U Famliy

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Leggett Could Be Pressing

Wideout Braylon Edwards and guard Eric Steinbach didn’t report to practice Tuesday, but team spokesman Neal Gulkis said both were “working inside.”

Six-foot-3 Lance Leggett, a 24-year-old former Miami Hurricane, got extra reps in Edwards’ absence. Leggett might have been pressing a bit. On one deep throw from Brady Quinn, with no defense on the field, a ball went right through his hands.

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Will Ravens use a 'two-pronged attack' at RB?

Baltimoreravens.com's Mike Duffy expects the team to utilize a "two-pronged attack" at running back this season.

Duffy is basing his opinion on the Ravens' three-headed backfield of 2008, believing coach John Harbaugh prefers to use a committee approach. Willis McGahee has reportedly looked "strong and quick" in recent practices even after getting his knee scoped, but a bulked-up Ray Rice is running with the first-team offense.

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Wilfork taking hardline with Patriots

Listening to Vince Wilfork yesterday, it was hard to believe that he and the Patriots were advancing toward getting him back to practicing. The nimble nose tackle wouldn't say whether he planned to attend any of the team's remaining OTAs (today, tomorrow, and Tuesday) or next week's mandatory minicamp. It's not clear what Wilfork is looking for financially, although he dismissed any notion he wanted a contract similar to the megadeal the Redskins handed defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth.

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Braves send Barton back to Gwinnett

ATLANTA (AP) — The Atlanta Braves have cleared a spot for outfielder Nate McLouth by optioning outfielder Brian Barton to Triple-A Gwinnett.

McLouth, acquired from Pittsburgh for three minor league players on Wednesday, was in Thursday night's lineup against the Chicago Cubs. He started in center and was the No. 3 hitter.

Barton was recalled from Gwinnett on Wednesday and appeared in Wednesday night's game against the Cubs as a pinch-hitter.

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McGahee Hasn't Regained His Starting Spot

Although Baltimore Ravens veteran running back Willis McGahee returned to practice Tuesday after skipping a voluntary minicamp a week ago, he has not regained his starting job as he spent the majority of the practice with the second team while Ray Rice lined up with the starters. It's evident that McGahee still needs to prove himself to a coaching staff that grew frustrated with him last season after he admittedly reported to training camp out of shape. Ravens coach John Harbaugh issued a terse reply when asked about McGahee's progress. "I don't know," Harbaugh said. "I have no idea where he's at. It's the first day he's been here in a week and a half. I can't gauge it."

The Baltimore Sun and the Carroll County Times both report that McGahee did in fact undergo a scope on his knee this offseason.

Both papers and the team revealed the knee surgery last month, but McGahee insisted it was an ankle issue. Considering his history, knee surgery is a much bigger concern than ankle surgery.

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Kareem Brown Solid at TE

Former DE Kareem Brown continues to make strides at tight end for the Jets. Brown, who played at 315 pounds in college, is down to the 260s. If you didn't know better, you wouldn't look at him and see a former lineman. He made a couple of nice catches in practice.

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Hester hoping to make splash as target for Cutler

LAKE FOREST -- Devin Hester is kind of like a football version of "The Little Engine That Could."

One can envision the fourth-year speedster telling himself, "I think I can, I think I can," in his quest to become the Bears' No. 1 receiver.

"I feel like the coaches are giving me an opportunity to step up and be No. 1," Hester said after an OTA on Wednesday. "Whenever you get an opportunity to do that, you want to come out and play, and make the best of it and take advantage of the opportunity."

As a result, Hester is determined to make as much of an impact in catching the ball as he did returning kickoffs and punts his first two seasons, when he scored a combined 12 touchdowns.

Last season, with Bears coaches wanting to capitalize on his speed, Hester began the transition to wide receiver.

"They want to take advantage of my play," Hester said. "When the coaches felt my role was to get the ball more and move the ball on offense, they put me in the mix, and I got my hands on the ball more often.

"I started playing more often toward the end of last season, and that's when they put their hands in it and put me in more offensive [situations]."

While he returned 32 punts and 31 kickoffs for 1,603 yards in 2008, he failed to score.

"I hate to say it, but the season I had last year was not up to my high expectations," Hester said. "This year, I'm trying to come out and be better than I was the first two years. My goal this year is just to come out and make big plays, like I normally do."

On the flip side, Hester caught 51 passes for a team-high 665 yards and three touchdowns in his first full season as a receiver.

It was on-the-job training, as Hester didn't play receiver in high school or in college at Miami.

"It's a learning process for a world I don't know," Hester said. "This is my first time to really get to learn, and now I got stuck learning at the highest level you can get.

"It was a slow process of me just learning the basics of receiving, and then from there, just moving up to the big leagues."

Admittedly, he made mistakes with five fumbles, but that was an improvement over the 15 combined fumbles he had during 2006 and 2007 as a return artist.

Things started coming together for Hester late last season, and it became apparent that the experiment was starting to see positive results.

That's one of the reasons why Bears general manager Jerry Angelo didn't place as high a priority on acquiring a veteran, high-profile receiver during the offseason.

"I really was hoping we'd have gotten a veteran earlier this year," Hester said, "but it is what it is and we're stuck with what we've got, so we've got to make sure we make the best of it and learn from each other."

With the acquisition of Jay Cutler, Hester finds himself with a quarterback who can help guide him as a pass catcher. And Hester has the type of speed that could make Cutler look better.

"Bringing in Jay Cutler, a Pro Bowl quarterback, speaks for itself," Hester said. "And my learning process as a receiver is just growing, and Jay is just helping it out a whole lot."

While Cutler still is learning the Bears' system, the connection he's made with Hester already is obvious.
"We talk about it every day, in practice; after a play, I ask him what he sees," Hester said. "Jay voices his opinion, that if the play's not there, then do [something different].

"When he tells me stuff like that, it really makes sense -- and it really seems -- like we're on the same page. … Each and every day, we're learning something new about each other."

While that all sounds good in theory, the fact remains that this is still just Hester's second year as a receiver. Is becoming the No. 1 receiver a realistic goal for a guy who is essentially serving an apprenticeship right now?
Offensive coordinator Ron Turner believes so. What's more, Hester the apprentice doesn't have to worry about having someone say "You're fired" if he makes a few more mistakes along the way.

"He should be [No. 1], and he definitely can be," Turner said. "At the end of last year, we were really pleased with how he was playing. He's like anybody; he's grown into the position.

"This is really only the second year full time in the position, and I can see the improvement and confidence. He's playing a lot faster and with a lot more confidence right now."

Hester appreciates the feedback. He wants to become one of the top receivers in the game in much the same way he became one of the pre-eminent return specialists.

"I've asked a lot of different coaches about how they see my development as a receiver coming along," Hester said. "Every coach is letting me know that I improved a lot last year, and that's my No. 1 goal, to just improve and get better."

If everything goes the way the Bears hope, the combination of Cutler and Hester could one day rival the league's best quarterback-receiver tandems.

"[Cutler's] a great guy for [Hester] to have," Turner said. "Devin's got a lot of confidence in him, and [Cutler's] got a lot of confidence in Devin. It's just a matter of those guys establishing the chemistry and their relationship on the field, which every day we get out here, they take another step."

Even as he continues his development as a receiver, Hester will keep his hand in the other thing he does best: returning punts. Danieal Manning will assume his role as the team's primary kickoff return specialist.

Hester can't wait for the regular season to begin. He has a lot to prove to himself, his team and his peers around the league.

"I was kind of hard on myself last year," he admits. "I'm kind of upset because when they'd show commercials on ESPN and the NFL Network, I'm not one of the players they show. So, I know there's a reason why, because of the season I had last year. Hopefully, I'll have a better season so I can get back on those commercials."

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Wilfork: 'It's not a big deal right now'

Nose tackle Vince Wilfork, who is entering the sixth and final year of the contract he signed before his rookie season, has been absent from the Patriots' recent organized team activities and appeared to be sending a pointed message about his frustration with his contract status.

