What type of help does Vince Wilfork need?

Vince Wilfork has an interesting way of asking for help.

In the mail on Tuesday, a blue T-shirt was received at this address. The same T-shirt was presumably sent to other media members as well, and it read in big, white, block letters:

"Help Vince; 7/15/10; Patriots.com"

A Patriots championship ring was placed in the middle of the T-shirt.

It didn't take a hard-hitting investigative reporter to figure out the next steps -- make a few phone calls, send a couple of e-mails. But on this day, they were met with silence.

What type of help could Wilfork possibly need?

Advice on playing the Patriots' challenging two-gap techniques? A financial advisor? Some tips for dealing with the pesky media?

The answer, it seems, will be coming July 15.

It looks like Wilfork and the Patriots have something fun in the works.

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

Bookmark and Share

Frank Gore Looking Great at Camp

49ers RB Frank Gore looked as explosive as ever and lightning quick with his cuts during OTAs and minicamp, but coaches made sure to go easy on his reps. They know Gore works out like a madman while home in Miami and that he has a strenuous season ahead of him.

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

Bookmark and Share

Dwayne Collins Get Mr. Irrelevant Tattoo

The Phoenix Suns used the 60th and final pick of the 2010 NBA Draft on proCane power forward Dwayne Collins.

Collins who expected to get drafted earlier in the 2010 NBA draft is using being the final pick of the draft as motivation and got a tattoo on his left hand with the moniker “Mr. Irrelevant”. Collins is currently recovering from surgery to repair a torn meniscus and is not sure whether he will be read for the 2010 Summer League.

Bookmark and Share

Giants' Pat Burrell hits fifth homer

Pat Burrell went 2-for-3 and hit his fifth homer for the Giants against the Dodgers on Tuesday.

Burrell has five homers in 61 at-bats for the Giants after hitting two in 84 at-bats for the Rays. Even though his presence really messes up the team's defense, it's going to be hard to get him out of the lineup while he's hitting like this.

Bookmark and Share

The Yonder Alonso Issue

A pressing concern out there in Redsland seems to be what to do Yonder Alonso. There seems to be this notion that clubs are beating down the door to trade for the guy. I may be missing something, but I don’t see him as having great trade value at the moment. Consider:

–He  went into Tuesday hitting .230/.272/.328 in 183 at-bats at Louisville. He only had 13 extra-base hits.

–He isn’t playing much left field anymore. “He’s the first baseman,” player development director Reynolds said. “He’ll occasionally play left. He’s been OK in left. He catches everything to him. He hustles. He takes pretty good reads. The one limiting factor is his running speed.”

Bookmark and Share

Alex Cora following paths of father, brother toward coaching

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — The two men who shaped Mets infielder Alex Cora share the same name and the same blood. They are his father, Jose Manuel Cora, and his older brother, Jose Manuel Cora.

In Caguas, Puerto Rico, the town where Alex grew up, the first man was called “Macuco.” In professional baseball, the second man is called “Joey.”

Alex Cora’s father indoctrinated him into the game. “That was my passion,” Alex said. “That’s all I talked. That’s all I did.”

His brother, now the bench coach for the Chicago White Sox, provided a blueprint for Alex with his own 11-season career in the major leagues. “Obviously,” Joey said, “he can draw on the experiences that I had to make the right decisions.”

Neither will be in San Juan tonight as Cora and the Mets open a three-game series with the Florida Marlins. But their spirit, their lessons, will be inside of the 34-year-old utility man. As his skills wane — his batting average dipped to .229 after an 0-for-3 afternoon on Saturday — Cora retains value for his team on the field and in the clubhouse. The Mets sport an infield featuring a quartet of 20-somethings. Cora provides guidance.

Inside the dugout, he often consults with infield coach Chip Hale to make sure rookies Ike Davis and Ruben Tejada are positioned properly, reading signals correctly, holding runners effectively. Sometimes he sneaks away to the clubhouse video room to rewind the game tape and check on the kids. There is talk that, in time, he will follow in his brother’s footsteps again.

“He’s definitely going to manage in his future,” Hale said. “He’ll be a coach. He’ll coach, manage, whatever he wants. He’s got a wealth of knowledge.”

Those roots were planted in the mountain town of Caguas. Cora’s father, Jose Manuel, founded the Little League team there, about 30 minutes away from San Juan. He traveled the Puerto Rican winter ball circuit as a broadcaster and writer, cataloging the exploits of a league which featured stateside stars like Don Mattingly, Eddie Murray and Cal Ripken. Alex often went with him, crawling the bleachers and napping in the press box.

“When they talk about us, they’re like ‘Those are Macuco’s kids,’ ” Cora said. “It’s not Joey. It’s not Alex. People keep talking about him.”

When Alex was 13, Jose Manuel died. Their father, Alex remembered, taught Joey how to switch-hit when he was in his mid-teens. Alex never got the chance. His career, he insisted last week, “would have been a lot better if he was around.”

In the aftermath of his father’s death, Alex followed Joey’s example. Joey, now 45, left Puerto Rico for Vanderbilt and become a first-round pick in 1985. Eight years later, when Alex graduated high school, Detroit drafted him. He declined signing and enrolled at the University of Miami. The Los Angeles Dodgers selected him in the third round of the 1996 draft.

Fifteen years later, he is still here. Never an All-Star, he posted an adjusted OPS score above the league average just once (a 119 mark for the Dodgers in 2002). Since 2006, he has hit five home runs.

Yet he remains. His true value, Cora said, appears on winning squads. There, he can subjugate his ego and aid those around him. He tutored Boston teammate Dustin Pedroia for much of 2007, a season that culminated in a World Series victory.

As Alex bounced from Los Angeles to Cleveland to Boston to Citi Field, Joey climbed the coaching ranks. He managed minor-league affiliates of the Mets and the Montreal Expos. In 2004, Joey joined Ozzie Guillen’s staff in Chicago. He estimates he and his brother call each other four to five times a week.

Last week, their interests dovetailed. The Mets faced a pair of A.L. Central teams. The White Sox hosted Atlanta. They traded scouting reports. “That’s the way it works,” Joey said.

Sometimes Alex picks his brother’s brain about life after his playing career ends. Joey hears the talk about Alex one day becoming a coach. So does Alex. He believes he can still play. But he knows what lies ahead.

“I’m learning each day,” Alex Cora said. “And although my mind is here to win a championship and help this team to win games, every day I learn something new. I think that’s going to help me in the future.”

Andy McCullough may be reached at amccullough@starledger.com


A few current and former players of Puerto Rican descent may be in line for managing positions down the road:
Edwin Ramirez: Interim manager of Marlins; first Puerto Rican to ever manage in MLB history; signed by Yankees in 1980.
Alex Cora: Mets infielder; tutored Dustin Pedroia in Boston; known to soak in information.
Joey Cora: Older brother of Alex; former All-Star in Seattle; now Ozzie Guillen’s understudy with White Sox.
Mike Lowell: Starred at third base for both Marlins and Red Sox; widely respected within the game.
Jose Molina: Catcher for Blue Jays; personal catcher to A.J. Burnett in 2009; known for exceptional game-calling.

Bookmark and Share

The U Deleted Scenes #1 and #2

Every Tuesday until The U DVD release on Tuesday, August 17th, rakontur will be posting exclusive bonus features and deleted scenes that won't be available anywhere else.

The U deleted scene #2 - Heat
Long before the Miami Heat, there was Miami heat and Hurricanes Head Coach Howard Schnellenberger (1979-1983) used it to the team's advantage. A disciple of Bear Bryant, Schnellenberger believed in training hard in 100+ degree weather and denying his players water breaks, while Athletic Director Sam Jankovich (1983-1990) worried about someone dying from heat stroke. In this deleted scene, we learn of the players' survival techniques under these conditions and the mysterious disappearance of Milton Redwine (last seen running naked across the Hurricanes practice field).

