PHOTO: Marcus Forston & Vince Wilfork At Patriots Practice

ForstonWilforkPracticeWeek13

New England Patriots defensive tackle Vince Wilfork (75) talks with defensive lineman Marcus Forston (98) and defensive end Justin Francis (94) during NFL football practice at the team's training facility in Foxborough, Mass., Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012. (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia)


Bookmark and Share
Comments

Andre Johnson named AFC Offensive Player of the Month

AndreJohnson
Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson has been named the AFC Offensive Player of the Month for November.

Johnson led the AFC in receptions (35), receiving yards (614) and yards from scrimmage (614) in four November games. He averaged 153.5 receiving yards per game, second in the NFL behind Calvin Johnson (154.8) and first in the AFC by a 57-yard margin over A.J. Green (96.5). Johnson set an NFL record for a two-game stretch with 461 receiving yards in the last two games.

Johnson, 31, set franchise records in Week 11 with 14 catches for 273 yards against the Jacksonville Jaguars. He scored the game-winning touchdown on a 48-yard catch-and-run in overtime. He followed that with a nine-catch, 188-yard performance in the Texans’ overtime victory at the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving Day. Johnson had eight catches for 118 yards in a Week 9 victory against the Buffalo Bills.

Johnson’s big month vaulted him from ranking 18th in the NFL in receptions (34) and yards (444) to sixth (69) and third (1,058), respectively. He is on pace for his third-career 1,500-yard season, which would tie Marvin Harrison for the second-most in NFL history behind Jerry Rice (4).

This is the second AFC Offensive Player of the Month in Johnson’s 10-year career. The five-time Pro Bowler previously won the award in October 2008. This is the second time this season and eighth time in franchise history a Texan has won Player of the Month honors. 


Bookmark and Share
(houstontexans.com)
Comments

LaRon Byrd May Be Word At Receiver

LaronByrd 2
LaRon Byrd is still chasing his first NFL reception.

He had one in his hands last weekend against the Rams, but didn’t quite hang on to the ball when linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar delivered a nasty helmet-to-helmet blow. Byrd was down for a minute, the ball dropping from his hands as he went down.

“Me and Mike (Floyd) joked about it,” Byrd said Thursday, able to laugh since he has been cleared after his possible concussion. “(Floyd’s) first catch was on a tipped-ball touchdown (against Philadelphia). Mine was on a tipped-ball knockout.”

Byrd’s first catch could still be coming soon. Below Larry Fitzgerald on the depth chart, the Cardinals are dealing with multiple injury issues heading into Sunday’s game against the Jets, meaning Byrd may need to play a larger role.

Andre Roberts, who actually has more receiving yards than Fitzgerald this season (639 to 627), has yet to practice this week with a bad ankle. Early Doucet has been limited all week with bad ribs that kept him inactive for the Rams’ game. Byrd has been officially limited with his head injury.

Floyd, who has emerged unscathed and has played a bigger role of late, could end up getting his first start across from Fitzgerald.

“I expect a lot out of myself,” said Floyd, who has 24 receptions on the season. “I’m having a lot more fun, because I am comfortable in the offense.
“You never want to see your teammates go down. It’s next man in.”

Coach Ken Whisenhunt said the Cardinals would have to see what players were healthy on Sunday to know for sure who they would have catching passes from quarterback Ryan Lindley. Asked if his depth would be test, Whisenhunt smiled. “Is that what we have, depth? I hope so.”

With the Jets usually an aggressive bunch, the chance of having some receivers open down the field seems likely – although the Cards had some of those same chances against the Rams and Lindley was unable to make it work.

“It’s tough not to be able to connect on some of the plays we have missed on this year, but I don’t think guys have gotten down about it,” Fitzgerald said. “We have a pretty good attitude in our group.”

That includes Byrd, searching for that initial catch.

“Our job is to catch the ball and run our routes,” Byrd said. “The other things are out of our control. We can have the right depth, beat the DB and when the ball is in the air, make a play.”


Bookmark and Share
(azcardinals.com)
Comments

Travis Benjamin will be returner if Josh Cribbs can't play

TravisBenjaminCanes
Travis Benjamin is ready to return kicks and punts at Oakland if Josh Cribbs cannot play against the Raiders on Sunday.

A shoulder/chest injury prevented Cribbs from practicing for the second straight day Thursday. He was in the locker room but declined to answer questions.

Cribbs is averaging 12.8 yards a return on 28 punt returns — fifth-best in the league. He has returned 30 kicks for a 28.4 average — seventh-best.

Benjamin, a rookie from Miami (Fla.), has returned two punts and two kicks this season. One of his punt returns was 40 yards, and the other 16 yards. He has had more modest success on kick returns with two returns for 47 yards.

"It's an every week thing," Benjamin said after practice Thursday. "Every week I'm behind Cribbs. He'll take a rep and I'll take a rep, so I'm already prepared to take the role."

Cribbs and Benjamin have different styles. Cribbs is 6-foot-1, 215 pounds. Benjamin is 5-foot-10, 175 pounds. He is faster than Cribbs but doesn't run through tackles the way Cribbs does.

"It's going to be kind of rainy, so maybe (Sebastian Janikowski) won't get the leg into it he wants to," Benjamin said. "Every ball should be returnable.

"It's all about timing, knowing I get to the block quicker and get to the hole quicker. It's something we've been working on all week in practice. I'm very exciting knowing I can come in and fill Josh Cribbs' shoes and knowing I'm prepared and ready to go."

The Raiders rank 25th in punt coverage while allowing 10.6 yards a return. They are 21st on kickoffs, allowing an average starting position of 22.6 yards. Janikowski has booted 30 kicks for touchbacks.


Bookmark and Share
(news-herald.com)
Comments

William Joseph faces prison in Miami FBI tax-fraud case

WilliamJoseph
Former NFL lineman William Joseph, who starred at the University of Miami, will likely head to prison Friday after he is sentenced for his identity-theft and tax-fraud conviction in federal court.

Joseph, who played defensive tackle in the National Football League for much of the past decade, faces up to three years behind bars. He is being sentenced by U.S. District Judge Kathleen Williams.

Joseph and other defendants — including a former Oakland Raider teammate, running back Michael Bennett — were convicted of either cashing dozens of fraudulently obtained tax-refund checks in other peoples’ names or seeking a loan with fake collateral. Their take totaled hundreds of thousands of dollars, according to court records.

Joseph, 32, of Miramar, cut a plea deal in late August that could lower his potential sentence.

He pleaded guilty to theft of government money and aggravated identity theft, the latter of which carries a mandatory two-year prison sentence.

He admitted cashing a $10,088 Treasury Department refund check in the name of a person with the initials “I.P.” at a check-cashing store in North Miami in April, according to his plea agreement.

Unbeknownst to him, the store was a front for an FBI undercover operation.


Bookmark and Share
(miamiherald.com)
Comments

Ray Lewis doesn't practice Thursday

RayLewis
OWINGS MILLS — Middle linebacker Ray Lewis didn’t practice Thursday, the first day he was eligible to do so after being placed on the injured reserve — designated to return list Oct. 17.

Lewis was put on injured reserve with a designation to return following surgery to repair a complete tear of his right triceps.

Lewis’ injury typically involves a four- to six-month recovery, but Ravens coach John Harbaugh said Monday that he expects Lewis to return at some point this season and that it’s a possibility he could return to practice as soon as this week.

Under the NFL’s new designated to return exemption for players put on injured reserve, a player can return to practice six weeks after being placed on injured reserve and to game action after eight weeks.

The first game Lewis is eligible to play in is the Ravens’ Week 15 matchup with the Broncos Dec. 16.


Bookmark and Share
(carrollcountytimes.com)
Comments

Lamar Miller caught up in numbers game

LamarMillerDolphins
A lot of people have wondered about rookie running back Lamar Miller being inactive last week. Dolphins coach Joe Philbin gave an official answer Wednesday; I’ll try to read between the lines.

For those who want to get the bottom line right away, here it is: it’s tough to justify carrying Miller on the 46-man gameday active roster because his role can be filled by more valuable players. That’s even considering Miller, the University of Miami alum, has 145 yards on 27 carries, an average of 5.4 yards per carry.
Here’s my view of things:

Starter Reggie Bush (150 carries, 662 yards, 4.4 ypc) occupies Miller’s role – No. 1 option in the running game. Bush has been durable, he’s a veteran, and he’s doing a decent job. Miller won’t take playing time from Bush.

So now you go to the other running backs on the roster. They each have a specific role that Miller can’t fill.

Daniel Thomas (86 carries, 306 yards, 3.7 ypc) is the hard-nosed runner and the best pass blocker. He’s also useful in the red zone, and he’s showed he can sometimes be an effective first- and second-down runner. Miller won’t take playing time from Thomas.

Jorvorskie Lane (13 carries, 13 yards, 1.0 ypc) is the fullback. That’s not Miller’s role. No playing time there.

Marcus Thigpen is the kickoff and punt returner. He’s got a role, and it doesn’t include plays from scrimmage so that doesn’t help Miller get playing time.
That’s four active running backs on a team that’s averaging 56 plays per game the last four weeks. If the Dolphins were getting 70 plays per game maybe they’d need another running back. But for the way things are right now, defensive backs and wide receivers are more of a need.

That might be more of a truth this week when the Dolphins host New England, which averages an alarming 37 points per game. The Patriots’ proficiency at passing means you’ll need defensive backs. And their tendency to take leads, forcing teams to pass to catch up, means wide receivers are needed, too. It could come down to Miller vs. tight end Jeron Mastrud, but Mastrud is a good blocker who plays in goalline offense.

This has turned into a year of learning for Miller. There have been three games among the Dolphins’ 11 in which he was inactive or didn’t play. He’s been inactive for Seattle and Houston, and he was the only player on the active roster that didn’t play in the 30-9 victory against the New York Jets.

The active gameday roster, including the seven inactive players, is usually turned in 90 minutes before kickoff. Here’s what Philbin said Wednesday when asked about Miller:

“Really, when push comes to shove, an hour-and-a-half before the game and during the course of the practice week, you make a decision on the 46-man roster based on what guys that particular week are going to give you the best chance to win that game.

“There’s a host of factors that go into that decision and this week we decided with the 46 guys that he was not going to be one of them. But it isn’t necessarily an indictment of him or what he did or didn’t do.”

My interpretation: Miller didn’t have a role in the Dolphins’ gameplan against Seattle because the Dolphins thought if Bush was injured, Thomas could do the job well enough.

That could be the case again this week against New England. I believe the last part of what Philbin said, that Miller being inactive last week wasn’t “necessarily an indictment of him or what he did or didn’t do.”

I don’t think Miller being inactive necessarily means the coaches don’t like him, or don’t trust him, or, perhaps the worst offense of all, that they fail to recognize his talent.

The truth is probably simple: It’s tough justifying having Miller on the 46-man active roster on Sundays.


Bookmark and Share
(sun-sentinel.com)
Comments

Calais Campbell: 'I'm very optimistic about return'

CalaisCampbellCards
Currently suffering through a seven game skid that has been marred by injuries on both sides of the ball, the Cardinals could really use some good news.

After missing his team's last two games with a calf injury, Cardinals defensive tackle Calais Campbell will most likely be making his return to the field this Sunday against the New York Jets.

"I'm very optimistic," said Campbell about the possibility of his return. "I thought I was ready to go last week and it was hard not being able to go. But I'm feeling very strong and explosive and just trying to get it one day at a time."

With a defense that is currently ranked seventh in the league allowing 327.9 yards per game, most of the blame for the Cardinals recent misfortunes has been placed on the team's poor pass protection and lack of scoring. But after spending back to back games on the sideline, Campbell said he's just ready to get back out and help his team right the ship.

