Spurs Introduce Jack McClinton

Click here to watch the video and view pictures of the Spurs introducing Jack McClinton.

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Photos of the Week - Pictures from Kellen Winslow's Renewal of Vows Ceremony

Rocky Mcintosh, Leon Williams, Kellen Winslow and Kenny Dorsey.

Ken Dorsey’s wife (left) Kellen Winslow’s wife (center white).

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Q&A with ... Giants WR Sinorice Moss

Given his height, 5-8 Sinorice Moss is accustomed to being questioned about his ability to play in the NFL. So when he hears people questioning whether the Giants can weather the loss of wide receivers Plaxico Burress and Amani Toomer, he's not hearing anything he hasn't already heard, he tells Sporting News' Bill Eichenberger.

Q: What goes through your mind when people wonder whether you and the other receivers have what it takes to fill Burress' and Toomer's void?
A: I've been hearing that all my life. I've been hearing guys tell me I wasn't going to make it to the NFL. That is just something for me to look at and listen to and just go out there and perform every week. I can't worry about what those people say. But it does bother me when people tell me what I can't do.

Q: Do you think the other receivers feel the same way? Is there a collective "let's show them"-type attitude?
A: I feel like there is a big chip on all our shoulders. You hear a lot of things: "Oh, they don't have Plax, they don't have Amani. They don't have any deep threats." We have Domenik Hixon, Steve Smith, myself, Mario Manningham, and I can run down a list of guys that we have here who can contribute and make some plays for this team. So as a group, every day we look at each other and say, "Let's go. It's time to go. Let's do what we have to do to help this team."

Q: On the flip side, are there legitimate reasons to doubt this group?
A: We do have something to prove. We are a group of young guys who when given the opportunity stepped up and made some plays last year. ... Say what you want about us. But we work hard every day and will continue to work hard, so that when we get opportunities in the game we can make some plays and prove everybody wrong.

Q: Given that the Giants brought in two tall, physical rookie receivers in Hakeem Nicks and Ramses Barden, where do you see a smaller receiver like yourself fitting into the mix? What do you bring to the table?
A: Speed, aggressiveness, power, just having the opportunity to have the ball in my hands. I feel like I can do so many things with the ball in my hands.

Q: Is going deep one of those things?
A: It's something I've been itching to do since I've been here. I've had minor setbacks (with injuries) and haven't really had the opportunity to showcase that.

Q: Do you feel you still need to show the coaches that you can be a legitimate home-run threat?
A: We practice it every week. Since I've been here, we've always practiced deep balls. It's just a matter of that play being called in the game, so people can't sit around and say we don't have deep threats.

Q: Why will this year be different?
A: I feel like this year we have a lot of speed, young guys, fresh legs who can go up top. It's going to be good.

Q: So you think the receiving corps doesn't need a veteran guy?
A: We learned from two of the best. When I came in, I had Amani and Plaxico, and they pretty much showed me the ropes. They taught me things. They were always vocal in meetings, vocal in practice. So learning from those guys, it doesn't necessarily follow that we need a veteran wide receiver to be in here.

Q: What has kept you from complaining or demanding to be traded despite not getting much playing time since being a second-round draft pick in 2006?
A: I know how hard I work. I know what I put in. It was never for me to pout or complain or to argue or be mad at my coaches. Things happen for a reason. That's how I look at it. I just continue to perform and show these coaches why they drafted me. That's why I kept a positive attitude. I know what I am capable of doing when given the opportunity.

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Greg Olsen to Throw Out First Pitch For Cubs on Sunday

Greg Olsen will be throwing out the first pitch at the Chicago Cubs game on Sunday July 5th versus the Milwaukee Brewers. Olsen will also sing “Take me out to the ball game” during the 7th inning stretch. If any fan goes to the game, film his first pitch and his singing and we’ll post it on our site. Eric Winston openly wondered on twitter whether Olsen will throw a ball, a one hopper or a strike. Let’s see!

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Top 10 RB’s According to the National Sports Review

6 – Frank Gore – Even on a lackluster 49er’s team Gore is a great back, and will help to stabilize San Francisco’s offense as they continue to build.

9 – Clinton Portis – When he’s healthy he is a force to be reckoned with, and the Redskins have been lucky to have him the past few years as their offense has struggled without a star QB.

Click here to see the rest of the rankings.

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Spencer Adkins' Contract Not Approved

Last week, Scout.com first reported that three draftees from the 2009 class from the Atlanta Falcons had their contracts disapproved. According to a league source, all three contracts were approved a few days later. According to Profootballtalk.com, the contracts of third-round pick Chris Owens, fifth-round pick Garrett Reynolds, and sixth-round pick Spencer Adkins were not originally approved because of a "language oversight" relating to team incentives and individual "not likely to be earned" incentives.

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Barton's single in 9th lifts G-Braves by Bats

LAWRENCEVILLE - It wasn't how many hits the Gwinnett Braves had that was the key in Saturday night's game against the Louisville Bats, it was when they got them.

Five of their eight hits came in two innings - including Chris Burke's three-run home run in the fifth that erased an early three-run deficit and Brian Barton's walk-off RBI single in the ninth - to lift the G-Braves to a 4-3 win before 8,471 fans at Gwinnett Stadium.

The win snapped a two-game losing streak.

"(It's amazing) what one hit can do sometimes," G-Braves manager Dave Brundage said. "I've seen that so many times in the game of baseball. The last couple of nights, we didn't take advantage of those situations. (Saturday) night, we did."

The G-Braves didn't have many situations to take advantage of through the first four innings as Louisville's Ben Jukich set down the first 12 batters he faced, striking out six of them.

However, Barbaro Canizares broke up the perfect game leading off the fifth by beating out an infield single despite a diving stop by Louisville third baseman Edwin Encarnacion, and Brooks Conrad followed with a single through the hole.

That brought Burke to the plate, and the shortstop lined his first homer since joining the G-Braves nine games ago just high enough to clear the wall in left to suddenly tie the game 3-3.

It stayed that way thanks to a strong outing by the Gwinnett bullpen. Vladimir Nunez shut out Louisville on just one hit and struck out five in the next three innings, and Jon Huber (1-0) pitched around a hit to throw a scoreless ninth.

Then after Canizares led off the ninth with a single and pinch runner J.C. Holt went to third on Encarnacion's throwing error on Conrad's sacrifice bunt, Pedro Viola (2-1) intentionally walked Burke to bring up Barton.

And the G-Braves' outfielder delivered by lining a 1-0 pitch into the gap in right-center to plate Holt with the winning run.

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Tracking proCanes - John Routh - Part IV

Part IV: John’s talks about the Ibis’ pipe, being hit by a bullet in New Orleans, Randy Shannon and the current state of the program and much more! Click here to read Parts I, II and III.

pC: You were there when the Ibis had the pipe, what is you’re feeling on that change?
JR: I got blamed for it and I didn’t do it! It was late the ‘80s or early ‘90s with all the political crap and stuff going on and I was approached, because the costume didn’t have that. The one before me did, the ones in the 70’s with the papier-mâché head. So someone from the bookstore came to me and said we’ve been approached by the cancer society or somebody and would there be a way to get rid of the pipe and I said well I don’t carry a pipe on the field so whatever ya’ll want to do. So it wasn’t my decision but once they made a decision the New Times wrote an article and interviewed someone at the bookstore that said well John Routh said…and I didn’t do it! I just said do whatever y’all want to do. And I just got blamed for it. I still have a friend that blames me saying you got rid of my pipe and my bandage.

Well I put the bandage back on it in my last game at the Sugar Bowl against Alabama because I got shot the night before in New Orleans.

pC: You got shot?
JR: Oh yeah, walking around on Bourbon Street. It was out of costume. We had done the Hurricane Club New Years Eve party so I was walking with some cheerleaders and Sunsations and we were going to go to Jackson Square because they do the fireworks at midnight. So walking down the first block of Bourbon Street, BAM! I felt this sting and what they realized was about a mile from the Quarter in the Ninth Ward that everybody learned about after Katrina, at some housing projects, somebody had gotten up on the roof and shot some AK 47s’ towards the Quarter. And we were walking in the street doing the fight song and I had one of those little New Year’s Eve things and I was at the back of the group. I had my head to the side and it came in right here (pointing to the side of his head above his eye) and exited here (pointing to side of his head a little lower) and grazed my shirt and I had a red stripe.! I never went down. One of the Sunsations turned around and started screaming so a couple of others
stopped and there were some police there on the first block of Bourbon Street where there was a Woolworth’s and they had a mirror. So the cop goes ‘sit over on the car’ and he has a towel and he says ‘well we got our first one’ and I’m like first what? It’s twenty minutes to 12, and he’s like ‘we’ve got our first gun shot victim’ and says look insert wound, exit wound and that’s when I noticed I had the mark and found the ak47 slug. By the time I got to the hospital there were two or three other Miami fans that had gotten shot. One was sitting at a table and it went through the table and another one apparently it hit off of her chair and went into her spleen and she was in pretty bad condition. I never heard of the tradition of shooting bullets at New Year ’s Eve and I come back to Miami and find that I have a bullet in my pool from South Miami. The next night was the Championship Game and I put a bandage on the outside of the costume. Before the game I’m walking around on the field with a bandage on my face and Bob Graham, the AP reporter says you’re not working the game tonight are you? And I got the quote of the week in Sports Illustrated, I said: “it’s gonna take a hell of a lot more than a bullet hole in the head to keep me out of this game!” And unfortunately we lost the game, but Sports Illustrated made a comment about how I got shot the night before. That was my last game, we had a 29 game winning streak going into it.

pC: What do you think about the move to Land Shark Stadium?
JR: Certainly I would have loved for us to stay in the Orange Bowl but not in the condition that it was in. That’s one thing that I think that the city and the county really screwed up because it was such a great place but on the other hand in this day in age where comfort seems to be a key I now don’t have to worry about my car getting blocked, although sometimes it can take between 30 to 45 minutes to get out of there but I like Land Shark Stadium. Having worked there for 10 years, I know it well. It’s kind of like being on a cruise ship at the club level. I hope over the years that we will draw fans from up north and I hope it becomes as dominating a place as the Orange Bowl. I used to sit at the end zone particularly when the other team was coming down in the west end zone and when they were coming in I could literally feel the ground shaking as fans stomped there feet. There is no other place like the Orange Bowl, but unfortunately as years went on and because the city and county didn’t put the money in it to fix it up they had to move. We could talk about this issue for hours, but I hope Land Shark Stadium will prove to be a good home. The key is getting the talent and Randy [Shannon] is doing a great job.

pC: What do you think about the current state of the team?
JR: I think things are really looking up. He’s got a ton of talent coming in and we have a ton of talent there. Even the year before last when we went 5 and 7, 5 of the games we lost by a touchdown or less. The game against Virginia was an aberration. I think we’re close and certainly next year’s schedule will be a tough start if we could start 2 and 2 or 3 and 1, then you never know.

pC: What do you think about the job Randy is doing?
JR: I think he’s doing a great job recruiting wise and the one thing that others say is that the image is cleaned up. And I always thought the image thing was a joke. It never has been as bad as people make it out to be. But Randy has done a good job of getting good quality kids in the program as well as good talent. I think we could be one season away from the title. If we start 3 and 1 we could be back in hunt.

