Edgerrin James: Future Hall of Famer?

Edgerrin James has been close, tantalizingly so.

The Indianapolis Colts gave him a Super Bowl ring after their 2006 title season -- even though James was not re-signed by the club following the 2005 campaign. That's how highly they regarded his Hall-of-Fame persona in their locker room during the first seven years of James' career.
He nearly earned hardware on the field with the Arizona Cardinals in 2008, but the Pittsburgh Steelers snatched it away during the thrilling finish to Super Bowl XLIII.

James wasn't necessarily an electric back, but he moved the chains, caught the ball, found the end zone (91 times in his career) and was an invaluable pass protector for QBs Peyton Manning and Kurt Warner while quietly piling up 12,246 rushing yards (11th all-time) and 15,610 yards from scrimmage (13th).

James' best seasons were his first two. He led the NFL in rushing both years (1,553 yards in 1999 and 1,709 in 2ooo), justifying Colts president Bill Polian's decisions to trade RB Marshall Faulk and bypass Heisman Trophy winner Ricky Williams by grabbing James with the fourth pick of the 1999 draft.

Will it be close but no cigar again for the four-time Pro Bowler and 1999 offensive rookie of the year when his candidacy for Canton goes before the voters?

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Suggs on Ed Reed: "He's like American Express"

The Ravens have been hearing that they beat the Steelers earlier this year because Pittsburgh didn't have quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Well, the Ravens didn't have safety Ed Reed for that game, either.

But Roethlisberger and Reed will be playing Sunday night when the Ravens and the Steelers battle it out for first place in the AFC North.

"Did you see how they play when they don't have their safety [Troy Polamalu]? It's two different teams, isn't it?," linebacker Terrell Suggs said. "It's kind of the same way with us. It's always good to have your All-Pro safety with you, a guy that can cover both sides of the field. He's making plays even when he's not supposed to be somewhere."

Suggs added, "He's like American Express. He's everywhere you want to be."

(If you want to nitpicky, that's actually the slogan for Visa).

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Andre Johnson reinjures ankle in loss to Eagles

PHILADELPHIA -- Texans all-pro WR Andre Johnson showed plenty of fight Thursday night, even if he wasn't throwing haymakers.

In his first game since drawing a $25,000 fine and ejection for brawling with Titans CB Cortland Finnegan last Sunday, Johnson caught six passes for 149 yards in the Texans' 34-24 loss at the Eagles.

However the star receiver couldn't avoid more bad news. He had to endure a pain-killing injection after re-aggravating an ankle injury that's plagued him most of the season.

"Played for his team, played big, played very big in the game," Texans coach Gary Kubiak said of his star player.

The Texans' next game is a Monday night contest vs. the Baltimore Ravens in Week 14, and Johnson expects to play.

"I really do not know how bad it is right now because it is numb after I got a shot in it," he said. "Right now I have an MRI set up for tomorrow for them to look to see how bad it might be.

"But I am not really worried that it is anything bad. I think I just aggravated my old injury, and I will get better."

Click here to order Andre Johnson’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Sam Shields aims to break a long drought of TD kickoff returns

GREEN BAY — One of the unsung heroes during the Atlanta Falcons' 20-17 victory over the Green Bay Packers last week was Michael Koenen.
Koenen, Atlanta's punter, began the second half by sending a kickoff 5 yards deep into the end zone. Packers returner Sam Shields caught it and used his blazing speed to streak though a seam created by his blockers.

The only thing between Shields and the end zone was Koenen, who made an open-field tackle at the Green Bay 32‑yard line to preserve the Falcons' 10-3 lead.

"I thought it should have been a touchdown," Packers special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum said. "I thought it was when he hit (the hole)."
Not only did Koenen cost the Packers six points — Green Bay's offense went three-and-out following Shields' 37-yard return — he also helped extend a massive drought.

It's been more than 10 years since a Green Bay player returned a kickoff for a touchdown. The most recent to do it was Allen Rossum, whose 92-yard return with 4 minutes, 16 seconds remaining in the game helped the Packers beat the Indianapolis Colts 26-24 at Lambeau Field on Nov. 19, 2000.

The Colts had scored 17 straight points to pull within 19-17 when Rossum answered a Peyton Manning touchdown pass by returning the ensuing kickoff for a score.

In 160 regular-season games since that day — the equivalent of 10 full NFL seasons — 51 players have returned 640 kickoffs for the Packers without scoring a touchdown. It's the longest drought in the NFL.

Fifteen NFL teams have at least five kickoff returns for touchdowns during that span. The New York Jets have 13, including at least one in each of the past nine seasons.

There have been close calls along the way, the most recent coming last season against Detroit when Jordy Nelson's 99-yard return of the opening kickoff was wiped out by a holding penalty on Evan Dietrich-Smith.

Slocum was asked if it surprises him that it's been more than a decade since the Packers' most recent kickoff return for a score.

"Yeah, it does," said Slocum, who joined the Packers in 2006 as an assistant special teams coach before being promoted to coordinator prior to last season. "They're hard to come by. And we've had a couple opportunities here recently that have been negated by penalty. Hopefully, we'll get that done."

Samuel George Shields III, who was 12 years old when Rossum's return helped sink the Colts, may be just the man to end the drought.

The Packers rank No. 27 in kickoff returns with an average of 20.5 per attempt. But Shields has provided a spark with a 26.3 average on six returns, including a 49-yarder against Dallas in Week 9.

