubt about it,’’ Rolle added.

Time will tell if Rolle is accurate in his assessments, but there’s no doubt the Giants are on a roll entering their bye week. At 5-2, they are a game ahead of the Eagles and Redskins (both 4-3) in the NFC East and buried the Cowboys (1-5) not only by beating them but also beating them up, putting Tony Romo out at least 6-8 weeks with a fractured left collarbone.

As a reward for the Giants' turnaround from a 1-2 start, Tom Coughlin is taking it easy on his team this week. Players are off Tuesday, come in for meetings Wednesday, then are off by the afternoon for the remainder of the week until a workout next Monday.

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

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Giants likely to DH Pat Burrell during Series

The Giants are likely to start Pat Burrell at DH against left-handed starters in the World Series.

Burrell should see a few starts against right-handers as well, but the Giants will want to keep Pablo Sandoval at least somewhat active. While not exactly explosive, those two represent a serious upgrade from the DH options that San Francisco boasted when the club went to the World Series back in 2002 -- guys like Tsuyoshi Shinjo, Shawon Dunston and Pedro Feliz.

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Giants' Aubrey Huff will return to place of humble beginnings

When Aubrey Huff was a baseball-loving boy, his mother had a surprise for him and his younger sister. She had gotten free tickets at work to go watch their favorite team: the Texas Rangers.

But her son had practice that night, so Fonda Huff decided to not even tell the kids about the tickets. She would just take them some other time.
"Well after we got home, he turned on the TV and called out to me, 'Mom, come here, Nolan Ryan is throwing another no-hitter!" Fonda recalled. "I said, 'Oh Aubrey, we could have been there.' And he was like, 'What!"

Huff went a decade in the major leagues without ever making the postseason. Now that he has reached the World Series, the carefree Giants first baseman who wears a lucky "rally thong" beneath his uniform is facing his boyhood team and his one-time idol Ryan, now the Rangers president.

"Well, they're not my favorite team anymore," Huff said. "But it will be pretty neat going to my first World Series and playing in Texas."

But this series represents something much deeper for Huff. His single-parent mother will be attending the three games scheduled in Arlington. She raised her two children in small-town Texas after her husband was murdered in a workplace shooting when Aubrey was just 6 years old.
When she saw how her shy boy had thrown himself into baseball, Fonda paid to have a batting cage built in their backyard -- even though she really didn't have the money for such an extravagance on her Winn-Dixie supermarket-clerk salary.

She wasn't thinking about a future major-league career for her son.

"I just didn't want him to be without because his father got killed," Fonda said. "I think it was a way to make up to him for not having a dad. He didn't have anybody to pitch to him."

But Huff never felt like he went without.

"When I lost my dad, she put all of her efforts into me and my sister," said Huff, who has a tattoo on his upper left arm featuring a guitar to honor his country music-loving dad. "It's a pretty cool story when you think about everything she did for us. It's safe to say that I wouldn't be here right now without her."

When Giants manager Bruce Bochy talks about his team being a bunch of "cast-offs and misfits," Huff is Exhibit A. He posted some strong seasons -- like in 2008, when he hit .304 with 32 homers and 108 RBIs with Baltimore -- that were lost on dreadful teams.

But last off-season Huff, 33, was on his couch, listening to his phone not ring and wondering if his career was over. The Giants signed him almost as an afterthought in January.

He responded with a bounce-back year, hitting .290 with 26 homers and 90 RBIs that epitomized these surprising Giants. Just as important, the self-styled "Huff Daddy" has eased the clubhouse mood with his wise-cracks and stunts, such as prancing around in a red thong with glitter on the waistband.

You would never suspect that his childhood was tinged with tragedy and sadness.

His father, Aubrey Huff II, was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Newspaper accounts describe how he was an apartment electrician in Abilene, Texas, when an estranged husband shot his wife and tried shooting the complex manager. The elder Huff intervened and was killed in the struggle.

It was left to Fonda to raise their two young children, mostly in Mineral Wells, Texas. She coached her daughter Angela's softball teams and went back to school to earn a teaching degree. And she did everything possible to encourage her son's love of baseball.

"I took both kids to all the little Rangers camps when they were growing up," said Fonda, who now lives in Florida where she helps develop instructional strategies for math teachers. "They got to meet all the players and got their autographs. It was a really big deal for them to go to three or four games a year."

Huff, of course, wasn't there to see Ryan throw his seventh, and final, no-hitter against Toronto on May 1, 1991.

"By the ninth inning, I was crying because we didn't go," Huff recalled. "I was pretty upset. I've still got those framed tickets somewhere."

But most kids also didn't have their own batting cage. Fonda and her father constructed the cage themselves and added a self-loading pitching machine at a cost of more than $2,500.

"Other boys would say it's too hot outside or they wanted to stay inside and play video games, but not Aubrey," she said.

While her son was quiet, he showed no bitterness or anger that might be expected from someone who loses his dad at such a young age.

"Maybe it was when it happened, right before his seventh birthday," Fonda said. "It might have been harder for him if it happened when he was older."

As he blossomed into a star player at college powerhouse Miami, he came out of his shell thanks, in part, to the constant ribbing he took from current Giants teammate Pat Burrell.

Today, he is the life of the playoff party. Just look, if you dare, at the magical thong.

He began wearing it under his uniform on Aug. 30 as a joke, telling teammates: "Guys, here's 20 wins right here." The Giants proceeded to go 20-10 and clinched the National League West title on the last day of the season.

A legend was born.

"It was just something to kind of loosen the guys up when it started, and it turned out to be kind of a nice run," Huff said. "I couldn't stop and it's actually gotten quite comfortable in the last month and a half."

The fashion trend does not seem to have caught on with the rest of the clubhouse even though he recently distributed samples sent to him by thong maker.

"I don't think anybody wants to see me in one," said manager Bruce Bochy. "And I don't really enjoy seeing Aubrey in his."

For her part, mom doesn't quite know what to make of the thong.

"Every time I ask him about it, he changes the subject," Fonda said, laughing.

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proCanes Stats From Week 7 of the 2010 NFL U Season

Andre Johnson (Texans): BYE WEEK

Darryl Sharpton (Texans): BYE WEEK

Vince Wilfork (Patriots): 1 solo tackle

Brandon Meriweather (Patriots): 5 solo tackles

Jeremy Shockey (Saints): 2 catches 30 yards

Jonathan Vilma (Saints): 5 tackles

Santana Moss (Redskins): 5 catches, 63 yards, 1 TD

Clinton Portis (Redskins): DID NOT PLAY DUE TO INJURY

Rocky McIntosh (Redskins): 8 tackles, 6 solo tackles, 1 sack, forced fumble and 1 tackle for loss to lead the Redskins defense.

Calais Campbell (Cardinals): 4 solo tackles, 1 sack, 1 tackle for loss

Antrel Rolle (Giants): 6 tackles, 4 solo tackles, 1 pass deflection

Kelly Jennings (Seahawks): DID NOT PLAY DUE TO INJURY

Frank Gore (49ers): 19 carries 102 yards, 4 catches 57 yards

Kellen Winslow (Buccanneers): 5 catches for 44 yards

Roscoe Parrish (Bills): 8 catches, 49 yards,

Greg Olsen (Bears): 3 catches, 43 yards

Devin Hester (Bears): 5 catches, 30 yards, 2 rushes for 5 yards. 1 punt return for 12 yards.

Willis McGahee (Ravens): 11 rushes for 64 yards, 1 TD, 1 catch for 10 yards

Ray Lewis (Ravens): 15 tackles, 14 solo tackles, 1 sack, 1 pass deflection, 1 forced fumble and fumble recovery.

Ed Reed (Ravens): 4 solo tackles, 2 pass deflection, 2 INTs returned for 46 yards.


DJ Williams (Broncos): 7 solo tackles, 1 sack, 1 tackle for loss

Sinorice Moss (Giants): DID NOT PLAY on IR Will miss the entire 2010 Season

Bruce Johnson (Giants): DID NOT PLAY, INACTIVE

Kenny Phillips (Giants): 2 solo tackles

Reggie Wayne (Colts): BYE WEEK

Jon Beason (Panthers): 4 solo tackles

Phillip Buchanon (Redskins): 3 solo tackles, 1 pass deflection.

Antonio Dixon (Eagles): 7 tackles, 6 solo tackles, 1 sack, 2 tackles for loss, 2 pass deflections to lead all Eagles lineman and set a career high in tackles, tackles for loss and pass deflections.

