26 April 2009

Best First-Round Picks By Draft Slot

Pick 14 Jim Kelly  |  QB, Bills, 1983
The Bills drafted him in the great QB class of '83 but had to wait until '86 to get him, since he took a detour to the USFL. But when Kelly arrived in Buffalo, he was the consummate leader, taking the Bills to four Super Bowls.

Pick 24 Ed Reed  |  S, Ravens, 2002
Reed is almost unanimously considered one of the best defensive backs of the decade. He has been selected to five Pro Bowls and twice led the league in interceptions. He was named the 2004 Defensive Player of the Year and holds the record for the longest interception return in NFL history (108 yards in 2008). Reed was the fourth defensive back chosen in '02.

Pick 26 Ray Lewis  |  LB, Ravens, 1996
He has been the centerpiece of one of the greatest defenses in NFL history and five times led the league in tackles. A 10-time Pro Bowler and two-time Defensive Player of the Year, Lewis is known for his vocal leadership and his outstanding speed to the ball. Steelers' offensive lineman Alan Faneca would have been a good pick in this spot as well, but Lewis' astonishing resume of awards and decorations gives him the edge.

Pick 30 Reggie Wayne  |  WR, Colts, 2001
Since 2004, Reggie Wayne has become one of the most prolific and consistent receivers in the NFL, which is why he gets the slight nod over Titans' linebacker Keith Bullock. In the past five seasons, Wayne has logged over 75 receptions, 1,000 yards and five touchdowns five times while not missing a single game and being named to three Pro Bowls. Wayne played a pivotal role in the Colts' 2006 Super Bowl run and usurped Marvin Harrison as Peyton's No. 1 receiver when Harrison went down with an injury in 2007.


Still sharp? Where Edge might land

As expected, Edgerrin James was recently released by the Arizona Cardinals. Nearing 31, James' best days are behind him, but as the 11th leading rusher in NFL history he'll still get a chance with a team for the upcoming season. SI.com NFL writers Don Banks, Jim Trotter and Ross Tucker discuss which team makes the most sense and what his impact would be.

• DON BANKS: Given he's north of the historically pertinent 30-year-old plateau for NFL rushers, I'm convinced we'll never again see the Edgerrin James of his lead-back glory days in Indianapolis. But as a complementary piece of the puzzle, there are a number of teams that could still use the occasionally productive ex-Cardinal.
If I were James, and I were still chasing the elusive dream of earning a Super Bowl ring all my own -- and I'm not counting the sympathy bling he was given by the 2006 Colts, the year after he left Indy for Arizona -- I know I'd be hoping to sign with the New Orleans Saints. Sean Payton's offense last season finished first in points (28.9), first in total yards (410.7) and first in passing (311.1), and remains only a significant defensive upgrade away from serious Super Bowl contention.

That may sound like a mouthful, but the Saints do have some talent on defense, and I expect first-year New Orleans defensive coordinator Gregg Williams to get some results this season from a unit that suffered a plague of injuries en route to ranking 23rd overall in yards allowed (339.5) in 2008.

The Saints make sense for James, because while many expected them to draft Ohio State's Chris "Beanie'' Wells at No. 14 in the first round last weekend, they did the smart thing and opted for defensive help in ex-Buckeyes cornerback Malcolm Jenkins. Left unfilled for now was the veteran void created by the release of the franchise's all-time leading rusher, Deuce McAllister, in a February cap move.

The Saints have a talented tandem of Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas slated to carry the load this season, but they'd like to have a third backfield option. Both Saints runners are a bit on the small side, and James would add a valuable bit of insurance and experience alongside Bush and Thomas, who are entering their fourth and third seasons, respectively.


• JIM TROTTER: Philadelphia is a perfect fit. Brian Westbrook is an elite back, but injuries are always a concern with him. Rookie second-round pick LeSean McCoy has potential, but no experience. James could be an insurance policy for Westbrook and a mentor for McCoy. Coach Andy Reid would love James because he perennially ranks among the league leaders in fewest negative rushes, plus he's an excellent pass protector who can slip out of the backfield and handle those screens that Donovan McNabb likes to throw.

The question that needs answering is whether James will accept a backup role. He said on multiple occasions during last season's playoffs that he still believes he's an effective starter who can chase down other backs on the all-time rushing list. The problem for him is nearly every contender has set the top of its depth chart, and no team is going to change it for a 31-year-old back whose longest run the past four years is 26 yards.

Green Bay would be a good fit for James, but Ryan Grant is the starter. Chicago meets James' criteria, but Matt Forte isn't going anywhere. New Orleans has a definite need for a durable inside runner, but the Saints have thrown the football at least 238 more times than they've run it each of the past two seasons. Balance, that ain't.
Ironically, the best fit for James might be the team he just left. After losing his starting job (and regaining it late last season), he grew to hate the Cardinals' overreliance on the pass. Arizona ranked last in rushing attempts and had three players surpass 1,000 yards receiving. But things figure to balance out now that coordinator Todd Haley has moved on to Kansas City. Coach Ken Whisenhunt reportedly will call the plays to start the season, and the last time he filled that role with a playoff team was the 2005 postseason, when the Steelers had 142 rushes and 96 passes en route to their Super Bowl win. That's just the type of ratio and success that James is seeking.


