Asante Cleveland Impresses Dolphins

UM didn't use tight end Asante Cleveland much in the passing game last season (three receptions), but he impressed the Dolphins with his receiving skills, as well as his intelligence in the film room, during a visit last Friday. In the coming months, Miami likely will add at least two tight ends who can challenge Michael Egnew for a roster spot.

Bookmark and Share

Future NFL proCanes Autograph Session at All Canes!


Bookmark and Share

Orlando Franklin says he'll move to left guard for Denver Broncos

In a move that puts the Broncos' five best offensive linemen on the field, right tackle Orlando Franklin might be moving to left guard.

Franklin announced the proposed move on his Twitter account Monday after the Broncos' first day of offseason conditioning:

"Left guard, excited to learn and improve this offseason. I will give it my all." Franklin wrote.

If that move works out, the Broncos are planning to move Chris Clark from left tackle to right tackle while Manny Ramirez is expected to stay at center, where he will receive competition from newly acquired veteran Will Montgomery.

Franklin, a Broncos' second-round draft pick in 2011, played left guard and left tackle at the University of Miami. He was a three-year starter at right tackle for the Broncos.

Clark played left tackle last season after Ryan Clady went down with a ruptured Lisfranc injury in his left foot. Clady is back at left tackle with Franklin at left guard, Ramirez at center, All Pro Louis Vasquez at right guard and Clark at right tackle, where he will compete with Winston Justice and Vinston Painter, among others.

The Broncos are not running plays during Phase I of their offseason program, but they are having meetings.

Bookmark and Share

Calais Campbell spends Monday at White House

TEMPE, Ariz. -- While the rest of his teammates were learning what life would be like under first-year strength and conditioning coach Buddy Morris as offseason workouts began, Cardinals defensive end Calais Campbell spent Monday on the South Lawn of the White House.

He was one of a handful of NFL players who joined President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama for the White House's Easter Egg Roll as part of the First Lady's Let's Move initiative. Washington's Robert Griffith III was also in attendance as was Indianapolis' Dwayne Allen, among other players.

Campbell's experience at the White House, which included a run-in with Olympic figure skater Ashley Wagner, was captured via Twitter and Instagram.

Bookmark and Share

Both proCane Redskins' thirtysomethings must produce

They’re hardly a new Over the Hill Gang, but they do have a lot of thirtysomethings on their roster. Which can be viewed in multiple ways: A) They didn’t get younger after a season in which they went 3-13 and needed to rebuild, at least defensively; B) A lot of teams ahead of them in this ranking are quite successful; with age comes experience and savvy.

September will be when we’ll start to see which way the Redskins go. But, for now, we’ll just take a look at their players who are at least 30 years old. Washington is tied for eighth in the NFL with nine such players, according to ESPN's Field Yates. Oakland leads the way with 13, and you never want to be in Oakland’s company, but among the other teams ahead of Washington: San Francisco (12), New Orleans (11) and San Diego (10). All made the postseason. Arizona (10) went 10-6; Chicago (12) and Pittsburgh (10) both went 8-8.

But at the other end: Super Bowl champion Seattle has three such players while AFC champion Denver has six.

So what does it mean? Your players over 30 had better produce. Seven of their nine thirtysomethings play defense; four play along the line. Is it good that a defense coming off a tough season has that many older players? The Redskins appear to have taken a win-now approach with the hope of finding young guys in the draft to groom. That’s fine, but it had better work, otherwise they’ll just be old and slow.

Another note: The Redskins have four players who are 29 (three on offense, all linemen). Their offensive nucleus is young and can help now and in the future. But elsewhere the roster will be in transition for a couple years.

Anyway, here’s the Redskins' thirtysomethings:

WR Santana Moss (34): He’s not a lock to make the roster and if he does it’ll be as a backup, barring injuries. If Leonard Hankerson is healthy Moss would have to be sixth on the list at receiver (also behind Aldrick Robinson). At this point Moss is insurance.

S Brandon Meriweather (30): Signed back on a one-year deal. With Clark here, he’ll be able to play more in the box, where he’s best suited. But he needs to improve his consistency with tackling and positioning. Maybe a year further removed from knee surgery will help, too. But his troubles didn't all stem from being slow or late. Had Phillip Thomas not been hurt last summer, Meriweather might not have returned. But he was hurt, so the alternative was to re-sign Meriweather or find another player in free agency. They did not view the non-expensive options as better. As for Thomas, Lisfranc injuries can be tricky, so it’s tough to know how he'll look this summer.

See the rest of the 30 somethings here.

Bookmark and Share

Warren Sapp questions Jadeveon Clowney's work ethic

Jadeveon Clowney continues to be a lightning rod as the 2014 NFL Draft approaches.