The U deleted scene #1 - Cujo
Howard Schnellenberger's legendary 1983 recruiting class takes a trip to the now-defunct Riviera Cinema, across US1 from the University of Miami campus, and when they get lip from another moviegoer, they nearly go Cujo on his ass:

Bookmark and Share

Devin Hester to conduct youth football camps

LAKE FOREST, Ill. – Bears wide receiver Devin Hester will host youth football camps July 17 at Grant Park in Chicago and July 18 at Naperville North High School.

The July 17 camp is open to boys and girls ages 15-18. It will be conducted from 10 a.m.-noon and costs $23. Each participant will receive a camp T-shirt, two hours of expert speed and agility training and the opportunity to win contests and prizes.

The July 18 camp is for boys and girls ages 7-14. It will be held from 9 a.m.-noon and costs $99. Each camper will receive a T-shirt, autographed camp photo with Hester, expert instruction and the chance to win contests and prizes.

For more information or to register, log onto www.procamps.com/hestercamps.

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

Bookmark and Share

Kenard Lang Talks About Being a High School Coach

After excelling at Hialeah-Miami Lakes High and Penn State, Michael Timpson spent nine seasons in the NFL.

Three hundred receptions and more than 4,000 receiving yards later, he retired. That was in 1997.

What did those exploits mean to his players when he took over as Poinciana's football coach this spring? Not much.

"They know what's current," said Timpson, 43. "They know the LaDainian Tomlinsons, the Chad Ochocincos. Those are the current people. I'm too old for them. We're far apart, and that's OK."

Including Timpson, the high school football season will kick off this fall with six former NFL players as head coaches at Central Florida programs. Herkie Walls has coached six seasons at Master's Academy, Kenard Lang is in his third at Jones, and Buck Gurley (Lake Mary Prep), Victor Floyd (Agape Christian) and Elijah Williams (Oak Ridge) are entering their second seasons.

Lang is a year older than Williams and also still interacts with his players. His bigger advantage, he said, is being included on a recent edition of the popular Madden NFL video game, having last played for the Denver Broncos in 2006.

An Evans High graduate, he leans more on being an Orlando native than anything he did on the field.

"I just try to be a coach to them where they can touch me and not feel like they're in a museum," Lang said. "I need to communicate with them and not have a barrier up."

Lonnie Johnson played for the Buffalo Bills and Kansas City Chiefs for six seasons through 1999 before eventually coaching at Mount Dora Bible for five seasons. He stepped down after last season and will be an assistant at MDB this fall.

"Even if they don't know you, I think it's a gift," he said. "It's never not an asset to your repertoire. I don't think there's any kid that 100 percent believes what an adult says. But the ones that have success realize eventually you know what you're talking about."

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

Bookmark and Share

Heat buys out James Jones, gains additional cap space

The Miami Heat took another step toward maximizing its salary-cap space Tuesday, when it completed a buyout of the remaining three years on the contract of forward James Jones.

Jones had a Wednesday deadline before his 2010-11 $4.65 million salary became guaranteed.

Instead, the Heat invoked its right to pay Jones $1.86 million to walk away from the obligation, with Jones to receive similar payouts in each of the next two years, as well.

However, the Sun Sentinel has learned that because of the way Jones' 2010-11 buyout payment will be amortized, his hit against the 2010-11 NBA salary cap will be $1.5 million, opening unexpected additional space.

For the Heat, that is a small, yet significant, gain in its bid to re-sign free-agent guard Dwyane Wade, as well as possibly land two other top-tier free agents, such as Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James and Toronto Raptors forward Chris Bosh.

Should the Heat now be able to find a team to take on Michael Beasley's $4.96 million salary for 2010-11, it would be in position to add three players at the top of the 2010-11 salary scale.

The free-agent negotiating period begins Thursday, with the free-agency signing period to begin July 8.

Jones now becomes an unrestricted free agent. His buyout and subsequent waiving now assures that the Heat will have only two players under contract at the start of free agency, Beasley and point guard Mario Chalmers, who is under contract next season at $854,000.

Jones signed as a free agent the Heat on July 9, 2008. He appeared in 76 regular-season games, including seven starts, during his two years with the Heat, averaging 4.1 points, 1.4 rebounds, 0.5 assists in 14.9 minutes, while shooting .366 from the floor, .376 on 3-pointers and .831 from the foul line.

Additionally, the Southwest Ranches resident appeared in eight postseason games with the Heat, with seven starts, averaging 8.6 points, 2.0 rebounds, 0.6 assists in 30.5 minutes, while shooting .515 from the field, .478 on 3-pointer and .923 from the foul line.

The seven-year NBA veteran and University of Miami graduate was originally drafted in the second round of the 2003 NBA Draft by the Indiana Pacers. He later played with the Phoenix Suns and Portland Trail Blazers.

Bookmark and Share

Dwayne Collins had a Meniscus Tear and Surgery

Collins also has a strong body, great motor and offensive limitations. He is a 6-foot-8, 243-pound senior power forward who averaged 12.0 points, 7.8 rebounds and 1.1 blocks while shooting 60.4 percent. He visited Phoenix on Wednesday but did not work out after last Friday's surgery for a meniscus tear.

Collins is short for a power forward but has a 7-4 wingspan with hands that he said are 11 inches long. Standing, his reach touches 9-1.

"He plays extremely hard, very competitive," Gentry said. "He's one of those guys I think you'll really like being around. He's kind of an energy guy and has a good personality. He's one of those guys who if you develop and hit, he could be special."

Director of Player Personnel Todd Quinter described him as a "great post defender" who is "physical and will beat you up inside."

"I just go hard," Collins, 22, said Wednesday. "I go at people . . . I want to attack every time. I want to dunk everything."

The Suns drafted big men six days before Amar'e Stoudemire and Channing Frye are expected to decline options to become free agents, along with Amundson.

"Our goal is to try to bring our team back intact," Gentry said.

Bookmark and Share

Re-signing John Salmons could be key to Bucks' playoff hopes

Now that the National Basketball Association draft is over, the real drama begins as LeBron James and an elite group of free agents will decide their NBA futures.

But the Milwaukee Bucks have their own concerns as the free agency negotiation period begins on Thursday.

Can they re-sign shooting guard John Salmons and point guard Luke Ridnour?

The 6-foot-6 Salmons played such a key role in their drive to the playoffs, while Ridnour worked well in tandem with rookie Brandon Jennings and also as a veteran backup.

General manager John Hammond already has been a busy man, trading for wing help by obtaining Corey Maggette from Golden State and Chris Douglas-Roberts from New Jersey.

And the Bucks moved to bolster their frontcourt by drafting 6-11 power forward Larry Sanders with the 15th overall pick and 6-7 point forward Darington Hobson and 6-9 Keith "Tiny" Gallon in the second round.

"We want to have a young, energetic, athletic team," Hammond said. "But we also know we need veteran help. There's no question that what helped us last season were guys such as Jerry Stackhouse and Kurt Thomas and John Salmons.

"Those guys have been around the block before. We know that it's a lot of pressure on those young guys to perform every night, especially those guys that haven't been there. The more veteran help you can have, that's important for any team."

Salmons played 30 regular-season games with the Bucks after joining them in a deal with Chicago at the trade deadline, and Milwaukee went 22-8 after his arrival to clinch the No. 6 spot in the Eastern Conference.

He averaged 19.9 points during that stretch and scored in double figures in 27 of those 30 games, while leading the Bucks in scoring 16 times. Salmons proved the perfect complement to Jennings in the backcourt and lifted some of the scoring burden off the rookie.

The Bucks have expressed their desire to sign Salmons to a long-term deal, expecting he will officially opt out of the final year of his contract ($5.8 million option) before the Wednesday deadline.