Shields is still a work in progress. The undrafted free agent out of Miami (Fla.) returned kickoffs during his days as a star at Booker High School in Sarasota, Fla., but the only opportunity he was given on that unit with the Hurricanes was when he took a handoff on a reverse and returned it 92 yards to the end zone against the University of Wisconsin in the Champs Sports Bowl last season, though a penalty negated the touchdown and brought the ball back to the UW 16.

Back in high school, Shields could just catch a kickoff and run. Now he has to be more patient.

"There's a lot to it," Shields said. "It's just knowing how this dude is going to block, and that hole should open right up. Things like that you've got to know. You get the ball and you just want to run. And once you see that hole you're going to hit it."

Shields' inexperience showed at times against the Falcons. On a return in the first quarter following an Atlanta field goal, Shields caught the ball 4 yards deep in the end zone and probably should have kneeled for a touchback.

Instead, he brought the ball out and made it to the 11 before being swarmed by a host of Atlanta players.

"You've just got to use your speed to get outside and get upfield," Shields said. "But I would think if there's nothing there, instead of me just going outside and losing yards, just go north and south. That was something that I had to correct when I came to watch film. That's something that I know for the next time."

Even on Shields' return to start the second half, Slocum thought the rookie could have done a better job. Knowing kickers generally try to tackle low, Slocum said Shields should have tried to jump or step over Koenen.

It's just another step in the learning process for Shields.

"Guys improve on running style," Slocum said. "There's an art to running the football. You don't just run. It's not Forrest Gump. There's technique involved, because the players that are coming after you have pursuit angles and you can do things by design to give you a better chance to be successful."

Shields, who was unaware of the team's drought on kickoff returns, acknowledged he missed a chance to score a touchdown against the Falcons.

"I've just got to keep going," Shields said. "It's going to come."

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Ravens MLB Ray Lewis continues to amaze

TAMPA - In his 15th pro season, Baltimore Ravens middle linebacker Ray Lewis continues to impress teammates, coaches and opposing players.

Lewis, an 11-time Pro Bowl selection, leads the Ravens with 91 tackles heading into Sunday's game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and is the obvious focal point for any attack facing Baltimore's 3-4 alignment.

"Ray Lewis has been a defensive MVP in two kinds of defensive systems,'' said Tampa Bay center Jeff Faine, in his eighth NFL season. "He deserves that respect and he's one of those guys you'd better account for in all your schemes. It's one thing to see a backup quarterback make it for that amount of time (15 years), but it's amazing for a guy who plays as physical as Ray Lewis, always in the mix and always making playoff runs. You say 15 seasons, but I want to say 16 seasons because of the playoff games. I know I won't be out there for 15 years.''

Ravens coach John Harbaugh says it's been a privilege to coach the future Hall of Famer.

"I think he has an amazing combination of confidence and humility,'' Harbaugh said of Lewis, the NFL's longest-tenured defensive player still competing for his original team, one season ahead of Tampa Bay cornerback Ronde Barber. "He's a very humble guy, but no one believes in himself or his teammates more than Ray. His relentless preparation is amazing to see. He's the linebacker who has played the longest and at the highest level in the history of the game.''

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Devin Hester's revival a snaps decision

Devin Hester, determined to have a breakout season as a receiver, only handled punt returns on special teams.

He left the kickoff-return duties to Johnny Knox and Danieal Manning, but he couldn't resist temptation just a few games into the season.

''I saw some things in the return game that I wished I was in, and I felt I could have done some things different,'' Hester said. ''Then I was like, 'Let me give this a shot.'''

In the first two games, the Bears averaged just 23.3 and 28.3 yards per kickoff return. Hester, meanwhile, was playing virtually every offensive snap at receiver, yet he managed just six catches for 110 yards and one touchdown in the first three games.

Around that time, Hester broached the idea of handling kickoffs to coaches.

''They came together,'' Hester said, ''and they thought it was a great idea.''

Hester's snap count steadily declined, according to Pro Football Focus. He played in more than 90 percent of the offensive snaps in the first four games, but his playing time has steadily dipped since then.

Against the Minnesota Vikings, Hester handled kickoffs for the first time this season and returned two for a combined 100 yards. In that game, he played in 48 percent of the offensive snaps, according to PFF. Against the Miami Dolphins, Hester played in 39.7 percent of the snaps.

For the season, Hester has now played in 67.8 percent of the snaps, according to PFF, 7 percent fewer than last season. By contrast, Bears receiver Johnny Knox has played in 86.4 percent of all offensive snaps.

In past seasons, Hester said he was more focused on receiver, which meant watching film of other players at the position as well as defensive backs.

''I wanted to master the receiver thing,'' Hester said. ''Now, I'm comfortable.''

Hester's numbers haven't been overwhelming. He's tied for third on the team with 28 catches, and he's fifth with 284 receiving yards. But Hester said he likes the consistency of knowing he'll get chances to return punts and kickoffs.

''In the return game, you know you're going to get the ball,'' he said.

Hester said the coaches don't limit him to a certain number of snaps each game.

''It depends on how the game is going,'' he said. ''You can't really go into a game and say, 'You're going to play 35 snaps.'''

Hester said he is fine with being a hybrid player, a playmaker.

''I just want to be a key factor to the game, in any phase,'' he said. ''Now, I have a chance to have a big return game or a big receiver game. I'm blessed to have two opportunities.

''I will do whatever the team wants and needs. The biggest thing is, we're winning.''

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Willis McGahee could be used in backfield with Rice

If Le'Ron McClain (ankle) has to sit out in Week 13, we could see the Ravens use Ray Rice and Willis McGahee in the backfield together.
Rookie tight end Dennis Pitta lined up as the fullback after McClain went down, as the Ravens had no other fullbacks active. Another option would be using Jalen Parmele at fullback. McClain does so many things that him not being able to suit up would hurt the Ravens, especially with the Steelers on the docket.