On Monday's edition of "NFL Total Access," NFL Media's Heath Evans and Warren Sapp expressed their disapproval of Clowney's decision to decline on-field workouts in the run-up to the draft. Clowney opted out of the workouts after Clemson offensive lineman Brandon Thomas suffered a torn ACL during a team workout.

"There's just so many little things about this kid that deter you from getting on his side," Evans said. "This kid turns down private workouts? He says, 'Well, I don't want to get hurt.' You should be training harder on the day that you're not at a private workout than how hard they would work you on the private workout."

"That's the real issue with me," said Sapp, who believes the Texans should select Teddy Bridgewater No. 1 overall, not Clowney. "What else is he doing, not waking up? The next job you have is rushing the quarterback, young man, getting ready for the NFL. If you wake up every morning and you're not prepared to go out and do the things you have to be either be an outside linebacker or pass rushing specialist, what else is there?

"You can blow your knee out walking your doggy," Sapp continued. "So why would you not work out for a team that has twenty million-plus dollars for you?"
The question is whether the Texans have the same concerns as Evans and Sapp. If they do, you can safely assume they'll go elsewhere with the No. 1 overall pick.

Bookmark and Share

James Jones is unexpected weapon off the bench

Freak is the word LeBron James uses to describe James Jones.

As in, Jones has put in so much time and work behind the scenes without even the slightest hint that he might actually play, that the Heat’s sharpshooter can only be described as freaky or freakish or, in the words of the four-time NBA MVP, “a freak.”

The freak was super on Sunday in the Heat’s first game of the 2014 playoffs.

Called into service in the second quarter, Jones delivered a necessary spark in the first half of the Heat’s 99-88 victory against the Charlotte Bobcats in Game 1 of Miami’s best-of-7, first-round playoff series. With the defending back-to-back champions once again needing a surge off the bench in the second half, Jones entered the game midway through the third quarter and provided a pair of three-pointers to break open a close game.

All those long days in the gym paid off for Jones on the biggest stage.

“I have the luxury of playing with some of the best playmakers, and guys get me good shots in open spots, and that’s my responsibility — to make them,” said Jones, a graduate of Miami American Senior High and a newly inducted member of the University of Miami sports hall of fame.

The hometown product finished with 12 points in 14 minutes in delivering his first double-figure scoring effort in a playoff game since 2011. In the Heat’s first postseason game of 2014, Jones’ contributions were the biggest difference between the team that won the NBA’s two previous championships and the current, slightly different version that’s beginning its quest for three in a row.

On Sunday, James said he expects Jones to play a crucial role this postseason as the team searches for ways to replace the clutch three-point shooting of Mike Miller. In a move to avoid a big hit in luxury-tax fees, the Heat used its one-time “amnesty clause” last summer to remove Miller’s contract from the league’s ledger. Miller is now playing for the Memphis Grizzlies.

“I think J.J. is going to play a big part of our success — of how far we go,” James said. “It was huge for him to come off the bench tonight and make the plays that he made. He even had two layup attempts, which is unlike J.J. — a career high — so that was huge.”

James and other luminaries in the NBA have long admired Jones for his unflappable professionalism and dogged work ethic. That James calls Jones a freak is the highest of compliments coming from a player who values hard work above all. Jones has been resigned to the end of the Heat’s bench for much of the past two seasons, but he practices his three-point shooting just as habitually as the most obsessive players in the league.

Ray Allen is legendary for getting to the gym hours before games to get up shots. NBA fans might know Allen’s nickname as Jesus Shuttlesworth — a nod to the character he played in Spike Lee’s He Got Game — but insiders around the league call Allen “Every Day” Ray.

Every day, Jones is right there alongside Allen before games and before practices and matching the league’s all-time leader in three-pointers shot for shot.
And now, without being a part of the Heat’s rotation for most of the season, it appears Jones could be a significant role player in the postseason. In addition to moving ahead of Shane Battier in the pecking order of Heat shooters, Jones also played more minutes on Sunday than Heat reserve Rashard Lewis, who was expected to feature prominently off the bench for the Heat.

Battier didn’t play on Sunday, and Lewis logged less than nine minutes. In another twist, reserve point guard Norris Cole played more minutes than Allen, the Heat’s traditional sixth man. Allen went scoreless in Game 1 against the Bobcats while Cole had seven points and was a defensive pest against the Bobcats’ quick backcourt.

Cole isn’t expected to play more minutes than Allen as the playoffs progress. The unexpected substitution patterns were obvious signs that the Heat is still figuring itself out after a regular season in which the top priority was to get everyone to playoffs healthy. And with the unfortunate foot injury to Charlotte Bobcats center Al Jefferson, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra basically has an entire round to tinker.