Milwaukee did offer a four-year, $27 million extension following the end of the season, showing their strong interest in retaining Salmons.
But other teams also could have serious interest in the 30-year-old. AOL Fanhouse has reported the Atlanta Hawks are considering their options in case shooting guard Joe Johnson leaves in free agency and Salmons may be a target.

The Hawks were able to get a close-up look at Salmons in the seven-game playoff series between the teams, when the Bucks guard averaged 17 points but struggled to 40.4% shooting.

Bookmark and Share

Gaby Sanchez told to abstain from first-inning bunts

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — For those Marlins fans that cringed at hot-hitting Gaby Sanchez bunting in the first inning last week in Baltimore and again on Monday, don't lambaste interim manager Edwin Rodriguez.

On both occasions Sanchez bunted on his own volition. He likely won't be doing it again anytime soon. Rodriguez spoke with Sanchez before Tuesday's game and discouraged the practice.

"I don't like that play," Rodriguez said. "He's not a normal second hitter … I said, 'Listen, I was giving you the benefit of the doubt, but to be honest I don't like to take the bat away from you. You can hit a double.' I don't like that play. I want him to be a little more aggressive."

Monday with no outs, Sanchez bunted Chris Coghlan to third. He ultimately scored on a Hanley Ramirez grounder to short that got past Jose Reyes. Thursday in Baltimore, Coghlan opened the game with a double and Sanchez sacrificed him to third. Ramirez came through with the RBI single as part of a four-hit, two-run inning.

"Just trying to get him over anyway I can," Sanchez said of his decision to bunt Monday. "Against a knuckleball guy, it's not easy to try to hit the ball to second base or to the right side because he doesn't even know what his ball is usually doing. For me, the easiest thing to do is try to bunt and get him over, let Hanley come in and get the run on the board and play with the lead."

The argument against that is teams are better off playing for a big inning early than a single run. Rodriguez said he wouldn't mind the play as much if the Marlins had a prototypical guy in the two-hole like Emilio Bonifacio. He wants Sanchez to swing away.

"Even if I'm swinging it well, I'm still part of the team and trying to win a ballgame," Sanchez said. "However I can try to move him over, however I can get him there for Hanley to drive him in, that's what I need to do. It's tough because fans look at it like, 'Why is he bunting in the first inning when he's swinging the bat well?' Why this? Why that?' I'm trying to win a ballgame. Getting a run early is big. If you can have the lead after the first inning, that's what you want to do.

"If I hit a groundball to shortstop, he doesn't move over, [I'm out] and [maybe] we don't score the run because he's not at third. You can look at it any way you want to. Of course, we would love to play to play for the big inning, but also we need to at least put one on the board and get things moving."

Bookmark and Share

Alex Cora Among Puerto Rican Mets Players Honored to Be Playing in Home Country

Although beloved Puerto Rican slugger Carlos Beltran won't be able to make the trip to the
tiny island east of the Dominican Republic with his teammates, the three-game series between the Marlins and Mets is going to be a special homecoming for a handful of players and Puerto Rico, itself.

Alex Cora, Angel Pagan, Jesus Feliciano and Pedro Feliciano are all natives of the baseball-crazed island and their return home couldn't be more special.

"This is a great opportunity to represent Puerto Rico and the Mets organization," Pagan told MLB.com. "I'm looking forward to it. The people in Puerto Rico are looking forward to it. It's going to be great for our country."

Although some players were able to take part in the 2006 and 2009 World Baseball Classic played there, just three mets -- Jose Reyes, David Wright and Pedro Feliciano -- were members of the 2004 team that played the Expos in San Juan.

"All Puerto Rican people are waiting for this," Jesus Feliciano explained. "They're going to be real excited. We've got a lot of Latin players in this ballclub, plus we have big stars like David Wright, so people have been waiting for this for a long time.

"It's something that you cannot even explain," Feliciano added. "It's real great. I had the chance to play in the World Baseball Classic in Puerto Rico and it was awesome. I can't imagine wearing a big league uniform and playing in front of your friends, your family and your country."

For Cora, a 34-year-old veteran journeyman, his trip through the big leagues has come full circle.

"Not everybody can say that they played in their country in front of their fans," Cora said. "It's a dream come true."

Bookmark and Share

Huff and Puff the Giants to a Pennant Chase

Aubrey Huff, a 2008 silver slugger, ended his 2009 season hitting .241 after being traded from the faltering Baltimore Orioles to the Detroit Tigers.  He was abysmal with the Tigers where he hit below the Mendoza line (.189 ). Seeming to be all but done with baseball, the Giants signed Huff in January to a 1 year deal with hopes that they would get the 2008 Huff and not the 2009 Puff.  Now the 2008 silver slugger winner is appearing to have recoveredfrom whatever plagued him in his terrible 2009.  Currently, Huff is hitting .304, which is tops on the Giants (qualified players for this stat are averaging 3.1 AB per team game) and is ranked 6th in the NL in OBP (.394), 9 th in the NL in OPS (.931), and 10 th in the NL in SLG (.538). 

Huff is on pace to be a .300/90 player.  If Freddy Sanchez can stay healthy and continue to hit above .300 and Andres Torres can limit his strike outs (17/23, BB to K ratio) and still continue to hit .285, Huff just may hit the 100 RBI mark.  The Giants have a good chance of making a run for the pennant in the NL West, but that will also depend on whether they can continue to hit .260 as a team.  If they continue their fall at the plate that we have seen over the past week where they have only hit .214 as a team (Huff has hit .333 over the same span), their pennant hopes could quickly diminish.  The Giants are relying on the resurgence of Pablo Sandoval and the continued production of recent contract purchase Pat Burrell who is hitting .319 for the Giants since being picked up.

Bookmark and Share

Updates from Lauryn Williams' world

Lauryn Williams admits that an update from her world has been a long time coming. Here is a brief look at what she has been up to over the last three months, including getting to meet one of the sport's all-time greats.

By Lauryn Williams, Special to Universal Sports | Posted: Jun 29, 6:10a ET | Updated: Jun 29, 6:10a ET

I am way overdue for a brief update on what is going on in my world!

It is hard to be brief when covering the goings on of my life the last 3 months since I've blogged so I have put together some short updates with pictures.

I left off fund raising for Fun4kidz by selling my previous sponsors workout clothes. I am delighted to report that we made close to $2,000!!!

I am grateful to all those who participated. The remainder of the clothes were donated to various track and field athletes.

With that I guess it is time for me to announce my new sponsor...drum roll please....SAUCONY!!!!

Pronounced Saw-cun-nee. I really look forward to seeing what opportunities will arise from our partnership of the next four years. I think this company is interested on making an impact in track and field and society as a whole.

I met Evelyn Ashford!!!

Those who know me personally will tell you that I need to do far better in the area of being a fan of my sport.

Yet when at an Ambassadors for Clean sport orientation in Colorado Springs someone mentioned to me that Evelyn Ashford would be flying in the next day just as I was supposed to be flying out not meeting her was NOT an option. I rearranged the morning and risked being late to the airport just to lay eyes on the greatest 100m runner ever!!

Though choosing not to be an active participant in the track world she assured me she still loves tuning in and provided me with such wisdom and encouragement in the few minutes we got to talk to her.

It was AMAZING!!

One of the perks of taking a step back from a heavy competition schedule is the opportunity to see family events that I would usually have to miss because of important training that cant be missed due to upcoming high level competition.

One weekend I went to Washington D.C. to watch my cousin Jessica graduate from law school (view photo). My mother just met her sister (view photo) for the first time two years ago and so I had no idea until then that I had five cousins, two of which are twins my age. It has been neat getting to know them and was really great to be able to travel to support such a huge accomplishment.