We’re close. Miami fans are used to competing for the championship every year. We’re spoiled. From ‘83 to ‘95, Dennis’ last game we played for the National Championship against Nebraska. We won 4 titles but we had a chance to win 5 or 6 others and that’s just unheard of. Even Notre Dame in its greatest years, Army in its greatest years, Oklahoma in their greatest years, never did what we did over a twelve year span plus winning 58 home games [in a row]. All the numbers were there. And we really did get spoiled, particularly when you think about it coming a heartbeat away from having the program disbanded in the 70’s. In looking at the facilities, I came from South Carolina which was a state school that has tons of money. Even back in the 80’s their facilities are comparable to what Miami has now. And that’s the miracle of Miami, how we did it with so little to back up with what happened on the field.

pC: Leon Searcy described the weight room back then being smaller than an Applebee’s.
JR: We had the baseball players come in at 6 and track at 7. It was so small. And even though we were spoiled because of the 80’s you’ve got to realize what a miracle it was. If we had had state dollars like Florida or Florida State, imagine what we could have done!

pC: Word Associations, Give me the first thing that pops in your head when you read the following: 
Randy Shannon: Class.
Larry Coker: Very nice guy
Orang Bowl: Greatest stadium ever.
Land Shark Stadium: Getting there.
Dennis Erickson: Good friend.
Coral Gables: Great city.
Fiesta Bowl: Uh, do I have to go there?
Ohio State: Hate them.
Jimmy Johnson: Silence…… I’m trying to think of a word…. I want to say class…but
Sebastian the Ibis: A lot of fun times.
Maniac: A lot more fun times.
Ron Fraser: Greatest guy in the world.
Tad Foote: Nice man
Shalala: A go getter.
Bobby Bowden: Good ole Boy.

I want to go back to Jimmy Johnson. He was innovative, because of some of the things he did. He changed college football by taking an offensive back and beefing him up and making him a linebacker. Jimmy changed college football by doing that. That’s why we beat Nebraska all the time because they had those big fat guys on the line and we had guys like Greg Mark and Russell Maryland and Cortez Kennedy who was fast for a 290 pounder.

pC: What was the worst away stadium experience? Toughest place to be the Ibis? FSU?
JR: Actually no, FSU wasn’t bad at all because we beat them all the time and they knew we were gonna beat them. Florida Field was tough only because they were just obnoxious as hell. I only went to it once and it was in ‘86 and they threw ice and the fans were just obnoxious as hell. That’s the thing. We went to so many places and just kicked so much butt back then! That was one of the things, talking about how the locker room was quiet, we went in knowing we were going to win. Like LSU, we went there I think we were 1 or 2 and they were 3 or 4, everyone was talking about Death Valley and how tough that was and we got off the bus and some 80 year old woman yelling ‘we’re gonna kick your f****** ass!’ And I was like oh boy, and we just went out and kicked their ass. And we knew we were going to win, we just had this attitude that we were going to win. Even when we went to tough places it didn’t seem that tough.

pC: Nortre Dame?
JR: No because my first year doing football in ‘84, we went up there and beat them 35 to 13, I think it was. Alonso Highsmith ran I think for 4 touchdowns and maybe it was a tad of arrogance but we just knew we were so good that we could just go anywhere.

We played at Michigan in ‘87, which was the game with the crazy comeback. Funny story about that. I was changing in the room where Jimmy was going to be interviewed after the game and Rich our SID (Sports Information Director) came out with about 8 to 10 min left and I had my little radio there and was listening to the local broadcast and they had just punted to us with 7 min and 9 seconds left and Rich goes ‘John you might as well pack your stuff up because we’re gonna use this room for Jimmy’s interview.’ I said, “Rich this game ain’t over” and he says, ‘John come on’ and I said, “Nah it ain’t over.” As I’m walking down the tunnel, Father Leo is standing at the end of the tunnel and he goes ‘John why don’t you just call it a day, this one is over.’ And I said “Leo you’re the first person I’m gonna hug when we win the game.” I just had that attitude. Even though there were seven minutes to go and we were down 16 points, when Carlos Huerta kicked the field goal, I was under the goal post to signal it and I went charging across the field and Leo came out and he gave me a hug at the edge of the field. We just had that attitude that we couldn’t get beat so I really don’t remember fearing going in anywhere.

pC: Who did you feel then was our biggest rival?
JR: FSU, because, even though, like Bobby Bowden says there gonna put on my tombstone, “but at least he played Miami” those were the games. I was under the goal post for Wide Right I and a lot of friends of mine that were at Hooligans couldn’t tell but as soon as they saw me waving my arms, they knew. I was standing there, the ref always stands right under the goal post and the look on his face as he looks at the other guy like I can’t believe he missed it. He had this look of how did he miss that chip shot? So, I went charging out to the front.

pC: So FSU?
JR: Yeah because of the high intensity, because if you won that game you had a chance at the National Championship. That’s why I made a “State Champs” sign and as everybody said you’ve got to win the State of Florida to win the National Championship. That’s really the way it turned out. And the Gators really weren’t in the picture then. It was Miami and FSU.

Click here to read Parts I, II and III.

We at proCanes.com would like to thank John Routh for being so gracious with his time to do this very insightful interview for our new feature "Tracking proCanes." We would also like to thank JC Ridley for his help in tracking down photos of John as the Ibis. You can see more of JC’s photos at www.caneshooter.com and follow his blog at jcridley.blogspot.com.

Click here to check out our past interviews with Leon Searcy, Steve Walsh, Frank Costa and more!

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Jarrett Payton Attempts an Extra Point

Running back Jarrett Payton had to kick an extra point in the Argonauts season opening 30-17 win over the Hamilton Tiger-Cate while the Argonauts kicker Eddie Johnson recovered from making the tackle on the previous kickoff. Payton also had one rush for -3 yards and one reception for 8 yards.

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Beware Of Hester, One 'WildBear'

Devin Hester has been kind of a wild-card position player during his short but dazzling career in Chicago, so it's appropriate the Bears are considering him their top "Wildcat" option this season.

Hester will remain a wide receiver, but according to the team's official website, offensive coordinator Ron Turner will be more creative in getting him the ball, even sometimes as a direct-snap running back.

Considering smart opponents don't really kick to Hester in the return game, the Bears desperately need to find ways to get him the ball with a chance to use his speed to get into the open field.

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Edgerrin Training Hard

I can tell you that Edgerrin James is in great playing shape. He weighs 216lbs and is training hard. He is excited about this season!

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Perez's cloudy future as a closer

Every fantasy owner wants to be first in line for that closer of the future, but it so rarely happens the easy way. What we end up seeing happen is that most closers of the future become short-term disappointments, overdrafted and traded for in fantasy leagues, while veterans like Kevin Gregg show up in Florida at the right place and the right time, and change their career path forever. I think I can name more journeyman types who pitched well and lucked into a closer job, like Scott Downs and Antonio Alfonseca, than kids who were high picks and became the next Gregg Olson (see Orioles, circa 1989).

For Chris Perez, who was traded this week from the St. Louis Cardinals to the Cleveland Indians, the initial reaction I saw from others was that Perez became more in demand in fantasy from this deal. My reaction was quite the opposite.

I think this is a trick for fantasy owners, and while the Indians won't regret the deal, they didn't help themselves much. I trust the Cardinals' leadership when it comes to decision-making, I really do. It's like how the Braves used to be when Leo Mazzone was handling the pitchers. Jose Capellan was supposed to be good. When the Braves gave up on him, that was a sign for me to do the same. Remember the Aussie Damian Moss? Young lefty, 26 years old -- they moved him quickly for a reason. Same thing, to a degree, with Denny Neagle, Kevin Millwood and Bruce Chen. It's like the Braves just knew. Same with some of those young hitters as well, like Andy Marte and Wilson Betemit, but I digress. Anyway, I trust Dave Duncan just as I did Mazzone. I mean, Jeff Weaver started five playoff games for the Cardinals in 2006, including two in the World Series. Jeff Weaver!

Many see the Cardinals' dealing their 2006 first-round pick as a sign of desperation for offensive help, and the Indians as getting a sweet deal for a future closer. I see a standard, ordinary middle reliever getting sent out of town while his value is still relatively high, because he has the arm but lacks something else to be a reliable closer. Relief pitchers grow on trees (not literally), but for every Perez who is drafted and groomed as a closer, there is someone like Ryan Franklin, for example, getting more saves when there's nothing in his past or in his current makeup that says he should. The Cardinals were so eager to move Perez that the rumors had been flying for months, even though they know Franklin isn't their future closer and Jason Motte could very well not be that future guy. I'm trusting the Cardinals on this one. They know something, or they think Perez can easily be replaced in the sixth and seventh innings by someone on the trade market like Danys Baez. I agree.

The problem for fantasy owners is that they always think they know something about that next big closer, but it so rarely pans out. Baseball's amateur draft plays a significant role in leading fantasy owners on. When Geoff Geary gets dealt, nobody bats an eyelash because he was a 15th-round pick and unspectacular in the minors. Perez was a first-round pick. (To be fair, it was in the sandwich round between the first and second rounds, the No. 42 overall pick.) He was a college closer, a big, intimidating right-hander with strikeout stuff. Hey, it's not that I think Perez will stink in Cleveland, but why do you think saves are automatic here?

Perez should not instantly jump onto your list of relievers about to become closers. In fact, I think he was better off in St. Louis if you wanted the potential for saves. Kerry Wood has a two-year contract for the Tribe, not a one-year deal, and there is no guarantee he gets traded as easily as Mark DeRosa. Perez might have to wait until 2011. Plus, do we just assume Perez is next in line in Cleveland? There doesn't seem to be much in his way currently, but Matt Herges has pitched well, Rafael Betancourt should be back soon, and Perez's first impression with his new team ended with four runs crossing the plate and only two outs getting registered. Major league teams don't just give closer roles to the guy who throws the hardest, even if they're in the midst of a horribly disappointing season that might result in 100 losses.

A year ago, I thought the Indians did well to get Jonathan Meloan from the Dodgers in the Casey Blake trade. Time might tell differently, but Meloan has been pounded at Triple-A since that deal. Perez might have better stuff, and won't get yo-yoed around from starting and relieving, but there are no guarantees here. I'd look elsewhere for saves this season, and for a middle reliever who can help your staff.

