How many Super Bowl Rings Have proCanes Gotten? How many TDs Have proCanes Scored in the Super Bowl?

Not only have proCanes scored the most touchdowns in Super Bowl History (see below), but they also have 44, that's right, 44 Super Bowl Rings to their names. Now that's impressive.

The University of Miami has also produced the most players who have scored Super Bowl touchdowns. Miami has had eight players; Notre Dame is second with six.

Miami's Eight are: Bill Miller, Oakland (scored 2) Pete Banaszak, Oakland Ottis Anderson, New York Giants (2) Michael Irvin, Dallas (2) Jimmie Jones, Dallas Duane Starks, Baltimore Ravens Devin Hester, Chicago Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis.

If you aren't a Colts fan, then you should be like and root for the team that will get the most proCane rings. In this case we're pulling for the Saints because Jeremy Shockey, Glenn Sharpe and Jon Vilma will all get rings including former Hurricane WR coach Curtis Johnson. The Colts only have one proCane, Reggie Wayne, and he already has a Super Bowl Ring to his name. Let's go Saints!

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Jon Vilma Takes Us Inside His Old Hurricane Lockeroom During Super Bowl Week

proCanes Jon Vilma has been sharing his Super Bowl experience with fans on Playmaker Mobile this past week. For those without the iPhone Playmaker Mobile has been posting much of the content on the Playmaker blog. Here is a link to Vilma/Saints related content.

Below check out an exclusive shot of proCane Jeremy Shockey in his old Hurricane Lockeroom, as well as a video tour by Jon Vilma of the Hurricane Lockeroom. Be sure to check out the link above for even more inside content by Jon Vilma.

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Bonus Picture - Coach Payton Wearing UM Gear

We had been hearing all week that Coach Sean PAyton of the NEw Orleans Saints had been wearing a University of Miami shirt and visor during their practices at "The U." The Saints used the UM lockerroom at Hecht Athletic Center and practiced on the Greentree Practice Fields. Here is photographic evidence that Payton did indeed wear UM gear. Maybe proCanes Shockey, Sharpe and Vilma convinced him to, or maybe former Hurricane WR Coach and Current Saints WR coach, Curtis Johnson, lent him some of old Hurricane clothes.

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Who Are The 3 proCanes in the Saints' Official Super Bowl Team Pic?

There are three proCanes in the New Orleans Saints' official Super Bowl XLIV picture. Who can name all three proCanes? Click on the image to enlarge it and click below to see the answer.

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Click here to see the answer ---->

Eric Winston Talks Recruiting

proCane and current Houston Texans right tackle Eric Winston answered a couple of's questions about his recruiting experience 8 years ago.

Eric Winston: 8 years ago today I made 1 of the toughest decisions of my life and signed a NLI to play at UM. I haven't regretted it for 1 day since!! What schools did it come down to Eric?
EW: I made official visits to ATM, UT, LSU, UM. Unofficial to ND the summer before. Lol. Speaking of ND, I might have been one of the few guys to get a phone call from HC George O'Leary. The next day, he resigned

pC: What was most appealing to you about the University of Miami?
EW: Just everything. I think getting out of Tex was appealing, TE tradition, Coach Chud, the success [UM had].

pC: Who was the coach the recruited you from MIA? Was it Chud mainly?
EW: All Chud. Never talked to anyone else until i took my visit

pC: Which player was your host when you went on your official visit?
EW: Shockey and Mckinnie

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Dan Le Batard: NFL Canes never forget their first love

Did you see what they did? The very moment that the world's largest football party officially began in South Florida for the week? Here they were, at the Pro Bowl, the NFL all-star game, about to start player introductions in a sold-out stadium. This was a celebration. Of football. Of accomplishment. Of themselves. And, one by one, as they emerged from the tunnel to have the moment to themselves, to hear their family names echo at the top of their workplace before a national audience, the 11 University of Miami Hurricanes in the game -- 11! -- did something a bit unusual.

They didn't point to the emblem of their NFL employer on a patch, the way Oakland Raiders cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha did. They didn't raise a thumb and jack-hammer it toward the me-me-me name on the back of their jersey, the way Jacksonville running back Maurice Jones-Drew does after touchdowns. No, one by one, as they were introduced and guaranteed all the cameras in the place for perhaps the only time, the Hurricanes put their hands in front of their bodies, thumbs together, and formed a ``U'' to genuflect before their alma mater. Rather literally, they placed their school ahead of themselves.

This symbol, as much as football itself, is what connects them, hands together, thumbs together, with the kind of bond unlike any in this sport. And here's one reason it was interesting: Ray Lewis has accomplished some huge things in football. Defensive Player Of The Year, twice. Pro Bowler, 11 times. He has been Most Valuable Player of the Super Bowl. He is, it can be argued, the best middle linebacker ever. And he is also very good at celebrating himself, his joyful entrances before games the most famous and emotional in the sport. And here he was, somehow feeling the need to remind everyone where he went to school a full 15 years after attending it.


Allow Jimmy Johnson to explain.

``Happiest time of my life,'' he says.

Tommy Tuberville likes to tell the story of driving Johnson to the Miami airport the day Johnson would fly off to become a legend with the Dallas Cowboys. Tuberville was a graduate assistant at UM then, and Johnson was in the back seat, having just accepted maybe the most glamorous job in pro football. As they made their way over I-95 to leave Miami, sun sparkling on the water, Johnson suddenly stopped talking and began taking in all he was leaving. And when Tuberville readjusted his rearview mirror, he noticed the car had gone so quiet because his hardened boss was weeping.

``Such a special, special time,'' Johnson said Monday night.

He was the master of ceremonies at a banquet to celebrate UM's greatness and raise money for a program that doesn't have enough of it. It was at the billion-dollar Fontainebleau hotel, and there was something glowing in the middle of the big ballroom like the contents of that briefcase in Pulp Fiction. There, amid the prime rib carving stations and Kobe beef sliders and a suit-wearing Sebastian the Ibis, five championship rings were encased in glass. That little treasure chest contained the single greatest thing we have in South Florida sports, now or ever, and Edgerrin James and Michael Irvin and Andre Johnson and Steve Walsh and Russell Maryland and Greg Olsen and Antrel Rolle and Santana Moss and Ed Reed and Jon Beason and Clinton Portis and Bennie Blades milled around it misty with nostalgia.

It is quite uncommon, this kind of assembly of talent in one place that isn't a football field -- this kind of talent, period, actually -- but it isn't uncommon in these parts at all. It was like a 20-year high school reunion just for champions, a forever fraternity, that glowing box of jewelry the soul at the center of a big local football celebration that was at the center of our biggest national one. The ripples from inside that box can be felt throughout America's most popular sport. It isn't just that a Hurricane has scored a touchdown every NFL week since 2002 -- a ridiculous record of 122 consecutive weeks. It's that South Florida pulsates in this sport like no other area in the country, our ravaged and hungry streets a pipeline of escape that travels straight from our poverty and violence to the kind of football violence that produces NFL wealth.

Consider this: According to the most recent study done by USA Football, Miami has more players in the NFL (34) than any city anywhere. The only other city even in the 20s is Houston. That's not Fort Lauderdale or West Palm Beach or Belle Glade or Immokalee. That doesn't include Dillard High School. No school in the country had more NFLers than Fort Lauderdale Dillard's six in 2008. Los Angeles, Chicago and Dallas are big cities. None of them has produced as many current NFL players as even Fort Lauderdale's 12.

``So many great players made it easy by paving the way,'' Beason said.

Look around this ballroom. Irvin, Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas. Moss, Carol City High. James, Immokalee High. Rolle, South Dade. Johnson, Miami Senior. Beason, Hollywood Chaminade-Madonna. Darrin Smith, Miami Norland. Blades, Sunrise Piper. McGahee, Miami Central. Gore, Coral Gables. They learn in our high schools, grow into men at our college and then graduate to unleash unholy hell upon the pros once they leave home. There is so much pride in that, for them and for us, and they always seem to return here to share it.

Seeing Irvin and Blades hug and smile and whisper to each other, you see brothers bonded the way only shared, shaping experiences can bond two men. If you think about it, that UM huddle never really breaks. Sometimes you will see it on the sidelines of important UM games. Sometimes it'll watch ``The U'' documentary -- the most-watched documentary in the history of ESPN -- at a historic theater in Overtown. Sometimes it gathers around Sean Taylor's casket. Sometimes it will be at the strip club. And sometimes it will be around that glass case on nights like Monday.

``U, take a bow,'' radio voice Don Bailey Jr. said while introducing NFL player after NFL player to the audience.

It is hard to get Jimmy Johnson off that boat in Islamorada, away from the fishing and retirement. His agent can't get him to make speeches for $45,000 a pop. But Johnson will still do just about anything for this school for free. The man despises small talk, but here he was interviewing former players for the audience. And he gave voice to what so many of the players in the room felt. They don't forget. Ever. They talk about their school the way men talk about the first girl they loved. The pros, they say, are frigid. Different. A job. It makes them wealthier, yes, but only in the ways the bank tabulates. It is the difference between business and love. Ask enough of the guys who left after their junior year and they will tell you almost by consensus that a senior season would have been more valuable than even the immediate need to get paid and take care of family and friends.

Andre Johnson, maybe the best wide receiver in the sport, is extraordinarily quiet. Asked why he doesn't celebrate his touchdowns with flash like a true Cane, Johnson laughs and says, ``Dance? You won't see that out of me.'' Three 100-catch seasons? Two 1,500-yard seasons? A shrug of those sculpted shoulders. But ask him about Miami, and his time there, and he won't shut up. He has returned to school to take classes now and says he badly misses the feeling he had while playing at Miami. He shows zero joy while torching NFL opponents, but you should see him watching a UM football game on TV. He'll sprint right out of his house screaming, arms over his head.

Rolle was talking about his Arizona Cardinals when he said, ``We had a long history of no history,'' and the same could be said of UM before 1983. Everything that happened since -- a record 58 straight home victories; a record 14 straight years with a first-round selection; eight national championship games -- produced what was in that glass case. Its value? That's hard to say. In fans and dollars, UM certainly doesn't get the kind of support it would just about anywhere else in the country.

Consider that the University of Texas won for the first time since 1970 in 2006 -- not five championships, just one -- and the result was an avalanche of cash. The $87 million in revenue last year, $65 million of it in profit, was more than a college program had ever made. Even in a recession, Texas has made more money annually since the championship than any school in the country because of that one championship. The Wall Street Journal reported that Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds recently asked a young booster for a $4 million donation. The booster didn't flinch even though he thought he was being asked for $40 million. The money was wired the next day.

That's not quite how it is at Miami, of course. So Monday's auction escalated until that glass case was finally up for bid. It got as high as $20,000, with four fans bidding, so school officials happily stopped it there and promised each fan a collection of rings for that amount. In true U fashion, everyone around the huddle got to feel like a winner. And $20,000 must feel like a bargain when what you get to feel in your hands is priceless.

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Payton: Shockey not bad guy he’s portrayed as

Fort Lauderdale, Fla. — Sean Payton knows what, and who, he likes. And the New Orleans Saints head coach is a big fan of tight end Jeremy Shockey.

Of course, it helps that Payton and Shockey have a history. They were together with the New York Giants, where Payton served as the quarterbacks coach under Jim Fassel and Shockey was the team's brash, young receiving threat.

Things didn't work out for either one in New York. Payton moved on to the Dallas Cowboys, where he was an assistant to head coach Bill Parcells before taking over in New Orleans. Shockey stayed a little longer but was traded away to the Saints not long after the Eli Manning-led Giants won a Super Bowl title two years ago.

The reunion in the Big Easy has been beneficial for both coach and player.

"I like Jeremy Shockey. I love what he brings to this football team," Payton said recently. "I like his personality a lot. There's something that he has about him that brings a little confidence. You know our receivers are kind of quiet. He brings a little something to the huddle that I like."

According to the Saints coach, the notion that Shockey can be a load for his own coaching staff to handle — both on and off the field — is a misconception.

"I don't know that that's necessarily the case, really. He's a guy that [Monday] night was floating around the meeting rooms and half the team is out for dinner. He's looking at [game] tape and getting ice [on his sore knee]. So I think a little bit of that is mythical. It's fun to write about," Payton said.

"He's a wiser, older player who understands that at this stage, you begin to fight the arrow down. In order to do that, you've got to rest more, hydrate. He's doing a good job progressing with the injury. I think he'll be ready. He's excited about it [playing in Super Bowl]."

In a way, Super Bowl XLIV could serve as a bit of redemption for Shockey. He didn't play when New York beat the New England Patriots due to a broken leg. He had also reportedly gotten into the doghouse with the Giants' coaching staff.

"You want to play in [the Super Bowl]. It's something that coaches have always harped on you as a kid and in college about maybe one day [playing]. You hear stories about, 'I was at a Super Bowl or part of a Super Bowl team.' Thirty years from now, this is something that we can take, which is very special, and all of us that are on this team can talk about this 20 to 30 years from now," he said.

"We've had coaches that have been in this league for 30 years that haven't even been in a Super Bowl yet and we know how much is at stake and how much they want it as much as we do. I can promise you that it's going to be fun."

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

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Jonathan Vilma Tries to Decipher Manning's Signals

MIAMI -- As Bill Belichick will tell you, it's against NFL rules to tape another team's signals on the sideline. But it's not against the rules to watch the signals of an opposing team's quarterback and try to figure out what they mean.

Saints middle linebacker linebacker Jonathan Vilma said on Thursday that he's been doing that this week, trying to figure out what Colts quarterback Peyton Manning's hand signals mean as they prepare to meet in Super Bowl XLIV.

"When you watch film, you want to look at the schemes first and understand the concepts, what they're trying to accomplish as an offensive unit," Vilma said. "You try to look at Peyton Manning and see if you can decipher the hand signals, if you can hear anything that he is trying to say. Outside of that, you try to pick up little things here and there throughout the week and hopefully it will hold up in the game. If it does, it will be good for us. If not, we'll just go ahead and keep playing."

Can Vilma really figure out what Manning's signals mean? It seems unlikely: Manning is smart enough not to use the same signals over and over again. But Vilma is clearly seeking any edge he can find against the Colts.

On Thursday I picked the brain of Trent Dilfer, the quarterback who won a Super Bowl with the Baltimore Ravens and is now an ESPN analyst, and he named Vilma as the single most significant player in Sunday's game.

"If you look at how the Colts attack you, in the zone run game, the middle linebacker needs to make the tackle," Dilfer said. "But he also needs to stop Dallas Clark in the middle of the field. If the Saints are successful on defense, you're going to hear Vilma's name called 10, 12, 14 times."

Vilma doesn't record a lot of sacks (he had two this season), but Dilfer said he thinks Vilma will try to get in Manning's head by frequently giving the Colts the appearance of a blitz on Sunday.

"I think Vilma will be a bluff guy for Peyton," Dilfer said. "Vilma will creep up to the line of scrimmage to show blitz and Peyton will have to figure out if he's really coming or if he's going to drop back at the snap."

But Manning will also attempt to fool Vilma.

"For a guy in Vilma's shoes, he needs to know on every play: 'Am I reacting to the run or getting fooled on play action?" Dilfer said.

Ultimately, Dilfer said, the best way for the Colts to attack Vilma may be to run right at him.

"Peyton's going to call 25 runs this game to control the pass rush and the middle linebacker," Dilfer said. "I think the run game is their secret sauce. Peyton knows they're coming after him and running at them is the way to slow them down."

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

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Reggie Wayne's mom has advice for her son

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

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McKinnie downplays missing bowl

A week after being dismissed from the NFC Pro Bowl team because of unexcused absences, Vikings left tackle Bryant McKinnie offered no apologies and made it known he felt too much was made of the situation.

"I understand I missed it," McKinnie told reporters at the Super Bowl media center Thursday in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. "But they tried to make it seem like it was because [I was] at the [night] club and couldn't get up. No. I had called [agent Drew Rosenhaus] and told Drew I wanted to withdraw."

McKinnie, a first-time Pro Bowl selection, skipped Pro Bowl practices last Friday and Saturday before the NFL kicked him off the team. He said he had taken a cortisone shot in his foot the week before the game but his "body started feeling a certain way." McKinnie, who also claimed he became sick last week, said he consulted with a trainer about the pain but they never got a chance to meet up.

McKinnie raised several eyebrows, however, by using his Twitter account to inform the public of various late-night activities that he was going to attend in the Miami area. "I'm off at the end of the day," McKinnie said. "I had a long season. It was a pretty decent season. You know what I mean? It's all all right."

The NFL is still considering fining Mc-Kinnie for how he conducted himself; McKinnie has found himself in hot water with the NFL before and was suspended for four games to start 2008 after violating the league's personal conduct policy.

"There wasn't anything bad behind it," McKinnie said of his actions this time. "I just feel that they made it more than it really was. It wasn't like I got locked up somewhere and couldn't play in the game because I was in jail. That's how they made it seem. I just didn't know that it was going to be that serious."

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

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We see the evolution of Michael Irvin

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- The best part of Super Bowl week is spending a day hanging out on "radio row."

It's the room in the host city's convention center where radio stations from the across the country gather to hype the Super Bowl by conducting interviews with athletes and celebrities, mostly current and former NFL players.

Kansas City's Sports Radio 810 WHB is here, perched alongside a station from Washington, D.C. and not all that far from where nationally syndicated hosts such as Jim Rome, Stephen A. Smith and Tim Brando do their shows.

Thursday, I circled radio row for five hours, chit-chatting with Merrill Hoge, Warren Sapp, Jamie Dukes, Troy Aikman, Bill Romanowski and a few others. Joe Montana and Jerry Rice also made appearances on radio row. Miss America stood around for a couple of hours wearing her crown. Chad Ochocinco taped his TV show along radio row.

I've been frequenting radio row for 15-plus Super Bowls. Thursday I had an experience I'll never forget.

Michael Irvin, the former Dallas Cowboys receiver, walked over, shook my hand and started up a 40-minute conversation that absolutely blew my mind.

Let me give you a little background. I've long been a critic of Irvin's television work. When he worked for ESPN - at the same time that I did - Irvin's shtick really bothered me. I thought he was too flamboyant, a stereotypical caricature of the irresponsible black athlete. When police busted Irvin with a crack pipe in his car, I began calling Irvin the "Pipemaker," a play off his self-given nickname "The Playmaker."