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

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Harbaugh has discussed limiting Ray Lewis' snaps

Ravens coach John Harbaugh said he has "broached" the subject of reducing ILB Ray Lewis' snaps in order to extend the 35-year-old's career.

Just after getting hired in 2008, Harbaugh talked about Lewis not playing on passing downs, but that hasn't happened. "He’s not going to easily admit that he’s not the best player on the field," Harbaugh said. "And right now, if I tried to make that case, it’d be an impossible case to make because he’s playing so well." IDP owners don't have to worry about Lewis, who leads the team with 91 tackles, losing snaps anytime soon.

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

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Clinton Portis on this week's surgery: 'It was a minor tuneup'

While undergoing season-ending abdomen surgery this week, running back Clinton Portis also had his severe groin tear repaired, the nine-year veteran revealed Thursday.

"It was a minor tuneup," said two-time Pro Bowler, who is on the season-ending injured reserve list. "I went and got tuned up. I feel like everything should be fine."

Addressing reporters for the first time since undergoing the procedures Tuesday in Philadelphia, Portis explained that his abdomen and groin muscles were both fixed by Dr. William Meyers, a sports hernia specialist in Philadelphia. Portis initially suffered a third-degree groin tear during a 17-12 victory against the Philadelphia Eagles on Oct. 4.

The abdomen tear occurred early during a 19-16 victory in overtime against the Tennessee Titans on Nov. 21. On Wednesday, Coach Mike Shanahan said he did not know about Portis's status after surgery.

The Redskins knew Portis, who suffered a third-degree tear, would require season-ending surgery if he chose to have his muscle reattached to the bone. Portis chose to rehab in hopes of returning to the lineup this season and providing a spark for the team, which is 5-6 and has all but been eliminated from postseason contention.

Washington is 26th in rushing with a 90.7-yard average. Portis performed well in his brief appearance against the Titans, rushing for 32 yards (with a 6.4-yard average) and catching one pass for 14 yards.

But considering the severity of his groin problem, should Portis have had surgery earlier and sat out the remainder of the season after being injured in Week 4?

"I don't think so," Portis said. "I think the excitement of trying to recover and get back on the field [was more important to him]. If you watch the game [against the Titans], you didn't see any setback [after] going through two weeks of practice before I stepped back on the field.

"Having the confidence in it, not really worrying about the groin giving, you know? Just going out and having that confidence. I don't think it was a, 'Oh, I shoulda sat out.' Like I said, for that one quarter, to go out and provide the spark, provide the energy that I provided, it felt great."

Although Portis's last two seasons have been cut short by injury (he was placed on injured reserve last season because of a concussion) and three of his past five, he wants to return next season.

"Of course, I want to" return to the Redskins, he said. "The previous two seasons, just losing the luster of the game, not really knowing what I wanted to do, compared to finally putting the work in this offseason and getting back, and having a system you believe in, and getting the right teammates and seeing the guys fighting for the right purpose ... all of a sudden, you miss it again.

"Being here all offseason, working, coming up short, just having an opportunity ... finding the fun in the game again. Not really letting all the outside gestures, situations I can't control, worry or bother me. So, I'm looking forward to coming back next year. I would love to comer back here. I think they got a good thing going. The coaching staff and the organization headed in the right direction."

Although Portis said he has not spoken with Shanahan about his desire to return, he believes Shanahan is aware of his feelings because of his actions since Shanahan took control of the football operation.

"I don't think I had to have any conversation with him," said Portis, making almost $7.7 million in the final guaranteed season of his contract. "I think he see me around here enough. Instead of have that conversation and say, 'Coach, I'm really focused and I really want to be here,' there comes a time in your career where your body language speaks for itself.

"When you go above and beyond ... just trying to get on the field. A lot of people doubted me even getting back on the field. Just the dedication of being here every morning at six o'clock in the morning, day in day out from training camp, always battling something and coming out with a positive attitude and doing whatever I can do. I think it was great work."

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

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Vince Wilfork: Don't look at stats, look at wins

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The New England Patriots may not statistically have one of the better defenses in the league, but defensive lineman Vince Wilfork isn’t one to put much stock into numbers.

“The important part is winning. We’re 9-2,” Wilfork said. “There’s a lot of teams who have pretty good defenses out there, but they don’t have the record to show it.

“People can say what they want to say about this team, about this defense, the people we have here. The one thing we’re trying to do here is win. Point blank. So if that calls for us to be the 32nd defense in the league, then that is what it is.”

The Patriots will face one of their bigger defensive tests of the season on Monday night, matching up against a Jets offense that was missing wide receiver Santonio Holmes in the teams’ Week 2 matchup.

“The Jets are a great football team. Not good, [but] great,” Wilfork said. “They probably have one of the top players at each position. It will be tough for us. But we’ll accept the challenge.

“We have our hands full. But we won’t back down from any challenges and hopefully we’ll come to play on Monday. If you’re a football fan, and you love the game, it doesn’t take you much to get jacked up for this game.”

In the end, Monday night’s game will have ramifications not only in terms of the division title, but also with playoff seeding and home field advantage.

“The one thing I know is football starts now. We have to be able to play good football in December and January,” Wilfork said. “That’s one thing we want to do -- come out and match their intensity. If we can’t do that, it’s going to be a long day for us.”

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

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Pat Burrell gets 1-year deal with SF Giants

Pat Burrell, the local boy, is staying put.

Burrell and the Giants have reached agreement on a one-year contract, The Chronicle has confirmed. The value was not immediately available.
Burrell, 34, was a major contributor to the Giants' championship and their everyday left fielder for most of the season after the team signed him following his release by Tampa Bay.

