Tight ends Olsen, Clark need to be more hands-on again

Wide receivers' statistics aren't always an accurate gauge of the health of the Bears' passing game because the tight ends and running back Matt Forte have played such big roles.

When the tight ends begin to fade, that's when you know something's up. Greg Olsen has only one catch over the last two games, and Desmond Clark has been limited to one catch in two of the last three games. That's a sure sign all is not well.

Minnesota used more nickel packages to defend the Bears last week, and they're preparing to face a Jacksonville defense that has done a solid job covering tight ends, holding Houston's Owen Daniels and Tennessee's Bo Scaife in check in the last three weeks.

''[Defenses] have given us a few different looks to it and certainly nothing that we can't handle,'' quarterback Kyle Orton said. ''We just haven't gotten anything going with them the last couple of weeks for whatever reason. It doesn't matter who they put on them. They're good route runners, they're good players and they can make plays. As an entire offense, we have to do that.''

Clark said he doesn't care who's catching passes as long as the Bears are winning. Problem is, the wide receivers haven't been doing much for most of the season.

''We always want the ball,'' Clark said. ''You always feel like you can make a difference, and when you're not getting the ball, that could be frustrating.

''But winning cures everything. If you win the game, all those frustrations, you don't feel. But when you're losing, the frustrations are magnified. Everybody has to step up, the receivers and the tight ends, for Kyle and get open and get separation so he can get the ball to us.''


Williams downgraded on injury report, Webster Returns

It appears the Broncos will have to play another week without their two best defensive players.

Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said left cornerback Champ Bailey and weakside linebacker D.J. Williams were downgraded during practice Thursday.

"A little bit tight for both of them," Shanahan said.

Williams has been out since suffering a third-degree sprain of his left medial collateral ligament against Miami on Nov. 6. Bailey and Williams did participate in practice on a limited basis Thursday.

The one defensive starter who will return this week is Nate Webster. The middle linebacker had been out since suffering a sprained MCL in his left knee on Nov. 6.

Webster had a second-degree sprain, which was not as severe as Williams' injury.


Kings hopeful Salmons can play Saturday

The Kings are hopeful John Salmons can return Saturday after missing time with a strained thigh.
"All indications are that John will be all right by Saturday," Kings coach Reggie Theus said. "Of course, I don't know that. It just depends on what happens between now and that time." If Salmons plays, it would put the Kings at full strength for the first time this season


D.J. Williams due back this week

Broncos WLB D.J. Williams (knee) has resumed practicing without limits and is on track to start this week.
Williams, the best player on Denver's front seven, should immediately regain his full-time starting role from Wesley Woodyard. Woodyard was decent in Williams' absence, but D.J. offers more big-play and run-stopping ability.


Hot Defensive Backs

Ronde Barber has put up some huge numbers recently, but Meriweather's production is more sustainable. He has posted double-digit tackle totals in two of the past three games. In between, he paired six total stops with his fourth interception of the season.


Nate Webster Could Return This Week

The team hopes to get its middle starter back this week from a partially torn MCL in his right knee. Webster has missed the past three games after going down early the week before. He was among the league tackle leaders before the injury. Teammate D.J. Williams has been taking limited practice reps as well but doesn't appear to be as close to returning.


If Sinorice Moss Wanted to Step Up, Now's a Good Time

There's still a lot to be determined regarding Plaxico Burress and the Case of the $27M Bullet. And while some may argue over whether the hairy-chinned wide receiver is actually stupid, or deserving of being locked up, one thing that is clear is his future path is no longer in step with that of the New York Giants.

Much like what happened between Michael Vick and the Falcons, there's simply too much baggage for these two to travel on the same flight. Even if Plax somehow got through the system untouched and was actually allowed to get on the field, Mayor Bloomberg's fervent booing and throwing of books and balled up gun permits would surely be a problem. Playing in the NFL is tough enough without having to also score points with the hometown mayor to get anywhere.

So this means the spotlight is on the rest of what has been a non-descript wide receiver group to this point in the season. And while all the receivers will be asked to pick up some of the slack, the one guy who may be receiving his final opportunity to make some noise in New York is oft-discussed seldom-seen receiver Sinorice Moss.

Better known as brother to Pro Bowler Santana Moss, Sinorice's productivity since entering the league begs the question of whether he'd even still be in the league if not for his last name. Methinks Sinorice Culpepper would have been cut long time ago.

Earlier this season Moss caught the first two touchdowns of his career in the week five game against Seattle. He had four catches in that game, he's had four catches in the eight weeks since. Players who were once behind him on the depth chart, Domenic Hixon and Steve Smith, are now clearly entrenched in crucial roles on the offense.

But with every bullet that pierces a wide receiver's thigh, hope springs eternal. And so Sinorice has been given another -- perhaps the final -- opportunity to endear himself to Giants fans.

So if Mr. Moss is so inclined, now would be a good time to live up to his surname.


For Ravens, Lewis still the man

The motto this year for the Baltimore Ravens' defense has been "next man up." When Chris McAlister and Samari Rolle went down with injuries this season, they had players step up and fill the void - a system defense, if you will.

The system? Ray Lewis.

The linebacker, who in his 13th NFL season should be in the twilight of his career, instead remains one of the best at his position in the league and is again leading a powerful Ravens defense that has not allowed a touchdown in the last 10 quarters.

It is a defense with great talent, from perennial All-Pro Ed Reed at safety to outstanding linebackers Terrell Suggs and Bart Scott and a tough defensive line led by Trevor Pryce and Haloti Ngata.

But the brains and brawn of the defense the Washington Redskins will face Sunday night is the same as it was when the Ravens marched through the 2000 season on their way to a Super Bowl championship - Lewis.

At the Ravens' training facility Wednesday, Suggs was asked about his defense's ability to put points on the board.

"Our chances are better when we have the defense making plays," Suggs said, adding, "and it always helps when you have Ray Lewis."

The presence of the nine-time Pro Bowl linebacker and two-time NFL defensive player of the year has not appeared to wear thin. If anything, Lewis' impact on this team is stronger than ever, as he has grown to be a tremendous on-field defensive coordinator.

"Just watch the man before the snap," Suggs said. "He has a lot going on. That is why he is the leader. He pretty much kind of guides us. I kind of tend to guess sometimes, but he knows. He tells me, 'This is coming, that is coming.'"

His ability to read defenses frustrated Bengals wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh during Baltimore's 34-3 win over Cincinnati last week so much that Houshmandzadeh felt compelled to ask Lewis about it on the field.

"T.J. came up to me after seven straight plays and asked, 'How do you know what every play is going to be?'" Lewis said. "I said, 'I do a lot of studying.' He said, 'No, it's something you're watching, something you're seeing.'"

Lewis said he works harder than ever to be prepared for each opponent, not just for his position but to make the calls for everyone else on defense as well.

"I sit down and go through films for hours, so it is second nature for me," Lewis said. "I can say, 'OK, I've seen this before.' It is about getting my players in the right position so they can make plays."

Someone asked Lewis how many plays can he see coming. "It's a high amount," he said.

That is no idle boast. Lewis leads the team with 84 tackles. The Ravens' run defense, ranked third in the NFL, hasn't allowed a 100-yard rusher in 31 games. Baltimore is second in turnovers this season with 23 and has the top-ranked defense on third down. It ranks among the league leaders in nearly every defensive category.

Lewis is careful to spread the credit around, including Baltimore's defensive coordinator, Rex Ryan.

"We have a mentality that everybody has bought into, and that is to find the football," Lewis said. "We just are playing where we are supposed to be.

"The run we are on comes with a lot of guys really buying into the system," he said. "Rex is doing an incredible job of getting us in the right schemes and things like that. There is a lot of credit to go around. And the offense is controlling the ball a lot. We're not going three-and-out. So it is a lot of different things, the way we are playing right now."

Ryan is the third defensive coordinator Lewis has played for. The one constant throughout the Baltimore Ravens' era of defensive excellence has been Lewis. In fact, Lewis - even with the stain of an obstruction of justice conviction in a fatal 2000 stabbing - has become the identity of Baltimore sports.

The Lewis era doesn't appear to be close to ending, either. When asked whether he thought he had a season like this left in him, when it appeared he was on the downside of his game, the 33-year-old Lewis replied: "Men and women lie, but numbers don't. You just keep playing football. You don't care what people say. Bottom line is you line up and ask the people playing against me. You just play the game the same way and approach it the same way you did in Year one as you do in Year 13 with the same passion, the same dedication."