• ROSS TUCKER: The Houston Texans make the most sense. They are desperately in need of a complement to last year's rookie sensation, Steve Slaton, and they didn't fill that void during the draft. Though they did pick up undrafted free agents Arian Foster from Tennessee and Jeremiah Johnson from Oregon, it would be unlikely that one of them is ready to contribute on a consistent basis unless Alex Gibbs and Gary Kubiak can duplicate their success in picking up low-budget running backs from their Denver days. Veteran Chris Brown has been unable to stay healthy and Ryan Moats is more of a third-down back.

James would be able to help get a Texans franchise over the hump of making the postseason in a division with which he is very familiar, the AFC South. James just helped get a moribund franchise to the Super Bowl and is very experienced playing with a group of talented skill players and blending in while doing his part. He could give the Texans 5-10 carries a game, especially in short-yardage situations due to his uncanny knack for finding enough of a crease to get positive yardage and then falling forward. Just as importantly, he showed during last year's postseason that he could carry the load should Slaton go down.


Former UM star Gino Torretta chosen for college Hall

University of Miami football great Gino Torretta had two of his biggest thrills Thursday in New York, as he was named one of the newest members of the College Football Hall of Fame and then got to officially open the NASDAQ stock market in Times Square.

Torretta, 38, is a former quarterback who led the Hurricanes to the 1991 national championship and won the Heisman Trophy -- college football's most coveted award -- in 1992. He is one of UM's most decorated football players, having won in 1992 the Maxwell Award (best overall player), Davey O'Brien Award (top quarterback) and Unitas Award (top senior quarterback). He also was a consensus All-American that year.

At 9:30 a.m. Thursday, Torretta -- flanked by National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame president and CEO Steve Hatchell and NASDAQ senior vice president Bob McCooey -- rang the NASDAQ stock market's opening bell in New York.

''It's a great honor to be here and to represent the University of Miami being the fourth inductee into the College Football Hall of Fame,'' Torretta said moments before signaling the start of the NASDAQ trading. ``Hopefully we have a few more in years to come.

``I want to thank all my teammates, my family and obviously all the coaches I had from Pop Warner all the way up. Thank you.''

Torretta finished his Miami career with 11 school passing records. He threw for 7,690 yards from 1989 through 1992. He lives in Coral Gables with his wife and 4-year-old daughter. He is the CEO of Touchdown Radio, a company that syndicates a college football game every week for national radio. He also is vice president for Institutional Sales with Gabelli Asset Management.

''It's pretty awesome,'' he said by phone after opening the market. ``Obviously with my background in finance, to ring the bell for NASDAQ is a pretty neat experience. You remember all your hard work over so many years. I've gotten some text messages from friends and family and [UM] president [Donna] Shalala called to congratulate me a few minutes after they rang the bell.''

UM head football coach Randy Shannon said in a statement released on the Hurricanes' website, ``This is a great honor for Gino. He contributed so much to the University of Miami football program as a student-athlete. He was a Heisman Trophy winner and a member of our 1989 and 1991 National Champion teams. He's one of the great players in Hurricane football history, and we appreciate The National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame for recognizing him.''

The other UM players in the College Football Hall of Fame are running back Don Bosseler, defensive end Ted Hendricks and safety Bennie Blades. Former UM coaches Jack Harding and Andy Gustafson also are in the college Hall.

In addition to Torretta, the other new Hall players announced Thursday live on ESPNEWS television: Pervis Atkins, HB, New Mexico State (1958-60); Tim Brown, WR, Notre Dame (1984-87); Chuck Cecil, DB, Arizona (1984-87); Ed Dyas, FB, Auburn (1958-60); Major Harris, QB, West Virginia (1987-89); Gordon Hudson, TE, Brigham Young (1980-83); William Lewis, C, Harvard (1892-93); Woodrow Lowe, LB, Alabama (1972-75); Ken Margerum, WR, Stanford (1977-80); Steve McMichael, DT, Texas (1976-79); Chris Spielman, LB, Ohio State (1984-87); Larry Station, LB, Iowa (1982-85); Pat Swilling, DE, Georgia Tech (1982-85); Curt Warner, RB, Penn State (1979-82); and Grant Wistrom, DE, Nebraska (1994-97).

The new coaches announced Thursday were Dick MacPherson of Massachusetts and Syracuse; and John Robinson of Southern Cal and Nevada-Las Vegas.

Last November, Torretta also became one of five UM football greats announced as the newest members of the Ring of Honor during halftime of the game against Virginia Tech.


Santana Moss Gets A Haircut

Santana Moss has short hair.