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Tracking proCanes - John Routh - Part III

Part III: John Routh talks about his most memorable experiences, what it feels like to put on the Ibis costume and much more! Click here to read Parts I & II.

pC: Name one of your most memorable experiences as the Ibis or Maniac.
JR: Well, probably it’s the Ibis, the Championship game against Oklahoma when we won was amazing.  There’s so many of them so it’s hard picking one.  The Oklahoma game was my first football championship. The ’85 baseball championship was my first real national championship even though in ‘82 I hung out with the team after South Carolina was eliminated but I wasn’t really part of the team.  So the ‘85 championship for baseball I was jumping on top of the pile.  I was supposed to be technically the Maniac not the Miami Maniac but everybody knew I was the Miami Maniac because I was wearing orange and green.  I went to Jerry Miles, the NCAA director, in the pre-tournament meeting and I didn’t do it the year before but for some reason I just felt like we were going win and I said “Jerry I know I’m supposed to be impartial but when Miami wins is it okay if I jump on the pile?”  And he said, “Yeah, oh yeah, well sure.”  Because we were like the 6th or 7th seed so he said “yeah if Miami wins, sure why not.”  When we got two strikes I looked over at him and gave him a thumbs up and he was like yeah go ahead.  So in the videos I’m jumping on top of the pile so it’s things like that that I remember.  There was a time, many times, they’d pass me up the stands and the Ibis would get passed up the student section.  They would start chanting “we want the bird, we want the bird.”  You know and I’d egg them on a little bit.  I’d charge like I was going in and then I’d stop.  And a few times we actually did it. 
I just remember one time when they passed me up and it was a blast because I’d go up and the crowd would be cheering, going nuts. It was slow going up because everyone would have to like lift and push but going down it was fast and I came down one time and it was like one whole fraternity decided to go and get something to drink and I’m flying down and literally slammed right into the seats.  They had moved!  There was a gap and I had bruises all on my back although it wasn’t a pleasant memory but being passed up really was a lot of fun and that was a way to connect with the students because it was there moment to shine.  Usually we were up by 30 points at that point so it was like alright let’s have some fun and do something other than watching football.
pC: Did you keep your identity?  Did people know John Routh was the Ibis?
JR: Well my name got out because I was here for so long but I don’t think there was ever a photo of me or anything.  And I’d try to sneak in and sneak out.  I’d look like the equipment manager when I was walking in.  Even in baseball, Mark Light is not that big of a ball park so I’d get in early enough to put my stuff away and then I’d kind of just walk around and that was the fun thing too because sometimes I would walk around get a soda and I’d hear someone say did you hear what the Maniac did last night, so the anonymity of it was kind of fun.
pC: The costume…I’ve seen those old papier-mâché heads were you in one?
JR: They had a big big head in ‘83.  I wore it one time at the spring game, that was when we were talking about me doing it [the Ibis] for the next year, and I said this thing [the head] is not workable.  I mean the head was so big, the hands were big, the feet were big.  The guy that did it was pretty athletic and did a good job during the ‘82 and ‘83 seasons but I wanted to do more of a comedy thing and be able to just go crazy so the company that did the Maniac redesigned the Ibis to what it is today and I helped in the design. I took some of the things about the Cocky costumes that I liked and some of the things about the Maniac that I liked and combined these two and that’s how we went from having a mouth like this (motioning hands real big) to having a beak so that’s when we redesigned it for the ‘84 season.  But that costume was a monster to work in.  The head was so big and hands were monstrous and the Ibis is a small bird so we brought it down to size.
pC: Talk about the feeling of putting on the costume.
JR: Usually before the games I’d be kind of nervous and that was one thing I always said that if I wasn’t nervous it might be time to give it up.  Even though I’d done it hundreds of times it’s kind of like an actor getting on stage, there is somebody there who’s never seen you perform before so you want to do your best.  A quote I heard from Joe DiMaggio was once he dove for a ball late in the season when they weren’t going to make the playoffs and they were winning 10 to 1 and they asked him why did you do that? He said: “well there may be one kid in the stands that’s never seen me perform so I wanted to give him my best.”  So I’d get kind of nervous before games by sitting in the football locker room, baseball is more laidback.  And the Maniac was kind of a loser you know, go play with the girls and the girl would always leave with another guy and I’d do the routines to where the Maniac would be the fall guy whereas the Ibis was tough and like a football team always had to win and the costume fit differently.  The Ibis has a chest patch so once you put that on it really started to get you pumped up a little bit and I was in the locker room where before the game it was deathly quiet.  The guys are just sitting there concentrating and so I’d get pumped up too.  It really was a neat thing. 
I wish I could remember more stories of what really happened in the locker room.  I was doing my thing and there were guys, like you see in the movies, hitting each other in the chest.  It was really the quietness that got you pumped up.  And I’ve always said over the years, the games that we played the worst were the games where the guys were walking into the locker room yelling “hey were gonna kick some butt”  the games that we really dominated, particularly games against Oklahoma, Notre Dame, Nebraska, Florida State, were the games where they were so intense that it was quiet before the game.  They had the intensity of, this is the game and we have to do it.  When you put on the Ibis costume, and you’re standing in front of these guys, you know it’s like going to war, I mean granted we know nobody is going get killed out there but there’s a feeling of these are my guys and I’m behind them and they’re behind me and even on the sidelines sometimes guys would come over when they would score a touchdown and I’d be in the end zone they’d hug me and high five me just as much as they would the other players which was kind of neat because they really accepted me as one of their own.
pC: Talk a little about he costume itself.
JR: The whole costume weighs 15 pounds it’s mostly the feet.   It’s really not that heavy.  It would be hot in any costume.  Billy the Marlin was a hard head and absolutely no air came in unless I was turned into a 30 mile an hour wind, then maybe.  But the Ibis was a relatively airy costume through the eyes and the mouth and some heat would go out through the top.  You know on a Saturday afternoon if it’s 85 degrees outside, you could assume it would be 110 degrees in the costume.
pC: You had to be relatively fit to stand that, right?
JR: Yeah I was back then.  Not now! [Laughter] 
pC: Did you train?        
JR: No, I did so many appearances, just running around in the costume was enough. The last time we played the Gators in a regular season in ‘87 it was September 6 about 92 degrees here, a 12 o’clock game.  I did some stuff before the game and normally I eat before but it was a big game and I was out on the field and worked the game and by the end of the third quarter I actually stopped sweating. It was the beginning of a heatstroke and they actually called the paramedics and hooked me up to an IV and then I went out and finished the game.  That was actually the game that I had and inflatable alligator and I strung it up on the goal post in the open end zone and by the end of the game the police came with their guard dogs and I actually threw the gator on the goal post and it was swinging and I was really close to getting the flag but there were like 30 seconds left and the play was at the other end so they didn’t see it but one of the police dogs actually got away and jumped at the gator! I was turned toward the student section and I hear this POP and I look back and the dog had the gator in his mouth! So, I went home and actually spent three days in bed with 104 degree fever.  I actually had a heat stroke.  I weighed myself and I had actually lost 17 lbs. So I started the game at like 160 and when I got home I was at 143.  I’d lose anywhere from 5 to 10 lbs per game but it was water weight.  Within a few days I’d gain it back.  I’d start the season at 155 lbs.  During football I’d lose about 10 lbs but during baseball I could lose up to 20 lbs in a season just because there were more games.
Back then we had five or six baseball games a week.  Back then, Tuesday, Wednesday and occasionally a Thursday we had a game and then Friday, Saturday and Sunday.  The first year I was down here we played 65 home games.  We’d go from January 28th and play just about every day.  I’d lose 20 lbs easily during the season.
pC: Do you talk to the current Ibis?  Do you help pick them?
JR: I’ve spoken to a couple of the guys. I really don’t help in the selection or anything.  They do that all through campus but over the years I’ve spoken to some.  They’ve got it down pretty good.  These guys have seen other mascots performing over the years and know there’s a lot more you can do instead of just being a Disney mascot.  And these guys do a good job.  I’m very proud of both the Ibis and the Maniac and how they get out and entertain.  And it’s not easy.  I’d have friends who’d say you have the easiest job in the world and I would tell them fine why don’t you come over and put up the costume and they’d do my skit for about 3 minutes and then would ask “alright now what do I do?”  And I would say “Hah!”  It’s not that easy now is it? I’d really try to get into the character.  I’d truly think I’m Sebastian the Ibis and that’s one of the things that these kids seem to do.  You’ve got to be the character because it’s with the character you can get away with a lot more.  And one good thing is that they’ve kept the traditions.  The Ibis has always done funny things he’s always been entertaining.
pC: You mentioned the beak, I’ve always wondered why you twist the beak?
JR: That was more for TV.  I always saw every other mascot say were #1 even though they were number four or seven so I was just trying to think of something different.  Occasionally I would just put the beak over the camera and it was just one of those things that you use the costume in any way you can.  It’s something that you always know; that’s the Ibis when you see that, so it was more that I was just using the costume however I could.  It was just like I’d do a little a #1 spin around wave to the camera and then pull the beak kind of like saying alright I’m outta here.
pC: Did you ever just randomly go out to the Grove at night in the costume?
JR: Actually in the late 80s I had a Go ‘Canes van.  Oakland Toyota had donated it, it had go ‘Canes along the side and it had the U.  It was a great Toyota van.  So everyone knew where I was!  And people would go up and ask if that was Vinny Testaverde and I’d be like no, no it’s just me, but occasionally I’d just pop the head on and drive down US-1, but if I was going to do a birthday party I’d just pull in with the costume on.  It was more just driving around campus doing stuff.   On some days I’d put on the costume and just go over and hang out by the pool and hang out with the girls at the pool.  If I had a little extra time I’d do that.  And you know it was more about trying to promote the character.  You only saw the character at the games so this was a way of making the character more popular because if it’s something you see all the time [then the awareness rises]. That’s something I like about Donna Shalala, whenever she makes appearances she wants the Ibis there.  And that’s one thing I’m very pleased with about South Carolina that’s something they’ve done with Cocky.  When you see those mascots you know they are from South Carolina and the Ibis is from Miami.  That’s their identity and they identify it with the school. 
Part IV: John’s talks about the Ibis’ pipe, being hit by a bullet in New Orleans, Randy Shannon and the current state of the program and much more! Click here to read Parts I & II.

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Belichick Wishing He Took Beason?

Looking back, does Bill Belichick regret taking Brandon Meriweather over Jon Beason when he had the opportunity to do so in the first round of that 2007 draft?
A: I thought the Patriots would have selected Beason when he was available to them in the first round (24th overall), as he filled a need and seemed to have all the intangibles the team would want at the hard-to-fill position in their system. In the end, I think the team didn't pick him because his testing numbers (e.g. 40-yard dash) weren't great and there were some questions of how he'd hold up physically in a 3-4 defense. If they could do it over again, knowing what they know now, I'd be surprised if the Patriots (and as many as 15-18 other teams) passed Beason (25th overall) over. I was recently watching a replay of a Panthers game on NFL Network and Beason was consistently around the ball. Some of the tackles did come downfield as it was common to see him drop 15 yards into pass coverage on one snap, and then be playing more downhill on the next. Overall, Beason is probably a better fit for Carolina's 4-3 alignment, but I still thought he could have fit here -- his instincts are excellent. Meriweather could still have a nice career, but to me, Beason has been the better player to this point.

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Naples High grad Adkins soaks up rookie symposium

PALM BEACH GARDENS — Even back in high school when he suited up for the Naples High Golden Eagles and head football coach Bill Kramer, Spencer Adkins looked more mature and wiser than most of the other players on the field. So it was no surprise to see him get mistaken for a veteran among the rest of the rookies on Tuesday at the NFL Rookie Symposium being held at PGA National Resort & Spa.

Adkins, 22, took to the makeshift flag football fields set up on the driving range in the second session of the youth football clinic sporting a goatee beard minus the mustache and a pair of glasses. He was not supposed to be the only Collier County athlete in attendance, but Kansas City Chiefs rookie tight end and Gulf Coast graduate Jake O’Connell was unable to make trip because he is rehabbing an undisclosed injury.

Click here to read the rest of the story at naplesnews.com

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Braun's big night gives Burns, Crew win

MILWAUKEE -- It took him 48 appearances for four Major League teams in three seasons, but Mike Burns finally has a win on his record.