He is expected to be a role player and his salary probably will reflect that.

Burrell hit 18 homers in 289 at-bats for the Giants, including a game-winning, two-run homer in the eighth inning against Dodgers closer Jonathan Broxton on July 31 at AT&T Park.

Burrell grew up in the Santa Cruz area and attended Bellarmine College Prep in San Jose before going to the University of Miami.

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Ryan Braun's restaurant closes for renovations

Ryan Braun's Waterfront Restaurant was open for only six months, and is temporarily closing. Many expected this restaurant associated with an all-star slugger to be a cash cow. The restaurants closing is drawing shock and frustration from customers and vendors.

Thanksgiving weekend, a small sign was put up saying it's closed due to lack of heat", and those looking for a bite to eat are out of luck.
One week later that small sign was replaced with a larger sign saying the restaurant is "temporarily closed to renovations and will open soon under new management." Some who actually do business with the restaurant aren't buying it.

Maureen Connolly owns Greenworks Plants Scapes and has supplied the restaurant with a number of fresh greens. Connolly says, "The plants that are in there now are about $300 a piece and there's about 5-6 large palms in there now...and they're perishable. That's the thing. They're not silk plants, they're live plants. They have to be cared for every week."

She says the owner, RB Hospitality Group LLC. owes her more than $1,600 in invoices. She's not the only vendor seeking payment.

Recently Tony Machi Fruits and Vegetables sued RB Hospitality for more than $20,000. Connolly says, "It's frustrating because as a small business owner, and I'm fairly small and new, we came through with our end of the bargain."

Connolly doesn't know if she'll seek legal action, but she just hopes to get some resolution. She just wants her plants and money back.
In a statement the restaurant says:

The temporary close is for implementing additional renovations, changes to the menu and transitioning to a new owner. Details on expansion are expected in the next few days.

Ryan Braun does not hold any ownership of the restaurant, and was not available for comment on this story.

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proCanes Extend TD Streak to 134 Regular Season Weeks

Did you know that a former Miami Hurricane/current proCane has scored at least one touchdown in 134 consecutive regular season NFL weeks? Dating back to Week 15 of the 2002 season where Clinton Portis scored 4 TDs, at least one proCane has scored a TD in each regular season week since then. We have chronicled every touchdown since 2002. See below:

Week 12 2010:
Andre Johnson - 1 TD - Houston Texans
Greg Olsen - 1 TD - Chicago Bears
Kellen Winslow - 1 TD - Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Week 11 2010:
Santana Moss - 1 TD - Washington Redskins
Ray Lewis - 1 TD - Baltimore Ravens
Reggie Wayne - 1 TD - Indianapolis Colts

Week 10 2010:
Javarris James - 1 TD - Indianapolis Colts
Greg Olsen - 1 TD - Chicago Bears
Devin Hester - 1 TD - Chicago Bears
Andre Johnson - 1 TD - Houston Texans
Frank Gore - 1 TD - San Francisco 49ers
Kellen Winslow - 1 TD - Tampa Bay Buccaneers (first TD of the season)

Week 9 2010:
Willis McGahee - 1 TD - Baltimore Ravens
Jeremy Shockey - 1 TD - New Orleans Saints
Javarris James - 2 TDs - Indianapolis Colts (first career TD)
Jimmy Graham - 1 TD - New Orleans Saints (first career TD)
Greg Olsen - 1 TD - Chicago Bears
Roscoe Parrish - 1 TD - Buffalo Bills

Week 8 2010:
Frank Gore - 1 TD - San Francisco 49ers
Andre Johnson - 1 TD - Houston Texans
Reggie Wayne - 1 TD - Indianapolis Colts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click below to see the rest of the list:

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Orien Harris Has a Try Out

Besides the signing of FB James Develin amd LB Tim Knicky, the Bengals had DT Orien Harris and defensive backs Nick Polk and Jahi Word-Daniels also in for tryouts.

Harris has been on and off with the Bengals since he was released by the PIttsburgh Steelers after being drafted by them in 2006 draft.

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Great 8: Andre Johnson nears record

Texans receiver Andre Johnson can make NFL history against the Tennessee Titans on Sunday.

Johnson, who has 56 catches for 813 yards (14.5 average) and four touchdowns, needs four receptions to become the first player with at least 60 in each of his first eight seasons.

"It's a tremendous honor, but I don't really keep up with things like that," Johnson, 29, said after practice Friday. "If I'm able to do it, it would be a great accomplishment. Considering our situation (four-game losing streak), if we could win and I did it, that would be great."

Johnson and Keyshawn Johnson are the only players to have 60 or more catches in their first seven seasons.

The ankle injury that caused Andre Johnson to miss the Oakland game probably will keep him from becoming the first receiver in history with 1,500 yards in three consecutive seasons.

There's a record Johnson should own at some point. Johnson, who has played in 110 games, has 14 games in which he has at least 10 catches and 100 yards, tying him for second place in NFL history with Marvin Harrison (190 games) — one behind Jerry Rice (303 games).

"Jerry Rice set milestones that'll probably never be reached," Johnson (6-3, 225) said. "When I came into this game, I said that when I finished playing, I wanted to be mentioned as one of the best to ever play. So far, based on what you guys have been telling me, it seems like I'm headed in the right direction."

Epic battles
The Texans have a 4-6 record, and occupy last place in the AFC South. The Titans (5-5) have a three-game losing streak, but they're one game behind Indianapolis (6-4) and Jacksonville (6-4).