Apparently, this is old news. "I had this done right after the season," Moss tells me. "Just decided it was time for a change."

So of course I feel kind of unobservant and obtuse, and I'm going over it in my head:

I've seen Moss in a Redskins helmet (obviously), and he wears various skullcaps and headcoverings a lot. There's the cornrows, and those few practices last season when he blew it out completely (pictured below), so maybe I'm forgetting something -- and then I notice that, in fact, almost everyone who sees him is just as surprised as I was.

"It makes you look younger," special teams coach Danny Smith says.

"I know," Moss responds. "That's why I almost didn't do it."


Interview with Eric Winston

SS: Noon start. How does your typical game day go? Any teammates with strange game day rituals?
EW: I get up pretty early (for a Sunday at least). About 7 or so. I go downstairs and eat breakfast. I usually eat pretty good before a game no matter what time it starts. I have yogurt, a blueberry muffin, some spaghetti, and a steak filet. From the hotel, I go home for 45 minutes or so. I like to see my family before I go up to the stadium and change into whatever I am going to wear. I like to get to the stadium around 8:45. I read the program and play a game of suduko. I get dressed soon after and go out on the field to do a short warm up on my own. Come back in to the locker room, get my shoulder pads on and finish my taping. Team warm ups start after and then we win the game.
I haven't noticed any really strange game day rituals from my teammates. [Guard] Mike Brisiel gets to the game extremely early but that is not strange because he gets to everything extremely early. Some guys sing, some guys disappear until right before its time to go out on the field. Everyone does their own thing and that's okay. Whatever gets you ready to play is fine with me.

SS: What was the most difficult transition from the college to the pro game?
EW: Figuring out that the defensive guys are a lot smarter. In college, DE's will give you the same move every time. They don't have counters, and if you can mix it up a little bit, DE's never adjust. In the Pros, DE's understand how your weight shifted on on foot or the other determines how you are going to set; if you are in an up or a down stance effects how he is going to come off the ball and what he thinks the play might be. The list goes on. The athletic difference isn't as big as it is from high school to college but the intelligence level is drastic.

SS: You mentioned in your blog the competitiveness of this offseason's workouts and how they compare to what you did at Miami. Could you explain this a little more?
EW: Ray [Wright] has kept the core stuff in place. I was a big fan of [former Head Strength and Conditioning coach] Dan Riley and will always be. When I got here, I wasn't strong enough to play RT, and through working with him he got me to that point in a short time.

At Miami we were always competitive with everything we did. Always racing, always trying to lift more than the other person. This offseason Ray has spiced up the runs. We are doing a lot of group races where the group that finishes last has to an extra rep. It has created guys that are always trying to beat each other, but it has also taken away the boredom that I associate with the running, especially the same runs over and over again.

SS: Last year, you mentioned how much you liked learning from Alex Gibbs. What are the biggest differences between what you did before and after Gibbs joined the team?
EW: I don't know if there is a big difference. I think it is more in how we do it. He has taken the zone running scheme and instead of teaching the theory, he teaches it in a practical way, i.e. if you are trying to reach the guy, and he is running outside then turn him out and let the runner come underneath. Now that is an ultra simplistic view of what I am talking about, and the coaches that were here before taught that as well, but my point is that there is a difference between theory and actually making it work.

Coach Gibbs made it work and that stats show it. (Having Steve Slaton doesn't hurt either...lol) Above the theory part, the biggest difference he has made is in our attitude and mine as well. You can't pinpoint exactly what he does to get us there, but it was steadily building throughout the year and by the end, we felt like we could physically out play anyone.... yes, there was even talk about wishing to play the Steelers again.

SS: How much improvement do you see the offense having by working together another year in the system?
EW: It's hard to tell. In our first year, we were third in total yards. Obviously, we weren't that high in other critical categories such as points and turnovers. If we are 5th this year in yards but only turn the ball over half as much and are in the top 5 in red zone efficiency then I feel like we have improved. I would like to see those two areas greatly improved. As much as any stat, those determine outcomes of games.

SS: What is the biggest misconception that fans have about the NFL?
EW: Where do I start? There are the common ones like we are a bunch of meatheads. We love smashing our faces into things even when we are off the field. We enjoy fist fights. The list goes on and on.

The one I guess that bothers me the most is that this is an easy way to make a living. I completely understand the argument that we play a game and get paid better than 99% of Americans do. The thing that I don't like about it is the feeling that in someway this isn't tough. That sacrifices we make are not that great. Imagine going to work everyday knowing that you could sustain a major injury. Or that someone that you have hardly seen can tap you on the shoulder, and tell you that your boss wants to see you because he just found someone that is younger, cheaper, and doesn't possess your ability level to take your job.

It is a nerve racking job that you never feel comfortable in because your bosses sole job is to find your replacement everyday. Of course, my job is to show him that nobody can do it as good as me.

SS: Is there anything that you hear about the Texans, the coaches or players that you don't get why people say that?
EW: All the time, and frankly sometimes it comes from your blog. Don't feel bad though, because you are among a few people that are wrong the least. lol...