Burns pitched 6 2/3 strong innings for his first Major League victory, and Ryan Braun drove in four runs and scored another as the Brewers doubled up Johan Santana and the Mets, 6-3, on Tuesday night at Miller Park.

He needed help and it came mostly from Braun, who led the Brewers back from an early 2-0 deficit. Braun hit an RBI single in the third inning, then cleared the bases with a three-run double in the fourth and finished the trip around the bases thanks to a throwing error charged to Santana (9-6).

Corey Hart and Braun had three hits apiece, and the top four hitters in the lineup combined to go 9-for-17 with five runs scored and five RBIs.

"We were able to get some big hits," Braun said. "Sometimes when you face a great pitcher like that, you need a break or two."

The Brewers (42-35) got a couple of breaks in the decisive fourth inning. The first came with one out when Santana uncharacteristically walked Burns on four pitches. Hart followed with a fly ball to center field that should have been the second out, but Mets outfielder Fernando Martinez slipped on a loose piece of turf and the baseball fell for a lucky double.

J.J. Hardy followed with another walk that loaded the bases for Braun, who had lined an RBI single in the third inning. This time, he reached out for a changeup and hooked a double to left field for three more RBIs. Braun broke for third on the throw home, where the ball got away from catcher Omir Santos, and Santana, who was backing up the play, threw wide of third base. The error allowed Braun to trot home for a 5-2 Brewers lead.

After the inning, Santana was noticeably upset in the dugout following the sloppy play.

"It wasn't about frustration, it was more about letting everybody know we needed to play better baseball," Santana said. "If we don't play better baseball, we're not going to win. If we don't make routine plays, if we don't execute it the way it's supposed to be executed, if we don't pitch the right pitch, we're not going to win."

"Their guy falling down, the error, all of those things came back to haunt them," Braun said. "Johan is not going to make too many mistakes. He's not going to give up too many runs, so you have to take advantage of every mistake that they make."

Santana struck out Braun to end the sixth inning, but Braun again got the upper hand. Including three hits on Tuesday, Braun is an impressive 7-for-13 against Santana in his career.

"It's nearly impossible. I doubt there are too many guys who have had any type of prolonged success against him," Braun said. "You just go out there and battle, you compete every pitch, and that's what we did today. We were able to get some big hits."

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Chris Perez just wants opportunity to work

CLEVELAND — Chris Perez is looking for work, he came to the right place.

Perez, acquired from the Cardinals for Mark DeRosa over the weekend, was in uniform for his new team Monday. The Indians are searching for any kind of help for their ragged bullpen, and the hard-throwing Perez is expected to be a late-inning contributor at some point.

The right-hander, who turns 24 on Wednesday, just will be happy to contribute in any way he can.

“The last month, basically since they’ve been trying to trade me, (the Cardinals) haven’t been throwing me,” said Perez, who is 1-1 with a save and a 4.18 ERA in 29 appearances. “I’ve been throwing every five, six days. For me, that’s a tough adjustment. I need to throw a lot to stay consistent with my slider.”

That slider, along with a mid to upper 90s fastball, is strikeout material for Perez, who’s whiffed 30 batters in 232⁄3 innings. Indians Manager Eric Wedge plans to ease in Perez initially before turning to him for late-inning work.

“He’s got a bright future, so we want to put him in the best position to succeed,” he said.

In the Tribe’s ever-changing bullpen — which added Jose Veras last week, saw Jensen Lewis jettisoned to the minors Saturday, and awaits Rafael Betancourt’s return from injury and Rafael Perez’s return to form — Chris Perez could quickly assume the set-up role.

At some point in his career, he wants to be a closer.

“That’s my ultimate dream,” he said. “If it’s this year, next year, a couple years down the road, that’s my goal. That’s what keeps me working hard, to get that job somewhere.

“We have a great closer here in Kerry Wood. I went up against him last year with Chicago. He’s a great competitor and he’s got good stuff. By no means am I here to take his job. I’m here to fit in and try to help him.”

As for leaving a first-place team for a last-place team, he said, “That’s part of the game. If I come over here and get more opportunities to throw and help this team turn it around and win, I’m all for it.”

While many view the DeRosa trade as the Indians acknowledging that 2009 is a hopeless cause, Wedge differs.

“You got to trade somebody good to get somebody good,” he said. “We got someone we feel like can help us down there. We’re trying to put the pieces together that will help us solidify the bullpen. We’ve got to figure it out. ... When you’re in a position to win games, you’ve got to win those games. That’s your bullpen.”

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Alex Cora's turn in the New York Mets leadoff shuffle

MILWAUKEE -- Manager Jerry Manuel continued to tinker with the Mets' lineup Tuesday, as he desperately seeks to get more production out of the team's inept offense.

Shortstop Alex Cora will lead off against the Brewers, Fernando Tatis will bat second and start at second base and Nick Evans will start at first base and bat sixth.

Manuel put Argenis Reyes in the leadoff spot Monday, but he was unlikely to be back there Tuesday after going 0 for 5 and seeing only 12 pitches. Daniel Murphy and Luis Castillo have also led off in recent games.

Here is the full Mets lineup:
Cora, ss Tatis, 2b Wright, 3b Sheffield, lf Church, rf Evans, 1b Martinez, cf Santos, c Santana, sp

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Perez has awful debut since being acquired in DeRosa trade

CLEVELAND --  Saturday night, the Cleveland Indians traded Mark DeRosa to the St. Louis Cardinals for RHP Chris Perez and a player to be named later.

Perez' had a rocky debut Monday night against the Chicago White Sox when he gave up four runs in the top of the ninth and hit two batters.  Perez missed his chance to cover first base in another play.

Carl Pavano, who started the game, fell to 6-7.

It was a wild 7th inning when the Indians could not score with the bases loaded and Manager Eric Wedge was ejected after arguing a call with third base umpire Tom Hallion.  Hallion made one call on a slow roller hit by Garko up the first base line and then reversed the call.  This was Wedge's 3rd ejection of the year.

Gavin Floyd shut out Cleveland on five singles over 7 and 2/3 innings.  The Chicago White Sox climbed back to .500 as 15,645 fans saw the Tribe lose 6-3 to Chicago Monday night.

The Indians have lost 11 out of their last 13 games.

The Indians put 3 runs on the board in the bottom of the 9th with homeruns by Choo (10) and Garko (8) but ran out of time and fell short.

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Tracking proCanes - John Routh - Part II

Part II: John talks about what it was like to be Billy the Marlin, how the C-A-N-E-S CANES chant started, the differences between Coach Johnson and Coach Erickson and much more! Click here to read Part I

pC: How was it being Billy?
JR: It was more of a job. Being the Ibis and being the Maniac , it was fun! I had a little scooter, after I moved off campus. I moved off to Miller Drive and a lot of times I just put the costume on and took a ride out to campus and drove around in the scooter, I mean it was really fun, it really was great. I can’t even call it a job. And that was my attitude when I was in costume: if I was having fun, I figured everyone around me was having fun. So if I were in costume now, I’d probably be sitting here banging my head on this pole because I know people would laugh saying “Look he’s banging his head on the pole!” You know, so just doing crazy stuff, and like I said there were no rules. So now the ACC has rules for mascots and UM has certain things they want him to do and things he can’t do. But there were really no rules so I made up my own rules. I mean it was really a blast.

pC: So how long did Billy the Marlin last?
JR: I did 10 years with them ending in 2002.

pC: You didn’t do Burnie or anything else?
JR: No, I did do Freddy the Flamingo at the Hialeah race track. That was a little side job.

pC: So Billy wasn’t as fun? I guess the crowds there aren’t as big?
JR: Well the first year, until the strike of ‘94 we averaged about 40,000fans. When you look back on it, people blame Huizenga for dismantling the team in ‘97 but it was really the strike of ‘94, it really hurt baseball here because when they came back in ‘95-‘96 we were averaging 10,000 fans going from the 40,00 [fans] before. And even during the ‘97 season and even when Wayne [Huizenga] spent all this money to buy the team we were averaging 17-18k and we were in the wild card hunt and fighting Atlanta for the lead for most of the year. Then in September, here we have Alex Fernandez, a hometown boy, pitched on Friday night and Livan Hernandez, the Cuban defect, pitched on Saturday night. We had 17k on Friday night and 18k on Saturday night, and this was in early September in the middle of playoffs. I really think the strike hurt things more than Huizenga’s dismantling but he gets the blame for it. Being Billy was more of a job because we had the corporate sponsors, Major League Baseball had established the rules that mascots could only be on the field once per game so I’d do pre-game stuff, take the first inning off, because I’d been out for a half hour, do the corporate suites or whatever I had to do 2nd and 3rd innings, do my routine in the 5th inning, hit the stands in the 6th, take me out to the ball game in the 7th, hit another suite, it was very structured. And when the team was out of town, it was appearances at banks and other places. And I wasn’t able to travel and do the summer jobs like I wanted or I had done. It definitely became more of a corporate thing. I’d do 300 appearances outside of the games. Some were paid appearances, birthday parties and a few things, but the majority of it was corporate things which were part of the job. It was still fun to be in costume but it wasn’t as fun as doing the college games.

pC: There were stories in the papers about it how your time as Billy ended. It didn’t end in a good way?
JR: When John Henry bought the team, they were trying to get a stadium. He gave me a three-year contract, nice pay raise and the plan was that they were going send me to rotary breakfasts and stuff like that. I would jump from 300 to 600 appearances a year. One thing I was very proud of, is they did a community survey and Billy the Marlin had a positive rating of 98.7%. But my thought was who were those 1.3% because I want to go talk to them and I want to entertain them and change their mind. So they knew that getting me out in the public was going to be good but then on opening day, there was some tax on cruise lines, that Governor Bush nixed, and here I just signed some big contract and the whole plan went caput because of the Governor’s decision [cut the stadium funding] which was good for me because I was getting paid but didn’t have to do the work. But when the current ownership came in it was my last year under contract and even though I offered to take 50% pay cut and hand over any outside revenues because I kind of wanted to go out on my own terms, they didn’t want to go for it. It made the papers because I contacted an attorney and they let it leak to the press that I was getting ready to sue them, but I wasn’t. I went to the attorney asking what I could do. And I also had found out that John Henry’s part of the sale made them agree that they would pay one month severance for every year that a person was there. Well I was there for ten years but they didn’t offer me any severance because they say my contract had ended. I possibly could have sued them and I might have gotten maybe three to four months severance but I would have lost it paying attorney’s fees. So it wasn’t a pretty ending because I would have liked to have gone out on my own terms. That made me realize that it was a business.