On June 3rd my great dane and best friend ever passed away. I am still not sure how things went so terribly wrong. I took an otherwise healthy dog in for ACL surgery and six weeks later she was dead.

I have never felt like I have let someone down they way I did Atheena. They say no one is perfect and that may be true of people but God created a perfect dog and gave her to me. Dealing with her absence SUCKS there is just no other way to put it. She will be missed.


If you want to be a part of something that has the ability to change your life, check out Ultimate Training Camp. I am so glad that I took time out and go and have this experience.

If you're a Christian athlete this is a MUST. It will take your spirituality to a whole new level!! If you're an athlete who is interested in finding out what Christianity is all about this is the BEST place to go. This camp has taken sports and God and meshed them perfectly!!!

You will challenge your mind and body in a way that wouldn't believe possible. If you're looking for a way to invest in yourself I would say you have to try this. I could go on about all the things we did all week long but it words won't do it justice.


The Jefferson Award for public service has the same clout as The Noble peace prize. Recently they made a division specifically for athletes.

The process started with 32 of us then was reduced to 10 and finally Nnamdi Asomugha and Tyrus Thomas were named the winners this past Tuesday June 22nd in Washington D.C.

I made the top 10, and although I didn't win I feel like I did. I won the opportunity attend the ceremony and to meet so many amazing people (view photo). I don't have my own foundation, the funds to get it going or the name that draw the kind of attention to draw the funds to keep it going but there are already enough efforts in existence to find something you are passionate about and attach yourself to it so you can aid in its growth and outreach.

Attending these sort of events serves as a great reminder that no matter how much you think your doing you can always challenge yourself to do more. It also lets you know that your not alone.

There are so many doing so much good in this world and it is so uplifting to see such big hearts in action. There various media outlets would have you believe that there isn't anything positive going on but a room full of people investing in other people in order to impact this world certainly does change that perspective.

Bookmark and Share

Reggie Wayne Sells His South Florida Home To Carlos Dansby

New Miami Dolphins linebacker Karlos Dansby has purchased a house in Broward County from Indianapolis Colts wide receiver and former UM Hurricane Reggie Wayne.

On May 24, Dansby and wife Tynesha Dansby tossed $3.4 million at sure-handed Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne – a former Miami Hurricane great – to buy his home in Landmark Ranch Estates. The 10,825-square-foot home sits on 2.35 acres and was built in 2007.

Wayne purchased the home on Stratford Court for $4.1 million in 2007.

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

Bookmark and Share

Sherko Haji-Rasouli Injured

Sherko Haji-Rasouli sustained a knee injury in the BC Lions final pre-season game last week. The knee injury will keep Haji-Rasouli out for the opener this week and possibly longer.

Bookmark and Share

Sam Shields Owns Special Skills

Speed demon Sam Shields, an undrafted free agent from Miami, might not be a kick returner but he can bolster the special teams because of his astounding athletic ability and desire to succeed. He'll get a boost from cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt.

That Sam Shields can run is practically the stuff of legend.

Forget about him contributing at cornerback as a rookie, though. He’s just too raw. And that talk about him being the answer to the Packers’ chronic kick-returning dilemma? Well, that’s just nonsense.

But don’t count out the undrafted free agent from Miami. There’s more to special teams than returning kicks. While Shields has been fielding punts for the Packers since the team’s rookie camp in May, where he excelled at Miami was as a gunner on the punt team. In fact, he didn’t even return kicks at Miami. The only time he touched the ball on special teams as a senior was on a trick play on the opening kickoff of the Canes’ bowl game against Wisconsin. Shields took a reverse and raced 84 yards for a touchdown, though it was called back on a penalty.

“I don’t know,” Shields said when asked why he didn’t return kicks in college. “I guess I just really didn’t go to the special teams coach and really ask him to do it. I probably could have but there were guys in front of me and I was working at gunner a lot because I loved doing that and really wanted to focus on that.”

The Packers’ special teams last season were abysmal. Whether it was the kicking or the punting, the coverage or the returns, the Packers wound up ranked 31st out of 32 teams in the Dallas Morning News’ annual special-teams rankings.

So, while Shields struggled fielding punts during the offseason practices, his love of special teams and his athleticism give him a chance to help the Packers. At his pro day, Shields ran his 40-yard dash in 4.3 seconds, though he told Packer Report that he’s run as fast as 4.19. On his touchdown against the Badgers, he lined up with the front wall of the kickoff team at about the 45-yard line, ran straight back 30 yards to get the ball, then circled left and ran untouched 84 yards for the score. In all, he ran about 140 or 150 yards.

With that speed and a well-defined 184 pounds on his 5-foot-10 1/2 frame, Shields has a chance to earn the role won by Jarrett Bush the past couple of seasons as a core special-teams player and an in-case-of-emergency cornerback.

“That’s the way to get on the team is special teams, and that’s where I’m trying my hardest,” Shields said.

Shields spent his first few seasons at Miami playing wide receiver, starting 15 games along the way. As a senior, he was moved to cornerback — a position he didn’t even play in high school.

“One day in spring, I was doing it when the corners would go to receivers and the receivers would go to corners,” Shields recalled. “It was planned, and I guess the coach seen something out of that. I thought he was playing at first.”

In the long run, Shields has the skill-set to be at least be an adequate cornerback. Cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt called Shields “raw” but said he’s arguably the “most gifted” player in his position group. In fact, it was Whitt’s history and the Packers’ decision to not draft or sign any corners that led to Shields choosing Green Bay over a half-dozen other suitors.

“I’ve told him I had history when I was at Louisville of taking guys that had never played defense before,” Whitt said. “William Gay, he’s in the NFL. Antoine Harris, he’s in the NFL. Kerry Rhodes, he’s in the NFL. Taking those guys that were receivers or quarterbacks in high school or when they got to Louisville and making them NFL players, I think I have history of doing that. Once we get him going, he’s going to be a danged-good player.”

For now, the Shields just needs to be danged good on special teams, whether it’s covering kickoffs (18th in the NFL), covering punts (24th) or, perhaps, even returning punts (23rd),

“When I first got in, I wasn’t really keeping my eyes on the ball as well I’m supposed to,” Shields said. “Coach keeps working with me and it’s coming as a habit now.”

Bookmark and Share

Eric Winston wants to change the league

Texans offensive lineman Eric Winston takes the reins of Monday Morning Quarterback this week, during Peter King's hiatus.  (Peter already was scheduled to be off while covering the World Cup; last week his brother, Bob, died suddenly, and Peter's family has been in our thoughts and prayers ever since.)

Winston brings his fastball to the keyboard, offering up five ideas for changing the game.

First, he'd move the Super Bowl to Saturday in order to let fans better enjoy the game, since they won't have to worry about work and school the next day.  But if the league adds two regular-season games and continues to start the season the weekend after Labor Day, Winston possibly would get his wish, since the Super Bowl would likely land on President's Day weekend, when Monday is a holiday.

Second, he'd make a radical change to the conference format and schedule, dumping the divisions and having each team play the other teams in its conference once, with one game against a rival from the other conference. 

We see three potential problems here.  First, it would essentially wipe out most interconference play, since each team would play only its assigned rival from the other conference every year.  Second, by putting the top six of 16 teams from each conference into the postseason, the subtle genius of giving every team a plausible path to the playoffs by giving them a one-in-four crack at a division crown would diminish the hope that runs rampant throughout every NFL city when each team resides in the valley of 0-0.  Third, division rivalries fuel much of the sport's popularity; under this proposal, they'd be gone.

Next, Winston wants a larger roster and a minor league.  We agree on both counts.  Young players who otherwise sit on the bench would benefit from a chance to use live reps against other NFL-caliber players as a way to improve.