During an event this afternoon at Yale Appliance in Dorchester to promote a charitable endeavor, Wilfork, who will carry a $2.2 million base salary this season, matter-of-factly addressed his status with the team. While he didn't supply much in the way of definitive answers, he did say he expects to play for the Patriots this season.

"Oh yeah, I'll be playing, of course," he said. "I'm going to play football, hopefully for the New England Patriots. Right now, [it's] for the New England Patriots. I'm playing football. That's 100 percent true. Unless something changes that's the way I see it -- I see Vince Wilfork putting on a Patriots uniform this season. So, we'll see."

When asked what should be read into his no-show at the voluntary OTAs, he replied, "My absence doesn't mean anything. I'm pretty sure the ball is going to roll with me or without me. That's the nature of the business, so the ball is going to continue to roll on.

"But one thing I can assure you all is that I will be playing this season as a New England Patriot, unless something changes," he continued. "I'm looking forward to the season. I'm getting better. Just because you don't see me I'm working. I'm getting better."

But Wilfork said he was unsure whether he would show up to any other team activities if he doesn't not have a new contract.

"We'll see. I don't know right now. I've never been in this situation before," he said. "I've never been out of football before. I don't know how this works. I don't know if I'm doing it the right way or the wrong way. I'm pretty sure I could ask a lot of guys in that locker room and all of them would give me different answers. So, I'm doing it the best way I can do it. That's what I'm going to do. My main thing is that Vince Wilfork is looking out for Vince Wilfork, point-blank. Whatever it may be. If it calls for me to miss something I'm going to miss it because I look towards the future. That's how I'm going to roll. Something may change in a couple of days, something might not change. I'll take it day by day. I'm looking out for my family and myself. That's the bottom line."

He said right now his absence is a day-to-day thing.

"I may pop up. I may not," he said. "I don't know. I'm staying positive with everything. As far as people that are wondering what's going on with me let me just assure you that I'll be ready to play football. I'm a professional and I look forward to playing football."

Wilfork said he was unsure if there have been any recent discussions between his agent and the Patriots.

"I'll let them handle that. I try to stay out of that," he said. "That's his line of work and I let him handle his business and we go forward from there. He may call me tomorrow with something different, who knows. Whatever it may be I'm a professional at the end of the day. I'm always going to be a professional. When it's time to play I'll be ready to play.

"I know where I want to be. They know where I want to be. I miss my teammates. I miss playing football, but who knows? It's going to take it's course. Let it take it's course. Let it do what it do. It's nothing much to ready into. It's nothing much to make a big deal about. That's all I can tell you is it's not a big deal right now."
Wilfork noted that the business side of football is something new to him, and while he's "not losing any sleep" over his situation, he's not enjoying himself, either.

"A lot of people see on Sundays us having fun playing football, but it's there is a business part to it also. This is the business part," he said. "I hate it. I hate not being with my family on the field, but at the same time it's a business decision. I have to look out for Vince Wilfork. That's the bottom line. That's what it comes down to."

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Parrish deserves a better fate

Roscoe Parrish is unhappy. He made that clear last week when he spoke briefly with the media.

Parrish doesn’t like his limited role on offense. He has felt that way throughout his first four years in Buffalo.

He won’t admit it publicly, but Parrish probably would rather play somewhere else. It’s not that he doesn’t like the coaches or his teammates. He just isn’t happy the way he is being used.

The Bills see him as a tremendous punt returner. He sees himself as more than that. He believes he can contribute more as a wide receiver, if the Bills would just give him more opportunities.

But they have such a crowded depth chart at the position that it’s hard to imagine where Parrish will fit in the rotation.

That said, it’s a problem the Bills should be happy to have.

It was widely reported that the Bills tried to trade Parrish this offseason. Whether they couldn’t get what they wanted or had a change of heart is not known. But in this case, the best deal was the one not made.

The Bills are heading into a must-win season and they need every possible weapon at their disposal. That’s why they should have perished the thought of trading Parrish in the first place.

He doesn’t see the field often, but when he does he’s one of the few players on the roster who is a threat to score every time he touches the football.

Even with the addition of Terrell Owens, the Bills’ offense figures to have its struggles moving the ball from time to time. Parrish’s incomparable punt return skills are worth an extra 15 to 25 yards in field position, which could mean all the difference in the world for a team that has had trouble finding the end zone.

In Parrish’s opinion, he can have just as much impact catching passes as he does returning punts. I agree with him.
With Owens, Lee Evans and Josh Reed demanding their touches and young lions Steve Johnson and James Hardy needing more playing time, there won’t be enough balls to go around. That will only add to Parrish’s frustration.

Parrish will never be a 50-or 60-catch guy. But surely offensive coordinator Turk Schonert can devise a package of plays to take advantage of Parrish’s big-play speed and open-field elusiveness.

How many times have the Bills used Parrish on bubble or jailbreak screens or other throws where he gets the ball in his hands quickly?How many reverses has he run? Not nearly enough.

Parrish averaged a mere 9.7 yards on 24 catches last season. That’s unacceptable for someone with his explosiveness.

Parrish suggested that his receiving skills might blossom with another team. But it would be foolish for the Bills to let him leave. It’s not like he has any leverage to force his way out. He is still under contract and he’s being paid very well for a player who makes cameo appearances.

Parrish isn’t trying to rock the boat here. He just wants more opportunities to help the Bills. There is nothing wrong with that.

So why doesn’t he play more on offense? Coach Dick Jauron has spoken often about the concern of exposing Parrish to injury because of his lack of size. Another school of thought is the 5-foot-9, 168-pound Parrish is too small to get off the line of scrimmage cleanly against press coverage.

But he counters by saying his size didn’t stop him from playing at a big-time school like Miami and it didn’t prevent him from making it in the NFL.

He says he’s not going to grow any taller or get any bigger, so the Bills have to make do with what they have.
And what they have is lightning in a bottle. It’s up to them to figure out how to unleash it.

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McIntosh Eyes Breakout Season

Since emerging as a starting weak-side linebacker in 2007, Rocky McIntosh has proven to be a steady contributor for the Redskins’ defense.

Now the team is looking for McIntosh, who is entering his fourth NFL season, to help create and convert more game-changing plays.

That’s something the Redskins’ defense has needed in recent years.

One thing that could contribute to a potential breakout season for the 6-foot-2, 232-pound University of Miami product is the Redskins’ restructured defensive line that, on paper, appears to be a strong point this year.

A key factor that should help McIntosh and the linebackers is the addition of the highly sought-after free agent Albert Haynesworth, who the team expects to draw considerable attention from opposing offensive lines.

On run plays, McIntosh should benefit from Haynesworth’s presence when the burly defensive tackle takes up multiple blockers, leaving McIntosh untouched to make the stop.

When the opposition airs the ball out, Haynesworth should draw enough attention to improve McIntosh’s positioning in pass coverage--and even blitz when necessary.

When asked if he felt that the upgraded defensive line would help his production, McIntosh was convinced that it would.

“Definitely, it’s not going to do anything but help us all throughout the year,” McIntosh said. “We were pretty good last year and we expect to be even greater this year.”

Playing between a promising defensive line and a consistent secondary, McIntosh and the Redskins’ linebackers should provide an imposing presence to a defense that was ranked fourth overall last year.

McIntosh is one year removed from an arduous rehab of his reconstructed knee, which he injured late in the 2007 season.

He recovered quickly enough to be a solid contributor last year. In 16 games, he tallied 87 tackles, two sacks, one interception and two forced fumbles following his rehab.

McIntosh said he does not feel pressure heading into the season and he has confidence in his defensive teammates.

At the same time, McIntosh knows that coaches expect him to continue to blossom into the playmaking linebacker that they drafted in the second round (35th overall) of the 2006 NFL Draft.