I can't think of anything specifically but sometimes I feel there is an overall sentiment that we aren't doing everything we possibly can to win. I can honestly say that if there is one thing that Rick Smith and Coach Kubiak have done is to fill the building with people that are doing everything they can do to win. I'm not saying I agree with everything we do from training, to off season additions, to coaching decisions, but the one thing I know is that they are busting their butt to what they think is right. You can't say that about every organization.

SS: Is there any question I haven't ask you that you think fans would want to know?
EW: I'm sure there are but lets let the fans ask them. You can rate the top five and I will answer them. Thanks and visit the website EricWinston73.com


Kelly Jennings out until training camp

Seahawks CB Kelly Jennings will miss all pre-training camp workouts while recovering from shoulder surgery.
It sounds like this was a reconstructive operation. Jennings, Seattle's 2006 first-round pick, appears to be a dime cornerback at best. Ken Lucas and Marcus Trufant are the starters with Josh Wilson likely covering the slot.


Hester Keeps His Number

While Bears receiver Devin Hester gets to keep his No. 23 jersey, Earl Bennett is making a change for the 2009 season.

There was some speculation last season that Hester would have to change his number, per NFL rules, because he evolved into a full-time receiver. In case you missed the story on chicagobears.com, the league ruled this off-season that Hester doesn't have to change because No. 23 is an eligible number that will allow him to play the position without reporting to the referee. No doubt jersey sales entered into the equation somewhere. The NFL requires wide receivers to wear numbers 10-19 and 80-89.


The Magnificent 7

Some fans of proCanes.com asked us whether we had a copy of the “Unrestricted” magazine cover from the 2008 College Football season which featured the 7 University of Miami freshmen from Miami Northwestern. We kept a copy of the magazine and have posted the cover along with an inside spread for all of you to see. Click on the images below to enlarge them.

Draft class 2008: Players who had better step up

LB Tavares Gooden, Baltimore (third round): Active for four games. He must fill the void left by the departure of Bart Scott. Big year for Gooden.


Undrafted Canes 2009 Signees

Signings among undrafted Canes: Antonio Dixon (Redskins), Bruce Johnson (Giants), Dwayne Hendricks (Giants). Tryouts this weekend: Chris Rutledge (Dolphins), Chris Zellner (Bucs), Anthony Reddick (Bears), Kayne Farquharson (Saints).


Lions give Bibla one more chance

He is fluent in Polish and Russian, thanks to parents whose roots are in Eastern Europe.

But the most intriguing thing about Martin Bibla is his age. He turns 30 later this year (October 4), yet he is still pursuing the dream of playing professional football, this time in Canada.

A fourth-round pick of the Atlanta Falcons in 2002, Bibla and 23-year-old Darren Marquez were added to the Lions training camp roster on Tuesday. Both are candidates at left tackle to replace the departed Rob Murphy.

"He's [Bibla] a guy we've had on our radar for a while," said Lions assistant GM Neil McEvoy. "When the Arena League suspended operations in December, he was looking for a place to play. Sherko [Haji-Rasouli] recommended him to us. He has experience, like Rob [Murphy], playing in the NFL. He's a guy who can compete for that [left tackle] spot."

Bibla is the second former Miami Hurricane to join the Lions thanks to sponsorship from  Haji-Rasouli. Let's hope he's more successful than the first. Last year, Haji-Rasouli convinced the Lions to give ex-Hurricane offensive lineman Brad Kunz a look. Kunz was in competition at the 2008 training camp for the back-up left tackle position won by Walter Stith.

The college glory days for Haji-Rasouli and Bibla are a while back now -- 2001, when they were part of the national champion Hurricanes. Miami's formidable offensive line that year also included Joaquin Gonzalez, Bryant McKinnie and Brett Romberg. All but Romberg, a native of Windsor, Ont., and Haji-Rasouli were drafted by the NFL. McKinnie was a first-rounder. Romberg has spent the past six seasons in the NFL, however, with three different teams.

Cut by the Denver Broncos in 2006, Bibla was with the Philadelphia Soul of the Arena League for two seasons. But he was out of a football job when the indoor circuit suspended operations for 2009.

In February, he was back at the University of Miami auditioning for NFL scouts in hopes of getting an invite to a training camp. It didn't happen.

Bibla told the Miami Herald: "Your job is on the line every time you step on the field [in the NFL]. Put together a string of mediocre plays and you have a bad day. Do that more than once and you're off the team. Word floats around and all of a sudden you're a has-been."

At Lions camp, he`ll be trying to prove there`s still some get-up left in the gridiron golden ager.


Edgerrin James could be Saints 'big back in building'

After admitting that he and the organization had tried very hard to try to get back into the first round in an attempt to get Chris "Beanie" Wells, Sean Payton later said that the New Orleans Saints may already have their big back in the building, citing Mike Bell and Lynell Hamilton as examples.