Winston also favors a "sensible" rookie wage scale.  He proposed a four-year deal for first-rounders and three-year contracts for rounds two through seven, with no franchise tags or other restrictions.  (We'd be shocked if the league ever agrees, unless in exchange for that arrangement all player salaries would be paid in Monopoly money and/or foam peanuts.)

Fifth, Winston believes that overtime should be changed for the regular season, with the first possession determined by something other than a coin flip and both teams getting a crack at the ball before it converts to sudden death.  We agree on both ideas -- but the first one becomes far less necessary if the second is adopted.

Click here to order Eric Winston’s proCane Rookie Card.

Bookmark and Share

Patriots Brass Concerned About Vince Wilfork?

Looking through articles tonight I came accross one that I thought fans might want to be aware of.

Not to pick on him, but Jason Cole of Yahoo! Sports threw out a statement that unfortunately unless he’s got a real reason to back it up, it’s enough to raise an eyebrow for Patriots fans who have to believe it’s way off base.

As Cole breaks down 3-4 defenses throughout the NFL, he makes a statement regarding Vince Wilfork that sounds more like something he’s actually heard instead of an opinion.

“There’s a lot of concern with the Patriots management that Vince Wilfork is going to bloat now that he has gotten paid.”

That statement basically would leave the average fan to believe that someone within Patriots management actually believes that Wilfork is going to underperform this season now that he’s gotten a new contract. It’s kind of funny to hear considering that there have been no such reports this offseason regarding this subject from any other member of the Boston media.

Wilfork signed a contract extension with New England back on March 9th.   Prior to that the Patriots had utilized their 2010 franchise designation on him on February 22nd.

As I mentioned a while back with Michael Silver’s piece regarding Tom Brady’s contract, when you have a national audience you really need to be careful about what is thrown out there, and that sentence just seems like a silly thing to say unless there really is something to back it up.

But it is what it is.  Fans know what Wilfork brings to the table, and so far through minicamps he seems on track to pick up where he left off last season.  His offseason has more or less appeared to be business as usual, with the veteran nose tackle actively involved with charities and events with his fellow players.  There were also no reports of him appearing overweight during any of the minicamps or OTA’s.

Needless to say it’s been an interesting offseason considering a lot of what’s been written.  As for me, I have to say that it will just be nice once training camp begins - hopefully then these types of reports will finally go away.

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

Bookmark and Share

Jon Beason says his diet is as important as his workout

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

Bookmark and Share

Miami Heat working to buy out James Jones

The Miami Heat were still desperately seeking salary cap room Thursday as the hours ticked down to the NBA draft.

One day after essentially sacrificing Daequan Cook and a first-round draft pick (18th overall) in a trade with Oklahoma City that cleared $3.4 million in salary cap space, a league source told ESPN.com that the Heat were working Thursday on a buyout of James Jones' contract to further increase their financial flexibility for free agency this summer.

Jones has $15.5 remaining on his contract through 2012-13, but those final three seasons are only partially guaranteed if James is waived by June 30.

Waiving Jones would knock another $2.8 million off the Heat's salary cap for the 2010-11 season, giving them roughly $27 million to spend in free agency after July 1.

That amount would be enough to keep Wade, sign an additional maximum salary free agent -- and Heat president Pat Riley is prepared to make a strong push to sign LeBron James -- while still leaving an additional $10-11 million to spend on one or more additional free agents.

Bookmark and Share

Brian Asbury and Anthony King Work Out For Heat

MIAMI —The Miami Heat took a sneak peak Monday at the players it selected in the second round of last week's NBA Draft, as well as at others who could be added to the summer-league entry it will field next month in Las Vegas.

While No. 32 pick Dexter Pittman, the center out of Texas, and No. 41 pick Jarvis Varnado, the forward out of Mississippi State, were on the court, No. 42 pick Da'Sean Butler, the forward out of West Virginia, watched from the side as he continues to rehab the ACL tear in his left knee sustained during the Final Four.

Also on the court was veteran point guard Mario Chalmers, who will work in the Heat's summer camp that opens next week but might bypass summer league. In addition, 2009 second-round pick Patrick Beverley, a defensive presence at point guard, also was back with the team after spending last season in the Greek League.

In addition, a pair of former University of Miami players took part in Monday's session, forwards Anthony King and Brian Asbury.

Bookmark and Share

Brian Barton’s Grand Slam Gives Bears A Walk-Off Win

NEWARK – Newly-acquired Brian Barton capped a thrilling five-run ninth inning rally with a grand slam, his second homer as a Bear, with one out in the ninth, leading the Newark Bears to a 9-6 come-from-behind victory over the York Revolution Sunday afternoon at Bears & Eagles Riverfront Stadium.

The Bears entered the ninth inning, trailing 6-4, facing Revolution relief pitcher Ryan Basner, before mounting the rally. Victor Rodriguez led off the ninth with a single, followed by a bloop single by Shawn Williams. After Carl Everett popped out as a pinch hitter, Kennard Jones drew a walk to load the bases and Gabe Suarez followed with a bases-loaded walk, cutting the lead to 6-5. Up stepped Barton, who was just acquired last week in a trade with Bridgeport. He took a 2-2 pitch from Basner deep over the right field wall for the game-winning homer.
The rally made a winner of reliever Greg Reinhard, who pitched 1 1/3 innings of relief to earn his second win in three decisions. Basner dropped to 1-1 with the loss, giving up all five runs (all earned) in the ninth.

Bookmark and Share

Charlton Jimmerson on a Hot Streak

Charlton Jimmerson of the Independent League Bridgeport Bluefish through Friday, was hitting .531 (17-for-32) with two home runs, 10 RBIs and eight runs scored in his last eight games.

Bookmark and Share

Aubrey Huff is one Giant enigma

So how do I explain this one?

I don't. If I tried, I'd be pulling an answer out of thin air, and you'd know it. Huff's latest resurgence is even more inexplicable than his first one two years ago, which, considering it came five years after he last played at an All-Star level, made about as much sense as the old Expos logo.

It's an M, right?

M as in moot, maybe, which is also the case for Huff. The cause doesn't matter nearly as much as the effect. Yes, the guy has identity issues. Just when you think he's one type of player, he becomes something else entirely -- until he has you convinced of that, in which case he switches back. But he has adhered to at least one standard throughout his career: Whenever he goes off like this, he does so for an entire summer.

To date, Huff's .949 OPS would rank as the highest of his career -- higher than that 2008 season with the Orioles, higher than anything he did as a bottom-feeding Devil Ray. His previous bests came in 2003 and 2008, when he did about what he has done this season, getting off to an assuming start in April before taking off in May in June.

In 2003, he hit .318 with 30 homers and a .939 OPS after April 30. In 2008, he hit .313 with 27 homers and a .930 OPS after April 30. So far this year, he's batting .338 with 10 homers and a 1.050 OPS since April 30.

I don't know about you, but I'm liking his chances for a third .300-hitting, 30-homer season, which would obviously make him a must-start in Fantasy. Yet he's starting in only 72 percent of leagues. I realize he let everyone down last year. I realize he has only one impact Fantasy season since 2004. But if history is any indication, he's about to have No. 2.

Sitting him is as inexplicable as he is.

Bookmark and Share

Najeh Davenport Working on "Tale of Five" Documentary

Meanwhile, former UM running back Najeh Davenport, who studied TV production, said he is working on a 62-minute documentary, Tale of Five, focusing on five former UM running backs: Edgerrin James, Clinton Portis, Willis McGahee, Frank Gore and, naturally, himself.

``I started doing it before The U came out,'' Davenport said.

The film will feature old footage and fresh interviews with the players, Butch Davis, Larry Coker, Don Soldinger and others. He is looking for a network to air it.

Still in production: The Kirby Freeman Era (just kidding.)

Click here to order Najeh Davenport’s proCane Rookie Card.