“Everybody has a role in this defense,” he said. “You challenge me to do anything and I’m going to step up to it.”
When asked if there was anybody on this year’s schedule that he was excited about playing, McIntosh mentioned the New York Giants.

The Redskins, of course, open the 2009 regular season against the Giants on Sept. 13 at the Meadowlands.

“I can’t give anybody any fuel for the fire,” McIntosh said. “But the Giants won a couple games on us last year, so hopefully we can put something together and beat those guys.”


Edge Goes to James in Comparison With Hightower

The Football Scientist, KC Joyner, is a Fifth Down contributor. Lab results from “Scientific Football 2009,” to be published in August, are now available for those who preorder the book.

Many of the responses to the Monday post on the Cardinals’ offensive line run blocking metrics were from Arizona fans inquiring about how the Birds’ blocking affected the relative performances of Edgerrin James and Tim Hightower. James was the starter early in the year, lost the job to Hightower after a case of fumbleitis, and then regained it during the playoff run.

There was talk that James got his old gig because he was a postseason veteran who could handle the spotlight, but a metric review shows there might have been more to it than that. I looked at each runner’s yardage when he had a play with no Point of Attack (POA) run-blocking losses and when there was at least one POA loss. Here are those results:

Edgerrin James
% of att
All POA wins
At least one POA loss
Tim Hightower
% of att
All POA wins
At least one POA loss

What was surprising to me was that James and Hightower had a nearly identical number of runs with all POA wins. I would have expected a certain amount of consistency but would not have thought it would be within four carries.
These totals show that Edge was better regardless of whether he received good blocking. He averaged .7 of a yard more per carry than Hightower when given adequate blocking and topped him by a yard when there was at least one POA loss.

The bottom line is threefold. First, if James can average 5.1 YPA runs with all POA wins, I can only imagine what Chris “Beanie” Wells can do. Second, it shows why James seems in no hurry to sign with a team. He knows he has tread left on his tire and isn’t going to underplay his hand because of it. Third, it shows that for all of his fantasy football hype last year (and I was one of those hyping him), from an overall football perspective, at this point Hightower is simply not an everydown running back.


Jay Cutler to Devin Hester: Already in sync

One play into Wednesday's full-team Bears scrimmage session confirmed the most interesting bit of progress at Halas Hall still three months before the 2009 season-opener.

Jay Cutler glided back into a seven-step drop, set his feet in a pocket protected by left tackle Orlando Pace, and peered downfield where wide receiver Devin Hester had gotten a step on his defender.

For aesthetic purposes, ignore for a moment that cornerback Zack Bowman was limited in how physical he could get with Hester in this non-contact drill.

But that is beside the point.

The point that will be driven home whenever the Bears offense takes the field from now until September came in the way Cutler's arching spiral hit Hester in stride and landed gently in his hands. And the way Hester kept running to the end zone like it was a play he would go home and watch on "SportsCenter."

All Hester had to do was get a step. The ball was there, easily within reach, right where the playbook said it should be. All he had to do was catch it, tuck it and run with that rare speed of his.

When the Bears keep saying they have confidence in their rather pedestrian corps of wide receivers, this is why. When general manager Jerry Angelo continues to espouse the theory that the quarterback makes the receiver, and not the other way around, this is why.

"As good as advertised," tight end Desmond Clark said of Cutler.

But that was not the only thing obvious on display Wednesday during Organized Team Activities.


3 sue ex-Cowboys star Michael Irvin over '4th and Long' TV show

Three men are claiming interference against Michael Irvin in a lawsuit, saying the former Cowboys star stole their football reality show concept and turned it into a cable TV program.

The men say they approached Irvin in 2007 to pitch their show titled “Guts to Glory,” featuring contestants competing for a spot on a professional football team, according to a lawsuit filed in Dallas County District Court last week.

In May, Irvin’s program, "4th and Long," debuted on Spike TV. Irvin oversees 12 football amateurs who hope to make a spot on the Cowboys roster.

Irvin’s Dallas-based attorney, Larry Friedman, said his client had thought of the concept several years earlier after he watched the first episode of the reality TV series "American Idol." Irvin met with dozens of people regarding a reality football program, Friedman said.

“This idea is not proprietary,” Friedman said Wednesday afternoon. “This is like saying you invented tick-tack-toe. The show is based on the relationship between Michael Irvin and Jerry Jones and the Dallas Cowboys. These people have nothing to do with that relationship.”

But Mark Taylor, the Dallas-based attorney for the three plaintiffs, said his clients were never given any indication that the football star was working on a similar concept.

“That’s inconsistent with what Michael and his agents told them at the time they were meeting and working on the deal,” said Taylor, who represents Jordan Bealmear, Shannon Clark and Christopher N. Harding.

Friedman blasted the three men for not having any producing experience, track record or money to pull off the project. He says they just want Irvin’s money.

“These guys had only one thing: Nada. N-a-d-a,” Friedman said.

Taylor said he didn’t have details on his clients’ producing backgrounds, but that they’re “only seeking what’s rightfully theirs.”

“They are young producers and being deprived of the credit for this show is also very important to them,” Taylor said.

The men presented their concept to Irvin and his agent and representative in August 2007, according to the lawsuit, obtained by Courthouse News Service. In the following months, they negotiated an agreement regarding how much money each side would receive.

The agreement first proposed that Irvin and his agent receive 25 percent of a producing fee in connection with the show. In March 2008, Irvin’s representatives told the plaintiffs he wanted 95 percent of the fee, the lawsuit states.
Fourteen months later, “4th and Long” appeared on TV.


Kellen Winslow ready for fresh start with Bucs

Tampa, Florida- Kellen Winslow walked into his first post OTA (Organized Team Activities) interview this week with purpose.

"It's my second chance. So everything I learned in Cleveland, good and bad, you know, I'm taking it here."

That's why Winslow was more happy to address his recent absences due to family matters. All seemingly easy to forget for his team- as soon as he hit the field.

"He's just an impressive looking guy," says Bucs' Head Coach Raheem Morris. "When he's here at work, he's working. There's no doubt about that. So he's here, We're happy for him to be here. I'm just happy to see him grow within the offense, see what he can do."

This tight-end friendly offense isn't the only attraction for Winslow. The other seal on this deal is his opinion of Bucs' head coach Raheem Morris.

"I don't like him. I love him. Just everything about him. He's always on me and I can't imagine playing for anybody else. This guy just gets us going and I can't wait to start."

Already immersed in the playbook from attending March's mini-camp, Winslow says he wishes the season started tomorrow.

"Whoever gets open is going to get the ball. We're going to run the ball. That's going to be our scheme. I'm just going to try and do my piece for the puzzle and make plays."


Restructured Moss deal pays for Jansen

A source in agent Drew Rosenhaus' office confirmed a report on ProFootballTalk.com that the Redskins saved $1.7477 million by restructuring receiver Santana Moss' contract. That's more than enough to pay for the salary cap acceleration incurred when the Redskins cut offensive tackle Jon Jansen last Friday.

The Redskins added three seasons to the 30-year-old Moss' contract, extending him through 2013. Moss' base salaries for this year and next were basically converted into signing bonus, guaranteeing him nearly $6.3 million.


Barton Called Up

ATLANTA -- Braves pitcher Jorge Campillo is back on the disabled list for the second time this season.

Campillo was placed on the 15-day DL before Wednesday night's game against the Chicago Cubs. Outfielder Brian Barton was called up from Triple-A Gwinnett to fill the roster spot.

The right-handed Campillo started the season on the DL because of rotator cuff tendinitis. He returned to pitch five games in relief, going 1-0 with a 4.15 ERA.

Campillo was one of the Braves' most surprising pitchers last year, earning a spot in the starting rotation. But he's struggled with shoulder problems since making two starts for his native Mexico in the World Baseball Classic.


Burrell to 'ramp up' hitting activity soon

Pat Burrell (neck) will begin to ramp up his hitting activity this weekend, according to manager Joe Maddon.