Johnson, who has had some epic battles with Titans cornerback Cortland Finnegan, has played some of his best games against Tennessee. He has seven touchdowns against the Titans, more than any opponent.

In his past three games against Tennessee, Johnson averaged 144.7 yards receiving.

"We've just been fortunate to have some opportunities to make some big plays," Johnson said. "I don't approach any game or any team different. I don't do anything special against them that I don't try to do against Indianapolis or (Jacksonville)."

At Reliant Stadium in 2008, Johnson helped the Texans end a seven-game losing streak against the Titans by catching 11 passes for 207 yards and a touchdown.

In the 2009 game at Tennessee, Johnson helped the Texans win a second consecutive game over the Titans by catching 10 passes for 149 yards and two touchdowns.

Losing leaves 'nasty taste'
"They've always had a great defense," Johnson said. "It's a very physical and tough game, and guys get after each other. We don't expect anything different.

"What we see on film is some of the same things we've seen every other time we've played them. We expect for it to be a physical game."
Like his teammates, Johnson is tired of losing. So far, the exasperating defeats haven't taken a toll on the Texans because they continue to play hard.

"Of course, we're upset about the things that have happened, but guys are working to get it fixed," said Johnson, who was held to a relatively quiet four catches for 32 yards in last week's loss to the New York Jets. "It's very discouraging because we know we're a much better team than we've shown. The only way to get this nasty taste out of our mouths is by winning."

Click here to order Andre Johnson’s proCane Rookie Card.

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San Francisco's Frank Gore avoids surgery

Frank Gore looks likely to avoid surgery on his fractured right hip, the 49ers said Wednesday, a surprise announcement that suggests the running back will have a smooth recovery.

The 49ers described the injury as a small, non-displaced fracture, meaning it is nothing like the severe hip injury that shortened the career of former Raiders running back Bo Jackson.

"We will wait a few weeks and check it again and see how the progression is and just kind of go from there," coach Mike Singletary said. "But he should be fine."

The no-surgery proclamation surprised several sports medicine experts contacted by the Mercury News.

More than one orthopedist suggested that it indicates Gore didn't suffer a "fractured hip" at all but rather a fracture to the acetabulum -- the socket of the hip joint.

Dr. Thomas Byrd, like the doctors interviewed for this story, stressed that he could talk only in general terms and not about Gore specifically because he had no access to Gore's medical records.

He said that while fractured hips are rare among NFL players, acetabulum fractures are not. As the Tennessee Titans team physician from 1997-99 and from 2003 to present, he said he has seen roughly a dozen such cases.

Byrd said that those players tended to require at least six weeks to heal but could return at full strength without surgery.

The 49ers have declined to address specifics of Gore's injury, saying only that their two-time Pro Bowl running back was scheduled for further examination. Gore sustained the injury against the Arizona Cardinals on Monday night and has been placed on season-ending injured reserve.
Dr. Thomas Barber, an Oakland-based orthopedic surgeon, said that a fractured hip requires surgery 99 percent of the time and suggested that the 49ers might be using the phrase "fractured hip" as a catchall term for another injury.

Barber said it is just too unusual for a fractured hip to be fixed by anything other than an operation.

Like Byrd, he said he could not talk about Gore specifically but ventured that the team could be referring to a fracture the trochanter -- at the top of the femur where the muscles attach.

The "non-displacement" label used by the 49ers could be a good sign for Gore. In the famous case of Jackson, his hip was yanked out of his socket as he was tackled. The displacement disrupted the blood flow during Jackson's recovery, which meant, in Barber's words, "the bone basically dies."

Jackson required a hip replacement and lost his blazing speed.

Because of Gore's heavy workload, there has been speculation that his injury stems from overuse. That is extremely unlikely, according to Victor Khabie, the co-chief at the Orthopedics and Spine Institute at Northern Westchester (N.Y.) Hospital.

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

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Clinton Portis to undergo surgery next week

Redskins RB Clinton Portis (injured reserve, groin) is expected to undergo surgery sometime next week.

Portis has almost certainly played his last down as a Redskin, as he's due an $8.254 salary in 2011, none of which is guaranteed. His rehab from surgery will likely dictate whether or not he gets another contract from any club.

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

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Greg Olsen gets another touchdown

Greg Olsen caught just one pass in Sunday's win over the Eagles, but it went for a 9-yard touchdown.

Olsen was able to climb the ladder on Eagles CB Dimitri Patterson and rip the ball away. It showed the kind of upside Olsen would have in a different offense, but in this one he had just one target today. He's a desperation TE2 weekly.

Click here to order Greg Olsen’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Texans Linebacker Darryl Sharpton Brings Health and Fitness Lesson to Hoyland

SPRING, TEXAS - Students at Hoyland Elementary School in Spring ISD got a big surprise when Darryl Sharpton, Houston Texans linebacker, came to lead a discussion about the benefits of a balanced diet and exercise.  Students in prekindergarten through fifth grade participated in a question-and-answer session with Sharpton about how good nutrition and physical fitness help out both on and off the playing field.

Sharpton also led students in various exercises, including toe touches, jumping jacks, and lunges. The Texans linebacker stressed the importance of education in his life, telling students that he pursued a college degree so that he would have options available after his football career.  He urged the students to consider their futures, think about various career paths, and focus on their education.

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49ers make it official with Frank Gore, place him on IR

The revitalized San Francisco 49ers made it official with running back Frank Gore, placing him on season-ending injured reserve with a fractured right hip.

Gore was injured in the first quarter Monday night in the 49ers’ 27-6 victory at Arizona.

