Vernon Carey Unfiltered

Vernon Carey is a proud, card carrying member of the NFL's biggest and baddest fraternity.

He's a Hurricane, one of the 44 University of Miami players presently in the NFL, continuing the school's reign as the college program that has the most pro players running with the big boys.

Florida State is a distant second with 37 members, and Ohio State, Michigan and Georgia each have 36.

That achievement, and UM's 14-year streak of consecutive first-rounders (which likely comes to an end in 2009 if DE Eric Moncur doesn't have a monster season) is something the Hurricanes and its alums take a great deal of pride in despite "the U" falling on hard times.

Despite Miami's NFL dominance, UM's struggles have hit the school's pros hard. Most rarely watch Saturday's games these days. They can no longer boast and brag when cocky alums of other programs start talking smack. That's why the first thing Carey warned me when he agreed to do this unfiltered is that he didn't want to talk about UM. Fortunately, he agreed to talk on the touchy subject when I wouldn't let him off the hook.

The lifelong Miami native was at last week's disappointing North Carolina loss with his son, and when you check out this unfiltered you'll feel his pain.

During this unfiltered - which I'm sad to announce will be one of the last of it's kind because "The Man" is clamping down on what we do on the video end - you'll hear straight from Carey where he thinks the Hurricanes, and the Dolphins are headed, and what they need to do to turn things around.

He also addresses the adjustment he made back to the right side, where he's under attack playing next to new starter Ikechuku Ndukwe, who knows he's being scrutinized and is working to handle the challenge. And Carey touches on why he and his agent aren't pushing for a new contract from the Dolphins, the team he grew up wanting to play for.

I toughed on that last topic during the recent Q&A, but it's always good to hear straight from the player or coaches mouth, which is what these unfiltered interviews are - or were - all about.

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McKinnie's back, claiming a changed approach

Bryant McKinnie has come back to Minnesota a few pounds - and a few friends - lighter.

His four-game suspension for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy completed, McKinnie returned to practice Thursday at left tackle for the Vikings eager to re-establish his presence on their line and make up his absence to his teammates. He also claimed a different approach to what he does and who he's with when he's out and about at night.

"I changed some phone numbers and got rid of some people I feel like weren't for me," McKinnie said, adding: "Just to get rid of that, 'He likes to hang out.'"

McKinnie was charged with three misdemeanors and aggravated battery, a felony, following a February street brawl outside a Miami nightclub. Though the case is pending, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell issued his punishment right before the regular season began with more than just this incident in mind.

Three years ago, McKinnie pleaded guilty to misdemeanor disorderly conduct for his role in the infamously rowdy boat party attended by several players during the team's bye week. Earlier that season, he was also arrested after a late-night scuffle at a gas station. Those charges were later dropped.

In the second season of a seven-year contract worth up to $48.5 million, including more than $17 million guaranteed, McKinnie has risked plenty of earning power with his off-the-field actions - not to mention his reputation and the reward of playing football for a living. Though he pointed to his high-profile status as one cause of the current charges, McKinnie acknowledged his responsibility in the matter that he has declined to discuss in detail for legal reasons.

"I put myself out there and things happen," McKinnie said, his first public comments since the suspension. "I have to be held accountable for what happened. So now what I've learned is try to make better decisions. Don't put yourself in a situation like that. You know when you have your salary on the Internet and things like that, you become a target and you've just got to have a gameplan when you go out."

Coach Brad Childress had a stern warning for McKinnie earlier this year when news broke of his trouble, insinuating his future with the franchise was in question. Childress didn't quite warmly welcome him back this week, but then again the low-key Childress doesn't exactly glow when he speaks about anybody. The coach did, however, positively note McKinnie's condition.

"He looks to be in great shape and good spirits," Childress said.

The Vikings can use a one-week roster exemption before making a move to accommodate McKinnie. He said he shared time at left tackle in practice with Artis Hicks, who performed admirably with an injured elbow against four elite defensive ends during the four games McKinnie missed.

"I'm happy to see him back and see him get back on track and have a great year," said Hicks, who refused to answer a question about whether he was told by the coaches McKinnie would immediately recoup the starting job. Childress was noncommital when asked whether Hicks might rotate snaps at the position in Monday's game at New Orleans to cope with McKinnie's inevitable rust.

Spending the last month in the heat of Miami looks as if it helped the 6-foot-8 McKinnie, who has occasionally had trouble controlling his weight but is now at 348 pounds.

"It actually showed me how much I really like football," McKinnie said. "Just being away from it for a while and watching my teammates play and sometimes watching certain things. I felt like, 'Maybe I could've done this to help.'"

He said he used a personal trainer and spent as much time as he could lifting weights, running and working on drills specific to his position.
"I actually think I might be in better shape now than when I left," he said, laughing.

The Vikings hope that holds true off the field, too. McKinnie said he tries to limit his time out on the town and has become more focused on business affairs away from football, particularly a record label he is a part of.

So is he a changed man?

"Can't change overnight," he said, "but I'm in the process of changing."


Antrel Rolle Update

FS Antrel Rolle didn't play one of his better games last week. He missed tackles and he's yet to make the sort of game-changing plays the Cardinals had hoped he would provide when he moved from cornerback.


Texans should force passes to Johnson

If you've got Andre Johnson at wide receiver, you can't settle for fellow wideout Kevin Walter or tight end Owen Daniels. Those two are great, but they need to be second and third options. If defenses are making you go to them instead of Johnson, they are winning.

So as the Texans get ready to face the Colts Sunday at Reliant Stadium, I say force it.

There is no way Walter and running back Steve Slaton should have as many catches (15) as Johnson or that Daniels should be just one off the pace. Sure it's nice to have good distribution. But Johnson needs to be fed.

I chatted with two scouts about Johnson this week, and they offered specific ways to get him the ball early.

One said Johnson has faced bracketed coverage that prompts quarterback Matt Schaub to turn elsewhere, but he added that Johnson is a rhythm receiver who needs to be involved from the start and build on it. He said the Texans should call for five-, six- seven- or eight-yard hitches and quick slants to get Johnson feeling a part of things out of the gate. That way they'll ensure he's feeling alive and coming off the snap the rest of the game wanting the ball and expecting it.

The other scout said he'd like to see smoke routes -- plays where the quarterback can throw to Johnson against off coverage out of what's really a run play, getting the ball in his hands quickly against a corner who's giving a cushion.

Johnson, always a good soldier, has sounded frustrated this week. (If you missed it this morning, here's Richard Justice's account.)
The Texans aren't going to come out and talk about a concerted effort to get Johnson the ball, even if that's the plan. (Have I mentioned I think it should be?)

"If they want to take him away, then other guys are going to make plays," Schaub told Houston reporters. "He understands that, I understand that, our offense understands that. For us to be successful, we need him in the mix. But if other guys step up like they did this last Sunday to make plays then the next team down the road can't necessarily focus on Andre so much because they say, 'Hey, Kevin Walter, Owen Daniels, Steve Slaton; they can all make plays too."

It's a good theory.

What I think those teams will really say is, "Hey, if we put the clamps on Johnson, they may just be willing to go to Walter and Daniels and Slaton, and we'd much rather take our chances against those guys than the guy with 25 touchdown catches and an ability to bull through our defensive backs and get that team feeling super-confident."


McGahee miffed at Kolber

Ravens running back Willis McGahee was none too pleased when he found out ESPN reporter Suzy Kolber reported that it was possible he was getting injured because he did not take part in offseason workouts, according to the Baltimore Sun. "She's never played a day in the NFL. Why would I listen to her?" McGahee asked.


Romberg Remains Backup

St. Louis Rams C Brett Romberg, who suffered a broken hand during training camp, is no longer in pain when he snaps, but he remains firmly entrenched behind C Nick Leckey according to PFW. Leckey surprisingly worked his way up the depth chart to win a starting job, which he has shown no signs of relinquishing.


Giants wideouts Manningham, Moss see opportunity

They've become somewhat forgotten, receivers who go deep only on the depth chart. Mario Manningham missed almost all of training camp with a quadriceps injury and has not dressed for an NFL game. .Sinorice Moss, his future with the franchise in doubt from the moment the Giants drafted Manningham in April, has been in uniform for the first three games of the season. But in the last two, he has not stepped onto the field.