"It's hard watching on the sideline knowing you can make a difference," said Campbell. "It's hard watching the team lose. The defense is playing strong in my absence and I'm proud of them but I'm hungry to get back in there and try and help them make some plays."

With the return of Campbell, the Cardinals will be welcoming back their second dynamic playmaker in as many weeks. Running back Beanie Wells made his return to the field last week after missing the majority of the season with turf toe. With Kevin Kolb, Andre Roberts, Early Doucet, LaRon Byrd and Kerry Rhodes all suffering from their own ailments, Campbell said the recent string of injuries has affected team play but felt the players handled the adversity like any great team should.

"I think we tried to overcome a few [injuries] and I think we did well. You never want to make excuses but injuries do hurt," said Campbell.

Lining up against a struggling Jets offense, Campbell said he was prepared for a strong running attack awaiting the Cardinals at MetLife Stadium this Sunday.
"They're a powerhouse running team," said Campbell. "They have a really good back in Shonn Greene. He runs hard and makes good reads and the offensive line is pretty strong. They can open up some holes."

When asked about the presence of the two prominent QBs on the opposing sideline, Campbell stressed that preparation would be key to combating a possible dual quarterback attack.

"They do some tricky stuff with Tim Tebow in there and [Mark] Sanchez at the same time," said Campbell. "So you really have to watch some film and be prepared for all of the different looks they're going to give us. If you don't prepare to see [Tebow] he's going to get in there and he's going to be able to beat you. So you have to be able to prepare for him because he's a good opponent and he's a good player."


Bookmark and Share
(arizonasports.com)
Comments

Vince Wilfork interested in results, not stats

VinceWilforkCanes
FOXBORO — His presence on the stat sheet wasn’t big.

Vince Wilfork did come up big on NFL highlight reels from coast to coast for one play in the Patriots’ most recent game, their 49-19 rout of the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium on Thanksgiving night, however.

Fact is, Wilfork transformed Mark Sanchez into the poster child for the Jets’ humiliating loss.

In one fell swoop, the 325-pound defensive tackle overpowered guard Brandon Moore, literally driving his backside into Sanchez, with the force of the hit causing the Jets quarterback to cough up the football. Safety Steve Gregory scooped up the fumble and returned it 32 yards for a second-quarter touchdown.

Come night’s end, though, Wilfork had been credited with a modest three tackles and wasn’t even given a forced fumble.

Then again, it was Moore who actually forced the fumble.

Such is the nature of the beast, though, when one is manning the position Wilfork plays in the Patriots’ defensive scheme.

“Winning is everything to me,” Wilfork shrugged on Thursday. “I couldn’t care less about individual stats. I don’t care about the accolades. I couldn’t care less about that.

“My main goal is to win, and if we’re winning and I’m playing well with zero stats I’m fine with that. I’m not a selfish player. I love guys making plays. I love making plays, but sometimes it doesn’t happen like that so it is what it is when it comes to that. As long as we win, I’m happy.”

Far more often than not, Wilfork has been both, productive and an integral part of winning.

Should the Patriots win at Miami on Sunday, the four-time Pro Bowler will become a member of the AFC East division champions for the eighth time in his career.

“You always want to win your division,” said Wilfork. “Most of the time, that’s your toughest games because you have teams that you play each other twice a year, sometimes three times (including) the postseason.

“You know each other’s schemes. You might have a few wrinkles here and there, but mainly, the team does what they do. It’s a prime case right now. The Dolphins know us. We know them.”

The Dolphins know what they’re up against in Wilfork.

“Well, when you talk about the structure of their defense, you want to be strong through the middle, and they are,” Dolphins offensive coordinator Mike Sherman said. “He’s at the center point of just about everything that happens.

“You have to be able to block him to have any success around the football. I mean, he is a man amongst boys out there a lot of times and really controls that line of scrimmage for them.”

Even if the numbers don’t always reflect it.

With 39 tackles through 11 games, Wilfork is on pace to finish with a career-low 57 tackles, which was addressed by the web site profootballfocus.com in a recent article that his wife, Bianca, pointed out to him.

“My whole career, high school (at Santaluces in Lantana, Fla.) and college (at the University of Miami), it seems the longer the season goes, the better I play,” shrugged Wilfork. “Nine years now (in the NFL), the same thing. Just prepare well.

“Sometimes I make some adjustments in games and weeks. Sometimes I don’t make plays. Sometimes I make a lot of plays. But my thing is to be the best I can be for my teammates.

“If that’s making one tackle or making 10 tackles, I really don’t care about that,” said Wilfork. “My goal is to always do what I do best, do what I can do to help this ballclub win.”


Bookmark and Share
(enterprisenews.com)
Comments

Devin Hester Out of Bears Lineup Against the Seahawks

DevinHesterBears2
Bears wide receiver and kick returner Devin Hester has been ruled out for Sunday's game against the Seahawks.   

Hester left Sunday's game against the Vikings with a concussion.  He has not been at Halas Hall all week.  The Bears typically hold players out one game after a concussion, as they did with Jay Cutler and defensive end Shea McClellin. 

Devin Hester has 873 combined yards this season, 203 yards receiving and 459 yard on kick returns, 207 yards returning punts. 

Hester already ownes the NFL's all time record for career kick return touchdowns (17) and career punt return touchdowns (12) and is one return touchdown away from tying Hall of Famer Deion Sanders for most career return touchdowns. 

Hester, though, hasn't posed much of a threat this year.  

His decision making led to his being benched once already this season on returns.  Last week he had one punt return for 6 yards, with no kickoff returns.  With opponents kicking short to avoid a Hester break out run, Eric Weems set up deep last week, with Hester as a short return man.  Weems also stepped in for Hester at wide receiver (1 catch 9 yards) and will do the same again this Sunday with Hester out. 

Weems could turn heads returning kicks.  He signed a three year deal with the Bears last March and was a Pro Bowl returner with the Falcons in 2010. 
"It was good to get him in there last week" Dave Toub said, "kind of knock the dust off a little bit, I expect him to be a lot better this week, to take more of a jump & hit the ball faster up the field." 

Weems is excited about the opportunity, sometimes too excited on gameday!  

"In practices he's a little bit quieter" Toub said of Weems an undrafted free agent out of Bethune-Cookman, "at gameday you got to almost calm him down, he's a fun guy to be around."


Bookmark and Share
(nbcchicago.com)
Comments

Kenny Phillips Doesn't Practice

KennyPhillipsGiants
Kenny Phillips couldn't make it through his first game back from a sprained MCL injury he suffered in Week 4 unscathed and is now dealing with the lingering effects.

Phillips isn't practicing today after aggravating the right knee injury Sunday against the Packers in the second half and didn't return. After the game he said he thought it was a minor issue and couldn't returned to the game if the score was closer. Tom Coughlin said he expects Phillips to practice Friday.


Bookmark and Share
(nj.com)
Comments

Reggie Wayne is having his best year, but his value to the young Colts goes much deeper

ReggieWayne
INDIANAPOLIS — Reggie Wayne still is where it all started, where he's used to being, where he's comfortable. He's in his 12th season with the Indianapolis Colts, and together they're immersed in yet another drive to the postseason.

Some things never change.



Yet 10 months ago, Wayne had one foot out the Colts' door, ready to take his reliable hands, tireless work ethic and bulging resume somewhere else. He was a free agent, not to mention a 33-year wide receiver coming off his least productive season since 2003.

Wayne was looking, listening, considering offers. He had all but decided to sever ties with the organization that had taken him with the 30th overall pick in the 2001 draft.

"I was close. Very, very close," Wayne said.

Negotiations with one team — he steadfastly refuses to reveal its identity — had reached the point Wayne had packed an overnight bag and was preparing to leave his home in Miami for a visit when he gave the Colts a courtesy phone call.

"I promised (owner Jim) Irsay and I promised (first-year coach) Chuck (Pagano) that before I did anything, I'd give them a call," Wayne said. "I did, and I didn't walk out the door. I sat back down in my office."

The Colts offered Wayne a three-year, $17.5 million contract. The mystery team offered more. Wayne opted to remain a Colt.

"It's fair to say I left money on the table … probably a minimum of $3 million," he said.

Wayne talked with Pagano, whom he knew from when both were at the University of Miami (Fla.), and admitted he was taking a leap of faith. The old regime was gone: vice chairman Bill Polian, coach Jim Caldwell, quarterback Peyton Manning and so many others.

Wayne was one of the few holdovers.

"I knew it was going to be like this, me and a bunch of new faces," he said. "Once we released all the guys that had been here for years, I knew it was going to be weird."

But here he is, back among the NFL's receiving leaders. He's on pace for 122 receptions and 1,607 yards, which would both represent career highs.

An argument can be made Wayne deserves to be in the conversation for NFL most valuable player, certainly as the most influential Colts player. He's done it on the field, in the locker room.

And here are the Colts, heading into Sunday's game at Detroit with a 7-4 record and the tentative No. 5 seed in the AFC.

Quarterback Andrew Luck is the new face of the franchise. But he's quick to acknowledge Wayne's impact and realized Wayne's value from the outset. Of Luck's 449 pass attempts, a league-high 144 have been directed at Wayne.

They've developed a quick rapport even though Luck's academic requirements at Stanford forced him to miss the organized team activities during the offseason. He and Wayne put in extra time at the team complex when the offseason rules allowed, and they got together for a week in July near Wayne's home in Miami for additional throwing sessions.

"I called Andrew and told him, 'Use some of those frequent flyer miles and get down here,' " Wayne said.

The end result is possibly Wayne's best season and, likely, a sixth Pro Bowl selection.

"Every week he does something … 'Wow,' " Luck said. "Now it's to the point where you expect those type of things. Still, just how professional he is about everything. His work ethic, his leadership in the locker room. Everything he does is just top class.

"We all feel honored to be in his presence a little bit."

Detroit Lions coach Jim Schwartz, who dealt with Wayne on an annual basis as Tennessee Titans defensive coordinator from 2001-08, understands what Wayne means to the Colts. "He's stood the test of time," he said. "There's a lot of respect in this league for guys that are consistent and do it year-in and year-out."

From 2004-10, Wayne averaged 92 catches and 1,264 yards—and now he's on the verge of blowing away that average. Remarkable. "Reggie is having a Hall of Fame career," New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. "I think he's a tremendous receiver."

Wayne's high level of play is more of a resurgence than a renaissance. His streak of seven consecutive 1,000-yard seasons with Manning ended last season when Manning's neck issues forced him to miss the entire year. Wayne managed 980 yards while working with inferior quarterbacks Kerry Collins, Curtis Painter and Dan Orlovsky.

The arrival of Pagano helped convince Wayne to re-up with the Colts. And the addition of Bruce Arians as Pagano's offensive coordinator required Wayne to expand his game.

Though he occasionally would move around in the formation during his first 11 years with the Colts, he primarily lined up split wide to the left. Arians determined the best way to maximize Wayne's skills was to move him around.

"It's a waste of talent to just have him out (left) all the time and let him be double-covered," Arians said.

"For me, motioning has helped a lot," Wayne said. "Defenses can't key on me. In the old times, they knew I'd be on the left side. There was no mystery to it. They could double me, roll coverage to my side.

"Now they really have no idea where I am. That causes confusion and helps me out with matchups."

Another role somewhat new for Wayne has been that of vocal leader. Previously, Manning or longtime center Jeff Saturday would command the locker room or meeting room when the situation was warranted.

Occasionally this season, it's been Wayne who has stepped to the front.

In late October, the Colts, lethargic and ineffective, trailed the Tennessee Titans 10-3 at the half in Nashville. Wayne had seen enough.

"There was no false enthusiasm on this one. I was pissed off," he said. "I was upset because I knew what we were capable of. I felt like we left some plays out there, offensively and defensively, and we had a field goal blocked.

"No Ron Artest stuff and I (didn't) throw any cameras or grab anybody like Bobby Knight. I just had to speak up."