“It is unfortunate that we had to place Frank on IR,” coach Mike Singletary said in a statement released by the team. “He is not only a great football player, but a tremendous leader. He plays with such passion and desire, two traits that will serve him well as he recovers from the injury.”

Brian Westbrook and Anthony Dixon will have to handle the rushing chores the rest of the way for the Niners. They promoted running back DeShawn Wynn from the practice squad also giving them another option.

The Gore move wasn’t the only one made. San Francisco also placed wide receiver Dominique Ziegler, who has a torn ACL in his left knee, on IR. Safety Chris Maragos was promoted from the practice squad to take his place.

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

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Jeremy Shockey fully expected back

Coach Sean Payton said Wednesday that Jeremy Shockey (ribs) is fully expected to return against the Bengals in Week 13.
The Saints' starting tight end isn't even on this week's injury report. Shockey missed three games with cracked or at least severely bruised ribs. His return will make rookie Jimmy Graham and David Thomas non-options in fantasy leagues going forward. Shockey would be a poor bet in his own right.

Click here to order Jeremy Shockey’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Washington Redskins place Clinton Portis on injured reserve with abdominal muscle tear, ending his sea

Clinton Portis arrived in Washington as a confident 22-year-old at the top of his game, considered by most to be among the best running backs in the NFL.

"You can't have too much more heart than I can," he said shortly after arriving in town in 2004. "People's heart seems to wear out before anything else. You can have all the strength in the world, but if somebody keeps going at you, going at you, going at you, it's going to wear you down eventually."

Heart has never been the problem for Portis, now 29. Other body parts have been, though, and the Redskins were forced to place Portis, a franchise cornerstone for six-plus seasons, on injured reserve Wednesday, cutting short his ninth NFL season and casting doubt on his future in Washington.

Portis missed five games this season because of a groin injury before he returned to the starting lineup last Sunday at Tennessee. But he tore an abdominal muscle early in the game, an MRI exam revealed Tuesday, and Coach Mike Shanahan said Portis must undergo season-ending surgery.

It's the second straight year and the third time in his seven seasons with the Redskins that Portis will finish the season on injured reserve. He also managed four 1,000-yard seasons in that span, which illustrates the mixed feelings some fans might have about his tenure here. Portis helped the team to the playoffs twice and tallied 6,824 rushing yards as a member of the Redskins, second only to Hall of Famer John Riggins (7,472 yards) on the team's all-time list.

The Redskins will have to make a decision about Portis after the season. He'll pocket $7.7 million for this year - after playing in five games, with 227 rushing yards and two touchdowns - but this is the final guaranteed year of Portis's contract. If Shanahan brings him back, Portis would be 30 years old, having played in only 13 of the team's previous 32 games and due to earn $8.3 million in 2011 under his current contract terms.

Shanahan also was Portis's coach in Denver, where the young running back became just the third player in league history to rush for 1,500 yards in each of his first two seasons. The Redskins coach doesn't believe Portis is finished in football.

"I don't think there's any question about it," Shanahan said. "He's got such a strong will. It all depends on does he come back a hundred percent? Does he want to come back and play? He's got that inner drive that most people don't have. He wants to compete. But obviously, he's got to get well."

In the immediate future, Portis's absence means the Redskins will face some big questions in their backfield. At the start of the year, the spotlight shined brightly on Portis, Larry Johnson and Willie Parker, three running backs who had six Pro Bowls among them. None of the three is still on the active roster.

Instead, the Redskins will have to rely on the unheralded trio of Ryan Torain, Keiland Williams and James Davis, each of whom spent parts of this season on the practice squad. Williams is an undrafted rookie and Torain and Davis had only 24 combined carries entering this season.

The Redskins were also expected to sign a fourth running back Wednesday. Andre Brown, a fourth-round pick in the 2009 draft by the New York Giants, could be practicing with the team as early as Thursday morning.

Brown, who totaled more than 2,500 yards in 30 games for N.C. State, tore his Achilles' tendon in training camp last year and spent the season on the Giants' injured reserve list. He has spent parts of the 2010 season with Denver, Carolina and Indianapolis, but has appeared in just one game, notching two carries for minus-1 rushing yard for the Broncos in Week 5.

With a nagging hamstring injury, Torain is doubtful to play this Sunday against Minnesota, which means the Redskins will again rely heavily on Williams, who's been the team's featured back the past three games.

"Considering the last two weeks and the snaps I was able to get, I definitely feel I'm more in a comfort zone," Williams said after practice Wednesday.

Williams has 195 rushing yards on 49 carries this season and an additional 162 yards on 24 catches. Despite making only one NFL start, he has five total touchdowns, which leads all Redskins players.

"Other guys have got to step up," said guard Artis Hicks. "Keiland's been doing a great job, being a rookie coming in and have to learn what he's had to learn these few weeks and keeping things going, he's been doing a great job."

Colorful and outspoken, Portis has been among Washington's most popular athletes since the Redskins acquired him in a trade with Denver in March 2004. He never bit his tongue, drew national attention for wearing costumes in the locker room and wasn't afraid to call out teammates or coaches.

Portis certainly has been a controversial figure at times - he nearly came to blows with fullback Mike Sellers in the locker room last season - but his nine years of service earned him the respect of many peers in the locker room.

Last week's game against Tennessee marked Portis's return to the lineup after he suffered a third-degree groin tear in Week 4 against Philadelphia.

"It really is disappointing, because he worked so hard to get to where he was at," Shanahan said.

Portis is a shifty back who thrived in Shanahan's offense in Denver. He's also one of the league's best pass blockers in the backfield, which will be difficult to replace.