Irvin was aware of all this, although he never complained to me. ESPN TV and Irvin eventually parted company. During the 2008 NFL season, I caught Irvin doing a radio broadcast of a 2008 NFL game. He was terrific - charismatic, insightful, articulate and passionate. He was the broadcaster I wanted him to be when he was on ESPN. I wrote a few words of praise about Irvin in a column I do for

A few months later, Irvin invited me on his Dallas radio show. He couldn't have been any more polite and professional. He told me that he understood my job and that I had a right to express my opinion about his work.

Thursday was the first time I'd seen Irvin since being on his radio show. It was the first time we'd ever had a chance to really talk. Wow.
Michael Irvin sounded like a mix of Harry Edwards, Jim Brown and Billy Graham. The loud-talking, all-style-little-substance trash talker has transformed himself into an extremely thoughtful person, someone with an important message for young professional athletes and the men who supervise them.

"There's so much to be gained from process," Irvin told me and two Miami radio hosts. "Professional athletics doesn't have time for process. Athletes are given wealth instantly. We live in a society that used to prepare meals in a process and put them in the oven to bake and now we put things in a microwave and eat right away. We're into instant gratification. We've lost the process. We've lost patience."

I'm not doing Irvin's message justice. He spoke eloquently and at length. I scribbled notes as fast as I could. I needed a tape recorder. His point was that athletes, particularly athletes from dysfunctional and broken homes, struggle when they're handed instant wealth and fame but haven't been provided years of training on how to handle wealth and fame.

He acknowledged that was his problem when he was a Dallas Cowboy. The allure of sex and drugs swept him up in his youth. And now at age 43, he finally has an understanding of whom he is, what his purpose in life is.

"See, our problem as men is we find our worth in our women," Irvin said. "That's not right. Your worth is in the work you do. Your work is your purpose in this life. When you find your worth in women, you spend all your time trying to please this woman rather than pleasing God."

Irvin found his purpose in his two sons, age 12 and 11. He said he lives in fear of his sons punching his name into Google and reading negative stories from his wild days. He says raising his sons has caused him to become more self-aware and self-reflective.

Irvin said he recently finished reading the book, "The Edison Gene: ADHD and the Gift of the Hunter Child." The book explores attention deficit disorder and hyperactivity disorder and how it caused inventor Thomas Edison's teachers to label him a "problem" child when in fact ADHD, if understood, can be a blessing.

Irvin said the book also explains how an expectant mother's environment and attitude can affect the brain of an unborn child. He said, if a mother is in a "threatening" environment, the child is likely to have a diminished ability to reason and a heightened aggressive attitude.
Again, I can't do the conversation justice. I'm just glad I stopped my frivolous conversation about a football game and engaged Irvin in something important. It warmed my spirit to learn that an NFL bad boy has intellectually evolved so impressively.

As fans and journalists, we get so upset with young athletes for the mistakes they make, we lose sight of the fact they can and will evolve. I'm sure Irvin is not perfect. But he's on the proper journey. And he can help some of the young guys making the same mistakes he made in his youth.

Click here to order Michael Irvin’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Wayne reveals lack of relationship with Harrison

One of the stranger sights at the Super Bowl this week has been seeing a Colts player with the familiar name "Harrison'' stitched across the back of his blue No. 39 jersey -- which happens to belong, for the moment, to rookie practice squad defensive back Brandon Harrison. It's still making me do a double take every time, if only because I can't quite get used to the idea of Indianapolis being in the Super Bowl without Marvin Harrison, the franchise's all-time leading receiver.

I spent some time at Reggie Wayne's table during the Colts' media hour, and he said some pretty revealing stuff about Marvin Harrison, his longtime ex-teammate and fellow receiver. For starters, Wayne said he hasn't spoken with Harrison since he left the organization last year after 13 seasons with Indianapolis. Not once.

"I haven't talked to him since he left, man,'' Wayne told a small handful of reporters. "Marvin's very to himself. He's been like that forever. So I hope he's doing well. I'm pretty sure he is. From what I understand, he still wants to play. He's still hungry to play. Hopefully he'll get the opportunity to go out there and do what he wants.''

Harrison, 37, has yet to retire from the NFL, but no one signed him during the 2009 season. He was released at his own request by the Colts last offseason, after refusing to take a pay cut. Harrison's name, and a gun he owns, was linked to a shooting in Philadelphia in April 2008, with the victim alleging Harrison pulled the trigger. No charges against Harrison were ever filed in connection with that incident.

Harrison was always known for being a loner, even among his teammates, but to hear Wayne, who played alongside him for eight years, describe him as having lost total touch with his former team was shocking.

"It's not a surprise,'' Wayne said. "Our lockers were next to each other and we very seldom talked then. It's not like we were text message buddies in eight years. So I kind of figured it'd be that way. You've just got to understand his character.''

When a reporter asked if Harrison could have lingering bitterness about how he left the organization, Wayne said he wasn't sure, but didn't think so.

"I think that's just him,'' said Wayne, who once played in No. 88's shadow. "He's to himself. He has a lonely soul. He's anti-social. That's what makes him. If you saw him talking to the media all of a sudden, that's an imposter. That's not him. He'll keep the same makeup that he's had since day one, and I guess that's what works for him.''

Wow. Barely a year has gone by since their long and successful partnership broke up, and Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne don't even speak any more. That's stunning to me.

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

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McKinnie feels too much made of his actions

Our old friend Kevin Seifert was among the reporters who got a chance to talk to Bryant McKinnie late this afternoon in South Florida and he has posted a very interesting item on his NFC North blog on that clearly shows the Vikings left tackle feels the whole situation involving his dismissal from the Pro Bowl last week was blown out of proportion.

That's interesting because McKinnie's failure to show up at practices -- and for the team picture -- not only got him kicked off the team but also led to criticism from many of his attitude toward the honor he had received. That's not to mention the lack of respect is appeared to show his teammates. But McKinnie, a first-time Pro Bowl selection, had little sympathy for the fact tackles David Diehl and Jason Peters had to play the entire game.

"Anyone who watched the game would know it wasn't like they were going that hard," McKinnie said. "If you watched the game, [the pass rushers] were stopping in front of the quarterback. I'm like, OK ..."

As for the amount of criticism his absence created, McKinnie said:

"I understand I missed it. But they tried to make it seem like it was because you were at the club and couldn't get up. No. I had called [agent Drew Rosenhaus] and told Drew I wanted to withdraw. I had taken a cortisone shot in my foot the week before the game. When you take that shot, it numbs whatever. You don't feel like you're hurt anymore. It was the New Orleans game. You feel like you're good on Wednesday.

"Yes, I did go out. I can go out and still get up the next morning. But my body started feeling a certain way. So I called Drew and I said, 'I don't think I'm going to be able to play anymore,' because my body was hurting. I was trying to push myself to play. It was my first Pro Bowl, it was in Miami, so I got to come back and play at home. [Rosenhaus] got in touch with the trainer. The trainer ended up calling me at 6:30 on Friday.
"I told him over the phone my problems. He said, 'Could you come see me in person?' I said I was 30 minutes away because I was down at the beach. He said he was going to dinner at 7 and I could meet him at 9:30. I said, 'Yeah.' We were going to meet at 9:30. Then he called me and said, 'I'm running late. I'm going to give you another time to meet.'

"So me, in my mind, I already had talked to him, there's no need to go to practice. There's no reason to go to anything else."

McKinnie also now claims he was sick in the hotel at one point and that's why he missed some of the practice time. He said the trainer came to his room on Wednesday and he received medicine.

McKinnie admits there could be have been better communication with trainers and others on the NFC side or that he could have withdrawn from the game earlier, like five of his teammates did. However, McKinnie added: "I don't feel like it needed that much attention on it."

He has yet to talk to Vikings coach Brad Childress about the situation, but did speak with Vikings vice president of legal affairs Kevin Warren. Warren told McKinnie to quit responding to people on Twitter about what happened. But McKinnie wasn't going to apologize about his decision to tweet about heading to clubs.

"I'm off at the end of the day," he said. "I had a long season. It was a pretty decent season. You know what I mean? It's alright."

An NFL spokesman said the league is looking at fining McKinnie but that no decision would come this week. McKinnie has had issues in the past with the NFL, including the 2005 "Love Boat" incident on Lake Minnetonka and he was suspended for the first four games of the 2008 season for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy after getting in a fight outside a Miami nightclub.

McKinnie clearly doesn't think this latest issue should be mixed with those. "There wasn't anything bad behind it," he said. "I just feel that they made it more than it really was. It wasn't like I got locked up somewhere and couldn't play in the game because I was in jail. That's how they made it seem. I just didn't know that it was going to be that serious."

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

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Irvin accused of rape at Seminole Hard Rock

A woman who says she was raped by football star Michael Irvin at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino filed a civil lawsuit against him Thursday in Broward Circuit Court.

Although no criminal charges have been filed, the Broward State Attorney's Office has been looking into the case and is expected to reach a conclusion next week, said spokesman Ron Ishoy.

The woman said the attack happened in 2007, in the late hours of July 4 or early July 5. The suit doesn't name the woman, referring to her as Jane Doe.

Irvin's lawyer, Larry Friedman, called the accusations ``totally untrue.''

When asked to describe her contact with Irvin, Friedman said, ``Beyond, perhaps, meeting her, there was nothing.''

In the suit, the woman said Irvin bought her alcohol to get her drunk, then lured her to his hotel room. That's where he and another man tried stuffing money into her clothes, the suit said.

She said Irvin and the other man insisted on sexual favors. She said no.

That's when the unidentified man held her down and covered her mouth, according to the suit, then Irvin raped her, she said. When Irvin was done, the other man forced her to perform oral sex.

Afterward, Irvin's brother, Derrick Irvin, came in and took her to another room and ``assisted in covering the sexual assault and rape up,'' according to the civil lawsuit.

The one man is unidentified because the woman doesn't know who he is, said her lawyer, David Lister.

It was reported to Seminole police on July 20, 2007, Seminole Tribe spokesman Gary Bitner said.

``They investigated it thoroughly,'' Bitner said. ``Although by that time there was no longer any forensic evidence or surveillance video.''

A day later, the woman signed a waiver of prosecution, which Bitner attributed to ``her desire to essentially put it behind her and not have it be splashed all over the newspapers.''

Bitner said the tribe turned over its findings to Broward prosecutors.

The woman's lawyer, Lister, said he had no comment about the Seminole police investigation.

He said his client had passed a polygraph test.

Lister also said his client and Irvin's counsel had been in negotiations for a financial settlement, but those talks stalled, prompting the lawsuit filed three days before the Super Bowl is being played in Miami.

``There were discussion back and forth between the parties,'' Lister said, adding that Irvin's representatives had asked for a settlement figure.
``Nothing came of it.''

Friedman, Irvin's attorney, called the discussions attempts at extortion.

He said the woman came forward last year, after Irvin appeared on a few episodes of the television show Dancing With the Stars.

First, she wanted $1 million, Friedman said, then came down to $800,000.

Each time, Friedman said no.

``This complaint is tantamount to criminal extortion,'' Friedman said. ``There is no merit to the complaint.''

Irvin, an NFL Hall of Famer, grew up in Fort Lauderdale and was a star at the University of Miami before joining the Dallas Cowboys.

He's had run-ins with the law, including pleading no contest to a cocaine charge in 1996.

Later in that same year, Irvin and a teammate were accused with sexually assaulting a woman. An investigation revealed the woman had made up the story and she soon recanted.

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Hester open to cutting back receiver role

Miami Dolphins right tackle Vernon Carey returned from a cruise vacation this week only to find his Mercedes GL 550 up on blocks on his driveway at his Davie home with the tires and four Asanti rims gone.

Carey reported the theft to the Davie police on Tuesday after a friend informed him of the robbery. According to the police report, the 22-inch rims were valued at $6,000. Nothing else was taken.

Phone messages left for Carey were not returned.

Lt. William Coyne said that the case is being investigated.


Super Bowl party breakdown

It's the Super Bowl. In Miami. There are a few parties.

Here's what is left on the slate between now and Sunday. Attend 10 parties, get one free liver!

Usher The 411: This is a free concert. Which is appropriate, because Usher didn't pay for Michael Jackson's act.

Hard Rock International's Rock 'N Soul Party
The 411: Drew Rosenhaus hosts this event alongside Tommie Harris, Chad Ochocinco, Terrell Owens, Willis McGahee, Santana Moss and Zach Thomas. You have to pay for admission. But Drew Rosenhaus suggests you hold out until you get the price you want.

Pepsi Musica Super Bowl Fan Jam The 411: Nelly Furtado, Paulina Rubio and Pitbull will perform at this event, which will be hosted by Telemundo stars. Do you dare enter this tierra de pasiones?

Leather and Laces Party
The 411: Kim Kardashian, Roselyn Sanchez and Holly Madison will host. Cirque USA will perform. Ray J likely will not.

Super Bowl Gospel Celebration
The 411: Donnie McClurkin, BeBe and CeCe Winans and Canton Jones will perform. You'll have to wait until Sunday night to see Tim and Pam Tebow.

Celebrity Bowl-a-Thon
The 411: It's Detroit. Jerome Bettis is from Detroit.

Ditka's Gridiron Night of Champions
The 411: Mike Ditka will host, but Jamie Foxx will be featured. Seems like an odd combo. But Foxx worked well with Tom Cruise in "Collateral," and Cruise almost had Ditka's exact hairdo in that movie.

Five Star Players Party The 411: Santana Moss hosts this party promoted as featuring "NFL stars, entertainers and celebrities." I hope Moss is the only Redskins player there, else "NFL stars" would be false advertising.

Jamie Moyer, Mario Batali Super Brunch
The 411: Mario Batali will design a gourmet brunch, and celebrities Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Buffett and Emeril Lagasse will appear. How Jamie Moyer is associated I do not know. I thought men his age woke up to eat way before brunch.

Smocks & Jocks Jazz Brunch
The 411: Featuring an auction of artwork by former and current NFL stars. Stick around and maybe you'll see someone draw up a winning play.

Black Eyed Peas concert
The 411: Featuring Miami Dolphins part-owner Fergie! I'll go … but ONLY if Tom Benson and Jim Irsay perform, too. "My lumps, my lumps, my lovely old man lumps."

Lingerie Bowl VII
The 411: Wait … the Lingerie Bowl is one day after the playoffs end? It's almost as if this isn't a real sport. I hope these girls can find someone willing to massage them between games.

Super Bowl Saturday Night
The 411: Slated to perform: O.A.R., Barenaked Ladies and Robert Randolph and the Family Band. There also will be fireworks.

Taste of the NFL
The 411: Slated to perform: Barenaked Ladies. So the fireworks at Super Bowl Saturday Night will be from the Barenaked Ladies' car backfiring as they head to their next gig.

Sean Paul concert
The 411: "Temperature" chorus lyrics:
Well woman the way the time cold I wanna be keepin' you warm
I got the right temperature for shelter you from the storm
Oh lord, gal I got the right tactics to turn you on, and girl I ...
Wanna be the Papa ... You can be the Mom ... oh oh!
Fun fact: These are the exact words Archie Manning used to woo his wife, Olivia. (Maybe. I can't really confirm that.)

Penthouse Magazine Super Party The 411: Penthouse 2010 Pet of the Year Taylor Vixen is slated to appear at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. Also slated to appear: a lot of bad jokes about "Seminole," "Hard" and "Rock."

Celebrity Flag Football Game The 411: I can't find which NFL players are scheduled to participate. But I think we can assume Tom Brady would be up for a game like this.

Dane Cook concert The 411: This is one event Jamie Foxx is not scheduled to attend. But you still might hear some of his jokes.

NFL Alumni Sporting Clays Team Challenge
The 411: Current and former NFL players will serve as celebrity captains during this sporting clays contest. Yes, that's right, lots of NFL players being photographed around guns. Does Roger Goodell know about this event?

Spectacular Super Bowl Party
The 411: This event will feature a poker tournament and will be hosted by Jim Carrey and Jenny McCarthy. The perfect party if you enjoy things that were much more popular a few years ago.

Jamie Foxx & Friends Bud Bowl Party
The 411: Jamie Foxx again, ladies and gentlemen! The extra X in "Foxx" is for the line on contracts he signs to make as much money as possible.


Edgerrin James: Once a Colt, always a Colt

MIAMI — It’s been four full seasons since Edgerrin James played his last game in an Indianapolis Colts uniform, but as members of this year’s Colts prepare to face the New Orleans Saints in the Super Bowl on Sunday, the former Immokalee star’s name still comes up daily in interviews.

“Edgerrin will always be a Colt,” longtime Indianapolis offensive coordinator Tom Moore said. “The team that is here playing in this year’s game has been built over the last decade and Edgerrin was one of the key guys during that time.”

The Indianapolis organization showed just how important James is to their recent success by naming him an honorary captain for the AFC championship game. The honor was more than just symbolic. After the Colts defeated the Jets to earn their second trip to the Super Bowl since James’ departure, there was the honorary captain to officially accept the championship trophy on behalf of the Colts.
Many of the Colts stars said that return of James provided an emotional boost at a very important time.

“It meant a lot to the guys in the locker room and especially the fans in Indianapolis,” Colts tight end Dallas Clark said. “He’s a true professional and he did so many things for the city of Indianapolis.”

While the team has embraced James multiple times since he left the team (he was awarded a Super Bowl ring after Indianapolis’ win over the Chicago Bears three years ago), he has remained almost anonymous during Super Bowl week. James has made just one appearance in Miami, at a charity bowling event put on by Alonzo Mourning, and has declined interview requests.

“Edge is going through a lot right now and my heart goes out to him,” said former Saints running back Deuce McAllister, who is in almost the same job situation as James, and served as the Saints honorary captain in the NFC championship. “I hope he figures things out and he can get back and represent for us old guys one last season.”

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Ravens expect Reed to return

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh reiterated his belief that free safety Ed Reed and wide receiver Derrick Mason will not retire.

Reed has said he's "50-50" on whether he'll return due to lingering injuries, including a nerve impingement that affects his neck and shoulder.
League sources and Reed's teammates have told National Football Post that Reed isn't planning to retire, barring a medical setback.

Mason is an unrestricted free agent, but the Ravens are expected to make him an offer to stay.