His message resonated. The Colts won 19-13 in overtime. It was the second game of a four-game winning streak that proved critical in lifting a team expected to be an afterthought to contender's status.

The next week against Miami, Luck took the offense on a 13-play, 69-yard fourth-quarter drive. Adam Vinatieri capped it with a 43-yard field goal with 5:58 remaining that held up for a 23-20 victory.

On that critical drive, eight rookie or first-year players were involved, including Luck, wide receivers T.Y. Hilton and LaVon Brazill, running back Vick Ballard and tight end Dwayne Allen.

So was Wayne. He provided a clutch 6-yard catch on third-and-3 near midfield. He also had a hand in the young players being able to withstand the pressure.
The new receivers—Wayne refers to them as "Smurfs" because of their lack of size—follow Wayne. They hang on his every word. Hilton sits next to Wayne in the meeting room and jots down notes for future reference.

"All of the other rookies have followed the Pied Piper, and that's Reggie Wayne," Arians said. "He sets the tempo for us offensively, and then Andrew is the second guy in line.

"If he can handle it, then they can handle it. Reggie makes sure that receiving corps and everybody else is ready to go."

Through it all, Wayne has been at the forefront. Perhaps that's because he realizes he's on the downside of his career and understands the value of embracing every moment.

Wayne has been one of the remaining veterans who has bristled whenever someone described this season as a "rebuilding year." Even Luck distanced himself from being part of a rebuilding process. The idea, he said, is to win now.

"I hope he's not the only one that's preaching that," Wayne said, smiling. "We don't have time. I see the light, man. So I don't have the time to sit back and rebuild and say 'Oh, we'll be better at that next year' or 'In a couple years, we should be in the hunt.'

"We need to be in the hunt now. We are in the hunt."

And if they track down a playoff spot, it will have a lot to do with their veteran receiver. Another example that everything about Wayne, as Luck would say, is top class.


Bookmark and Share
(aol.sportgnews.com)
Comments

Chris Myers Is Named Honorary Aero for Prostate Cancer Prevention and Education

ChrisMyersTexans
Chris Myers, Pro Bowl center for your first-place NFL Houston Texans, will be Friday’s Honorary Aero at the Houston Aeros vs. Oklahoma City Barons hockey game at Toyota Center.

Myers will drop the game puck while raising awareness of the mission of Blue Cure. The locally based non-profit foundation champions a lifestyle movement to educate men, young and old, about prostate cancer prevention, and to offer support for those affected by prostate cancer.

All this makes Friday’s game a win-win. Take the family and watch the Houston Aeros take on the Oklahoma City Barons, while also supporting a good cause.
How? Three dollars from each ticket sold at an Aeros link online will be donated by the Aeros to help Blue Cure spread its message of prostate cancer prevention. Also, Aeros players have recorded prevention tips to be played on Toyota Center’s big screen throughout the night.

When: 7:05 p.m. Friday, Nov 30
Where: Toyota Center, Downtown Houston
Discounted Tickets For A Donation: http://tinyurl.com/c3g47el
The Aeros will donate $3 from each ticket sold at this link to help Blue Cure spread its cancer prevention message.


Bookmark and Share
Comments

Brandon Harris fined $21,000 for hit on Lions returner

BrandonHarris
Brandon Harris has been fined $21,000 for his hit on Lions punt returner Stefan Logan on Thanksgiving Day.

Logan, who didn’t signal for a fair catch on the play, was judged to be defenseless and that cost the Texans 15 yards.

But Harris said he’ll file an appeal.

“They took my whole paycheck,” Harris said.


Bookmark and Share
(chron.com)
Comments

Ray Lewis moves rehab from Miami to team facility

RayLewis
Ray Lewis has entered the building.

The 37-year-old, 17-year veteran linebacker has moved his rehabilitation location from Miami to the Baltimore Ravens' training facility, and becomes eligible to rejoin his teammates in practice on Thursday.

However, it's uncertain if Lewis, who tore his right triceps against Dallas in Week 6, will practice then. Coach John Harbaugh was noncommittal on Lewis' practice status.

"Ray Lewis is here rehabbing but he's not practicing (Wednesday)," Harbaugh said. "We'll play it day by day as far as whether he practices or not. It's not imminent that he returns to play or anything like that, so really it's a non-story. He'll go out there when he's ready to practice and when that happens, we'll let you know."

It's believed Lewis could be back to game action as early as Dec. 16, when the Ravens host the Denver Broncos.

On Monday, Harbaugh said there was no definite way to know when Lewis could come back because the training staff and coaches had been unable to see how far along the progress with his triceps tear has been.

Based on conversations he had with Lewis, Harbaugh was confident his middle linebacker would return this season.

RB Ray Rice saw Lewis in the weight room Wednesday, saying the future Hall of Famer was in a "full-out sweat" during a workout.

"It means a lot just seeing him out there," Rice said. "If he can come back to practice, that would be amazing. The guy, to me, he's my modern day Superman. If he can do it, anybody can do it."

For the 2012 season, Lewis has 57 tackles and one sack. Rice added that he believes Lewis is trying to return before the season's end because he believes the 9-2 Ravens have a chance to make one last run to the Super Bowl before his legendary career comes to an end.

"Why is he coming back? People ask that question all the time," Rice said. "He's coming back because he firmly believes this is the team that can do it. He does it for us. He's not doing it for stats or fame. He's doing it solely because he loves the Ravens, his teammates and the organization."


Bookmark and Share
(cbssports.com)
Comments

Marcus Forston Recognized For Practice Work

MarcusForston
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The Patriots didn't take the field for a true practice during their short week leading up to a Thanksgiving meeting with the New York Jets, but Bill Belichick nonetheless cited excellent preparation from his players as a critical part of the 49-19 win.

In particular, three players' efforts garnered special notice: defensive lineman Marcus Forston, fullback James Develin, and offensive lineman Mitch Petrus, who were named the practice players of the week for Week 12.

Petrus, the former New York Giant, was signed by the team Nov. 13 so this is his first honor of the season. It was Develin's third and Forston's second.

The practice players of the week are those deemed to have best prepared the team in the days leading up to a victory.


Bookmark and Share
(espn.com)
Comments

Colin McCarthy suffered a concussion in Wk 12

ColinMcCarthyTitans
Titans MLB Colin McCarthy suffered a concussion in Sunday's loss to the Jaguars and did not participate in Wednesday's practice.

An unexpected development, especially considering McCarthy played 65-of-65 defensive snaps for the Titans in Week 12. The Titans have yet to specify a timetable for his return, but his chances of suiting up for Sunday's home tilt against the Texans don't look good. If McCarthy sits, Zach Brown would likely slide into the every-down role for Tennessee. Brown is coming off a double-digit tackle, two-sack performance against the Jaguars. IDP owners in a pinch will want to take a long look at Brown.


Bookmark and Share
(rotoworld.com)
Comments

Andre Johnson’s 2-game haul for Texans is second to none

AndreJohnsonWallpaper
A slight smile peeked through on Andre Johnson’s face, but only briefly as he dismissed too much talk of the record he set Thursday.

In his last two games, Johnson put together the best back-to-back outings by a receiver in NFL history. His 461 yards over two games topped his friend Chad Johnson’s 2006 total of 450, John Taylor’s 448-yard back-to-back in 1989, and Jerry Rice’s 442 over two consecutive games in 1995.

“It’s great; you can’t downplay it,” Johnson admitted. Then he struggled to find the right words to explain his thoughts on the record. “I just don’t … for some reason, it just doesn’t really … I guess with me it’s different.

“When you’re still playing, it means something, but you just have bigger goals. It’s great to accomplish it. Maybe when the season’s over, I’ll look back and be like, ‘Wow I did something nobody else has done.’ ”

The bigger goals he spoke of were the team’s aspirations to win home-field advantage and a Super Bowl championship, team success Johnson has never tasted in his 10-year career. But as the Texans are nearing the end of a season that began with lofty expectations, Johnson’s record-setting play has helped the pursuit of those team goals and the achieving of a 10-1 record.

“It’s remarkable to see what he’s done not only this season but in the past couple weeks,” quarterback Matt Schaub said. “It’s something that we see all the time in practice. It’s just him being Andre. You can really see he’s taken it upon himself to take his game to a new level. It’s pretty remarkable to watch.”

In the past two weeks, Johnson went from 21st in receiving yards to third behind Detroit’s Calvin Johnson and Indianapolis’ Reggie Wayne.

Silencing the critics While Johnson did start the season with a 100-yard game against the Miami Dolphins, he didn’t have another one until Week 9. In Weeks 2 through 5, Johnson caught a total of nine passes, and whispers of how much he had left arose.

Then his production began to quiet those questions.

“There was some concern early in the year,” Texans coach Gary Kubiak said. “I think there was some concern on his part and my part. We were trying to work through some things, limit the reps, do all the right things to get him back.

“Then all of a sudden, we come out of New York (in Week 5), and since then, it’s just been, ‘Game on.’ He’s been exceptional. He’s been exceptional in practice. All of his confidence is back. Andre is a worker. Andre plays well when he’s working well during the week. That’s just the way he is. It’s fun to watch right now. He’s exceptional. I couldn’t get it to him enough.”

Johnson has had more than 100 yards receiving in three of the last four games. The exception was the Texans’ win in rainy, sloppy Chicago three weeks ago.
And while his career-best 273-yard performance two weeks ago came against a Jacksonville Jaguars team that ranks 28th against the pass, his 188-yard performance — only four days after another overtime game — came against a Lions pass defense that ranks 12th.

Still going strong Johnson’s 31-year-old legs did not tire in either game. He caught most of his passes in the fourth quarter and overtime.

“I don’t know. When I was drafted into this league I just wanted to come in and be the best I could be,” Johnson said. “You don’t know what can happen. You can suffer an injury, and your career can be shortened. I’m very fortunate to be able to play for 10 seasons.

“I always just say when I came out, I wanted to be the best at my position. So far, I think I’ve been doing a very good job of it.”


Bookmark and Share
(chron.com)
Comments

Jimmy Graham leads NFL in dropped passes

JimmyGrahamSaints
New Orleans tight end Jimmy Graham has taken sole possession of the league lead in dropped passes.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, Graham now has dropped nine passes. He was tied for the league lead with eight last week. Tampa Bay running back Doug Martin is tied for fourth with seven drops and Atlanta receiver Julio Jones 10th with six drops. New Orleans receiver Marques Colston has five drops and no other NFC South player has more than four drops.

The Falcons and the Saints are tied, along with the New England Patriots, for fifth in the league with 24 team drops. The Buccaneers are tied for 24th place with 14 drops and the Panthers are tied for No. 27 with 13 drops.

Tampa Bay’s Vincent Jackson is one of just seven receivers (with 35 or more targets) that has yet to drop a pass. Jackson has been targeted 89 times and has 47 receptions.


Bookmark and Share
(espn.com)
Comments

Ray Lewis 'day by day'

RayLewisWallpaper
Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis was rehabbing his torn triceps injury Wednesday at the team's facility, but it still is unknown whether the former two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year will practice this week.

Lewis, who is on the injured reserve/designated to return list, is eligible to begin practicing Thursday. Ravens coach John Harbaugh classified Lewis' status as "day by day."

"He is not imminent to return to play (in a game) or anything like that, so to me it's really a nonstory," Harbaugh said Wednesday. "He'll go out there when he's ready to practice when the elbow holds up. And when that happens, we'll let you know."

Lewis won't be eligible to play until Dec. 16 against the Denver Broncos at the earliest.


Bookmark and Share
(espn.com)
Comments

Sam Shields Still Out

SamShields2
Charles Woodson and Sam Shields will not return to the field this week. The Packers ruled them out Wednesday.

The door is still open for Clay Matthews to return, but it's open just a crack.