"It's a huge blow," said rookie left tackle Trent Williams. "He's one of the leaders on this offense and somebody who everybody looked up to because he's been getting it done for a [lot] of years. "

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

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Skins sign Shawnbrey McNeal to practice squad

Redskins signed RB Shawnbrey McNeal to their practice squad.

McNeal went undrafted out of SMU, but was a highly productive runner and receiver in June Jones' spread. Any back associated with Mike Shanahan has a chance for fantasy relevance, so McNeal is worth keeping an eye on.

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Antrel Rolle upset with New Meadowlands boo birds

When fans booed the Giants at halftime following a miserable first-half performance by the home team, Antrel Rolle was less than thrilled.

Rolle, who is in his first season in New York after spending the last five years in Arizona, doesn’t care for boo birds.

"It [ticked] me off," Rolle said when asked about the halftime jeers in his weekly interview with WFAN’s Joe Benigno and Evan Roberts. "It really did. That is something I haven't heard since I have been here."

"You don't boo your team," he continued. "I don't care what happens. You don't boo your team. We are out there playing and pouring our heart out for our team as well as for our fans. You don't boo your team, I don't care what the situation is. We are 7-4. We are not 2-10. There are going to be ups and downs during the course of a season."

As they went to the locker room down 17-6 following a lackluster first half, fans let the Giants hear it. Justin Tuck said after the Giants' 24-20 come-from-behind win that he didn't blame the fans for booing considering how much they pay for their tickets.

Rolle disagreed. When told that sometimes New York fans boo out of love because they want to see their teams play better and know they can perform better, the Giants safety still said there's no place for screaming at the home team. He was also reminded he is no longer in Arizona -- and that New York fans are more demanding.

"I've never heard booing out of love," Rolle said. "If someone slaps me, I've never heard they slap you out of love. If you want to slap me, then you want to slap me."

Rolle says fans need not worry about the Giants, who will give them plenty to cheer about in January and February.

"I want our fans to hang in there with us," Rolle said. "We know we don't give the best of the best show all the time. But we are Giants. We are all as one. Players, coaches, fans, organization, we are one. Because when we go to the big show, as we are going to go this year, and we win that thing, we are going to bring it home. And we are all going to celebrate it as one."

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

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Ravens happy Ed Reed is back, too

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- With all the talk about quarterback Ben Roethlisberger missing the first Steelers-Ravens matchup this year, another Pro Bowl-caliber player was sidelined, too, and his return isn't getting nearly the same attention.

Forgotten dynamic safety Ed Reed? The Ravens certainly haven't.

"Well, I guess we knew that Ben would be back, too. So maybe it evened out," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "It's good to have Ed Reed back. Ed Reed, obviously, is a guy who can make interceptions. He's my favorite guy...I'll take Ed Reed any day of the week."

Baltimore's locker room shared the same sentiment as its head coach about having Reed back for this huge rivalry game. Since returning from the physically unable to perform list following hip surgery, Reed already has four interceptions in five games, and his ability to play center field could make a huge difference Pittsburgh's willingness to throw deep on Sunday.

The Steelers like going over the top to speedy receiver Mike Wallace, who is having a breakout year. Wallace has three 100-yard games the past four weeks and four touchdowns over that span. But deep routes will be more risky, as Reed has 50 interceptions and nine defensive touchdowns in his career.

"He's making plays even when he's not supposed to be somewhere," Ravens defensive end Terrell Suggs said. "So, when you've got a guy like that, he's like American Express: He's everywhere you want to be. I love having Ed Reed back."

With two good teams battling for first-place in the AFC North, one big play could determine the outcome of the game. Similar to Roethlisberger, Reed has proven to be a game-changer.

"Maybe one of the best players I've ever played against," Roethlisberger said during Wednesday's conference call. "Instinctually, he's one of those guys. His instincts are just uncanny, it's unbelievable."

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

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Jimmy Graham is on the rise

New Orleans Saints rookie tight end Jimmy Graham should again play a prominent role Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks as the backup behind veteran David Thomas.

Graham stepped up with the best game of his young career after starter Jeremy Shockey went down with bruised ribs two weeks ago at Carolina, catching three passes for 49 yards, including his first career touchdown. And two weeks before that, he caught a career-high four passes for 38 yards at Tampa Bay.

But don't expect to see Graham basking in the spotlight anytime soon. His veteran teammates in the tight end corps have kept him humble this year by discouraging him from doing any media interviews during the week. If he does, it might cost him a penalty such as a dinner tab. Graham is allowed to talk after the game if he plays well enough, though, which was the case at Carolina.

Graham was a breakout star in the offseason, when he turned heads during training camp practices and preseason games for his rare combination of size (6-feet-6, 260 pounds), speed and athleticism. He's still a raw talent, having played just one year of college football at Miami (Fla.) after playing four years of basketball for the Hurricanes. But clearly, he's coming along.

"First off, getting into the lineup at his position with some of the guys ahead of him is challenging. And yet we've tried to expand his role each week," Payton said of Graham's development. "Certainly his strong suit is the ability to run and play the football above his head. And you look at improving his blocking technique and some of those aspects that are different for him with the experience he's had.

"And he just keeps getting better and (learning) all the nuances that go into that position that is more than just one-dimensional in what you ask the tight end to do."

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

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Lively Up the morning with Marley Coffee

While being a reggae music fan isn’t a prerequisite for enjoying Marley Coffee, it does seem appropriate to take that first sip while listening to Bob Marley’s ‘One Cup of Coffee.’

While much of the Marley merchandise appeals to those who see the Jamaican reggae star as the symbol of the pot culture, this coffee should be enjoyed the earth-friendly vision behind it. Founded last year by Marley’s son Rohan, the company uses certified organic coffee that is sustainably grown and ethically farmed on the family’s estate in Jamaica.