For Portis, Pain Precludes Practice

Running back Clinton Portis watched practice from the sideline yesterday at Redskins Park. It has been a familiar spot for him between games recently.

"Just whole body sore. Getting old," Portis said during a group interview as his teammates entered the locker room. "It's rough out there."

Hampered by injuries throughout the season, Portis -- the NFL's second-leading rusher -- suffered a neck injury during Sunday's 23-7 loss to the New York Giants at FedEx Field. Despite an array of physical problems, including severe knee and hip pain, Portis has not missed a game and must push forward, he said, with Washington's once-promising season threatening to slip away.

The Redskins (7-5) hope to end their slide when they face the Baltimore Ravens (8-4) on Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium. Portis is determined to play and do his part to help Washington remain in contention for an NFC playoff berth. Taking it easy in practice until then would make sense to him.

"It's always the same with running backs," said Portis, who has not hidden his disdain for practice even when he has been physically sound. "Just fight through, find a way to get to the game. This ain't nothing new for me. Every year you're fighting through it. Every year when I wasn't practicing there was something wrong with me.

"I know people thought I was just sitting out and doing nothing. I came and played [in games], but ask any running back in the NFL if they banged up. When you go and give it your all on Sunday, you really don't recover [until] Wednesday, Thursday, where you start feeling like you can do something."

This season, it's often even later in the week for Portis. He has spent much of his time between games in the training room, working with Redskins medical personnel in an effort to join his teammates at game time.

"Every running back in the NFL has to be a tough guy, particularly the elite running backs, and I don't think it's a stretch to call Clinton an elite running back," left guard Pete Kendall said. "He's as tough as they come, but most running backs have to be. If you're going to have longevity in this game at that position, you have to be a tough son of a gun."

The seven-year veteran has performed at a high level -- perhaps the highest of his career, several teammates said -- and shouldered much for an offense in transition under Jim Zorn, a rookie head coach and play-caller. Portis has rushed for 1,228 yards with a 4.8-yard average and seven touchdowns, and has continued to block with "ferocity" in the passing game, running backs coach Stump Mitchell said recently.

Portis attributes much of his success to his "teammates giving it all they got. Knowing you're out banged up, knowing you're laying it on the line, I think it elevate the play of others around you.

"Our offensive line been playing great and guys [receivers] blocking downfield. When you step on the field, it's just a determination factor. When we determined to run the ball, the O-line block great, the receivers block great."

Portis has barely been able to move at times on the sideline between series and then made big plays when he re-entered games, and "you can only be impressed by what he's gone out there and done," quarterback Jason Campbell said. "Clinton definitely is a big part of our offense, and he's a guy you know you can count on no matter what he's going through. He's been banged up all year, and you know he's hurting now, but we're struggling as an offense and we need him out there."

The Redskins have the league's fifth-best rushing offense with an average of 139.4 yards per game, but they rank 28th in scoring at 17.3 points per game. Washington went 1-3 in November, scoring only 23 points in losses to the Pittsburgh Steelers, Dallas Cowboys and Giants on their home field. Portis totaled fewer than 70 yards in those defeats. He had a season-low two-yard average against New York.

Baltimore ranks second in the league in overall defense and rushing defense. Led by Pro Bowl middle linebacker Ray Lewis, the Ravens excel at pressuring quarterbacks, shutting down running games and forcing turnovers in their aggressive 3-4 scheme.

"It's going to be a tough game," Portis said. "That's just like playing Philly, you know it's going to be tough. It don't matter what the scheme is you come up with [on offense], or how good you think you going to run the ball, it's just going to be a tough, physical game. You just got to be ready for it."

Although Zorn has said he would prefer to have every member of the 53-man roster participate in every practice, he has eased off Portis. "He's not really ready to practice," Zorn said, "where you feel like he could grit and go."

Backup running back Ladell Betts has regained form after missing three games in late October and early November because of a knee injury, and Betts and special teams standout Rock Cartwright "are going to have to help us," Zorn said. "No question."

A lot is at stake for the Redskins in their final four games, Portis said, and the final quarter of their season begins against the Ravens. "It's really playoff hopes for both of us," he said. "This game mean a lot to them also because the AFC is in a tight race as well. They got a tough four-game stretch left, and we got a tough four-game stretch left.

"Every game you can get right now at this time in the season is critical. For us, we need to win. I think [a win would] change the morale, get us back on track, keep our hopes alive. Everyone know we got to elevate our game. Everybody got to look at themselves and find out what can you do to help this team get through the month of December."


McGahee on benching: 'No need to be frustrated'

OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) -- Willis McGahee has become the forgotten man in the Baltimore Ravens' running game, and he apparently isn't the least bit frustrated or angry about his pronounced lack of playing time.

During a 34-3 rout of Cincinnati on Sunday, McGahee watched from the sideline as Le'Ron McClain and rookie Ray Rice shared the workload in what used to be a potent three-pronged attack.

McGahee led the Ravens in rushing last year and went to the Pro Bowl, yet this season he has fewer yards and attempts than McClain, who had eight carries as a rookie fullback last year.

After reaching 1,000 yards rushing in three of the last four seasons, McGahee has only 489 yards in 2008 and appears to have plummeted from atop the depth chart. Asked Wednesday if his ego was hurting, he shrugged his shoulders and said, "It's like a positive right now. The injuries I have, it just gives me a chance to heal my body and let it rest even more, just adding on another couple years to my football span."

But what about this year? Will he be part of Baltimore's playoff push, or remain a spectator?

McGahee is dealing with an ailing left knee, a sore right ankle and bruised ribs. That may have been the reason he didn't play against the Bengals, although coach John Harbaugh eluded the issue and McGahee said, "I don't have an answer."

The benching came after McGahee rushed for only 8 yards in seven tries against Philadelphia. The week before that, he gained 18 yards in nine carries against the New York Giants.

At 260 pounds, McClain was better equipped to punish the Cincinnati defense than the 232-pound McGahee. But that doesn't explain why the 205-pound Rice is now apparently the second option in the rotation.

"There's no need to be frustrated. It's not going to get you nowhere. You can pout and cry all you want but that's not going to get you on the field," McGahee said. "I'm not complaining, man. As long as we keep winning and moving the ball, no tears over here."

Rice has gained 423 yards on 104 carries and ranks second on the team with 31 catches.

"The better I do, the more my role expands," the rookie said.

And the less McGahee plays. Drafted in 2003 by Buffalo after sustaining a serious knee injury in his final game at the University of Miami, McGahee did not play as a rookie but has averaged 291 carries over the last four seasons.

This year, he's at 141 attempts and will be pressed to get 200.

McClain received his first NFL start at tailback against the Bengals and might get the call against Sunday against the Washington Redskins. Harbaugh isn't tipping his hand -- to either the media or his players.

"I really don't know. I guess everybody has to wait until Sunday," said McClain, whose 545 rushing yards is 527 more than he gathered last year. "We just go with the flow. Whatever goes, goes."

McGahee said he is ready, when and if needed.

"When my number is called, I will be out there. If not, Ray and Le'Ron are doing a great job," he said. "It's not like the running game is really struggling. So I don't mind sitting back and watching."


Bears' Olsen a big draw

McHENRY – Hundreds stood in line Tuesday to get Greg Olsen’s autograph at Dick’s Sporting Goods in McHenry.

Some were children with stars in their eyes, and some were seasoned autograph hunters.

Olsen, the Chicago Bears’ 23-year-old first-round draft pick two years ago, had the day off and was participating in the Northwest Herald’s 18th annual Cans for Christmas and Toys for Tots drive.

People in line donated toys and food to needy families, and in return Olsen signed whatever they put before him.

Tony Petrat pulled his 12-year-old son, Zayne Petrat, out of Lake Geneva Middle School at lunchtime so they could be the first in line. They got to Dick’s at 1 p.m. Olsen didn’t appear until about 7 p.m.

The Petrats were part of a group that called themselves “The Bear-Stalker Posse.”

The “core group” included Chris Pugesek of Fox Lake; the Petrats, formerly of Johnsburg; and Merry Ladewig and Sherri Bulow of Antioch. 

They met about 18 months ago in a frenzy to get Fergie Jenkins’ autograph. They kept on bumping into one another waiting in such lines and became friends.

What did they all think of Olsen as a player?

“He’s a star in the making,” Pugesek said.