"I believe Ed’s going to play next year," Harbaugh said. "If he doesn’t, we’ll have to have a plan in place to move on. There’s no better leader, no better football player, no better guy on our team than Ed Reed. We need him back. He’s a huge part of our puzzle.

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University of Miami flavor strong in Super Bowl XLIV

FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. - Since 2002, and for the past 122 weeks in which an NFL game has been played, a player from the University of Miami has scored a touchdown.

For 14 consecutive years, at least one Hurricanes player has been a first-round NFL draft choice.

Sunday evening in Super Bowl XLIV, a handful of former Hurricanes, from Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne to Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma and tight end Jeremy Shockey will participate in the NFL championship game, a destination most who pass through the football program at the Coral Gables, Fla., school come to expect from the moment they arrive on the palm tree-lined campus through the time their name is called by the NFL commissioner on draft night.

"Those kids who go there expect to be at this level, " said Saints wide receiver coach Curtis Johnson, who held the same position on the Hurricanes' staff when Wayne played there. Johnson coached there from 1996 to 2005. "A lot of places I've seen, just going to different colleges, guys don't have that same expectation. At Miami that is the expectation. That is what Miami is.

"They say, 'We're supposed to go here and win a national championship' then they're supposed to go to the NFL and play for 10 years."

And along the way, pick up a Super Bowl ring or two to supplement the jewelry they won at "the U," to which the university is lovingly referred.
The list of alumni who've prospered in the NFL is long and glittering, from Michael Irvin to Ray Lewis, from Ed Reed to Russell Maryland, from Vinny Testaverde to Bernie Kosar, from Santana Moss to Andre Johnson, from Warren Sapp to the late Jerome Brown, from Ted Hendricks to Edgerrin James.

"There are a bunch of us, a lot of products of the University of Miami here, " said Shockey, who, as his college teammate Vilma, makes his Super Bowl debut Sunday, the next line of succession after the pair won a national championship in the Rose Bowl against Nebraska in 2001, one of five the school has claimed.

"And all I can say to those who do play for the University of Miami now is to enjoy your moment in college. It was the best time of my life. It was a great feeling to win the national championship and be a part of that college."

For Vilma, the return to the area as a member of the Saints' first Super Bowl team also is engendering fond memories.

"We talked about that a little bit at the beginning, " Vilma said of a conversation he shared with Shockey, "and we said, 'We're back at it again.' This is our first time, obviously his first Super Bowl (Shockey was injured as a member of the Giants for Super Bowl XLII), my first Super Bowl, and this is an exciting moment for us. But it only becomes a special moment if you win.

"We felt that way when we were playing in the Rose Bowl against a good Nebraska team. We felt like it was a special moment for us, but it's only special if you go out there and you take care of business."

That has been a mantra that has followed most Miami players into the NFL.

"Everybody who comes to that school works hard, " said Wayne, a native New Orleanian who played at Ehret and counts Johnson as his mentor. "Hard work pays off. This is an opportunity to show what (Miami alums) have been working toward, with hard work and dedication. I just want to go out there and represent the school on a good note and hopefully come out on top.

"My mentor at UM, my receiver coach in college was Curtis Johnson. He has taught me a lot. He's pretty much taught me everything I know. And I'll do my best to not let him down."

At the conclusion of last Sunday's Pro Bowl, Houston Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson and most of the other former Hurricanes who'd been selected to play in the game, a total of 10, gathered near midfield for a group photo.

"It was like being with your brothers, " Johnson said that night. "A lot of those guys I have played with and went through a lot of blood, sweat and tears with and won a national championship with them, so it was just a lot of fun. We have something that I don't think any other school has. A camaraderie that I can't really explain. We're always together in the offseason, training together back at the school. So just to be out here with all these guys is just a lot of fun."

Andre Johnson said he believes the bond between former Miami players is stronger than at other schools.

"Sometimes you hear other guys talk about it that went to different colleges, " he said. "Evidently it's something that they see. Most of the time, when you see a guy from the U, he has another guy with him that he played with. That's just something that we do."

Curtis Johnson said he believes Miami's regimented program better prepares athletes for the challenges they'll face in the NFL.

"The coaches are no-nonsense, " Johnson said. "Guys get to the NFL and sometimes you've almost got to de-recruit them. Miami doesn't do that. I think you just continue to teach there. They have this progression that they do, starting them off as freshmen. They get them up early in the morning doing the things that's going to make them successful in life. Those guys do a great job.

"It's very much like a professional program. The demands are the same, similar to what we have (in the NFL). It's very much a structured program. In the NFL, you tell them what to do. You don't have options. Miami is the same way. They tell them how it's going to be done. And you've just got to do it."

Such uniformity, Vilma said, made his transition into pro football somewhat seamles, s and the competition he faced in college prepared him for the challenges of the NFL.

"I definitely noticed the similarities, " Vilma said. "And another thing was the talent level. You had guys where you couldn't afford to take a play off, not because you were tired or didn't feel like it. It was because if you stepped out, the next guy was coming in and he was going to probably take your job. It was just that way. It really created a good atmosphere, a very competitive atmosphere, when we played."
The pro-type offenses and defenses to which players at Miami are exposed, said Curtis Johnson and Shockey, also are advantageous.

"Ultimately, " Shockey said, "being a part of the University of Miami helps you once you get to the NFL. Unlike some kids who go to some schools, we had a complex offense and we were already polished when we got to the pros.

"That's why you see so many University of Miami guys in big games like this and the Pro Bowl. You see them drafted high because they're prepared. A lot of other college guys aren't. At Miami, you're there to take the next step."

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Media look to Shockey to spice things up

Colts receiver Pierre Garçon wants to save Haiti.

Saints quarterback Drew Brees wants to save New Orleans.

I was hoping that Jeremy Shockey could save the media.

Given the abundance of virtuous, if familiar, storylines, Shockey seemed the last best hope to endow this Super Bowl with even a bit of controversy. I mean, you try getting a rise out of people by quoting Jim Caldwell. It's not easy.

So, in anticipation of a couple ill-advised remarks, a bunch of us parked ourselves at Shockey's table for Wednesday's media session. It was to begin at 11:30 a.m. and go for 45 minutes. Shockey didn't arrive until 11:51 and spoke for only 15 minutes.

And I don't really blame him. He knew the game, and didn't really feel like playing. He was going to be asked about the New York Giants, a team whose name he mentions only grudgingly, and the Super Bowl he watched while drinking beer in the owner's box.

"I have nothing but great things to say about the organization in New York," he said, convincing no one. "I just hope the fans up there understand that I wasn't forced out. It was more of an option. It was just my time to leave."

Like most things about Shockey, the chain of events that sent him to the New Orleans Saints is subject to interpretation. What seems clear, however, is that the broken leg that kept him out of Super Bowl XLII healed faster than his pride.

It's worth reminding you that Shockey wasn't the only Giant unable to play in the great upset of the Patriots. Running back Derrick Ward and defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka also had broken legs. Somehow, they managed to get on the team charter flight and travel to Arizona without incident.

But Shockey, whose matted blond hair and assorted tattoos affect the look of a professional wrestler, has a natural talent for drawing attention to himself.

The big star's absence became a big story. "It was just a miscommunication," he said. "I didn't give them an answer if I was going to come or not. Then, at the last minute, I was like, you know what? It's a special thing. I had a feeling they were going to upset the Patriots."

So he boarded a commercial flight from Miami and sat in a middle seat in coach. The passengers were mostly Patriots fans, who didn't distress him nearly as much as the pressurized cabin.

"My leg's broken, it was a painful experience," he said, before thinking to add that "it was well worth it."

For the record, Jeremy Shockey couldn't have been happier for his teammates. It was the media that ruined everything: "Everybody made it out to be 'Jeremy was unhappy about his team winning,' 'Jeremy was unhappy about the success his team had without him.' It was the complete opposite."

In other words, he was overjoyed to know that the Giants could win a championship with the unassuming Kevin Boss at tight end. That's why he skipped the victory parade and wasn't seen again until training camp, when he had a shouting match with the general manager and, according to Bergen Record columnist Ian O'Connor, marched into the owner's office and demanded to be traded.

By then, Shockey said, the damage had been done: "Even if I had my best season ever, it would've been a distraction because of ... all the stories that were being written before the Super Bowl. ... You write a story without a person's quote, it's putting words in other people's mouths. That's the only thing I didn't like about New York, the media and how they twisted words."

This is the guy who was supposed to save me and my ilk? Where's Jim Caldwell when you need him?

In fairness, Shockey -- who attended the University of Miami -- got off a couple decent lines. He railed against the injustice suffered by former teammate Plaxico Burress, who is now serving time for violating New York's gun laws. "Plax is a great guy. He made a mistake like all of us do," said Shockey, adding that the jail sentence would've been avoided "if only if the mayor was a Giants fan."

Another reporter asked, "Having lived here, is it hard to resist the temptations of this city?"

"No," said Shockey, "having lived here I've done every temptation there is."

In fact, he has been apprising teammates of the perils that await them this week.

"I was telling the all the guys: you're gonna be invited to every party, you're gonna approached by every girl, in every club. ... Resist that for one week and then we'll come back here and I'll pay for everyone's ticket."

One assumes they won't be flying coach.

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Roscoe Parrish To Be At Coconut Grove Block Party

Tomorrow, February 4, Rebuilding Together Miami-Dade is hosing a "Kickoff to Rebuild" event in Coconut Grove to clean-up and the revitalize of seven homes in Village West. After the work day, volunteers and community members will enjoy a block-party style celebration for their hard work and dedication to rebuild.

Steve Harvey will be broadcasting his radio show live from the scene, between 6 am and 9:24 am, and former Miami Dolphins Dwight Stephenson and Dick Anderson will be on hand with All pro Bill Roscoe Parrish and other NFL players.

“Kickoff to Rebuild” will also be accepting cash donations for Haiti’s earthquake victims. The money will be split evenly between AmeriCares and the Hôpital Albert Schweitzer (HAS) in Haiti.

There's a pep rally at 8:30 am, project work begins at 9 am and the block party is from 10 am to 2 pm. There is an awards ceremony and lunch at 12:30 pm. The event is scattered around a small area, the project map is shown here.

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Shockey’s Super Bowl Chance

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — No hard feelings, Giants, but Jeremy Shockey will play in this Super Bowl.

Shockey, the outspoken former Giants tight end, missed the 2008 Super Bowl with a broken left leg, and did not ride in the ticker-tape parade in the Canyon of Heroes after the Giants upset the unbeaten New England Patriots. Nor did he visit the White House with the team.

Jeremy Shockey said he appreciated his time with the Giants and that playing with Michael Strahan and Tiki Barber helped him become a professional.

But Shockey, who has found new life with the Saints, said he was never angry at the Giants. Rather he was upset that he could not play in the game.

“That was a tough, tough, depressing couple of months,” a humble Shockey said on media day. “Being in a cast, rehab, watching commercials of David Tyree’s catch.”

Shockey, who was traded in 2008 for a second- and a fifth-round draft pick, said he had a great six years playing for the Giants.
“I wouldn’t trade those years for anything,” he said.

He fondly recalled the co-owners Wellington Mara and Robert Tisch.

“When Wellington passed and Tisch passed, it was just rough,” Shockey said. “When they left, a little piece of me did as well.”

Now, Shockey gets a chance to play in a Super Bowl rather than watch one from a luxury suite.

“I’m going to play this game as if it were my last,” he said.

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Q&A with Colts WR Reggie Wayne

Colts WR Reggie Wayne became the elder statesman in the team's receiving corps this season after Marvin Harrison departed in the offseason, and the role suited him just fine. He racked up 100 catches for 1,264 yards and 10 touchdowns for the AFC champions. The ninth-year veteran has had at least 1,055 yards each season since 2004 and he'll be a tough matchup for the Saints' secondary on Sunday. The New Orleans native spoke with reporters at Media Day on Tuesday and discussed Peyton Manning's place in history, the prospect of facing some of his college teammates in the Super Bowl and whether his roots in the Big Easy have led him to cheer for the Saints.

Q: Do you think Peyton Manning is the best quarterback in NFL history?
A: I don't know. That's up to you all. The only thing I can do is help build that foundation. He's definitely one of the best, in my mind. He puts in so much heart and hard work and preparation. He just wants to be a winner and whenever you have a quarterback that wants to win and do whatever it takes to win, you want him on your team. So I'll let you all decide if he's the best and what his legacy is but I guarantee you if we win Sunday it would make it a lot easier for the critics to say who is.

Q: How many Super Bowls would you like to win before your career is over?
A: The more the merrier. One thing about winning one is that you have to figure out a way to win another. It's kind of like tattoos, it gets a little contagious after a while. In this case, two is better than one, and after you get this one, three is better than two. It never stops. It works for infinity, so hopefully we can get this job done because we understand it's not easy."

Q: Have you had discussions with some of your former college teammates from Miami that are on the Saints?
A: I haven't talked to them yet. I'm sure I'm going to get a lot from them soon, but those are my brothers at arms and I'm looking forward to playing against them this Sunday. May the best team win.

Q: Has the offense changed much this season without WR Marvin Harrison?
A: It has changed, simply because now more attention is keyed on me. Now I'm seeing a lot more double coverage. I guess the grass isn't always greener on the other side. Every receiver wants to be the No. 1, but it comes with a lot of heartache, I must say. But I learned a lot from him and hopefully I can take that with me in this game on Sunday."

Q: What do you think of the Saints' defense?
A: They're a scrappy bunch. They play with a lot of intensity. Those guys seem like they always find a knack for punching the ball out and creating turnovers. A lot of that is on momentum with the offense. The offense really gets those guys fired up, so you really have to do a good job of disguising coverages, changing things around. Hopefully we can do what we've been doing, and that's make plays. The more plays we can make with them doing all the disguising, hopefully that can keep them sane a little bit and we can go from there."

Q: Are you still a Saints fan?
A: Deep down inside I'm still a Saints fan. Growing up in New Orleans, it's like you really have no choice. I've seen a lot of brown paper bags in my lifetime and just to see those guys where they are today is just outstanding, the things that they're doing for that city. A lot of times, coming home from church with my mom and sitting down with my dad, the game was blacked out and we had to listen to the game on the radio. I've seen Bobby Hebert, I've seen John Fourcade. I've seen so many names come through there. I remember Saturday night, getting ready for the game, wanting to see Eric Martin have a big game. So I'm a huge fan of the Saints. I always have been. It's going to be tough to take that away from them, but just to see what those guys are doing this year and the years prior to this, keeping that city together, keeping that city on the map, it's outstanding."

Q: Will the Saints' lack of Super Bowl experience affect them on Sunday?
A: It's been three years for us, so I guess you could say we don't have much experience either, so that's the beauty of it. With this game, it changes. You never know who's going to be there, so when you do get the opportunity to be there, you have to take advantage of it and hopefully it works out to your advantage.

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Shockey, Sharper, Vilma look good at Saints’ practice

Saints TE Jeremy Shockey (knee), FS Darren Sharper (knee) and LB Jonathan Vilma (knee) seemingly worked in every practice drill Wednesday in Coral Gables, Fla., and looked good despite their injuries, according to Super Bowl pool reporter John Czarnecki.

Saints coach Sean Payton wore a Hurricanes visor and coaching shirt as his team practiced for nearly 2½ hours at the University of Miami. Afterward, QB Drew Brees and four of his receivers stayed on the field for 10 minutes to work on passing routes.

“I think we’re ahead of schedule with just about everything we’re trying to get done,” Payton said. “Even the buses and everything are running on time or ahead of schedule.”

Payton said he still has some offensive and defensive installation work to do before Sunday’s game against the Colts, but “two-thirds of it” was done last week in New Orleans.

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Colts' Wayne Ready to Be 'Bad Guy' in New Orleans

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) -- In Wayne's world, the choice couldn't be clearer.

His heart may reside in New Orleans, but his job is squarely in Indy.

And as far as Reggie Wayne is concerned, nothing is going to come between him and a second Super Bowl ring. Not even his hometown team.

''It's amazing to see the Saints in the Super Bowl,'' the Colts receiver said Wednesday. ''I remember growing up and thinking it would happen, and it never worked out that way. To see what it has come to is just great. Now, unfortunately, I've got to be the bad guy, but like I say I've got bills to pay.''

He happily took on the role even before the season started.

Wayne arrived at training camp in a yellow dump truck, wearing an orange construction vest and a white hard hat with blue lettering that said: ''Super Bowl Under Construction.''

The four-time Pro Bowler did his part, catching 100 passes for 1,264 yards and 10 touchdowns. He's caught 11 more passes for 118 yards and one TD in the playoffs.

Though he never doubted the Colts would make it back to the NFL title game, facing the Saints was the ultimate surprise.

He grew up watching them, still follows them and maintains an affinity for the Big Easy.

''I'm glad the city's excited right now, they're supposed to be,'' he said. ''The Saints are a good team.''

As a youngster, he often pleaded to wear black-and-gold clothes to match the Saints colors, listened to radio broadcasts of games, religiously followed his favorite player, Eric Martin, and even learned the lingo of ''Who Dat Nation.''

''I know it, I just don't speak it,'' Wayne cracked.

He still remembers frantically trying to reach family members after Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005 and the fateful day in September 2006, when he learned his older brother, Rashad, had been killed in a traffic accident near New Orleans.

But to those who suggest a Super Bowl victory would mean more to New Orleans, where they've never had a title to celebrate, Wayne responds: ''I also know what it means to the city of Indianapolis.''

Indeed, he would rather leave Miami the same way he did three years ago when the Colts last played in the Super Bowl -- with the trophy.
Otherwise, he'll face a harsh summer of reminders from his friends. They're already lining up to take shots.

''Let me tell you something, I turned my phone on this morning, the first thing that popped up was 40 text messages. I immediately cut it back off,'' he said. ''I can imagine what all those text messages are saying, but that's the beauty of it. That's the fun of it. I guarantee you, if we take care of business the way we should, I'll be happy to look at all those text messages and answer them back.''

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After Super Bowl, Vilma plans trip to Haiti to help

MIAMI (Reuters) - New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma plans to visit his parents' homeland of Haiti after the Super Bowl is over and make a hands-on contribution to relief efforts in the earthquake struck country.

Vilma will line up against the Indianapolis Colts, who feature wide-receiver Pierre Garcon also of Haitian descent, in Sunday's Super Bowl.