Each said that with the suspension of Plaxico Burress for Sunday's game against the Seahawks, his fortune is about to change.

"This is my opportunity," Moss said Wednesday.

"I'm ready to go out there and make plays and help my team win," Manningham said Thursday.

Can they both be right? Probably not. With only one receiver suspended, it's unlikely that Moss and Manningham will find a way to impact this game. It's not even a sure bet that one of them will.

Both have spoken about the virtues of patience, waiting for the right chance. After Sunday, at least one of them probably will still be on the line.

The Giants have extraordinary depth at receiver, even without Burress. Amani Toomer is a solid pro, Domenik Hixon was one of the stars of the preseason when he filled in for an injured Burress for most of training camp and has shown a penchant for the big play during the season (on passes and punt returns). And Steve Smith is quickly becoming one of Eli Manning's favorite targets, especially on third downs. The Giants have converted 11 third downs by passing this season, and a team-high four have gone to Smith.

It's no wonder that Moss and Manningham have had trouble cracking that lineup. But now that the fissure between the team and Burress has created a crack, there's not going to be room for both to squeeze through.

Manningham may be handicapped by a stomach virus he suffered from this week, which caused him to miss practices on Monday and Wednesday. Thursday, however, he returned to the field -- five pounds lighter and a little lacking in energy, he said -- and had full participation in practice. Although he looked a bit sluggish walking from one area of the field to the other, he appeared to run his routes crisply and caught several early throws from Manning.

"I'm getting there," he said. "I'll be back by the time Sunday comes."

Tom Coughlin seemed impressed with Manningham's comeback. "He has obviously been affected by it because I don't think he has had a lot to eat," the coach said. "Not a lot has stayed down. But he practiced pretty well for a guy who hasn't worked."

Moss also has the advantage of having played during camp. When the receivers were banged up in August, it was Moss who remained on the field taking those all-important summer snaps.

"It helped a lot," Moss said of catching balls in Albany. "We really had to step up and grow up. We had a big task in the preseason stepping in and making some plays, so having that time with Eli and the other quarterbacks it's like all the hard work we put in, now it's time for it to pay off."

When he met with reporters Wednesday, Manning spoke about the depth at receiver and said he would have Moss as the fourth wideout. The Giants have used that formation this season, but that was before Manningham returned. After three seasons, the Giants know what they have in Moss. They might want to take Manningham out for a spin against the .Seahawks.

Manningham said he's been shadowing fellow University of Michigan product Toomer, who has the locker next to his. After a stellar career with the Wolverines, riding the bench this first part of the season has been difficult for Manningham.

"I can't pout about it," he said. "I have a lot of guys in front of me who've been there. I can't do anything but sit back and listen and wait my turn."

Whether it's a long wait or a short wait could be determined Sunday.


G. Sanchez expected to compete for starting job

Joe Frisaro, of, reports Florida Marlins 1B Gaby Sanchez is expected to compete for the starting job at first base next season.


Davenport happy for the opportunity

There were times recently when Najeh Davenport thought he would never play football again. He had been exploring other avenues, whether in the financial world or scouting, in an effort to get on with his life’s work.

“It was like what’s next,” said Davenport. “One thing I had to learn was acceptance and patience. I didn’t know if I would play football again.”

But as we all know life has interesting twists and turns. One man’s misfortune can open the door for another. And for Davenport, that is what happened.

When Rashard Mendenhall suffered a season-ending fractured shoulder and Carey Davis sprained his ankle on Monday night against the Ravens, the Steelers needed an experienced back. That’s when Davenport’s phone rang.

“I was on a plane for part of the game headed to Milwaukee,” said Davenport. “I only saw the end of the game. But my friends started to call and told me about the injuries. Then, about one in the morning my phone rang and I was told I had a flight to Pittsburgh at seven am. That’s how it works.”

Davenport signed with the Steelers on Wednesday and was out on the practice field that afternoon raring to go.

“If it comes to it and I get the opportunity to play this week, I am sure I can do it,” said Davenport.

No starter has been determined yet, but the Steelers at least now have three healthy backs with Mewelde Moore who came through in the clutch against the Ravens, Gary Russell who was signed off the practice squad and Davenport. Head coach Mike Tomlin knows Moore and Russell are ready to go and he is hoping the same is true of Davenport.

“It’s our goal that he’s going to contribute in some form or fashion this weekend,” said Tomlin. “There are going to be some factors that determine that and of course one of them is his overall level of conditioning and another key factor is how quickly he comes back up to speed from assignment standpoint.

“He’s aware of the culture that we have here. He’s aware of the standards that we set. He’s been on this bike before. He has to get back on it and ride.”

So far, he hasn’t had trouble doing that.

“I feel comfortable just hearing some of the stuff called and getting my self familiar with it and just going over plays in my head,” said Davenport. “I am cool with it.”


Commentary: When this Andre speaks...

MAYBE it’s the fact that Andre Johnson sees another season going nowhere.

Maybe it’s another year of lousy football and having his talent wasted. Maybe he’s just tired of being part of a doormat franchise that prompted him to speak up Wednesday.

“I think after a while, it kind of takes a toll on you,” he said.

For the first time, he appears to have had enough. It has been reflected in his body language and in his postgame comments.

When he dropped those two touchdown passes in Tennessee, he did what a leader is supposed to do. He stepped up and accepted the blame for the defeat even though there were a dozen other things that went wrong.

So the Texans go to Jacksonville and Johnson touches the ball three times.

“It’s not just me,” he said. “I’m pretty sure it’s that way with a lot of the guys around the locker room. I guess it just bothers me a little bit more because I’ve been going through it since I’ve been here. So, I just have to continue to work.”

For six seasons, he has played the role of good soldier. Never complained. You never heard him say the quarterback was lousy and the coaching even worse.

He could have. He would have been accurate. He just didn’t.

He continued to work hard and play hard and hope the people in charge did the right thing.

Last season when the Texans went 8-8, it appeared they finally would be playing for something this season.

Prime time for Andre
Now he’s 28 and in what should be the prime years of his career. He surely figured things would be different by now.

He had to think the Texans would matter by his sixth year. Can you imagine Terrell Owens keeping his mouth shut this long?

Thirty-six NFL players have more receptions than Johnson. His next touchdown catch will be his first of the year. Ridiculous, right?

“It’s frustrating,” he said. “You want to get involved in the game. You want to go out there and make plays. You just try to do your best when the ball is thrown to you. You know other guys go through it. Other guys on other teams go through it. It’s part of the game. “

He has 15 catches and no touchdowns. Kevin Walter also has 15 catches. Steve Slaton has 15 catches.

“There’s nothing I can do about that,” he said. “That’s not my call. That’s out of my control. I just go out and play. I just go out and do what I can do to help the team win, and that’s what I’m going to continue to do.”

He’s good enough to play for a championship team. He’d make the Patriots or Giants better. Instead, he’s stuck on a team that just keeps losing.

Texans coach Gary Kubiak said Johnson was taken out of the game by Jacksonville rolling its defense to his side of the field.

That’s silly. If he can’t figure out a way to get the ball to his best offensive player, he should hire someone who can.

When someone asked Johnson about his creating opportunities for Walter, he didn’t buy it.

“If that’s how you guys feel about it,” he said. “I just go out and play. All I care about is winning. Like you said, you can see the frustration. I’m tired of losing. I’m pretty sure everyone else around here is tired of losing.”

It’s always something. If you listen to some of these coaches long enough, you’d think they were designing a nuclear reactor.

There are ways to get a player the ball if there’s a desire to do so. How about a quick screen or a slant? How about a four-wide receiver set? How about attacking instead of reacting?

The Texans appear to be at another turning point of sorts this week as the Indianapolis Colts come to Reliant Stadium. They’re one of four winless teams.

A statement game
There’s winless and there’s winless. The Texans have been blown out in two games. If they can’t at least make a game of it against the Colts, wouldn’t it be time for Bob McNair to start holding some people accountable?