Bob and Amy Slawitschka of Spring Grove attended the event with their sons – Will, 5, and Cole, 9.

Cole stepped up to the table where Olsen spent two hours signing photographs of himself, jerseys, footballs and other Bear baubles.

Cole put Olsen’s rookie-year player card on the table in front of the burly tight end. Olsen’s rookie-year card shows him with his college team, the University of Miami. The Bears took Olsen in the first round. He was the 31st pick overall.

Olsen made Cole smile when he signed the card.

“I like your hair,” Olsen said. “You’ve got hair like me!”


Dorsey always goes down with the ship

Whenever Ken Dorsey has had the opportunity to start an NFL game, he has had the misfortune of stepping into a difficult situation surrounded by teammates who are underperforming or not very good.

Dorsey was a seventh-round draft choice by the 49ers in 2003. He did not play as a rookie, but 49ers starter Tim Rattay was injured in the 2004 opener and Dorsey replaced him.

Dorsey started the next seven games, completing 123 of 226 passes for 1,231 yards, six touchdowns and nine interceptions.

The 49ers were so bad in 2004, they got the first pick in the 2005 draft. They used it on quarterback Alex Smith, one of the all-time No. 1 busts.
Dorsey made three more starts for the 49ers in 2005. That year, San Francisco finished 4-12.

Dorsey's record as a starter in San Francisco was 2-8. The 49ers' combined record in the two years he played was 6-26.

The Browns acquired Dorsey and a seventh-round draft choice from the 49ers on May 4, 2006, for Trent Dilfer.

General Manager Phil Savage knew Dorsey was a cerebral quarterback, if not a gifted one physically. He wanted Dorsey to tutor Charlie Frye.

When Frye flunked out, so to speak, in September of last year, Dorsey already had another pupil — Browns 2007 first-round draft choice Brady Quinn. Dorsey was the perfect teacher because he played under offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski at the University of Miami.

On Sunday in Nashville, Tenn., against the best team the Browns have played since stunning the Giants on Oct. 13, Dorsey will be making his first start in more than three years because Quinn is on injured reserve with a broken finger and Derek Anderson is out for the year with a torn knee ligament. The Titans are 11-1. The Browns have lost four of five games. They are 14-point underdogs, and not just because Dorsey is starting.

"He's a very smart quarterback and he's a competitor," Coach Romeo Crennel said. "He probably doesn't have some of the physical skills some other quarterbacks in the NFL have. I think that's probably been the biggest drawback."

Those physical limitations, namely more of a BB gun arm than a howitzer, did not hamper Dorsey in college. He was 38-2 with the Hurricanes and would have won back-to-back national championships if the Buckeyes did not thwart him in 2002.

Dorsey will not be asked to fire 15-yard sideline passes on a line Sunday, nor will he be asked to zip a pass 20 yards over the middle to Braylon Edwards between two closing defenders. The playbook is thick enough for Chudzinski to find passes that suit Dorsey.

One way or another, Chudzinski and Dorsey want to rediscover the end zone. The Browns have not scored a touchdown since Jerome Harrison broke loose on a 72-yard run in the fourth quarter against Buffalo on Nov. 17. Their only scoring in the last eight quarters is four field goals.

"It comes down to a lot of factors," Dorsey said. "The preparation throughout this week is going to be critical. That's a major aspect of how we do on Sunday.

"I'm expecting a lot out of myself. I'm going to put everything I have into this thing. I expect the whole team is. I'm going to try to get the ball to guys who run fast and make good decisions out there."

Dorsey is making no excuses for his record, although it would be easy to point out the 49ers are still among the worst teams in the league. Nor is he looking at Sunday against the Titans as a remake of "Mission Impossible."

"My record is my record," he said. "I can't change it. I want to win more football games. This is a great opportunity to do that. When you play a great team like we're going to play this weekend, you get excited. You want that opportunity as a player. You embrace it."

Dorsey threw only one pass in his first two years with the Browns. It was incomplete in a game against Tampa Bay on Dec. 24, 2006.

Children's Hospital Boston honors Cassel, Wilfork

BOSTON, Mass. - New England Patriots quarterback Matt Cassel and defensive lineman Vince Wilfork were honored at the Children's Hospital Boston event "Champions for Children's" at the Seaport World Trade Center Boston Tuesday night.

Cassel and Wilfork were recognized as "Champion Award" recipients, an annual honor bestowed on Boston athletes who exemplify outstanding commitment to the community and to Children's Hospital.

Each year, players from the Boston Bruins, Boston Celtics, New England Patriots, Boston Red Sox and New England Revolution join representatives of Boston's financial, real estate and venture capital communities to raise funds for Children's Hospital at "Champions for Children's". All money raised goes to the Children's Fund for patient care, research and community outreach programs for kids who need it most. This year's event was hosted by ESPN's Chris Berman and WEEI's Glenn Ordway.

Cassel and Wilfork visited Children's Hospital Boston this year making room-to-room visits with patients.

Cassel said he is "always amazed" with the work and research done at Children's Hospital and is thankful for the opportunity to help the children.

"As professional athletes we are so blessed to be able to do what we do," Cassel said. "To be able to use our position to give back to the community, especially at a place like Children's Hospital, is very special. To make an impact on these young children's lives and their families is something that we are happy and lucky to do."

Wilfork said visiting with patients and their families is something that "hits home" for him. His father David passed away after a long battle with diabetes.

Wilfork said he knows what the patients' families are going through and always wants to "lift their spirits." 

"It is a blessing to see these kids live every day because even though they are struggling they never give up," Wilfork said. "Going through what I went through as a youngster, I know how tough it can be for these families. Visiting with these kids is something that is very special to me. If I can put a smile on their face just by giving them a handshake, hug or by taking a picture it's something special."


Zorn on Portis' injuries

Washington Redskins running back Clinton Portis said there’s “no doubt in my mind” he’s playing Sunday night at Baltimore.

But after another practice in which Portis did not participate Wednesday at Redskin Park, coach Jim Zorn said the reality of having to sit Portis for a game because he’s so banged up is creeping up on the Redskins.

“At some point and I don’t know if it’s this game, I just have to say, ‘Hey, let’s shut this thing down. Let’s give him a week [off] so he can actually practice,’” Zorn said. “But I can’t do that right now. The problem is that every one of these games keep building and building. That third quarter [of the season] – we lost to three awesome football teams.”

The Redskins’ last three losses have come against Pittsburgh, Dallas and the New York Giants, three of the NFL’s top 10 rush defenses. Portis has sustained ankle, hip, leg, knee, rib cage and neck injuries in the last five games.

“My whole body is sore,” he said. “I’m getting old and it’s Week 14. It’s rough out there.” Portis’ 255 carries are third in the league and his 1,228 yards the second-most. He has not practice since Week 9.


Getting shot gave Giants' McDougle perspective

Jerome McDougle has appeared in only three games for the Giants this season, with one tackle to show for it. Not exactly a banner year. But he won't complain. And he definitely won't sulk.

Because three years ago, McDougle learned just how silly it is to get disappointed over stuff like playing time.

How about being at the wrong place at the wrong time, running into the wrong people and the next thing you know your life is changed in an instant?

That's what apparently happened to McDougle at 11:37 p.m. on July 28, 2005, the night before he was to fly north for Eagles training camp. According to police accounts in newspapers, McDougle was sitting in his silver Mercedes at a street corner in Miami awaiting a friend when four youths aged 15 to 17 approached.

"They gave me an ultimatum," the defensive lineman said yesterday as he sat in front of his locker after practice.

They demanded his watch and his cash, according to the newspaper accounts.

With a gun pointed at him, McDougle handed over his watch. As he rose to get his wallet, one of the robbers apparently panicked and shot McDougle in the stomach.

"I did what he told me to do," he said, "and he still shot me."

McDougle stood and lifted his shirt to show a vertical scar above his navel. Next to the scar is a tattoo that says, "True Story." And if that isn't enough proof, he still has a piece of the bullet somewhere in his stomach. Every time he goes for an MRI, McDougle said it's right there on the screen.

For the Giants this week, guns have been an unwanted theme. Steve Smith had one pointed at his head in a robbery attempt outside his home last week, and days later Plaxico Burress accidentally shot himself in the thigh in a New York City nightclub and now faces criminal weapon possession charges.

You might think this sequence of gun-related events would bring back unwanted memories to McDougle, but he made it clear that is not the case. Once he recovered from his injuries, he said he decided to turn this experience into a positive.