Miami, Vilma's hometown, has a large Haitian community and he has been involved in raising cash, via a special tee-shirt, to help rebuild a country where members of his family still live.

But when his football duties are over he plans to head to Haiti and make a physical contribution to the relief effort.

"In the position I'm in right now where I'm really restricted in what I can do, it's really about doing something positive, doing something effective right now and then being more efficient once the season is over with," Vilma told reporters.

"In general, my intentions are to go down there and be productive. You hear a lot of people just going down and saying, 'Look at the devastation,' and that's what they're reporting back. Well, that's a given. That's obvious.

"I want to go down there and help, whether it be to clear out the devastation, try to help build homes, whatever it is I want to go down and not just look around and say it's a sad situation. We all know it's a sad situation. What can I do to help the situation?"

The are 16 players of Haitian descent playing in the NFL and Colts wide receiver Garcon is probably the best known.

Garcon marked his team's AFC Championship win over the New York Jets, which booked their place at the Super Bowl, by lifting up a Haitian flag on the field and he has helped a Christian group with their fund-raising efforts.

"I'm trying to give them a little hope and trying to help as much as I can and do something positive for them. So far, I'm very pleased with what we have done with a lot of help and support and I know we couldn't do it by ourselves. I've been in touch with Haiti and I'm very pleased with what we have done," said Garcon.

Garcon also intends for the Haitian flag to be present during the Super Bowl -- probably via a bandana and, he hopes, with another victory parade.

"Hopefully, we will win and I will have the flag out there with me," he said.

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Portis praises running backs coach Bobby Turner

Let's hear from Clinton Portis one more time before moving on - and this entry isn't as much about Portis as it is one of the Redskins' new coaches.

Because the Redskins didn't hold any press conferences to introduce their new staff and because they haven't made any of the assistants available for interviews, we're scratching and clawing to learn as much as we can about the new staff.

Shanahan's first big hire was a familiar face from Denver, running backs coach Bobby Turner, who coached Portis for each of his first two seasons in the NFL. Portis said he enjoyed working with former running backs coach Stump Mitchell and was sad to see him leave, but he raved about Turner.

"Bobby T is, I think, really an excellent coach," Portis said Tuesday. "It's like, 'Damn, we changing coaches.' But to get Bobby T back, and just knowing what he's about, it'll be good for this team. When I was in Denver, you appreciated Bobby T and Bobby T always kept it real. He knew what you could and couldn't do.

"Stump did that. Stump gave you an honest answer to what was going on. But to have Bobby T back is like a luxury. You can really sit down, talk to somebody, 'How am I playing? What do I have to change? How do you want me to play differently?' It won't be, 'No, oh no, you don't have to change anything.' I think Bobby T is more the type of person who can help you display your talents."

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Are The Bears Looking To Trade Olsen

I read on the Internet that the Bears are thinking about trading tight end Greg Olsen for draft picks. Is there any truth to that rumor?
Brad K.

The Bears aren’t thinking about trading tight end Greg Olsen. The story you’re referring to appeared on and was simply a case of a writer theorizing that the Bears might be wise to consider making such a move because they don’t have any picks in the first two rounds of the draft and new offensive coordinator Mike Martz hasn’t traditionally featured tight ends in his system over the years. The writer even states that “this is purely (some would say “wildly&rdquoWinking speculative in stating his case. As for Martz, he said during Monday that he does intend to use Olsen in the pass game, much like the Chargers used to do with Kellen Winslow back in the 1980s to create mismatches. Martz also said that he has utilized tight ends more as blockers than receivers through the years because he’s had primarily big physical players at the position. Said Martz: “You have to look at what you have at tight end and who that guy is and what they can do and then you from there.”

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Wayne would love for New Orleans Saints to win Super Bowl, but not this one

MIAMI GARDENS, FLA. - Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne will be wrestling with more than the New Orleans Saints' secondary in Super Bowl XLIV.

The West Bank native also will be fighting a lifelong urge to see the Saints win.

"Deep down inside, I'm still a Saints fan, " he said at the Colts' media day appearance Tuesday at Sun Life Stadium. "Growing up in New Orleans, it's like you really have no choice."

Wayne recalled listening intently on the radio to games growing up, rooting for his favorite player, Eric Martin, to have a big day. He summoned memories of paper-bag headgear and blacked-out games, and he praised the Saints for the leadership and succor they have given New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina.

"So I'm a huge fan of the Saints, I always have been, " he said.

Indeed, so great is his love for the Saints that, in any other Super Bowl, Wayne would want them to win. But not this one.

"It's going to be tough to take that away from them, " he said. "I feel like they deserve it, I really do. This is the only time of the whole year I felt like they didn't deserve it, but those guys have done a great job putting that city together, giving everybody something to be happy about. Maybe next year, or the year after that, or whenever I retire."

What's more, Wayne, who played his college ball at Miami and has been besieged by ticket requests from all corners of southern Louisiana and Florida, doesn't want any half-baked support from the lucky ones who show up in the stands Sunday.

"Unfortunately, that's how it is, " he said, when asked about dealing with a family tree still leafy with Saints fans. "This is how I find out who my real friends are, but it's going to be fun. They have to make a decision. There's no going into this game wearing a half-Saints jersey, half-Colts jersey. I want to see either/or."

In other words, Wayne is committed to taking the dream away from his childhood heroes Sunday. He certainly will be in a solid position to do so.

With longtime Colts standout Marvin Harrison departed, Wayne got something of a promotion, becoming quarterback Peyton Manning's favorite target and the team's most consistent deep threat. He responded to those responsibilities with a superb season, catching 100 passes for 1,264 yards and 10 touchdowns, and earning his fourth Pro Bowl selection.

On the other hand, Wayne has been quieter as the season progressed. Though he had five 100-yard-plus receiving games, only one came in the last seven regular-season games. His last multiple touchdown game came against New England in November, and he had one touchdown in the last six regular-season games.
In the postseason, Wayne has caught 11 passes for 118 yards and a score. Although he only had three catches in the AFC championship game against the Jets, he spent most of the afternoon against Darrelle Revis, one of the NFL's premier cornerbacks. Nevertheless, Wayne averaged 18.3 yards per catch in that game, and on one play did a midfield spin move that left Revis grasping at air and the cynics packed in the press box grunting in admiration.

Wayne has been making those kind of plays for some time now. And he should have been making them for even longer, according to Billy North, his coach at Ehret.

"The biggest mistake I ever made in coaching was not putting him on the varsity as a freshman, " North said.

North and the Ehret staff had their eye on Wayne when he was a seventh-grader at Truman Middle School, and once they rectified their roster error his sophomore year, Wayne excelled.

In today's high school game, which is dominated by the spread offense, Wayne would almost certainly be a quarterback because he would be the best player on the field. But he made his mark then as a dangerous runner in the open field.

He was an all-state player for two years, catching 50 passes for 930 yards and 10 touchdowns as a senior in 1996. But at that time LSU was mired in its Gerry DiNardo doldrums. Wayne chose the Hurricanes without much fanfare.

"My signing day was pretty easy going, " Wayne said Tuesday. "It worked to my advantage. It's definitely an experience that you want to remember, because it's going to have an effect on your life no matter how you look at it. It's a tough day, and you just pray that you've made the right decision and selected the right team."

Asked if he didn't at least consider LSU, he replied, "I did. But Miami was my ultimate choice."

Certainly he did not disappoint at "the U, " where he was a four-year starter. He ended his Miami career as the school's all-time reception leader and was the third Hurricane to catch more than 20 touchdown passes.

The Colts chose him with their second first-round pick in 2001, making him the 30th overall player in the NFL draft. He started nine of 13 games that fall and seven of 16 the next season.

In 2003 he started every game, and in 2004 he emerged as one of the league's premier wideouts and he, Harrison and Manning were part of an on-field onslaught that likely will lead to the induction of all three in Canton.

That season, Wayne had 77 receptions for 1,210 yards and 12 touchdowns. He was electrifying in the playoffs, when he caught 13 more passes for 256 yards and two scores. His 221 yards receiving against Denver remains a club record and the third-best playoff total in NFL history.

Wayne has proven himself an equally large force off the field. Back in Marrero, Wayne is the leading investor and driving force behind the upcoming "Wayne's World" a $16 million, 58,000 square foot "family entertainment center" centered around his off-field passion, bowling. While plowing a portion of his fortune back into his hometown, Wayne has eschewed the sort of easy publicity that might attract.

"He handles himself well, he's a solid citizen and a guy who is very responsible taking care of his family and his friends, " North said. "But he doesn't want to make the newspapers, he's not the sort of guy that needs to be told how great he is all the time."

Wayne lives in Indianapolis now, but North said the past fall was the first time he could remember Wayne not showing up on the Ehret campus for a game. In the 2007 LHSAA playoffs, Ehret trailed Mandeville at halftime. North knew Wayne was in attendance and invited him into the locker room. When North ran back out on the field for the second half, he was startled to learn Wayne had basically blocked the door behind him.

"Turned out Reggie had the kids in there and he was tearing them up, " North laughed. "We wound up winning by 10 points and going to the semifinals."

The Colts have made it past the semifinals again, returning to Miami and the same stadium in which they beat the Chicago Bears 29-17 with Wayne's 53-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter the team's best offensive play of the day.

Wayne does not anticipate having to take the Colts to task at halftime in Super Bowl XLIV. But if he does, he won't let New Orleans sentiment get in the way.

"I am, I feel like it's going to be a good one for me, " he said when asked if he was looking forward to the game. "I'm playing a childhood team, playing in my own back yard from school. Looking at the crystal ball, it looks really bright for me."

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Clinton Portis is eager to return to Redskins in 2010

MIAMI BEACH, FLA. -- Clinton Portis walked through the makeshift ESPN studio, set up specially for Super Bowl week, wearing shorts, a green hooded shirt and his latest fashion accessory: a pair of dark-rimmed pair eyeglasses. It's a subtle reminder that Portis is still recovering from a concussion he suffered three months ago.

Doctors prescribed the corrective lenses to help Portis with vision problems that have bothered him since he received the season-ending hit on Nov. 8, but Portis said on Tuesday that he expects to be healthy enough to compete in 2010. Furthermore, after repeated warnings that his future with the organization could be up in the air, Portis said he's spoken with Coach Mike Shanahan and expects to be a part of the Redskins' backfield.

"My offseason's been longer than anyone ¿ [being placed on the injured-reserve list] and missing the last eight games of the season. For me, I'm looking forward to the opportunity to get back and work with Coach Shanahan again," Portis said in an interview after his TV appearance. "Everybody else is like, 'Oh, you get a new coach and stumble out the blocks while you get used to the new system.' But for me, it's like all of a sudden seeing how much you miss something. I think having a great coach like Coach [Joe] Gibbs, he installed all kinds of discipline and manhood in people, and he got the most out of them. But I think you talk about a genius in scheme, Coach Shanahan is one of the best you can find. I'm looking forward to it because I know the capabilities we have."

Portis said he's also had discussions with Bobby Turner, the Redskins' running backs coach who was Portis's position coach in Denver during his first seasons in the league. Portis said that although he met with specialists at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center following the season, he has at least one more visit before he can be medically cleared to play again.

After suffering through a disappointing season ¿ Portis's eighth in the league ¿ the running back made the short trip from his Miami home to the ESPN studio Tuesday to make certain NFL fans knew he planned to return from his injury. Under Shanahan's offense, he thinks he can replicate the impressive numbers he posted when he first entered the league.

While he was complimentary of former coach Jim Zorn and former running backs coach Stump Mitchell, Portis said he was frustrated at times with how he was used in Zorn's system. He thinks Shanahan's blocking schemes and an offense that relies more on play-action will open up more opportunities for him.

"The past few years, I banged my head into the wall," he said. "I think now, all you can think of is daylight."

The 2009 season was filled with more drama than any in Portis's career. He entered training camp amid speculation that he and Coach Jim Zorn had an irreparably fractured relationship. He got into a locker room argument with fullback Mike Sellers, was slowed by ankle spurs, missed practice time and struggled to pile up yards.

"I remember going to our coaching staff, saying, 'I don't want to run sideways.' It wasn't working for us," Portis said. "We'd come out in the game and our first six runs are sideways. So you get aggravated, you get mad. You go back and forth with one of the coaches on the sidelines. Then all of a sudden, the second I'm out of the game, Ladell [Betts] goes in and he runs downhill. It's like, I asked to run downhill, but we wouldn't do it."

After suffering the concussion Nov. 8, Portis said he felt he had to make his presence scarce around Redskins Park. He says he didn't always feel welcome and some in the organization were using him as a fall-guy for a season gone terribly awry.

"I was never worried about myself not being with the team [in 2010]. It was more dealing with all the BS," Portis said. "There was so much BS going on that all of a sudden people would speak up after the season. They could've addressed it during the season if it was an issue. I think the approach of Coach Shanahan, he's a no-BS guy."

"With Coach Shanahan, if you're doing what you're supposed to be doing, you don't have to worry about BS. I think in the past couple of years, you never knew. You didn't know who was for you or who was against you. You hear, 'We going in the right direction, we're doing this and that.' But then everything going on at Redskins Park was leaked out. If we're really going in the right direction, why's that happen?"

"I was taking the heat for everything that was going on. And I wasn't even around. I stopped coming around for that reason. It's like, if I was coming and stood at practice, the young players ask me questions, and it was, 'Get away from him; you're not paying attention.' It was like I was a distraction. So then I don't go around so no one could point the finger, and then it was like, 'Well, he don't come around the team.' Well, which one is it?"

After the season, a handful of Portis's teammates said the team gave preferential treatment to some players, comments Portis believed were directed at him. Then, in a postseason radio interview, Portis questioned the leadership skills of Jason Campbell, a brief flare-up that Portis says he and Campbell have resolved.

With a new coach and the fourth overall pick in the NFL draft, the Redskins could opt to overhaul their backfield. But with pressing needs on the offensive line and the potential to hand-pick a new quarterback, Portis's spot is likely safe. Plus, he's due a base salary of about $7.2 million in 2010, $6.4 million of which is guaranteed. A year after posting a season-low 494 yards in only eight games, Portis will be 29 by Week 1. He's ready to forget the past few years, move past the old, frustrating offense and return healthy and hungry.

While he'll begin his full offseason program in March, he says he's working every day to recover from the concussion. He has vision problems, delayed reactions and blurriness and has been working with a specialist in Washington, who gave him a computer program that helps exercise his eyes.

"I kind of waited a couple weeks before I got started with the computer program, thinking, 'How the hell is this going to help me?' " he said. "Once I got started, it was like, an addiction. 'Great, I feel my eyes working right.' "

Portis says he'll visit the Pittsburgh medical staff once more and expects to be cleared then. When he puts on a helmet again, He doesn't think he'll need the corrective eyeglasses.

"I kind of like the look on them, though. I might just take the lenses out," he said. "They kind of make me look grown."

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Salmons gets hot from the corner

John Salmons came off the bench for 17 points on four 3-pointers in Wednesday's OT loss to the Sixers.

Salmons took some ill-advised shots, but Vinny Del Negro stuck with him. He remains a decent shooter when spotted up, but we doubt he'll get 36 minutes again anytime soon. Keep him reserved.

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Vote For Cortez Kennedy

proCane fans, as most of you know Cortez Kennedy is up for induction into the NFL Hall of Fame this year. While there is no fan vote taken into consideration for the actual induction of any Hall of Famers, there is an online fan vote currently being held to guage who NFL fans think should be elected into the Hall of Fame. currently Cortez Kennedy is in LAST place. Show your support for Cortez and vote as many times as you want here:

We would like to thank proCane fan Gerard for pointing out the fan vote to us!

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Photos from the 2010 Ed Reed Golf Event had the opportunity yesterday to cover the Ed Reed/Moss Brothers 2010 Celebrity Golf Challenge at Shula's Golf Course in Miami Lakes. The event, which was hosted by Ed Reed and Santana Moss was held to raise money for their respective foundations. proCanes Brett Romberg and Richard Mercier were in attendance along with former NFL player Tony Siragusa and others. It was truly an amazing event and very well put together. Ed Reed mingled with all the golfers and was very kind and open to talking to anyone and everyone. We would like to extend a big congratulations to Ed and the manager of his foundation, Glenn Younes, for a great event. Click here to see more photos from the event.

Ed Reed and Glenn Younes

Ed Reed

Brett Romberg

Richard Mercier

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Vilma Takes Fans Behind The Scenes at the Super Bowl Through Playmaker Mobile

Miami, FL – New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma is allowing NFL fans to experience the Super Bowl through his eyes with exclusive videos, photos and texts on Playmaker Mobile (, a player-centric content offering that allows some of the biggest names in professional sports to connect with fans.

“Playmaker Mobile has been my toy all season and now I get to share some of the little things from the Super Bowl that fans won’t get on SportsCenter,” Vilma said. “It will be an in depth look from the eyes of a player. They’ll see where we practice, some of the gifts we’re getting from the NFL and the food we’re eating. We’ll call it Jonathan Vilma Inside the Lines at the Super Bowl on Playmaker Mobile.”

Available on the iPhone and in the Verizon Wireless Get It Now virtual store, Playmaker Mobile features a select group of elite athletes, including Vilma, Ray Lewis, Donovan McNabb, Yao Ming, Steve Nash and Gretchen Bleiler among others, who are using the platform to share videos, photos, blogs, texts and participating in exclusive “meet and greet” contests with fans.

With its variety of interactive features Playmaker Mobile was named one of the “Best Apps of 2009” by Verizon.

Vilma, who grew up in Miami and played college football at the University of Miami, returns to his hometown for the Super Bowl showdown with the Indianapolis Colts. Each day this week, the Saints defensive captain is taking fans inside the locker room, the team hotel, to the practice facility and even the meal room so that they can witness Super Bowl week from a player's perspective. Vilma's daily photo and video journey began Sunday when he arrived in Miami for the Pro Bowl.

For more information about Playmaker Mobile, visit

Check out recent post by Vilma below:

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Wayne eager to make his presence felt on Super stage

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — When the Indianapolis Colts coaching staff used last week to reveal details of their game plan for Super Bowl XLIV against the New Orleans Saints, wide receiver Reggie Wayne felt an adrenaline rush as if it was already game day.

"I feel the game plan we have is going to work to my advantage," Wayne says. "I definitely feel like it's going to be a good one for me."