Matthews wants to test his hamstring again on Friday before the team makes a decision, but he looks doubtful to play against the Minnesota Vikings.

On the positive side, Greg Jennings will play Sunday. It's his first game since Week 4 against the New Orleans Saints.


Bookmark and Share
(wbay.com)
Comments

Warren Sapp Asks To Reduce Child Support Payment

WarrenSapp
Former NFL star Warren Sapp (pictured) has reportedly fallen on hard times and is looking to cut back on a few things in order to lighten his financial load.  Instead of trimming his rather excessive lifestyle, he’d rather cut back on child support payments for one of his children, reports TMZ.

The former defensive lineman, who has publicly cried that he is cash-strapped, is currently paying his ex, Angela Sanders, the Mother of one of his six children, $2,500 a month.

Sapp reportedly went to a Florida court recently to request that a child support deduction be granted because he just can’t afford to continue to give Sanders the fixed amount.

The agreed upon child support payments were arranged back in 2001, when Sapp was a money-making super-star with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  At the time, Sapp and Sanders added a clause to their agreement, which stated that there could be no modifications made based on income changes. At the time, Sapp put this clause in to protect his fortune.

Apparently, the old clause is now a problem for Sapp, who earlier this year filed for Chapter 7, the most-drastic bankruptcy alternative.  Not surprisingly, Sanders told TMZ that she is “frustrated” by Sapp’s recent request for a child support discount and thinks he is not playing fair.

The 39-year-old sports analyst is also looking to cut back on the other child support agreements he made with the mothers of his other children.

In the meantime, Sapp’s particular case with Sanders is still pending a judge’s ruling.


Bookmark and Share
(newsone.com)
Comments

Antrel Rolle buys into nickel and it pays off

AntrelRolleGiants2
Antrel Rolle has played a lot of nickel back throughout his career. During his time with the Giants, it was mostly grudgingly.

The safety thought he was brought to New York to be a ballhawk and make plays on the back end. It wasn't until late last year -- just in time for a run to and through the playoffs, coincidentally -- that Rolle finally embraced his position and the Giants began to soar.

Rolle was playing a traditional safety spot for the Giants for most of this season, back there breaking up deep passes and flying around toward the football. But Sunday, he was back in the nickel, lined up in the slot, covering the Packers' most dangerous receiver one on one.

It wasn't a different job for him.

"Nickel is something that I'm used to playing," he said Monday. "It's something I've played my whole career. It's kind of a natural fit for myself."

What made it different was the attitude he brought to the position. Rolle has made it clear what his preferences are in terms of how the Giants use him, but he's willing to put those away.

"Although I love playing safety," he said, "one thing I like more than playing safety is winning games. So whatever it takes to win at this point in time, our coaches are going to put us in the best position possible. We got a little glimpse of that [Sunday] night."

What made the move possible was the return of Kenny Phillips to the lineup. With Phillips and Stevie Brown playing deep coverage, Rolle was free to come up to the line and play Randall Cobb and even line up as a linebacker on some downs.

The formation also allowed the Giants to put some of their most veteran players on the field and not rely on rookie Jayron Hosley in slot coverage, where he has been shaky.

"Outstanding football player, savvy," Tom Coughlin said of Rolle in the slot. "He's a pressure player, as well. You can bring him in the pressure. I thought he reacted very well [Sunday] night to that spot, made some key tackles in there. Was in very good shape on a lot of the parts of the throwing game. Seemed to not miss a beat in terms of the time that he has been away from that spot."

It's undoubtedly the best look for the Giants' defense given what was accomplished last year once Rolle finally embraced the job and the results that were on display against the Packers this week.

Rolle said he wasn't sure if the Giants would continue to play that way. The health of Phillips, who left in the third quarter against the Packers after aggravating his right knee injury, is a key to the alignment. But against the Redskins, with their speedy quarterback Robert Griffin III and running back Alfred Morris, the Giants will need as much quickness both from the feet and from the mind as they can get on the field.

Rolle seems as if he's willing to do it, too, which makes the decision even easier. Having had a taste of championship success has caused him to re-prioritize his desires in a Giants uniform.

"Whatever it takes to win, that's what I'm going to do," Rolle said. "I like the role. I like the nickel role, I like the safety role. No matter where I play on defense, I like playing regardless. As long as I'm out there on the field helping my teammates, I'm fine."

He was saying some of the same things last year while privately brooding over his place in the defense. This year, the words ring much more honestly.


Bookmark and Share
(newsday.com)
Comments

Jon Vilma and chief accuser could come face-to-face

JonVilma
Saints defensive end Will Smith and linebacker Jonathan Vilma plan to be present Friday when their lawyers are scheduled to cross examine former New Orleans defensive coordinator Gregg Williams in Washington, D.C.

Williams is to appear at a hearing involving the NFL's bounty probe of the Saints on Friday morning, according to a schedule set by Paul Tagliabue. The former NFL commissioner has been appointed to oversee the latest round of player appeals in the matter.

"They're accusing us of things we didn't do," Smith said after Tuesday's practice. "That's part of the things that we wanted all along was to face our accusers."
Smith and Vilma will leave for Washington from Atlanta after Thursday night's game against the Falcons.

They are among four current or former Saints -- along with free agent defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove and Cleveland linebacker Scott Fujita -- who were issued suspensions of various lengths in the league's probe of the Saints' cash-for-hits program that ran under Williams from 2009 to 2011.

Smith, suspended four games, and Vilma, suspended for the season, have been playing while their appeals are pending.

Williams and former Saints assistant Mike Cerullo were two of the NFL's central witnesses in the probe. Cerullo's appearance is scheduled for Thursday, which conflicts with the Saints' preparations for the game that night.

"We both want to be there, but we know we can't make it. We've both got to play football. That's the way it worked out. We will definitely be there Friday," Smith said, adding that he hopes Williams shows up. "He hasn't confirmed whether he would be there or not. We'll see what happens."

The NFL has described Vilma and Smith as ring leaders of the performance pool and produced sworn statements from Williams and Cerullo saying Vilma offered $10,000 to anyone who knocked then-Minnesota quarterback Brett Favre out of the 2009-10 NFC title game.

The hearings were slated to begin Tuesday in Washington with the questioning of NFL chief security officer Jeff Miller. Tagliabue has requested strict confidentiality while the process is ongoing, and the hearings are being conducted in private.

Tagliabue also is holding the NFL is responsible for producing Cerullo and Williams. The Saints are responsible for producing Saints assistant head coach Joe Vitt and Vilma early next week.

Vitt, who also coaches linebackers, already has served a six-game suspension related to the bounty probe and has said that while the Saints had an informal performance pool that rewarded players for big plays including forced fumbles, interceptions, sacks and big hits, his players never stepped on the field intending to injure an opponent.

Vitt made similar comments under oath in federal court last summer when he was called as a witness in Vilma's defamation lawsuit against current NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who published the initial bounty accusations and issued the suspensions, which included a full season ban for Saints head coach Sean Payton.

Lawsuits both by Vilma and the NFL Players Association challenging Goodell's handling of the bounty matter, including his decision to appoint Tagliabue as arbitrator for the appeals, is pending in federal court in New Orleans. It is not clear whether the judge intends to let more of the NFL's process play out before making a ruling.

Tagliabue has said he expects to make his appeal ruling shortly after concluding hearings on Dec. 4.


Bookmark and Share
(usatoday.com)
Comments

Danny Valencia Traded

DannyValencia
The Orioles have acquired third baseman Danny Valencia from the Red Sox for a player to be named later or cash, the club announced Wednesday. Infielder Joe Mahoney was designated for assignment.

Valencia, 28, hit a putrid .188/.199/.299 between Minnesota and Boston in 2012, mustering just 29 hits and three walks against 38 strikeouts. He hit .311/.351/.448 with a 119 OPS+ as a 25-year-old rookie in 2010, but it's been all downhill from there; his career line now sits at .257/.297/.389.


Bookmark and Share
(cbssports.com)
Comments

VIDEO: Sean Taylor Tribute, Reed, Moss, Portis, Rolle Reflect



It was five years ago today that Washington Redskins safety Sean Taylor died after a shooting at his home. Taylor's death was one of the most shocking and affecting in recent sports history, and the memory of it still resonates strongly and emotionally with Taylor's fans, friends and former teammates. This video tribute includes insights from former college and professional teammates Antrel Rolle, Clinton Portis, Ed Reed, Chris Cooley and Santana Moss as well as Redskins owner Dan Snyder, who smiles as he remembers Portis badgering him to draft Taylor.

I remember hearing of Taylor's death, of course. I was a baseball writer at the time, but anyone who followed sports even tangentially heard the story, and no one could get their arms around it in a way that made any sense. Five years later, as I heard today from fans, watched the video and read the columns by those who were covering the story at the time, it's clear that Taylor's death is still affecting a large number of people.

Rolle talks about how he still watches Taylor highlights on YouTube. Cooley remembers how grateful he was that Taylor never practiced his trademark big hits against him in practice. And Moss breaks down in tears remembering the way the news affected him. If you're a Redskins fan, I know the loss of Taylor is a wound on your heart that still hasn't healed. I invite you to share your memories and your feelings about him in the comments section of this post.


Bookmark and Share
(espn.com)
Comments

VIDEO: Ray Lewis, Ed Reed & W. McGahee Pay Tribute To Sean Taylor




Bookmark and Share
Comments

Kenny Phillips says he is good to go

KennyPhillipsGiants
Safety Kenny Phillips said he tweaked his knee but will be ready to play on Monday night against the Washington Redskins.

"I'm good, I'm good," Phillips said on the Stephen A. Smith and Ryan Ruocco show on ESPN New York 98.7 radio.

Phillips left little doubt that he will play against the Redskins after leaving Sunday night's game in the second half due to his knee. Tom Coughlin said Phillips aggravated the MCL injury that kept him out of six straight games prior to returning against Green Bay.

With Phillips back on the field, the Giants went primarily to their three-safety look again and had success keeping Aaron Rodgers and the Packers in check.

"What it does, it gives us better matchups," Phillips said. "It gives us a different look. You have Antrel Rolle playing nickel position and he can drop back and play safety or me coming into box or play safety or Stevie Brown, who has been big for us. You never know. You go into some games you know Antrel Rolle, he will be lined up on the left or Kenny Phillips will be lined up on right. But when you can't get a beat on it, it makes you think a little more."

When pressed by Smith on 98.7 to say whether the Giants will get the job done on Monday night against Robert Griffin III, Phillips said, "We're definitely going to go in there and handle our business. I think we are going to be fine."


Bookmark and Share
(espn.com)
Comments

Jonathan Vilma plans to attend bounty hearing with Gregg Williams

JonVilma
METAIRIE, La. — Saints defensive end Will Smith and linebacker Jonathan Vilma plan to be present Friday when their lawyers are scheduled to cross examine former New Orleans defensive coordinator Gregg Williams in Washington, D.C.

Williams is to appear at a hearing involving the NFL's bounty probe of the Saints on Friday morning, according to a schedule set by Paul Tagliabue. The former NFL commissioner has been appointed to oversee the latest round of player appeals in the matter.

"They're accusing us of things we didn't do," Smith said after Tuesday's practice. "That's part of the things that we wanted all along was to face our accusers."

Smith and Vilma will leave for Washington from Atlanta after Thursday night's game against the Falcons.

They are among four current or former Saints — along with free agent defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove and Cleveland linebacker Scott Fujita — who were issued suspensions of various lengths in the league's probe of the Saints' cash-for-hits program that ran under Williams from 2009 to 2011.

Smith, suspended four games, and Vilma, suspended for the season, have been playing while their appeals are pending.

Williams and former Saints assistant Mike Cerullo were two of the NFL's central witnesses in the probe. Cerullo's appearance is scheduled for Thursday, which conflicts with the Saints' preparations for the game that night.