Sam Shields (Packers): Played but did not record any stats.

Jimmy Graham (Saints): 4 catches for 38 yards most yards and catches in a game so far in his career.

Leon Williams (Cowboys): DID NOT PLAY, INACTIVE

Spencer Adkins (Falcons): Played but did not record any stats.

Javarris James (Colts): BYE WEEK


Eric Winston (Texans): BYE WEEK

Rashad Butler (Texans): BYE WEEK

Bryant McKinnie (Vikings): Offensive Lineman, did not record any stats.

Chris Myers (Texans): BYE WEEK

Vernon Carey (Dolphins): Offensive Lineman, did not record any stats.

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Texans sign Damione Lewis

The Houston Texans have signed defensive tackle Damione Lewis.

He tried out for the team last week along with defensive lineman Louis Leonard.

Lewis was cut by the New England Patriots earlier this year after being signed to a one-year, $1.15 million deal earlier this year.

He played for the Carolina Panthers for the past four years.

The 6-foot-2, 301-pounder is a former St. Louis Rams first-round draft pick.

He has started 65 regular season games and posted 360 tackles, 22 1/2 sacks, 14 pass deflections, five forced fumbles and six fumble recoveries. Lewis’ best statistical season was in 2004 with the Rams when he registered 61 total tackles and five sacks.

Lewis started every game last season, finishing with 41 tackles, a half-sack and one fumble recovery.

Click here to order Damione Lewis’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Willis McGahee Was a Raven Captain on Sunday and Started

The decision to make running back Willis McGahee one of the team’s three captains for Sunday’s game was based on McGahee meeting a former employer. But Harbaugh said the team also wanted to send a message about McGahee’s status with the Ravens. “I also felt like it was important to let everybody know how important he is to our football team,” Harbaugh said. “He didn’t play the week before as much. I take responsibility for that. He should’ve played the week before, and he’s going to play a lot going forward. That’s a little bit of a statement that way.”

A week after not playing a snap, McGahee was in the starting lineup.

McGahee, who took Ray Rice's spot in the opening series, said he didn't think the move was related to last Sunday's snub at New England.

"Like I said, I treat it as any other game," he said. "Whether Ray's starting or I'm not, it doesn't make a difference. I really wasn't doing anything special."

Rice finished with more carries (16) and more rushing yards (72), but McGahee gained 64 yards on 11 attempts and scored the only rushing touchdown of the contest.

"I wasn't surprised," McGahee said of the 2-yard run that began with the Ravens players moving to their left, but McGahee receiving a pitch from Flacco and going right. "It was just my job to get it into the end zone. When everybody was going to the left and they finally realized that I had the ball, it was my job to get into the end zone. And I wasn't going to let anybody stop me."

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

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Ed Reed's amazing body

Ed Reed's remarkable performance Sunday against Buffalo provided another chapter in the book on his wondrous career. The Ravens safety forced a fumble in the first quarter, had a big interception to start the second half, and one play after suffering an apparent leg injury late in the third quarter, got another interception.

This after six weeks on the physically-unable-to-perform list while rehabilitating from hip surgery.

Reed said later he "strained" his left quadriceps muscle on a long sideline throw for Lee Evans with 13 seconds left in the period. He stayed in the game, however, and on the next play picked off another deep ball from Ryan Fitzpatrick. He returned the ball 40 yards to the Bills' 9, showing no hint of an injury.

The second interception went for nought, though, when Joe Flacco and Willis McGahee botched the handoff on the first play of the fourth quarter.

At one point, TV cameras caught Reed leaving the field down the steps behind the Ravens' bench. But, Reed said, he didn't go to the locker room.

"I didn't go all the way [in], I just went to the stairs," he said.

There, he said, he made an adjustment in his padding and quickly returned.

Asked if the game met his own personal standard as one of the game's best safeties, Reed said, "Mentally, it's a little tough because I missed some calls with those guys. My standard is just what God is going to let me do on that day. I have no plans at making certain plays or anything like that. All I ask is just to be on the same page as those guys and do my job."

That even included fielding a punt early in the fourth quarter.

"I caught punts all during PUP, just for locating the ball and I've been catching punts for a long time," he said.

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

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Brandon Meriweather plays it safe

SAN DIEGO — Brandon Meriweather may have learned his lesson.

For the second consecutive week, the Patriots safety initiated a hit that could make a viewer cringe. Only this time, the hit was legal. In the first quarter yesterday, Meriweather hit San Diego receiver Patrick Crayton with the kind of force that could cause whiplash. Meriweather popped up, saluted toward the sideline, and moved on to the next play.

The salute, Meriweather said, was for a friend who joined the Army. The hit was a tackle that fell within the NFL rules.

“I just did what my coaches asked me to,’’ Meriweather said. “I lowered my aiming zone. I tried to be aggressive. I wasn’t trying to be overly aggressive, and take his head off. But I was trying to play within the rules.’’

Last week the NFL announced it would be more aggressive in penalizing players for hits to the head and neck area that violate the current rules. The increased penalties could include higher fines and suspensions. Last week Meriweather was among three players fined a combined $175,000 for illegal hits.

Meriweather was tagged with a $50,000 fine for what the league determined was a flagrant violation of “player safety rules’’ for his hit on Ravens tight end Todd Heap.

Meriweather apologized for his hit on Heap, who was listed as questionable yesterday but did play in the Ravens’ overtime win over the Bills.
With all the attention focused on Meriweather last week, he didn’t let it affect his approach yesterday.

“You know it’s a game,’’ Meriweather said. “You’re going to play to have fun. I’m not going to think about it. I’m just going to go out there and play.’’

Click here to order Brandon Meriweather’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Adjustment period for Ed Reed, secondary

Ed Reed made two interceptions in his first game after spending the first six weeks of the regular season on the physically-unable-to-perform list.

But Reed was hardly satisfied with a game that would be highlight tape for any other safety.

"We've been working at [communication on the field] all week, and I knew it was going to be different with Zibby [Tom Zbikowski] out and me coming back," Reed said. "I told the guys, 'Just bear with me for these couple weeks,' because I knew it was going to be tough communicating. There's a lot of calls that I didn't make, and those guys just played around me. I knew that was going to happen, and they knew that was going to happen. They fought through."

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Sunday conversation: Redskins' Phillip Buchanon glad to be part of the mix

The Washington Redskins this past offseason aimed to bolster their secondary and added nine-year veteran Phillip Buchanon to the mix as their third cornerback alongside DeAngelo Hall and Carlos Rogers.

Buchanon was a free agent after having spent the previous season with Detroit, and Washington was an attractive option to him because he had a great deal of familiarity with members of the team as well as the front office.

In signing with the Redskins, Buchanon was reunited with University of Miami teammates Santana Moss and Clinton Portis, and fellow Miami product Rocky McIntosh, as well as general manager Bruce Allen, who signed Buchanon in 2006 to play for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

In this week’s Sunday conversation, I check in with the nine-year veteran, who last week had his best game of the season with five tackles and three pass deflections -- two of them on back-to-back plays while guarding Reggie Wayne in the final 2-½ minutes of the game. We discuss his roots, his transition to a new team, and his interesting eating habits.

When you decided to sign with Washington, what were your expectations, and what was it that made you feel like this would be a good fit? BUCHANON: “My expectation is to win, and win at all cost. Since I’ve been here, I’ve definitely embraced being able to play with Santana Moss, Clinton Portis, Rocky McIntosh -- all former Miami players -- and Bruce Allen. I’ve always heard a lot of good things about Coach Shanahan, and so far, he’s one of the best coach I’ve ever had in the NFL as far as him and Gruden. I’m just trying to figure out how to make plays to help us get over the hump, and everything’s cool right now. We’re .500 and we want to be able to pull out these close games.”

Was the chance to play with fellow Hurricanes a big factor?  BUCHANON: “That to me helped. Me just being here in this whole DMV area with the Santana Moss and guys here as well as Ray Lewis and Ed Reed in Baltimore, it’s just kinda motivated me to step my game up as well, too.”

Talk about that whole Miami tradition and level of expectations that if you went to ‘The U,’ you have to be baller.  BUCHANON: “It’s not pressure, it’s just pride. We hold a high standard of pride, and the one thing I know from playing at Miami, we hate being embarrassed. That’s the one thing I learned from playing at Miami. Even though the whole time I was there we won, we just had a lot of pride and everybody cared about every little thing, and that’s the way it was.”