Bookmark and Share

Kelly Jennings works with starting defense

Seattle Seahawks CB Kelly Jennings worked with the team's No. 1 defense during practice Tuesday, June 22, reports Dave Boling, of the Tacoma News Tribune. CB Josh Wilson came in on the nickel package.

Click here to order Kelly Jennings’ proCane Rookie Card.

Bookmark and Share

Dedrick Epps Signs Contract

Tight end Dedrick Epps signed a four-year contract Thursday. Epps was not available for comment.

Epps, a seventh-round pick, caught 19 passes for 247 yards and three touchdowns as a senior at Miami.

Bookmark and Share

Lions sign fourth-round pick Jason Fox

The Lions reached an agreement with rookie offensive tackle Jason Fox on a three-year contract Friday.

Fox, the Lions' fourth-round selection (128th overall) in April's NFL draft, is the first draft pick signed by the Lions this offseason.

Terms of the contract were not released, though profootballtalk.com reported that Fox got a bonus of $330,907. Combined with the standard minimum salary for rookies, Fox would earn $1.55 million over the three years of the contract.

Fox started 47 games for the University of Miami, ranking third in their history among offensive linemen, behind the 48 registered by Mike Sullivan (1987-90) and Richard Mercier (1995-96, 98-99).

Fox has been working mostly at left tackle this offseason, but coach Jim Schwartz said he'll begin to work on the both the right and left sides during training camp.

Bookmark and Share

Lions sign S Randy Phillips

Rookie safety Randy Phillips, an undrafted free agent out of Miami (Fla.), passed his physical with the Lions on Tuesday and signed with the Lions later in the week.

The 6-foot-2, 210-pound safety initially joined the Lions for their rookie minicamp April 30-May 2. But Phillips, who was recovering from January surgery to repair a torn labrum, failed his physical at that time.

Phillips will try to make the team as an undrafted free agent from Miami. The Lions are very weak at safety behind Louis Delmas, so it's a fine landing spot.

Bookmark and Share

Ed Reed upbeat about recovery from hip surgery

Ravens safety Ed Reed discussed his offseason hip surgery during an appearance on SIRIUS XM's Mad Dog Radio channel this morning on "The First Word" with Gary Williams and Glenn Younes.

The transcript of the interview, courtesy of SIRIUS XM's Mad Dog Radio, appears below.

Younes: “Of course, you had your hip surgery. That’s now made plenty of headlines. How are you feeling from that, you’re walking around feeling better?”
Reed: “It’s still a long slow process, you know, and I try to do some strengthening stuff to strengthen it right now and I know it’s just weak but I mean, yeah, I had to have reconstructive surgery. They had to go in and reconstruct my whole hip. They took about 6-7 inches from my IT band, replaced my labrum that I tore. They went in in two spots, so I mean it’s a slow process. Plus I have other injuries that, you know, really probably had an effect on causing this that I have to pay attention to also. So I’m just taking my time. I want to come back. I want to be ready for the first game but I don’t know how soon that would happen, how soon I would be back. You know, we’re gonna continue to do the things to try and get back and at least play this year for the fans, man, cause they’ve been hounding me, man. They’ve been asking me, ‘Are you gonna play? Are you coming back? I would love to see you play at least one more year.’ So hopefully we got at least one more in us.”

Younes: “Where are you in your rehab and chances of you playing this coming 2010 season?”
Reed: “Well, it’s a four-to-six month process to getting yourself back to 100 percent, to get yourself in shape to start working out for a season. It’s a year-long process of getting back to 100 percent. I don’t want to come back too early, man, and injure myself again. You know, there’s some business stuff out there, you know, dealing with the team and dealing with the organization for a long time and, you know, taking care of things the way I’ve taken care of things for my surgery and, you know, seeing doctors without really their consent or talking to them much. I told them about the surgery and made sure I made them aware. But just dealing with those organizational business things, you know, some of those things have to be taken care of also. So my percentage, I honestly couldn’t tell you right now. My doctors were excited with my progress. I’m on my off week right now. They didn’t have me working out this week so it’s been great but, you know, I don’t know, man. I could be at least a good 35 percent right now, man. But I’m walking so that’s a huge thing. I’m walking and messing with my kids this week. You know, I even had to do a little running but nothing major where I had any pain.”

Younes: “But you’re feeling good?’
Reed: “Yeah, I’m feeling alright, man. You know, I feel like I’m gonna get myself back to good enough form to where I can play some football again, man. I mean, I played the last couple of games with a torn labrum and just messed my hip up worse, you know, going back out there and doing things the way I was able to do things. It was at a high level but, you know, [I] don’t want to go back and play in pain, man, and don’t want it to be weak at all. So that’s gonna play a big part in what I’m doing.”

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

Bookmark and Share

Isaac Bruce is the man for Devin Hester's plan

Devin Hester has plenty of plans for his respite before the Bears open training camp in late July.

He's going to get married, he's going to spend time with his family in Florida and he's even going to host a local football camp in a few weeks.
But as he tries to get a handle on Mike Martz's new offense, Hester is also going to learn his role from the best possible source: Isaac Bruce.

''We'll get on a field, watch some film and everything,'' Hester said after practice Wednesday at Halas Hall. ''I can't learn from anyone better.''

In Martz's offense, Hester will be the ''Z'' receiver, who often lines up behind the line of scrimmage and on the same side as the tight end. Bruce thrived in that role under Martz in St. Louis, helping the Rams win Super Bowl XXXIV and earning four Pro Bowl selections.

Decision was a no-brainer
''It's just a perfect fit,'' Bears coach Lovie Smith said. ''I can see why a guy like Devin would reach out to a guy like Isaac.''

Hester said the decision was a no-brainer.

He saw endless clips of Bruce running and executing his potential routes. Bruce thrived, racking up five 1,000-yard seasons and scoring 48 touchdowns in the seven seasons in St. Louis when Martz was either the offensive coordinator or head coach. The numbers would be even more impressive, if not for a foot injury that hampered him in 2005 and limited him to 36 catches for 525 yards and three touchdowns.

Hester also discovered that Bruce wasn't too far away; they both have homes in South Florida.

''I called him a couple of weeks ago, and we talked about it,'' Hester said.

Did someone put him up to it?

''It was my idea,'' Hester said matter-of-factly.

Smith said he was thrilled when an assistant coach told him that Hester reached out to Bruce.

''I know Devin is craving and trying to become the best possible receiver he can be, and I know Isaac Bruce,'' Smith said. ''He's one of the great ambassadors of the game, with a Hall of Fame type of career.

''Guys want to get better, and they want to talk to the best at the position. Of course, Isaac has had success in the position, and he knows it as well as anyone.''

In fact, Smith -- who coached in St. Louis from 2001 to 2003 -- thinks Bruce has the potential to be an NFL coach.

Hester has plenty of questions to fire at Bruce, but he isn't going to rush through them all. The two plan to hook up for ''most of July,'' Hester said.

The new playbook -- which is constantly getting new entries -- has been a challenge to learn, Hester said, but he's starting to get a handle on it.

''Once you understand everything, it's so much easier,'' Hester said. ''I'm starting to get comfortable.''

Open possibilities
What excites him the most, Hester said, is that the playbook always manages to get someone open.

''And the guy who is going to get the ball, the majority of the time, is wide open,'' Hester said.

In space is where Hester thrives, empowering him to use his explosiveness and elusiveness.

After 13 practices, the players are ready for a break. But the praise heaped upon Martz isn't slowing down. Asked about the offense, Bears quarterback Jay Cutler said, ''I love it.

''There's a lot to like about it. It's personnel-based, so we're trying to get guys open, trying to find spacing for them and create matchups for them.''

Smith said the Bears' offensive players are ''exactly where we need to be,'' although they're obviously not ready for an actual game.

But he's encouraged by the excitement from his receivers.