"We both want to be there, but we know we can't make it. We've both got to play football. That's the way it worked out. We will definitely be there Friday," Smith said, adding that he hopes Williams shows up. "He hasn't confirmed whether he would be there or not. We'll see what happens."

The NFL has described Vilma and Smith as ring leaders of the performance pool and produced sworn statements from Williams and Cerullo saying Vilma offered $10,000 to anyone who knocked then-Minnesota quarterback Brett Favre out of the 2009-10 NFC title game.

The hearings were slated to begin Tuesday in Washington with the questioning of NFL chief security officer Jeff Miller. Tagliabue has requested strict confidentiality while the process is ongoing, and the hearings are being conducted in private.

Tagliabue also is holding the NFL is responsible for producing Cerullo and Williams. The Saints are responsible for producing Saints assistant head coach Joe Vitt and Vilma early next week.

Vitt, who also coaches linebackers, already has served a six-game suspension related to the bounty probe and has said that while the Saints had an informal performance pool that rewarded players for big plays including forced fumbles, interceptions, sacks and big hits, his players never stepped on the field intending to injure an opponent.

Vitt made similar comments under oath in federal court last summer when he was called as a witness in Vilma's defamation lawsuit against current NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who published the initial bounty accusations and issued the suspensions, which included a full season ban for Saints head coach Sean Payton.

Lawsuits both by Vilma and the NFL Players Association challenging Goodell's handling of the bounty matter, including his decision to appoint Tagliabue as arbitrator for the appeals, is pending in federal court in New Orleans. It is not clear whether the judge intends to let more of the NFL's process play out before making a ruling.

Tagliabue has said he expects to make his appeal ruling shortly after concluding hearings on Dec. 4.


Bookmark and Share
(greenfieldreporter.com)
Comments

Antrel Rolle says the defense needs to be more physical

AntrelRolleGiants2
In their Week 7 matchup at MetLife Stadium, the Redskins were dominant on the ground. Led by rookie running back Alfred Morris and fellow rookie sensation Robert Griffin III, Washington confused the Giants with a unique option attack and slashed through the defense to the tune of 248 rushing yards. Morris registered 22 carries for 120 yards. Griffin needed just nine rushes for 89 yards. Still, the Giants won 27-23.

They meet again on Monday night and Antrel Rolle believes the solution for stopping the run is simple: the Giants need to be more physical.

"Well, I think we have to be more dominant," Rolle said today in a radio interview on WFAN. "We have to understand how to try to attack them and how they're going to try to come downhill and make sure we're the most physical group on the field. That's pretty much it: Winning your battle, do your job and make sure you're the most physical football team and everything else will take care of itself."

Morris, a sixth-round pick out of Florida Atlantic, has rushed for 982 yards and six touchdowns through 11 games. Griffin has 642 rushing yards and six touchdowns.

Griffin, of course, isn't limited to just making plays with his feet. RGIII torched the Cowboys and Eagles defenses each of the last two weeks through the air, tossing four touchdown passes in each win. He now has 16 touchdowns to just four interceptions and has thrown for 2,504 yards. His completion percentage is at 67.5, an astounding number for a rookie signal caller.

"I wouldn't say he's been the toughest [matchup]. I think he's definitely been the most agile we've faced," Rolle said from Miami where he will be for the next couple days getting treatment on his knee before returning for practice Thursday. "But all those guys, they present their own threats. All those guys are great quarterbacks in their own ways. You're going to have some that are going to be more accurate than others, some that are going to have stronger arms, some that are going to extend the play longer than others. And he's definitely a guy that can extend the play. He can make each and every play. All guys are great quarterbacks. Each guy just presents different threats and challenges."


Bookmark and Share
(nj.com)
Comments

Art Jones Responds To Ed Reed's Challenge

EdReed3
Art Jones got called over by future Hall of Fame safety Ed Reed in practice last Wednesday.

Reed told Jones that he had seen flashes of his potential on film, but he wanted to see more.

“I challenge you,” Reed said, as recounted by Jones. “I need you to dominate from here on out. I need you to step up.”

Jones took the words to heart and recorded his best career game Sunday in San Diego.

After not recording a sack in his first 26 career games, the 2010 fifth-round pick notched sacks on back-to-back defensive series in the third quarter. He had five total tackles, including three for loss.

Jones beat Chargers guard/center Rex Hadnot, who stepped in for usual starting left guard Tyronne Green, on both sacks.

On the first, outside linebacker Terrell Suggs swam inside, which collapsed the left side of the Chargers offensive line. Jones blew past Hadnot, bended around the corner and wrapped up San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers at the ankles.

On the second sack, Jones simply just outmanned Hadnot off the line. It was a standard four-man rush and Jones burst past Hadnot’s right shoulder, which led him directly to Rivers. The sack came on a key third-and-5 that led to a punt.

“I’ve got to give credit to my coach, Clarence Brooks,” Jones said. “Every single day he told me if I trusted my assignment, alignment technique that I couldn’t be blocked. I believed in it and I think [Sunday] it worked out for me.”

Head Coach John Harbaugh has noticed an improvement in Jones’ fundamentals as well.

“I’ve just seen in the last three, four weeks, he’s taken a huge leap technique-wise,” Harbaugh said. “His feet and his hands are tied together way better now than they were, and that’s a credit to Clarence Brooks, and to Arthur in just deciding that he wanted to play with great technique.

“It’s really heartening for a coach to see a guy playing that well and to make the strides that he’s made. And it’s huge for our defense.”

Jones came to the Ravens as a somewhat raw product out of Syracuse. He saw action in just two games as a rookie as he worked on slimming and toning his body.

Jones was on the field for 14 regular-season games last season, but was mostly in a reserve role behind defensive end Cory Redding. He shared snaps with Pernell McPhee, a fellow fifth-round pick who broke out with six sacks. Jones, meanwhile, logged 20 tackles last year and no sacks.

Asked for an evaluation of his career to this point, Jones was brutally honest.

“Mediocre,” he said. “I’ve been showing flashes. But I know I can be a great player and can play in this league a long time if I stay healthy. I’ve just got to keep working, keep trying to get better.”

With Redding now in Indianapolis and McPhee still dealing with thigh and knee injuries that have forced him out of the past four games, Jones has been the Ravens’ starter.

He’s been getting coaching from Suggs, whose locker is right next to Jones. While the two have very different bodies (Jones is 6-foot-3, 315 pounds and Suggs is 6-3, 260), Suggs has worked with Jones on his pass-rush technique.

“Art’s been working really hard,” Suggs said. “It was a big day for him. I’m proud of him.”

While Jones credited Suggs, Brooks and God for his big day, it came back to Reed’s motivational words last week.

“Any time a great player challenges you like that, you want to respond,” Jones said. “To play with Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Haloti Ngata, these great guys, I’m living the dream, man. This is a dream come true and I don’t want to disappoint my family or anyone else.”


Bookmark and Share
(baltimoreravens.com)
Comments

Ryan Braun: A King Even Without His Prince

RyanBraun
It was just a year ago at this time that Ryan Braun’s name was starting to be whispered in connection to a failed PED test sometime at the end of the 2011 season. We all know how it shook out. Braun was indeed accused of violating Major League Baseball’s Joint Drug Agreement, appealed, and, in a rather substantial upset, was exonerated in all but the court of public opinion.

Plenty of people believed then — and continue to believe — that Braun gamed the system and should have been suspended for 50 games, 42 more than he actually missed in 2012. I have strong opinions on the JDA and PEDs in general, but this isn’t so much the space for them. The important thing for fantasy players is that, whether you believe Braun was using a PED or not in 2011, don’t bother waiting for the other shoe to drop. It will never come. I studied it for Sports Illustrated, Nate Silver did it for Baseball Between the Numbers, Justin Wolfers and a team of Penn economists did it for a peer-review journal (this was then republished in the New York Times), and pair of stats professors did it for the New York Times, and all four studies came to the same conclusion: There is no statistical evidence to support the idea that PEDs produce abnormal offensive seasons.

There’s no way to know for sure how many people resisted drafting Braun because they were worried he’d suddenly turn to sand, but he surely didn’t. As previously noted, he played all but eight games this season and gave owners very similar production compared to what he gave them last year. While his 2011 campaign featured a higher batting average and a slightly better slash line across the board — .332/.397/.597 in 2011 compared to .319/.391/.595 in 2012 — he hit eight more home runs to help make up the difference. His run and RBI totals were even more remarkably similar: 109/111 respectively in 2011 and 108/112 in 2012.

If it’s possible for a top-10 pick to be undervalued, Braun might be the type who is. He’s a phenomenal hitter, there isn’t a soul who doesn’t know that, but he also stole 30 bases, tying him for 17th in baseball and ninth in the National League. He’s highly efficient in his base-stealing, stealing 30 bases in 37 attempts in 2012 and 33 out of 39 attempts in 2011, so while he doesn’t get an abnormally high number of chances, he should constantly be an asset in that category in a way other 35-40 HR threats typically aren’t.

Notable to OBP players will be the sharp uptick Braun saw in intentional walks after the departure of Prince Fielder. In his five seasons prior to 2012, Braun was intentionally walked just nine times and never more than four times in a year, but in 2012 alone he was given then standing four count 15 times. Aramis Ramirez had his best seasons ever by wRC+, but was still unable to keep Braun from getting passed. If this trend continues next season, and there’s little reason to believe it won’t, Braun’s OBP will get a nice bump, though it will come at the expense of a few RBI chances. He wasn’t much worse for the wear last year, however, so even if he were to reach 20 intentional walks, it’s unlikely to make a noticeable difference in his counting stats.

Positional scarcity certainly help to explain why Braun isn’t fighting for the first overall pick — and why Mike Trout may not go first overall either — but over the last two seasons only Miguel Cabrera has had a higher wOBA or wRC+ than Braun. Over the same time period, Bruan is third in batting average, second in HR, fifth in RBI, fourth in runs scored, 10th in stolen bases, the only player to appear in the top 10 of all major offensive categories. You can’t, as the saying goes, win a draft in the first round, but you can lose one; Braun is exactly the type of player who will provide a high peak without a lot of associated risk and that’s exactly what a high first-rounder should do.


Bookmark and Share
(fangraphs.com)
Comments

proCane Players of Week 12

AndreJohnsonWallpaper
Offensive Player of the Week:

Andre Johnson: proCane Texans WR Andre Johnson caught nine passes for 188 yards in the Texans' Week 12 overtime win over the Lions. Johnson had another special day. He got the party started early with a bobbling sideline catch for 43 yards in the first quarter. From there, he got open at will against Chris Houston and the Texans also have found something with bubble screen plays to him. After topping 100 yards just one in the first seven games of the year, Johnson has three 100-yard games in the last four weeks.

Johnson's 461 receiving yards are the most in NFL history in back-to-back games. The 31-year-old one accomplished the feat in a five-day span. Johnson insisted last week that he was just hitting his stride and getting his legs back. He's shown steady improvement throughout the season and now ranks second behind only Calvin Johnson in receiving yards. Johnson is now on pace for 100 receptions and 1,538 receiving yards. He's back.

Honorable Mention: Reggie Wayne: proCane Colts WR Reggie Wayne caught eight passes for 102 yards in the Colts' Week 12 win over the Bills on Sunday.
Wayne was targeted a team-high 14 times, drew two defensive pass interference calls, and converted three of his third-down catches into first downs. Wayne was stopped inside the five-yard line twice right before halftime. Wayne has broken the NFL record for most consecutive games with multiple receptions. Cris Carter held the previous mark of 58. Wayne now has made at least three catches in 59 consecutive games.He now leads the league in receptions with 84 and has quietly put himself in the MVP talks.