Clearly, if Payton and the Saints felt that way, they would not have pursued Wells diligently. Wells ended up being drafted by Arizona. His arrival spells the departure of veteran Edgerrin James from the Cardinals.

Disgruntled with the way he was being utilized (or not), James asked for his release last season and reiterated it following the Cardinals' improbable run to the Super Bowl despite the fact that he returned to a starting role in the playoffs.

James carried 133 times for 514 yards and three scores in 2008. A 10-year veteran, while James is not the player he once was, he still has gas left in the tank, particularly after not taking a pounding last season. That may be of particular interest to the New Orleans Saints.

The Arizona Republic and ESPN report that James may be of interest to Sean Payton and the Saints. Based on his ability to catch the football, his ability to handling blitzing linebackers and defensive backs and his still solid running skills, James may be a good fit here for a two-year window if you can get him at a reasonable price. From his perspective, he would be a 12-15 touch per game player, a perfect role for this stage of his career. James can make a tough yard. He is big enough and has good vision. He is a slightly more elusive version of Deuce McAllister.

Despite entering his 11th season in 2009, the 6'0, 220 pound James will be just 31 years old this fall. He has eclipsed 1,000 yards rushing in seven of his ten NFL seasons. He has 430 career receptions. He is motivated to prove that he can still play at a high level. Don't be very surprised to see this big back in the building on Poydras Street this fall.


Lions add Bibla to offensive line

(Vancouver) The BC Lions Football Club announced today that import offensive linemen Martin Bibla and Darren Marquez have signed with the team.

Bibla brings a significant amount of experience to the Lions after spending time with the Atlanta Falcons ('02-'05) who selected him in the fourth round (116th overall) in 2002 NFL Draft, as well as the Denver Broncos ('06). The Miami-grad and former teammate of current Lions offensive lineman Sherko Haji-Rasouli also played two seasons ('07-‘08) with the Arena Football League's Philadelphia Soul.


Cards cut James after drafting Wells

PHOENIX -- The Arizona Cardinals granted running back Edgerrin James' wish to be released on Tuesday and cut two others who played significant roles in the team's run to the Super Bowl.

While James' move was anticipated, the release of cornerback Rod Hood and defensive end Travis LaBoy was not.
The moves clear salary cap space for the Cardinals, who want to sign new deals with linebacker Karlos Dansby and safety Adrian Wilson, and eventually with unhappy wide receiver Anquan Boldin.

James, Hood and LaBoy combined were to have made $10 million next season, but because of the $7.5 million signing bonus given to LaBoy a year ago, the cap savings will be several million dollars less than what the three would have earned. Still, it gives spending room to a franchise that had been just below the salary ceiling.

"Edgerrin James had a great run in Arizona and now it is time for him to continue his Hall of Fame career elsewhere," James' agent Drew Rosenhaus told ESPN.com's John Clayton. "One of his goals was to help the Cardinals get to a Super Bowl and he is eager to help another team get to that same level. Edgerrin is excited about signing with a new team. So far, several teams have expressed interest and we may have a deal in place in the very near future."

James had 794 carries for 2,895 yards and 16 touchdowns in his three seasons in Arizona. He topped 1,000 yards in 2006 and 2007, and his resurgence during last season's playoffs gave Arizona the running game it had sorely lacked.

He was benched for seven games earlier in 2008, the first time that's happened in his career, and he asked the team to release him then. The Cardinals refused, and he was reinserted into the lineup late in the season.
Despite it being such a difficult year, it led to James' only Super Bowl.

James had sought his release early in the free agency period, but the Cardinals held off until after last weekend's draft, where they chose Ohio State running back Chris "Beanie" Wells in the first round, the No. 31 pick overall. Wells and second-year pro Tim Hightower are expected to be Arizona's featured backs in the coming season.

James, 30, had one year left, at $5 million, on the four-year, $40 million deal he signed with Arizona before the 2006 season. He recently experienced a personal tragedy with the death of his longtime girlfriend, and mother of his four children, of leukemia at age 30.

In his 10-year career, James has rushed for 12,121 yards, 11th on the NFL career list and first among active players.


Shockey not upset about his contract

Despite his firing of agent Drew Rosenhaus, Jeremy Shockey's contract situation reportedly "hasn't been a big issue" during his time in New Orleans.

Shockey wanted a new deal when he was in New York, but realizes he didn't meet expectations as a first-year Saint. He's still only 28 and will probably approach the Saints about a new deal next spring if he improves in 2009.


Gaby Sanchez Update

Based on where he's played in recent days, prospect Gaby Sanchez also could be in the mix for the leadoff spot. Sanchez, who entered Spring Training as the front runner to win the first base job, has played third base for Triple-A New Orleans the past two days.

Chris Coghlan has been getting most of the work at third. Sanchez has seen action at third base before, but in recent years, first base has become his primary position.

Sanchez is hitting .313 with two homers and 11 RBIs in 17 games. 