With the Redskins’ defensive scheme, Jim Haslett often puts Rogers in the slot, and divides the field into halves. Whatever side you’re on, you cover that receiver. That gives you a chance to cover the top receiver some times. How do you like that challenge?  BUCHANON: “It’s always a good opportunity to be on the field, so for me, that’s enough for me. I just go out and play the best I can. Whether it looks good or bad, I’m always trying to put for the best effort I can, and put for my knowledge from the film study and place it on the field so I can help us win.”

Last week, Reggie Wayne got the best of you for a few catches early on, but then when they were trying to move downfield and eat up clock with a little more than two minutes left, you shut him down. What was the key to making those in-game adjustments and keep him in check?  BUCHANON: “People have their opinion, but I wouldn’t say Reggie got the best of me. Some of the things they were doing, they knew what we were doing and that was a Reggie-Peyton Manning thing. I would say maybe two plays he got the best of me, but overall, it was Peyton Manning/Reggie Wayne, Pro Bowl/Hall of Fame connection that was working. And then the only key for me, when I see the game on the line, it was just press, let’s play ball. Y’all know what I’m gonna do, let’s go.”

Coming out of high school (Lehigh High, Lehigh Acres, Fla.), you were a star in both baseball (playing center field, left field and lead-off hitter) and football (running back/cornerback). How did you decide to go with football over baseball?  BUCHANON: “In Fort Myers, we eat and breathe and I can’t say the other word, but we live for football. In South Florida in particular, football is the most dominant sport. Coming from Little League, you’d have two- and three-thousand people at games, and then to high school, it was 10,000 people at games. So for me, I was good at baseball because it was one of the first sports I played, and I kept playing it the whole time. People actually told me that I would make it in baseball before I made it in football.”

Did that give you extra motivation to make football work?  BUCHANON: “I was just motivated in general. I turned down a deal to play for the Cincinnati Reds coming out of high school, so I could’ve done baseball first, but when they said if I signed that deal, the summer may be over, I was like, man, I don’t see myself just playing baseball. I see myself playing football and baseball, so I decided to go to Miami."

Were those the only two sports you played in high school?  BUCHANON: “I did it all in high school. I went from football to basketball to baseball and track at the same time. So I was always busy, and then I did summer baseball, and summer football and basketball every now and then, too. And track just came naturally because I was always the fastest guy. But actually in high school, the most rush I ever got was in high school basketball and track. It was more encouraging and exciting for other people to see me go against players in basketball and beat people in track. It was more of a pride thing between our schools.”

Any memorable moments from basketball?  BUCHANON: “One of my best games, I scored about 35 points in basketball. But what’s funny is, I scored 35 games in my last game when I broke my wrist and we were getting ready to go into the playoffs. So, I had broke my wrist and I played six or eight more games and then I had to go to the doctor to get checked out and next thing I knew I was in a cast, so I missed the rest of the post-season. I knew I had hurt it, but I loved playing with my teammates so much that I had just taped it and kept playing, but they said the bone was messed up, so I had to stop.”

How about track?  BUCHANON: “Track, I made states every year. I made state in the 4-by-100, and I should’ve won the 100, but I messed it up my ankle playing pickup basketball (rolls his eyes), so I just came in seventh at states.”

So, how did it go playing baseball and football at Miami?  BUCHANON: “I did football and baseball my first year, but then my grades started to struggle, and Butch Davis told me, ‘You came here on a football scholarship, not a baseball scholarship.’ So, I just had to go with football, but the following year, I did football and track.”

You’re always walking around win a carton of coconut water. Earlier this week when we talked you said it’s better for you than Gatorade, and you said that you only eat organic foods. Let’s talk about your eating habits.  BUCHANON: “I’m really big as far as trying to eat healthy. I eat a lot of organic and farm fresh foods. I’ve actually been doing it for a year and a half now, and I’m just trying to give myself an edge as far as energy out there on the field.”

What’s your favorite organic dish?  BUCHANON: “Organic anything. Organic chicken, organic beef, I can eat anything farm raised. It makes me feel comfortable. Plus, I’m a very, very picky eater. I’m picky about a lot of things, but I’m definitely picky about my food.”

So, I imagine that makes it kind of hard when you go out to eat, huh?  BUCHANON: “Yeah, it does. It kills me some times. I’ll be like, ‘I can’t eat that, so I’ll try that, but I can’t try that,’ and I’ll sit there and be so hungry and be so bothered by me being so picky. It’s frustrating sometimes.”

Do you have a favorite place to eat in the DC area?  BUCHANON: “My chef. I got a chef this year, so it’s easy for me to stay in the house and let everything come to me. So it let’s me be a little more lazy, and just sit and watch more football film.”

So, I’m guessing no Bens Chili Bowl for you, huh?  BUCHANON: “Nah, nah, none of that stuff. I’m more of a guy that I love on my downtime to be at home. I’m a real homebody.”

Well, Bens is a D.C. landmark, so if ever you’re going to cheat, you’ve gotta try that out.  BUCHANON: “Hahaha, I will. I’ll do that.”

Click here to order Phillip Buchanon’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Ed Reed returns, picks off two passes

BALTIMORE — Ed Reed was exhausted. In his first game of the season, Reed played gallantly, and afterwards he pulled himself up from the stool in front of his cubicle and groaned.

His quad muscle was sore, his pride hurt, but he was back.

With Reed, the Baltimore Ravens allowed 506 yards on Sunday to the woeful Buffalo Bills. Without him, they probably would have lost.

Reed bounced around the field during warm-ups, announcing his return. It didn’t take him long to show how badly he was missed. Less than four minutes into the game, Reed forced a fumble when Buffalo’s Roscoe Parrish caught a pass, one that Bills’ quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick recovered, a play that pinned Buffalo deep into its territory.

“We know how important Ed is to this team,” Ray Lewis said. “I know how important he is to this defense.”

Reed began the third quarter by picking off a pass that Lewis deflected and concluded the quarter by snaring an overthrown one.

“You’re really not back until you get an interception,” Willis McGahee told him.

“He came running back after he got that first interception and I was like, ‘all right, Ed, you’re back—you’re back—I mean you ain’t back until you run it back.’ He almost ran it back,” McGahee said.

After their narrow win, Baltimore coach John Harbaugh was relieved—with both the harrowing victory and having his wonderful safety back.

“Ed Reed back there—it changes the whole complexion of the thing. He made his presence felt,” Harbaugh said. “That’s what great players do.”

A few minutes later, Harbaugh indicated his confidence in Reed’s health by sending him back in deep punt formation. Reed signaled for a fair catch.

Reed spent the first six weeks of the season on the physically-unable-to perform list following offseason hip surgery, and though there was lots of “Will he or won’t he?” teasing this week, there was no doubt that he’d play.

On Saturday, the Ravens officially activated Reed. He was ready.

“That was my plan if I could go,” Reed said. At the start of the season, he and the team had decided he’d play as soon as eligible, he laughed. Reed couldn’t wait.

“Oh man, it was beautiful,” Reed said. It was exciting, but not necessarily emotional.

“Honestly, it was more emotional Wednesday for the walkthrough. Just getting back out there with the guys, that was it.”

With Lewis, McGahee and Reed, the Miami Hurricane trio is back.

“Any time you get somebody to come back like Ed to come back, it speaks for itself,” Lewis said.

Reed now has 48 interceptions since 2002—more than anyone else in the NFL, and Sunday was the ninth time he had picked two off in a game.

It wasn’t the Ravens intention to ease Reed back into action.

“I kind of knew they were throwing me into the fire, kind of like a rookie,” Reed said. “I was just mentally prepared. Physically, I knew it would be tough in the latter part of the game, but we fought through.”

With Baltimore off for a week, Reed is ready for a rest.

“They’re saying, ‘Ed’s got fresh legs, but your legs aren’t really fresh coming off a layoff like that,” Reed said. “It’s going to take me a couple of weeks to get back.”

With nine games remaining after the bye week, the Ravens need a healthy Reed to anchor their sagging secondary.

“The next couple of weeks are going to be like training camp being that I’ve never tackled, been through the grueling part of the season,” Reed said. “You kind of expect some of the things I’m going through.”

At 32, nine seasons into his magnificent career, there’s likely not much time left for Reed. Sunday was a special day, one that he’ll always remember.