Kubiak and Rick Smith have had three offseasons to overhaul the franchise.

Now, this team is mostly players they picked and coaches they hired. If it’s broken, it’s no longer Charley Casserly’s fault.

“We needed one more play to be made to win that game (against Jacksonville),” Johnson said, “but we just didn’t make that play. So, that’s pretty much been the story week in and week out, not making enough plays or not executing on offense.

“So, hopefully we can get that done Sunday. We’re going to go out and give it our best shot.”


Wilfork wants to end career as a Patriot

In the lockerroom a short while ago, Vince Wilfork voiced his desire to emulate Troy Brown, and retire a lifelong Patriot. The nose tackle, who has two years remaining on his current pact, would love to make his stay in New England a permanent one.”I’m going to do everything in my will power to stay. I’m pretty sure, they’re going to do the same thing,” Wilfork said. ”I love my teammates. I love this organization. I love my coaches. It’s very rare when you have somebody that really loves his company in the lockerroom, where you can sit back and laugh, and just have fun and play football. It’s rare.”

Wilfork claimed there had been no discussions or progress on a new deal or extension.

”I got two more years. That’s something I’m not even worried about right now. That’ll take care of itself,” he said. ”I’m a football player. I signed up for six years. That’s what I’m looking to play. If anything happens between now and then, it happens. But I’m looking to play all my six. But I’m happy. I can’t get any happier than I am.

”I want to end my career here. I want to end my football career to end in New England. If they don’t know, I’m pretty sure you guys will let them know how much I love it here. i don’t want to go anywhere else. When I signed here, the first thing I said in my press conference, ‘I want to start a Patriot, and I want to end a Patriot. ‘

”I’m far from not being finished. I got a couple more years before I call it quits,” he went on. ”I love it here, man. You can’t find anybody else that can come in and work, and like their company. Everyone you meet here is unbelievable. I don’t have any complaints. None. I can’t complain about anything. I’m happy. I’m always smiling. I love to do what I do. Playing football, and having fun with the guys I do battle with every Sunday. That’s what I look forward to.”

Wilfork voiced his admiration for Brown, who retired after 15 seasons in one uniform - as a Patriot.

”I hope I can put in as many as he did,” Wilfork said of Brown. ”He had a lot of respect for these guys in this lockerrroom, upstairs and everywhere. I have the same respect (for him). Learn from the best. When you have guys like that, showing you the way, leading the way of how to be person, how to be a teammate, how to be a leader . . . he left his mark in this lockerroom. He left his mark on me. He’s a good guy to idolize.”


Miami blows away every other school at producing pros

Miami is unranked this week in college football. The Hurricanes haven't been to a bowl since 2006. They haven't finished a season in the national polls since 2005. The Hurricanes haven't won a national title since 2001.

But Miami remains the first stop for NFL talent evaluators looking to build championship teams. The Hurricanes placed 44 players on NFL rosters in September, tops in the league by a wide margin. Florida State was next with 37.

Miami safety Kenny Phillips was a first-round draft pick by the Super Bowl champion New York Giants last April. It marked the 14th consecutive draft that a Hurricane has been taken in the first round. The next-longest current streak is five consecutive drafts by LSU.

Miami has had 26 players selected in the first round this decade. Ohio State is next with 14 first-rounders. There are Hurricanes on 22 of the NFL's 32 rosters. Fourteen Hurricanes have been to the Pro Bowl, including six last season.

Of the 44 Hurricanes on NFL rosters, 22 started last weekend. That group includes four halfbacks (Frank Gore of San Francisco, Edgerrin James of Arizona, Willis McGahee of Baltimore and Clinton Portis of Washington) and four middle linebackers (Jon Beason of Carolina, Ray Lewis of Baltimore, Jonathan Vilma of New Orleans and Nate Webster of Denver).

Four Hurricanes play for the Giants. Four also play for the Texans. Surprisingly, none play for the Cowboys, who once used first-round draft picks on Michael Irvin and Russell Maryland. Both won Super Bowl rings with the Cowboys, as did fellow Hurricanes Bernie Kosar, Jimmie Jones, Darrin Smith and Kevin Williams.

In fact, the Cowboys have not drafted a Hurricane since selecting Smith in the second-round in 1993. The Cowboys also haven't won a playoff game since Smith left in free agency after the 1996 season.

Here are some other roster/school tidbits:

Ten schools have 30-plus players on NFL rosters, and three are from the state of Florida - Miami (44), Florida State (37) and Florida (30).
Cal (27) has more players on NFL rosters than traditional powers Alabama (18), Arkansas (16), Oklahoma (18) and Penn State (22).
Fresno State (17) has more players on NFL rosters than Ole Miss, Pitt, Syracuse or Washington - all with 14.

Hawaii (15) has more players on NFL rosters than Clemson (13).

Here's a list of all the schools of the top schools with NFL opening-day rosters in 2008:
Miami (Fla.); 44
Florida State; 37
Georgia; 36
Michigan; 36
Ohio State; 36
LSU; 35
Tennessee; 34
Texas; 34
Southern Cal; 32
Florida; 30
Notre Dame; 28
Auburn; 27
Cal; 27
Virginia Tech; 25
Nebraska; 24
Maryland; 23
Boston College; 22


Vernon Carey Update

Q: The front office is taking a "wait and see" approach on right tackle Vernon Carey, who will be a free agent after this season. Is this risk?

A: "It's a calculated risk, but I understand why the front office has this wait and see approach to the four-year starter. Carey is presently checking in around 340 pounds, and while he carries the weight well, that's a bit heavy for this regime. Before giving a player a contract extension it's wise to see how serious he is about getting in better shape. Carey needs to do that to stay healthy and extend his playing career. While this former Hurricane is a hometown guy, he's intent on winning. He wants to explore his options at season's end. His fellow Hurricane Eric Winston, the Texans' starting right tackle, just got a five-year, $30 million contract with $10 million of it guaranteed. That's the bar Carey and his agent will likely be working with, but that might be too pricey for a right tackle based on General Manager Jeff Ireland's value breakdown per position. Two rookies, Kirk Barton and Nate Garner, who were both acquired off the waiver wire in recent weeks, will likely be groomed as Carey's possible replacement. If they present some upside Carey will likely be allowed to walk."


Patriots aim to stop 49ers' Frank Gore

FOXBOROUGH - Vince Wilfork and Frank Gore are friends, former University of Miami teammates now playing at a high level in the NFL.

Wilfork said there will be no conversation between the two during this week, what with Wilfork's New England Patriots and Gore's San Francisco 49ers set to meet Sunday on the West Coast.

Wilfork will certainly see his share of Gore come Sunday. But the more significant question is will the nose tackle and his teammates simply catch glimpses of the running back or will they be able to wrap him up - in bear hugs, if you will - more times than not?

The 5-foot-9, 217-pound Gore is averaging 19 carries per game and 4.9 yards per carry for the 49ers, and he also is tied for the team lead with 15 receptions. He has surpassed 1,000 yards rushing in each of the last two seasons.

The fourth-year pro is an incredibly helpful weapon for young quarterback J.T. O'Sullivan not only because he can produce big plays on his own but also because he can help his QB open up the downfield passing game which has been the trademark of offensive coordinator Mike Martz.

"We just need to make sure we wrap him up," Wilfork said. "There are times (on film) when you think they have him, but he pops out. We've just got to be really good about wrapping up people, especially him.

"It starts with stopping the run," he added, "that puts you in good situations."

The Patriots are coming off a dismal defensive performance against the Miami Dolphins, a 38-13 loss. Opponents are converting at a crisp 48 percent on third down, and they are averaging 140 rushing yards per game.

At this point, the 2-1 Patriots are simply a defensive unit coming off a bad performance. If the 49ers are able to find holes and those numbers on third down and in the run game persist another week, however, then the Patriots could start to look like a team with more signficant flaws.

Gore has much more of a track record than O'Sullivan, so the Patriots will undoubtedly try to attack a quarterback who has been sacked 19 times through a 2-2 start.