McDougle always has enjoyed speaking to youths, but after he was shot he said he turned his focus to troubled teenagers - the exact demographic of people who changed his life forever. He wants to have a positive impact on them.

"Don't worry about adversity," McDougle said he tells the kids. "Stay focused on the goal, the prize."

If Smith wanted to speak to someone about the trauma of having a gun pointed at his head, McDougle is right across the locker room.

"The biggest thing with me was the trust issue," he said. "I was never spooked, or anything like that. It was just learning again how to trust people, trust situations."

Florida records show that McDougle has a concealed- weapons license that expires next April, but McDougle refused to discuss that, citing the sensitivity of the issue in the wake of Burress' incident.

"It will make you a prisoner if you let that get to you," McDougle said of the experience. "If you let it dictate how you're going to live your life, you're going to be in your house all day."


Burrell being targeted by Anaheim and San Francisco

Free agent Pat Burrell is being courted by at least three teams, including the Mariners, Angels and Giants, according to several published reports on Wednesday.

Burrell, who was not offered arbitration by the Phillies, is seeking a multi-year deal worth more than the $14 million he was paid last season.

Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. has said numerous times that he would like to see Burrell return to the club next season, but not at anything above $14 million.

The Angels appear to be looking at Burrell as a possible replacement for free agent first baseman Mark Teixeira.


NFLU Week 12 & 13 Photos

Check out Weeks 12 & 13 photos from around the the NFL of our proCanes. Click here to see the photos.

Titans add CB Davis to practice squad

The Titans plan to add cornerback Tanard Davis to the team's practice squad.

Davis has spent time with several NFL teams, most recently the New Orleans Saints. The former Miami (Fla.) star worked out for the Titans recently.

The Titans had an extra spot on the practice squad after elevating cornerback Tuff Harris last month.


Ailing Portis could sit out against Baltimore

Washington Redskins coach Jim Zorn said he hasn't ruled out resting Clinton Portis on Sunday night against the Baltimore Ravens.

Portis, who led the NFL in rushing before being held to 22 yards on 11 carries in Sunday's 23-7 loss to the New York Giants, added a jammed neck to the oblique muscle he pulled the week before at Seattle and the left knee he sprained Nov. 3 against Pittsburgh.

Asked Monday whether Portis would be able to survive Washington's final four games, Zorn said, "We want him to do more than just survive. Either we have to rest him ... Clinton has a real stiff neck. We gotta try to get him out there ... and go, I'm hoping."

While Portis came up huge with 143 yards on 29 carries at Seattle, the Ravens' third-ranked run defense is much more akin to that of the Giants (fifth) than that of the Seahawks (22nd). Ladell Betts, who filled in admirably when Portis missed the second half of 2006, will start if Portis can't go.

If the slumping Redskins (7-5) can afford one more loss and still make the playoffs, it's this one. Two of their final three games are more critical NFC contests; the other is against 1-10-1 Cincinnati.


Dorsey is looking forward to chance at Browns QB

CLEVELAND In terms of seeing, experience is Ken Dorsey's friend.

In terms of doing, rust looms as an imposing foe.

With Derek Anderson's following Brady Quinn to the injured reserve list, Dorsey becomes the Browns' starting quarterback, probably for the final four games, definitely for Sunday's game at Tennessee.

And those Nashville cats are 11-1 largely because they abuse quarterbacks.

"It's gonna be a tremendous challenge for us ... one I'm looking forward to," Dorsey said.

Pardon him for wondering if his challenges were all behind him. He spent three years with the 49ers, where he had a chance to prove he had a big enough arm to win in the NFL the way he did as a national champion in college.

He went 1-6 as the starter in his second pro season, 2004. The 49ers responded by reaching for quarterback Alex Smith at No. 1 overall in the 2005 draft.

The Browns shipped out unhappy Trent Dilfer in 2006 in exchange for Dorsey, who appeared in one game as a first-year Brown, throwing one pass.

It's debatable when he reached bottom.

It might have been the 2006 season finale. Anderson had been hurt in the previous game, and Charlie Frye was iffy with a wrist injury. A wounded Frye started ahead of a healthy Dorsey.

It might have been Sept. 1, 2007, when Dorsey was cut. He was brought back 10 days later after Frye was traded. His primary perceived value was to mentor 2007 first-round pick Quinn.

Now, he'll be asked to spark an offense that has been flat most of the year. His only three passes of 2008 came in the final moments of Sunday's loss to the Colts.

"It's definitely never easy to come into a situation like that," Dorsey said, "but that's our job."

He'll get a full week of practice snaps under watch by coordinator Rob Chudzinski, who was an offensive coach at Miami when Dorsey was 38-2 as a starter there.

Dorsey didn't mention the connection, but he did say, "We've got, I think, one of the best offensive coordinators in the league.

"We've got a great group of guys out here, a group of guys who have worked extremely hard. It's exciting."

Dorsey is eager to play, but not to rock the boat.

As for Anderson's getting jeered when he got hurt Sunday, prompting Dorsey's entrance, Dorsey said, "I'm not going there."

Where the Browns are going with Dorsey as their No. 1 quarterback, other than home for the new year, remains to be seen.

"He's a very smart quarterback, and he's a competitor," Head Coach Romeo Crennel said. "Now, he probably doesn't have some of the physical skills that some other quarterbacks in the NFL have. I think that's probably been the biggest drawback."

College days, pro daze

A comparison of Ken Dorsey's statistics as a Miami Hurricane and as an NFL quarterback:

Team Att.-Cmp. Yds. TDs Record*

Miami Hurricanes, 1999-2001 66-1,153 9,565 86 38-2

San Francisco 49ers, 2003-05 171-371 1,712 8 2-8

Cleveland Browns, 2006-08 0-4 0 0 0-0

Gore totals 89 yards in workmanlike Week 13

Frank Gore rushed 24 times for 66 yards and caught three passes for 23 yards in Week 13 against the Bills.
The 27 touches are Gore's most since Week 3, but he's produced just 2.4 yards per carry over the past two games and doesn't figure to find much success against the Jets' stout run defense next week. Despite the poor two-game stretch, Gore is on pace for 1,700 total yards on 340 touches as the focal point of Mike Martz's offense.


Cora still has value

Terry Francona believes Alex Cora will make a quality manager one day -- if Cora chooses to go that route -- but the veteran utility infielder still has some innings to play before he calls it a career.

According to the Detroit Free Press, Cora could be a low-cost solution at shortstop for the Tigers. Cora has not played more than 100 games since 2004 with the Dodgers, so it's possible Detroit signs him, retains part-time infielder Ramon Santiago and takes the shortstop-by-committee approach.

A more likely scenario is the Red Sox bring back Cora. The 33-year-old has played in Boston since 2005 (when the Red Sox acquired in July him from the Indians for Ramon Vazquez), knows the game and won't break the bank. He just wrapped up a two-year, $4 million deal.


Phillies pass on arbitration for Burrell

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The Pat Burrell era in Philadelphia took one step toward its possible conclusion after the World Series champion Phillies balked at offering he and 16-game winner Jamie Moyer arbitration prior to the midnight (et) Tuesday morning deadline.

Burrell, who made $14 million last season, hit 33 home runs and drove in 86 runs for the Phillies last season, yet routinely came out of games in the late innings for defensive purposes and struggled during the postseason.

The decision to forgo an arbitration offer to Burrell does not completely close the door on his return, but does keep the club out of a financial corner with the outfielder in case he accepted arbitration if offered, leaving the Phillies strapped for cash with raises for pitching ace Cole Hamels, first baseman Ryan Howard and outfielder Shane Victorino likely coming soon.

Moyer, who finished 16-7 with a 3.71 earned run average last season, is 46 years old, but the two sides have a desire to work out a contract.
The Phillies also didn't offer arbitration to a pair of veteran relievers, Tom Gordon and Rudy Seanez.


Rays Could pursue Michaels

Marc Lancaster, of The Tampa Tribune, reports the Tampa Bay Rays could pursue free-agent OF Jason Michaels (Pirates).


Winslow Out for Next Weeks Game

Starting tight end Kellen Winslow at least for their next game against the Tennessee Titans. The team released the following statement in regards to the his injury:

Winslow’s results revealed a high left ankle sprain. He will be in a walking boot for up to a week and is out for this Sunday’s game at Tennessee.