“It was like being a rookie all over again my first year here,” he said.

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

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proCanes Extend TD Streak to 129 Regular Season Weeks

Did you know that a former Miami Hurricane/current proCane has scored at least one touchdown in 129 consecutive regular season NFL weeks? Dating back to Week 15 of the 2002 season where Clinton Portis scored 4 TDs, at least one proCane has scored a TD in each regular season week since then. We have chronicled every touchdown since 2002. See below:

Week 7 2010:
Willis McGahee - 1 TD - Baltimore Ravens
Santana Moss - 1 TD - Washington Redskins

Week 6 2010:
Devin Hester - 1 TD - Chicago Bears
Andre Johnson - 1 TD - Houston Texans

Week 5 2010:
Willis McGahee - 1 TD - Baltimore Ravens
Jeremy Shockey - 1 TD - New Orleans Saints
Frank Gore - 1 TD - San Francisco 49ers

Week 4 2010:
Willis McGahee - 1 TD - Baltimore Ravens

Week 3 2010:
Jeremy Shockey - 1 TD - New Orleans Saints
Santana Moss - 1 TD - Washington Redskins
Greg Olsen - 1 TD - Chicago Bears
Devin Hester - 1 TD - Chicago Bears

Week 2 2010:
Greg Olsen - 1 TD - Chicago Bears
Devin Hester - 1 TD - Chicago Bears
Clinton Portis - 2 TDs - Washingon Redskins
Andre Johnson - 1 TD - Houston Texans
Reggie Wayne - 1 TD - Indianapolis Colts
Frank Gore - 1 TD - San Francisco 49ers

Week 1 2010:
Reggie Wayne - 1 TD - Indianapolis Colts
Roscoe Parrish - 1 TD - Buffalo Bills
Willis McGahee - 1 TD - Baltimore Ravens

Click below to see the rest of the list:

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Antrel Rolle, Darrin Smith and Eric Winston Visit Current Canes Last Week

In addition to UM CB Antrel Rolle speaking to the team Tuesday, Shannon said two more former ‘Canes — OL Eric Winston and LB Darrin Smith – talked to the team Friday. Shannon said he didn’t ask Rolle and Winston to come by. They did so on their own to provide motivation. 

“I don’t know what happened in the team meeting, but I think Antrel might have told them, ‘Coach wants to have fun. He’s always been a coach that’s had fun with his players,’” Shannon said, adding that Rolle wasn’t a part of the actual players-only meeting. “‘The things he has demanded of you is nothing different than what he demanded of the defense when he was defensive coordinator.’”

Shannon said he thinks it was only the first or second players-only meeting since his first season as coach in 2007.

“I don’t know what happened in that team meeting,” he said. “Whatever they said, they didn’t tell me.”

Rolle’s discussion was separate, Shannon said, from a Tuesday team meeting called by cornerback Brandon Harris, linebacker Sean Spence and safety Vaughn Telemaque to bond and fire up their teammates.

``Sometimes you get in that spot and you get wrapped up in trying to do everything and you forget how much fun it is,'' former UM tackle Eric Winston said Sunday, a day after attending the UM game during his off week with the Houston Texans.

Winston visited Shannon in Coral Gables during the Hurricanes' walk-through Friday.

``Randy and I were talking and I told him to smile,'' Winston said. ``He kind of laughed. I think he probably realizes it, too. This thing is fun. There aren't that many people who get to coach their alma mater, and I know it means the world to him.''

Shannon said Sunday that, indeed, his ``guys played with a lot of emotion, a lot of enthusiasm. They had fun. This is a team that is creating its own identity.''

Click here to order Antrel Rolle’s, Darrin Smith’s or Eric Winston’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Willis McGahee challenged Ed Reed

Running back Willis McGahee had an interesting perspective on six-time Pro Bowl free safety Ed Reed, who intercepted two passes in the Ravens’ 37-34 overtime win against the Buffalo Bills Sunday – Reed’s first game since Jan. 16.

While he was happy for Reed, McGahee also challenged his teammate.

“That was a great thing,” McGahee said. “I told Ed Reed, ‘You’re not back until you get an interception.’ And when he came around and got that first interception, I was like, ‘All right, Ed, you’re back. But you’re not back until you run it back.’ He almost ran one back. So it was a good thing. I’m happy for him.”

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

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Drew Brees Talks Jimmy Graham

Regarding his rookie TE Jimmy Graham, a former college basketball player at Miami who had his first NFL TD reception called back for offensive pass interference, Brees told WWL, "It's a great trait to have, that basketball mentality that (Graham) has, boxing a guy out, using your hands, using your elbows, just kind of being physical.I think that's a good thing but, then again, you've just got to learn some of the proper techniques.

"It's not pushing off unless they call it. It's just like (defensive backs). The great DB's in this league, the great corners, they all hold. It's just a matter of getting away with it. So, I think the good ones just understand how to do it. Jimmy Graham, if he continues progressing, is going to be a great player in this league," said Brees to WWL's Bobby Hebert.

"He's got some great tangible and intangible traits. So, we've just got to continue to develop him and he is a young player that will continue to blossom."

Click here to order Jimmy Graham’s proCane Rookie Card.

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There will never be another player like Ray Anthony Lewis

Let’s take a moment to reflect on what Lewis has meant to this franchise, and this city.

It's fitting, in a way, that Lewis saved the Ravens from what would have been an embarrassing defeat today. Fitting because, even after 10 years, it's still a joy to watch him play football. In a year and a half of writing this blog/column, I've been pretty up front about the fact that it bugs me when people say he's as good as he's always been, and that he hasn't lost a step, because it's really not true. If you believe he's the same player he was when he was in his prime, I'm not sure you really understand football, especially defense.

But pointing that out does mean he's not a great player, or that I think he is any less fun, or fascinating, to watch. In fact, in some ways, I find him more fascinating now. He's still very good, and at times, great. I wish every person had the opportunity to stand next to him. Whatever you think of him, the man has a presence that's impossible to deny. I think people getting carried away sometimes playing up his mystique, insisting that he can will other players to achieve great things just by getting in their face. But when you stand four feet away from him and listen to him talk, you understand that there is at least some truth to the legend. Charisma has a definite energy to it, and love him or hate him, he has that charisma.

He's still probably the best linebacker in the game, and today's 15 tackles, a forced fumble, a sack and a pass deflection (that turned into an interception) proves that. It just doesn't look as easy as it once did. But there is a nobility to the struggle that I admire.

Watching a transcendent athlete will himself to compete at a high level even though he cannot do the magical things he once could, at least to me, is one of the best things about sports. In a way, once we reach a certain age, we're all fighting off the inevitable march of Father Time, whether we're athletes or artists, bankers or businessmen. We all wish we could combine the wisdom that comes with age with the endless possibilities of youth. But life doesn't work like that.

Watching Ray Lewis these days, at least for me, is a bit like watching Jack Nicklaus win the Masters in 1986, or Pete Sampras capture the U.S. Open in the final tournament of his career. It's like seeing Michael Jordan, in the twilight of his Bulls career, use a series of head fakes and fade away jumpers to score 50, even though the man guarding him might be quicker and younger.

In 2000, when Lewis was at the peak of his powers, it was a bit like watching a superhero. (Though admittedly not someone everyone loved, like Batman.) He closed ground faster than anyone, maybe faster than anyone in the history of the game. Watching him now is a bit like watching an aging warrior who refuses to yield to the inevitable. He gets lost in pass coverage, and can't quite get to the edge like he once could, but it's not for lack of trying. It's a bit sad to think about all the years of Lewis' prime that the Ravens wasted, simply because their offense was so inept. But you can't change the past, just like you fight off the future forever.

But with a combination of pride and savvy, wisdom and skill, you can fight it off for a while if you're an athlete like Ray Lewis. However long it lasts, and whatever you think about him personally, we should all feel fortunate to have witnessed the journey up close.

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

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Antonio Dixon makes solid debut

When Brodrick Bunkley suffered an elbow injury a couple weeks ago, the Philadelphia Eagles needed somebody to fill in on the defensive line. Antonio Dixon stepped up and played some good football.

Dixon, Eagles defensive tackle, picked up his first sack of the season when the Eagles defeated the San Francisco 49ers, which happened to be the game Bunkley got hurt.