New England coach Bill Belichick pointed out that O'Sullivan, who spent a short time on the Patriots' practice squad in 2006, is more mobile but less experienced than other quarterbacks such as Kurt Warner and Jon Kitna who have directed offenses for Martz in the past. The former UC Davis QB has completed 61 percent of his passes this season with four touchdowns and three interceptions.

"Athletic, good arm, live arm, can make all the throws, quick feet, can stay alive in the pocket, improvise, make some plays scrambling around," Belichick said when asked about the 6-foot-2, 227-pound O'Sullivan.

"I don't think it was a question of talent or anything else. For us, it was more about opportunity and reps and how many quarterbacks you can work with. He got into a good competitive situation in San Francisco and made the most of it. I think he deserves credit for perseverance."

O'Sullivan, a sixth-year pro with no starts prior to this season, does not look forward to facing a 3-4 defense - three down linemen and four linebackers - and this is one which has stifled many a young quarterback. A 3-4 means there is an extra linebacker in the game, a defender who might rush or might drop into coverage.

"Most quarterbacks will tell you that they don't love the 3-4 because there is extra guy standing up," O'Sullivan said. "Once you've seen it, you understand they are trying to do certain things with their front. We're trying to stuff with our routes and protections. You get a little more comfortable with it, but I think you would rather see seven guys standing up than eight."


Moss gathers passes for big start with 3-1 'Skins

ASHBURN, Va. (AP) — The Santana Moss of 2008 is looking much like the Santana Moss of 2005, a bundle of energy and swagger gathering passes to make plays for a Washington Redskins team that is one of the early surprises of the NFL.

The reasons are plentiful. He's healthy after taking a long offseason football break. He took up taekwondo, attending classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays because he "didn't want to be a couch potato." He's lining up in a different spot on the field in an attacking offense better suited to his skills.

And, oh yeah, he finally has a feel for quarterback Jason Campbell.

"Last year I wasn't comfortable," Moss said. "I was trying to learn each game. That's the hardest thing to do as a receiver, trying to learn your quarterback come game time. One of the reasons why I made sure I was up here in the offseason was to make sure I can get that familiar touch with him because I didn't want to be out here thinking on the job."

It seems odd to hear Moss express that sentiment. He and Campbell both became Redskins in 2005, and Campbell became the starting quarterback in the 10th game of the 2006 season. It's not like they've been strangers, but it might have seemed that way on Sundays because hamstring, groin and heel injuries limited Moss' ability to practice over the past two seasons.

"I always felt like I can get used to a quarterback quicker just because I'm going to stand in his face and talk to him," receiver Antwaan Randle El said. "And that's not Tana's deal. Tana's not going to be on the guy. He's just going to say, 'If you see me, give me the ball.' Some guys it takes a little longer."

This season, Moss is second in the NFL in yards receiving (421) and tied for third in receptions (27). He's caught as least five passes in each of the first four games, his longest such streak since his Pro Bowl season of 2005, when he set the franchise single-season yardage record (1,483) teaming with Mark Brunell.

"Our relationship has definitely grown over the past year," Campbell said. "I think a lot of that has to do with stability and being together, being around each other in practice. A lot of it has to do with reading body language. Some times I can see him breaking a route before he even does it."
Part of the rapport might have been Moss figuring out Campbell's quarterbacking style. At one point last season, after watching Campbell get pounded repeatedly in the pocket, Moss started picking on his teammate for not running more.

Campbell told Moss that he thought receivers preferred to have a quarterback who throws more and looks to run less.

"He said, 'Utilize it — sometimes we can get open off of it,'" Campbell said. "I lost 10-12 pounds, so I guess I'm trying to be what he wants me to be."

New coach Jim Zorn's practice antics — playing dodgeball and throwing big pads at the quarterbacks while in a passing stance — have helped Campbell's mobility as well. The drill paid off when Campbell dodged the pass rush to hit Moss for the biggest play thus far of the season, the game-winning 67-yard touchdown toss in the Week 2 win over the New Orleans Saints.

"Coach Z throws bags at him and they're doing those 'Matrix' kind of moves out there, it comes through in the game and you see them making play after play when guys are hanging on them," Moss said. "He's just being phenomenal right now."

Moss' injuries — all leg-related — caused his yardage to drop to 790 in 2006 and 808 last season. This season, for the first time since childhood, he took a three-month break at the end of football season. He did taekwondo to keep in shape but otherwise didn't pound his body the way he used to. It's helped him regain his explosiveness.

"I really truly believe that right now it's showing," Moss said. "It's giving me that feedback that I want."

Zorn also took one look at Moss and decided the receiver was in the wrong spot. Under former coach Joe Gibbs, Moss was a flanker lining up a yard or two off the line of scrimmage.

"That takes away a little bit of Santana's threat of accelerating down the field," Zorn said. "If you have him on the line of scrimmage, you get him on the defender a little bit quicker, and just a yard makes a huge difference."

Moss also likes the fact that Zorn has him catching more passes on underneath routes, which sets up defenders for the big play downfield — such as the 53-yard catch in last week's victory over the Dallas Cowboys at Texas Stadium, where Moss enjoyed three 100-yard games in his four games with the Redskins.

Given that the offense is new to everyone, Moss thinks that performance was just scratching the surface.

"We're still learning; we're still getting better every week," Moss said. "Right now, for what we have grasped of the offense, I think we're doing well."


McGahee Injury Update

Willis McGahee said he hopes to be able to finish a game. McGahee said that his injury to his ribs was in the back where he took a helmet. McGahee broke two ribs last year towards the end of the season. McGahee’s left eyes looks really bad, it had a lot of blood in it. That is the eye that he got poked in during the Browns game. McGahee takes exception to people saying he is getting these injuries because of him missing off season workouts. McGahee said he will have a better understanding on how he feels after practice today.


Leon Williams Performance Review vs the Bengals

Leon Williams was used in pass coverage, particularly against the tight end, and I thought he had his best game in quite a while.


Ortega Signed to the Practice Squad

The only roster moves we had were that we signed Joey Harrington and waived Buck Ortega and have since placed Buck Ortega back on the practice squad.”


Ryan Braun Out On the Town


NFL U Week 4 Video Highlights

Check out the return of our NFL U Video Highlights. Like we did back in 2006, will provide our fans every week video highlights of all of our NFL U stars along with pictures from the current NFL Week. Click here to check out our Week 4 Video Highlights or click above on NFL U Video Highlights. Enjoy this week's highlights which feature a Santana Moss, a Greg Olsen Touchdown, a Devin Hester TD and more!

NFL U Week 4 Photos

Check out Week 4 photos from around the the NFL of our proCanes. Click here to see the photos.

Najeh Signs

With starter Willie Parker hurting and backup Rashard Mendenhall out for the season, the Steelers today signed running back Najeh Davenport. From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

Davenport worked out for the club late this morning and signed a contract early this afternoon. He played for the Steelers the past two years but was released after the Steelers drafted running back Rashard Mendenhall in the first round in April.

Davenport reportedly "looked to be in good shape" during his tryout before signing with the Steelers Tuesday.
The Steelers probably wouldn't have brought back Davenport if he was not in shape, but the 247-pounder has never been the most physically fit back. He is a candidate for 6-10 touches and goal-line carries in Week 5.

The Steelers will sign one more back, likely Gary Russell from their practice squad.


Nate Webster Update

Q: How long before the Broncos make a change at middle linebacker? Nate Webster has been almost invisible this season -- other than the fumble return (for a TD). For a position that should be involved in most plays, he's been conspicuous in his absence. The only time he's visible is when he's over-running plays, filling the wrong hole, or chasing a tight end or running back downfield after a pass reception. Could Spencer Larsen or Niko Koutouvides be any worse? Nate has been around long enough for coaches to know that what you see is what you're going to get.

A: Also in some of the Webster questions were add-ons about the team's ability to improve the pass rush as it goes along and any potential for some trades.

Right off the top it has to be noted the coaches' video review has Webster leading the team in tackles, being a couple ahead of D.J. Williams and, in their minds, he won the job in training camp.