''You talk to all the receivers, most of them have a smile on their face,'' Smith said. ''It could be a lot of fun.''

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

Bookmark and Share

Clinton Portis likely to be a 3-down back for the Redskins

It is no secret that Clinton Portis and Mike Shanahan have some history together. In fact, Portis had two of his most prolific seasons playing under Mike Shanahan for two years at Denver. During these seasons, Portis had 1500+ rushing yards and 14+ touchdowns. This season, they have been reunited in Washington and it seems Shanahan still has the same respect for Portis as he did then: "The first thing you want from a third down back is you want a guy who can block," Shanahan said. "We have the best blocker as a back in Clinton Portis that I've been around. I think we do have a third-down back."

Fantasy Analysis:
Many people are down on Portis this season and with good reason. However, if Portis really does play three downs on the majority of possessions and Shanahan decides to run him into the ground, he is going to accumulate some stats over the course of this season. Of course, Larry Johnson is still waiting in the wings right behind him on the depth chart. The combination of an aging Portis and lurking Larry Johnson obviously doesn't sound extremely appealing but Portis is currently RB39. For a back who sees the field three downs, it's hard to imagine he will not out perform that ranking in the 2010 season. Another factor to consider is the acquisition of Jaamal Brown from the New Orleans Saints. This will be a huge improvement to the offensive line if he can stay healthy and it should help everyone involved with the Redskins offense.

Click here to order Clinton Portis’ proCane Rookie Card.

Bookmark and Share

Sam Shields needs to improve on fielding punts

Green Bay Packers special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum said CB Sam Shields needs to improve on fielding punts, reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Greg A. Bedard. Slocum said, "Sam needs to be consistent catching the ball before we can put him out there and have our whole organization rely on him to catch the punt. He has excellent talent, and we have a full training camp to go and a bunch of reps for him to continue to get better."

Bookmark and Share

Niners can't take Frank Gore off the field

Beat writer Matt Maiocco believes the 49ers will struggle to incorporate another back into the offense as long as Frank Gore stays healthy.

This is how we see it as well. In addition to being the team's best offensive player, Gore is also the best pass-blocking back and a top-flight receiver out of the backfield. He's a lock for 300+ touches as long as he stays healthy.

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

Bookmark and Share


Milford grad, Antonio Dixon, overcomes adversity to reach NFL

PLYMOUTH – Antonio Dixon was a soft-spoken giant of a defensive lineman trying to make it to big-time college football when he attended Milford Academy in New Berlin.

He spent a year at Milford in 2004 before moving on to play Division One ball for the Miami Hurricanes. Dixon was quiet young man when The Evening Sun interviewed him six years ago, and he had a good reason to use as few words as possible during his interview. Dixon’s struggles have since been well documented in the Florida media. That Dixon has now ascended to play in the NFL for the Philadelphia Eagles makes his story one of the most inspiring triumphs among Milford Academy graduates.

Growing up in a poor family, Dixon spent time in six homeless shelters living in Miami and Atlanta. His father was in prison for drug trafficking, and his mother abused drugs for a period of two years. During his mother’s drug use, Dixon and his siblings were pulled from their mother’s home to live in foster care.

It was a rough start to the young Dixon’s life. Add to it his issues with dyslexia and a pervasive stuttering problem. He was unable to read until the sixth grade, and was expelled from school two years later for fighting and belligerent behavior.

When Dixon returned to school as a freshman in high school, he found football and his life turned for the better. As a senior, he was ranked among the best college lineman prospects in Florida, but needed to get his grades up. He spent a year at Milford Academy honing his skills as a football player and gaining the tools to become a good student.

Through hard work and perseverance, he graduated from Miami with a degree in Liberal Arts. Not only that, he was among five other students in the nation to win the Wilma Rudolph Student Athlete Acheivement Award. The award is given annually to collegiate athletes who overcome great personal adversity to achieve academic success.

“College was tough,” Dixon said, who said it was an eye-opening the first three months, especially just getting into proper football shape. “I used to go to study hall sometimes 18 hours a week. Other people were going eight or 10 hours, but they had me on this ridiculous schedule. Seniors, they don’t have to go to study hall, and I was the only senior there. It was worth it; I was proud of graduating.”

Bookmark and Share

Tavares Gooden rehires Tony Fleming

Baltimore Ravens inside linebacker Tavares Gooden has switched representation, rehiring Tony Fleming as his agent.

Fleming, who works for Impact Sports out of Boca Raton, Fla., was Gooden's original agent out of the University of Miami.

Gooden had been represented by Drew Rosenhaus until recently making this change.

A former third-round draft pick, Gooden spent the majority of his rookie season on injured reserve and underwent hip flexor and sports hernia surgeries.

Last season, the 6-foot-1, 242-pounder recorded 47 tackles and one pass deflection and a dozen starts.

Former undrafted rookie Dannell Ellerbe finished last season as the starting Jack linebacker next to All-Pro middle linebacker Ray Lewis.
Gooden is slated to compete with Ellerbe for the starting job during training camp, but Ellerbe is regarded as the frontrunner to retain the job after a strong ending to last season.

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

Bookmark and Share

Unnamed Opponent Goes After Bryant McKinnie, Other Vikings

The Sporting News is busy counting down to training camp by breaking down each roster and trying to provide a unique preview of sorts.

For example, middle linebacker Jasper Brinkley has their vote for breakout player of the year for the purple and gold.  Also, they predict that without Favre there is virtually no chance of the Vikings playing in February.

The most interesting portion of the story, however, is under the “Opponent’s View” section.  In this section, an unnamed opponent gives his take on the Vikings and it isn’t pretty:

You know what, their offensive line is not that good. They’re way overrated. It’s unbelievable. If they didn’t have Brett Favre, the number of times he gets them out of trouble is amazing. Left tackle Bryant McKinnie, it’s a joke that he made the Pro Bowl. A joke. …

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

Bookmark and Share

Rookie Q&A: Dedrick Epps

Dedrick Epps will have to bide his time in San Diego. The rookie from Miami may be destined for a year on the practice squad but he's confident in his abilities and eager to prove himself. We check in with Epps to talk about his offseason and his progress to date.

The Chargers plucked TE Dedrick Epps from Miami in the seventh round of this year's NFL Draft. At first, Epps (6-foot-3, 250 pounds) appeared to be a shoe-in to make the active roster, taking the roster spot vacated by Brandon Manumaleuna. However, San Diego has since signed veteran Randy McMichael, meaning Epps will likely have to compete for a place on the practice squad.

Epps finished his three-year career at Miami with 49 catches for 634 yards and six scores. And while those numbers are hardly eye-popping, he stood out in his game film, as he showed himself to be a strong two-way tight end.

For more, check out this Insider Scouting Report by the publisher of Canes Time.

LaShana Marshburn: What were you doing during the NFL Draft?
Dedrick Epps: I was still in school, so I was in Miami. My mother came down and we watched the draft together.

LM: Did any other teams contact you before the Chargers pulled the trigger in the seventh round (No. 235 overall)?
DE: Yeah, a couple of teams had interest towards the seventh round. San Diego was one of them. The Chargers used their last pick on me and I'm just happy to be here.

LM: Who were the other teams showing the most interest in you?
DE: Kansas City, Miami and Arizona.

LM: You missed the Emerald Bowl after undergoing surgery for a torn ACL. How big of a role did that play in your pre-draft process?
DE: With an injury that serious you have to stick with the rehab. It all comes into play.

LM: What's been the biggest difference you've noticed so far between college and the NFL?
DE: It's just very technical at this level. I mean, people not only know the play that's called, you have to execute by using a certain technique or it'll be a bad thing on you -- it'll be something gone bad. It's very technical at this level.