pC: Were you the one that started C-A-N-E-S canes? How did that come about?
JR: Yeah, well I started doing it at baseball games when a player would hit a home run. I probably started doing it within the first year or two. Actually when I was at South Carolina at the baseball games I would spell out “Cocks,” so being the brilliant guy that I was, I thought C-O-C-K-S, C-A-N-E-S, that’s five letters!! So that’s kind of how I had done it, in South Carolina and I brought it down here. The baseball fans did it, and in football it was kind of hard to start. I would do it in the closed end zone and I’d get some response and over the years it would build up, but the first time I did it in the middle of the field it was the Notre Dame game, in ‘89. One versus two. The place [Orange Bowl] was packed. So, the electricity in the stadium was amazing that night. My whole family came down for the game. And my dad’s been to all sorts of sporting events for 50 years and he said he could feel his hair standing up. It was an amazing scene. It was the end of half time and it was almost like people didn’t leave their seats at half time. The band played because Notre Dame didn’t bring their band down. So when the Miami band finished there was still six or seven minutes on the clock and so I just walked out in the middle of the field and thought alright what am I gonna do? So I just started with the hands and I could hear it getting louder and louder and louder and I was kind of milking it and really spinning around and getting everyone in the stadium and it gives me goose bumps to think about it.

pC: It gives me goose bumps just hearing it!
JR: When I went into it, I kind of did like a little hop before and it was like the anticipation I could just hear the crowd roaring and the CANES! I remember my dad videotaped it and I could remember just thinking YES! Finally I realized that this is something big and so I did it a couple more times and it just got louder and louder and I realized okay we’ve got something here it’s not just going to be in the corner anymore it’s going be middle of the field. And even now when I hear the OOOOHHHH it gives me chills because it’s something that I started and that’s the legacy and it’s going to be a cheer that 50 years from now Miami will still do. It’s a great feeling.

pC: I don’t think many people know that you started it.
JR: Well, in truth, I was able to do it year after year after year. You know that’s one of the things that when they have student mascots, unless they have established some traditions, the character changes every year. And so, that’s one of the things that I’m really proud because you know we kept that going.

pC: So you started under Jimmy and you were there with Ericson as well. Was there a difference between the two? First talk about how they were as coaches and how they treated you and then maybe talk about it on a global scale, how did the program change?
JR: I mean obviously you could tell that both of them loved doing what they were doing. They both treated me extremely well and I think a lot of it was because we were winning. It was like why change things if it’s working.

pC: So did you see a difference when Erickson came in? Like Leon Searcy said, “Erickson was given keys to a Porsche and basically told not to wreck it.” Did you see that? And then toward the end of Erickson’s tenure we started sliding, did you see a change in the program?
JR: Jimmy was more of a disciplinarian than Erickson and that might have been more of a philosophical difference that Jimmy wanted to really kind of control every aspect of the program and Dennis looked at it more like these guys are adults, in more of a professional manner instead of looking at these guys as kids. That’s one thing that bugs me about the thug UM image and all that. These were great kids. They may have danced on the field and we would tell you we were gonna kick your ass and then we’d go out and kick your ass and dance while we were doing it, but these were good guys, these were not criminals, these were very great kids. They were very flamboyant, we were winning. And Jimmy to some extent liked all that and Dennis came in and said why change it if it works. If that’s what the players want to do then let’s let them do it. So, there was a difference in maybe the attitude that Jimmy was a little more controlling but to this day I didn’t really see the any thug stuff and that stuff has always bugged me. It’s one of those things. My family came down to the game in ‘87, and the image was already starting to get there and South Carolina played Miami and there was a fight that happened during the game. And so we get back to the hotel and even my family was like you guys are a bunch of thugs and then when we watched the replay of the game it was a South Carolina player that started the fight and it was a South Carolina player that kicked one our guys who was on the ground. And so I just said: “if we are thugs then they’re thugs everywhere!” You know these are kids. There are things that are going happen on the field. They’re kids in a very intense whimsical situation. You can’t expect everyone to be just calm, cool, and collected and not blow a gasket occasionally, especially if being kicked in the head.

pC: You said something before about the ACC having all those rules for mascots, what are the rules?
JR: I don’t know the actual rules but I know if a referee yells at you to get off the field you know you’ve done something wrong. I don’t think they’re allowed to do as much stuff on the field anymore but I don’t know if there’s a specific rule. You know the one time the Ibis wnet out onto the field in the Sugar Bowl, he got a penalty. They know that they can’t just go out and do whatever the hell they want, they have to be careful and make sure they don’t do anything to upset them.

pC: Another image I have is when you came out in with little sooner schooner.
JR: I still have that. That will probably end up in the hall of fame at some point.

pC: It was on fire, right?
JR: Yeah. What I did was I went to Toys ‘R Us and I bought a little wagon and I got three coat hangers and cut off a pillow case and made a top to it and I even put on the handle a horse’s head head from a stick. And on the bottom I put tin foil with a bunch of rags and soaked them with some lighter fluid. I was hoping to do it earlier in the game but we got up 20 to 7 and they scored late making it 20-14 so I had it hidden under the Orange Bowl. So we punted them inside their ten with a minute to go. They still had a chance to win the game and they were down on the open end and I stayed down on the closed end because I wanted to do this because I spent all this time making the thing. So this was right at the end of the game and Oklahoma fumbled inside the 10, we had the ball with 38 seconds left and had to just kneel down once. And so that’s when I lit it and came out pulling it and I had my number 1 jersey on and I was pulling the sooner and a friend of mine who was in the endzone said you could see it glowing and suddenly it caught fire on the edge and like in the cartoons the whole thing burned up and little pieces started dropping. As I ‘m walking across the field I’m kind of in the closed endzone just walking across to the 15 yard line and one of the players told me he was standing there at the other end and one of the referees started to the throw a flag and the other referee just came over and told him just forget it the game is over. I’ve got a photo it’s in the Hall of Fame.

You know when I’m thinking up these things, I’m not thinking this is something people are going remember 20 years later but it’s kind of neat that those things are remembered and it’s kind of the allure of Hurricane football. People come up to me and remember the Houston game when we played [David] Klinger and I dressed up as the Grim Reaper and again it wasn’t something that I was really consciously thinking this is something big. I think I had seen a movie or something and I think it would be kind of cool to see the Ibis come out and point the finger and two Heisman contenders and so it fit that we killed his chances and so when I was doing it, I was just doing it to have fun but in hindsight it’s pretty neat that people remember all these years later.

pC: How did you think of these things? Was it just like random things that would pop in your head?
JR: I’d look at the opponent first and think of what would be appropriate. I think one time we played the Gators and I dressed up as the Crocodile Hunter guy and I remember coming out like in a safari hat and acting like I was going to capture a gator. Things like that when you think of something that’s appropriate for the team. When we played Texas in the Cotton Bowl I came out in a full cowboy outfit with a branding iron. Maybe in my warped mind I would come up with these ideas. I wanted to be very visual about it. I was a journalism major at South Carolina. I took photography classes and different things so I was always wanted to be visual in things that I did. Like when Vinny Testaverde was up for the Heisman the last game of the year he got hurt in the little scooter accident, so I had planned this: I had a complete Heisman outfit made. I got a beach ball and spray painted it gold so it would fit over the top of the head. I had an old pair of pants Shorty gave me that I spray painted gold, I got a jersey spray painted gold. We had worked it out where we had this little tractor at the stadium and so I was going to stand in the back, I even had the football painted gold, and most people think the pose is with the leg up but it’s this leg this way (demonstrating the Heisman pose) it’s actually a really difficult pose to hold and so I’m standing in the scooter riding around and so I was thinking the whole way how visual it was going be and ESPN showed that thing for weeks particularly after Vinny won the Heisman. So I always wanted to do things that were visual. It may not be the funniest thing but people will say “hey look the Ibis is dressed as the Heisman trophy!”

Come back tomorrow and read Part III of our interview with John Routh and see what he talks about his most memorable experiences, what it feels like to put on the Ibis costume and much more!
Click here to read Part I

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Darnell Jenkins Impressing Coaches

Darnell Jenkins has reportedly impressed the coaches with his work ethic and in the process has become a much better player than last year, when he was cut before the season started. This could be even more bad news for Jacoby Jones. If Brice McClain shows any burst and creativity at all in the return game, Jenkin's improvement could be the final blow to Jones' chances of sticking with the team. Even if he has dedicated himself to working hard, it won't get him anywhere unless he improves as a receiver, which we've heard little of (granted, it's still early). It will be hard for Jones to make the opening roster.

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Bernie Kosar In Weston, Florida, Estate of the Day

Like quarterback Dan Marino, former NFL quarterback Bernie Kosar has a home in Weston, Florida for sale. But Kosar's situation is a bit more urgent. Kosar has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection with his top 20 debts clicking in at $19.5 million including around $1.5 million to his former team the Cleveland Browns. Small wonder then that his Florida home is up for sale. Kosar has not paid the property taxes on the home for the last couple of years.

Kosar's home in Weston is a 9,900 square-foot mansion on the lake which has a large backyard area with a summer kitchen, pool, spa and cabanas. It is located in the same community, Windmill Ranch Estates, that Marino lives in and the home has a similar Florida Mediterranean style. This ample residence includes an office/library, a kitchen and a separate butler's kitchen and seven bedrooms. This home is listed at $3.5 million.

Kosar's financial woes seem to stem from a number of factors including Florida's depressed real estate market and some bad investing advice. His top creditor is Florida Bank which is owed $9.7 million in real estate development foreclosures. He also owed KeyBank $3.2 million for loan guarantees and a personal line of credit and owes his ex-wife Babette Kosar $3 million from the couple's divorce settlement. Like many ex-football players, he was also in the restaurant business. His Bernie's Steakhouse, a Miami-area restaurant closed last year. Kosar is said to be optimistic about his ability to get out from under his debt and he has many supporters in Cleveland and elsewhere cheering him on.


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Perez activated, available out of 'pen

CLEVELAND -- Newly acquired right-handed reliever Chris Perez was activated by the Indians on Monday and was available to pitch out of the bullpen for the series opener against the White Sox.

To make room for Perez on the active roster, the Indians optioned infielder Josh Barfield back to Triple-A Columbus.

Perez, who will wear No. 54 with the Tribe, was acquired, along with a player to be named later, Saturday night in the trade that sent Mark DeRosa to the Cards. Perez had logged 29 appearances in the St. Louis 'pen, going 1-1 with a save and a 4.18 ERA, striking out 30 and walking 15 in 23 2/3 innings.

Barfield began the season on the active roster, but this is the third time he's been optioned out. In limited opportunities this year, he's hit .400 (8-for-20).

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Braun, Fielder carrying offense

Despite the Brewers' well-documented offensive struggles this season, there has been one bright spot.
OK, make that two bright spots.

Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder have been downright nasty to opposing pitchers this season, combining for a combined .312 batting average with 35 home runs and 126 RBI. In addition, they've scored 99 runs and walked 88 times.

If only they had some help.

Considering the lack of consistent production from the rest of the lineup for most of the year, it's almost hard to believe that the Brewers are tied for first place in the National League Central Division. Before he was lost for the year with a wrist injury, Rickie Weeks was putting up nice numbers (.272, 9 HR, 24 RBI) but after that, it hasn't been pretty.

Corey Hart has been up and down all season and Mike Cameron started off hot, but has come back to earth in recent weeks while fighting through through some extended slumps.

There have been some minor signs of life though lately. Craig Counsell was effective off the bench as a pinch-hitter and as an occasional starter and Casey McGehee has come on strong of late, batting .336 with four homers and 17 RBI.

And now J.J. Hardy, snakebitten as much as anything else this year, is starting to finally see a little bit of success. He's still batting just .220 on the year, but is hitting .286 in his last 11 games after going hitless in four trips Sunday.