Whether folks watching the game at home would agree with that or not, Webster is still the official leader. He has over-run some plays in his zeal to make something happen - that is the one thing opposing offensive coordinators do point to at times when looking at his game - but he has not been alone, especially in Kansas City when Larry Johnson gained a significant amount of yardage coming out of the back side of the play after the front side - or "play" side - was bottled up.

The Broncos had certainly signed Koutouvides with the intention of playing him at middle linebacker and would have if he would have done a little more in the preseason. Even Koutouvides admitted that he did fine when it came to assignment football, but that he felt like he didn't "make enough plays'' to tip things his way.

Webster won the job with his best offseason in quite some time with efforts the Broncos likely didn't expect when last season ended.

But Koutouvides would be put into the lineup if Webster graded out poorly enough at some point for the coaches to believe they needed to make a change. And if they are thinking anything close to that right now, they have not conveyed that to any of the players at the moment.

Also, certainly if Webster got hurt Koutouvides would be in the lineup.

But right now they have big picture problems on defense that require their attention rather than simply tinkering with the depth chart in one or two places - that's just smoothing a rough edge or two to replace a player here and there.


McGahee Injured

Ravens coach John Harbaugh said RB Willis McGahee's ribs are the only serious injury concern for Sunday's game against Tennessee.
Harbaugh offered no details, saying only, "We think he's going to be OK. We'll just have to see how the rib goes this week." McGahee was limited to just one carry in the second half Monday night before suffering the injury and walking off with assistance. He's likely to split carries with LeRon McClain if he does suit up against the Titans bruising defense. Seek other options this week.


Kellen Winslow Contract Talks on Back Burner

The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports Browns GM Phil Savage said "there really hasn't been" much in the way of new contract talks for TE Kellen Winslow II. "As I've said all along, we've kept talks open," Savage said. "We've kept an open communication, but for the most part, those kinds of things are on the back burner. The first priority is to try to win a football game, and those kinds of things tend to sort themselves out over time. You have to have some patience with it, and that's really what we're trying to do in some of these contract situations."


McKinnie Reports

Bryant McKinnie returns to the Viking starting line-up following a 4 game suspension. Pending his conditioning, McKinnie is expected to start this Sunday's game at New Orleans.

Insight: The Addition of "Mount" McKinnie to the Viking offensive line can only help the numbers for runningback Adrian Peterson. McKinnie will also help protect Gus Frerotte, who would rather not "Remember the Titans".


Like father, like son

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - Like the Energizer Bunny, Jeff Feagles keeps going and going and going. The most prolific punter in NFL history is in his 21st professional season. He has 323 consecutive regular season games, 1,596 punts, 66,254 yards and, after a two-decade wait, one Super Bowl ring to his credit.

Feagles’ wife Michelle has been with him for his entire professional journey. Actually, they’ve been partners longer than that. They began dating when Jeff was a junior and Michelle a sophomore at Gerard High School in Phoenix. Since then, they’ve been on a football odyssey that has taken them to college in Miami and NFL stops in New England, Philadelphia, Arizona, Seattle and, since 2003, the Giants. Along the way they raised four sons. It has been a rich, rewarding, entertaining and fun life in which punting a football has always played an integral role.

But for Jeff and Michelle, the greatest joys from punting are yet to come. Not because Feagles, 42, plans to play until he’s eligible for Social Security. Their oldest son, C.J., is an outstanding senior punter at Ridgewood (N.J.) High School who has received a full scholarship to the University of North Carolina.

“I’m very proud of him,” Jeff Feagles said. “With my career winding down it’s going to be a pleasure to go watch a football game and have your son doing what you did forever. Plus, I’ll be able to critique him as well. He has a lot of natural talent, more than I had, and he’s got the coaching. I never had the coaching and had to be self-taught, but he’s getting the coaching and he’s very coachable and he understands the position.”

C.J. – his given name is Christopher Jeffrey, but he’s been known by his initials since shortly after birth – hopes to play in the NFL some day. Five years from now, Jeff will be 47. Heck, George Blanda kicked a 41-yard field goal in the 1975 AFC Championship Game when he was 48. Is it possible Jeff and C.J. might someday be dueling punters in the same NFL game?

“You really think about that,” Feagles said. “He’s one step removed from the next level. I think he can have a good college career and his goals are one year at a time, but I know his long term goals are to be a professional. It would be a great experience for me and him as well as my wife to go and watch him kick. I just can’t wait.”

“That would be unbelievable,” C.J. said of joining an NFL team while his father is still in the league. “Obviously, if that were to happen it would be a long time from now. It would be really cool.”

For now, he’ll enjoy his current circumstance. After all, how many high school seniors have a father playing in the NFL, not to mention one who just brought home a Super Bowl ring?

“All my friends think it’s cool and it’s fun,” C.J. said.

Given that, should we be surprised that the parent who pushed him back to football was … Michelle?

When he was young, C.J. would go out in the backyard and emulate his father. Even then, it was obvious he had a lot of talent. C.J. punted as a high school freshman, but sat out his sophomore season two years ago. His father chose not to intervene.

“I wasn’t upset, because I didn’t want to push him into something he didn’t want to do,” Feagles said. “But I told him when you’re ready I’ll help you, but if you don’t want to do it I’m not going to force you to do it. But really, his mother forced him to play football his junior year. She’s taking credit for all of it.”

Rightly – and proudly – so. Michelle has become a connoisseur of punting over the last 25 years. She knows a strong leg when she sees one. But C.J. was keeping his in the house.

“He’s not a bad kid by any stretch of the imagination, but just the down time with cell phones and computers these days drove us nuts - that he would just not physically engage in anything,” Michelle said. “I think he regretted that. It was one of those lazy teenager things where he didn’t want to go to summer practice, but once football season starts he sees all of his friends and says that he should have done that.”

Michelle didn’t want C.J. spending another autumn with electronic gadgets, so she not-so-gently prodded him to get back onto the football field.

“Jeff is so laid back and doesn’t want to force his kids to do anything,” she said. “We’ve been dating since high school, so I’ve been out with Jeff kicking in the park since he was 18 years old. I’ve seen a lot of practice and I said to C.J., ‘I’ve seen you kick for fun in the backyard. You’re really good.’ I asked him for one year and he said he didn’t want to, that he just liked doing it for fun. I told him if he hated it he could hang up his shoes and I’d never say another word. He actually ended up really enjoying it and realized he definitely had some talent that trickled down.

“We’re just thrilled to have him focusing on something and seeing that he really enjoys it, too, and isn’t just doing it because he’s good at it. He thoroughly enjoys it and you can tell that he has found something he really loves to do. He obviously has the talent, but I’m the mean mom who likes to get people to do things they don't want to do. So yeah, I have to say I’m guilty of forcing him.”

Good thing she did. C.J. quickly became one of the best punters in the region. On Tuesdays, the players’ day off, he would receive special tutoring from his father.

“I kept telling him if you want to work, I’m there for you and I’ll help you and we’ll dedicate the time and the effort and we’ll find a place to kick in the winter and we’ll do it,” Jeff said. “He did fairly well, not great. After my season was over we talked about working on his technique and fundamentals and taking punting a little more seriously and he committed to doing it.”

Two or three days a week, Jeff and C.J. would work out in a bubble in nearby Waldwick owned by former Giant Jim Burt. They would also work in the bubble in the Giants Stadium Parking lot. A member of the team’s video department would often tape the workouts, which father and son would review at home. C.J. became focused on improving his techniques and fundamentals. In the spring, they resumed their work outdoors.

At the same time, Jeff began investigating which colleges needed punters and where he had connections with the coaching staff. He talked to members of the Giants coaching staff who were familiar with the recruiting process. Feagles also consulted with Phil Simms, whose two sons were both highly-recruited quarterbacks.

“He gave me some great advice on what to look at and how you go about doing these things,” Feagles said. “One thing he told me is you have to get a list of schools you’d like to go to, then you have to investigate what kids are on scholarship there and then investigate the other kids that may not be on scholarship. The path that colleges like to take with punters and kickers is they invite them to walk on for a year to see them kick, evaluate them, and then there is usually a scholarship at the end of it.”