Co-Defensive Players of Week:

Darryl Sharpton: In his first game of the 2011 season, proCane Texans LB Darryl Sharpton started for the Texans and finished the game with 6 tackles. Activated off the PUP list in Week 11, Sharpton played 33-of-68 snaps in Houston’s Week 11 win over the Jaguars, notching seven tackles. The 2010 fourth-round pick was limited to just eight games and 55 snaps in 2011 by a torn quad. Look for Sharpton to continue getting a lot of playing time.

Antrel Rolle: proCane Giants DB Antrel Rolle provided a lockdown coverage in New York’s decisive win over the GReen Bay Packers on Sunday night. Defending Randall Cobb was Rolle’s “primary responsibility,” and the Packers’ multi-purpose threat had just four catches for 39 yards against the Giants. Rolle played primarily as the nickel corner for the Giants with the return of fellow proCane Kenny Phillips. Whether or not he’ll stay there depends on the weekly game plan, Rolle said. Rolle finished the game second on the team with 6 tackles.

Honorable Mention: Ed Reed.

Special Teams Player of the Week:

Matt Bosher:
proCane Falcons P Matt Bosher continued his great 2nd season though this week he only had one punt but made it count. Bosher’s lone punt went for 45 yards and it pinned the Tampa Bay Buccaneers inside their own 20-yard line.


Bookmark and Share
Comments

VIDEO: Ray Lewis' Impact




Bookmark and Share
Comments

Sean Taylor: Five years after his death, so many questions unanswered

SeanTaylor copy
It’s five years since I got a 7 a.m. phone call on a Tuesday morning from the office to say Sean Taylor had died, and all I have still is the same emptiness. And questions. Hard questions. Some of which I know the answers to but don’t want to hear. And others no one can know.

I still wonder: How does a kid who had met Taylor — a friend of his sister who had attended a party once at his house — end up being part of a botched home invasion and robbery that ends up costing Taylor his life? How many bad decisions did he have to be a part of before he threw away his own life?

Why hasn’t the man fingered as the gunman been sent away for life already? How is Eric Rivera, who was 17 at the time, not scheduled to see trial until next April — assuming that date isn’t postponed for some judicial matter that prevents Taylor’s family and friends from perhaps even an ounce of understanding or closure?

I wonder when has someone you knew actually died after they had been shot in the leg? Five years later, the chances of a bullet striking the femoral artery, of losing so much blood in so little time, just seems so random and wrong.

Then there are the what-ifs about his career, which seemed destined for more Pro Bowls, more comparisons to the all-time greats at his position. How good could Sean Taylor have been?

We tend to be kind to the supernovas that burn so brilliantly for so few years before leaving us much too soon. Sean Taylor has become football’s James Dean, Jim Morrison or Tupac Shakur — taken in the infancy of his fame.

Would he have been Ronnie Lott-good, better than the greatest hard-hitting safety in NFL history? Or just Kenny Easley- and Donnie Shell-good, which is still great? Would he have put up better numbers than Ed Reed and gone down as the best University of Miami safety to play in the NFL?

Or would his penchant for controlled malice have gotten him in more hot water than James Harrison in the new safety-conscious NFL?

There are also the personal questions Sean Taylor never answered. Who was he? I tried to find out about a month before his death, but he wouldn’t let me in.
“You don’t want to see the good in a person like Sean,” Clinton Portis, his closest friend on the team, told me then. “You don’t want to understand the success or the pain he’s went through to be where he is.”

Only after his passing did we find out what a doting father he was to Jackie, the 18-month-old baby daughter innocently sashaying past her father’s casket, the most sorrowful moment I can remember from 2007.

Really, what kind of father could Sean Taylor be? That little girl is 6 today. She deserved to find out.

Before all the testimonials at his memorial service of his childhood and the recent spiritual changes in him brought on by the birth of his daughter, we only knew that violence surrounded Taylor’s career and life. The son of a police chief, he had his own run-ins with the law — including allegedly chasing down thieves who stole his ATVs and pointing a gun at them.

Finally, how could someone we learned more about in death than in life connect so deeply with a fan base? Before Robert Griffin III, Sean Taylor had his own mystique and almost cult-like following.

He played a medieval sport with a fierceness and passion that still endears him to so many, some of whom still mourn him like family today, five years after his passing.


Bookmark and Share
(washingtonpost.com)
Comments

Whiz expects Calais Campbell back for Week 13

CalaisCampbellCards
Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt expects LE Calais Campbell (calf) back for Week 13 against the Jets.

Campbell said he'd be back for Week 12, so take this with a minor grain of salt. However, coaches are usually more realistic about injuries than players. The two games Campbell has missed since the Cardinals' Week 10 bye are one more than he missed through his first four NFL seasons. His return will be bad news for Mark Sanchez.


Bookmark and Share
(rotoworld.com)
Comments

Kenny Phillips says knee 'feels pretty good'

KennyPhillipsGiants
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Kenny Phillips wasn't back for a full four quarters in his return from a right MCL injury before trainers ran onto field to check his knee after a late play.

Phillips aggravated his right MCL knee injury that kept him out of six games during the Giants’ 38-10 win over Green Bay.

Although the Giants safety was concerned for a moment that he had reinjured the knee, he said it didn't take long for that concern to fade.

"I was like, 'Here we go again.' But I got to the sidelines and the doctors took a look at it," Phillips said. "It feels pretty good right now. I didn't want to take that chance to go back out there and miss the next week."

Phillips said keeping him out of the rest of Sunday night's game was just precautionary. The Giants routed the Packers 38-10, and Phillips had five tackles in his first game back after six weeks.

"I felt great, especially to come back with a game like this," Phillips said. "A lot of guys were playing full speed and having a lot of fun. It felt great to be back."

It was a good night for the defense. Phillips allowed the Giants to use some three-safety packages and mix up coverages in their first game after the bye.

"It put us back where we want to be," Phillips said. "We're two games in front of Dallas and I believe Washington, also. We've just got to continue to keep playing like we've been playing and the sky is the limit."


Bookmark and Share
(espn.com)
Comments

Ravens get early Christmas present if Ray Lewis returns soon

RayLewis
When things break right for the Ravens, they really break right.

Less than 24 hours after their most exciting win of the season -- the 16-13 overtime victory over San Diego highlighted by Ray Rice’s electrifying (and game-saving) 30-yard catch-and-run in the waning moments of the fourth quarter -- there seems to be more good news radiating from the Under Armour Performance Center.

Yahoo! Sports is reporting that Ray Lewis is recovering so well from his torn right triceps he could be back on the field as early as the Ravens’ Dec. 16 game against Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos.

There’s no under-stating how much the Ravens feed off the intensity of their 37-year-old future Hall of Fame linebacker.

Did you see him cheering wildly on the sideline all game long yesterday, even when the Ravens’ offense was in that awful funk in the first half?

Did you see how fired up he was when the team finally started playing well in the second half and the defense made a number of heroic stands with the game on the line?

As each defensive player left the field, the CBS cameras captured him getting an arm-lock or a high-five or a fist bump from the Ravens’ emotional and spiritual leader. (Paul Kruger got a head-rattling smack on the helmet and beamed like he’d just hit the Lotto jackpot.)

Now multiply that excitement and focus ten-fold and you have a sense of what it’s like for the rest of the Ravens to have No. 52 stomping and snorting and battling on the field alongside them.

Maybe Lewis is trying to show that Terrell Suggs isn’t the only Raven who can make a seemingly miraculous return from a devastating injury weeks ahead of schedule.

It’s no surprise the man would throw himself into rehabbing his injury with all the fury and dedication he’s brought to the middle linebacker position for 17 seasons.

And maybe the fact he’s embraced alternative medical techniques – a hyperbaric chamber and platelet-rich plasma therapy, to name two – has helped speed his recovery, too.

Whatever the case, the Ravens have to be thrilled to hear Lewis could be back soon. His pre-game speech to the team before Sunday’s game – heavy on hope, faith and love, John Harbaugh said -- was thought by some to rank with his all-time best.

But nothing beats having No. 52 on the field -- even if, physically, he’s not the player he once was.

As the Ravens head into the playoffs, they’ll take any version of Ray Lewis they can get – every time.


Bookmark and Share
(baltimoresun.com)
Comments

Antrel Rolle returns to nickel cornerback role

AntrelRolleGiants2
Last year, it took Antrel Rolle a while to come around to the assignment of playing nickel cornerback, instead of staying at his preferred safety spot. This year, the change was no big deal.

The return of Kenny Phillips to the lineup for Sunday’s win against Green Bay prompted the Giants to again roll out their three-safety packages, and again move Rolle to the nickel corner spot“

Although I love playing safety, one thing I like more than playing safety is winning games,” Rolle said. “So whatever it takes to win at this point in time, our coaches are going to put us in the best position possible, and we got a little glimpse of that Sunday night.”

The three safeties used this year are Rolle, Phillips and Stevie Brown, who emerged while Phillips missed six games with an MCL sprain. Rolle said the change allowed the Giants to “put the more experienced players on the field.” Rookie Jayron Hosley had been used as the nickel corner the past few weeks, and made a few costly mistakes at key spots.

The Giants used the three-safety package for a majority of the game. Rolle and Brown played 85 percent of the defensive snaps, while Phillips played 75 percent, before leaving early after re-aggravating his knee injury.

If Phillips misses more time, the Giants may have to adjust again. Phillips said Sunday night he was “not worried,” but Coughlin said Phillips did not simply leave the Packers game just for precautionary reasons.

“Hopefully, he can deal with it and it’s not going to be anything major, but I can’t speak to that just yet,” Coughlin said. “He’s going to have to go through a couple of days of examination.”

While Rolle may not have as many opportunities to make plays at the nickel corner position, he called it a “natural fit.” Defending Randall Cobb was Rolle’s “primary responsibility,” and the Packers’ multi-purpose threat had just four catches for 39 yards against the Giants. Whether or not he’ll stay there depends on the weekly game plan, Rolle said.

“Outstanding football player. Savvy. He’s been there before,” coach Tom Coughlin said of Rolle. “He’s a pressure player as well; you can bring him in the pressure. I thought he reacted very well last night to that spot, made some key tackles in there. Was in very good shape on a lot of the parts of the throwing game. Seemed to not miss a beat in terms of the time that he has been away from that spot.”


Bookmark and Share
(nj.com)
Comments

Do Ravens need fast recovery from Lewis?

RayLewisWallpaper
More than a half dozen sources told Yahoo Sports that Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis could come back from torn triceps by Week 15, when Baltimore plays host to Denver in a game that could determine a top-two seed and a first-round bye.

Under that timetable, Lewis would return nine weeks after undergoing surgery. That recovery would trump Terrell Suggs' comeback from an Achilles injury this year.

But do the Ravens really need Lewis to rush back? The play of the Ravens defense says no.

With Lewis, the Ravens went 5-1 and allowed 19.6 points per game. Without him, Baltimore has a 4-1 record and has given up 20.2 points per game.

With Lewis, the defense allowed 396.6 yards per game, including 136.5 on the ground. Without him, the Ravens have given up 344.6 total yards, including 118.8 yards rushing.

This isn't the same situation as the Steelers with injured quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. The Steelers offense desperately needs him to return.

This Ravens, on the other hand, are considered a virtual lock to win the AFC North right now, leading the Steelers and Bengals by three games with five weeks remaining. The defense has found its groove in the red zone, not allowing a touchdown inside its 20-yard line in the past four games. There really is no need for Lewis to be a medical miracle.

One source told Yahoo Sports that Lewis could practice as soon as this Thursday, the day he's eligible to do so after having been placed on the "injured reserve designated to return" list six weeks earlier, and almost certainly will return sometime in the next month. Lewis wouldn't confirm any timetable return, saying, "You've got eyes -- what do you expect to happen? I'm here to support my team."

The Ravens have adjusted to life without Lewis, moving Jameel McClain to Lewis' spot and putting Dannell Ellerbe in the starting lineup. Ellerbe has been one of the Ravens' most consistent defenders this year.