Many times, manager Ken Macha noted Hardy was smacking balls right at infielders or outfielders, just a couple of inches between posting numbers more like he did last year, when he was named to the National League All-Star team.

His current hot streak came after he snapped a bitter 0-for-30 run with a base hit in Cleveland on June 15 and is starting to feel some confidence and produce some much-needed offense.

Still, if the Brewers hope to start making some hay in the division, and chase their second consecutive postseason appearance, they're going to need to find was to start providing some support for the big guns batting third and fourth in the lineup.

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Tracking proCanes -John Routh - Part I

proCanes.com is continuing our “Tracking proCanes” feature with former University of Miami Ibis and Maniac, John Routh. John performed as Sebastian the Ibis and the Miami Maniac from 1984 – 1992 and 1983 – 1993 respectively. John played an integral part in establishing the aura and championship mentality of both Hurricane Football and Baseball and was the mastermind in developing and creating both the Ibis and Maniac characters into what they are today. His on-field antics and skits are remembered by not only Hurricane fans, but fans across the nation and were often copied but never topped. John is still heavily involved with University as he is on the Executive Committee of the UM Sports Hall of Fame and can be found at most Hurricane sporting events, you just need to know who to look for now that he isn’t in costume. Read Part I of our four-part series with John Routh below.

Part I:

proCanes.com: So, what are you up to now?
John Routh: I’m on the Executive Committee of the UM Sports Hall of Fame. I am one of 20 members. I do a lot of work for that and I sell sports merchandise on eBay. As a matter of fact this morning I sold a Master’s Golf tournament flag for $700. I bought it for $20 about ten years ago. I’m a pack rat so I’ve got a lot of UM and Marlins memorabilia, I’ve got stuff everywhere. I haven’t even touched the good stuff yet.

pC: Does it hurt to part with the memorabilia?
JR: Well I haven’t parted with the good ones yet. But with the flag, when I found out what it was worth I was like damn.

pC: So how did you end up at UM in the early 80’s?
JR: I grew up in Columbus South Carolina, graduated from the University of South Carolina and my last two years there I was “Cocky” the Gamecock. So it was the 1981 season when the director of the NCAA Championships Jerry Miles came to our baseball regional and saw me perform. He said if South Carolina made the regional to bring me out there. So I went out and worked just the four Carolina games in ’81, of course Miami was there and I got to meet coach Fraser. In ‘82 Miami came up and played South Carolina in Columbia for a four game series in early April. So I worked the crowd that game and I actually got Miami involved in one of the skits. Coach Fraser let us do this John Wayne routine where I tossed a hand grenade in the dugout and all the Miami guys went flying out and the crowd went really nuts. So, they [Fraser] arranged it for me to come down in May of ‘82 before I actually graduated and perform at the Florida State series as the Maniac. They basically created the Maniac after seeing me work. You know coach Fraser’s attitude was South Carolina has a mascot, why can’t we? And at that time the Athletic Department and Baseball Office were kind of all on their own so they did they’re own thing. People asked why did you want your own mascot, but Fraser wanted his own mascot and actually a funny story a couple of years later once I was down here in ’83, they wanted to work it out for me to do football also. The quote I heard when they approached Schnellenberger about it was that he said I was a baseball guy and I was not worth being his mascot. Because of the two egos of the coaches and the programs being separate that is how the Maniac came into being.

pC: You didn’t create the Maniac?
JR: There was a booster, Jeff Warner, who helped Fraser raise the money and he designed the costume after the Philly Phanatic. After ‘82 I think the first guy that did it was a former player that was getting ready to go to the minor leagues, and then they had a staff member who supposedly all he did was hug women in the stands. He did one game and that was it from all the complaints they got. There was also a female student that did it. In the yearbook there’s a picture of me with her. When I came down that weekend to do the Florida State series I got a photo with her because I’ve seen it in one of the old IBIS Yearbooks.

Basically, Fraser wanted to hire me so I came down in ‘83 and did baseball the first year and I had to work it out to do football but it didn’t work. So I came back in spring of ‘84 to do baseball again and by that time Schnellenberger left so we worked it out and by that time my first game as the Ibis was also Jimmy Johnson’s first game.

Another funny story! The first game was the Kickoff Classic in New Jersey and of course for Johnson it was his first game so he’s new to the thing too. So I went to “Shorty” the equipment manager and said do you mind if I dress in the locker room? I’m sitting there putting on the orange tights and Jimmy Johnson walks by and says: “who are you?” and I say “hey coach I’m John Routh, I’m your mascot” and he goes “do they always dress in the locker room?” and I quickly said “yes sir, that’s Miami’s tradition!” So, the tradition for the next ten years was that I dressed in the locker room. Quick thinking helped me get my dressing room which really helped me in the future because it helped make the Ibis bigger because I got to personally know the guys [football players]. They knew me personally, I traveled with the team, I dressed in the locker room.

pC: So you didn’t dress with the cheerleaders because that’s more of the tradition now?
JR: Right. Several years later in one of the games I kind of got dehydrated, so I’m cramping up in the bathroom floor and Craig Erickson is grabbing my legs and Steve Walsh had my arms trying to stretch me. They changed right outside the bathroom door so you know I got to be friends with them, and hear what they say, like “you saw what the Ibis did?” and I would hear that, so that really helped to build up the image.

pC: I’ve gotten a feeling that from just talking to older players, if I say Sebastian they automatically say John Routh, or they describe his personality as crazy. It seems like they knew the Ibis a lot better than players today. Plus I think you had a lot more liberty to do things back then.
JR: Oh definitely. I think mascots really came into their own being. You know mascots have been around for years, but with ESPN they made it more popular and there really weren’t any rules and you could get away with anything. I knew most of the referees and they knew I was out there to have fun and I was a professional not just some student.

pC: So it was a full-time paying job?
JR: Right, I was the only paid college mascot in the country. That’s what Fraser envisioned. I would work down here for a few years and then hook up with a major or minor league time but I was having such a good time and we were winning in football and baseball. It was one of those things that I thought would be 6 months to a year. It was one of the most unbelievable ten year periods in history.

I did baseball from ’83 to ‘93 and football from ’84 to ‘92. And actually that last year of doing baseball I had already gotten the Florida Marlins job so I worked that last year doing both games.

pC: So one story I remember is you sneaking a fire extinguisher into the 1991 National Championship Orange Bowl Game against Nebraska when the University was apparently told not to enter the game with the smoke.
JR: This was the Orange Bowl game and they requested that since Nebraska was technically the home team that we don’t do the smoke and I looked at it as it’s my job as the mascot to uphold tradition and so I actually went down to a place in town called Miami Fire Equipment and I told the guy I need to get a fire extinguisher that throws a lot of CO2 and they gave it to me and let me use it because I told them what I was going to do. He said” “yeah I’ll help you but we’ve got to keep it quiet.”

So what I did was I went to the stadium early because I knew all security in the stadium and the team had already set up all their equipment in their locker room so I had a big baseball equipment bag and I always walked in with props and stuff that I’d use during the games so the security guards didn’t look at it as any different. I had that set aside and hidden in the locker room and right before we were about to head out I threw it over my shoulder. I’d always lead the team out and walk next to coach Erickson and when they said “go” I would run out with them. I remember as I pulled the bag, coach Erickson looked at me like are you going to run with that bag? So, I opened the top so I could grab the handle but I didn’t want to pull it out yet. I wanted to wait for the guy from the TV who stood there to say “alright coach go!” So there was an Orange Bowl guy standing there with his jacket and coach Erickson looked over and went “oh lord, I know what you’re doing and I don’t want to see it.” The Orange Bowl guy looked over and went “I don’t know anything” and literally turned around and walked away. When the guy said “go” I pulled it [fire extinguisher] out and just started squirting. It was the neatest thing because that stadium has roared a thousand times but to hear it right then, it was as if we won the National Championship right then. The NBC guys did a little piece on it like 5 min into the game. It’s funny I have a tape of it and you hear the announcer, Don Cricket, going ‘Miami is not allowed to do their smoke tonight, but woah wait they’re doing it!’ Guys like Lamar Thomas came up to me afterward and said that really pumped them up.

On a side note to that though, I was doing the college world series as the Maniac and my contract was up and was due to be renegotiated and it was like a two year thing and they had always renegotiated. Well they didn’t renew me for the ‘92 season and I was told it was because several members of the College World Series Board of Trustees were at the game [1991 Orange Bowl National Championship Game] and were upset that I had done the smoke and so they didn’t renew me. That’s was coach Fraser’s last year, in ’92 so I went out to the World Series for the last weekend only and there were articles and letters written in the newspapers about me not being there for the whole tournament. So I went out for coach Fraser’s last weekend and when I came out there was this big roar and people were coming up telling me: “Maniac we miss you!” and that was the last time I was ever in Omaha. So doing the smoke in the game cost me the job in the College World Series.

pC: So talk about what happened to you at Florida State in 1989.
JR: It was ‘89 and it was one of those things of sitting around with friends, drinking beers and coming up with crazy ideas. It was the idea of they’ve got their flame and we’re going put it out, but I know I wouldn’t have gotten out of Tallahassee alive if I would have done it. So I was just going kind of go around the field and squirt at it maybe get close to the horse, but it was more just the fear factor of “is he gonna do it” just to kind of see what they would do. But I cannot tell you how many dozens of people have told me “man I was there when you grabbed the spear and broke it over your knee.” I never got out on the field!

Back then in Tallahassee the way the stands were, now they’ve got this built up over it and the team comes out of a tunnel, but back then there was a fence and you could go between the stands and they had students that manned it and when a team or equipment manager would come through they drew the gates out and you would go through. So, I had gone through there several times before the game once to get some water, to bring out props to the field and I also came out with the cheerleaders, so they had seen the fire extinguisher but nobody had said anything. So right before the game the gates drew open and I see coach Erickson coming around the corner and I’ve got this fire extinguisher which I got from the Coral Gables Fire Department. I’ve got the [fire] jacket and the [fire] helmet and I had the fire extinguisher and had just filled it up and coach Erickson is standing there and the guy from the TV goes “coach anytime” and so he says “let’s go!” So as I started to take a step somebody grabs me and as I tried to jerk away from him he’s cussing at me, “give me that fire extinguisher” and using a few other words. He spun me around and it was like face to face. It was a young looking guy so I assumed it was one of the kids that opened and closed the gate because when looking out of the eyes, the beak hid the fact that he was wearing a sheriff’s outfit! So, as I tried to jerk away from him, thinking it was one of these kids I’ve got the fire extinguisher by the handle and I squeezed it and apparently the spray of water shot him right in the chest. And since they had seen me struggling with him, other cops came over and in within seconds they had me up against the fence and as I like to say with one wing spread out this way one wing behind my back and one guy had an elbow up underneath my chin and the other had the beak and was literally jerking it trying to get it off. Of course I’m wearing a chin strap and it’s about to choke me! All of this is happening right in front of the Miami section and I can see cops reigning down and you could here the booing and trash is coming out from the Miami section, rightfully so!