Spoelstra went to Jones after it became apparent that Jefferson’s foot injury wasn’t going away. In going small with Jones, Spoelstra created a mismatch that opened the game for the Heat. Jones said after the game that he didn’t know he was part of the game plan until Spoelstra called for him with less than six minutes remaining in the second quarter.

“Coach called my number and asked me to go in there and bring some energy and make some shots, and that’s what I did,” Jones said. “My team won, that’s the best thing about it. My individual efforts don’t really give me much excitement.

“It’s all about winning. If I can help the team win by performing well, I relish that opportunity.”

Bookmark and Share

Yasmani Grandal: Still Unable To Catch Everyday

Grandal, who isn't in the Padres' lineup Monday at Milwaukee, will be considered the No. 1 catcher once he's displays the ability to catch every day, Bill Center of the team's official site reports.

The starts in San Diego's backstop break down as follows in 2014: eight for Grandal, eight for Rene Rivera, and the remaining four for Nick Hundley. Grandal will take on the majority of nods once he can handle the rigors of catching on a daily basis. However, he remains unable to do so on the right ACL that was repaired last August, leaving a committee approach to rule the day for the time being.

Bookmark and Share

All six of Ryan Braun's home runs this season have come in Pennsylvania

Now that we know the truth, that all six of Ryan Braun's home runs this season have come at either PNC Park or Citizens Bank Park, will Major League Baseball put the state of Pennsylvania on the banned substance list? It must be something in the air, or the water, or the pirogi, or the Tastykakes, because once Braun steps into the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, he becomes the majors' deadliest hitter.

Perhaps lost among the bat flipping and and yelling and brawling between the Milwaukee Brewers and Pittsburgh Pirates on Sunday was Braun taking Bucs closer Jason Grilli deep for the second time in two games, giving him three homers against the Pirates this season, all at PNC. Combine them with the three homers Braun had at Philadelphia on April 8 and you've got his entire home run output for the season, six. Add two more 6's, and you have the Devil's area code.

Away from the comforts of the Keystone State, Braun is 8 for 40 with nine strikeouts. One extra-base hit. No RBIs. Braun must be taking advantage of a loophole in the drug testing rules because, for him, the great state of Pennsylvania is one giant PED. And it tastes just like Quaker Oats.

jeffpearlman: “It is illogical to believe Ryan Braun is clean. You put up huge #s, get caught, suspended, return—and you're just as good sans PED? Um, no.”
10:50 PM - 20 Apr 2014

Or maybe someone who's interested should look into what the connection actually is between performance-enhancing drugs and a player's performance. Now that would make for some good journalism. In the meantime, we need to ban Pennsylvania just to be sure. PNC Park? More like PED Park. Citizens Bank Park? More like... Citizens Biogenesis Park.

The bigger reality is, the Brewers are 14-5 overall, including 9-1 away from Miller Park, (and 6-1 in Pennsylvania). They're also 6-1 against the Pirates, rivals in the NL Central. And right now, Ryan Braun can't miss if there's an Andy Warhol Museum, or a Liberty Bell nearby. Somebody must stop him before the Brewers go back there and have either Primanti Bros. or cheese steaks.

Bookmark and Share

Dolphins impressed with Stephen Morris

When you hear people discussing the quarterback class of 2014, former Miami Hurricanes signal-caller Stephen Morris is not a name that gets a lot of love. However, all it takes to be drafted is to have one team intrigued by your talents, and it appears that Morris has been able to do that throughout the draft process.

According to the Miami Herald, Morris has ”impressed” several people within the Dolphins organization.

In the recent years, Miami hasn’t been shy of taking former Hurricanes — including running back Lamar Miller and pass rusher Olivier Vernon — so it is very possible that they would be willing to take a chance on bringing Morris onto the roster.

Throughout his collegiate career, Morris showed some impressive physical talents, but he was also wildly inconsistent and that has hurt his draft stock in the eyes of NFL talent evaluators.

Whether or not the Dolphins draft Morris in three weeks time remains to be seen, but if they are impressed then they could view him as a developmental back up for Ryan Tannehill and end up pulling the trigger.

Bookmark and Share

Seantrel Henderson has pre-draft visit with 49ers

The 49ers hosted Miami T Seantrel Henderson for a pre-draft visit last week.

Henderson (6-foot-7, 331 pounds) is a former elite recruit who has all the necessary tools to be a stud OT in the NFL. However, he didn't come anywhere close to living up to his ability at Miami, and he has high wash-out odds. This is a true boom-or-bust prospect, but if the cost is a Day 3 pick and the team is well coached, why not roll the dice?

Bookmark and Share

Dolphins Express Interest In Another Future NFL proCane

According to a UM source, the Dolphins have expressed interest in highly-athletic 6-5 UM basketball player Erik Swoope --- who has never played Pop Warner, high school or college football --– in the wake of the Denver Broncos working him out last week.