Maddon told reporters Tuesday that Burrell has "much better range of motion in his neck." The outfielder is likely to require a rehab assignment and is still a few weeks from returning to the Rays.


Chris Perez in Rotation

A few members of the 2006 Draft class have made the Majors, including one to stay. Righty Chris Perez has established himself as a valuable part of the Cardinals' bullpen, and the hope remains that he could close someday down the road.


Redskins restructure Santana Moss' contract

The Redskins restructured Santana Moss' contract to save money under the salary cap, according to Profootballtalk.com.

The agreement converted most of Moss' 2009 ($3.7 million) and 2010 ($4.3 million) base salaries into "signing" bonuses to be spread out through 2013. The deal will void after 2010, however, so the extra three years are actually "dummy" seasons. The savings was $1.7477 million, or just a little more than the salary cap hit to dump right tackle Jon Jansen.


Jarrett Payton Releases An Album

pro football player Jarrett Payton (son of the late walter payton) gives u a wide assortment of flavor from the heart with his album The Pre-Game... football is his life but rapping is his passion... check this masterpiece they call art...

Click here to purchase the album

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Campbell Fighting for a Starting Spot

Another battle along the defensive line will be the race to succeed departed DE Antonio Smith who left for the Houston Texans. As of now, DE Calais Campbell seems poised take over at the position. Campbell will be squaring off against fellow second-year DE Kenny Iwebema for the starting spot. However, if DT Darnell Dockett continues to hold out for a new contract, Campbell and Iwebema could both find their way into the starting lineup.


Texans' WR feeling Super

Although his team has yet to make the playoffs in its short history, Houston Texans wideout Andre Johnson has high hopes, telling the Associated Press, "I play this game of football for only one reason and that's to win. I don't play it for anything else. When you go over guys' careers, of all the former guys that have played, the first question they ask is how many Super Bowls have they won. So that's my goal. To win as many Super Bowls as I can before my time is up."

In order to win the Super Bowl - or, ya know, just make the playoffs - the Texans will probably try to get out to a better start than they did in 2008. Hurricane Ike forced an adjustment to the team's schedule, and they began the campaign going winless in their first four games.

It also doesn't help having to face the Indianapolis Colts and Tennessee Titans twice each, but Johnson is confident as long as the team's rushing attack with Steve Slaton continues to excel. "When you have a consistent running game it opens up everything else," Johnson told the AP. "You don't have to become one-dimensional and it works well for the play action. You have to run the ball to be successful so as long as we keep running the ball, we're going to be successful."


McGahee Returns To Practice Field

The Ravens' Willis McGahee was back after missing last week's minicamp, working primarily with the second team. McGahee had been limited in the mandatory minicamp because of arthroscopic knee surgery. But coach John Harbaugh didn't want to comment on McGahee's condition. "I don't know," Harbaugh said. "I have no idea where he's at. It's the first day he's been here in a week and a half. I can't gauge it."


Vince Wilfork a no-show again

FOXBORO - Patriots [team stats] nose tackle Vince Wilfork [stats] is scheduled to appear at an event in support of his diabetes charity tomorrow. That would be the first time he’d be seen in a while.

That’s because Wilfork, who has one year remaining on his contract with the team, was absent once again from yesterday’s voluntary workout at Gillette Stadium. While Wilfork is not required to be in attendance, his desire for a contract extension is well known.

The first time the situation could become an issue is next Wednesday, when the team’s mandatory minicamp requires players to be present.

There were 13 players missing from this morning’s workout, which, like last Tuesday, was open to the media. Among them were linebacker Jerod Mayo, safety Brandon Meriweather, running back Sammy Morris and defensive lineman Jarvis Green.

Those present that weren’t there last Tuesday were linebacker Tedy Bruschi [stats] and offensive lineman Al Johnson. Bruschi’s mother passed away last week.


Andre Johnson: Super Bowl, not just playoffs, is Texans' goal

Houston -- Andre Johnson is one of the top receivers in the NFL, piling up yards and accolades by the armful in his six-year career.

The individual honors are nice, but Johnson knows he won't go down in history as one of the game's best unless he can help the Texans to more than just their first playoff appearance.

"I play this game of football for only one reason and that's to win," Johnson said Monday. "I don't play it for anything else. When you go over guys' careers, of all the former guys that have played, the first question they ask is how many Super Bowls have they won."

"So that's my goal. To win as many Super Bowls as I can before my time is up."

Of course to win a Super Bowl the Texans will have to make the playoffs after seven seasons without a winning record, much less a trip to the postseason. Houston hit bottom with a 2-14 record in 2005 before improving to 6-10 a year later and going 8-8 the last two seasons.

This is not a new goal for Johnson, who was the third pick in 2003, but in years past his stated goal has simply been making the playoffs.

As he approaches his 28th birthday, Johnson is thinking bigger.

"Playoffs (are) just a start, it's about winning rings," he said. "That's what it's all about."

As he sweats through the third week of Houston's organized practices, he's often smiling. He likes the look of the team so far and is excited about the season despite the opener being more than three months away.

Coach Gary Kubiak loves Johnson's attitude and thinks his confidence and work ethic will help his young team.
"He's a leader by example," Kubiak said. "He's not a rah rah guy. He just does the job and works hard."

Johnson's performance last season was key in Houston ranking third in total offense with more than 382 yards a game. He finished with a career-high and NFL-best 1,575 yards receiving and made his second Pro Bowl a year after a tough season where he missed seven games with injuries.

Johnson said his success last season was helped by the work of rookie running back Steve Slaton. Slaton led all rookies with 1,284 yards rushing and brought consistency to a backfield that had lacked it for years due to injury.

"When you have a consistent running game it opens up everything else," Johnson said. "You don't have to become one dimensional and it works well for the play action. You have to run the ball to be successful so as long as we keep running the ball, we're going to be successful."

Kubiak wants to see how his offense will run in the third year with Johnson and quarterback Matt Schaub together and how Slaton will respond with a year of experience.

"The key in this league is keeping guys together and playing together, that's how they get better," Kubiak said. "With the experience should come better execution."

Johnson and Schaub often talk about their goal of making the playoffs, but Johnson said that talk is getting redundant.

"We talk about it, but it doesn't really matter if you don't put it out on the field," Johnson said. "We know what we have to do. It's not a secret. It's crazy to just keep talking about it all the time when it's not happening. It's on both of our minds and we know where we want to be."

Johnson believes the first step in reaching that goal is to get off to a better start than they did last season. The Texans started 0-4 after their schedule was rearranged by Hurricane Ike and they had to take a bye in Week 2 and play their first three games on the road.

"When you look at that I think that was the biggest thing," Johnson said. "We started off in the hole. We can't do what we did last year, 0-4 that's not a great thing."


Portis, Sellers, Rogers return

Three of the five starters -- running back Clinton Portis, fullback Mike Sellers and cornerback Carlos Rogers -- who were absent for Monday's start of June's organized team activities were back today.

It was the first of the five OTAs so far that Sellers, who also skipped the offseason conditioning program at Redskin Park, had attended. Portis, who must not like Mondays, was back after also missing the Monday session during the May 4-7 OTAs. Rogers had been battling the flu on Monday. So was rookie cornerback Kevin Barnes, who also returned today.


Jones: Wrist may never be 100 percent

MIAMI - More than a month after the Heat's final game, forward James Jones remains uncertain about the approach he will take with the right wrist that kept him out for the first half of the season.

During the latter stages of the Heat's first-round playoff series against the Hawks, Jones said he planned to have another surgery on the wrist to regain 100 percent range of motion.

Jones, however, said Monday that such range of motion could trigger the same pain that led to last October's surgery for a ruptured tendon.

Instead, the 3-point specialist said he might play next season with the wrist at 80 percent.

"To get my range back," he said, "I would have to have the surgery. But regaining that type of range was the issue from the beginning, is what caused me to have the deteriorating tendon."