The sergeant or whatever is yelling and screaming and I just kind of said, “you’re kidding right?” and oh, he blew up. One of the guys had the handcuffs out, and he was like “you’re disobeying my orders and you’ve got him all wet.” He was wet! [Laughter] He had this big old wet spot in the middle of his uniform. And so, literally I was about 5 seconds from going to jail, I guess they would have charged me with disorderly conduct or whatever but our cheerleader coach, Bill Rose, walks over to the officer and says, “um excuse me officer, what are you doing to our BIRD?” And it was kind of like ok, yeah wait a minute, this is a little…we’re arresting a guy in a bird costume. So they told me to empty out the fire extinguisher and they literally held me in the corner until Osceola did the spear thing. They then told me “if you put one foot on that field and we’re gonna arrest ya..” So we scored first on the first drive I think it was, and so I just stepped [on the field] and would step out and step back in and I just played with them the whole game and the Miami Herald photographer got a great photo of it and the picture ran in the paper I guess Monday but unfortunately we ended up losing the game.

I always learned from coach Fraser, you take a negative and make it into a positive and so when the picture ran in the paper and the Herald did a little story and Bernard Sliger was president of Florida State at the time so I just took a copy of the article and mailed it to his office. So I assume he thought it came from the Athletic Department and he wrote a letter to Sam Jankovich, who was the Athletic Director at the time blaming me essentially and saying the cops and everything they did was okay. He said, you know what if the horse had been spooked and it trampled someone on the sidelines. I’m thinking to myself, okay you’ve got a horse that’s got a guy sitting on his back who’s got a flaming spear who runs out in front of two screaming football teams with bands playing and 60,000 people screaming and a guy in a duck costume is going to come and scare him? [Laughter] So it was one of those things of trying to make a positive out of it, and it’s one of those things that goes down in the lore of the rivalry now.

pC: So talk about the relationship you had with the players? Would you be formally introduced to them?
JR: The first couple of years I lived on campus. That was part of my deal. I lived in dorms the first few years with the cheerleaders. I was living with the guys but the girls lived next door so seeing them on campus and in the locker rooms everyone got to know who I was. I became good friends with a lot of the guys, as a matter of fact, I was just on the phone with Gino Torretta. I see Craig Erickson a good bit as well. I mean a lot of the guys. When I went to the Marlins I kind of lost contact and everyone spread out. But when I was at the Alumni thing I saw a bunch of guys. I don’t keep in constant contact because they’re all spread out but yeah we keep in touch every now and then. I was probably closer to the baseball guys than to the football but still I hung around them Thursday nights at the Rat. We had a little corner up there particularly in the off season where all the athletes hung out. It was a lot of fun. It’s kind of like I say, I spent five years in South Carolina, ten years in Miami, so it was like being in school for fifteen years.

pC: You can’t beat that!
JR: Well that’s why I’m doing what I am doing now because it’s kind of hard to get a real job when you haven’t had one you’re entire life, so I tell people I’m trying to figure out what I want to do when I grow up. And I haven’t figured it out unfortunately.

pC: So how did it end in 92?
JR: Well the Marlins came into existence and I would have loved to have stayed at Miami but I never was really paid a lot of money. But my salary was never very large, a private school and all that. But I would travel during the summer and do minor league games as the Maniac. So I would make three times more than what the University paid me, during the summer. Well not three times, but I did relatively well doing the minor league games. I did between 25 and 35 games a summer. Like I said, I had a contract with a College World Series and I made money doing the occasional birthday or Bar Mitzvah around town, but when the Marlins came into existence I kind of looked at it as this might be only chance to make the big leagues. As a kid, I thought I’d make the big leagues as a third baseman but instead I made it as a fish. [Laughter] And it was kind of at a point too where Dave Maggart was the Athletic Director now and I could tell that he wasn’t interested in number one paying me much and that he also had this feeling that it should be a student which, I understand that but, for me I wanted to keep my job. I think one thing that was neat about it was that I really did want to move on, but there were a bunch of fans that kind of did a letter writing campaign to keep me and it was really a neat thing to realize that all the hard work I did for 10 years was appreciated. But it was kind of at a point where I said, I’ve been here for ten years and it’s time to try something else. So it was a career move, going from college to the big leagues. In hindsight if I had stayed at UM I probably would have had more visibility than Billy the Marlin, but I’m proud that Billy the Marlin became as popular nationally as he was, but it was one of those things that it was time to move on.

Come back tomorrow and read Part II of our interview with John Routh and see what he has to say about what it was like to be Billy the Marlin, how the C-A-N-E-S CANES chant started, the differences between Coach Johnson and Coach Erickson!

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LB Danny Clarke Says Sinorice Will Have a Breakout Season

Who's going to be the breakout player on this team this year?
"Sinorice Moss is my man. That little, young fella has been tearing it up this off-season and he definitely deserves it. It's year four. It's a contract year for him. And at the end of the day, these guys tend to turn it up on this contract years. So I have an inkling this guy is going to be special. He's my sleeper."

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Roscoe to the Jags?

Michael Lombardi of the National Football Post is reporting that the Jacksonville Jaguars could be interested in aquireing Buffalo Bills wide receiver Roscoe Parrish. Parrish was placed on thje trade block during draft week, to unclutter the Bills receiving corps.

Parrish is being pushed down the depth chart by the signuimg of Terrell Owens, and his return duties are being taken over by last years first round pick Leodis McKelvin. Parrish contributes primarily on punt returns.

The Jaguars are looking for new faces at receiver after they traded away Dennis Northcutt for Gerald Alexcander. Mike Walker and Torry Holt are now the Jaguars best options. There is always a chance they could re-sign Jerry Porter or Reggie Williams.


Carlos Armour Makes the Cut

Carlos made the same Saskatchewan Roughriders cut that Jason Geathers did not. Armour listed at 6’3” 210 pounds made the practice roster as a DB.

Rookie defensive back Carlos Armour didn't play in the pre-season opener — he was released June 8, only to be put back on the roster Saturday — but he isn't looking at Tuesday's game as his one and only shot to make an impression.

"This is like an interview every day," said Armour, 23. "You're being evaluated on what you do and the things that you get done. You can only control your attitude and your effort.

"When it comes to a game, you're going to play hard — and why not? You have to play to the best of your ability without thinking of making mistakes or 'This is a one-shot deal. I can't blow it.' You've got to play and not worry about that stuff."

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ESPN's Funniest Player of the Decade

Funniest player: The NFL doesn't really have an answer to Charles Barkley, although Clinton Portis had a nice run a few years ago when he came up with several alter egos. Let's give it to one of Portis' teammates, tight end Chris Cooley. Occasionally he crosses the line (accidentally publishing a picture of his manhood on The Cooley Zone blog), but he's consistently funny. Still love that he walked out to midfield a couple of years ago and introduced himself to the opposing captains as "Captain Chaos." There's not enough of that type stuff going around.

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ESPN's 25 Most Overrated Players of the Decade

17. Willis McGahee: He thinks of himself as a superstar back, but so far he's nowhere close. In five seasons, McGahee has never ranked higher than eighth in the NFL in rushing yardage or 14th in DYAR. He's also had very poor receiving numbers. Last year, for example, McGahee's 24 receptions included four that actually lost yardage and two others on third-and-eight plays that each came up six yards short of the sticks.

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ESPN's All-decade special teams

Returner, Devin Hester: Hester's impact has been relatively brief but nonetheless historic. He set an NFL record for touchdown returns during a season in both 2006 and 2007, and his total of 11 over that span ranks him fourth all-time in the NFL.

You could make an argument for the consistency of Dante Hall, who returned 12 kicks for scores while playing for Kansas City and St. Louis from 2000 to 2007. When the Bears made Hester a full-time receiver last year, his production as a returner evaporated.

But most of the observers we spoke with suggested Hester made a superior impact on games during the two years he was a full-time returner. From squib kicks to intentionally punting out of bounds, opponents went to great lengths to keep the ball out of his hands.

At the end of the 2007 season, Hester was averaging a touchdown for every 13.8 returns. He was also the second player in NFL history to surpass 500 yards in both kickoff and punt returns in consecutive seasons.

The Bears have removed Hester from kickoff returns but he is expected to remain their primary punt returner in 2009. In either event, from 2006 to 2007, Hester altered games like no other returner in league history.

To see the rest of the rankings click here!

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ESPN's Top 25 players this decade

7. Ray Lewis: Lewis is the top-rated linebacker of this decade with a Super Bowl victory and seven Pro Bowls since 2000. But No. 9 still seems a little low for the future Hall of Famer and one of the most dominant defenders ever to play the game. (JW)

12. Ed Reed: In a decade when mostly hard-hitting safeties ruled the NFL, Reed brought "ball-hawking" back to the position. His hands, anticipation and knack for the spectacular play are as good as any safety in NFL history. (JW)

Click here to see the rest of the rankings.

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CBS Sports Top 50 NFL Players

4. Andre Johnson, WR, Texans: He's big, strong and corners can't handle him in single coverage. If Schaub stays healthy, his numbers should be huge.

12. Ed Reed, S, Ravens: He isn't the big hitter some of the other safeties can be, but he's the best playmaker of them all. And he's a willing tackler.

27. Reggie Wayne, WR, Colts: He has been the Colts' go-to guy the past two seasons and with Marvin Harrison gone, there isn't a doubt. He's undervalued by most.

37. Clinton Portis, RB, Redskins: He just keeps on putting up huge numbers. Hard to believe he's only 27.

43. Vince Wilfork, NT, Patriots: Over the past two seasons, he has developed into a top nose tackle. He is entering a contract year, so look for a big one.

Just missed: Ray Lewis, LB, Ravens; Jon Beason, LB, Panthers;

To see the rest of the rankings click here!

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Ed Reed's thoughts are never far from his native Destrehan

The day was becoming the hottest of the year, and cool breezes and shade were hard to find in Destrehan.

But native son Ed Reed didn't seem to mind.

After seven seasons in the NFL with the Baltimore Ravens, including five Pro Bowl seasons, it would be easy for Reed to sit back and relax. But that's not his way.

Perched on a well-worn utility cart in the tiniest spot of shade provided by an old pine, he sipped a soft drink and took stock of the day and his career.

More than 200 children 7 and older were inside the Harry M. Hurst Middle School gymnasium, enjoying the air conditioning and devouring hamburgers and fries Reed had provided.

They should have been exhausted after spending three hours in the searing heat doing football drills and running circles around the man who some, before this event, only saw on TV. But it was the second day of the annual football camp Reed has hosted with the Destrehan High football staff for the past seven summers, and the campers seemed to have grown accustomed to the NFL star in their midst.

They braved the heat to throw him a ball or catch one from him. They approached with hats and mini footballs for him to sign. They shared his water.

Then an acquaintance from Reed's old neighborhood stopped by to say hello, introduce his son and ask if he was remembered.

"Yeah, yeah," Reed replied, affirming that he remembered the dad.

"I told you," the beaming man said to the youngsters as they walked away. "We went to kindergarten together."

"That keeps me from coasting," Reed said. "That's what keeps me motivated. I love this, coming out with these kids and being able to get them better and see Destrehan have success."

A 1997 Destrehan graduate, Reed was an all-purpose member of the Wildcats football team. He played quarterback, running back, defensive back, kick returner and punter. He also played basketball, a bit of baseball and was a standout long-jumper, triple-jumper and javelin thrower.

"Looking back on it now, I probably was a basketball player," Reed said. "But I didn't take the time to nurture, nurture, nurture to get better at it. I was fortunate enough to get a scholarship offer in football. And you've got to run with that."