Hester held to one big play in loss

Devin Hester caught three passes for 67 yards and a touchdown, and also rushed once for three yards in a Week 13 loss to the Vikings.
Hester displayed his explosiveness when he took a reception to the house for a 5-yard score on a short post route in the first quarter, but did little outside of that. The Bears clearly were trying to incorporate him early on though, as he was targeted five times in the first quarter alone.


He's one of the best - Wilfork has nose for his position

FOXBOROUGH - Among the many things the Patriots had to be thankful for yesterday as they took a brief timeout to celebrate Thanksgiving, nose tackle Vince Wilfork should be near the top of their list.

On a defense that has lost safety Rodney Harrison and linebacker Adalius Thomas, the 6-foot-2-inch, 325-pound Wilfork has been among the team's most reliable and redoubtable players.

Despite playing a position that calls for him to face persistent double teams, Wilfork is fourth on the team in tackles with 56, according to coaches' calculations. While the gregarious fifth-year lineman has done his usual job taking on offensive linemen, he also has taken on an increased leadership role as a defensive captain.

Wilfork has a $1.4 million base salary this season, but his contract expires at the conclusion of the 2009 season. The Patriots have a lot of big-name players whose contracts are up after 2009, including defensive end Richard Seymour, left guard Logan Mankins, and linebackers Tedy Bruschi and Mike Vrabel, but arguably nobody would leave a bigger hole - both literally and figuratively - than Wilfork.

Nose tackle is a key component of the 3-4 scheme because the player has to be able to occu py and fight off the center and a guard on any given play.

All playoff-contending AFC teams that play the 3-4, including the Patriots' opponent Sunday, the Pittsburgh Steelers, have good nose tackles.

The Steelers, who have the NFL's top-rated defense, rely on 6-1, 325-pound Casey Hampton, who has made three straight Pro Bowls and four overall. The New York Jets are greatly improved because of Kris Jenkins. The Baltimore Ravens, who lost nose tackle Kelly Gregg for the season with a left knee injury, have used the gifted Haloti Ngata, a 2006 first-round pick, at the nose.

"They are getting increasingly tough to find," said Steelers coach Mike Tomlin. "That's why most of the people that have got a good one, they've found them in the first round of drafts."

Nowhere was Wilfork's importance more apparent than last week against the Dolphins, as he helped the Patriots hold Miami to 62 rushing yards on 19 carries.

Dolphins center Samson Satele, who has faced Jenkins, San Diego Chargers Pro Bowl nose tackle Jamal Williams, and Ngata, said Wilfork rates right at the top.

"On top, yeah, on top," said Satele, who gave the obligatory nod to teammate Jason Ferguson, a favorite of Dolphins head football honcho Bill Parcells, who had Ferguson with the Jets and Dallas Cowboys.

"I would put J-Ferg on top first; he is the one that has made me better this year. But then Vince. The guys in our [division] are the best: Kris Jenkins and [Buffalo Bills defensive tackle] Marcus Stroud and all them."

Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan said it takes an unusual physical specimen to play nose tackle. You can't just be a clumsy giant. You have to be a juggernaut with balance.

"It's not just a big guy you put in there," said Ryan. "He has to control his body and somebody else's body. He has to make plays on both sides of the center, both 'A' gaps. The other thing is he's got to be smart, be able to read blocking patterns."

Satele said that is one thing that separates Wilfork.

"He's just smart," said Satele. "He knows when to fire out and when not to. He has been in the league for quite a while, so he knows some of the little tips. If the guard looks at him, he knows that he is coming his way. He is a low-center-of-gravity guy; you can't move him. I mean, you can, but you have to get lower than him."

Ryan said the best nose tackles get double-teamed and do not yield, then come off the block and make tackles or push the pocket in the passing game.

Ryan called Wilfork a good nose tackle, but favors his nose tackle, Gregg, as the best in the game when healthy. Ryan said the best true two-gap nose tackle he has seen was 365-pound Ted Washington, who played for the Patriots in 2003. "At one time it was ridiculous how good he was," said Ryan.

"Most of the good ones stay square," said Ryan. "I think when Vince makes a mistake, it's because he turns his shoulder."

The Patriots replaced Washington in 2004 by using a first-round pick on Wilfork, who has made a remarkable transition from a penetrating 4-3 defensive tackle at the University of Miami to an immutable 3-4 nose man in New England.

If a nose tackle the caliber of Wilfork, who will be 28 at the end of the 2009 season, reaches free agency, he will be in high demand.

"He's a good one. There will be a lot of takers out there if he's a free agent," said Ryan. "Everybody needs them; 3-4 nose tackles are hard to find. That's why Parcells always brings Jason Ferguson with him. And if you can two-gap, you can play in any system, too. I'd love to have [Wilfork], no question. No doubt, they're going to have to pay him."


Time for Cards to return to Edge

If this was Terrelle Smith's football team, he knows exactly what he'd do next. He'd reinstate his roommate.

He'd bring back Edgerrin James as a featured running back.

"I wish they would," said Smith, the Cardinals' fullback. "Because the guy I live with is a terrific running back, and he's a true professional."
Let's hope Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt is open for suggestions.

Go to Edge. Talk to him. Enlist his help. Clear the air. Give him the ball. Lean on his experience. With the clock ticking toward the playoffs, it seems to be the only move the Cardinals have left.

It's worth a shot for many reasons, and if you haven't noticed, the crowd has thinned out around the punch bowl. After these past two games against the Giants and Eagles, it's clear the Cardinals' high-flying passing game can't impose its will against top-flight defenses. Their signature dish doesn't smell so special. At the moment, they are easy fodder for teams that can play rough and nasty come January.

Hence, the new data, the new elephant in the room: If the Cardinals' running game continues to be an embarrassment, they will just be taking up room when the playoffs begin. Even Kurt Warner knows that a change is needed, even though his MVP candidacy is built largely on an avalanche of 300-yard passing games.

"We've got to figure something out," Warner said. "When you're playing against good teams with good schemes, it's tough to throw all the time. It's tough to be a one-dimensional team and continue to be successful week in and week out.

"Do I think we do it as well as anybody in the league? Yeah. Can we be successful doing it? Yes. But it's tough to do it every single week. And so, we just have to get better, and we have to figure out a way to balance our passing attack."

The Cardinals can attack this problem from many fronts. They can throw shorter passes that look like running plays. They can block better. They could even integrate Anquan Boldin as a primary ball carrier. But gimmicks go only so far in football, a game where brute force usually prevails. Look it up. Historically, teams built to succeed are teams that can run the ball, stop the run and pressure the opposing quarterback.

Sadly, the Cardinals don't do any of that particularly well. But they can get hot, they can be a terrific team at home, and they can be a real threat if they regain some respect up front. The easiest fix seems to be stoking the pride of James, who does not make big plays but gets the tough yards.

While he lacks burst, James brings an earthy feel to the Cardinals offense. He makes a bigger impact against the better teams. That's the way he's built. That's why it's worth another shot, especially if James has something to prove.

Consider this another bizarre twist in a topsy-turvy season. On his first day of sideline exile, James watched the Cardinals punish the Rams, rushing for 176 yards. While James has made cameo appearances since, the refitted rushing attack has all but collapsed.

Collectively, the Cardinals' running backs have rushed for 27 yards or fewer in three of the past four games. Rookie Tim Hightower is no longer considered a draft-day steal, a guy worthy of national attention. He has just 85 yards on his past 42 carries. He is starting to dance a little too much, showing his inexperience and getting caught in the backfield a little too often.

"I guess I'm just focusing on doing whatever I can to help the team win," Hightower said when asked about the decline of the running game. "Regardless of what play is called and who is in the game, we've got to make it work. I don't think it's what other teams are doing to us. I don't think we're making plays in critical situations like we did earlier in the season."

Problem is, football constantly evolves. It changes with the weather and it changes with the calendar. When the games get later and the games get tougher, the holes (and the hurt) are inside. That's James' neighborhood.

So go to him, coach. He has pedigree. He won't pull a Stephon Marbury and turn the other cheek. He may even react like Donovan McNabb in Philadelphia, proof that you can bench a superstar and go home again.


Moss Is Fined $5,000 for Hit on Wilson

The NFL fined Washington WR Santana Moss $5,000, according to a source with knowledge of the situation, for a personal foul in a victory Sunday over the Seahawks in Seattle. His personal foul, for striking CB Josh Wilson on the head after a play, put the Redskins out of field goal range in the second quarter.