Dixon also had three solo tackles in that game. He had a solid performance in his first pro start against the Atlanta Falcons last week. Dixon, a 6-foot-3, 322-pounder, knew the Eagles needed a lift and provided one.

“I’m just trying to help out,” Dixon said. “I learned a lot of things from coach Rory (Segrest, defensive line coach) in the offseason. He used to work with me all the time. He worked with my technique. He really helped my game. I tried to get better during the offseason. The whole D-line showed up every day. We just wanted to get better. Bunkley tells me how to use my hands. My teammates help me out. Actually, everybody helps each other out.”

The Eagles (4-2) will travel to Nashville to face the Tennessee Titans (4-2) on Sunday at 1:00 p.m.

Chris Johnson, Titans running back, has rushed for 596 yards on 139 carries while scoring seven touchdowns. He averages 4.3 yards a game.  Johnson is the second leading rusher in the NFL.

“He’s fast,” Dixon said. “The defense has to do our part. We need gap control. We got to stay in our gap and make plays. We’ve faced Frank (Gore, 49ers running back) and Michael Turner (Atlanta Falcons running back), too. But Chris Johnson is a lot faster. He can stretch the field. We have to be able to move laterally to stop the run. We have to go sideline to sideline. But we have some pretty good linebackers who can fill the gaps pretty fast That’s a good thing.”

Dixon contributed to the Eagles defensive line rotation last year. He had 17 total tackles. He played in every game after being claimed off waivers just days before the season opener. The Washington Redskins following the 2009 NFL draft originally signed him as a rookie free agent.

Dixon is a real inspiration to all people who need hope. He grew up in Miami, Fla., with four siblings spending most of their childhood living in homeless shelters while his single mother, Cornethia, worked hard to maintain a stable home life for her family

Dixon started playing football in ninth grade. He stayed in school although he had thought about quitting school to get a job to help his family. Dixon continued to play football and starred at Booker T. Washington High School. He had several scholarship offers, but decided to play his college football at the University of Miami.

Dixon had a fine career with the Hurricanes. He recorded 71 total tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks. In spite of these numbers, he went completely undrafted.

However, his efforts have not gone unnoticed this season. Andy Reid, Eagles head coach, has been very pleased with Dixon’s play on the field. Reid also recognizes his long journey to professional football.

“I mean Antonio’s had to overcome some things just in his life,” Reid said. “He has a speech impediment, and so on, and he’s worked through that and he’s one of the team favorites, just as far as being a person. He’s playing very good football right now and he works at it, he really worked in the offseason about keeping his weight down and kind of reforming his body and it’s paying off for him. He’s playing very good football (and he’s) very, very strong player and really enjoys playing the game. So, I’m happy for him. He’s doing well.”

He’s making an impact off the field as well. Two years ago, he was named Man of the Year by Miami’s athletic department for his community work. Dixon and a few of his teammates devoted their Saturdays in the offseason to playing football and other games with kids at a local homeless shelter.

“My family and coaches call me every day,” Dixon said. “They tell me how proud they are of me. It’s not easy. It’s been hard. I’m just trying to make the best of my opportunity.”

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Ed Reed makes his presence felt in return for Ravens

BALTIMORE -- This is the mind and the mayhem that Ravens safety Ed Reed brings to the field: On his fifth play of the game Sunday, with Buffalo's Roscoe Parrish encircled by Ravens along the sideline, Reed sees an opening to attack the ball. His shoulder pad connects, the ball comes out, but the Bills recover.

"It was bad tackle technique," Reed said later. "I knew we had Roscoe basically surrounded and somebody had to just go and take a shot. And that's what I did. I took a shot and happened to be in the right place at the right time."

It was almost the elusive turnover the Ravens have missed. The Bills felt the sting at least twice more of Reed's mayhem, though. Twice he intercepted Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, including on the first play of the second half. That became a Ravens touchdown seven seconds later -- on a flea flicker, no less, to Anquan Boldin -- and Baltimore's comeback was officially on.

Reed was back, in full throttle, even if the Ravens' secondary was in deep retreat. Thanks to his timely plays, the Ravens were able to offset Fitzpatrick's four touchdown throws and outlast the Bills in overtime, 37-34. It was the ninth time in his illustrious Pro Bowl career that Reed had a multi-interception game.

It was a ghoulish, Halloween-ish game, though, for the Ravens secondary. Cornerback Fabian Washington was beaten twice by Lee Evans on touchdown throws over his head and was pulled in the fourth quarter. Lardarius Webb was beaten by Stevie Johnson on another.

"Once they start going after somebody, you've got to get them off you then," Washington, a six-year veteran said. "Today was 'check, check, 31' [Washington's number]. That was what it was today. This week they got me. But please believe I will be back."

It wasn't so much that Reed stopped the Bills after spending the first six weeks on the physically unable to perform list after hip surgery, but his presence in the secondary bore immediate results. Communication may have suffered a slight drop with injured Tom Zbikowski going to the sideline, but it was hard to ignore Reed's contributions.

Of the 374 passing yards Fitzpatrick accrued, Ravens linebacker Johnson said: "Pass defense is like run defense -- it's a team stat. Having Ed back there does help, especially with big plays. But it doesn't exactly mean that we're going to be perfect with Ed back there. Obviously, we gave up a lot of yards."

Buffalo had 506 total yards, converted 11 of 17 third downs, and drove 59 yards for the tying field goal that split the uprights with four seconds left in regulation. On the day the Ravens' Super Bowl team came back -- with what may have been the best defense ever -- this year's defense didn't compare.

"We want to be dominant," Johnson said. "We weren't even close to being dominant. I don't even know if we slowed them down. We have a lot of work to get done."

Despite his reluctance last week to say Reed would play, coach John Harbaugh anointed him a team captain on Wednesday, an emotional day when Reed returned to the practice field for the first time since last January.

"It changes the whole complexion," Harbaugh said about Reed's return. "He made his presence felt."

Reed was hardly satisfied with a game that would be highlight tape for any other safety.

"We've been working at [communication on the field] all week, and I knew it was going to be different with Zibby out and me coming back," Reed said. "I told the guys, 'Just bear with me for these couple weeks.'"

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

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Rocky McIntosh back in comfort zone

Inside linebacker Rocky McIntosh was a force in his return to the lineup after being sidelined by a concussion in Week 6.

McIntosh shared the team lead with eight tackles, including six unassisted, had a sack and forced a fumble in the Redskins' 17-14 victory over the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. It was good to be back in the lineup, McIntosh said.

"I always play good when I'm with my teammates," McIntosh said. "Just being out there in that atmosphere with my teammates, that's when I always feel good."

The Redskins had six takeaways on four DeAngelo Hall interceptions - he tied the NFL record - and two fumble recoveries. Washington last had six takeaways on Jan. 1, 2006, against the Philadelphia Eagles.

"It's real important," McIntosh said of the takeaways. "He [defensive coordinator Jim Haslett] stressed it from day one that we were gonna get a bunch of turnovers [against the Bears]. Seeing it on film in the other games, they give up turnovers. We just had to capitalize on it. And we did this time."

Again, McIntosh was key in the Redskins' success on defense, Coach Mike Shanahan said.

"Anytime you lose a guy for a game, like we did, it sets you back a little bit," Shanahan said. "But that's the nature of the National Football League. You are going to lose players during the season and some guys will have to step up. ... I was pleased with Rocky's effort today."

Click here to order Rocky McIntosh’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Broncos' DJ Williams keeps low profile off gridiron while making an impact

You won't hear D.J. Williams hosting a show on the radio or see him on television commercials. You won't see his face on billboards, shilling for any shoe company.

Even if you were to see him around Denver, there's a good chance you wouldn't recognize him.

"I've been out with Champ (Bailey) and some friends, and people think I'm security," Williams said. "It's weird."

How is it that a player who has started as many games for the Broncos as anyone over the last seven years — his 92 starts tie Bailey for the most since 2004 — could still be the most anonymous?

Well, it's exactly the way Williams likes it.

"When I go out, if I'm out at a restaurant or out having fun, I just kind of want to blend in," Williams said.

Yet Williams is hardly hidden on the field this season. With chaos elsewhere — with injuries to Elvis Dumervil in training camp and starters Brian Dawkins, Robert Ayers and Andre Goodman during the season — perhaps no player has been as important to the Broncos' defense as Williams. He leads the team with 56 total tackles, including 41 solo, and has a team-high 2 1/2 sacks.