But Ellerbe left the Chargers game with an ankle injury and didn't return. He told the Baltimore Sun that he plans to play against the Steelers on Sunday, although he may undergo an X-ray on Monday.

"I will do everything in my power to be out there," Ellerbe said.

Based on how the defense has been playing lately, Ellerbe's status may be more important than Lewis' this week.


Bookmark and Share
(espn.com)
Comments

PHOTO: LaRon Byrd Warms Up Prior To Week 12 Matchup

LaRonByrdWeek12Warmup

GLENDALE, AZ - NOVEMBER 25: Wide receiver LaRon Byrd #17 of the Arizona Cardinals warms up before the NFL game against the St. Louis Rams at the University of Phoenix Stadium on November 25, 2012 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Image


Bookmark and Share
Comments

Kenny Phillips doesn’t make it through first game back

KennyPhillipsGiants
The Giants won the battle in a big way.

But they just lost Kenny Phillips again.

The safety went down with a right knee injury, and was ruled out for the rest of the game. It’s the same knee that cost him six games earlier this season.

Leading 38-10 early in the fourth quarter, it was the only thing that hadn’t gone right for the Giants.


Bookmark and Share
(profootballtalk.com)
Comments

Ray Lewis could rejoin Ravens as early as Week 15 clash against Broncos

RayLewis
In a plot twist that may provide the NFL's answer to Willis Reed's one-legged inspiration in 1970 and Kirk Gibson's limp-off blast in 1988, the Ravens are quietly looking forward to another miracle, perhaps this one of the Christmas variety.

More than half a dozen sources told Yahoo! Sports that legendary linebacker Ray Lewis, believed to be lost for the season after suffering a torn triceps in mid-October, is expected to return before the end of the 2012 campaign, perhaps as early as the Ravens' Dec. 16 showdown with the AFC West-leading Denver Broncos at M&T Bank Stadium.

"At the end of the day, you're gonna see Ray Lewis again," said veteran linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo, one of the many players attempting to fill the void during the future Hall of Famer's absence. "For the greatest player in Ravens history to be able to return from this injury and come on this championship run with us? When he was said to be down and out? Man, that's critical mass. When he comes through that tunnel, that's gonna be the earthquake and the tsunami."

Lewis, who gave a fiery speech before Sunday's game and cheered on his teammates from the sidelines, wouldn't confirm his plans to return, saying, "You've got eyes — what do you expect to happen? I'm here to support my team."

A source close to Lewis said the 37-year-old linebacker has been aggressively treating his triceps injury with a variation of the platelet-rich plasma therapy that helped injured Pittsburgh Steelers wideout Hines Ward return from a knee sprain to play in the team's Super Bowl XLIII victory. The source said Lewis could practice as soon as this Thursday — the day he's eligible to do so after having been placed on the "injured reserve designated to return" list six weeks earlier — and almost certainly will return sometime in the next month.

Depending upon the way his arm responds, Lewis could be activated to face the Broncos (the first game for which he'd be eligible), or for the following week's home game against the New York Giants — or, if a more conservative approach is favored, Baltimore's playoff opener. "He might not be back until we really need him," Ayanbadejo said. "Pittsburgh losing probably gives us more time."

"We'll see in another couple of weeks," Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said Sunday. "Stay tuned."

Said Ravens coach John Harbaugh: "I would say it's possible. We can't put Ray out there until he's ready to win those battles. But if it can be done, yes, we want to do it."

One player who's especially captivated by the prospect of Lewis' return is Suggs, who recently made a stunning comeback of his own. Described Sunday by Harbaugh as a "walking miracle" — there's that word again — Suggs shocked the football world by making his 2012 debut in an Oct. 21 defeat to the Houston Texans, less than six months after undergoing surgery to repair a torn Achilles tendon.

"When I got hurt I asked the doctors, 'How long do I have to sit out?' " Suggs recalled Sunday. "They said, 'Well, the earliest most people come back from this is nine months, but it's usually a year.' I just chose not to accept that. I had to get back. We came so close last year. We're on the brink of something big. I didn't want to leave the job undone."

Now, when Lewis assures teammates he'll rejoin them, T-Sizzle is among the most fervent believers.

"He keeps saying, 'Just hold it down till I get back,' and we believe him," said Suggs, who had one of the Ravens' six sacks of Philip Rivers on Sunday. "He's gonna do whatever he possibly can to get back. No, [it's] not crazy. If anybody can do it, it's him."

In the meantime Lewis is contributing many of his trademark touches as a team leader, from Sunday's pregame speech (which focused on "faith, hope and love") to the first-down signals he gave while emphatically prowling the sideline in overtime. To get there, the Ravens had to overcome a sluggish offensive performance that included a 10-0 halftime deficit and punts on their first six possessions.


Bookmark and Share
(sports.yahoo.com)
Comments

Andre Johnson produces best back-to-back in NFL history

AndreJohnsonWallpaper
There has never been a receiver in the history of football to do what Andre Johnson has done in the past week.

There has never even been a receiver in the history of football to do what he’s done in two games.

Johnson caught an astounding 461 receiving yards in back-to-back games, a feat that’s never been accomplished before. He did it within a five-day span, just weeks after cries of his aging body and questions about whether he was finished circulated.

This wasn’t just among spectators and reporters. After his slow start, there were personnel people around the league who wondered if his decline had started.
This week, in two spectacular games, Johnson answered with a resounding, “No.”

On Sunday against the Jaguars, he caught 14 passes for a career-high 273 yards, including a walk-off 48-yard touchdown catch in overtime. Then, after playing five quarters and only getting three days of rest, at a time when another 31-year-old’s body might feel the strain of fatigue, Johnson caught nine passes for 188 yards. Six of those catches and 101 yards came in the fourth quarter and overtime.

“Andre is rolling right now,” Texans coach Gary Kubiak said. “He’s got confidence, he’s playing his tail off, he’s healthy and he’s back in the best condition I’ve seen him in in three years.”

Two games have catapulted Johnson from 21st in receiving yards to second, behind only Calvin Johnson who got upstaged on Thursday.

Andre Johnson’s total topped Chad Johnson, who had 450 yards in two games in 2006. And Chad Johnson didn’t do it in the same week.


Bookmark and Share
(chron.com)
Comments

Reggie Wayne sets NFL consecutive multi-catch games record

ReggieWayne
Indianapolis Colts star Reggie Wayne has broken the NFL record for most consecutive games with multiple receptions.

Cris Carter held the previous mark of 58. Wayne now has made at least three catches in 59 consecutive games.

Wayne tied the record last week at New England, and he broke it in front of his home crowd late in the first half of Sunday's 20-13 victory over the Buffalo Bills.

"Right now, it doesn't even matter," Wayne said. "Like I've been saying from Day 1, I see the light. I'm trying my best just to win games. That's what I want to do.

"When you win games, everything else will take its course. At the same time, whenever you play 12 years, you're bound to do something. There's something coming. I'm just happy to be still playing."

The Pro Bowl receiver also passed former Redskins receiver Art Monk for 12th on the NFL's all-time receptions list during the first half. Monk finished his career with 940 catches. Wayne now has 943, and he played a key role in a late first-half drive that ended with a 19-yard field goal from Adam Vinatieri as time expired.

"That's what is hard to do in this league," Wayne added. "Everybody's good. Whenever you can go out and keep being consistent, that's big. That's the same motto I've been having my whole career. I want to be able to be available whenever my number's called."


Bookmark and Share
(nfl.com)
Comments

Ray Lewis III sets new county career TD mark in playoff win, with father looking on

RayLewis
On Sunday night, Ray Lewis was on the sidelines in Pittsburgh, watching the Ravens pull out a crucial victory. With the attachment the linebacker has always felt for the Baltimore franchise it's understandable that he was completely entrenched in the game's action, despite an injury that will keep him out of action for the remainder of the season.

Yet as much as Lewis may have been focused on the Ravens' travails, the matchup was actually just the second-most stressful football game he attended over the course of the weekend. That's because Ray Lewis II was on hand to see his son, Ray Lewis III, and junior Lewis' Lake Mary (Fla.) Prep take on Deltona (Fla.) Trinity Christian School in a Class 2A regional semifinal. In this case, there was more than a playoff victory at stake, too, with Lewis III on the verge of a county record.

As reported by the Orlando Sentinel, Lewis III ran for two touchdowns and threw for another to lead Lake Mary Prep to a 38-12 victory. His second rushing touchdown -- an impressive 72-yard gallop to the end zone in the third quarter -- accounted for the 89th rushing touchdown of Lewis III's career, one more than former Lake Howell (Fla.) High running back Marquette Smith, who held the Seminole County career rushing touchdown record until Lewis III arrived on the scene.



While Lewis III still has opportunities to pad those stats in the weeks ahead, those won't be the final chance for fans in Florida to see the younger Lewis run with the ball. Lewis III has committed to his father's alma mater, Miami, where he hopes to leave as much of a mark as his father did.

Whether or not Lewis III ever reaches those heights remains to be seen. Regardless, he'll always have one proud papa following him whenever he's not on the football field himself.


Bookmark and Share
(yahoosports.com)
Comments

Devin Hester leaves game with concussion

DevinHesterBears2
Bears receiver and return specialist Devin Hester left Sunday’s game against the Minnesota Vikings with a concussion.

The injury occurred early in the game, although it was not clear exactly when. The Bears announced he would miss the remainder of the game with about five minutes left in the half.

Eric Weems replaced Hester at receiver and on returns.


Bookmark and Share
(boston.com)
Comments

Devin spent? Age might become an issue for Bears’ Hester

DevinHesterBears2
On his 30th birthday, Devin Hester was one block and eight yards from the 20th kick-return touchdown of his career in the Bears’ ­51-20 rout of the Tennessee Titans on Nov. 4 in Nashville.

Two weeks later, he was literally running in circles against the San Francisco 49ers, with a net of ­minus-1 yard on three punt returns. It was another reminder of just how difficult it is to be as great as Hester has been — especially, in his line of work, after turning 30.

Hester is far from your average kick returner. He’s the best of all time — though on behalf of Bears fans of another generation, it can’t be ignored that the great Gale Sayers scored his eight kick-return touchdowns on just 118 attempts. His ratio of one touchdown for ­every 14.8 returns eclipses Hester’s still impressive 1:23.2.

Regardless of anyone’s greatness, it’s a young man’s gig. Sayers’ final kick-return touchdown came at 24. Hester’s three touchdowns last season, when he turned 29, is more remarkable than people realize.

The teamwork, the timing and the skill required to return kicks make every touchdown a celebrated event. But with each passing day, the challenge for Hester becomes a little more than having the moon and stars align to capture the necessary magic to break out of a slump.

At 30, Hester is the third-oldest full-time kick returner (punts and kickoffs) in the NFL behind the Detroit Lions’ Stefan Logan (31) and the Seattle Seahawks’ Leon Washington (30). The Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Roscoe Parrish (30) and the Denver Broncos’ Jim Leonhard (30) are the only other 30-somethings returning kicks.


Bookmark and Share
(suntimes.com)
Comments

Jonathan Vilma wants to look accusers in the eye

JonVilma
Jonathan Vilma wants to face his accusers, former New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams and defensive assistant Mike Cerullo, when the pair testify late this month in Washington.

But the Saints game on Nov. 29 in Atlanta will likely preclude Vilma and Saints defensive end Will Smith from attending the NFL bounty appeal hearing overseen by former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue. Williams and Cerullo could face cross examination.

Naturally, that doesn't sit well with the Saints linebacker.

"Why would you make it so difficult on us to get there?" Vilma said Friday via nola.com. "Obviously, the intent was not for us to be there when you schedule it the way you scheduled it.

"I'm kind of disappointed in that these are the guys that essentially made the case against me. I would love to be there to see them, hear what they had to say. For whatever reason, (Tagliabue) felt like I didn't need to be there."