Reed went on to an All-America career at the University of Miami, and he was a first-round draft pick (24th overall) by the Baltimore Ravens in 2002.

Reed has established himself as one of the best safeties in the game and, perhaps, the best defensive player in the league. He was the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2004 and has 43 interceptions and five touchdowns. He is the only player in league history to score on a blocked punt, an interception, a fumble return and kickoff return.

And he arguably is coming off his best season.

In 2008, Reed led the league with a career-high and team record-tying nine interceptions for 264 yards and two touchdowns. That included a record-breaking 107-yard return for a touchdown against the Philadelphia Eagles. He had two more interceptions and one touchdown in the postseason.

"He's a natural athlete," said Destrehan Coach Stephen Robicheaux, who was an assistant during Reed's playing days. "But also, he's the guy that's going to be up at 5 in the morning running. He's going to be the last one out the door. He's going to be the guy that's constantly watching film.

"He was blessed with natural ability, there's no doubt, but he does what it takes to be even better. A lot of guys have the same ability as Ed, but I think Ed takes it to a whole other level."

In a recent interview with the Sporting News, Ravens Coach John Harbaugh said of Reed: "He is instinctive, he does have a knack. But those things come from the fact that he's very intelligent -- from years and years of studying football and from hours and hours of studying tape every week of his opponent. . . . He plays the position differently than any other safety that I've been around. To me, he's one of the smartest players who has ever played the game."

So it would be easy for Reed to take his foot off the gas, to ease up a little and coast into the twilight of his career. He's 30 years old, a touch of frost has appeared in his jet black hair. A son was born last year.

"Once you get to a certain age, you've got to work smarter in what you're trying to do, what you have to do," Reed said. "Once you get older, Quit starts to work out with you. Quit is never invited to the workout but is always there on your shoulder saying, 'You don't have to do this. You don't have to push yourself.' "

But football is beginning to hurt.

He has been slowed by nagging injuries throughout his career. He said a pinched nerve in his neck has caused him the most pain and gave him the most difficulty last season. He missed a week of training camp last summer and dealt with the pain all season.

"I feel it every day, " he said. "It kept me out of training camp for a week, and I went to Detroit to get all kinds of different treatments and everything to try to be on the field. In the process of that, I pulled my hamstrings -- one spot in my right hamstring and two spots in my left. It was a trying time early in the season."

The injuries, he said, likely will shorten his playing days.

"It already has shorted it," Reed said. "I have been thinking about it hard for the past two years. I thought about it hard this offseason, and I said, 'At least one more for sure,' understanding the wear and tear is there. I feel it every day."

But whenever he feels like coasting, Reed remembers the look in the eyes of the children he sees every summer in Destrehan -- the ones who hang on his every word in the heat of the day, who go home feeling like they've just made a friend for life. Some get to go home with autographs and photographs to prove it.

"I never met a guy like Ed Reed," said Deandre Price, a sophomore at Neville, whose mom found out about the camp on the Internet and drove him down from Monroe. "You get to talk to him and learn a lot of stuff. I've been to a lot of camps. At a lot of them (NFL players) are out there, but they don't talk to you or anything."

Said Deandre's mom, Mikki Zimmerman: "He's very down to earth. I like Ed Reed."

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Rocky McIntosh Would Start If the Season Started Today

Over the past few seasons, the Redskins have bolstered their defense with signings and high draft picks, including the free agent acquisition of middle linebacker London Fletcher and the selection of Miami product Rocky McIntosh, both of whom enter this season slated as starters.

Entering this season, the linebacker corps could be a major strength, but also somewhat of a question mark, with injuries and inexperience placing the group in a "worth keeping an eye on" category...especially the strong side linebacker position.

LINEBACKER If the season opened today the starters would be: Rocky McIntosh, London Fletcher and Brian Orakpo, a unit that could be explosive and one of the strengths of a defense that finished ranked fourth in the NFL last season, but also has its concerns.

Since his arrival in Washington, London Fletcher has lived up to the expectations of being both a leader for the defense and a standout on the field. Fletcher finished with 128 and 133 tackles, respectively, in his first two seasons with the Redskins, leading the team and finishing sixth in the league both years. Many consider Fletcher to be among the best middle linebackers in the league, though he has been snubbed for the Pro Bowl, and his willingness to play through injury last season exemplifies his dedication.

Still, the 34-year old was slowed by injury late last season. His ability to stay healthy in his 12th season will be as critical as any other factor to the success of the defense.

Health is also the issue on the weak side, where Rocky McIntosh has had several procedures on his knees since being drafted. McIntosh, who was rehabbing a knee injury last offseason, wore down toward the end of the season, though he said it was more fatigue than anything related to his knees.

Despite that, he played in all 16 games and started 15, finishing second on the team with 88 tackles, and the fourth-year veteran switched agents this offseason, hiring Drew Rosenhaus in hopes of negotiating a contract extension.
McIntosh is in a contract year and is now more than a year and a half removed from major reconstructive knee surgery. Linebacker coach Kirk Olivadotti told Redskins blogger Matt Terl earlier this month that he has been pleased with McIntosh this offseason, saying, "Traditionally, everybody says, two years out of a major knee injury, you're always a little bit better. Rocky looks good right now, I'm pleased with where he's at."

This unit's question marks are on the strong side. For now, first-round draft pick Brian Orakpo looks to be the starter. He'll likely play linebacker on first and second downs, then move to his natural position, defensive end, on obvious passing downs. Orakpo is still learning, and Olivadotti said during training camp that it is a process for the talented pass rusher. Still, with few other candidates, Orakpo should line up here when the season starts.

Other options: Linebacker depth has been an area of need for the Redskins for the past few years, and they selected Cody Glenn and Robert Henson in the fifth and sixth rounds, respectively, of this past April's draft.

Glenn has little experience at linebacker, moving to the defensive side of the ball during his senior season at Nebraska. He suffered foot and ankle injuries during his college career, and was suspended late in his final season. After being drafted, Glenn told reporters the suspension was related to ticket scalping. Later, he admitted to the Associated Press that tickets had nothing to do with his suspension.

Despite all that, Glenn's athleticism makes him valuable for special teams, where he must contribute while he continues to grow on defense.

Henson, meanwhile, was a successful inside linebacker at TCU and, like Glenn, is expected to contribute on special teams immediately as he develops.

The Redskins also have some veteran depth, having signed Robert Thomas this offseason. A former first-round draft pick, Thomas has started 50 of 84 career games, though he played in just two games last season before suffering an injury and eventually being placed on injured reserve.

Having spent most of his career at weak side linebacker, Thomas is expected to compete immediately for playing time at the strong side, where he could step in when Orakpo moves to the defensive line on pass rushing downs. He also provides valuable depth across all three positions should anyone go down, and is familiarizing himself with all three linebacker positions.

H.B. Blades has proven to be a reliable backup, stepping in for injured starters at both strong side and inside linebacker during his time in Washington. Blades, too, is competing for playing time on the strong side. Drafted out of Pitt with the expectation that he could learn behind the similarly undersized Fletcher and perhaps develop into a starter, Blades likely will continue to serve as a dependable role player.

Alfred Fincher proved to be a strong special teams player last season for the Redskins and was re-signed this summer. Was eighth on the team with nine special teams tackles and will compete for a job in the same capacity this season, though he also is in the mix at the strong side spot.

One of the most interesting storylines involves another defensive end-turned-linebacker in Chris Wilson. Wilson has been a situational pass rusher during his time in Washington and was moved to linebacker this offseason.

Like Orakpo, there will be a transition period for Wilson as he learns the different responsibilities in coverage, but I spoke with one NFC talent evaluator familiar with the Redskins who said he could "definitely" see Wilson being a prime candidate for making such a move. Here's what I wrote about Wilson earlier this offseason.

The Redskins carried six linebackers on last season's roster, but let's say they keep seven this time. Do the draft picks get the nod over Wilson? Does Orakpo count as a DE in the final breakdown? Any guesses? How about Fletcher, McIntosh, Orakpo, Blades, Thomas, Henson, Glenn?

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McClinton Talks About Going To the Spurs

McClinton, a 6-foot-1 sharpshooter, set an ACC record by hitting 44 percent of his 3-pointers in three seasons with the Hurricanes. The Spurs were also impressed with McClinton’s defensive abilities, with Buford calling him “the best defender we worked out” during draft preparation.

De Colo, who spent last season playing in the French A-League, is likely to remain overseas for the time being.

McClinton projects as a specialty player, Eddie House with a defensive edge. By phone Thursday night, he said he is looking forward to the challenge of making the Spurs’ roster.

“That’s my plan,” McClinton said. “I’m going to continue to work hard and prove the critics wrong. I belong in that league. Nothing’s going to stop me from getting to where I want to go.”

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Tribe deals DeRosa to Cards for Perez

CLEVELAND -- Mark DeRosa was acquired by the Indians on New Year's Eve. And now he's gone before the Fourth of July.

It was a short-lived tenure with the Tribe for DeRosa, who was the subject of trade rumors almost from the time he first slipped on an Indians uniform. On Saturday night, the last-place Indians, all but out of contention and getting an early jump on the summer trading season, shipped him off to the Cardinals for right-handed reliever Chris Perez and a player to be named.

DeRosa was disappointed, but far from shocked, by the news. He had been reading the rampant rumors about his availability -- and the list of suitors that included his former Cubs team and the Mets, among others -- every day.

"You're disappointed, because you want to hit the rewind button and start over here," DeRosa said. "I was just starting to get comfortable and get to know the guys. That's the toughest part. But I have a chance to play for a division title again and put myself in a great situation with a new team. I'll say my goodbyes and move on."

And the Indians will add yet another new piece to their beleaguered bullpen. But unlike other hired hands brought in over the course of this season from outside the organization, Perez is a younger arm with upside, not an experienced guy trying to find his old form.

Perez, who turns 24 on July 1, has spent the majority of 2009 in the Cardinals' bullpen, going 1-1 with a save and a 4.18 ERA in 29 appearances. He began the year at Triple-A Memphis, where he was 1-0 with two saves and a 0.00 ERA in four innings of work.

Major Leaguers have hit just .195 off Perez, and he's allowed just two of 15 inherited runners to score. He's striking out 11.4 batters per nine innings.

"He's a guy that throws the fastball consistently in the mid-90s and has reached back to 98 [mph]," general manager Mark Shapiro said. "He has a hard, late slider that's swing and miss. He's a profile guy that we've been on since college."

The Cardinals selected Perez out of the University of Miami with the 42nd overall pick in the 2006 First-Year Player Draft. Last year, he was 3-3 with seven saves and a 3.46 ERA in 41 appearances for the Cards, spending time as the club's closer down the stretch. Baseball America named him the organization's third-best prospect after the season.

"Obviously, he transitioned very rapidly to the Major Leagues and has pitched in meaningful, leverage roles for them already," Shapiro said.

Another bonus to acquiring Perez is the contractual control the Indians will have. The earliest he could be eligible for arbitration is after the 2010 season.

The Indians expect Perez to arrive in Cleveland on Sunday and be activated Monday. Infielder Asdrubal Cabrera, recovered from a sprained left shoulder joint and fresh off a rehab assignment at Double-A Akron, will be activated Sunday to take DeRosa's spot on the active roster.

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