LM: How did your time at Miami prepare you for this transition?
DE: Well, Coach [Randy] Shannon has his ties with the NFL, so he knows how things are run and he knows how to run a team in a professional manner. It's simple things like being on time, having your notebook so you can write things down as you need it, just little things. When I got to this level, I expected that as the norm, so he molded us very well.

LM: What adjustments will you need to make to thrive in the NFL?
DE: In the NFL, everyone is faster and stronger. To make the transition, I just need to put in the extra work every day on things I want to get better at and try to focus.

LM: How have San Diego's veterans helped with your adjustments?
DE: The team is like a family, so everyone looks out for one another. It may not be a veteran; it may be another rookie. You know, we have to look out for each other, so everybody just looks out for everybody else. If you need something, just ask anybody and they'll help you with it.

LM: So far, has being a part of the NFL been everything you expected?
DE: Yes, it's everything I thought it would be. Everybody has come out here and proven themselves to be able to play at this level. Everyone is going to put their best foot forward and go out there and prove themselves and run the plays. It's nothing new; you just have to make the transition, that's all.

Bookmark and Share

Dwayne Collins Gets Drafted by the Phoenix Suns

PHOENIX -- The Phoenix Suns have selected Dwayne Collins of Miami with the last pick in the NBA draft.

Earlier, the Suns took Gani Lawal of Georgia Tech with the 46th pick overall.

Dwayne Collins also thought he would be drafted higher than 60th, but was happy to be picked by the Suns, "Being selected was great. Being selected by the Suns, I would say, was even better."

Like Lawal, he thinks his rebounding and post defense will help him make the roster. He agreed that his game is similar to Lawal, but felt that he has more of a power game.

As for his chances to to make it, Collins was pragmatic, "I was happy I was selected by Phoenix, knowing they have three free agents in the same position as me, power forward. Hopefully, I end up on the team."

Lawal and Collins both went to ACC schools and according to SBN's George Tech blog From the Rumble Seat, faced each other five times with Miami beating Tech in four of those meetings, "The Hurricanes are the proverbial fly in our soup. Against Tech, Collins averaged 22 minutes played, 8.6 rebounds, and 8.8 points per game. He was a fairly big part of Miami hoops the past four seasons and was critical in Miami dominance of Tech during his college career."

In their last meeting on the court, Lawal dominated Miami, putting up 17 points and 18 rebounds in 32 minutes of play. Collins had his own double-double (13 points, 11 rebounds) while Derrick Favors was held to only 7 points and 6 rebounds. Miami won the game 64-62.
Both Lawal and Collins had good things to say about the other and according to Gani, they have a personal relationship and should help each other get better by playing together in practice.

Lawal will be in Phoenix next week preparing to play for the Suns Summer League team.

Collins, who had minor surgery to repair a slight meniscus tear in his knee, has not yet be told if he will come to Phoenix to continue his rehab or will stay in Miami, where he has an apartment near the Miami campus. Dwayne hopes to play in Vegas, but is sure he will be ready.

Bookmark and Share

John Salmons To Opt Out Of His Contract

Free Agency 2010 sleeper alert: John Salmons has notified Milwaukee that he will be opting out, according to a source close to him. Salmons and Bucks had extension talks, but – as previously reported – it was never likely he would go that route.

Bookmark and Share

Danny Valencia returns to starting lineup for Twins in Milwaukee

MILWAUKEE -- Rookie third baseman Danny Valencia returns to the lineup for the Twins tonight, as they face Brewers lefthander Chris Narveson in the opener of a three-game series at Miller Park.

Dave Bush was scheduled to make this start, but after watching him get pummeled by the Twins on May 21, the Brewers pushed his next start to Friday against Seattle.

Bookmark and Share

Pat Burrell sets obscure record

Due to nationwide anxiety over such things as the referee-challenged U.S. tie with Slovenia in the World Cup, or a European golfer winning the U.S. Open, High&Inside somehow missed the major event of the last week.

While we were distracted, our old friend Pat Burrell became the leading home run hitter from the state of Arkansas. Luckily, sharp-eyed reader Bob Bogart read that the former Phillie had swatted a pair of homers in his first week with San Francisco and immediately did the math.

Burrell, who hit another on Sunday night, now has 270 career home runs. The native of Eureka Springs, Ark., passed Hall of Famer Brooks Robinson (Little Rock), who ended his career with 268.

The Angels' Torii Hunter, a Pine Bluff native who already has 12 this season, ranks third with 247 and may give Burrell's record a run before his career is over.

Bookmark and Share

Happy Aubrey Huff says he'd love to be re-signed

Aubrey Huff has had such a good time as a Giant, he doesn't want it to end.

"I would love to be back here," Huff said when asked about 2011.

"I was talking with Pat Burrell, saying, 'Wouldn't it be a kick if we could finish our careers here?' We're really enjoying it. I know I am. I'd love to be back. But it's up to the front office. I've just got to go out and play my game and see what happens."

Huff, 33, has been a Giant for only 67 games, but it's enough of a sample size to convince him he wants to stay. The Giants, who signed him for $3 million, have appreciated his feats and flexibility.

He has statistics comparable to those of Albert Pujols. Huff tops Pujols in average (.311-.302), slugging percentage (.549-.540), doubles (16-15) and triples (2-0) and trails in homers (15-12). The biggest difference was walks (53-35 in favor of Pujols), because of Pujols' 21 intentional passes (two for Huff).

"I think I get pitched to more than he does. Let's be honest," Huff said.

One reason for Huff's success might be his weight loss. He said he's 215 pounds and ended last year 230.

"And, obviously, a lot has to do with being happy," said Huff, who has played most of his career on losing teams. "This is the first time in a long time I've actually been happy playing baseball. I have a chance to go out there every day and win."

Bookmark and Share

Jason Michaels making most of playing time

KANSAS CITY -- In his second season with the Astros, Jason Michaels is making the most of his recent jump in playing time.
Michaels has only started 10 games this season coming into Thursday night's rubber match against the Royals, but he has gotten the starting nod from manager Brad Mills in the last five consecutive games.

Over those five games, he is 6-for-20 with a home run, five RBIs and four strikeouts.

"With us bench guys like, me, Geoff Blum and Cory Sullivan, [Interleague Play] is a time that we may be able to get some at-bats. Whatever way [Mills] plays it out, we just try to go in there and have a good at-bat."

Since making his first of five consecutive starts on June 8, Michaels has raised his batting average by 33 points. Michaels is now batting .221 with three home runs and 10 RBIs, with 12 strikeouts and a walk on the season.

Bookmark and Share

Yonder Alonso named to Futures Game

OAKLAND -- An invitation to the All-Star Futures Game often means the Major Leagues are not very far away.

Current Reds Joey Votto, Jay Bruce and Chris Heisey have played in the showcase of top Minor League talent in the past.

This year, the honor has been given to first baseman Yonder Alonso and lefty reliever Philippe Valiquette. They both play at Triple-A Louisville.

The 12th annual XM All-Stars Futures Game, which has prospects from the United States play against the best from the rest of the World, will be held at Angel Stadium on Sunday, July 12, at 6 p.m. ET. MLB.com will provide complete coverage before, during and after the game, which can be seen live on ESPN2 and ESPN2 HD and followed live on Gameday. In addition, XM Radio will broadcast play-by-play coverage of the event live on XM 175.

Both Alonso, a native of Cuba, and Valiquette, a Canadian from Montreal, will play for the World Team.

The 23-year-old Alonso, the club's 2008 first-round Draft pick, is batting a combined .245 with five home runs and 31 RBIs with Double-A Carolina and Louisville this season. He has played both first base and has been tried out in left field as well.

"He's played more first base, which has probably relaxed him in all facets of his game. The numbers may not reflect it, but he's hit the ball hard all year without much luck," said Terry Reynolds, the Reds senior director of player development. "He is as good of a hitting prospect as we have."

Bookmark and Share