C.J. took another route. He planned to attend several football camps, but first went to a college showcase at Rutgers that included a lot of punters from the metropolitan area. C.J. acquitted himself well in comparison with the other players. “That gave him a little bit of confidence knowing that, ‘Hey, I think I’m better than these other guys and these are the top recruits in the area,’” Jeff said.

Soon after C.J.’s school year ended on June 25, Jeff and he traveled to North Carolina. The head coach there is Butch Davis, who was the defensive line coach at Miami when Feagles played college football. The two men have remained close through the years.

“C.J. had a great workout and they ended up liking what they saw,” Jeff said. “Knowing the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, they ended up offering him a scholarship. In the meantime, we were really high on going to Boston College. That’s the school C.J. really wanted to look at. They were very, very interested, but they didn’t have a scholarship to offer.”

So C.J. will be a Tarheel in 2009.

“They are planning on C.J. playing his freshman year, which we have to get him ready for,” said Jeff, who, thanks to his friendship with Davis, will be able to continue tutoring his son without the coaching staff considering it meddling. “I told him the other day, ‘Listen, you’re a year away right now from going on national TV.’ I didn’t want to scare him but that’s reality."

It would not have been if stayed on his computer. But approximately a year after Michelle all but ordered C.J. out of the house, he has a full ride to a great university in a major conference with a beautiful campus about a 90-minute flight from home.

“I never miss an opportunity to say, ‘I told you so,’” Michelle said. “Mom knows best and I like to point that out.”

Any teenager would argue that point, but C.J. is happy Michelle was right this time.

“I knew I had some talent, but I wasn’t really full into playing football,” C.J. said. “I was more into messing around with my friends and throwing the ball around. If we were playing, I would punt it every once in a while, but I never actually thought of doing it in high school or at that level.

“My dad thought I had talent, but he didn’t want to make me play football. He didn’t want to be one of those dads. My mom used to see me in the backyard messing around and thought I was pretty good, so she encouraged me to play.”

Before he heads to Tobacco Road, C.J. is completing his high school career at Ridgewood High. In addition to his punting duties, he is also a wide receiver and safety. After watching Jeff for more than two decades, Michelle thinks first about the all-important net average, so she watches the flight of the ball and not Jeff. But it’s a whole different feeling when her oldest son is on the field.

“I’m so confident with Jeff,” she said. “With C.J., I’m just so nervous for him and my stomach is in knots when I watch him play. Once the ball is gone, then I feel good. But C.J. is bigger than Jeff was at that age, so C.J. has some meat on his bones; Jeff was lankier. I just worry about his nerves and wanting him to succeed, so I get a little nervous - as I used to when Jeff was first in the league and in college as well.”

All these years later, Jeff’s still kicking. And now he has someone to follow his footsteps.

“He’s probably a spilt image of me,” Feagles said. "C.J. is very laid back, very outgoing, but maybe a little lazier than I am. But he’s a good all around kid and good to be around.

“He’s also very similar on the field. Our technique and fundamentals – we have the same leg swing and mannerisms. It’s pretty scary. We work a lot on directional and coffin corner kicks. He’s only going to get better. The upside is endless and the one thing I will be able to work with him on that nobody did with me is the mental side of kicking. Hopefully, one day he’ll be in the league and you’ll see the similarities.”


Braun’s big home run jolts a baby into being

Ryan Braun’s huge home run in Sunday’s game not only broke the tie, it broke Niki O’Connor’s water as the pregnant woman jumped up and down in celebration.

Braun’s blast launched the Brewers into the post-season, but he also gets credit in the O’Connor family for a BBI, a baby batted in.

With her due date just four days away, the middle-school math teacher in a stretched-out Brewers T-shirt had walked to Miller Park on Sunday afternoon with her husband, Brian, from their nearby home on Blue Mound Road. It was a slow walk and, mercifully, downhill.

She and Brian were only 9 years old the last time the Brewers made the playoffs, so they didn’t want to miss the final game of the season with the wildcard spot up for grabs. They’ve been to 15 games this year.

But after attending Saturday’s game, Niki was having contractions that night at home. The painful spasms continued Sunday, and it was time to make a decision.

“I wanted to go sell the tickets, but Niki said, ‘Oh, no. No, no, no. I’m going to go,’ ” Brian said.

It’s probably false labor, she figured, and the Brewers’ opportunity to beat the Cubs was real. So off they went, joining Brian’s dad, Bill, and brother, Trey, at the ballpark. They had good seats on the first-base side in Section 110.

“I was having contractions the entire game every 5 or 10 minutes,” Niki said. “Every time I had a contraction, I was grabbing Brian’s hand and squeezing it.”

Her father-in-law said he wasn’t too worried. He joked that there had to be lots of doctors in the crowd. “I looked over at her once in a while and I’d see her breathing funny. I just thought it was discomfort,” he said. “She’s a real trouper.”

Sitting next to Niki was a woman — a Cubs fan and a mother — who was worried the sell-out attendance was about to increase by one infant. She tried to keep Niki seated peacefully.

There wasn’t much to cheer about in the early innings, but the place went nuts when Braun hit a two-run homer in the eighth, putting the Brewers ahead to stay, 3-1. Niki jumped and whooped and clapped.

That’s when she felt something warm and wet.

“You turned around without any embarrassment at all and told my Dad you peed your pants,” said Brian, who works as a financial planning consultant.

Niki soon discovered it wasn’t that at all. Her water had broken, but not entirely. It was more like the ground-rule double of amniotic fluid.

Her day at the game still wasn’t over. They watched the Brewers win, then stayed to witness the Mets lose to the Marlins on the Miller Park scoreboard, then lingered a little more to see the celebration on the field.

Niki and Brian rode home in a cab and a short time later went to Aurora Women’s Pavilion of West Allis Memorial Hospital. At 10:27 a.m. Monday, 6 1/2 -pound Addison Jean O’Connor was born.

The couple’s first child, Addison shares a birthday with Niki, Niki’s late grandmother, Dorothy Konieczki, and, appropriately, with Brewers owner Mark Attanasio.

The nurses call her the Brewer baby. Niki and Brian briefly considered a Brewer-related name but decided to stick with the pre-arranged Addison, which was in no way inspired by the street running past Wrigley Field, Brian emphasized.

Ryan, or maybe Ryann, was a close second, said the new mother and Brewers superfan.


Phillies' Burrell hurt during batting practice

Pat Burrell left batting practice early with a back injury during Tuesday afternoon's workout at Citizens Bank Park.

The Phillies took batting practice Tuesday in preparation for Wednesday's Game One of the NL playoffs. Burrell limped off about 20 minutes into the workout, heading for the clubhouse and walking gingerly down the steps. The clubhouse was closed to the media following the workout, and Burrell was unavailable for comment.

There is no indication the injury is anything serious, and Burrell's status for today's game is not known. He is, coincidentally, scheduled to give an MLB press conference Wednesday afternoon.

"I think he'll live,'' said Phillies manager Charlie Manuel, who confirmed that Burrell's back had locked up on him during the workout. Manuel didn't seem too worried about Burrell, but stopped short of saying he thought the left fielder would be OK. Asked if he was worried, Manuel said: "We'll have him checked out.''


Video of Jarret Payton's Engagement

Q & A With Vince Wilfork

On Friday night, former UM great Vince Wilfork returned to Santaluces High in Lantana to have high school jersey retired. Check out the above video to see how the ceremony went. Also, below is a quick Q & A with Wilfork, courtesy of Sun Sentinel intern Laura Bernheim, who attended the event. And don't forget I'll answer questions from 5-6 p.m. (ET) tonight.

LB: Where do you keep your Super Bowl rings?
VW: In a safe at home. I barely bring them out. I brought and showed my national championship ring and the Super Bowl rings to show to the players in there. If I could touch one person in there, I did my job. I just told them that if they work hard, good things will happen.

LB: How much do you follow the University of Miami?
VW: Oh man, I still bleed orange and green.