"I got a chance and got real aggressive with [Wilson] on a block," Moss said in a postgame interview with Comcast SportsNet. "And as I'm leaving to get away from him, he's grabbing me, grabbing me, and we're kind of exchanging words.

"And he wouldn't let go, so I did the best thing that I knew at that moment. It wasn't the best decision, but I did it, and I'm glad that we don't have to sit here and be saying that cost the game or something. I did it and I apologize about it and I moved on."


Immokalee's Edgerrin James hoping to get out of Arizona

NAPLES — Edgerrin James could just watch Friday night, much like the night before.

The All-Pro running back stood along the fence near the Dunbar sideline, watching the Tigers’ tilt against the Naples High Golden Eagles at Staver Field.

The night before, Thanksgiving night, he stood on the sideline with an imaginary fence, that felt more like bars, surrounding him as the Arizona Cardinals were drummed by the Philadelphia Eagles, 48-20. The man who has seven 1,000-yard rushing seasons didn’t make it on the field. He didn’t get a single carry.

The lack of playing time is becoming a trend, which has James wanting out of Arizona.

The former Immokalee High and Miami Hurricanes standout may have lost his starting job but he still has a sense of humor. James joked that his situation in Arizona is like prison.

“I’m just waiting for my release ... like an inmate,” said James, pausing to give the punch line.

James, who was at the high school game to watch two of his relatives play for the Tigers, isn’t frustrated. The 30-year-old actually understands the situation. He said he doesn’t fit into Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt’s one-dimensional passing offense. The Cardinals only had 25 yards rushing on Thursday night.

“I don’t fit into their system,” said James, who stood out Friday night wearing a multi-colored striped shirt and a Yankees cap. “That’s all it is. So now I am just waiting for my release. I know I can still play. I’m not any different than last season when I had over a 1,000 yards, so I know it’s not me.”

James has one year remaining on a four-year contract signed in 2006. He is scheduled to make $5 million. He’d prefer to go to another team and try to show that he is worthy of the Hall of Fame.

James is only 9 yards shy of 12,000 career yards. But this season, he’s only run for 384 yards with 112 carries. Not exactly numbers associated with Canton.

“You don’t get this far and lay down,” James said. “I know I still belong in the league and I still believe I will be in the Hall of Fame.”

Across the sidelines at Staver Field, former Naples High standout and former NFL running back Fred McCrary could feel James’ pain. This is McCrary’s first season out of the NFL. And while he doesn’t miss it, enjoying time with his three boys, McCrary understands why James is disappointed.

“It’s frustrating when you can still play and want to play and you can’t get on the field,” said McCrary, who won a Super Bowl ring in his one season in New England, “especially when you know you are better than the other guy who took your spot.”

McCrary has no doubts that James’ 10-year career is far from over.

“He’ll definitely be playing next season,” McCrary said. “I’m not worried about him.”

To make it to Naples for Friday night’s high school tilt, James boarded a 6 a.m. flight to Miami and drove across Alligator Alley. Watching his nephew E.J. German, a defense end, and his cousin Davouris Mean, a wide receiver, play for the Tigers, James didn’t seem to have a care in the world.

“It’s a good time to be around family,” James said. “I try to get home as much as possible. It helps me keep my mind of other things.”

During halftime, a young boy approached James to remind him that he’s still a star. The boy told James that he is his favorite player.

“Last night, I used you as my running back when I was playing Xbox,” the boy explained. “And I won.”

James’ smile grew bigger and he rubbed the kids’ head as a form of gratitude. For James, at least someone’s giving him some love. At least, he’s getting playing time somewhere.


Johnson first receiver to 1,000 yards

Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson became the first player in the NFL to reach 1,000 receiving yards for the season. It’s the third time in his career he has reached that milestone.

Johnson had 10 catches for 116 yards against the Browns on Sunday. It was the first time in four weeks that he topped 100 yards.

“It’s a great accomplishment,” Johnson said. “Everyone wants to go over 1,000 yards and get all the yards and all the catches, but I just want to win. If me getting 1,000 yards helps my team win, so be it. If me getting 500 yards helps us win, I’ll take the 500 yards.”


Miami Dolphins tackle Vernon Carey gives away more than 600 turkeys

When a black limousine rolled up under police escort to Miami Northwestern High School on Monday afternoon, hundreds of Liberty City residents started screaming.

Leroy Williams of Liberty City summed up the scene: ``This is bigger than Obama.''

Vernon Carey, the Miami Dolphins' starting right tackle and a former lineman at the University of Miami and Northwestern High, is decidedly bigger than the president-elect -- at least physically. On Monday, he was back at his old school for the fourth annual Vernon Carey Thanksgiving Turkey Drive.

He and several of his teammates, including Ronnie Brown, Ricky Williams and members of the offensive line, gave turkeys and cranberry sauce to residents where he grew up.

''Times are tough and a lot of people are struggling,'' Carey said, ``this is my way of giving back to the community.''

People waited in line for hours to get a turkey and possibly a photo with the Dolphins players who manned the tables and gave away turkeys. The players were joined by members of Northwestern's football team.

Carey, a finalist for the 2008 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award, is involved in other programs focused on helping those who are less fortunate. He and his wife, LaTavia, started a mentoring program for students at Brownsville Middle School in Liberty City, and he also sponsors Carey's Crew, which allows 20 kids from the middle school to attend every home game.

By the end of the day, more than 600 turkeys and hundreds of cans of cranberry sauce had been unloaded from the 53-foot semi-container. Carey paid for the food, and Publix underwrote the truck and delivery.

''I think it's good for the neighborhood,'' said Danielle Pounds, a senior at Northwestern. ``The economy's bad and people don't have money to buy food right now.''

Carey's offensive line coach at Northwestern, Terrance Craig, summed up the day: ``Vernon is a good guy.''


Harbaugh: McGahee still part of the plan

Coach John Harbaugh spent a good portion of his news conference this afternoon reiterating that running back Willis McGahee is a valued cog in the offense. McGahee has been overshadowed by fullback Le’Ron McClain as the team’s leading rusher the last two weeks, and he did not get one carry in yesterday's 34-3 win against the Cincinnati Bengals as McClain and rookie Ray Rice shared tailback duties.

"I don’t know what everybody’s talking about," Harbaugh said. "We really like Willis McGahee. We think he’s a really good player, and we plan on Willis being a huge part of what we’re doing in December. He’s been practicing very well. He’s getting stronger and stronger throughout the course of the season. There’s no question in my mind that Willis McGahee is a very talented back, and he’s going to be a huge part of what we’re doing here down the stretch."

Harbaugh said the plan will continue to utilize the three running backs based on health, strategy and effectiveness.

"Really, we think we’ve got three good players, and if you’ve got three really good players, why would you want to put two of them on the bench?" he said. "So we use them where we can, when we can according to health, according to who’s most effective, according to the game plan. We have 53 guys on the roster, and we can put 45 guys up. We want to use all 45 if we can. That makes us stronger as a group, as a team. That’s really the whole idea."

Earlier this afternoon, McGahee issued a statement, which read, "I support my Team and Coach Harbaugh, and I love playing in Baltimore. I am working hard and look forward to helping our Team win another Championship. Recently, LeRon, Ray and myself had the opportunity to give back to 700 families for Thanksgiving. It has been great working together with such good teammates on and off the field."


Dorsey prepared for task ahead

When Ken Dorsey gets the start at quarterback on Sunday for the Browns against the host Tennessee, he'll be ready. But he will face some challenges.

This will be the 11th start of his six-year career, but just his first over the last three seasons. The last one came as a member of the San Francisco 49ers on Nov. 27, 2005 against, interestingly enough, the host Titans, when he completed 23-of-43 passes, both career highs, for 192 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions in a 33-22 loss.

Before he relieved the injured Derek Anderson on the Browns' final possession on Sunday in the 10-6 loss to the Indianapolis Colts, he had played in only one game since then - two years ago as a member of the Browns.

But now, injuries to Anderson (torn MCL) and Brady Quinn (finger) have thrust him back into the lineup.

"It's been a little while since I've started a game. It really has," Dorsey said Monday. "But I'm expecting a lot out of myself and I'm going to put everything I've got into this thing.

"I've been a starter in this league. It's something I'm accustomed to. I prepare myself the same way every week. Now I'm playing. It's fun to be out there playing.

"Any time you get an opportunity to go out and play, you look forward to it. I just like playing. I like being out there. It's exciting for me and for us as a team to go out there Sunday and have another opportunity to play.