Jones said he was heartened by his shooting in the Heat's first-round playoff ouster, when he shot 53 percent from the field and 50 percent on 3-pointers.

"I think I proved that at the end of the season, even with 80 percent range of motion, with the repetition, the rhythm, that I was able to get my shot back," he said.

Although Jones started all seven playoff games at small forward, he only started once during the regular season.

Heat President Pat Riley declared the position open at the end of the season, with Dorell Wright and Yakhouba Diawara also under contract at the position, and 2008 first-round pick Michael Beasley a candidate to move there from power forward.

"It's one of those things where things change from day to day," Jones said.

"So if you set you sights on being a starter, someone else can come in right before the season and kind of throw you off mentally. I've always said just work as hard as I can, develop as much as I can, and then leave it to the coach."

James spoke at Miami Northwestern High, after presenting a $2,500 Heat scholarship in front of a senior assembly.


Braun back in action on Tuesday

Though he appeared to be in leg pain after leaving Monday's game in a double-switch, Ryan Braun is back in the lineup on Tuesday.
Manager Ken Macha insists that Braun's departure from the game wasn't injury-related, and fantasy owners should assume that the leg won't be an issue going forward.


Frank Gore slims down

Frank Gore was "noticeably slimmer" at the 49ers' mid-May OTAs, according to SI.com's Jim Trotter.
Gore was a little overweight at May 1 minicamps, but is back in top shape. He says new coordinator Jimmy Raye's offense is just like the one he played in under Norv Turner during Gore's 2006 breakout. Gore probably won't get back to the 300+ carry range, but should see more than he ever did for Mike Martz.


Gang Green's Top 5 "sleepers"

TE Kareem Brown. The former defensive lineman doesn't look totally out of place as he continues his bid to make the transition to offense. Considering the dearth of bodies at the position (no pun intended, James), Brown could have a role in certain packages if he continues to pick up the offense.


Hurricanes Stay True to 'The U'

Say what you will about NCAA "student-athletes." Say they are on occasion not the most studious of students. Say they're using their college experience as a pro sports internship. Say they often enter school without any intention of exiting in the traditional cap-and-gown manner.

Just don't tell me they don't care about the schools they attend or their college teammates. For the second consecutive year, I went and stood outside a club Saturday night as Santana Moss rolled up to celebrate his birthday party, not in a party bus filled with Redskins teammates, but in a party bus filled with teammates from the U. (The Redskins teammates arrived separately.)

Last year, I asked Reggie Wayne whether these bonds were stronger than the bonds connecting, say, the Indianapolis Colts. "Yeah, for REAL for real, and you can say it again," he told me. "We've been through all the hard times, all the hardship, and you understand all the pain ... It's a brotherhood, brothers from another mother all across the board, and it's a bond."

It's just like your fantasy football league. If you're like me, you have a draft both with your current co-workers, the guys you sometimes meet at the copy machine, and with your college roommates, the fellows whose vomit you once lovingly wiped from their passed-out necks. It's just a different sort of connection, and NFL players feel it, too.
This year, as Edgerrin James and Andre Johnson and others pushed through the crowd outside a downtown D.C. club, I again asked why these Miami guys are still doing things together.

"We always do," Johnson told me. "It’s something I can’t describe, but you know, it’s a beautiful thing that we have."
Anyhow, amid the cleavage and flashing cameras, I was thinking football, so I asked James whether he still has something left in his tank.

"Of course I've still got it," he said with a laugh. "I was in a bad situation. Just look at my track record. I averaged 4.5 yards a game the last five, six games. Trust me, there's nothing wrong with me. It was a passing team. You're not gonna find a top two or three passing team with a top running game. Choose one or the other. Show me a team that's No. 1 passing and No. 1 running. You ain't got enough time."

James, of course, was released by the Arizona Cardinals, and has been linked with teams like the Saints. But with Biz Markie en route and the club beckoning, he didn't feel like discussing any possible destinations Saturday night.

"I'm trying to think about football next month," he said. "I'm just gonna take it easy and enjoy what I'm doing right now."

With his collegiate teammates, of course.

Scenes From Santana Moss's 30th Birthday Party

I didn't go to Sunday's pool party and barbecue that capped off Santana Moss's 30th birthday weekend, but I did make a brief appearance at Current on Connecticut Avenue Saturday night. A few observations.

* Maybe I'm crazy, but if a star of the Pittsburgh Steelers was doing it up outside a club in a crowded downtown Pittsburgh neighborhood, I've got to believe the young crowds arriving to go to other spots would stand around and gawk. Instead, we got a few gawkers, a lot of indifference, and a few people asking us who Santana Moss was. Or just not noticing the Moss part at all.

"Like, Carlos Santana?" one reveler asked me. "That's the only Santana I give a crap about."

* Biz Markie was the DJ, fulfilling his role as Official DJ for every D.C. athlete birthday party. I've lost count, but he's definitely done birthday parties for Caron Butler and DeShawn Stevenson. I'm pretty sure he did Joe Gibbs's most recent birthday party, but I lost my invitation to that one.

"I just know everybody," Biz said, when I asked about his athletic ubiquity.

This time, there was some sort of dispute when Rock Cartwright's group got ushered into the club before Biz's group. Sports are all about the drama.

* That particular block of Connecticut Avenue has several nightlife options, and the stretch limos with the hordes of angry young men and chattering young women kept arriving all night. Moss's first load of friends, though, came in one of those shuttle buses used by wedding parties. Nice change-up with that one.

Also, there were at least three bachelorette parties on the block. None, sadly, was there for the Santana affair.

* Among the Redskins I spotted: Clinton Portis, Cartwright, Stephon Heyer, Devin Thomas, Chris Horton, Kareem Moore. Heyer didn't want to discuss Jon Jansen's release in that setting, which was fair enough. Thomas was happy to discuss Moss, whom he called his mentor.

"He's my big brother," Thomas said. "I've got to show him some love here because he's shown me the ropes."
I asked Thomas what he'd be doing when he turns 30.

"Hopefully still tearing up the football field like he does," Showtime said. Then he remembered something. "I got a birthday present for him," he said. "A wheelchair and a cane."

As for the party, "he does it big," Thomas said.

* It wouldn't really be a party without an ice sculpture, now would it? Every year, I plan on getting one of those for myself, and every year, it somehow slips my mind. Slip. Ha.

* There was some foot traffic from the goth industrial crowd, there for the dance party around the corner at Midnight. I'm sure there are two social groups that are better opposites than goth industrial dancers and NFL football players from the U., but you're gonna have to suggest them.

* Edgerrin James turned 30 last Aug. 1, 10 months to the day before Moss. (Today is Moss's actual birthday.) So I asked him what it's like, not that I don't know myself.

"When you get to be 30, you already know exactly what you want," Edge told me. "Life kind of mellows out. It's trial and error."

* So is Santana old? "Nah man, he's not old," Andre Johnson told me. "I mean, we all wish that we could stay young. He's 30 years old now, and he still goes out on the field and performs well. Everyone says 30 years is an old age in the game of football, but you can still go out and play and produce on the field, and he's a guy that can do it."

"We don't age, we just get better," Edge said of the Miami crew.

* I'll go ahead and give the fashion prize to WKYS's Jeannie Jones, who was wearing nothing but a Moss jersey, slightly altered into a dress-like shape. "I love everything about Santana," she said.

* While I didn't see any other football jerseys turned into evening wear, I saw plenty of other outfits that fit the same aesthetic, said aesthetic being wear as little cloth as possible, to minimize the amount of flammable fabric on your body in case of a raging fire, I'd guess.

"It is so freakin' competitive, and the girls have such butts and such boobs," said April Jones of the April Jones Show. "It's serious. These girls, they invest their life savings in their hair, their breasts and their butts. It's a whole different ball game."


School begins with Beason back on field

CHARLOTTE -- Summer school was in session for the Panthers on Wednesday morning, and safety Chris Harris and middle linebacker Jon Beason were back in class.