The Broncos called UM coach Jim Larranaga to express interest, and “I was completely shocked,” Swoope told “That was the last thing I expected Coach L to tell me.” Besides Miami and Denver, the Kansas City Chiefs also have inquired.

The Broncos believe he can make the transition from a basketball forward to a football tight end, like former UM and New Orleans Saints standoutJimmy Graham has.

It will be interesting to see how many teams offer Swoope a free agent contract after the draft, presuming he goes undrafted. Swoope has not hired an agent but has declared himself for the NFL Draft, opting to do that instead of playing football for a season at UM while attending graduate school.

Swoope, who has talked about the transition with Graham, avaraged 5.0 points and 2.7 rebounds last season, and Larranaga has conceded that he wishes he had played him more early in the season. He showed a knack for dazzling dunks and for leaping over taller players for rebounds.

The Dolphins had some interest in Graham in the 2010 draft, but Tony Sparano loved John Jerry and Bill Parcells --- after consulting with Sparano and his scouts --- decided Jerry would be a better choice than Graham at No. 73. The Saints took Graham 95th, and Miami has regretted that decision ever since.
Of course, Swoope isn't the prospect Graham was. But it's certainly worth exploring the possibilities.

Meanwhile, UM basketball player Raphael Akpejiori, 6-9, is attending football meetings, will attend camp in August and hopes to earn playing time at tight end. One UM person said he struggled catching passes on the side on the day he observed Akpejiori.

Bookmark and Share

Cowboys Target LaRon Byrd as Third Wideout

The Dallas Cowboys are still searching for another wide receiver in the free agency market, leading them to take a closer look at former Arizona Cardinals wideout LaRon Byrd, according to a source close to situation on Thursday.

Byrd, an undrafted wideout out of Miami, spent his first two seasons with the Cardinals organization, but never had a chance to play a single NFL-sanctioned game. The Cards eventually released Byrd on April 4, allowing him to become an unrestricted free agent.

Needing to get some insurance for starting wide receiver Dez Bryant and Terrence Williams, the Cowboys have been trying to nab a third wideout capable of providing depth in the position and delivering the goods when given opportunity to play.

SB Nation Cowboys beat writer Dave Halprin reported Byrd worked out with Dallas front office members last Thursday. The former Hurricane standout also had a meeting with the New York Giants last week.

Meanwhile, the Cowboys are also interested in getting former Tampa Bay Buccaneers veteran guard Davin Joseph, who was released this offseason by the Bucs in order for them to avoid a $6 million hit against the salary cap.

Bookmark and Share

Reggie Wayne to naysayers: 'You guys motivate me'

On the same day Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck called Reggie Wayne a "freak in terms of health and what he can do at his age," the veteran receiver promised his surgically rebuilt knee wouldn't hold him back in 2014.

"You can believe I'm that dog that keeps jumping over the fence," Wayne told reporters Friday at a charity event, per The Indianapolis Star.

"You guys say that I can't do it. I'm 35. I'm over the hill. No way I can come back the same," said the 13-year veteran. "I wasn't a big newspaper reader, but I've become one. Next time I read it, maybe you'll be saying I've found the fountain of youth."

Wayne spoke repeatedly of his "naysayers," telling the group: "It's you guys. You guys motivate me."

Wayne also has his believers, including Luck, who knows firsthand what losing the Pro Bowl wideout in October meant for Indy's passing game. With Wayne back in the mix alongside T.Y. Hilton and the newly signed Hakeem Nicks, the Colts are well-equipped to assault teams through the air.

It's not just the starting wave. Wayne's absence also led to increased snaps for LaVon Brazill, Griff Whalen and the intriguing Da'Rick Rogers. The Colts are deep at the position, not to mention Indy's pair of pass-catching tight ends in Coby Fleener and the returning Dwayne Allen.

Add it all up, and this passing game has the chance to make some serious noise in the AFC.

Bookmark and Share

Ravens not interested in Eric Winston

Coach John Harbaugh confirmed the Ravens have not had any contract talks with free agent RT Eric Winston.

The Ravens have just Ricky Wagner as an in-house replacement for Michael Oher, but 30-year-old Winston wouldn't be much of an upgrade despite his ties to OC Gary Kubiak. ESPN's Jamison Hensley expects Baltimore to target a right tackle early in the draft.

Bookmark and Share

Reggie Wayne Back In Indianapolis

INDIANAPOLIS – Sunday marks the sixth-month “anniversary” of Reggie Wayneicon-article-link limping off the Lucas Oil Stadium turf with a torn ACL.