Marley Coffee sells in 12-ounce bags of whole beans for $14.99. Proceeds from each sale go to Kicks for a Cause, a charity founded by the Marley family.

Lively Up is one of five coffees in the line, including one decaffeinated choice. It is a strong, smooth five-bean espresso blend combined with Ethiopian Yirgacheffe.

Once that morning cup of Lively Up is gone, one can’t help but feel that ‘everything’s gonna be all right.

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Danny Valencia awarded with rookie honor

MINNEAPOLIS -- Twins third baseman Danny Valencia earned recognition earlier this month for his stellar rookie season when he finished third in the American League Rookie of the Year Award balloting.

Now Valencia has been honored once again for his impressive 2010 campaign by being named the third baseman on the 52nd Annual Topps Major League Rookie All-Star Team.

Valencia, who turned 26 on Sept. 19, batted .311 with seven home runs and 40 RBIs in 85 games for the Twins in 2010. While he didn't begin the season with the club, he certainly made his impact felt after earning a callup in early June. Valencia had a .351 on-base percentage and a .448 slugging percentage while providing a solid glove at third base.

In addition to Valencia, the following players earned the postseason honor: 1B Gaby Sanchez (Florida), 2B Neil Walker (Pittsburgh), SS Starlin Castro (Chicago), OF Austin Jackson (Detroit), OF Mike Stanton (Florida), OF Jason Heyward (Atlanta), C Buster Posey (San Francisco), RHP Stephen Strasburg (Washington), LHP Jaime Garcia (St. Louis) and CL Neftali Feliz (Texas).

The Rookie All-Stars will each have a trophy on their 2011 trading card in Topps Baseball, with Series One due out in early February.

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San Francisco Giants re-sign Aubrey Huff

In what was almost a foregone conclusion because of their mutual admiration, the Giants brought top home run and RBI man Aubrey Huff back into the fold Tuesday, signing him to a two-year, $22 million deal that includes a $2 million buyout on a third-year club option.

With the team's No. 1 offseason priority quickly secured, now come more difficult challenges, including the potential trickle-down impact of a Huff contract that was a bit more expensive than the Giants were expecting.

What's left for versatile infielder and fellow free agent Juan Uribe?

Uribe is expected to receive multiple offers from other clubs -- his agent met with the St. Louis Cardinals on Tuesday -- and they possibly could be too lucrative to match. General manager Brian Sabean confessed that the club had to increase its offer to retain Huff, who had received a strong offer from an undisclosed team.

What's more, what's left for the eight arbitration-eligible players the Giants must tender by Dec. 2, among them outfielders Cody Ross and Andres Torres, and pitchers Jonathan Sanchez, Javier Lopez, Ramon Ramirez and Santiago Casilla?

Finally, what might be left for Huff's friend and former college teammate Pat Burrell, particularly in light of the fast ascension of prospect Brandon Belt, who could force Huff to the outfield or take over Burrell's spot himself?

Uribe moves to the front burner, but Sabean warned that he doesn't anticipate a resolution as swift as Huff's, which required a mere week of negotiations.

"I think both parties are willing to do something faster, but we're just not talking the same language yet as far as the ballpark figures," Sabean said. "This may take some time to get sorted out."

If Huff was underpaid last year at $3 million, so was Uribe at $3.25 million. What's more, the market for left-side infielders figures to be very competitive because of their relative scarcity. Sabean confessed the Giants have had preliminary trade discussions regarding a shortstop in case they can't re-sign Uribe, but reiterated they will play the waiting game for now.

"You have to be patient because we like the player," Sabean said. "Very much like Huff, we appreciate the versatility, the sacrifice, the presence on and off the field. But you do have to do business at hand, so that's why we're juggling the trade scenarios.

"I can't answer for (Uribe's) side. They're more in the driver's seat than us because they ultimately have to say yes. I really don't know what the outside world is going to bring to him specifically as a shortstop offer-wise."

Later Tuesday, the Giants offered Uribe arbitration, but he almost certainly will decline it.

Sabean said the club likes all eight players eligible for arbitration but didn't know if they'd all be tendered. Ross, Torres, Sanchez and Lopez surely will be, but Ramirez, Casilla, Chris Ray and Mike Fontenot are likely on the bubble.

As for Burrell, Sabean said he told the veteran outfielder the club must complete business in other areas before they address his situation. It may not help Burrell that his buddy Huff, who led the Giants in virtually all production categories this year -- 26 homers, 86 RBIs, 100 runs scored -- commanded such a healthy raise. His salary of $10 million in each of the next two seasons -- plus the guaranteed $2 million -- adds up to an $8 million per year raise over what he got this year. The 2013 option is also for $10 million.

"The market developed that way," Sabean said. "All it takes is one other team, and if you consider (Huff) was seventh in the MVP voting and what he meant and (what we) need going forward, we paid the piper and were glad to do so. You can't look back."

Huff, who turns 34 on Dec. 20, was certainly happy about that. In the last offseason, he did not sign until Jan. 13, with the Giants making the lone $3 million offer, and then only after they'd been spurned by Adam LaRoche on a far more lucrative offer.

Huff wouldn't disclose what team made him the large offer the Giants matched, but said his focus was to return to San Francisco.

"There was a big interest out there, but in the end, it wasn't going to take much to come back here for me," he said. "Some other team would have had to blow me away with a four-year deal or something."

The Giants also disclosed that third baseman Pablo Sandoval is doing his offseason conditioning program in Arizona this winter instead of San Diego, which will enable the club to more closely monitor his progress.

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