Both went through practice for the first time since each underwent postseason shoulder surgery, and found themselves sprinting to catch up -- both physically and mentally for their first on-field work since the winter.

"I'm a little tired," acknowledged Beason as he left the practice field. "But that's to be expected. I got a little sweat, so I feel good."

"Actually getting your body back used to everything, I was a little tired," Harris added. "The range of motion (in the shoulder) is pretty much there; it's just getting the strength back in it."

Both Harris and Beason were still able to continue their lower-body strength work over the offseason, although Beason noted that he couldn't do squats in the weight room as he would have liked.

"Squatting's big for me, and I couldn't do any of that, so I feel a little weak in my legs," Beason said. "But I was able to do all the conditioning, work the abs and rehab the shoulder. So I feel pretty good."

The work they could do the last two months helped them keep up with their teammates in offseason conditioning, which further prepared them for Wednesday morning's session.

"We are always looking for smart, tough, better-conditioned guys, and I think in that time even since minicamp guys have been hard at work in our offseason conditioning program and have been through their testing," head coach John Fox said. "I think we had some good performances there in the testing. They came back ready to go today in great shape."

BOTH BEASON AND HARRIS were duly diligent in studying the new scheme implemented by defensive coordinator Ron Meeks, but found that knowing their tasks and terminology was different than putting it into practice.

"We can go into meetings and do all the chalk talk we want," Beason said. "But being out here (on the field) is the only way you're going to get better."

Even if it was a little like starting from scratch.

"I kind of feel like a rookie all over again," Beason said. "But obviously the pressure isn't there, so the transition's going to be easy. The terminology is different, but it's all the same stuff; cover-three is cover-three everywhere.


Moss Seeks Improvement

Today is Santana Moss's 30th birthday -- a benchmark in football that often indicates there are fewer years ahead of a player than behind him. Moss practiced during the day's organized team activity as part of the wide receivers corps that included the return of Malcolm Kelly from offseason surgery.

Moss exited the locker room after practices without the cornrows fans have become accustomed to seeing.

"The season went so bad the second half, I was like, 'Man, I'll do something different. I'll cut my hair to get all the bad funk off me,'" Moss said.

Hair aside, Moss is preparing for a pivotal ninth season in the league. He is the Redskins' most productive wide receiver after a year that was among the best in his career. Moss finished 2008 with 79 catches for 1,044 yards and six touchdowns. It was his third 1,000-yard season and his first since 2005 -- his first year in Washington.

"Every year I look forward. I don't need anything I look for," Moss said. "I just need to go out and do it. Every year I look to just get better. I don't settle for less. I never plan or set goals, because you got to have it in mind that you want to get better."

Moss's totals came during a season in which production from 2008 second-round picks Devin Thomas and Kelly was limited. Moss has mentored the younger wide receivers, although they seem to fit the mold for the Redskins' offense more than Moss.

Moss's experience will be critical. After the Redskins released tackle Jon Jansen on Friday, Moss is one of 16 players left on the Redskins roster with eight or more years in the NFL.

"You got to understand, we're all professionals. You have to be able to accept whatever," Moss said. "With that said, you never know when it's going to happen. You got to prepare yourself that what it does, you can understand what part of the game it is. Business is business."


Wilfork Has Charity On His Mind

Although he's in the middle of a contract negotiation and hasn't been part of the Patriots OTAs, nose tackle Vince Wilfork took time to promote his efforts for his charity. Patriots Insider caught up with New England's man in the middle to find out more.

Vince Wilfork has been playing football since he was a kid. He has also been living with the aftereffects of losing one of his parents to the insidious disease, diabetes. Wilfork has been deeply moved by that experience and has vowed to wage a fight against the disease using all the resources available to him.

After losing his father - who was just 48 at the time -- to complications from diabetes Wilfork's efforts have been to raise awareness and donations to support the Diabetes Research Institute (DRI) in Miami. He has also established the Vince Wilfork Foundation to further assist the DRI and has teamed up with the Joslin Diabetes Center (Affiliated with Harvard Medical School).

The most recent effort the Patriots' big man in the middle is supporting comes in the form of a raffle. The grand prize is an all expense paid BBQ cookout with Wilfork and his family, tickets to the Patriots home games, a new Weber grill, VIP passes to his Draft Day party next year and cash to pay the taxes due for the awards.

The raffle is an opportunity for fans to support Wilfork's favorite charitable cause while getting a chance to win a once in a lifetime experience with New England's nose tackle.

"This is a cause near and dear to me after loosing my dad to diabetes," Wilfork told Patriots Insider. "Anything I can do to help makes a difference for the cause."

Tickets for the raffle, which will be held on June 15th, are just $2 each with a minimum order of 5 tickets. They can be purchased at www.netraffle.org

Wilfork understands that the economy has had an impact on charities. In a statement on his website, he admitted that the economy can he hard on everyone, especially those affected by the disease.

"I know that times are hard right now and that is the case for everyone but for me as a person who does not have diabetes I can only imagine what times are like for someone who does."

Still, he's determined to do something to help. Wanting to convey that fighting diabetes wasn't just a personal crusade, Wilfork told Patriots Insider it's important to everyone to contribute to the cause.

"Everyone knows someone effected with diabetes," Wilfork said "If we don't come together we will not stop other kids from loosing their parents like I lost dad."

More information on the raffle can be found at Wifork's website (www.vincewilfork75.com) and www.Netraffle.org


McKinnie ready to guide rookie Loadholt

Being big has obvious rewards. There are millions of dollars Bryant McKinnie never would have made, had he stopped filling out, oh, 100 pounds ago.

But size isn't always an advantageous matter.

That's one reason why McKinnie, Minnesota's hulking left tackle, was delighted when the Vikings drafted Phil Loadholt in the second round. Finally, the 6-foot-8, 335-pound McKinnie has someone who can relate to the experience of playing in such a large body.

Loadholt has the same height, and he's listed even heavier at 343 pounds.

"There's just some things that we can't do, that everybody else can do," McKinnie said.

Take blocking, for example, particularly on field goal attempts. Coaches have criticized McKinnie's technique, some of which he claims is beyond his control and simply part of being so big.

"Sometimes they tell you to bend - 'Oh, bend your knees' - but you have somebody that's four inches shorter than you next to you," McKinnie said. "They make you feel like you're not bending, but you are."

The standard NFL line is that starting spots, especially for rookies, are never guaranteed. Loadholt, however, is the clear front-runner at right tackle following a 2008 season in which Ryan Cook regressed from the year before and Artis Hicks was often hurt.

The draft was deep at his position, so Loadholt's landing in the second round was attributable to concerns about his footwork and conditioning. He brings, however, plenty of upside.

"You can have a huge guy on your offensive line and, depending on how his play is, it can make a difference or it can't," running back Adrian Peterson said over the weekend during the team's mandatory minicamp at Winter Park. "But him being from Oklahoma and me knowing his background, I will definitely be excited if he gets on the field."

On draft day, Peterson offered this: "You think about him and Big Mack, with their size, and it's a dream for a running back."

Loadholt has much to learn, beginning with the playbook. He had a false start penalty during the full-team scrimmage portion Saturday, evidence of the overwhelming nature of those first few practices with a new team.
McKinnie, though, is eager to advise.

"That'll make him a better player even faster," said McKinnie, a first-round draft pick in 2002 who has had his share of ups and downs but was deemed valuable enough by the Vikings three years ago to get a contract extension through the 2013 season.

Like McKinnie, Loadholt is reserved and quiet around reporters, a soft-spoken demeanor that seemingly contradicts the players' size. They both went to junior college before transferring to big-time - no pun intended - schools.

"He's been successful in this league for a long time," Loadholt said. "He's a guy I've looked up to since he's been playing, so I'm definitely excited about the opportunity to learn some things from him."

Looked up to, of course, is a figurative term. Loadholt is thicker than McKinnie, with shoulder-length dreadlocks that make him appear even wider.