His comment at Super Bowl media day Tuesday reflected how far he has come in his nine seasons with Indianapolis. He was an important offensive player when the Colts defeated the Chicago Bears in the Super Bowl to close the 2006 season, but most eyes were on Marvin Harrison as he wound down a record-setting career.

Now, Wayne is the primary wide receiver for quarterback Peyton Manning— and he's relishing it. "On that third down, I want to be that guy to get the call and make a big catch to keep the chains moving," he says.

After Harrison was not retained last offseason, Wayne arrived at training camp wearing a hard hat, a symbol of how hard he was prepared to work to fill that void and how hard he expected his teammates to work to compete for another NFL title.

He appears very much at ease as he prepares to face New Orleans. He grew up in the "Big Easy" rooting for the Saints.

"Growing up, it was always brown paper bags," he says, remembering the headgear of choice for some fans who preferred not to reveal their allegiance to such a ragged team.

Beyond that, he attended the University of Miami, making him so comfortable in his surroundings that he says family and friends expect him to serve as a "tour guide" this week.

Wayne, of course, knows better. He is one of the veterans who sets the tone for the serious-minded Colts.

"The guys down there at the University of Miami all talk about Reggie Wayne's work habits. They are legendary," coach Jim Caldwell says.
Wayne, 31, boasts six consecutive seasons with more than 1,000 receiving yards. He matched tight end Dallas Clark for the club lead during the regular season in both catches (100) and touchdowns (10) while pacing the Colts with 1,264 yards.

"He's just a precise route-runner. He's been on the same page with Peyton for a number of years," New Orleans safety Darren Sharper says. "He can stretch the football field and make a spectacular play, and he's tough to bring down after the catch."

Big plays in the passing game will almost surely be a must in what, on paper, looms as one of the highest-scoring Super Bowls in history.
"We've got to score as much as possible as often as possible," Wayne says. "And we understand we've got to take care of the ball."

As significant as his catches and yards are, Wayne has made an equally meaningful contribution in the locker room in his mentoring of rookie wide receiver Austin Collie (60 catches, 676 yards, seven TDs) and second-year Pierre Garcon (47 grabs, 765 yards, four scores). Both stepped up when Anthony Gonzalez, projected as Harrison's replacement, suffered an early season-ending knee injury.

"I can only give them so many female tips," Wayne jokes. "As far as on the field, it's just them taking their time, not rushing into anything."
Wayne acknowledges, though, that he is eager to put his personal stamp on Super Bowl XLIV. "It would be kind of bittersweet," he says of beating the team he rooted for as a child. "But I've got to do it."

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Portis: 'I'm far from washed up'

Washington Redskins running back Clinton Portis joined ESPN's First Take today and said he plans on being with the Redskins next year and is looking forward to playing again in coach Mike Shanahan's system, which Portis was a part of when the two were in Denver together.

"I know what I'm capable of doing, and I can't wait to get back on the field next year to prove to people that I'm far from washed up or done," Portis said.

Portis rushed for just 494 yards this season, the lowest output of his career. He was placed on injured reserve by the team in December after he suffered a concussion during Washington's Week 9 matchup with the Falcons on Nov. 8.

The seven-year veteran was dogged by rumors that he and former coach Jim Zorn were at odds, something Portis denied Tuesday.

"I think everybody's so caught up in thinking me and Coach Zorn couldn't get along, and thinking I was selfish, and then all of the sudden I'm Mr. Snyder's best friend and I can do whatever I want to do. That's not the case. I think a lot of that is blown out of proportion."

But with a new coach in Washington -- one that Portis has played for in the past -- he seems excited to get back on the field. And he knows Shanahan won't put up with the extracurricular activities that plagued the Redskins the last few years.

"It's pretty much just a lot of finger pointing, which I think Coach Shanahan's gonna get rid of that and he's gonna have the dedication of the players. You won't have to worry about who's doing their job or who's not. I think with Coach Shanahan, if you're doing your job, you'll be fine. If you're not, you won't be there."

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Vilma plans for Peyton Manning by meeting with old New York Jets

DAVIE, Fla. - Jonathan Vilma acted like a seasoned veteran even when he was a young player, always studying extra tape of the Jets' upcoming opponent, always recruiting his teammates to study with him. He and Kerry Rhodes used to meet a few nights a week, back in the days when Vilma was considered one of the Jets' defensive cornerstones.

Now, two years removed from the Jets, Vilma is preparing for the biggest game of his life - against his toughest opponent, Peyton Manning - and he's starving for information. Naturally, Vilma's study plan includes reaching out to old friends Rhodes and David Harris, who saw Manning twice in the last five weeks.

"I'm going to ask Kerry if he has anything on Peyton," Vilma said yesterday after the Saints' arrival and first practice in Florida. "They played him twice and they played him pretty tough. They gave up a couple of long passes, but aside from that, I thought they played good ball against him."

Well, for 28 minutes, anyway. After that, the Jets were shredded by Manning in the AFC Championship Game. Presumably, Rhodes will pass along only the stuff that worked.

As the quarterback of the Saints' defense at middle linebacker, Vilma relishes the challenge of dueling with Manning in the Super Bowl. He always thought he'd get there with the Jets, but after a meteoric start to his career, he was traded to the Saints in 2008 because he was considered a bad fit in Eric Mangini's 3-4 defense.

But Vilma harbors no bitterness toward the team that selected him in the first round of the 2004 draft.

"Not at all," Vilma said. "It's part of the business. I'm fine with it. I know the Jets are doing fine. They were one win away from being where I'm at. We're both fine with it."

Why wouldn't Vilma be fine with it?

This is a dream week for him, a Super Bowl and a homecoming wrapped into one. He grew up in nearby Coral Gables and played college ball at Miami, where the Saints are scheduled to practice for the remainder of the week. It's ... well, perfect.

"It'll be really special if we win," Vilma said. "If we don't, this would only be the place where I lost our first Super Bowl."

Vilma rarely removes his blinders. That's one of the reasons why he was so good in his first season, winning NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. His production declined under Mangini. That, coupled with a serious knee operation in 2007, dimmed his star. He was sent packing amid whispers that he'd never return to his original form, but he has prospered in the Saints' 4-3 scheme.

Vilma's game has meshed nicely with Gregg Williams' attacking scheme, helping the overall improvement of the defense. But now here comes Manning and his endless array of audibles and no-huddle shenanigans, adding stress to Vilma's job.

His fact-finding mission on Manning began Sunday night at the Pro Bowl in Miami, where he quizzed Ravens linebacker and fellow Miami product Ray Lewis - a Manning expert. Instead of enjoying the Super Bowl glitz, Vilma is focused on one thing, the game. His family hasn't pestered him for tickets because they know he's all business.

"I don't feel like I'm home," he said. "I feel like it's a business trip. This is no time to relax."

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Martz insists Olsen will be part of scheme

Newly hired Bears coordinator Mike Martz insists TE Greg Olsen will be an integral part of his offense.

Martz called Olsen "different" from his previous tight ends, pointing out that he's a down-field mismatch for linebackers and safeties. Consider us unswayed. Two years ago, Martz spent the offseason showing Vernon Davis films of Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce and insisting he would use the physical mismatch "down the a wide receiver." The fact remains that no Martz TE has ever caught more than 38 passes.

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Super matchup: Manning vs. Vilma

Colts' QB Peyton Manning vs. Saints' MLB Jonathan Vilma

No other quarterback currently in the NFL, and perhaps no one all time, is as adept at making pre-snap reads and thus changing the play to a successful one as often as Manning. That's one of the reasons he was sacked 10 times during the regular season. Although Manning was sacked by the Jets twice in the first quarter of the AFC title game, their blitzes were futile after that as Manning carved up their defense for three TD passes without an interception. Vilma, a former Jet who had an interception and a fumble recovery in the NFC title game, gets his turn to match wits with No. 18. The Saints are almost as blitz-happy as the Jets, and if Manning is able to figure out where New Orleans is coming from, Indianapolis could move the ball almost at will, much the way Minnesota did last week. The flip side was that the Saints bruised and battered Minnesota QB Brett Favre, which may have contributed to his key interception at the end of regulation. Their goal here, which confident defensive coordinator Gregg Williams already has stated, will be to knock down Manning and rattle him, but that's easier said than done.

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Greer battles, but Wayne is tough assignment

The Saints typically leave CB Jabari Greer on the defense's left side of the field and CB Tracy Porter on the right, with Randall Gay and others in the nickel and dime CB spots. The Colts use Reggie Wayne and the other receivers at different spots throughout the game. When Marvin Harrison was around, Wayne almost always was split left or occasionally in the slot. But Wayne has a far more diverse role, lining up in all the WR positions in a given game.

That means he could be faced up with Greer a good amount of the time, though not likely the entire contest. How the Saints defend Wayne will have a big say about how the game plays out. With TE Dallas Clark and WRs Pierre Garcon and Austin Collie all having showed they can carry the load, the Saints can't afford to do a lot of double-teaming of any one player — even one the caliber of Wayne.

That's not their m.o. anyway. In the playoff wins against the Cardinals and Vikings, who both feature some great WR talent, the Saints chose to leave their corners in man coverage, often singled up. They were willing to give up some plays if it meant putting heat on Kurt Warner and Brett Favre. The strategy worked, though Colts QB Peyton Manning traditionally has done very well against single coverage when the opponents' blitz isn't in his face.

Covering Wayne one-on-one is a tough chore for Greer — or Porter or Gay, if they find themselves lined up opposite him. Greer is tough for his size and plays big at 5-11 and 180 pounds, but Wayne actually is bigger. He also is quick and savvy enough to get off the line. With Jets CB Darrelle Revis covering Wayne most of the AFC championship game, Manning often looked elsewhere, and the Colts' offense didn't miss a beat after a slow first quarter.

Greer will try to jam Wayne at the line when the Saints blitz. The best way to throw off the Colts' passing game is to disrupt the receivers' timing. Expect the Colts and Wayne to sight-adjust their routes to quicker routes like stops and slants. Greer isn't in Revis' neighborhood as a corner, but scouts say he's one of the more underrated elements of the Saints' defense, and he has done a nice job against Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald and Vikings WR Sidney Rice in the playoffs. Since Greer returned from a sports hernia injury in the middle of the season, the Saints' pass defense has been markedly better.

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Lewis remains in contact with McNair's family

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis can't bring Steve McNair back, but said he's tried to do his part to make things easier for the late quarterback's family.

Lewis has stayed in touch with McNair's mother, Lucille, and said he's also there for McNair's boys Tyler and Trenton. Lewis was McNair's teammate in Baltimore for two years after competing against him so many years while McNair played for the Titans.

"To see those kids and understand the tragedy they had to go through ... as a father, that's why I've lent myself to whatever it is, whatever it is they need," Lewis said. "The baby (6-year-old Tyler) picked up my phone and called the other day and said, 'I just want to call you all the time.' I said, 'You can call me any time you get ready.'

"I try and talk to (Steve McNair's) mom and tell her, one son is gone but another son is here, so pick up the phone and call me the same way."
Titans quarterback Vince Young invited McNair's two youngest sons to the Pro Bowl last week. Lewis said he's proud of Young for what he's done since McNair was shot and killed on July 4. He hopes to continue to help out as well.

"Sometimes you never know why people are brought together,'' Lewis said. "And years ago we could have never imagined, after the many wars that we had against each other, that something so tragic would happen to him.

"But the bottom line is maybe God placed me right there so I could be there to help his kids and help his mother ease the pain a little bit. You can never take away what happened but you can ease it.''

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Braun, Fielder dish on MLB's best

MILWAUKEE -- Without question, Brewers sluggers Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun are part of the new wave of superstars staking their claim to the future of Major League Baseball. But they know they're far from the only two, and one player above all others has caught the eye of both.

"Hanley," Fielder said, referring to Florida shortstop Hanley Ramirez, "does stupid stuff."

That's a compliment, for those who weren't sure.

Ramirez just turned 26, but he's already played four full seasons in the big leagues, won a Rookie of the Year Award and two Silver Slugger honors, made a pair of All-Star teams and three times ranked in the top 11 in National League MVP balloting.

Here are some more stupid stats: Ramirez had scored more than 100 runs in all four of his full seasons, led all of baseball by scoring 125 times in 2008 and batted .342 in 2009, tops in the NL.

"He's just an unbelievable athlete and every time I watch him I feel like he has a chance to do something special," said Braun, who batted .320 last season to finish seventh in the league. "He might just do something I've never seen before in baseball."

Said Fielder of Ramirez: "He has some 'swag' to him. He has talent. He just is a good show. I'd pay money to see him."

Fielder also named Evan Longoria of the Rays and Ryan Howard of the Phillies. Asked for his favorites after Ramirez, Braun picked a pitcher, Giants' righty and reigning NL Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum.

"He's totally unorthodox in everything he does," Braun said. "He's undersized, but he's unbelievably good. That's cool."

And, of course, Braun and Fielder both named each other. Both were 25 years old at the end of a 2009 season in which they combined for
255 RBIs, most of any tandem in the game.

Behind Ramirez, Braun is Fielder's favorite player in baseball.

"Brauny might be my No. 2," Fielder said. "I see him every day, so I might be spoiled. There are so many great players in this game, and that's why I think the competition [around the league] is getting so much better.

"There's so many young players who are really good. Guys may have only five or six years, but they're 10-year veterans as far as talent."
They're starting to show up on the league leaderboards. In the NL, for example, five of the top seven spots in the batting title chase belonged to players 26 or younger (Ramirez, Pablo Sandoval of the Giants, Joey Votto of the Reds, Chris Coghlan of the Marlins and Braun). Seven of the top 10 in on-base, plus slugging percentage (OPS) were 27 or younger (Fielder, Votto, Adrian Gonzalez of the Padres, Ramirez, Sandoval, Braun and Troy Tulowitzki of the Rockies).

Fielder belongs in any conversation of the game's great young players, and that's why Braun had to include him when asked to rattle off his favorites.

"He's as fun to watch as any player in the game," Braun said.

Braun and Fielder are Milwaukee's 3-4 hitters, and where they rank among the game's great tandems is a matter for debate. Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday of the Cardinals, Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira of the Yankees, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard of the Phillies and Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau of the Twins would certainly find their way into that discussion.

But if we are talking about great young tandems, Braun and Fielder have a nice case. Braun turned 26 in November and Fielder won't join him until next May. All of the other tandems above have at least one 30 year old except for Morneau (28) and Mauer (26).

Fielder talked about his favorite peers as part of a wide-ranging conversation on Sunday at "Brewers On Deck," the team's annual fan convention at Milwaukee's downtown Midwest Airlines Center. Much of the talk, of course, centered around the question of whether the Brewers will be able to keep their young stars together beyond 2011, when Fielder is due to enter free agency.

He said he intends to listen to offers but was more interested in talking about the Brewers' on-the-field prospects. After winning the NL Wild Card in 2008, the team slumped to 80 wins in 2009 and missed the postseason.

"I feel good," Fielder said. "I don't want to do the whole, 'Trying to make the playoffs,' thing. I mean, you want to go there, obviously. But my thing is just to get better. Worry about our division first. When you're team is crisp and taking care of business, all that other stuff falls into place."

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McGahee Looking To Become Starter In Different City

Ravens coach John Harbaugh said he met with backup running back Willis McGahee, who's interested in becoming a starter again in a different city. Due a $3.6 million base salary, McGahee is expensive for a reserve even though he scored 14 touchdowns last season. "Willis is a Raven," Harbaugh said. "He's under contract, and I had a chance to talk to him at length about it and that's what he expressed to me. No really good player is ever satisfied with their season. "I know Willis wants to carry the ball as much as possible. I think he'll have a great offseason, and he'll build on that going into next year."

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Jon Beason to Guest Star on the Rachael Ray Show

Everyone knows Jon Beason can serve it up on the football field – the third-year linebacker led the Carolina Panthers in tackles this season, played in the Pro Bowl and was named Second Team All-Pro.

Now, Beason wants to prove he can cook in the kitchen.

Beason, along with Miami Dolphins quarterback Chad Henne and New York Giants tackle Kareem McKenzie, will be guest stars on the Rachael Ray Show. The show airs Thursday, Feb. 4, at 10 a.m. EST.

The show is being called “Super Bowl Recipe III,” the third annual battle of NFL stars in the kitchen. Singer Nick Lachey will be a guest judge.

Beason will make pork chops parmigiana.

Beason finished the 2009 season with 142 total tackles, tied for 2nd in the NFL, to go with three sacks, three interceptions and a forced fumble. He made his second straight Pro Bowl appearance on Sunday and was named All-Pro for the second straight season.

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Pats expected to franchise NT Wilfork

The Boston Globe considers it "virtually certain" that the Patriots will use the franchise tag on Vince Wilfork.

Wilfork, an unrestricted free agent, has not been in contact with the team recently about an extension. Though Wilfork has said publicly he'd like to play for a team near his home in Miami, the Pats won't let him get away.

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Dan Morgan at forefront of debate on concussions

CHARLOTTE -- When he was playing head-first and heads-up football, the only thing Dan Morgan ever sidestepped was the truth.

To this day, he still lacks hard information about how many concussions he suffered and how they will affect his future.

The former Carolina Panthers linebacker, who retired in part because of multiple concussions, still doesn’t have a good answer for how many he suffered in a life playing the game the only way he knew — hard and fast.

“I don’t know, could be double digits,” he said flatly when asked how many concussions he suffered playing football. “Something like that. Maybe eight, maybe 10. I never really kept count, but the longer you’re away from it, the more you realize you had. I never knew it was an issue until I got to the NFL, and the media made it an issue. Then you realize...

“I mean, I go back to high school, and I remember hitting people and seeing shades of green. You know, that was probably one there.”

Those kinds of stories of too-late awareness are becoming increasingly common, as more attention than ever has been focused on head injuries in football. In fact, Morgan has become part of a group convened by the NFL Players Association to study concussions and their long-term effects. Morgan is part of the Mackey-White committee, which conducted its first meeting last week in West Palm Beach, Fla. The group is named for former Baltimore tight end John Mackey, who now suffers from dementia.

Doctors, researchers and current and former players talked about what to do for future generations. Basically, how they can protect guys like Morgan.

“This committee will serve as a ‘superconductor’ of information in order to drive rapid and meaningful progress in concussions,” NFLPA medical director Dr. Thom Mayer said in a release distributed by the NFLPA. “We have assembled a world-class group of scientists to facilitate our work, which will benefit not only NFL players, but all those involved in all contact sports.”