Burrell held out with stiff neck

MINNEAPOLIS -- The first version of Tuesday's Rays lineup included Pat Burrell's name. The second did not.

Burrell was a late scratch because of neck stiffness. Willy Aybar was inserted into the lineup, batting fifth as the designated hitter, in Burrell's absence.

"I would rather use [Burrell] later in the game as opposed to beginning the game, where I would have to take him out if it remains that way," Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said. "So we'll just continue to treat him. I would rather do it this way so he would be able to pinch-hit."

Burrell, who has started 18 games at designated hitter this year, should be back in the lineup on Wednesday, according to Maddon.


Edgerrin James UM Hall of Fame Induction Video

Omar Kelly on Lack of Hurricane First Rounders

I think Michael Cunningham, "The Hater," went a little soft on the Hurricanes recent slide from relevance. The BIG problem at the U is talent development. It's not getting done anymore, on either side of the ball. Let's hope new offensive coordinator Mark Whipple, who is rented from the NFL (he's going back when Bill Cowher finally takes a coaching job) can save the program, and Randy Shannon's job.

I know for a fact players go to Miami because it WAS the best pipeline to the NFL. When the pipe's shut off, and I think it has unless Eric Moncur, Colin McCarthy, Darryl Sharpton, Jason Fox, Javarris James, Graig Cooper, Dedrick Epps and Randy Phillips really turn it on next season, there will be no reason for prospects to look in UM's direction.

A LOT of programs have better facilities. Everyone is on TV these days. And if you have talent the NFL will find you, even at Coastal Carolina. The Hurricanes have to get back to coaching up their players. There once was a day when I watched players make drastic improvements from season to season, and it never stopped. Why doesn't that happen anymore? Bruce Johnson and Spencer Adkins, two Hurricanes that might be late-round picks on Sunday, are the same players they were their freshman year.


Undrafted `Canes try to find NFL homes

Not much activity so far for UM on the day after the NFL Draft.

The only player to land a free agent contract is defensive tackle Antonio Dixon, who signed with the Washington Redskins. The 6-foot-2, 325-pound Dixon had just 45 tackles and 2.5 sacks in his career, but has impressed scouts with his mobility. Dwayne Hendricks signed with the NY Giants as well.

Cornerbacks Bruce Johnson and Carlos Armour, receiver Kayne Farquharson, linebacker Glenn Cook and tackle Reggie Youngblood are among those still searching. Don't be surprised to see Johnson and Youngblood wind up with the New York Giants. Also, former troubled UM linebacker Willie Williams, who transferred after his freshman season, was picked up by the Green Bay Packers.


Salmons soars into hero's role

When John Salmons stayed in his seat for the first eight minutes of the fourth quarter, it was easy to think he'd been benched for ineffectiveness.

After all, Salmons was 2-for-10 from the field with 2 rebounds and 2 assists at the time. Still trying to play through a painful groin injury, the Bulls forward wasn't getting much done in Sunday's Game 4.

Then came a pair of overtimes - and suddenly Salmons became a playoff hero. He hit one of the game's biggest baskets, a 3-pointer with 1:47 left in the first overtime after Boston took a 105-100 lead.

Late in the second overtime, he went to the foul line twice. Tyrus Thomas, Kirk Hinrich, Ben Gordon and Joakim Noah all missed an important free throw down the stretch. But Salmons went 4-for-4 in the final 26.6 seconds to keep the Bulls in command.

"It's pressure," Salmons admitted. "Just try to block it all out, talk to God a little bit, get him to calm me down."

His defense was also vital. After Boston's Paul Pierce hit a couple of overtime jumpers over the smaller Kirk Hinrich, Salmons took over the duty and limited Pierce to 1 free throw over six minutes. Pierce scored 6 quick points off offensive rebounds late in the second overtime, but Salmons blocked Pierce's potential tying 3-pointer just before time expired.

In a game where he missed his first 6 shots, Salmons ended up leading the Bulls with 11 points in the two overtimes.

"I haven't been shooting the ball well (38 percent in the series)," Salmons said. "My teammates were just keeping me up, telling me to shoot them naturally and that's when they go in. BG (Gordon) told us before the series started, just try to lose yourself in the moment. That's what I tried to do and not worry about how many shots I'm missing."


Cora set to step out of shadows

The right side of the Mets' infield is likely to be manned by understudies. Fernando Tatis is likely to be the first baseman, as he was Monday night. It was his 12th career assignment at first. And, Manuel said, Alex Cora is likely to play second base, as he did Monday after Luis Castillo was removed from the game because of muscle spasms in the right side of his back.


Burrell leads off game with home run, then sits

PHILADELPHIA -- Success hasn't changed Joe Maddon.

The Rays' quirky manager, known for being conventionally unconventional, threw another curveball Saturday afternoon when he batted Pat Burrell in the leadoff spot.

One day after Burrell stole his first base since 2004, the former Phillies outfielder batted first for the first time in his career.