It’s not an anniversary any NFL player hopes to have but Wayne’s approach to a strenuous offseason is what you would expect from a six-time Pro Bowler entering his 14th NFL season.

On Friday night, Wayne hosted a charity event to benefit the American Cancer Society and he shared his thoughts on his rehab and the 2014 season with OTAs beginning on Monday.

On if the rehab process is “easier” after going through it during his sophomore year at Miami:
“I don’t think it ever gets easy. I really believe that going through it before, it gives you perspective on what’s next. People that really never had that particular surgery don’t know what to look forward to or what’s next. I kind of already had my foot in the door. But it never gets easy. It’s always tough. Everybody knows the first three weeks is tough then you are going to plateau a little bit. Then you are going to go down and you’ve got to find a way to get yourself back up. It’s been challenging but at the same time I’ve taken it in stride.”

On what motivates him to return to the playing field:
“They say whatever you’re doing you need to find something that motivates you. I could easily say my kids, my family, my boys. When I told them I was done for the year, I could see their shoulders just sink. I could easily say that’s my motivation but that’s understood. You look outside the box. You guys (the media) are the ones that say I can’t do it. ‘You’re 35. You’re over the hill. No way I can comeback the same.’ I wasn’t a big newspaper reader but I’ve become one. Hopefully I can get you guys to kind of sing another tune and next time I read it, you can say I finally found my youth.”

On the key to having a successful rehab process:
“I think being disciplined is the main thing. You are going to have them days when you really don’t want to get out of bed and rehab but you have to be disciplined to go out there and do it. I really look at is as life. My definition of life is what happens when you expect something else. You’ve got to deal with it. I just get back and if I want to continue to play football then I’ve got to go out and grind. If I want to prove some naysayers wrong, I’ve got to get out and grind. I do understand that’s part of it. I’m excited. I feel great and hopefully they let me loose a little bit. I know they are going to hold me down a little bit, which is probably the right thing to do. But they can believe I’m that dog that keeps jumping over the fence. Hopefully they can contain me.”

On his thoughts on the 2014 Colts:
“I feel great. I’m excited. I’m excited about the team we are building. I feel like we are going in the right direction so hopefully the new additions we’ve added, get them on the same program, get everybody just going upward. We know that we are close but we still have a long way to go. Hopefully we can use this offseason to get better and better and go from there.”

On what OTAs mean to him:
“I really believe that this is the time where teams take that next step. If you take this time here and take it for granted, you take a down step. I really feel the early part of the offseason is where you get better and hopefully everybody has that same mindset and can take advantage of it.”

Bookmark and Share

Vinny Testaverde's Son Heading to Lubbock

Testaverde, the son of former Heisman Trophy winner and NFL quarterback Vinny Testaverde, is apparently heading to Lubbock to join the Texas Tech football program, the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal reports.

Testaverde, who previously quarterbacked a regional semifinal team at Tampa (FL) Jesuit, never played organized football until his junior year in high school. Nevertheless, he has apparently elected to join the Texas Tech football program, and none too soon - Holiday Bowl offensive MVP Davis Webb remains the Red Raiders' lone quarterback, this after Baker Mayfield and Michael Brewer transferred after last season and walk-ons Tanner Tausch and Mike Richardson recently elected to leave the program.

Bookmark and Share

Edgerrin James and the falling value of running backs

It was a rainy Saturday in March 2006 when Edgerrin James visited the Cardinals for the first time. Kurt Warner was gamely trying to hold his annual flag football tournament on the practice fields, and the Cards were in the process of locking up a star running back. The price, in the end, was four years and $30 million. James didn’t collect all of it, but he still got plenty. The Colts felt James was on the downside, not worth the cash, and in the end, they were proven right that they didn’t need him — winning the Super Bowl in 2006 with young Joseph Addai and the serviceable yet forgettable Dominic Rhodes at running back.

The overall trend to run through running backs when they were cheaper and then move on hadn’t enveloped the NFL completely. But that’s about when the Cards’ thought process turned. From there, Tim Hightower was a fifth-round pick who essentially replaced Edge in 2008. Beanie Wells was added in the first round for 2009. Ryan Williams was drafted in 2011. Then came Andre Ellington and Stepfan Taylor last season. The Cardinals have not spent anything close to significant money on a free agent running back since Edge. They have yet to have a running back drafted play past his rookie contract. The reality of the NFL is that the position has not only be devalued, the bottom dropped out of the market faster than Arizona home sales circa 2009.

Only Williams is scheduled to make at least $1 million this season, and whether he remains on the 53-man roster for 2014 is very much up in the air. Ellington (who only will make $495,000) is the starter, and whether Taylor ($495,000) or Jonathan Dwyer ($795,000) is the other back, there is little (relative) investment. You see the same across the league, with the money being paid to free agent running backs, with the way running backs are sliding down the draft every year. The way things have gone, that No. 3 overall pick spent on Trent Richardson might be the last time a top 10 pick is spent on a back ever.