When the Broncos are in their base 3-4 scheme, Williams is at the inside weakside position — called the Jack linebacker spot. From there, he is the primary tackler in the run defense. He'll also blitz at times or drop back in pass coverage, sometimes singled-up against the opposing tight end or against a running back who might be on a pass pattern.

"He's one of my favorite players that I think I've ever been around. He's at times very quiet, but I don't know that anybody has any more respect than D.J. does," coach Josh McDaniels said. "I think he's one of the best linebackers in pro football. That's how I feel about him because he makes such a huge impact in every phase of the game. . . . He's a well- rounded player and really looks like he's playing in the prime of his career."

Broncos defensive coordinator Don "Wink" Martindale, who was the team's linebackers coach in 2009, said Williams is playing at a Pro Bowl level. Williams said it is his relationship with Martindale that is makes that possible.

Martindale is the fifth coordinator Williams has played for since the team drafted him at No. 17 overall in 2004.

In that time, Williams was moved from the weak side to the strong side to the middle and back out again in the 4-3 defensive scheme under former coach Mike Shanahan. Then, Williams was among the Broncos' biggest linebackers, at 242 pounds.

Now, in his second year in the 3-4 scheme, he's the smallest starting linebacker. More important, Williams said, is that he's able to play smarter because, for once, his role has remained consistent.

"I finally have a D-coordinator who knows how to use me," Williams said. "A lot of times I wasn't the focal part of the defense. I was a good player out there making plays, but I feel like Wink puts me in position and makes certain calls that are planned for me to make the play. I like that because I'm confident in myself. If anything, I'd like it to be left up to me to make the play. Not putting anyone else down, but I just have confidence in myself in making the play."

And his teammates have confidence in Williams.

Bailey, the only player who has been with the Broncos longer than Williams — albeit only by a matter of months — said players respect Williams' voice in the locker room because of the way he carries himself on the field. When Williams arrived in 2004, he was the kid playing alongside Al Wilson. Now, Bailey said Williams is the leader instead of a follower.

"He doesn't always talk, but he talks when necessary. He speaks up, and you can tell it means a lot to him just based on how he talks and when he talks," Bailey said. "We need somebody like that, especially someone who sits right in the middle of your defense. He's the guy that we listen to in the huddle. His voice is important."

Click here to order DJ Williams’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Q & A with New York Giants Antrel Rolle

Q: How about the physicality as far as the Dallas receivers? They're big, strong, fast.  Because of that, do you have to be more conscious of wrapping them up?
A: I mean you've got to play football at the end of the day. It doesn't matter how big, how short, how tall - it doesn't matter. You can't play each guy the same way. You have to be more physical with these guys being that they're physical specimens. So we're just going into the game plan playing effective football, same football we play each and every week. 

Q: Do you look at this game as an opportunity to do damage to their season and put them in your rearview mirror?
A: We're not really worried about damaging their season. We're just only worried about getting better as a Giants team, prolonging our season and being as effective as we can be as a unit. 

Q: Do you have a thing in your head as far as the tackling issue?
A: Not at all. It's not going to affect my play one way or another. I've never had any concussions or worried about it before because that's not something that happens intentionally. If it happens, then it happens. But I'm going in playing my game and I'm going to continue to try to be the best I can be. 

Q: Tom said he was going to talk about that with the team today. Did you do that yet?
A: No, not yet. We're going to watch that this afternoon. 

Q: When you have to play a team like the Cowboys who are very good but now they're playing for their lives, do you feel like this is a do-or-die type thing?
A: In my eyes, everyone is in a must-win situation each and every time you take the field come Sunday. It doesn't affect my play one way or another. We're going in expecting a battle. Dallas is a great team, and we're very aware of the talent they have on both sides of the ball. So we're definitely looking for a battle come Monday and we're going to play our "A" game and that's that. 

Q: But it doesn't make them any more dangerous?
A: No. Not on our behalf. We don't worry about that. We just worry about playing the best that we can play as Giants, and whether it makes them more dangerous or not, who's to say? But we can't concern ourselves with them having their backs against the wall and them having something to prove. 

Q: The defensive line has done a great job of getting to the quarterback this year. As that continues, do offenses change what they do? Do they throw more screens?
A: They might try to rely on getting the ball out quicker, knowing that our guys up front are getting to the quarterback extremely fast. So it depends on the scheme. It depends on the scheme. They might have something to play - they might revert to the screen. They might revert to the quick game. But who's to say, I mean we don't know what they're going to do yet. We only have what we see on film.

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

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Kenny Phillips is thrilled to be back in Dallas

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J.-- Throughout his never-ending rehab, during all the flights back and forth from New Jersey, Alabama and Florida, whenever his patience was tested -- and it was tested often -- Kenny Phillips often thought about Dallas.

It was there last year on Sept. 20 that Phillips authored the finest game of his young career. He practically single-handedly ruined Jerry Jones' grand opening of his Dallas palace with two interceptions, one of which caromed off Jason Witten's foot, and 10 tackles in what was his introduction to a national audience during a Sunday night Giants victory over the Cowboys.

"I never forgot the game because that was the last game I played in," Phillips said of the 33-31 win.

Three days after the best game of his professional life, Phillips was handed his greatest setback when he discovered that his second NFL season was over after just two games. The patellofemoral arthritis -- a deterioration of the cartilage between the kneecap and femur -- in his left knee worsened and required microfracture surgery.

Over a year later, the Giants are returning to Dallas and nobody will be more thrilled to be back than Phillips, who has not missed a game this season despite a degenerative condition in his knee that was considered by some as career-threatening.

The Giants safety, who has one interception, has started in all six games and has even overcome a sprained MCL to the same knee, which he suffered a few weeks ago.

"I tried to keep the past in the past," Phillips said. "But it has been a long haul. I am definitely not going to forget how much it took to get back to this point."

Phillips said the biggest pain he felt during his comeback hasn't been in his knee but rather in his head. The road back is one that is filled with speed bumps, yield signs and red lights, and Phillips' patience has been tested like never before.

For several months, Phillips was constantly told what he couldn't do yet and how he had to take everything excruciatingly slow. He couldn't even run for about six months after the September surgery.

The Giants were concerned enough that they signed veteran safeties Antrel Rolle and Deon Grant in the offseason while drafting another, LSU's Chad Jones, in the third round.

"[The rehab process] was mind-boggling because you never know what to expect," said Rolle, who is one of Phillips' close friends and trains with him during the offseason in Miami. "You never know how you are going to perform or even when you are going to be healthy. You continue to rehab every day and night. It has been very stressful. It has been a full-time job."

Rolle let Phillips borrow his Accelerated Recovery Performance machine, which uses electrical stimulation to help speed recovery. Phillips uses it every night so he can stay healthy.

While Phillips works daily to keep his knee in playing shape, teammates check on him to make sure he remains sane.

"I know the mental battles you struggle with," said cornerback Terrell Thomas, who watched Phillips travel often to Alabama, where Dr. James Andrews operated on the safety's knee. "He works out every day here taking care of his knee. It is not something that is going to be fixed this year. It is something he has to do continuously for the rest of his career."

After the two-interception performance against Dallas, Phillips' career looked like it was going to take off straight to the Pro Bowl.

"I felt like I was growing into my own," the 2008 first-round pick out of Miami said. "I felt good on the field, I was able to see things I didn't see before."

But even as he had his best game, Phillips said he didn't really enjoy it the way many would think because his knee was constantly on his mind. He didn't feel a lot of pain at the time, but he knew his condition would worsen. He just didn't know it would happen so fast.

"I wouldn't call it pain but you can't celebrate because the knee might give out," Phillips said, laughing, when looking back on his interceptions. "I don't want to say [I was] worried but it was in the back of my mind. There were still a lot of things that I couldn't do as far as movement and it was kind of hard to go out there and have fun."

Thomas knew Phillips would be down after the safety learned his season was over. So the cornerback joked that Phillips sure knew how to go out with a bang.

"I told him, 'Man, you are the only player I know that will have a game like that, then retire. You did that for attention, I know,'" Thomas cracked. "It was a career-threatening injury but he never retired."

Now, Phillips returns to Dallas steadily regaining the form that helped him pick off Tony Romo twice a year ago. New defensive coordinator Perry Fewell likes to use Rolle, Grant and Phillips together on the field often, and the three-safety look has helped the Giants become the second-ranked defense in the NFL.