Burrell one-upped his manager's unpredictability by jacking a solo shot deep to left off Cole Hamels' fourth pitch, the first dagger in the Rays' 9-7 win.

"It's not like I wanted that to happen," Hamels said. "But it's Pat. I'll let him get away with that in spring training, but during the season not a chance."

As promised, Maddon lifted Burrell after the half inning, immediately replacing him with Brian Zobrist.

"Well, I just wanted one at-bat, so I figured what better way?" Maddon said before the game. "So let's get all this done in Philadelphia in one fell swoop. Perfect situation."


Braun speaks loudly, carries big stick

In baseball, perspective can change in just a couple of days.

After the Brewers got knocked around in an 11-4 loss at Philadelphia Tuesday, Ryan Braun told reporters that, in a nutshell, the Brewers weren't playing very well.

"They're a good team," Braun told the local paper. "They're very well-rounded. They have great starting pitching, a great bullpen. They swing the bats well, they play good defense.

"Right now, we're not doing any of those things well. You combine the fact that they're good at everything and we're good at nothing, it's not going to be a very pretty outcome."

The next day, Milwaukee turned things around with a 3-1 victory over the Phillies in Game 2 which, in turn, sparked a four-game winning streak and the Brewers' first two series victories of the season. After the fourth straight victory, a 9-8, 11-inning job at Houston, Braun was singing a much different tune.

"We're right back to where we need to be. We dealt with some adversity early in the year, but we're playing really well right now," he said. "We're headed in the right direction as a team."

Braun is a big reason for the turnaround. After a slow start, Braun has been on a tear and leads the team with a .338 average and 13 RBI. On the road trip, Braun hit .457 with four homers and 11 RBI. The day of his original remarks, Braun went 5-for-5 with two home runs and he had four hits Friday night against Houston.

"I'm feeling good, seeing the ball well and not trying to do too much," Braun told Anthony Witrado of the Journal Sentinel on Saturday. "I knew that eventually I'd go on some type of streak like this."


Miami Hurricanes' Spencer Adkins heading to Atlanta Falcons

Mable Adkins, the mother of University of Miami linebacker Spencer Adkins, was at the computer in her Naples home late Sunday afternoon when her cell phone rang. It was Ken Sarnoff, Spencer Adkins' agent.

'He said, `Are you ready to go to Atlanta?' '' Mable said. ' `The Falcons should be calling Spencer right now.' ''

Not only did Spencer Adkins' phone buzz a moment later, but all the phones in the house began chiming. The screaming of his mother, aunt and girlfriend added to the symphonic mayhem.

''It was so loud that I could barely hear,'' said Adkins after becoming the first and only Hurricane to be chosen in the 2009 NFL Draft -- the third player in the sixth round and 176th overall pick. ``I am really excited and feel fortunate to have this opportunity.

``It's all about hard work and dedication. I'm a good dude and good things happen to good people.''

The 14-year, first-round UM streak ended Saturday, but Adkins saved the streak of at least one Hurricane drafted every year since 1975.

''I was looking for my boy Bruce Johnson to be drafted but I hadn't seen his name pop up when I left Naples to go back to Miami,'' Adkins said. ``That would be horrible because he has a lot of talent. A lot of other UM players, too. It's crazy.''

Johnson, a cornerback projected to go late Sunday, was not drafted. He texted Adkins a congratulatory message after Adkins was selected.

''Everybody was pretty down,'' Johnson said while driving back to Miami from Orlando. ``I don't know what happened. It's just how it goes. But it ain't the end of the road.''

Sixteen Hurricanes were draft-eligible, and several of them -- including Johnson -- could sign contracts as free agents.

''We're very excited for Spencer and his family,'' UM head coach Randy Shannon said in a written statement. ``Spencer is a fine football player, and we wish him all the best in the NFL.''

Adkins, who played in the middle at UM and also was used as a rush end in third-down situations, said he visited four teams in recent weeks: the Indianapolis Colts, Pittsburgh Steelers, New York Giants and Atlanta.

Adkins was always one of the most physically imposing Hurricanes. At 5-11 and 238 pounds, he seemed as if he were chiseled from granite. He came out of Naples High as the No. 7 outside linebacker in the nation, according to rivals.com. But he started only five games in his four seasons -- as a junior -- and didn't play nearly as much as he wanted.

Last season, he finished with 17 tackles in 11 games, with six tackles for loss. But he had four sacks, tied for third on the team.

''We just prayed about it and put it in the Lord's hands,'' said his father, Lester. ``He has been real mature about everything.''

On May 15, a day before his 22nd birthday, Adkins will graduate from UM with a degree in sociology. Johnson also is expected to graduate.

''I feel just as good about that as being drafted,'' Adkins said. ``Degrees last forever. Football doesn't.''


McIntosh Moving to the Strongside?

Since they cut veteran Marcus Washington, the Washington Redskins have searched for a successor to fill his spot at strongside linebacker. They will try to fill that void from within the organization, moving weakside starter Rocky McIntosh there during the upcoming minicamp and organized team activities.