LB:  What do you think of the job coach Randy Shannon is doing?
VW: One thing the team needed and Randy Shannon has brought is respect back to the organization and the entire coaching staff has done a hell of a job implementing those ideals. The players are doing a great job of reacting to that, too. It was something I responded to when he was my defensive coordinator. There was a level of respect as if he was the head coach. Between the resepect and discipline, we're on the right track.

LB: What's your most vivid memory of Coral Gables?
VW: Just putting on that U each week. I think everyone wants to do that deep down in their hearts. Playing college football at the U is like going to school at Harvard. When you mention college football, it's all about the University of Miami. Just going down there and being a part of something, being part of history.

LB: How competitive were practices at UM and how does it compare to Foxboro?
VW: Coral Gable practices were a lot tougher. You have to think more in Foxboro, be more aware of your surroundings and know what every body else is doing. We didn't have to worry about that as much in Coral Gables. You just focused on your job.


Finally healthy, 'Skins' Moss stars again

This time, there were no late-game heroics to turn a Redskins newcomer into a Washington legend. In fact, unlike fellow receivers Antwaan Randle El and James Thrash, Santana Moss didn't even score on Sunday.

But Moss still played a huge role in the Redskins' 26-24 upset of the previously unbeaten Dallas Cowboys.

Moss embarrassed Cowboys cornerback Terence Newman, himself a Pro Bowl veteran, on most of his eight catches for 145 yards. Moss' catches of 15 and 28 yards set up the touchdowns by Thrash and Randle El, while his 53-yard bomb from Jason Campbell and 17-yard grab in the third quarter put Shaun Suisham in place for a pair of field goals.

After four games in new coach Jim Zorn's quick-hitting West Coast passing scheme, Moss is tied for the lead among NFC receivers with 27 catches and is second in the NFL with 421 receiving yards. His three touchdowns have him tied for fifth in the league.

"When I came in and saw what he could do, I wanted to move [Santana] from the flanker position to the X receiver," Zorn said. "I always think of the flanker as more of a control-route runner. He's off the line of scrimmage so it takes him a little bit of time to put pressure on the defense because he has to run a yard or two to get to the line. That takes away a little bit of Santana's threat of accelerating downfield. If you have him on the line of scrimmage, you get him on the defender a little quicker. Just a yard makes a huge difference."

According to Zorn, it helped that Moss "bought into the idea that he was going to get the ball from that position."

While he's no prima donna like Terrell Owens or Chad Johnson, he is still a wideout - he wants the ball.

"He's always saying, 'Give me the opportunity,'" Campbell said. "Our relationship has definitely grown over the past year. ... A lot of that has to do with stability and being together. ... You try to keep that same continuity each week so you're able to grow.

"A lot of it also has to do with reading body language. Sometimes I can see him breaking a route before he even does it, so I'm able to get the ball out early."

Dallas coach Wade Phillips said the Cowboys knew what was coming on the 53-yarder that would've gone for six points had Campbell not underthrown Moss.

Zorn, a former NFL quarterback, said that didn't matter since the play was both well-designed and well-run by his No. 1 receiver. He'd rather his quarterback make the completion than show off his arm.

"[Moss] put a great move on Terence Newman to beat him one-on-one," Zorn said. "We practiced it during the week, and it was executed well. Jason made a nice avoidance in the pocket. He saw him so wide open he didn't want to miss that throw."

At a listed 5-foot-10, Moss is short - but his season so far stands tall against the rest of the league. He has nine more catches and more than twice as many receiving yards than any of his Redskins teammates.

Zorn's system and Campbell's comfort level have certainly helped, but Moss said that his improved health has made a huge difference after two years of battling muscle pulls.

Moss "shut it down" for three months after Washington's playoff run last January, relaxing for the first time instead of heading straight back to the weight room.

The thought of rest in the offseason had always frightened him, until he got advice from fellow former Miami Hurricanes player Robert Bailey.

Bailey, a defensive back who spent 11 seasons in the NFL before injuring his neck while with the Baltimore Ravens, convinced Moss that he needed time to let his body recover. "You can't just go out there and pound on it," Bailey told him.

The time away from the weight room and football gave Moss a chance to try tae kwan do and other hobbies.
It also enabled him to report to training camp healthy and refreshed.

"My body is a lot better than it was in the past two years," Moss said. "I think it's because of the way I [backed off training] in the offseason."


McGahee does most of his damage in 1st half

Willis McGahee ran for 42 yards on 13 carries and caught three passes for 19 yards in his Monday Night game.
While it was great to see McGahee get nearly every running back touch in the first half as well as be so active in the passing game, it is a little sobering that he only had one carry in the second half after sustaining a chest injury.


Salmons' summer spent with newborn son

For the most part, this wasn't a meet and greet for Kings players. The rookies have been working out at the Kings' practice facility throughout the summer, running into the regular gym rats such as Kevin Martin and Francisco García.

So, no introductions were needed at the Kings media day Monday, coach Reggie Theus said, although he admitted he needed to reacquaint himself with John Salmons.

"I told John Salmons that I'm going to get a snapshot of him and put it in my pocket so I can remember what he looks like over the summer," Theus said. "He goes home and I don't see him until he gets back. But he works hard."

Salmons said he spent his summer in Philadelphia, enjoying life as a new father to a four-month-old son.
"It's a new experience, definitely a fun experience," Salmons said.


Hester returns with vengeance, scores winning TD

CHICAGO – Returning to action Sunday night after missing his first NFL game last weekend with a rib injury, Devin Hester made a big impact in the Bears’ 24-20 win over the Philadelphia Eagles.

The game-breaking third-year pro scored the go-ahead touchdown on a 20-yard reception from Kyle Orton late in the first half, gained 15 yards on a reverse to set up a key field goal early in the fourth quarter and returned a kickoff 51 yards after the Eagles had closed to within 21-17.

“I’m just glad to be back,” Hester said. “That’s the most important thing. Last week sitting on the sideline and seeing my teammates, knowing I could have been out there helping out, it was a hurt feeling. I’m just blessed to be back and thank God.”

Hester caught three passes for 27 yards and averaged 33 yards on three kickoff returns. He also averaged 0.3 yards on three punt returns in part because he lost eight yards on one return.

Hester’s third career TD catch came on a fade pattern against All-Pro Asante Samuel.

“He’s a great corner,” Hester said. “But Kyle threw a great ball and I was in the right spot.”

Hester seemingly was in position to score a touchdown late in the first quarter after gaining separation from a defensive back. However, Orton’s high but catchable pass squirted through the speedy receiver’s hands around the Philadelphia 10.

“I most definitely would have scored on that one,” Hester said. “I kind of took my eye off the ball before it went in my hands.”

Hester said he was not affected by the rib injury that kept him out of last week’s game.

“I felt great,” he said. “The adrenaline kept the pain away and motivated me to go out and play ball. I just went out and put in my mind that if I’m out here, I’m not hurt, otherwise I wouldn’t be out here. That’s the mentality I went in with.”


Jarrett Payton Proposes To His Girlfriend

During the Walter and Connie Payton Foundation event, Jarrett Payton, sang and stopped mid-performance to get down on one knee and propose to his girlfriend Patricia George onstage. She said yes!!! Apparently, Jarrett had been keeping this secret for two weeks! And he sure did do a good job — everyone in the club was completely surprised.

Among partygoers was star of the Chicago Fire, Cauhtemoc Blanco, who was drinking Grey Goose and mingling with a group of ladies all night. Now, this isn’t a surprise.

What a fun night! We wish Jarrett and Patricia the best of luck.


Olsen finds the end zone

Greg Olsen scored his first touchdown of the season on Sunday night while also catching four passes for 35 yards.

Our View: The second-year tight end has been awfully quiet this season, but he won't get a much better match-up than next week at Detroit. He could be a good bye week fill-in.


Moss, Redskins shock the Cowboys

So, the Cowboys are unquestionably the No. 1 team in the NFL, huh? Apparently, Santana Moss and the Redskins didn't get the memo.

Moss caught eight passes for 145 yards -- the second time this year he's had at least 145 receiving yards --  in Washington's 26-24 win at Dallas. It's the first game this season he hasn't caught a TD, but I don't think his owners are complaining too much.