"That is a massive human being," coach Brad Childress said last month.

Loadholt said he couldn't have been put in a better place to begin his career, given the veterans around him on the line and the star in Peterson behind him in the backfield.

Now he's looking forward to playing up to that, well, large potential of his.

"He's physically gifted. He's handled himself well. I like his temperament," offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said. "He's got a little bit of physicalness to him, so I like what I've seen so far."


Cora returns from Triple-A Buffalo

Alex Cora has returned from three games at Triple-A Buffalo. He can't be activated from the DL until Tuesday, so it's likely the Mets will wait to put Angel Pagan on the DL until then.

UPDATE: Cora said he's felt no ill effects from the torn ligament in his right thumb while playing two games at shortstop and one at DH. He noted he can't make it any worse since it's completely torn.

He reiterated he'll need surgery after the season. Cora is wearing a splint both at the plate and in the field, but added that he doesn't think he particularly needs it. He insisted he's not trying to rush back because of the spate of injuries.

“To win a World Series championship, and I’ve been there before, you need more than 25 guys,” Cora said. “Whoever is making excuses because guys are hurt or whatever, they don’t belong in this clubhouse. You need everybody. Whoever comes up we’re expecting them to contribute.”


Braun leads NL OF in All-Star votes

Milwaukee Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun continues to lead National League outfielders in All-Star votes.

Braun has recorded 908,745 votes as of June 1, according to a Major League Baseball news release .

Philadelphia’s Raul Ibanez was in second with 817,849 votes. The Brewers’ Mike Cameron was fifth among outfielders with 533,923 votes and Corey Hart seventh with 475,809.

First baseman Prince Fielder and catcher Jason Kendall were both second at their respective positions, with 527,165 and 471,557 votes.

St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols led all NL players with 1,240,395 votes.

Fans can vote in stadiums and online until July 2. The All-Star Game is scheduled for July 14 at Busch Stadium in St. Louis. It will be televised on FOX 11.


Olsen Honors Maryland and Hendricks

Chicago Bears tight end Greg Olsen and NFL Hall of Famer Ted Hendricks were part of a Miami Hurricanes football reunion when they gathered Thursday to honor Whitney Young High alum and ex-Dallas Cowboy Russell Maryland at the University of Miami Alumni Club's fete at the Metropolitan Club atop Sears Tower.


Phillip Buchanon's No. 2 jersey Retired

Lehigh Senior High football program retired 1999 graduate and Detroit Lions defensive back Phillip Buchanon's No. 2 jersey, then edged North Fort Myers 14-13 in a spring game Friday night.

"Phillip Buchanon is such a role model to this community," said Fominaya, a Naples High assistant coach hired in the offseason to run the Lightning. "Our boys, when they're at practice, they make believe they're Phillip Buchanon. I'm glad for him to be here tonight and I'm glad for them to be part of something special like this, like this retirement, and I think he's happy with what he saw."

Buchanon, for his part, helped out his alma mater on the field as Lehigh won the opening toss, which he flipped, and he remained on their sideline throughout the game for moral support.

"It's so funny, thinking about back then and all I thought about was making it to the NFL," said Buchanon, who'll be entering his eighth season in the league with stops in Oakland, Houston and Tampa Bay before signing a two-year contract with Detroit this offseason. "I never thought about having my jersey retired. For me, to be the first, it feels good."


NFL players with plenty to prove

Jeremy Shockey: Those four Pro Bowls with the Giants are mere testament to a former standout now struggling to make an impact with New Orleans.

Shockey's first year with the Saints was a major disappointment. He failed to catch a TD pass in 11 starts and when Drew Brees needed him most, Shockey disappeared, registering only seven receptions for 69 yards in the fourth quarter all season.

Shockey's leadership skills are minimal and Coach Sean Payton has to be concerned about a free spirit who was hospitalized last weekend for alleged dehydration while attending a pool party in Las Vegas.


Edgerrin James makes surprise visit to kids' football camp

Edgerrin James was scheduled to attend a cookout at the New Hope Ministries Speed & Agility Football camp Saturday.


But James had another commitment and couldn't attend.

So in typical Edge fashion, he just showed up -- at Thursday night's camp, instead.

James, who was released by the Arizona Cardinals last month, has been showing up all over Southwest Florida since February, when he became the first Collier County native to play in a Super Bowl. James was a high school football star at Immokalee, his hometown, before going on to star at the University of Miami and in the NFL, for the Indianapolis Colts and then the Cardinals. James is currently seeking another NFL team; various Internet reports have suggested that the New Orleans Saints are interested.

While he has never played pro football for a Florida team, James continues to spend most of his time in South Florida. He remains dedicated to helping young football players like the ones he saw at the New Hope Ministries camp, many of whom were from low-income families and allowed to attend for free, according to New Hope youth pastor Ron Arevalo.

Arevalo said James was so vested in the camp that after attending on Thursday, he invited Arevalo and camp director Andrew Perez, a longtime Pop Warner coach in Collier County, to his house next week, to give them pointers about how and when to best run the camp.

"Having Edgerrin at the camp was a big encouragement for the kids, even a big encouragement for myself," Arevalo said. "He just walked up and starting walking around the field with the kids and talking to them. It was a lot more of (James) wanting to play with the kids rather than give a speech to them."

"Especially the ones that are really into football, their mouths just dropped," Arevalo said, adding that one camper asked James to sign his forehead.

James' appearance was a big accomplishment for the New Hope camp, which is in its first year with 40 campers: four 8-year-olds and 36 players from ages 12-17. Perez, who coached James in Pop Warner football in Immokalee from age 8-10, had the idea for a football camp at church after coaching youth football in Collier County for more than 25 years. Perez and Arevalo are the main camp instructors, with help from other local football luminaries, including Naples High's Bill Kramer, who came earlier this week, former Chicago Bears running back Mark Green and 2008 Immokalee grad Carl Elie, who now plays running back for Louisiana-Monroe.

Saturday, at a cookout to wrap up the camp, which is not open to the public, Arevalo said he's expecting Naples High grad and former NFL fullback Fred McCrary to attend, along with James' cousin, Javarris James, who was a standout at Immokalee and now plays for the University of Miami, 2009 sixth-round NFL draft pick and former Naples High/University of Miami linebacker Spencer Adkins, and NFL free agent/former Gulf Coast and Florida Atlantic cornerback Corey Small.

Arevalo said having the coaches and local NFL and college players attend the New Hope camp did a lot to encourage the campers, especially those who may not otherwise have a chance to attend football camps because of the expense.

Churches don't often hold football camps, but New Hope has a sports focus and is currently in the process of constructing a multi-function gymnasium on the church campus. Arevalo said the church is hoping to hire a coach to work with kids on sports such as football, basketball and baseball.

"We really do want to encourage the people from around our neighborhood to know that we are here for the community. We're out there too to have fun with sports and stuff like that," Arevalo said.


Redskins' Santana Moss Talks Football At 30th Birthday Party In South Beach

Miami Beach, FL (AHN) - When it comes to sexy, no one has a leg up on Miami Baech.

The Eden Roc Hotel was the site of sexy Friday for Washington Redskins' wide receiver Santana Moss' 30th birthday party.

The event, which benefitted the Santana Moss Foundation and Clean Up Miami Beach, featured a lingerie show from the legendary Frederick's of Hollywood and models clad in body paint donning Bullets 4 Peace jewelry.

The Santana Moss Foundation's objective is "to positively touch the lives of others by inspiring them to believe that we all deserve to dream and set goals."

It was established in 2002 as charitable organization and is dedicated to strengthening and improving, physically and spiritually, the children in America. Clean Up Miami Beach is a movement set to maintain the beauty of majestic Miami Baech.

"It's great to have my birthday party in Miami, what other better way could I have done it?" said Moss.

Moss is excited to start the Redskins' second season under head coach Jim Zorn.