Of course, “ever” is a long time. Sometimes, a back is special and deserves the big money. Adrian Peterson comes to mind (and no, we won’t go into how he ties into the Cardinals and the Edge signing right now.) But these days, it doesn’t look like many Petersons will emerge. Not the way colleges are using running backs themselves, and not the way the NFL is handling them once they get to the pros.

Bookmark and Share

49ers met with proCane offensive tackle Seantrel Henderson

In 2007, the 49ers met before the draft with a player who was regarded as a character risk.

Coach Mike Nolan and personnel chief Scot McCloughan, the 49ers' top-ranking football people at the time, came away from their meeting with Tarell Brown feeling good enough about him that the club selected Brown in the fifth round of the draft.

Brown spent seven seasons with the 49ers and there was never any hint of character issues during his time with the team.

Each NFL team is allowed 30 pre-draft visits with prospects. Sometimes those visits are with players with whom they have genuine interest for early-round selections. Sometimes a team, such as the 49ers, will want to create the false impression there is interest.

But other times it’s because the team simply wants to gain more information about a player with either character or health concerns.

The 49ers had one such visit this week, according to a source. Miami offensive tackle Seantrel Henderson traveled to Santa Clara to meet with the 49ers.

Henderson (6 foot 7, 331 pounds) is a talented tackle prospect who has good feet and agility for a player of his size. However, he was suspended three times during his career for violating team rules. The Sun-Sentinel reported in January that Henderson admitted to NFL teams at the Senior Bowl that marijuana use led to the suspensions.

Pass-rusher Demarcus Lawrence of Boise State, who was also suspended three times in his college career, is scheduled to meet with the 49ers next week, the Sacramento Bee previously reported.

Bookmark and Share

Top Bears Draft Picks: #22 Devin Hester

As the NFL Draft approaches, Grizzly Detail is counting down the Top 30 draft picks in Chicago Bears history. In order to qualify for this list, a player must have worn a Bears uniform for at least five seasons (sorry Rosevelt Colvin and Wilber Marshall), and players who were selected in lower rounds of the draft will have an advantage in this countdown.

We continue the countdown with the greatest kick returner in NFL history, as Devin Hester checks into our list in the #22 slot.

The Details:
Drafted in the second round of the 2006 NFL Draft, Hester immediately burst onto the scene with the Bears and set about smashing records throughout the NFL. In his first season alone, Hester picked up five touchdown returns (three punts, two kick-offs), and transformed the Bears’ special teams unit from an asset into an explosive phase of the game.

Overall in his career with the Bears, Hester returned 13 punts for touchdowns and added five more kick-off returns for scores, including a career long 98-yarder during the 2011 season. He has since moved on to greener pastures with the Atlanta Falcons, but his legacy will remain strong for what he did during his tenure with the team that drafted him.

Career Highlights:
If there is any one moment in Hester’s career that will define him, it will be the kick-off return that opened Super Bowl XLI that will be remembered forever. His cut up the field to start the game against the Indianapolis Colts electrified the soaking wet crowd in Miami, and even though the joy was short-lived as the Bears went on to be trounced in the game, it was still a stirring reminder of the magic he was capable of.

Hester naturally had his share of bad moments in addition to those moments of glory. He never really stood out when he was playing defensive back for the Bears, the position at which he was drafted, and even when he transitioned to wide receiver later in his career, he didn’t fare much better. He did snare 14 touchdown grabs in 123 games, but his effectiveness was limited by poor route running and an inability to adjust to coverages that teams would throw at him.
It was ultimately that inability to stand out as a wide-out that led Marc Trestman to put Hester in strictly for return duties during the 2013 season, and likely was the reason why the team did not re-sign him when his contract expired. The move ruffled some feathers, including those of linebacker Lance Briggs, but the team simply couldn’t afford to keep a luxury item like Hester at the price that other teams were willing to pay for his services.

Our Reasoning:
As the only special teamer on this list, Hester certainly is worthy of the slot at which he ended up. He redefined the expectations for what a kick returner can do during his time with the team, and despite his failure to adjust effectively to the wide receiver position, he still managed to make a huge impact with the squad.

That being said, Hester would have ranked higher both if he had managed to play another position besides that of a return man AND if he had continued the stellar production that he put up in his first few years in the league. He was slowed considerably by the adjustments teams made when they were kicking (or more often, not kicking) to him, but the fact is that he lost a step after those first few seasons, and didn’t keep the closing speed that made him such a lethal weapon in the first place.