Jason Campbell (20-of-31, 231 yards, two TDs, zero INTs) made his struggles during Week 1 seem like they happened years ago. He has multiple TDs in each of his past two games.

Clinton Portis also came up big for the 'Skins, rushing for 121 yards on 21 carries. Antwaan Randle El chipped in with 36 receiving yards and a touchdown, and James Thrash scored on an eight-yard reception. About the only Washington player the Cowboys could stop was Chris Cooley. He had just four catches and 28 receiving yards.


Ravens RB McGahee probable for Monday

Owings Mills, MD (Sports Network) - Baltimore Ravens running back Willis McGahee is listed as probable for Monday night's divisional matchup with the Pittsburgh Steelers with a lacerated eyelid.

McGahee was forced to leave Sunday's 28-10 win over the Cleveland Browns twice after having his eyes gouged in two separate incidents. Baltimore head coach John Harbaugh sent a tape to the league office complaining that Browns' defenders intentionally tried to injure McGahee.

McGahee, 26, made his first appearance of the 2008 campaign last Sunday, rushing for 64 yards on 15 carries with a touchdown. He sat out the entire preseason and the Ravens' first two weeks due to bruised ribs.

The University of Miami product rushed for 1,207 yards and seven touchdowns in 15 games last season, his first in Baltimore. He also caught 43 passes for 231 yards and one TD.

The Ravens also listed as probable, running back Le'Ron McClain with migraines and linebacker Ray Lewis with a foot injury. Offensive tackle Adam Terry is questionable with an ankle injury.

Cornerback Samari Rolle, safety Dawan Landry and defensive tackle Kelly Gregg have been ruled out for Monday.


James scores 2 touchdown in loss

Edgerrin James totaled 29 yards and two touchdowns on nine carries and caught five passes for 37 yards in Week 4 against the Jets.
Nine carries tied James' lowest total since Week 12 of the 2006 season, but he scored twice from short yardage after the Cardinals fell behind huge in the second half, producing multiple touchdowns for the first time since 2005. Tim Hightower figures to keep getting goal-line work in non-blowouts, so don't make too much of James' afternoon.


Huff Named 2008 Most Valuable Oriole

Aubrey Huff, who leads the American League with 82 extra-base hits and set career-highs with 48 doubles and 96 runs scored, has been voted winner of the 2008 Louis M. Hatter Most Valuable Oriole Award by members of the local media who cover the team on a regular basis. 

Huff, who completes his ninth major league season and second with the Orioles Sunday, was the only player named on all 27 ballots. He enters today's season finale with a .306 average, 32 home runs and 108 RBI. It is the second time in his career he has hit more than 30 home runs and the third time he has topped the 100-RBI plateau. In addition to leading the league in extra-base hits, Huff enters today's game second in the AL in total bases (330), tied for third in doubles, fifth with a .555 slugging percentage, sixth in RBI, tied for eighth in home runs and 10th with 182 hits.

The 31-year-old earned American League Player of the Week honors twice this season, for the weeks ending July 6 and August 31. He put together hitting streaks of 14 (August 27 – September 14) and a career-high 19 games (July 22 – August 11) during the year and saw time at first base, third base and designated hitter in 153 games for the Orioles.

Huff is the first Oriole to hit at least 30 home runs since 2004. Of his 32 homers, 14 either tied the game (2) or put Baltimore ahead (12). He homered in consecutive games seven times this year and recorded five four-hit games in 2008.

Huff is the 36th different player to win the Most Valuable Oriole Award, which is named in honor of the late Lou Hatter, a former sportswriter for the Baltimore Sun who covered the Orioles for 27 years.  Balloting for the Most Valuable Oriole Award is conducted with voting on a 5-3-1 basis.

Huff will be honored in a ceremony prior to Sunday's 1:35 p.m. game.


Braun's clutch homer gives Milwaukee first berth since '82

MILWAUKEE -- CC Sabathia strapped a whole city to his broad shoulders and carried it to the postseason.

Ryan Braun provided the last big push.

That's right, Brewers fans, for the first time in 26 years, your team is October-bound.

Sabathia made his third consecutive start on three days' rest and worked all nine innings in the most clutch pitching performance in Brewers history. Braun put the team over the top, blasting a tie-breaking, two-run home run with two outs in the eighth inning for a 3-1 win over the Cubs that helped the Brewers win the National League Wild Card.

That matter was settled about 30 minutes later, when the Marlins finished a 4-2 win over the Mets, giveing the Wild Card to Milwaukee and sending the thousands of fans who had remained glued to their seats at Miller Park into a frenzy.

Sabathia, a free-agent-to-be acquired in July who went a remarkable 11-2 with a 1.65 ERA and seven complete games in his 17 Brewers starts, drew the biggest ovation.

"It's unbelievable what he has done for the guys on this team, this organization and this city," Braun said. "He's revived baseball in Milwaukee. He took whatever expectation we had and destroyed it."

In front of 45,299 fans, the third-largest crowd of the season and fifth-largest in Miller Park history, Sabathia threw 122 pitches, struck out seven, scattered four hits and allowed only one unearned run.

He might have thrown up a zero if not for one close call at first base. An error by first baseman Prince Fielder helped the Cubs put runners at first and third with one out in the second inning, and Ronny Cedeno hit a slow roller to shortstop J.J. Hardy.

The feed to second baseman Ray Durham was clean and Durham relayed to first just as Cedeno crossed the bag. The call from first base umpire Jerry Meals was safe, and Aramis Ramirez scored the lone Cubs run.

The Cubs could not move another runner into scoring position. Not bad, considering Sabathia was making his third start in nine days.

"I think anybody in here healthy enough would have done the same thing.," Sabathia said. "Everybody in here, their main goal is to win. That's all I try to do."

He still needed some run support. Four Cubs pitchers blanked the Brewers on only one hit through the first six innings, and Chicago took its 1-0 lead into the seventh, when Durham led off with a double.

Chicago left-hander Sean Marshall intentionally walked Fielder with one out and was replaced by Michael Wuertz, who walked Hardy, struck out Corey Hart on three pitches and then walked Craig Counsell to force home the tying run.

Moments after former Brewer Wes Helms and Dan Uggla hit back-to-back homers for a Marlins lead over the Mets in New York, Braun put the Brewers ahead in Milwaukee. With Mike Cameron at first base and two outs, Braun hammered the first Bob Howry (7-5) pitch he saw for his 37th home run.

"Typical," Hardy said with a smile.

How so?

"That moment is perfect for him," Hardy said. "It's just awesome. You can't say enough about him or about CC. What those guys did today, it's downright ridiculous. It's the most fun I've ever had."

Braun hit a Howry fastball.

"All series, they were throwing me fastballs to get ahead and I was just looking for something to get the barrel of the bat on," Braun said. "Obviously, it worked out. I'm very comfortable in that situation. I expect to come through. Obviously, it doesn't always happen."

It happened Sunday. It also happened on Thursday, when Braun delivered a grand slam in the bottom of the 10th inning for a 5-1 Brewers win.

"It doesn't get any better than that. It's difficult to describe," Braun said. "The grand slam the other night, that was pretty special, but this one was pretty meaningful."

By that point, Sveum and pitching coach Mike Maddux were already committed to Sabathia in the ninth inning. They decided to let him hit leading off the eighth inning, and Sabathia struck out.

"Dale asked me, 'What would you do?'" Maddux said. "I told him he had to ride the stallion. He was hoping I said that, because that's what he was going to do anyway. We both agreed: Big game, big moment, big man. It was the right situation."

In the ninth, Sabathia retired Alfonso Soriano on a flyout before Ryan Theriot singled. That brought the tying run to the plate in the form of first baseman Derrek Lee, who could have tied the game with his 21st home run. Instead, Lee grounded to second for a game-ending double play.
It was precisely the kind of performance the Brewers were hoping for when they traded with the Indians for Sabathia in July. Did it feel like he delivered?

"Not yet," Sabathia said. "Until we win a championship, we still have a long way to go. But this is big for this franchise and this city. We'll just keep going hard and see what happens."