Morgan admits that he wished he knew more earlier about the dangers of repeated concussions.

Like many players, Morgan often covered up the truth of his condition to stay on the field.

Typical of his experience was a big hit in Jacksonville the 2006 preseason. He left that game, but insisted a week later that he was OK.

“I came in on blitz, my helmet came down on the side of my face and kind of scratched the side of my face and my eye,” Morgan said then. “It was just a little cut ... everything’s fine now.

“It was just a little ding. I didn’t have a concussion. I knew where I was. It wasn’t where I was disoriented or anything. It was just something they wanted to be cautious with, with the regular season coming up. It was no big deal.”

Three weeks later, he suffered another concussion in the regular season opener at Atlanta and didn’t play again that season, the beginning of the end of his career, and his journey of learning what exactly was happening inside his head. Just over a month later, upon the advice of concussion specialist Dr. Mickey Collins, he shut it down for the rest of the year.

Reminded of the post-Jacksonville conversation last week, Morgan laughed, knowing he was busted — in one of the many little lies he told during his seven-year career in an effort to keep playing.

“As a football player, stuff like that’s in our DNA,” Morgan said. “You have to act like nothing’s wrong, you have to act like you’re the toughest guy on the field. You’re going to do anything you can to keep playing.

“You never want to admit you’re hurt. As a football player, you learn to be in denial, because you’re taught to suck it up and keep going from the time you start playing.”

Some of that denial started to slip away last week, when doctors at the meeting showed slides of brains which had suffered what’s referred to as MTBI (mild traumatic brain injury). Among the cautionary tales was former Philadelphia safety Andre Waters, who committed suicide in 2006. Many believe that stemmed from clinical depression, which many think was a direct result of his concussion-laced playing days.

“There’s some worry there,” Morgan said when talking about the Waters example. Still, Morgan said he feels good now, with shades of his old ways creeping back in.

“I mean, I feel good right now,” he said.

The 31-year-old still looks the part of a player. He’s living the easier life of retirement now, taking care of his wife and kids, looking after his South Charlotte pizza restaurant, involved enough in that enterprise to run to a nearby grocery store when they run out of ingredients during the lunch rush.

But his main concern, as it pertains to last week’s meeting, is making sure others don’t make the same mistake he used to make. While he said he’s not sure of the committee’s timetable, he and fellow member Zach Thomas (the former Dolphins linebacker) have talked about spreading the word to make sure others don’t follow their path.

It’s a hard topic to broach among Morgan’s NFL brethren, as he said the message is better suited to younger players at the high school and college level. But the committee has discussed other ideas, such as the possibility of NFL teams practicing without helmets, thus without contact.

Morgan knows it could take a fight to get football to wrap its collective head around such a revolutionary idea. After all, this is a sport full of guys just like him, guys who willingly will put their bodies on the line every week for paychecks and glory.

Asked if he thought the idea could really take hold, Morgan paused.

“I think eventually it would be fine,” he said. “Sure, there would be some old-school guys who wouldn’t like it, but I think the majority wouldn’t be opposed to it. I mean, think about it, you’re saving your head, you’re saving your body.

“I’ll be honest, I think if we were doing stuff like that then, I’d still be playing now.”

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With ties to Colts, Saints, Steve Walsh has dual rooting interests

The retired football player is conflicted.

"I like the Saints," he says. Then, with a laugh. "I like the Colts."

With Super Bowl XLIV approaching, Steve Walsh is in an especially odd position. From 1990-93, he was a quarterback with the New Orleans Saints. His coach was Jim Mora. In 1999 he was a quarterback with the Indianapolis Colts. His coach was Jim Mora. Both franchises made the playoffs with Walsh on the roster. Both franchises played in domes, featured top-notch running backs (Dalton Hilliard with the Saints, Edgerrin James with the Colts) and owners who refused to let their egos get in the way of organization building (Tom Benson with the Saints, Jim Irsay with the Colts).

"You couldn't play for two better clubs," says Walsh, now the head football coach at Cardinal Newman High in West Palm Beach, Fla. "I enjoyed both experiences."

Because he is torn, I decided to help Steve Walsh compartmentalize his thoughts. I ask him to break down the important characteristics that determine whether a football team -- and its city -- is worthy of an NFL championship. He was more than happy to oblige.

Food: "No contest. In New Orleans, everything tastes good. You have to work to get a bad meal."

Support for professional athletes: "Probably Indy. I liked New Orleans, but some of the guys never felt safe going to Bourbon Street or the French Quarter. I loved it, but it wasn't for everyone. Indy, on the other hand, is easy."

Better city to drive through: "Oh, Indy. They have all those funky streets in the French Quarter. Some of the names are English, some are French. And they're really narrow. I always struggled."

Cooler uniforms: "Saints, without question. The emblem on the helmet is fantastic."

Better media town: "I'd say Indy. New Orleans has so much going on, it's hard for a team to get attention. But when you play in Indianapolis, you're the show."

You're a single 22-year-old football player and ...: "Ha. I wore a mask and rode in the Mardi Gras parade. Next day my arm was sore."
Walsh hasn't visited New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina, but he hurts for his old home. He thinks the Saints are a wonderful story. An amazing story. "What that city has gone through ..." he says, never finishing a thought that needs no completion. "But," he says, "there's Peyton."

In his tenure with the Colts, the final season of a nomadic-yet-fruitful six-team, 11-year career, Walsh backed up Peyton Manning, who was then a second-year pro. He relishes the casual memories of the team's three quarterbacks -- Walsh, Manning and Kelly Holcomb -- spending Thursday afternoon practices playing a game called Knockout. "We'd start at the 5-yard line, and we'd have to hit the crossbar," he says. "Then we'd back up to the 10. Then the 15. Then the 20." Walsh won once or twice; Manning perhaps a half-dozen times. "But Kelly owned that game," he says. "You'd never guess that."

Walsh loves Manning. His work ethic. His decency. His natural gifts. "You'll be hard pressed to find a better teammate," he says. Then, a long pause. "You know, I just thought of something. When I was with the Saints, Peyton was a kid who'd come around sometimes. Obviously his dad Archie had strong connections to the team, and Coach Mora would let Peyton throw with us." So there was the gangly teenager, zit-faced and all elbow and knees, launching outs and curls and go-routes to Quinn Early and Eric Martin and Hoby Brenner. "He wasn't great yet," Walsh says, "but you could clearly see he would be."

With that flashback, Walsh is sold. He will root for the Indianapolis Colts on Super Bowl Sunday. They'll be his team -- the ex-signal caller pulling for one more big triumph ... one more giant win ... one more ...

"But if the Saints want to hook me up with tickets," he says with a laugh, "I can certainly be bought."

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McKinnie's getting the wrong message

In the blog he posted after the Pro Bowl, Mark Craig had an interesting item about the negative reaction to Bryant McKinnie and how he handled himself in regards to the NFL all-star game this past weekend.

McKinnie was booted off the NFC roster after missing three of four practices, all but one meeting and even the team photo last week. After using his twitter account to document his partying ways, McKinnie also used twitter to say that he was in the process of pulling out of the game because of injury. However, that did little to help his NFC teammates. The fact is McKinnie was kicked off the roster and it was too late to replace him.

Craig was told that McKinnie became a "running joke" among players on the NFC roster -- something that isn't funny at all in reality. So how is McKinnie taking all of this? Well, it appeared that last night and early this morning he was back to using twitter to express himself.

Among McKinnie's tweets:

-- "What I realize is ppl like negative that's what sells [at] the end of the day."

That was followed by:
-- "That's My Motto! So Feed me the hate! All yall doing is make me stronger! Don't know what yall Talking bout! THanx 4 getting me followes!"
-- "I'm thankful 4 every1 who voted 4 me from the bottom of my heart!"
-- "I give the LORD PRAISE 4 giving me the strength 2 deal anything that come my way and 4 being by my side! ONLY GOD can JUDGE ME!"

Working under the assumption that these are all McKinnie's thoughts, this is a sad case of him completely not understanding why people might be upset with him. (It also will be interesting to see how commissioner Roger Godell reacts to McKinnie's tweets and also the fact he's regularly tweeting about being in gentlemen's clubs.)

No one is saying they hate him, but the fact is he left his all-star colleagues in a terrible position with his actions and it isn't going to help his cause one bit that he has left a path of tweets that show he was out at all hours of the night in a week he was supposed to at least act like he cared about the Pro Bowl.

That being said I agree the game is silly and probably shouldn't be played, but if that is your feeling then pull out of it in a timely fashion. Vikings wide receiver Sidney Rice was among five Vikings players who said they could not go because of injury. They all did it in time so the NFL could easily replace them and they are not having to put up with "haters" saying they did anything wrong.

I asked Vikings defensive tackle Kevin Williams last Monday if he would play in the Pro Bowl. He said he was going to give it a try but by Tuesday had decided he couldn't do it because of a knee issue. No one ripped Williams for realizing he did not feel well enough to play.

If nothing else, McKinnie put his Vikings teammates who did play in this game in a very uncomfortable spot. That's especially true for guard Steve Hutcihnson, who Mark Craig has reported needs shoulder surgery. As a guy who plays beside McKinnie during the season, there were probably plenty of players who asked Hutchinson what the heck was going on.

And how about the Giants' Dave Diehl and Philadelphia's Jason Peters having to play the entire game at the tackle spots because McKinnie left his team so shorthanded?

Perhaps those two have a right to be "haters."

McKinnie has had problems in the past with the NFL and is likely to be fined again for this latest stunt. I've covered him since 2005 and can tell you that I don't think he's a bad guy by any means. Much of the time he is pretty quiet around the media but there have been instances where he has opened up and been pretty engaging. Anyone who follows him on Twitter knows he has interests that go beyond partying and playing football. He often writes about his business ventures and interest in music.

The sad thing is I think it has become debatable as to whether McKinnie will ever "get it."  He has been given a world of talent to play a sport that doesn't have a long career span. If McKinnie ever just put all his focus on football, he could be one of the NFL's elite left tackles. But between the 2005 Love Boat incident, the fight outside a Miami night club in 2008 and this latest incident it appears a long shot that McKinnie's focus ever will be solely on the NFL.

And that's a shame.

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Q&A with former NFL, UM star QB Bernie Kosar

Q: What one thing got you to this financial stage? Kenny Bouy, Naples, FL
A: "The one thing, coming from Youngstown [Ohio] and being really family-oriented . . . my dad was a steel worker and when the mills closed in the early 80s my father didn't have a job. In the late 90s my brother lost his job in San Francisco. Trying to help everybody out and trying to support the family, and then coupled with the divorce, it made for a tough time helping and giving to so many family members who needed money. ... We also donated a lot to charities and foundations. My foundation has put hundreds of kids through college, mostly in the inner-city, in South Florida and northeastern Ohio. I like being involved in the continuing education of young kids."

Q: What schools recruited you besides the University of Miami? Rich M., Sunrise, FL
A: "In the Midwest in Ohio in the early 1980s, it wasn't the wish-bone, it was more of a running-type offense where the teams that were throwing were in the southeast and the far west. So California and Stanford were recruiting me. But, ironically, Mike Shanahan and Charlie Pell were the first two guys to recruit me at Gainesville. So it was UF, University of Miami and Cincinnati that were the teams I was looking at."

Q: What did you think of ESPN's 30-30 special about the Miami Hurricanes? Hurricanes fan, Deerfield Beach, FL
A: "I thought it was pretty accurate. They did a really nice job. Personally, I would have liked to have seen Jim Kelly and a little more with Howard Schnellenberger. I think they deserved more credit for their contributions to the rise of the program. I appreciate the credit, significance and respect that I received early in the show for starting it."

Q: Please tell me that you will be coaching soon at some level. Josh Dunham, Raleigh, NC
A: "Well, besides coaching youth football with my nine-year-old son's team in Weston [Fla.], I finished the last part of the year with the Cleveland Browns and with [owner] Randy Lerner and coach Eric Mangini. We brought in Mike Holmgren to really lead the team. But football is a big part of me. I love being part of it. Actually, this Saturday I'll be coaching with Howard Schnellenberger in the Texas vs. the nation Bowl game that gets kids ready for April's NFL Draft. But I love coaching and working with kids at any level. People get so preoccupied with the material aspect of things and the money and working all the time, I made a decision a few years ago that I wasn't going to miss my kids' childhood. I'm pretty proud of being actively involved with all of my kids. Coaching flag football for my son's team - there's nothing else I'd rather be doing on a Saturday afternoon. The affects we could have on kids, especially at that age, could last them a lifetime. Just like if you don't do it right, it could last negatively with them a lifetime. Kids today have so many challenges that we never had to deal with. If you could spend time with them and give them positive support, you could really make a difference."

Q: Do you still own a part of the Florida Panthers ? What was your role with the team? Jason Friedman, Tamarac, FL
A: "Yes. I really don't have much of a role with the organization. They really haven't used me much at all."

Q: I was wondering if you could give your account of the famous "Fake-spike" play from the Dolphins game against the Jets in 1994 as I know you suggested the play. I was in attendance that day and seeing the Dolphins shut up those Jets fans was one of my all-time favorite sports moments. Darryl Jacobsen, Hazlet, NJ
A: "What's interesting with that . . . not to be cocky but I have an NFL record with 489 yards passing in a playoff game and it was against the Jets in 1986. That was the first time we had run the clock play. But they ended up having it covered. Then for it to come back 10 years later was something special. I basically carried it with me in Cleveland, Dallas and then explaining it to Coach [ Don] Shula and Gary Stevens in Miami. They put it in the Dolphins' system. Dan Marino, myself and Gary Stevens had worked and practiced it all year during our two-minute drills. The timing for it was just perfect during that game. That was the first year, I think, that teams used headsets. So I was wired in on the headset to Marino during the game and we saw that Mark Ingram was on a rookie cornerback. So I called it in. It's one thing to call it . . . I'm kind of proud for conceptually coming up with it years ago, but nobody throws that fade pass any better than Marino."

Q: First of all I want to acknowledge how awesome you are and how much I enjoyed watching you in the early 80s when you played for the University of Miami. My questions to you is this: Having led UM to a championship in 1983 , and sparked the beginning of one of the great college football dynasties of all-time, what is Miami missing about their team currently that is not allowing for that same spark? Gus Villalobos, Aventura, FL
A: "I think UM is getting close. Randy Shannon has done a good job with recruiting. I think with coach [Mark] Whipple having another year in this system and working another year with Jacory Harris, we're going to have a special offense. I really do. I think we have a chance to see the UM offense of old next season. Jacory is going to be really good, and coach Whipple is going to give us the offense that UM fans have grown accustomed to loving. "

Q: Didn't you grow up playing baseball - not football? Dave, Westlake, OH
A: "Yes. As a matter of fact, I was offered a baseball scholarship to Michigan and played more baseball as a kid. When I got to high school, there's nothing like the adrenaline rush and fun you get from playing football. Whether it was playing in high school on Friday nights in Northeastern Ohio, to the Saturday afternoon of college football, to the Sunday afternoons in the NFL, to playing on Monday Night Football, there's not an experience like that in the world. I still miss it."

Q: Why were you always so good about signing autographs for fans? I wish more athletes would be like that. J.R, Miami Lakes, FL
A: "A lot of people aren't signing autographs today because of the market value for them, which is fine. But I've always felt that if you're blessed enough to play professional sports, you should do what you can to make the kids happy. A little kid will remember that. It takes you as much time to sign something then it does to say no. It takes 15 seconds, really, to sign something, be nice, ask them how they're doing in school and see the look in their eyes. And it can last with them a lifetime. I just want to have a positive impact any way I can. I'm proud to do stuff like that."

Q: How many concussions do you think you've had in your career? Rob, Melville, NY
A: "Oh, gosh. That's a tough one. It's interesting because when we were younger, even 10-15 years ago, you called them headaches. You didn't really understand what they were. Players wouldn't even think of coming out of games. I know, myself, I never missed a play because I hit my head. You felt like you were letting your teammates and the fans down. So you played through it and it causes some physical ailments as you get older. But that was a long time ago when we didn't know as much about the ramifications of playing through head injuries. We know a lot more today. ... But I don't recommend that for kids today. Head trauma at an early age could have disastrous effects for young kids."

Q: What role will you have on Mike Holmgren's staff with the Browns? Brian R., Columbus, OH
A: "I'm not sure yet. But I enjoy teaching the younger players, so working with the college kids and helping getting ready for the draft will hopefully be something I get to do with the team."

Q: How devastating was the "Flutie game" loss? Brian Crowley, Fort Lauderdale, FL
A: "That was the only game I celebrated early in my life. It was my birthday that day. With the 25th anniversary of that play, we've seen it a million times. I didn't see it the day of the game because I assumed with them backed up that far we wouldn't let anybody get behind them. It happened so quickly it was a shock when it happened. I just remember walking off the field and a teammate said to me, 'How does it feel to be six seconds from the Heisman?' It's funny today, but it wasn't so funny back then."

Q: Does it still hurt getting so close to leading the Browns to the Super Bowl in 1986 before coming up short? Mike, West Palm Beach, FL
A: "We have this thing where if you don't win the Super Bowl, your whole season is a failure. There's no doubt that's the goal. It was frustrating at the point of coming up short. When you look back at it, I'm more proud now of being in those AFC championship games. I was also happy to play in the NFC Championship game with Dallas because Troy [Aikman] got a concussion, and we beat San Francisco to get to the Super Bowl."

Q: I read about all the teeth you had knocked out over the years from playing football and how little of them you have left. Is that true? Richie, Coral Gables, FL
A: "Pretty much. I've had probably four or five of my back teeth knocked out, two are still missing, and five are fake. Because I audibled so much because Coach Shnellenberger and Coach Shula gave me the luxury of changing the play, the mouthpiece made me sound garbled. In these loud 80,000-seat stadiums, you need the guys to understand and hear you. So it just got to the point where I wasn't even wearing one because I audibled so much. For the kids out there, it was stupid and a mistake. It definitely caused more of the concussions and loss of teeth. I actually have saved all the teeth that have been knocked out and the screws and pins that have been taken out in surgeries. I also had surgery on my jaw multiple times because I cracked the bone four or five times from getting hit. I was so focused in on wanting to make good plays, and because I was so slow I knew I needed to get us in the right play all the time because I knew I couldn't run the ball."