Last week against Detroit, Phillips displayed his range by coming over to the right sideline and putting a huge hit on Calvin Johnson to force an incomplete pass. He had seven tackles and two passes defended on the day.

Following every game this season, Rolle asks Phillips how he feels. Phillips told Rolle that the Detroit game was "the best he has felt in a while."

The good feelings should continue Monday night.

"Great feeling," Phillips said of being back in Dallas. "Especially if we win. Real great. I feel good. I'm healthy and that is the biggest thing. I know if I'm healthy, I'll play well."

Click here to order Kenny Phillips’s proCane Rookie Card.

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After five weeks, Tavares Gooden returns to practice

It's been nearly five weeks since Tavares Gooden injured his shoulder in the Ravens' loss to the Bengals, and today, the third-year linebacker returned to the practice field for the first time since the injury.

"I didn't know. The head trainer came to me today and said, 'It's up to you. Go out there and see how you feel,'" Gooden said. "I took it a step further, went out there and ran around a little bit. Felt good, though. There's no shape like football. Me and Chris Carr were just joking around about it. You can do all the sprints and stuff you want, but there's nothing like football shape. I think that will help me out a bit."

Gooden had been getting reps from scrimmage as the Ravens' inside linebacker in passing situations in the first two games of the season, and he was a key member on special teams as well.

There were some questions after Gooden's injury whether the Ravens could afford to keep him on the active roster while he worked his way back, or if they would have to put him on Injured Reserve. They opted to keep the Miami product on the 53-man roster, and now he's finally working his way back to game shape to the delight of head coach John Harbaugh and Gooden's teammates.

"Coach Harbaugh was like, 'I love to see you in that uniform,'" Gooden said. "That's all. It was encouragement, kind of a lift from the team. Everybody kind of sparked up. That was a good feeling to go out there and have that feeling. Now, I just can't wait for my time to be up again.

"I only practiced one day, I don't know how that's going to go as far as me playing or depth chart stuff like that, but I can't wait until I do get an opportunity again."

Harbaugh acknowledged today that the Ravens' Week 9 game against the Dolphins - their next game after the upcoming bye week - could be a nice target date for both Gooden and wide receiver Donte' Stallworth to return.

Stallworth, who broke his foot in the Ravens' preseason finale, returned to practice yesterday and also took part in today's session.
Gooden said that returning against the Dolphins would be a dream scenario.

"That would be fun," Gooden said. "Against the home town? The home town, the home team - that would be fun. Like I said, I'm going to keep working hard and then take it one week at a time and pray that I can play against the Dolphins."

Click here to order Tavares Gooden’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Help Kenny Holmes 'tackles the issues' in Indian River County

The voters of Indian River County have a wonderful opportunity as we go to the polls for this important election. Kenny Holmes, an Indian River native whom I have known and loved for some 20 years, is a candidate for county commissioner.

After he graduated from the University of Miami, he played for the Tennessee Titans and the New York Giants, but home for Kenny has always been here in our community. Once Kenny was established in the NFL, he quietly but effectively found ways to “give back” to the community that he loves and appreciates. He called his high school coach and asked if the school needed weight equipment. Kenny not only purchased the equipment from the New York Mets, but he had it shipped to Vero Beach and paid for it to be set up properly in the weight room for all the student athletes’ use.

Kenny brought teammates from the Miami Hurricanes and raised money for many local charities at a fun basketball game; he organized and paid for yearly Gifford Community Fun Days; he funded a reading/tutoring program at the Gifford Community Center in honor of his mother.

Now that Kenny Holmes lives here year-round, he is a volunteer coach and role model at his old high school. Please join our family in voting for Kenny Holmes as he seeks to “tackle the issues” in this challenging political environment.

Rosemarie Livings

Vero Beach

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Orlando Jones High coach Kenard Lang and junior OL Duaron Williams have a special friendship

June 22nd was one of the best days of 15-year-old Duaron Williams' young life.

It was Fathers Day, and for Williams, that day had always taken on a significantly deeper importance to him since his father Charles Allen Williams, 43, died of a heart attack in 2001. Duaron was 8 years old.

On this Fathers Day, Duaron stood proud after being named the top 2012 offensive lineman at the Schumann's regional Ultimate 100 National Underclassman Combine in Atlanta.

He knew his father would be proud and it all gave Duaron a bigger sense of pride having earned the honor on Father's Day. But he couldn't call his father. Couldn't discuss what he had accomplished like many other campers and their fathers could that day.

He did, however, have a phone call to make. Kenard Lang came into Duaron Williams' life just before Charles had his heart attack. And he would be there, from then after.

"He told me he was really proud of me and nothing can stop me except myself," Williams said.

The NFL star
Duaron says he's known his Orlando Jones High School football coach since he was "knee-high to a grasshopper."

It's a cliched yet humorous analogy coming from the 6-foot-4 and 280-pound lineman.

It's not hard, however, to imagine Williams standing "knee-high" to Lang. When the two met, Lang was an NFL star and Williams was a kindergarten-aged bible schooler. They attended the same church and the two formed a friendship that they would rekindle each time Lang returned during the NFL offseasons.

Lang has always come back. Orlando is home.

He starred at Evans High in the early-80s under current Edgewater coach Bill Gierke. He lettered in three sports at Evans, but it was football that got him a scholarship to the University of Miami .

Lang was a star for the Hurricanes, earning Big East rookie of the year honors in 1994, and then All-Big East honors the two succeeding years before leaving early to enter the NFL.

He was selected in the first round as the No. 17 pick in the 1997 NFL Draft by the Washington Redskins and played 10 seasons in the NFL with the Redskins, Browns and Broncos. His last year on the field was 2006 in Denver.

"All the kids looked up to him because he was in the NFL," Duaron's mother Angela Williams remembers. "That drew the attention right there and everybody wanted to talk to him. He would always encourage all the kids about getting an education."

Father figure
Williams relished church Sundays when Lang was in town. The NFL star was nothing more than a plate donator to the rest of the congregation, just like them, the members of the New Covenant Baptist Church of Orlando. But for Williams, he was a whole lot more.

"I started attending the church when I was four years old," said Duaron. "So he's known me since about then and all during his NFL years he served as a role model for me, a model of what I wanted to become in life."

Back then, Williams was almost too young to understand the stature of his church friend's NFL stardom. What he saw was a big man who he knew played football, but a man who also stressed values and was always helping others.

"I saw how he took care of his parents and our church and that's what I really want to do in life," Williams said. "I want to be able to take care of my mom and my church and community.

"I remember when he first told me he was going to be coaching at Jones. I was so excited. I knew he had that expert experience playing the game and that he could teach me a lot."

Through the years, hundreds, if not thousands, of talented area youth athletes have been sucked into the ways of the street, victims of the only society and culture they know.

Some could have been stars, making legitimate millions playing a game, but like Lang will say, it takes a work ethic.

Many end up behind bars or dead and still others just wander the streets, picking up an odd job here and there, legitimate or not.

"It's easy," Angela Williams said of falling into the ways of the street. "You gotta really have a great role model, mentors who will teach you the right direction.

"[Coach Lang] was a real positive role model for him. He also said how it's very important to be church-oriented, so at the church he'd tell the kids about how, by putting God first, your goals you set are possible."

Duaron didn't fall into the ways of some of his peers. He knows people who have died, and still more people who are either behind bars or have spent time within the jail system.

He hung with the right crowd, according to his mother. His main friends growing up were fellow Jones High players like Steven Michel, Oron Maxwell and others.

"They were always at my house," mom said.

Special kid
All along, Lang knew Duaron Williams was a special kid, and it wasn't because of football.

"The good thing about him is he always strives to be the best," Lang said. "Duaron never played football, I'd say, till his seventh or eighth grade year, but I knew he had the work ethic.

"I never knew to what magnitude it would be for him, how good he'd be, because he started football so late. I talked him into playing."

The magnitude is starting to come into focus. Following the Atlanta NUC competition, Williams moved on to the national challenge at the University of Oklahoma, where he did it again, and was named the top lineman of the 2012 class of participants within the NUC structure.

"The competition level there was unimaginable," Williams said. "It was the top players from around the nation. Everyone there was a great athlete, so I had to be at the top of my game.

"With me winning this MVP at this camp, I'm now the No. 1 ranked offensive linemen in the nation for the 2012 class by NUC. That's a huge accomplishment."