The hearing will play out on either Nov. 29 or Nov. 30, and legal teams for Vilma and Smith will be present. Vilma believes he will have his chance to testify on Dec. 3 or Dec. 4. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell excused himself from the Saints' appeals and appointed Tagliabue in October.


Bookmark and Share
(usatoday.com)
Comments

Small stats, big impact for Vince Wilfork

VinceWilforkCanes
He doesn’t put up big statistics, but few people make a bigger difference for their teams than Patriots most tackle Vince Wilfork.

That was the case in last night’s 49-19 win over the Jets, as Wilfork disrupted everything the Jets tried for a stretch, and made the play that made them the butt of all the jokes today. He was credited with just three tackles, but was the reason many more were made.

“If one of us is making a big play near the line of scrimmage, Vince is almost always a factor in it,” linebacker Jerod Mayo said, via Greg Bedard of the Boston Globe.

Pushing Jets guard Brandon Moore’s backside into quarterback Mark Sanchez might have been just the most obvious, but there were several other examples.
“I’m just taught to fight pressure with pressure, so I just started fighting back and knocked him into Sanchez and it created a fumble,” Wilfork said of the play that made the cover of the New York Post under the headline “BUTT UGLY.”

Mayo made a pair of short-yardage run stops which were directly because Wilfork tied up a double-team or otherwise blew up a play.

“It’s just man on man,” Wilfork said. “I think if I can occupy two [blockers], I know one of my ’backers is free. And I have some great ’backers. I put them up against any ’backers in the league at what we do. And I know I expect for them to make plays.”

It’s not a glamorous role to play, but the Patriots know he’s vital to what they do.

“Very unselfish,” coach Bill Belichick said. “We play him in different positions, where we feel like he’s maybe the most needed, not necessarily where it’s going to feature him or give him a great opportunity to make plays. But a lot of times it is to eat up blockers or try to disrupt plays.

“He’s an explosive guy that’s got very good football instincts. He knows where the ball is, he knows what they’re trying to do. He really responded to a lot of the different challenges or positions that we put him in. He’s done a very unselfish job and been very productive.”

He’s also getting more productive as the weeks pass, which is a good sign for a team that appears to be hitting its stride.


Bookmark and Share
(profootballtalk.com)
Comments

Jimmy Graham held to 33 yards in Week 12

JimmyGrahamSaints
Jimmy Graham was held to 33 yards on four receptions and six targets versus the 49ers in Week 12.

We will be interested to see the snap-count total for Graham on Monday. Spending more time than usual on the sidelines -- perhaps in effort to get more blockers on the field -- Graham lost four catches to backup David Thomas. Graham's numbers were also down because Drew Brees was facing serious pressure all afternoon. Look for a bounce-back game against a Falcons defense that he torched for a 7/146/2 line three weeks ago.


Bookmark and Share
(rotoworld.com)
Comments

Vince Wilfork in middle of it all for Patriots

VinceWilfork
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — It started, where it always does for the Patriots, with the big man in the middle.

Vince Wilfork may never be the flashiest player. He doesn’t get a chance that often to deliver a highlight-reel hit (though when he delivers, look out). And he will never have gaudy numbers like sacks or tackles for loss.

But if the Patriots deliver a big performance defensively, you can be sure Wilfork had an impact, even if it’s hard to pick him out on the stat sheet.

That was definitely the case on Thursday night, when Wilfork was once again huge in the Patriots’ 49-19 blowout victory over the Jets at MetLife Stadium.
“If one of us is making a big play near the line of scrimmage, Vince is almost always a factor in it,” said linebacker Jerod Mayo.

In the second quarter with the Patriots leading, 7-0, the Jets faced third and 2 at the Patriots’ 32-yard line. The Jets ran Bilal Powell over right guard, with the left guard pulling.

The Jets were zone blocking on the right side of the line, which means right guard Brandon Moore and right tackle Austin Howard were going to double team Wilfork to start, and then Moore would head to the second level to pick off Mayo and open a hole.

The problem was Wilfork didn’t move, which meant Moore couldn’t block Mayo.

Boom. Tackle for a 1-yard gain.

The Jets went for it on fourth and 1, Wilfork split Moore and Howard again. Mayo came in unblocked to stop Shonn Greene.

Boom. No gain. Fumble. Patriots ball.

Two huge plays, and Wilfork isn’t found on the stat sheet for them.

“It’s just man on man,” said Wilfork, who officially had three tackles. “I think if I can occupy two [blockers], I know one of my ’backers is free. And I have some great ’backers. I put them up against any ’backers in the league at what we do. And I know I expect for them to make plays.”

Patriots scored on the next play to make it 14-0.

Two plays later, the Jets botched a handoff and quarterback Mark Sanchez tried to make something out of nothing.

But Wilfork had shoved Moore 2 yards into the backfield and into Sanchez.

Boom. Fumble and touchdown for the Patriots to take a 21-0 lead.

Again, Wilfork doesn’t get any official credit for the play.

“I’m just taught to fight pressure with pressure, so I just started fighting back and knocked him into Sanchez and it created a fumble,” Wilfork said.

The Jets had third and 6 on their next possession when Wilfork drew a double team from center Nick Mangold and Moore. That allowed Mayo to sneak in untouched.

Boom. A 9-yard sack. No official credit for Wilfork.

The big man did get credit when he tossed Howard like a rag doll to stop Powell for no gain.

And, finally, when the Jets had fourth and goal at the 1-yard line early in the third quarter, Wilfork busted through the gap Greene wanted to run through. That forced him back to the middle, where Brandon Spikes stopped Greene for no gain.

Again, no sign of Wilfork officially.

But try telling the Patriots that Wilfork’s contributions don’t have meaning.

“Very unselfish,” coach Bill Belichick said. “We play him in different positions, where we feel like he’s maybe the most needed, not necessarily where it’s going to feature him or give him a great opportunity to make plays. But a lot of times it is to eat up blockers or try to disrupt plays.

“He’s an explosive guy that’s got very good football instincts. He knows where the ball is, he knows what they’re trying to do. He really responded to a lot of the different challenges or positions that we put him in. He’s done a very unselfish job and been very productive.”

Wilfork’s standout play against the Jets comes on the back of dominating play against the Colts, where he helped force Andrew Luck’s poor throw that was returned for a touchdown, and defensed two passes on his own.

Wilfork has played “solid all year” — to use Belichick’s words, but he seems to have been a man on a mission the last two games.

Wilfork said it has to do with his natural tendency to turn it on in the second half of the season.

“I always get better later in the season,” he said in the hallway after his news conference. “I’ve always been like that, in high school, college, and in the pros. Once the second half starts picking up, my game always seems to get elevated in the second half.”

But Wilfork’s surge might also have to do with his pride.

ProFootballFocus.com published an article on Nov. 16 entitled, “What’s wrong with Vince Wilfork?” The film-study-based website said in its tabulations, his play has been off this season, perhaps because of his high snaps, or the Patriots not playing to Wilfork’s strengths.

He did see the story — Wilfork’s wife, Bianca, showed it to him — and acknowledged he glanced at it, but downplayed the significance.

“I work my tail off,” he said. “I do everything that I’ve been doing. You’re going to always have people saying some things. But I try not to pay attention to that.
“She told me about it. I think it irritated her more than it did me. I looked at it and I was like, ‘It is what it is.’ I’m going to keep doing my thing.”

That’s a very good thing for the Patriots. They need their big man in the middle of everything.


Bookmark and Share
(boston.com)
Comments

Jonathan Vilma upset with timing of bounty hearings

JonVilma
Saints LB Jonathan Vilma said Friday he's not happy with the timing of Paul Tabliablue's hearings into the bounty-related suspension appeal.

Like teammate Will Smith, Vilma is OK with Tagliabue ruling on the appeal -- which also involves former Saints Anthony Hargrove and Scott Fujita -- before the end of the season. His problem is when his accusers, former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams and former defensive assistant Mike Cerullo, will testify.

Vilma said they had been scheduled to talk next Thursday and Friday morning, conflicting with the Saints' game at Atlanta on Thursday night. Vilma said he wasn't sure which of the two would testify Thursday and which would testify Friday.

“I'm disappointed in that because these are the guys that made the case against me,” he said. “I would love to be there to see them and hear what they have to say. For whatever reason, he (Tagliabue) felt like I don't need to be there.”

The statements of Williams and Cerullo were the primary evidence NFL commissioner Roger Goodell used in handing down a season-long suspension to Vilma and a four-game suspension to Smith. After Goodell appointed Tagliabue, his predecessor as NFL commissioner, to hear the appeal, Tagliabue agreed to make Williams and Cerullo appear at the hearings.

The hearing will end Dec. 4, and Tagliabue has said he will make a decision soon afterward. If he upholds the suspensions, Vilma and Smith will miss the final three games of the regular season. Their absence could be a critical blow to the Saints as they try to recover from an 0-4 hole to make the playoffs.

“There's always that possibility, but we feel like once Gregg and Cerullo get up on the stand and testify, there's no plausible way we can still be suspended after that,” Vilma said. “We'll see what happens.”

Vilma said it was impractical for either he or Smith to make the Friday morning time.


Bookmark and Share
(cbssports.com)
Comments

Kenny Phillips Has $30,000 Fine Overturned by NFL

KennyPhillipsGiants
Week Two was a turning point of sorts for the New York Giants. Trailing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 27-16 in the third quarter, Big Blue was frantically searching for a momentum boost. In came Kenny Phillips' devastating hit on Bucs wideout Vincent Jackson, and all of the sudden the Giants seemed motivated enough to stage a comeback. Despite not being flagged on the play, Phillips was initially fined $30,000 by the NFL. However, that fine has since been overturned.

This is especially surprising because Phillips has a history of getting into hot water with the NFL over hitting defenseless receivers. He was fined on several occasions in 2011 for similar actions. On Friday, Phillips joked that his recent injury was the only thing that kept his paychecks in his bank account.

"I haven't hit anyone in forever," Phillips said. "It kept me from getting fined, which is a good thing, kept a little money in my pocket. But I'm looking forward to getting back out there and having some fun."

On the field, the Giants have missed Phillips as an over the top safety. Although Stevie Brown has been an incredible story thus far, Phillips is an experienced veteran with a thorough understanding of Perry Fewell's defensive schemes. For example, Brown blew a coverage in Week 10 that resulted in a 56 yard touchdown for Cincinnati Bengals wideout A.J. Green.


Bookmark and Share
(giants101)
Comments

Eric Winston says Kansas City Chiefs fans want wins

EricWinstonChiefs
When an elderly woman got after Dexter McCluster this week about the struggles of the 1-9 Kansas City Chiefs, it was just the latest example of a frustrated fan base lashing out.

Chiefs right tackle Eric Winston heard about fans dressing in black to attend a game this month. He probably heard about the fan whose obituary cited Chiefs heartbreak as a contributing cause of death, too.

Winston spoke out in October when fans cheered as quarterback Matt Cassell was taken off the field with a concussion. Winston told NFL Network's Michelle Beisner there's only one way to quiet the masses.

"Look, if they need to act out and wear black to games or whatever it is, if they feel they need to do that, then so be it," he said. "My goal is to win. And when you can start winning, then that stuff kinda setttles itself. When you don't win, then this is the kind of stuff that can happen. I don't pay attention to be quite honest with you.

"I've been here for eight years and I think we have great fans," he told Beisner. "There's been ups and downs here and some things have happened this year that we're not proud of, but through thick and thin, I think they'll rise to the top."

The Chiefs have yet to win at Arrowhead Stadium this season, which doesn't help in matters of fan relations. It won't get any easier with Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos coming to town on Sunday.


Bookmark and Share
(nfl.com)
Comments

VIDEO: Jon Jay Tribute




Bookmark and Share
Comments