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Pro Bowl looks like Hurricanes homecoming

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — When he was packing for South Florida a few days ago, New England defensive lineman Vince Wilfork hadn't realized he would be attending what essentially has become a meeting of Miami Hurricanes alumni.

They're calling it the Pro Bowl.

"Everywhere I turn," Wilfork said, "I see a Hurricane."

As the popular gameday chant around Miami goes, the Pro Bowl has "got some 'Canes over here." All told, 11 former Hurricanes were selected to play in the Pro Bowl, easily the most of any school, and nine of those players are expected to actually appear Sunday at the NFL's All-Star showcase.

New Orleans' Jonathan Vilma and Indianapolis' Reggie Wayne were excused — they'll be in Miami a week later for the Super Bowl.

"I'm happy to be home, playing in front of my fans," San Francisco running back Frank Gore said. "I haven't played here in like five years. So I'm happy to be here. It's big, real big. Shows you how good the program is, how good it's been in the past and how successful we've been sending great players to the league."

Miami has been nothing short of a pipeline to the NFL.

Until the string was snapped in 2009, the Hurricanes had a first-round pick in the NFL draft for 14 straight years, by far the longest run ever by any school. Warren Sapp got the streak started in 1995, Ray Lewis continued it a year later and 31 more Hurricanes followed into the first rounds from 1997-2008, including an NFL-record six in 2004 alone.

And that run of success will be on full display Sunday, in the stadium the current Hurricanes now call home.

"Makes us proud," Wilfork said.

Lewis is still a Pro Bowler, picked this season for the 11th time. He enjoyed Honolulu, where the Pro Bowl had been for the past three decades and will return again for 2011 and 2012.

But getting to play this one in Miami just seems special to the Baltimore star.

"Miami is always a good place, weather-wise," Lewis said. "Just having it here ... the people around, that's one of the reasons they chose it. We just have to carry the tradition."

Ravens safety Ed Reed, who has such a following in Miami that even members of the NBA's Heat organization hoped to meet with him this week, is among the 'Canes selected for this Pro Bowl as well, although his status for the game appears doubtful because of injuries. Minnesota offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie is also in the gamel, along with Arizona safety Antrel Rolle, New England safety Brandon Meriweather, Houston receiver Andre Johnson, Lewis, Wilfork and Gore.

If they weren't enough, the list of Miami Pro Bowlers grew to 11 on Friday afternoon.

Carolina linebacker Jon Beason, a South Florida native who played for Miami before getting picked in the first round of the 2007 draft, was a late add to the NFC roster.

"I've got a lot of them on my side," Rolle said.

Miami's program has struggled a bit in recent years, going from 7-6 in 2006 to 5-7 in 2007, 7-6 again in 2008 and then 9-4 this past season. Most of the 'Canes in the Pro Bowl agreed that Miami coach Randy Shannon — who worked with many of the players with local ties who'll be on the field Sunday — is on the cusp of getting the program back to the top rung of college football.

If that happens, there might be a lot more Pro Bowls like this one.

"A lot of people in the NFL don't like the Hurricanes, one reason being because we're so dominant," Wilfork said. "We were dominant. We were a dominant program down at the University of Miami and we're going to try to continue that. Over the past couple years, we've been rebuilding, but I think Randy Shannon has that program on the right track."

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Braun to open restaurant in Lake Geneva

Milwaukee Brewers' outfielder Ryan Braun wants to open a restaurant.

Braun and some other investors are in the process of converting the old Cactus Club in Lake Geneva into the "Ryan Braun's Tavern & Grill."
Tom Romano, part of the development group, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel it will open in early spring and seat as many as 240 people.

Romano said a booth promoting the restaurant will be set up on Sunday at the Midwest Airlines Center as part of the Brewers On Deck show.
Braun finished last season with 203 hits, and batted .320 with 32 home runs and 114 RBIs. He was a National League Silver Slugger award for the second year in a row.

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EXCLUSIVE Photos From Saturday's Pro Bowl Practice

Check out our exclusive photos from Saturday Morning's AFC and NFC Pro Bowl Practices. Six of the record 11 proCane Pro Bowlers were on hand, including Warren Sapp of the NFL Network. Click here or above on the proCanes Gallery link to view the photos.

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5 proCanes Named To The NFL All-Decade Team

Quarterback -- Tom Brady, Peyton Manning
Running Backs -- Shaun Alexander, Jamal Lewis, Edgerrin James, LaDainian Tomlinson
Offensive Tackles -- Walter Jones, Jonathan Ogden, Orlando Pace, Willie Roaf
Guards -- Larry Allen, p-Alan Faneca, p-Steve Hutchinson, Will Shields
Fullback -- Lorenzo Neal
Tight Ends -- p-Antonio Gates, Tony Gonzalez
Wide Receivers -- Marvin Harrison, Torry Holt, Randy Moss, Terrell Owens
Centers -- Olin Kreutz, p-Kevin Mawae
Head Coaches -- Bill Belichick, Tony Dungy.

Ends -- Dwight Freeney, p-Julius Peppers, Michael Strahan, Jason Taylor
Cornerbacks -- Ronde Barber, p-Champ Bailey, Ty Law, Charles Woodson
Linebackers- Derrick Brooks, p-Ray Lewis, Joey Porter, Zach Thomas, Brian Urlacher, p-DeMarcus Ware
Tackles -- La'Roi Glover, Warren Sapp, Richard Seymour, Kevin Williams
Safeties -- p-Brian Dawkins, Troy Polamalu, Ed Reed, Darren Sharper

Punters -- p-Shane Lechler, Brian Moorman
Kickers -- p-David Akers, Adam Vinatieri
Punt Returners -- Dante Hall, Devin Hester
Kick Returners -- p-Josh Cribbs, Dante Hall

A Big Thanks To proCane Fan Gil Gonzalez for the link!

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Andre Johnson's future, outlook as sunny as South Florida

As the years passed, Andre Johnson never forgot the promise he made his mom.

That's why he's back at the University of Miami this semester. Working toward a degree. Making good on a promise.

“I told my mom I'd finish,” he said Saturday morning from South Florida. “I just never said when.”

He laughs when he thinks about how much time has passed. Has it really been seven years? Will he really celebrate his 29th birthday this summer?

“I was sitting around one day this season thinking about what I'd told my mom,” he said. “Why not do it now? I've been out seven years and just felt it was time.”

He's 30 hours away from a liberal arts degree and is taking three sociology classes worth 12 hours this spring. To be back in a classroom setting after so long is, well, a shock to the system.

“It's different,” he said. “Like I said, it has been 6½ years since I'd taken a class. The thing that helped me is I did know what to expect. It's just that I hadn't done it in so long.”

Has he enjoyed it?

“Yes,” he said. “It's so different, but I'm dedicated to doing this. Hopefully, I can finish.”

Big men on campus
He's thinking of switching to sociology as he looks ahead to life after football. He has made millions and established himself as one of the NFL's best players, a rare combination of size and strength, speed and smarts.

Rookies Brian Cushing and James Casey are also back in school this semester. But they're less than a year removed from school, so it surely is easier.

“Your world gets flipped,” Casey said. “In a week, you go from playing the New England Patriots in front of 70,000 to sitting in a classroom discussing King Lear.”

Johnson is the Texan against whom every other is measured in terms of production, character, work ethic, you name it. He'll play in his fourth Pro Bowl tonight after a season in which he led the NFL in receiving yards (1,569) for a second straight season and was third with 101 catches.

He's 15th among active receivers in catches and yardage, but every player in front of him is older. He and Jerry Rice are the only receivers to lead the NFL in yardage in back-to-back seasons.

But he believes he has a more substantive contribution to make and thinks his second career will be coaching high school football. Thus another reason to get a degree.

“These kids are going through a lot of the same things I went through,” he said. “I think someone that has been down the road might help others avoid the same mistake. Maybe I can make things easier for them.”

Hurricanes pride
This has been a week of celebrating a great career where it started. He attended Miami High before The U., and if the Pro Bowl was going to be any place other than Hawaii, it's in the right place for Johnson and 10 other former Hurricanes in the game.

“I've been here two weeks taking classes,” he said, “so I've had some time to visit with families and coaches. It's great being here this week. I'm getting a lot of love.

“I think guys look forward to Hawaii, but it's the Pro Bowl and guys are having fun.”

Eleven former Hurricanes in this Pro Bowl is a record for players from one school, breaking the mark of nine by USC in the 1986 game.
“It's a tremendous honor,” Johnson said. “It shows what we represent.”

Which will come first?

He represents what every professional athlete should represent. All that's missing on his résumé is a trip to the playoffs … and a degree.

For a time, it seemed his magnificent talents might be wasted because the Texans didn't put enough other good players around him. They're coming off their first winning season and missed the playoffs by the thinnest of margins. They'll begin 2010 cautiously confident their time is now.

“I feel good about where we're at,” he said. “I'm disappointed we didn't make it, but we‘re headed in the right direction. I truly believe that.”

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

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Reggie Wayne key for Colts

INDIANAPOLIS - The great day turned in by Indianapolis Colts receivers Pierre Garcon and Austin Collie in winning the AFC Championship Game comes down to the message of the hard hat. Garcon wore it to the postgame interview room after the Colts’ 30-17 win against the New York Jets [team stats] last Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium.

The front says “Wayne’s Construction.” The side says “Super Bowl Under Construction.”

Reggie Wayne first displayed the hard hat back in training camp in July, when he arrived riding in a dump truck.

It’s a mind-set of work ethic that’s meant for the whole team, but resonates most with the receivers.

Garcon caught 11 passes for 151 yards and a touchdown in the AFC title game. Collie caught seven passes for 123 yards and a score. Wayne, attracting the undivided attention of Jets standout cornerback Darrelle Revis, caught three passes for 55 yards. No scores. Major influence.

“I keep coming back to Reggie,” Colts quarterback Peyton Manning said. “His presence allows things to happen.”

The attention on Wayne allowed Manning to utilize his young receivers as effectively as he has all season.

On the two biggest drives of the game - the 58-second drive at the end of the half to pull within 17-13 and the first drive of the second half to take a 20-17 lead - Collie and Garcon took advantage while the Jets keyed on Wayne.

Manning hit Collie on passes of 18, 46 and 16 in a matter of seconds to cut deeply into New York’s 17-6 lead. The 46-yarder was a perfect strike past the fingertips of Jets cornerback Drew Coleman.

“You try to get some kind of rhythm,” Manning said. “That play down the field to Collie really got us going. We went back to him on the same play (for the touchdown). From that point on, we had a good beat on things.”

The rhythm continued in the Colts’ scoring drive on their first third-quarter possession. Manning hit Garcon four times in the drive, including a fade route to the corner of the end zone for the go-ahead touchdown. It was reminiscent of the classic Manning pass to former Colts star Marvin Harrison. Garcon, in fact, runs many of the plays that Harrison once perfected.

Garcon became the fourth Colts player to record double-digit catches in a game, joining Raymond Berry, Joseph Addai and Wayne.
His 151 yards receiving were the third-most in Colts playoff history behind Wayne’s 221 and Berry’s 178.

“Since training camp, we’ve been working at this,” Garcon said. “Reggie’s been the leader. We’ve been the soldiers following him. He’s been a great example all year. We’ve had the ultimate test all year and we have to finish it off strong.”

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

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Lineman Wilfork wants to go long

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - Vince Wilfork is firm in his stance. He wants a long-term deal, and he doesn’t want to wait for it.

But that doesn’t mean he isn’t aware that this is a business situation, and nothing personal. Asked if he was angry with the Patriots, Wilfork responded swiftly and decisively.

“No,’’ he said. “Not at all.’’

Wilfork, here yesterday practicing with the AFC for tonight’s Pro Bowl, spoke out earlier in the week on the possibility that the Patriots will designate the nose tackle their franchise player in February, in essence taking him off the free agent market while giving him no guarantee of long-term security.

All New England would have to do is tender Wilfork a one-year, $7.003 million offer, and then any signing team would have to pay the prohibitive price of two first-round draft picks, in addition to whatever the contract would cost, to wrest him away.

“That’s the one thing you play for, long-term security,’’ Wilfork said. “That’s something we’re trying to get. I don’t want to be playing with one-year deals and franchise tags, because I’ll be right back at the same point I am right now.’’

The Patriots last used the franchise tag in 2007. In that case, cornerback Asante Samuel eventually signed his $7.79 million tender with the promise he wouldn’t be franchised again, and he wound up scoring a six-year, $57.14 million deal from Philadelphia in 2008.

Samuel was coming off his fourth season when he was franchised. Wilfork is coming off his sixth. And even if Wilfork were assured he’d be able to go to the market next year, a potential lockout looms over 2011, which could cost him another season of his prime.

Wilfork said the sides haven’t talked contract since the beginning of the season, but he is expecting a phone call soon. One thing he’s not worrying about is criticism over his approach.

“I don’t care about the heat I’m taking,’’ Wilfork said. “I did everything I could possibly do. I played my six years, and however they want to look at me, they look at me. But it doesn’t take away the fact that when I stepped on that field, I gave the organization everything I had.’’

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

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Senior Bowl Q&A: LB Darryl Sharpton

Miami LB Darryl Sharpton is in Mobile, Alabama preparing for Saturday's Senior Bowl game. Find out what his experience has been like, who he blew up during a Wednesday full-contact practice, and which NFL teams have been meeting with him. It's all in this exclusive interview with Ed Thompson.

Ed Thompson: Darryl, what are you learning while you're working out here in Mobile?
Darryl Sharpton: One thing that I'm learning is that there's a lot of carryover from college to the NFL. There's different terminology--we call some of the same things different calls. I'm  learning some different techniques which is putting more tools in my toolbox, as the coach likes to call it.

Thompson: What are you hoping the coaches and scouts assembled here will see in your performance this week?
Sharpton: I'm sure everybody knows that I'm a physical player. But I also want to show them my speed, my ability to read offenses, react and break to the ball. That's what I really want to show them this week.

Thompson: Let's talk about that physical side of your game, because I saw you take on Jeff Byers, a pretty tough offensive lineman out of USC who was attempting to block you out of a run play. It was a huge collision, and Byers went down and got back up kind of slow.
Sharpton: That's what I do, back in Miami we call it putting guys in the trunk. And that's what I like to do, I like to come downhill, I don't back down to anybody, that's my specialty, but I have other tools in my toolbox as well.

Thompson: Let's talk about those other tools. How about your pass coverage skills and working in open space?
Sharpton: I think I've done a good job this week of getting back in zone coverage, reading the route combinations so I get in the right spots and the right windows and disrupt the passing lanes for the quarterback. This week, I feel that I've been effective with that. I've been content with my pass coverage this week.

Thompson: What have NFL teams been asking about you as a person?
Sharpton: They ask a lot of unconventional questions so they can dig into your mind and see what you're thinking. But I've been a good guy my whole life, so it's not hard for me to tell the truth and let them know everything about me. I'm a good person, and I'm going to let them know that.

Thompson: Name a few of the teams that you've been talking to so far this week.
Sharpton: The Colts, New England, the Carolina Panthers, the Ravens-- a lot of the "U NFL teams" that have University of Miami players. I met with an assortment of teams, but those are a few that stick out.

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Antrel Rolle has his eye on the Dolphins

Cardinals safety Antrel Rolle's future in the desert is looking hazy thanks to a $12.1 million salary in 2010 and he's already spent some time thinking about where he might head if he parts ways with the NFC West champs.

Rolle spoke with Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald and told him that he enjoys playing for Arizona but wouldn't mind coming home to play for the Dolphins.

"That would be nice," Rolle told me. "You know what I mean. I would love to take some of the burden off of mom and dad seeing as they travel to every game. Miami is home for me. I haven't played here in five years, but hey, we can make it happen."

Rolle said earlier this week that he won't take a paycut to remain with the Cardinals, which makes his departure a real possibility. Despite that and the discussion of the Dolphins, Rolle was still talking about Arizona as if he sees himself playing there in 2010. He called Kurt Warner's retirement "bittersweet" and shared his thoughts on Warner's presumptive successor Matt Leinart.

"Leinert, I think his time is up right now," Rolle said. "It's time for him to produce and be the player that Matt knows he can be and the player we all know he can be. We're going to be behind him 100 percent of the way and I think he'll do a good job there."

Still, Rolle sounds like a man who is thinking about playing for the Dolphins and not just because he has a desire to eat his mother's cooking more often. He told Salguero that he has kept abreast of the Dolphins' personnel situation and knows that they may be looking to make a change from Gibril Wilson at free safety.

Rolle, who will play in Sunday's Pro Bowl, had 72 tackles, four interceptions and 1.5 sacks during the 2009 season. Wilson had 93 tackles and one sack for the Dolphins. 

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

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Former Hurricanes swarm the field at Pro Bowl in South Florida

Ray Lewis hasn't taken a snap for the University of Miami in 15 years.

But, as seen in the moments after the Pro Bowl he always will be president of the most exclusive alumni association in football: The UM Pros Club.

Amid the bedlam on the field after the AFC's 41-34 victory, with NFL stars at every turn, Lewis' voice rang out:

``Dre! Andre Johnson! Get over here!''

Lewis wanted a photo taken with the six other Hurricanes who played in Sunday's all-star showcase. And his patience was short.

Vince Wilfork, the beefy Patriots defense lineman, already had disappeared. Lewis wasn't letting Johnson, the Texans' wide receiver, vanish, too.

Johnson made his way to the group, and the picture was complete: Lewis, Johnson, Patriots safety Brandon Meriweather, Cardinals safety Antrel Rolle, Panthers linebacker Jon Beason and Niners running back Frank Gore.

Two decades of UM football, all on one piece of real estate.

``It was like a family reunion,'' Gore said.

Lewis agreed: ``It doesn't get any better than that.''

Said Johnson: ``It's like you're brothers. We have something that I don't think any other school has.''

Sun Life Stadium was never home for the seven Canes that suited up Sunday night. They played at the Orange Bowl, which was UM's home for seven decades until its demolition in early 2008. But as the starters took the field, it sure had the feel of a UM homecoming.

The cheers among the 70,697 in attendance seemed the loudest when the former Canes were announced.

``I'm loving every minute,'' Meriweather said. ``I get to play with Big V [Wilfork], Ray Lewis . . . and it's just a dream come true.''