"Every year we try to be better. Last year was our first year under a new head coach, and I feel like all we could do is take it from there," said Moss "I look forward to a good year."

"I have no doubt that (quarterback) Jason Campbell could lead us to the playoffs. We always compete; we're one of the teams they fear in the NFC East."

Moss has played nine seasons in the NFL, with the Jets and Redskins. Last year, he had 79 receptions for 1,044 yards, but the Redskins finished last in the NFC East at 8-8.

Other guests included Steven Bauer and Angel Salazar (Scarface), Andre Johnson (Houston Texans), Sinorice Moss (Giants) and former Giant Plaxico Burress. The event was hosted by E! network's Cindy Taylor.

Johnson expects nothing less than the playoffs for the Houston Texans this year.

"Last year, you know, we finished 8-8, but we struggled on the road," said Johnson. "If we can improve our performance away from home, we can definitely compete for a playoff spot."

The Texans went 6-2 at home in 2008, but just 2-6 on the road. Johnson, widely believed to be one of the most underrated receivers in the league, led the entire NFL in passing yards (1575) and receptions (115).

The event started with red carpet arrivals around 9 PM. As celebrities and guests shuffled into their seats, centered around a runway that seemed to float over the pool, the ladies of Frederick's of Hollywood showed off their new Summer collection to the delight of spectators.

Next, models clad in body paint came out donning jewelry from the Bullets 4 Peace collection. Bullets 4 Peace uses real bullets retrieved from battlefields in the Middle East to create symbols of peace in the form of jewelry.

"I just want to thank everyone for coming out, I really appreciate we could get together for a good cause here at the Eden Roc," said Moss as he blew out his candles and was handed a present from Bullets 4 Peace designer Rafi.


Frank Gore poised for big turnaround in 2009

Consider Frank Gore a man of his word. After showing up for the May 1 minicamp overweight, the 49ers' star running back promised his coaches he would drop 10 pounds before the offseason coaching sessions kicked off two weeks later. When he walked through the locker room doors May 18, there was no need to put him on the scale. Gore was noticeably trimmer.

Perhaps it had something to do with him having a weight lifted from his shoulders after getting a look at new coordinator Jimmy Raye's offense during that voluntary minicamp. The system mirrors what San Francisco ran in 2006, when Gore had a breakout season in coordinator Norv Turner's one season with the 49ers.

"It's about the same, a lot of power counters, going at them, don't care what they have in front of us; they just have to stop us," Gore said after a recent OTA workout. "My type of running style is that I like to have my shoulders square. A lot of runs and a lot of the running plays are going straight downhill, just pick your hole and go."

Gore picked a lot of correct holes in 2006, when he set career rushing highs of 1,695 yards, eight touchdowns and 5.4 yards per carry. To put that into perspective, his second-best totals are 1,102 yards (in 2007), six scores (in 2008) and 4.8 yards a carry (in 2005).

Gore is clearly excited about what he has seen and heard from Raye, who worked for Turner for two years in Oakland. The coaches were raised in the same offensive system and speak the same terminology. But will that result in the same type of big season for Gore? The answer here is yes, barring injury.

Gore says the 49ers were more of a finesse offense under coordinator Mike Martz last season. That won't be the case this year, because coach Mike Singletary wants the offense to revolve around a tough, physical running game, which would decrease the pressure on whoever wins the starting job at quarterback.


Increased role as WR did not impact Hester's return ability

We got an e-mail question Thursday evening asking about the production of Devin Hester, who made strides on the field as a wide receiver last season but saw a drop off in his production as a return man, ultimately relinquishing kickoff return duties to Danieal Manning.

"How much more did Hester play as a wide receiver in 2008 vs. 2007? I think the Bears took away from his explosive ability on special teams by taking his focus off of it. He was the most valuable player on the team. Now he's just another guy as a wide receiver and nothing distinguishes him as a returner. David N., Chicago"

That has been a popular question all offseason, and it's a subject we tackled with special teams coordinator Dave Toub at the OTA last week. First, let's take a look at the playing time numbers for Hester over the last two seasons in combination with his statistics: 2008
Offense--631 snaps
51 receptions, 665 yards, 13.0 avg., 3 TD 6 rushes, 61 yards, 10.2 avg.
Special teams--121 snaps
31 kickoff returns, 679 yards, 21.9 avg., 51 long 32 punt returns, 14 fair catches, 198 yards, 6.2 avg., 25 long

Offense--226 snaps
20 receptions, 288 yards, 15.0 avg., 2 TD 7 rushes, minus-10 yards, minus-1.4 avg.
Special teams--182 snaps
43 kickoff returns, 934 yards, 21.7 avg., 2 TD 42 punt returns, 6 fair catches, 651 yards, 15.5 avg., 4 TD

So, Hester was on the field for a total of 752 plays (offense and special teams) in 2008 after being on the field for a combined total of 408 plays in 2007. One thing that is interesting is Hester's touches per play on offense dropped from one year to the next. Hester touched the ball every 8.37 snaps he was on the field in 2007. That number rose to one touch every 11.07 snaps last season.

What's missing in the equation for the returns and cannot be defined with numbers is the turnover that Hester dealt with on special teams. Toub's units took on a different look in 2008 and many of the new faces were rookies. Missing were Brendon Ayanbadejo, John Gilmore, Rod Wilson, Brandon McGowan and others. Hester basically had the same personnel around him in 2007 as he did during his rookie season of 2006. Take away the blockers and Hester wasn't the same return man. That doesn't explain for Manning's success as a kickoff returner however. He took over full-time duties in Week 11 at Green Bay and wound up leading the league with a 29.7 average. As Toub explains, things were ironed out by mid-November.

"It had nothing to do with Devin being on offense,'' Toub said. "When you go back and look at it, we had some young guys in there early and we didn't get them started. Toward the end of the year, we started cracking it. I've said it a million times now, we were a couple guys away from getting one on multiple occasions. Hey, they're hard to get. Touchdowns are hard to get on special teams. If you get two in a year, you're Pro Bowl considered.

"We just kind of got spoiled for two seasons. That's what happened. He's going to be fine this year.''

The Bears don't have plans to lighten Hester's workload on offense, either. How can they when you consider the depth chart? Hester was on the field for 631 of 1,012 snaps on offense (62.4 percent). He'll probably be more involved in the offense in 2009.

Opponents are scheming to stop Hester each week and he's been a marked man since the middle of his rookie season. If Toub is right and the players around Hester improve, he'll be the same returner the Bears are accustomed to seeing.


Florida Panthers minority owner Bernie Kosar: seeking to eliminate his share?

The UM trustee is a minority owner of both the NHL’s Florida Panthers and the Cleveland Gladiators, an Arena Football League team that sat out the past season along with the rest of the league.

(...) the Panthers have discussed merging the team with a New York company, Street & Smith’s SportsBusiness Journal has reported.

It appears Kosar could use some money to pay mounting judgments.


Heat Looking at McClinton

Heat, Vice President of Player Personnel Chet Kammerer along with Riley and team executives Andy Elisburg, Nick Arison and Adam Simon — spent the past two days at the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago.

Among those invited to drill was University of Miami guard Jack McClinton.

"I think he's Eddie House to Robert Hite, somewhere in the middle there," Kammerer said, referencing the former Heat 3-point specialist and the former UM undersized shooter who failed to sustain an NBA career. "The positive is Jack shot the ball well. He certainly didn't hurt himself. He was pretty productive."

McClinton entered the combine amid questions of whether he would merit a second-round selection.

"I think there's a premium a little right now on shooting," Kammerer said. "Because he has that skill, I think there's interest in Jack."


Pat Burrell's Crib in Tampa

Still no date for Pat Burrell's return

The Rays still don't have a set date for the return of Pat Burrell (neck).
He hasn't been comfortable enough for an extensive hitting session, which he'll have to show before he can return. He was originally scheduled to return May 10, and then it was pushed back to late May, and he now appears slated to return the first week of June at the earliest.