That's something he did all the time in college at the University of Miami, when he guided the Hurricanes to a 38-2 record in three years as a starter, a national championship and another national title game appearance.

"When you're not on the field, it's tough," Dorsey said. "I don't think there's anybody in this league who doesn't want to play. You do whatever it takes to keep yourself ready, and when your opportunity arises, you go out and play and do the best you can."

Also, Dorsey will taking a 4-8 club, which has lost two straight - both at home - and scored just six points each in those games, to face the Titans, who are tied for the NFL's best record at 11-1, have given up the second-fewest points in the league with 175 and are closing in on their first division title since 2002, the AFC South's first year.

"The Titans are a tremendous team," he said. "They have a great defense and all kinds of weapons, so we're going to have to be ready to play. It's going to be a great challenge for us, but one I'm looking forward to."

With all that having been said, Dorsey does have something - a significant something, at that - working in his favor. It's the fact that despite Dorsey's lack of playing time with the Browns, the team's offensive coordinator, Rob Chudzinski, knows him well. Chudzinski was an assistant at Miami for all of Dorsey's career there, first serving as tight ends coach only and then as offensive coordinator and tight ends coach for Dorsey's final two seasons.

Thus, he knows full well what Dorsey can - and can't - do and will structure the game plan and play-calling accordingly.

"I've known Chud a long time," Dorsey said. "We've got a good feel for each other. I feel like I know what he's thinking and why he's calling certain plays.

"Knowing somebody is a real plus, but at the same time, you've still got to go out and execute against a great defense."

Dorsey's strengths?

"He's a very smart quarterback, and he's a competitor," Browns head coach Romeo Crennel said.

Dorsey agrees with that assessment.

"I feel like that," he said. "I've seen a lot of football. I've been in a lot of offenses and around a lot of offensive coordinators. I've been through a lot in this league, and I think that's helped me to this point.

"I just try to go out there and do what I'm supposed to do and make good decisions out there."

Steelers Re-Sign Davenport, then Cut Him

The Pittsburgh Steelers promoted DT Scott Paxson from their practice squad to their 53-man roster and released RB Najeh Davenport. The team re-signed CB Roy Lewis to take Paxson’s spot on the practice squad.


Wilfork vows the Patriots will improve on defense

FOXBORO -- Looking at the stats, the New England defense certainly has some strengths, but it has some weaknesses as well, especially on third down and in the red zone.

Rest assured, the Patriots know they have work to do in those areas.

Vince Wilfork may be a defensive captain, but Pats players don't usually make declarations about areas that need repair without it coming from head coach Bill Belichick. So when Wilfork said this week that New England "will" get better on his side of the ball, it's likely Belichick has been on the unit more than usual.

"We need to get better on third down and red zone. We will improve," Wilfork said. "If we don't improve, we'll be looking at a long offseason."

New England ranks 31 out of 32 teams in red-zone defense, allowing opponents to score touchdowns on 22 of 33 opportunities inside the 20-yard line. On third down, the Patriots allow conversions 44 percent of the time, which is 27th in the league.

Wilfork promised that the defense will improve, and will do whatever is necessary to achieve that -- whether it be extra work in the film room, in meetings, or during walkthroughs and practices.

"I know we can get better. I know we will get better," he said.

The defense has been criticized for being so porous, particularly on third down, as teams have been able to convert third and longs with frequency in recent weeks: The Jets' converted a third and 15 in overtime, leading to their game-winning field goal. Last week in Miami the Dolphins converted three third-downs during one touchdown drive.

Wilfork doesn't mind the criticism.

"That's fine, I've heard worse," he said, smiling slightly. "We know what we're capable of doing as a defensive unit. I like people doubting us - when we [improve], those people will be eating their words."


Reed Selected As AFC Defensive Player of Week 12

Reed earned defensive honors by helping Baltimore flatten the visiting Philadelphia Eagles 36-7, as the former Miami Hurricane registered two tackles, two passes defensed and equaled a career-best with a pair of interceptions. In the fourth quarter, Reed picked off Eagle QB Kevin Kolb in the end zone and raced 108 yards for the longest interception return in league history. He set the previous mark with a 106-yard return against the Cleveland Browns four years ago. A seven-year pro, Reed has now won this award three times.

Reed's record-breaking interception return in Week 12 has been adjusted from 108 yards to 107.

It still qualifies as the longest pick six of all time (Reed broke his own record, originally set in 2004). Reed's jersey was sent to the Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. His two picks against Philly gave Reed three on the season.


Panthers LB Beason fined $5,000 for facemask

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Carolina Panthers linebacker Jon Beason has been fined $5,000 by the NFL for grabbing Detroit Lions quarterback Daunte Culpepper by the facemask on a play that didn't result in a penalty.

Beason stopped Culpepper on his tying 2-point conversion attempt midway through the fourth quarter on Sunday. Replays showed Beason grabbed Culpepper by the facemask and his head twisted. But there was no flag and the Panthers went on to win 31-22.

A league spokesman said Friday night that Beason was fined for unnecessary roughness.


Phillips, Thomas stepping up for Giants

The Giants hit big on their rookies in 2007 during the Super Bowl season. They now are starting to reap the benefits of their ’08 crop. Although this class hasn’t had nearly the impact that the prior season’s did in Year One, rookie DBs Kenny Phillips and Terrell Thomas have been the standouts of what appears to be a class with depth and promise. Phillips has stepped into a larger role and had a big play in the Week 12 win over the Cardinals, knocking loose a potential TD from WR Larry Fitzgerald. Thomas, who has moved into the nickel-back role, came up with an interception that was the result of good coaching and a tip from LB Antonio Pierce, who alerted Thomas to jump into a spot based on the formation and a play the Cardinals had run previously in the game. The Giants’ other rookies — most notably WR Mario Manningham and LBs Bryan Kehl and Jonathan Goff — are victims of the Giants’ great depth, but the team likes what it has seen from each.


Vilma Named Winner of Ed Block Courage Award

It is a time to give thanks, and few players on the Saints’ roster have more to be thankful for than Saints middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma.

Vilma, the team leader in tackles through 11 games with 102 stops, is extremely thankful to be back on the gridiron in 2008 and as a member of the Saints.

“I love being here and being a Saint,” said the University of Miami product.

The sentiment from the Saints’ locker room appears to be mutual, as Vilma was recently voted by his teammates as the Saints’ 2008 Ed Block Courage Award winner, which is given annually to a player that has persevered though adversity.

In Vilma’s case, his return to playing at a high level comes on the heels of a 2007 season with the New York Jets that saw his season end mid-through the season due to a knee injury that required a portion of bone to be removed.

“There were some questions, but I knew I could get back to the level I was accustomed to playing at,” Vilma said. “It required a lot of hard work and rehabilitation and listening to what the doctors and the trainers said every step of the way. There were times I wanted to push it, but thanks to Scottie Patton, his staff and the doctors, I was able to return.”

The Saints in a trade with the Jets early in the 2008 off-season acquired Vilma after he met with Saints doctors, Executive Vice President/General Manager Mickey Loomis and Head Coach Sean Payton, among others. Vilma spoke about his passion and desire to return to the level of play that earned him the 2004 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year and a spot in the 2005 Pro Bowl.

“I never doubted my desire,” Vilma said. “I am just thankful that I was given the opportunity to come to New Orleans and be a part of this team.”

In addition to his team-high 102 tackles, Vilma also has an interception, six passes defensed and a fumble recovery and seldom leaves the field when the Saints’ defense is on the field.

Each year the Ed Block Courage Awards honor those players who overcome adversity on the field, possess strong character and a will to endure life’s trials, and who continuously strive for excellence on and off the field. Ed Block Courage Award recipients are selected by a vote of their teammates.

“I believe anytime your teammates think enough of you to vote for you for an award like this is a true honor,’ Vilma said. “There is a lot of very high character players in our locker room and I’m proud to represent the Saints.”

All 32 of this year’s Ed Block Courage Award recipients - one from each team - will be honored at a banquet next spring in Baltimore. Proceeds from the event benefit abused children of The Courage House National Support Network.


Feagles now lead in Pro Bowl polls

The ballot-stuffing is still going on down in Washington, but several Giants are gaining ground. In fact, three Giants - DE Justin Tuck, C Shaun O’Hara and P Jeff Feagles - now lead the fan Pro Bowl voting at their respective positions.


McClover placed on IR

The Bears placed a player on injured reserve Monday, but it wasn't one of the three hurt against the Rams.