Bookmark and Share

Allen Hurns had private workout with Cincinnati Bengals

Though it's certainly low on the positions of need, the Bengals may still be in the market for a receiver late in this year's NFL Draft. While A.J. Green. Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu are likely opening the 2014 season as the starting three.

After that, Brandon Tate, Cobi Hamilton Ryan Whalen and Dane Sanzenbacher will battle for 3-4 more roster spots. Tate, Whalen and Sanzenbacher all have just one year left on their deals, do adding a late-round or undrafted WR would be ideal.

Could Miami's Allen Hurns be on the Bengals' radar?

According to Sun Sentinel writer Christy Chirinos, Hurns had a private workout with the Bengals, in which he felt he "dominated" the workout. He'll need to dominate all of his workouts, as most projected him as a late-round or undrafted prospect.

In 2013, Hurns played in all 13 games at receiver, making 11 starts and leading the team in receptions (62) and receiving yards (1,162) and second on team with six TD receptions. He set single-season school record with 1,162 receiving yards, breaking mark previously held by Leonard Hankerson, and his 62 receptions are the third-most in single-season at UM.

But there are a lot of holes in Hurns' game. He's not a great route-runner, and he has far too many drops. Watching his tape, it's clear he's too inconsistent to warrant anything more than a late 6th-round pick. It didn't help that he played with the enigmatic Stephen Morris.

Speaking of which, Morris is working with QB guru Tom House, the same person tutoring Andy Dalton this offseason. It may be a chance for Morris to talk to Dalton about Hurns and what he can bring to the Bengals, or it may be nothing more than a coincidence.

That said, the Bengals are very quiet and particular when it comes to who they host for private workouts. Hurns will be a name to watch in the 6th and 7th rounds and afterwards if he goes undrafted.

Bookmark and Share

Clinton Portis speaks at East Rowan

GRANITE QUARRY ­­— Clinton Portis retired from the NFL in 2012 but he’s got plenty of good years left.

He’s 32 now, but not that far removed from the 17- and 18-year olds he was talking to at East Rowan High School on Wednesday afternoon. Sports can keep you young, but it can age your body in a hurry, especially if you’re a running back. If there’s a lesson to be taught from retiring at 29, it’s that opportunities don’t come around often and don’t last forever. Portis maximized his talents and tried to relay that to the students in an assembly.

Granite Quarry is probably as far away as you can get from Miami culturally, but Portis entered East in a nondescript gray hooded sweatshirt looking like another Rowan County resident and not a record-breaking football star.

“I wouldn’t say it was cut short,” Portis said of his playing days. “I played long enough. I think nine years in the NFL was great. My time was up. Injuries are a part of the game. It’s a violent game and I played it to the best of my abilities.”

His time in college was awesome too. Portis was part of the 2001 Miami team that won the national championship and had an unreal legacy with NFL players like Jeremy Shockey, Ed Reed, Andre Johnson, Willis McGahee and Vince Wilfork. The Hurricanes rolled Nebraska 37-14 in the national title game, giving the ‘Canes their fifth championship in 18 years.

“It was unbelievable,” said Portis, who was inducted into the Miami Hall of Fame last week. “Who’d ever thought looking back 10 years later that there’d be so many successful guys from that team.”

Portis headlined a three-school tour Wednesday that was part of a “Game Plan For Life” program that was sponsored by the Rowan-Kannapolis ABC Board and Joe Gibbs Racing. Former NFL players Steve Israel, Renaldo Wynn and NASCAR driver Darrell Wallace also spoke at length about the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse.

Israel, now a wealth management advisor at Fifth Third Bank, told the crowd that when you invest in something, you see a bigger return. Setting goals was emphasized and Israel revealed his goals as a youth of playing football for Pittsburgh, obtaining an economics degree and dating the prettiest girl on campus.

Portis likened his life to always being fourth or fifth on the depth chart and overcoming challenges to become No. 1. As a small-town kid from Mississippi, Portis avoided drugs and alcohol and stayed out of trouble despite his brother, Gary Hampton, falling in with the wrong crowd and later serving time in prison.
After leaving the game at 29, he’s seeking fulfillment in contributing to the community.

The former Denver Broncos and Washington Redskins ball carrier works with ACC Network as a college football analyst.

Portis gave away autographed footballs to Sam Wyrick and Darin Basso and Amani Ajayi received a signed jersey.

“The opportunity to speak to today’s youth is an easy opportunity to be involved in,” Portis said. “I think kids think that they go through. I tell them it’s a recycled period. They go through the same thing I went through.”

Bookmark and Share

James Jones comes out of ‘bullpen’ to give Miami Heat a boost

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra compared James Jones to a relief pitcher in baseball.

When called in from the bullpen Sunday afternoon, Jones came in throwing strikes.