Top draft choice Brian Orakpo, a defensive end at Texas, might get a shot, too.

"We're going to try to put Rocky at strong side," coach Jim Zorn said Sunday. "You may even see Orakpo line up [there] ... so we can see whether he's got the potential to do that."


Cardinals expected to release RB James

The Cardinals drafted two running backs over the weekend, which is expected to lead to the release of running back Edgerrin James.

The Cardinals were holding on to James to make sure they were covered at running back. With selection of Chris "Beanie" Wells in the first round and LaRod Stephens-Howling in the seventh, the club now has five backs on the roster, excluding James.

James could be released before the team's mandatory minicamp this weekend.


Broncos to use D.J. Williams at WILB

The Broncos confirmed that D.J. Williams will play weak inside linebacker, or the "Mike" in their new 3-4 defensive scheme.

IDP leaguers take note. Under new coordinator Mike Nolan, this was Pat Willis' position in San Francisco and Ray Lewis' in Baltimore. Teams are still going to run on Denver often and Williams will regain 120+ tackle potential.


Pleasure P, NFL;s Bryant McKinnie Launch Swagga Ent.

Former Pretty Ricky vocalist Pleasure P is looking beyond his success as an entertainer with the launch of his new record label, Swagga Entertainment.

A joint venture between star Minnesota Vikings player Bryant McKinnie and Pleasure P, Swagga Entertainment is described as a multi-faceted, full service record label that promotes all genres of music and artist development.

According to McKinnie, the independent label is “going places at a rapid speed” as he predicts “long term success in the music industry.”

The NFL star has vowed to use his resources and experience to ensure success for Swagga Entertainment.

“The essence of a lasting record label is not a learned trait to be savored by short term objectives and record sales, but a life time journey that leads to a historical impact to be savored and attained by all,” McKinnie explained to AllHipHop.com.

McKinnie’s know-how will not be the only factor in making Swagga Entertainment a force in the music industry while developing up and coming artists.

Pleasure P. has worked with artists like Likl Wayne, Trick Daddy and his former group Pretty Ricky.

He will bring his experience as a solo artist and provide added insight in establishing the label among fans and industry movers and shakers.

News of the venture comes as Pleasure P enjoys the success of his latest single, “Boyfriend # 2.”

The song is the second tune released from his forthcoming debut album The Introduction of Marcus Cooper.

The release, which features the hit lead single “Did You Wrong,” is slated to hit stores June 9.


Jeremy Shockey anxious for big season

Saints GM Mickey Loomis says Jeremy Shockey is completely over his 2008 groin troubles and "anxious to have a great season."

Shockey is going to come cheap in fantasy drafts. He didn't score once, but caught 50 passes in his Saints debut. Shockey's health is always an issue, but he could be an 80-catch player in 16 games of Sean Payton's offense.


Hurricanes no longer blow through draft: Miami gets shut out of first round

NEW YORK — Once the nation's foremost football factory, the University of Miami barely got a mention during this year's NFL draft.

The U's streak of 14 years with at least one first-round draft pick was snapped Saturday. Then Sunday came, and just how far the Hurricanes' talent-level has fallen since Butch Davis left for the NFL and handed the program to Larry Coker in 2001 was magnified.

The first and only Miami player drafted went in the sixth round. Linebacker Spencer Adkins was taken 176th overall by the Atlanta Falcons.

In fact, Miami, Ohio, had just as many players selected this year.

The previous time no Miami player was taken in the opening three rounds was 1986. For the record, the last time no Hurricanes were drafted was 1974.

Miami has gone 19-19 over the past three seasons.

Perennial doormat Temple even had a player taken before Miami. Defensive tackle Terrance Knighton was selected in the third round by Jacksonville.

In fact, the first Temple Owls player came off the board before anyone from Michigan (defensive tackle Terrance Taylor to Indianapolis with the 136th overall pick), Nebraska (linebacker Cody Glenn to Washington with the 158th overall pick), Notre Dame (defensive back David Bruton to Denver with the 114th overall pick) and Virginia Tech (cornerback Victor Harris to Philadelphia with the 157th overall pick).

As for Miami, its record-setting run started in 1995 with star defensive tackle Warren Sapp taken by Tampa Bay. The list of All-Pros and Pro Bowl players from Miami over the last two decades is staggering. A sampling: Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Edgerrin James, Reggie Wayne, Santana Moss, Willis McGahee, Jon Vilma and Sean Taylor.

In all, 33 Miami players - including an NFL-record six in 2004 alone - were taken in the first round of drafts since 1995, by far the most of any school. The second-longest current streak of first-round selections is six years by LSU.
Until Miami's string came along, Florida held the record of first-round selections with nine consecutive drafts (1983-1991).

Prospects are good for a turnaround for Miami. Coach Randy Shannon has had highly rated recruiting classes the past two seasons, but in many ways this draft could be viewed as rock bottom for the once great program.