Reserve linebacker Darrell McClover was shelved with a left hamstring injury suffered against the Packers. McClover was a significant contributor on special teams, so the Bears will have to compensate for his loss. Hunter Hillenmeyer, the former starter at strong-side linebacker, has become a regular on special teams.



Right tackle Eric Winston answered fan questions about how the offensive line will try to contain Browns defensive tackle Shaun Rogers.
Brooke Bentley (Texans TV): How much cut blocking do you do in games and how do you practice it since it can injure your teammates? (Jose Hasapes)

Eric Winston: First of all, cut blocking is not a dirty technique or it’s not a technique that’s used to hurt people. People see it coming, and it’s just either they’ve got to get out of the way or they have to try to play off of the cut. Either way, to us, it’s beneficial. So, that’s first. But I probably cut, I would say, 40 percent of the plays - anything away from me and anything that’s an outside zone, so anything that’s wide and outside and away from me that I’ve got free reign to cut on. So, anything that’s tight I don’t cut on and we practice it by basically holding up two dummies with a pad underneath and we just practice getting out of our stance from either a depth or from right on the line and cutting it and falling into the pad.

Brooke Bentley: Since your record does not reflect the team's improvement, how do you motivate yourself to continue to perform at a high level?  Is it harder than when you had a good record, like in college? (Jose Hasapes)

Eric Winston: Well, losing’s always tough I think. If you’re a competitor, whether you’re coming from a winning program or a losing program, it’s always tough to swallow. We put a lot of effort in during the week. So, it’s tough to come up short on Sundays. But, we go out there and we just keep fighting. That’s what it’s all about. We know what kind of talent this team has and even though our record doesn’t show it, we know where we’re going. No one’s lost sight of our goals through the long term, and I think that’s what’s important.

Brooke Bentley: How would you grade the how offensive line has performed so far this season? (Anonymous fan)

Eric Winston: Throughout the whole season? I’d give us a B. I’d say we’ve done pretty well. I think we struggled a little early on in some pass pro. Duane (Brown), starting off as a rookie, left tackle is the hardest position. I think it might be the hardest position for any rookie, other than quarterback, the left tackle is the hardest position to play as a rookie. First of all, you’re going against the best rusher every game and, as a rookie, you have nothing to base it off of. So, you’re learning on the go against the best of the best. So, that’s tough. I think we’ve steadily improved and that’s what we’re looking for. I think early in the season, the run blocking and the zone scheme, we were still in the learning phase. I think once we hit about Week 3 or 4, you really saw it start moving up and I think the pass blocking has come along with it.”

Brooke Bentley: Eric, I admired your work at Miami. At least one of the draft gurus had you rated as the second left tackle in the draft. Only D’Brickshaw Ferguson was ranked ahead of you. I was excited when the Texans drafted you; however, I was surprised when you ended up at right tackle. Your footwork has always looked good. Do you think that you would be a good fit at left tackle? (Wally, West Columbia)

Eric Winston: Well, I’d do whatever the team needed me to do. It looks like I’m probably going to be destined to be a right tackle. It was tough for me early on. I had only played left after moving from tight end and I felt really discoordinated playing right tackle from left. You have to use the totally different side of your body. You’re posting with your opposite foot, you’re kicking with your opposite foot and you’re punching with your opposite hand from left to right. So, it’s tough and the guys that do it a lot, guys like Ephraim (Salaam) and guys around the league that are swing tackles and have to do that, are very talented. It is a tough skill to be as good on each side and you don’t find too many guys that are like that. I’m probably destined to stay as a right tackle for the rest of my career. But who knows, if some injuries came up and their needed to be some reshuffling, I’m sure they would probably look at me for a second.

Brooke Bentley: The Brown’s tackle Shaun Rogers looks nasty. How are you guys going to neutralize him? (Anonymous fan)

Eric Winston: Yeah, Chris (Myers) has got his hands full. Everyone just has to help a little bit. Everyone has got to be aware of where he is. I think everyone needs to know where 92 is going to be on the field and just give that little extra help. Chris is a good player. He’ll be able to hold his own, but we’re just going to mix it up. Try to give him a bunch of different looks; try to get after him - just play hard and play the way we play. I think our scheme lends to a lot of success for us and gives us a lot of leeway to make plays. So, we’re going to go out there and just give them everything we have. But he’s a good player and we have to control him.

Salmons continues to roll with 24 points Sun

John Salmons scored 24 points on 11-of-19 shooting (2-of-4 from downtown) with four rebounds and two assists on Sunday.
Salmons has been singled out for being the Kings' only solid defender as of late, which should help secure his playing time even when Kevin Martin and Francisco Garcia return. The scoring tear he's on right now won't hurt matters, either.

Salmons is day-to-day with a strained left thigh. His status for Tuesday's game is up in the air.

"Depends on how I feel," Salmons said. "I had the same injury right before training camp. So, I'm not sure, but we will see." That's not very helpful when you're setting your lineups, though weekly owners should keep in mind that the Kings play only twice this week.


Kings' Salmons is his own man

John Salmons was his own man even as a boy.

As a scrawny ninth-grader at Plymouth-Whitemarsh High School, the quiet-as-a-mouse kid from Philadelphia had been handed the first challenge of his basketball career. When he wanted to make the early leap to the junior varsity, he spoke up for once, making the polite request to then-varsity assistant Jim D'Onofrio. He was told his left-handed layup was nothing short of awful, and that only players who had two hands were suited for that level. Thus, the directive.

So the pounding began on the street outside the Moore family's suburban home in Plymouth Meeting, Pa., where Salmons was far removed from Philly's grittiest neighborhoods and the family that had taken him in was inside while he worked.

"We had a basketball court outside in the driveway, and John would start from the opposite side of the street, dribble all the way with his left hand until he made a left-handed layup and do that for at least two hours every night," said Chuck Moore, his closest friend and former high school teammate. "I was inside watching TV and doing whatever I was doing, and he was out there pounding the ball. … With that drive and determination, I was like, 'This kid's going to make it, and he's going to be special.' "

Salmons always has moved to the beat of his own dribble.

When the Kings small forward was just 8 and still living with his mother, Sandra, in a small brick home in North Philadelphia, he would skip track practice to escape to Finley Recreation Center and be alone with the blacktop. The court was a quick right turn out his front door and just a few bounce passes down East Sharpnack Street. Salmons would slither through a hole in the chain-link fence just to work on the game that drew him in.

When his mother's decision to send her only child out of the city and into the suburbs for high school paid off with a state championship and scholarship offers, he shunned powerhouse colleges, including Kansas, for a Miami program that simply didn't compare. Four years of historic success later (the Hurricanes were 86-39 with him), Salmons entered the NBA with his hometown 76ers after they traded for the 26th pick on draft night in 2002.

When Salmons, then a restricted free agent, could choose his path out of frustration after four seasons (and five coaches) in Philadelphia in 2006, he kept two organizations dangling (Toronto and Phoenix) before backing out of a sign-and-trade deal with the Raptors to join the Kings. The move left even the most loyal members of his inner circle – not to mention basketball fans nationwide – shaking their heads in disbelief.

"It's not like he had just had a four-year run like Kobe (Bryant)," an exasperated D'Onofrio said recently from his classroom at Plymouth-Whitemarsh. "People locally and in his inner circle are thinking, 'Is he crazy?' But he is going to do what's right for John Salmons, come hell or high water. And that's what he did. He is going to do what makes sense for him."

Faith has guided him

The first man in Salmons' life had shared nothing more than a name with his son. John Salmons Sr. owned taverns in the Philadelphia area, meaning he wasn't home much even before he disappeared.

But Salmons, a devout Christian and teetotaler, found ways to fill the void when his father left for good just before he entered junior high school. He was, and remains, extremely close with his mother, Sandra. A nurse's aid while Salmons was growing up, she was the one who called the Moores one day to ask if her son could live with them as a way of attending Plymouth-Whitemarsh instead of the local Martin Luther King High School. While they lived in a somewhat serene lower-middle class neighborhood, changing schools put him at distance from some of the city's worst neighborhoods that were just blocks away. Salmons also grew close to his stepfather, Douglas Lillie, and Chuck Moore Sr., and eventually would call them father figures.

Yet Salmons said it wasn't until he watched his son grow day by day that he began to realize the impact of his father being gone. With his son, Josiah, approaching his first birthday and Salmons a happy family man with his wife, Taneisha, his perspective has changed.