In all, 11 UM players earned Pro Bowl invites, although four missed the game because of: 1) Injury; 2) They will be playing in the Super Bowl; or 3) In the case of Bryant McKinnie, failing to even show up for practice.

NFC coaches booted McKinnie, the Vikings offensive tackle, on Saturday after he missed two practices in a row.

Other Canes who were selected but did not play: Colts receiver Reggie Wayne and Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma, both out because their teams will play in the Super Bowl, and Ravens safety Ed Reed (injury).

As for the seven who actually took the field, none had a bigger impact than Johnson.

On the game's fifth play from scrimmage, he beat Eagles cornerback Asante Samuel for a 33-yard touchdown on a pass from Texans teammate Matt Schaub.

``We ran a pump route, and he was all over it,'' Johnson said. ``Coach [Norv] Turner said when we get a third-and-6, we'd call something like that, and it was a perfect call.''

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NFL might take further action against Bryant McKinnie

MIAMI GARDENS — The NFL on Sunday was reportedly looking into the possibility of further discipline against Minnesota Vikings offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie, who was dismissed from the Pro Bowl on Saturday for missed practices.

According to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said in an e-mail that McKinnie's actions would "be reviewed for a possible fine in addition to his loss of Pro Bowl check."

Aiello also said a suspension was not being contemplated, he did not rule it out as "we have not completed our review."

McKinnie's absence forced David Diehl of the Giants and Jason Peters of the Eagles to play the entire game, and Diehl wasn't happy about it.
"I can't speak for him, but I know a lot of guys are upset, and some of the guys on the Vikings are upset," Diehl said. "You're out here for the guys next to you.

"I think it's an honor to come here and be selected by your peers. This is a game with a lot of tradition and history. To be here and be part of this is a dream for me."

McKinnie, a graduate of Miami who spends his off-seasons in South Florida, wrote on his Twitter account early in the week that he planned to make the most of the social opportunities available. Thursday night he attended a swimwear fashion show featuring NFL cheerleaders.

McKinnie, 30, attended practice on Wednesday and Thursday but was a no-show Friday and Saturday. He was dropped from the NFC roster on Saturday.

"I don't know what it was about," Vikings running back Adrian Peterson said. "I don't know if he was hurt or what."

Peters also downplayed McKinnie's absence.

"It wasn't any big deal," he said. "Everybody's got their own situation, and I didn't know what the deal was with him. I guess they just kicked him off.

"In a way it was disappointing," he added. "He could've just let somebody else come."

McKinnie, a 6-foot-8, 343-pounder, was the Vikings' first-round pick in 2002 after winning the Outland Trophy, awarded to the nation's top college lineman, in the previous season.

He has had off-the-field problems before. In October 2005, he was charged with a misdemeanor for his involvement in the Vikings' "Love Boat" scandal, when numerous Minnesota players were accused of sexual improprieties during a cruise on Lake Minnetonka, Minn.

After pleading guilty, he paid a $1,000 fine and was ordered to perform 48 hours of community service. Later he was fined one game check by the NFL for the incident, amounting to $48,000.

One day after the fine, McKinnie signed a seven-year contract extension with the Vikings worth approximately $48 million.

After being booted off the NFC roster, McKinnie released a statement through his publicist claiming he withdrew from the game because of injury.

"I am extremely honored to have been selected for this year's Pro Bowl," the statement read. "However, my ongoing injuries in my feet and left ankle that I have encountered during the last portion of the season has hindered me during this week's training and preparing myself both mentally and physically for this Sunday's Pro Bowl.

"I am very knowledgeable and appreciative of all my loyal fans and supporters and would like to apologize if I may have disappointed you in anyway, but getting back 100 percent healthy is my number one concern to perform even better in the upcoming season."

"Whatever he said, I believe him," Peterson said.

This was the first time McKinnie had been named to the Pro Bowl in his eight-year career.

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

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Colts' Reggie Wayne: 'Be ready for anything' in Super Bowl XLIV

Indianapolis Colts WR Reggie Wayne said on the sideline at the Pro Bowl that when it comes to Super Bowl XLIV in Miami next Sunday, expect the unexpected.

"Be ready for anything," Wayne said in a television interview with ESPN.

Wayne said quarterback Peyton Manning has spent so much time preparing this week -- including watching game film on the plane ride to Miami -- that the Colts' plans for the Super Bowl should be special.

"It's the game plan ... and some," Wayne said.

After Peyton Manning dismantled the New York Jets' defense in the AFC Championship Game with only one week to prepare, giving the four-time league MVP two weeks to get ready for the Saints might be more than he needs to come up with something unexpected.

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

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Shockey Creates Matchup Problems

Jeremy Shockey was supposed to be the key ingredient for the New York Giants. But an injury prevented him from helping in their Super Bowl win. Shockey's injured again, but this time, he's determined to make it back in time to help the Saints win it all.

Saints tight end Jeremy Shockey is more concerned about his injured right knee than seeing the sights on Miami's famed South Beach next week.

Shockey, who has been hobbled by a sore right knee in the Saints' playoff wins against Arizona and Minnesota the last two weeks, visited renowned surgeon Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham, Ala., on Tuesday to have his MRI results evaluated, Saints coach Sean Payton said Thursday.

Shockey didn't practice Thursday when the Saints returned to work to begin preparing for Super Bowl XLIV against the Colts, but Payton said the injury is "more of a bruise."

Both he and Shockey said the examination left them encouraged that he'll be able to go against the Colts. Shockey was forced to sit out Super Bowl XLII two years ago when he was with the New York Giants because of a broken left leg.

"The last two games you guys have seen me play, it wasn't really me," Shockey said Thursday. "I was out there on one leg. It felt like being on a pogo stick. This week I'll have two pogo sticks instead of one."

The injury is just one of the reasons that Shockey, a former University of Miami star, is not thinking about anything but the game.

"We just have to be smart in every aspect (and avoid) guys going out, doing stupid stuff, getting in trouble," he said. "A lot of people put a lot of hours, time in, injuries and so on ... so I think everyone's mature enough in this locker room to know how much is at stake."

Shockey, who is one of the more excitable Saints when he's on the field, said he'll be ready to go.

"I know how much he wants to be a part of this game," quarterback Drew Brees said. "I know he's going to be ready. Most great tight ends are big-time matchup problems for teams just because it's a safety, or it's a linebacker having to cover them. We feel good about that."

NOTES --TE Jeremy Shockey, who visited Dr. James Andrews on Tuesday for a consultation on his right knee, did not practice Thursday when the Saints began their preps for Super Bowl XLIV. --MLB Jonathan Vilma did not practice Thursday because of a sore knee, but he should be ready for the Super Bowl.

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

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Winslow proves to be worth risk

Tight end has been team's best offensive performer.


The Bucs

NEW ORLEANS - Like just about every other move they made this year, the Bucs' decision to trade a pair of draft picks to the Cleveland Browns for tight end Kellen Winslow raised a few eyebrows.

And well it should have.

The Bucs included their second-round pick in the 2010 draft in that package deal, and at the time it seemed as if they had given it away for what amounted to a bomb in a suitcase.

Though highly skilled, Winslow came with baggage, including concerns about the status of his right knee, which has been through at least six surgical procedures since he injured it in a motorcycle accident in 2006.

There were also lingering questions about Winslow's character, the reason for his absence from a handful of games last year and his strong desire to be granted a new contract.

The move seemed to be laden with risk for the Buccaneers. But it's impossible to say at this point in the season that the rewards have not outweighed the risk.

Winslow has arguably been the Bucs' best and most consistent offensive performer this season.

With two games to go, he is on pace to turn in the most productive season by a tight end in team history.

He already has more catches (68) than any other Bucs tight end. With 752 receiving yards, he needs just 35 more to break Jimmie Giles' 1981 team record for most yards in a season by tight end.

He has done that, by the way, while playing for two coordinators and with three quarterbacks. But there has been a constant for the Bucs and Winslow that has gone mostly unnoticed.

Shortly before finalizing the deal with Winslow, the Bucs hired Winslow's former tight ends coach with the Browns, Alfredo Roberts, to fill that position here.

It was a move few took note of, even after Winslow signed a six-year, $36.1 million contract extension, but it truly was something of a masterstroke.

You see, Winslow has long praised Roberts for the work he has done in polishing his game. So, the risk the Bucs took in acquiring Winslow was well calculated.

"He's always created a great working environment for me," Winslow said. "He lets me do what I do, but he stays on me, too, and he really coaches you up on the details."

Roberts still has some detail work to do. After all, Winslow is not quite a complete tight end yet.

He still doesn't block the way teams would like, and he could fight for more yards after the catch on occasion.

The Bucs aren't griping, though. Winslow has always been something of a hybrid at the position.

He is more like a receiver in a tight end's body, and that's pretty much how the Bucs have been and will keep using him.

There are sure to be some changes on the offensive side of the ball before the 2010 season begins, but Winslow won't be a part of them.
Though that right knee will always be something of a concern, Winslow has proven himself well worthy of the risks.

Click here to order Kellen Winslow’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Michael Irvin still the pride of Fort Lauderdale

It's Thursday morning, and Michael Irvin is holding court. When isn't he? He never stops talking. On air, off air. Makes no difference. The man loves to talk, and people love to listen.

A Pro Bowl practice is going on behind him, and the Hall of Fame receiver is preening like a peacock, in his NFL Network shirt, microphone wires poking from his collar, spiffy dress pants, black boots and a big hunk of diamond in his left ear. This year, the Pro Bowl and Super Bowl are in South Florida, Irvin's home turf, and boy, is he having fun.

He has plenty of stories to share. He won three Super Bowl rings and scored a pair of touchdowns in a span of 18 seconds in Super Bowl XXVII -- the fastest pair in Super Bowl history. He went to the Pro Bowl five times. Has he got stories.

He is bantering with former Cowboys teammate Deion Sanders on a makeshift TV set on the corner of the football field at Fort Lauderdale's St. Thomas Aquinas High School, Irvin's alma mater. The moment the camera turns off, Irvin is enveloped by well-wishers. An old teacher. An ex-coach. Ray Lewis. Former University of Miami players Rob Chudzinski and Mike Sullivan, now San Diego Chargers coaches. A school administrator with a pair of footballs to sign.

``Mi-chael! Mi-chael!'' chant some fans from the street, where they are peeking through a fence. Irvin flashes them his megawatt smile and raises his arms toward the sky in that pose that has become synonymous with his name. Everybody loves Michael in Fort Lauderdale, and he loves them back.

He could not be prouder of his Broward roots. He's like a one-man Chamber of Commerce, singing the praises of fellow Super Bowl champion receiver Isaac Bruce, a product of Fort Lauderdale Dillard, a guy second only to Jerry Rice in career yards, and a guy Irvin calls ``one of the most underappreciated players in history.''

Irvin recalls the days he, Lorenzo White and Bennie and Brian Blades were toothpick-legged boys dreaming of the NFL at Holiday Park, playing for Sunrise Optimist and Western Lauderdale Lakes Optimist, meeting at the McDonald's on 31st Avenue after games.

Everyone always talked about Miami being a hotbed for football talent, but Irvin helped usher in new generations of NFL stars from north of the county line. Before Irvin's 1992 Super Bowl win, only two players with Broward ties had won rings -- Stefan Humphries (St. Thomas Aquinas, 1985 Chicago Bears) and Carlton Rose (Stranahan, 1987 Washington Redskins). Since 1992, nine Broward natives have won 14 Super Bowl rings.

In 2006, five high schools led the nation with five players apiece in the NFL. Two were in California. One in Hawaii. And two were in Broward County -- Dillard and Pompano Beach Blanche Ely.

``There is a lot of talent in both counties, but I'd have to say there is more in Broward now than there was 30 years ago,'' said George Smith, the longtime St. Thomas Aquinas coach, who considers Irvin like a son. ``Mike became a very prominent national figure, and a lot of kids around here started thinking, `Hey, if I work hard, I can do that, too.' ''

The shift in talent produced the likes of Leonard Myers (Dillard), Asante Samuel (Boyd Anderson), Tyrone Carter (Ely) and Bryant McFadden (McArthur) -- all Super Bowl winners.

``All those kids I played with at Holiday Park were great athletes,'' said Bruce, who scored the 73-yard Super Bowl-winning touchdown for the St. Louis Rams in 1999. ``Football is what we did down there, all year long. When the kids up north were inside in December, we were out there playing. South Florida kids have a certain confidence about them, an attitude I can spot a mile away. They're loud and rambunctious, and boy are they fast. Nowadays, there are as many kids like that from Broward as there are from Dade.''

Bruce, 37 and contemplating retirement, was the rare quiet football star from South Florida. Didn't say much in high school. Didn't say much at the University of Memphis. And hasn't said much in his 16-year NFL career. Though his story is remarkably similar to Irvin's -- one of 15 siblings, father a roofer, product of Holiday Park -- most fans are unaware that his 15,208 yards ranks second only to Rice's 22,895.

Irvin and Bruce have met only once. ``I shook his hand at a Mike Tyson-Lennox Lewis fight in Memphis,'' Bruce said. ``I introduced myself. He was very nice, but we really don't know each other.''

Nevertheless, Irvin has admired him from afar.

``He is a phenomenal receiver, one of the best ever, out of this area like me, but he has always been underappreciated,'' Irvin said. ``Nobody ever talks about him. If you asked people the top receivers from this area, his name probably wouldn't be among the first people would mention, and it should be. They always tell receivers to shut up, and if you do, like Isaac Bruce did, you don't get the credit you deserve. Marvin Harrison same thing. If you're not loud, people don't talk about you.''

A producer tries to whisk Irvin off to a car to get him to a radio show, for which he is already late. Fat chance. Irvin runs over to Vince Young, puts his arm around the quarterback, and they exchange numbers. He then stops to answer a reporter's questions. He stops in mid-sprint to say hello to St. Thomas Aquinas students who snuck out between classes.

``You guys won't realize this until after you leave, but this is the best high school in America!'' Irvin tells the students, as he signs their backpacks, book covers and shirts.

Ask Irvin how it feels to be back home, where it all began with ``Mama'' Pearl and ``Rev'' Walter and 14 siblings in that modest brick house on NW 28th Avenue, and Irvin's gregarious demeanor changes. He pauses, gets quiet, and you can almost see a slide show of his memories crossing through his now-misty eyes.

``See that bench over there?'' he says, pointing to a sideline bench covered with the Pro Bowlers' water bottles. ``That is where my coach found me crying the day my dad died. I ran here 10 miles from my house because I didn't know where else to go. I just sat there and cried and cried. It was three days before my senior season. My dad didn't get to see me play. I thought my football career was over, thought I was going to quit, get a job right away and take care of my mom.

``I look at that bench, and it takes me right back. Clear as day. Coach Smith finding me, putting his arm around me, telling me it would be OK. He became my father that day on that bench. So many memories going through my mind. From my high school days to UM to when I was in the Pro Bowl and Super Bowls. We're all here for fun, but for me, it's a reminder of all I've been through, every step of my career.''

Irvin was the 13th of 15 children born to Pearl and Walter Irvin, a roofer by day and lay preacher on weekends. The elder Irvin, from whom Michael got his height and strong forearms, traveled on weekends to preach for the Primitive Baptist Church.

The preacher had the gift of gab, yet another trait inherited by his famous son.

He was 53 when he died of lung cancer.

Michael vowed that day to reach the NFL and take care of his mother. He kept his promise, and then some.

As the New Orleans Saints and Indianapolis Colts prepare for Sunday's Super Bowl, Irvin and Bruce can't help but get nostalgic. The Super Bowl does that to you.

Bruce has vivid memories of that 73-yard pass from Kurt Warner in the Georgia Dome. The Rams were tied 16-16 with the Tennessee Titans heading into the two-minute warning. The call from the huddle was a pass to Bruce to get the Rams into field-goal range.

``The play was 999-halfback-balloon, and I remember the air was still smoky from the halftime fireworks,'' Bruce recalled by telephone last week. ``The smoke was lingering, but I could see the ball clearly coming my way, and as I caught it, my eyes went to the JumboTron and I saw myself running, saw guys chasing me and when I crossed into the end zone it was a great moment, a feeling of jubilation that's hard to describe.''

As it happened, six years earlier, in that very corner of that very end zone, and on the tail end of the same route, Bruce caught his first NFL touchdown against the Falcons.

``That corner is very special to me,'' he said. ``My dad had already died and didn't get to see my Super Bowl, but he was watching me. I felt it.''
Irvin remembers walking into the Rose Bowl alongside Emmitt Smith before Super Bowl XXVII.

``I thought, a game's a game, a 20-yard in is a 20-yard in, won't be any different at a Super Bowl,'' Irvin said. ``Then we walked onto that field, and my knees got weak, and I thought, `Oh my God, this is a different game. When I crossed that goal line for my first touchdown, I remember thinking that everyone in the world was watching, and I was thinking, `I proved everyone wrong. I made it. I really made it.' ''

Asked if he watched any of the halftime show, which featured Michael Jackson, Irvin broke into a huge grin. ``Nah, there was only one Michael I cared about on that day, and that was Michael Irvin.''

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Yonder Alonso May Be a Catcher

During the team’s winter caravan event, manager Dusty Baker said the organization has considered using top prospect Yonder Alonso as a catcher.

“Imagine a left-handed, power-hitting catcher,” said Baker. Oh, we’ll try, but Alonso has never played another position besides first base, even during his time with the University of Miami. Just how he’ll fit into a lineup with Joey Votto is a real question, but sticking him behind the plate is a tremendous leap. Alonso, who turns 23 in April, batted .292/.374/.464 with nine home runs and 52 RBI in his first full year of pro ball last season.

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Guillermo Diaz close to Biella

Biella can be the next stop for Guillermo Diaz (188-G-85, college: Miami, FL). The 24-year-old guard is close to inking contract with the team. Biella has to deal with the loss of Fred Jones (193-G-79, college: Oregon) who got injured and is expected to miss at least two month. So they showed interest in landing Guillermo Diaz. The Puerto Rican guard spent the previous season in Pepi Caserta. He averaged 16.7 point, 3.4 boards, 2.0 assists and 1.8 steals per appearance in Seria A. Guillermo Diaz played for Puerto Rico at the FIBA Americas tournament in San Juan last year. The guard tallied 4.3 points and 1.9 rebounds per game.

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