Living the Dream
The fast rise of Williams is even a little tough for him to fully comprehend.

"Yeah, it feels like a dream a little, but I'm still not satisfied," he said. "I still have a lot of work to do and I can always get better. I won't ever settle for best, when better is available."

It doesn't really surprise Lang any more. Williams -- and the rest of the Jones players -- have bought into his philosophy. That's why the Jones Tigers are actually living up to their incredible potential this year. At 6-0 and heading into a Friday night district game against South Sumter, the Tigers have been able to see the benefits of following their leader.

When Lang was hired as head coach three years ago, there had always been similar talent, but the teams almost always under-achieved.

"One thing I always tell the kids, if you don't know how to play, that's OK. If you have the work ethic, come on, 'cause we'll teach ya," Lang said. "As long as you got a good work ethic, everything should go smooth.

"And I told the kids the same thing at Edgewater (as an assistant) before here, there is the same amount of talent out there, the only difference is the students. All they have to do is start believing in themselves."

Jones players have that belief. And their goal is to be playing across the street, in their home stadium at the Citrus Bowl for the 2A state title Dec. 11.

"We don't accept being average. We play this to win a state championship," Lang said. "That's why we're here. We don't play just to win district. Our first year we made the playoffs, first time in like 13 years. After we lost the game, they were disappointed, but not as disappointed as they should have been, because we made it to the playoffs.

"They made it to the dance but they were kicked off the dance floor the minute the first song came on. I'm trying to get them in the mindset that, 'Hey, you want to stay in there until the last song's played."

This year they intend to dance. Lang won't let them settle.

Lang gives back
"He's an awesome coach and he takes care of the team real well," Williams said. "He works real hard trying to ensure that we all excel in school and on the field, and most of all he always encourages us to get to the next level and to succeed there, as well."

Williams is right. He has a 3.77 GPA and had a 1320 on his PSAT, the early prep test for underclassmen. His focus is impressive. He knows what it will take to get him where he wants to go in life, and he's applying everything Lang teaches.

Lang says he has "eight or 10" seniors with over a 3.0 GPA, and close to that many juniors, as well.

Lang didn't have to come back home to Orlando. Many athletes do not go back home.

"After my third year in the league, I came home every season and worked out," Lang said. "It was actually probably the best thing for me, so I didn't get disconnected from the people here. I used to go out to Evans High School and work out with the kids."

It's all about giving back for Lang. Growing up in Orlando and seeing schools in the same Orange County school district have better facilities and opportunities than kids at schools like Evans and Jones had always bothered him. He wants to make a difference.

"I just like to contribute to the people who don't have the chances and the amenities as the other schools," Lang said, "and I'm not talking only about football. I'm talking about getting the kids in the right mindset and getting them the right assistance to guide them."

Lang and Williams are still members of the New Covenant Baptist Church. The third floor of the church is named "The Kenard Huddle" for the work he has done with the non-profit Kenard Lang Foundation, the motto for which is, "Making a Difference Each Day in Every Way."

"I tell them, football or anything, as long as you get a scholarship and go to college and be a better man leaving here, then I've done my job," Lang said.

Williams will start to bring in college scholarship offers by the bag full as his time gets closer. He'll be a senior next year and is currently leaning, you guessed it, toward the University of Miami .

"The main thing that I told him is, 'When you start receiving offers, you better breathe easy and keep your head small. Don't walk around with your chest all poked out with a big head because nothing is etched in stone,' " Lang said.

"I think he'll be cool though.”

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Pat Burrell, revived with SF Giants, doesn't want to address time spent with Rays

PHILADELPHIA — Maybe for Pat Burrell this is best, to just stare his stare and act like it never happened.

Because the way Burrell has helped lead the Giants into this year's World Series with his bat, his glove, his leadership and his clubhouse presence is very similar to how he helped lead the Phillies for years and then into the 2008 Series.

And nothing like the miserable way he spent the 1¼ seasons in between with the Rays doing none of the above.

"I don't want to dwell too much on that," Burrell answered when asked at an NL Championship Series news conference. "But obviously getting a chance to come out here and play, I think, was a big thing for me. You know, obviously starting with a different team and having it turn out the way it did is not what you hoped for obviously. But I got a chance, the Giants gave me an opportunity to come out here and play, and I just tried to make the most of it."

Approached several times during the NLCS to talk more about what went wrong during his time with the Rays, Burrell, 34, either ignored the request or declined cordially. Even after Saturday's pennant-clinching win over the Phillies, he refused comment — again politely — to the Times.

Burrell, though, has a lot of explaining to do. He was, in a polite assessment, horrible with the Rays, hitting just .218 with 16 homers and 77 RBIs in 146 games over two seasons with little impact — at least positively — in their clubhouse.

But since being cut loose by the Rays and picked up by the Giants, he has starred, hitting .266 with 18 homers and 56 RBIs in 96 regular-season games while playing a good-enough leftfield to start all 10 playoff games and earning rave reviews for his leadership and clubhouse presence.

"Pat is the epitome of a great teammate," outfielder Cody Ross said. "I have so much respect for him. He's a true, true leader."

The consensus answer is that it was Burrell's inability to adjust to the DH role that he willingly signed up and took $16 million for from the Rays.
Burrell has acknowledged his frustration but still addresses it as if it is somewhat of a mystery, saying he exhausted all kinds of techniques and adjustments, even watching the game on TV and simulating his actions as if he were playing the outfield.

"I wish I knew the answer, because it probably would have worked out differently down there," Burrell said at the news conference, when he had to answer. "For me it has to have something to do with being in the flow of the game, playing in the field, being active in the game. I think that's a huge part of it for me. I'm not saying that that's right or wrong. I think just for me that was an important part of it."

But just as players and coaches close to Burrell insist they weren't surprised to see him rebound once he returned to the National League, they say they knew — and he knew — his new role with the Rays was going to be a problem.

"I told him, and I think he knew it, too; he's not cut out for DH," said former Phillies and current Giants outfielder Aaron Rowand, suggesting friendship may be thicker than blood since he is first cousins with Rays starter James Shields.

"Some guys have a knack for being a DH and some guys don't. Some guys have to be involved in the game to be productive and play. Pat's one of those guys, and I think he knew it even before he went to Tampa. We talked about it. We talked about it the night before he signed."

Phillies centerfielder Shane Victorino said he knew — "for a fact" — that Burrell "hates to DH."

So why would he take the job?

"He didn't have many options," Victorino said. "Pat wanted to play. Obviously if he had a chance to play in the National League, I'm sure he would have. But I think that was his best offer at that time. And he took it."

Rays officials expected there to be an adjustment but enticed by the potential of a right-handed bat with power and patience, they felt it was a positive gamble.

(Plus, they expected him to have a huge impact in their clubhouse. Instead he had a loud confrontation with Carl Crawford in the clubhouse, raised concerns among people in the organization that rising star Evan Longoria was hanging around him too much, and didn't appear to buy into their relaxed atmosphere manager Joe Maddon prefers.)

"It was a risk factor," Rays executive vice president Andrew Friedman said last week. "It was something we talked about with Pat before signing him. Both sides went into it with their eyes open. … Both sides approached their relationship with the best of intentions. It clearly didn't work out with us, but we're happy for the success he's having with the Giants."

Not as happy as the Giants are.

When the Rays finally gave up and released Burrell in mid May, the Giants spent nearly two weeks deciding — even though it would cost them only about $300,000, with the Rays picking up the rest of his $9 million salary — whether he was worth bringing in, and they only did when he agreed first to a short stint at Triple A.

The time at home with his future in doubt may have humbled Burrell. Or inspired him. He told Ross he just hoped for another chance with an NL team because "I've still got it in me."

He "shocked" Giants officials by reporting to Fresno in tremendous shape and impressed them with his bat speed, general manager Brian Sabean said. They brought him up less than a week later to be a pinch-hitter, but he quickly worked his way into the lineup, delivering the kind of quality at-bats and clutch hits the Rays envisioned.

"This guy's been more than a pleasant surprise," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "Not just with his play, but also who he is, how he's helped out in that clubhouse."

"He's made," Sabean said, "a big difference."

To both teams, in a way.

"It's kind of amazing how Tampa Bay gave up on him," said former Ray Aubrey Huff, also enjoying a renaissance with the Giants. "I don't know what happened over there, I don't know the situation. But I guess some people's garbage is another man's treasure. And we'll certainly take him."

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