Jones had perhaps the biggest impact of Miami’s bench players in Sunday’s 99-88 win over visiting Charlotte in the Heat’s 2014 postseason opener.

“We didn’t know we would need to get that deep into the rotation,” Spoelstra said moments after Jones finished with 12 points in 14 minutes 11 seconds.

“I love the guys on our bench because they keep themselves ready. You never know when that kind of opportunity is going to happen.

“You have to be able to produce, and it’s not easy.”

Jones didn’t log much playing time in last year’s run to the championship.

When he checked in with 4:19 left in the second quarter, it marked his first playoff game since Game 5 of the 2013 Finals in San Antonio.

Last season, Jones scored three points in three of the nine postseason games he appeared in.

For Jones, finding himself at the end of the bench before suddenly being asked to help out is something he’s used to. It’s not something he necessarily likes, but he has been dealing with it for some time.

“I’ve been in this role for a couple of years here, and I think the difficult times in dealing with it have passed,” said Jones, a former Miami American High standout who was inducted into the University of Miami Sports Hall of Fame earlier this month.

“I’m a competitor, and I play this game to play and to win. [On Sunday], I got a chance to do both.”

Jones replaced Chris Andersen late in the second quarter with the Heat leading by one.

Jones got two rebounds and an assist in his first minute of play before scoring his first points on a layup after Mario Chalmers stole the ball at midcourt and fed him after drawing a pair of defenders.

With 50 seconds left, Jones drew a foul on a three-point shot from the corner and hit two of three free throws to give Miami an 11-point lead.

“I was a little surprised, we have had a very solid rotation all year,” Jones said. “I was expecting us, with the need for energy, for one of our reserves to come in. Coach called my number and asked me to bring some energy, make some shots. That’s what I did.”

By the time he replaced Udonis Haslem in the third, Charlotte had closed to a tie. Jones gave the Heat yet another spark, and his three-pointer with 45.1 seconds left in the period put Miami up six.

“We were a little lethargic,” Jones said, “but we bounced back. We have 15 real NBA-talented guys and in the playoffs, all bets are off.
“You have to do whatever it takes to win.”

Jones is in his sixth season with the Heat and quickly dismissed thoughts of retirement after Miami’s first title in 2012.

Although he hasn’t seen much playing time this year — Sunday’s game was just the eighth time he has received 14-plus minutes this season — Jones knows where he stands with the Heat.

“He’s a unique guy, and we learned that early on during the pre-Big 3 team,” Spoelstra said. “You can bring him out of the bullpen, and not many guys have that kind of mentality. He understands the big-picture stuff and is willing to sacrifice. He doesn’t have an ego in that regard, but he has an incredible amount of confidence when he gets out there. That’s a tough balance.”

Now what about Wednesday?

Spoelstra said Jones could go back to riding the bench for much of the night in Game 2 against the Bobcats. Or maybe he won’t.

“I don’t know,” Spoelstra said.

“You can say we rode the hot hand.”

Indeed, one LeBron James thinks will come up big for Miami as he compared Jones to the departed Mike Miller as a potential Heat playoff hero.

“He’s a key ingredient to our success in this postseason,” James said. “We’re a different team than last year. Obviously, without Mike Miller on this team, J.J. is going to be able to fill that void.”

Bookmark and Share

Yonder Alonso appears at third base

Yonder Alonso played an inning at third base after coming off the bench Thursday against the Rockies.

It was Alonso's third career appearance at third; he played a full game there for the Reds in 2011 and also part of an inning there for the Padres last year. This gives him some extra eligibility and value in some fantasy leagues.

Bookmark and Share

Jon Jay called. He wants his job back.

It's funny the difference a little bit of time can back. In 2012, the St. Louis Cardinals centerfielder Jon Jay was on top of the world.

Riding the wave of the organization's 11th world championship, Jay had a career season. Over the course of the year, he became one of the league's best leadoff men.

Hitting .305 with 19 stolen bases in 2013, Jay was on top of the world. There were even talks of him being in the running for a Gold Glove award.
While his glove was solid, Jay's arm left something to be desired.

How quickly things can change.

In 2013, Jay's defense took a serious hit. Both his arm and range seemed to decrease substantially, with little patience from the Cardinals fan base.

Offensively, he declined somewhat as well, but not as much as the hype would have one to believe.

A career .293 hitter, Jay batted .276 in 2013. Despite the lower average, he had 67 RBI (an increase of 27 over the previous season) and nearly doubled his home run total to seven.

Regardless of his offense, to go from being considered a possible Gold Glove-caliber outfielder to being a fourth outfielder at best is quite the slide.

With the Cardinals trading for Peter Bourjos, Jay was given some legitimate competition for 2014. So far, he's making a case that he should be back in the lineup.

And he started making that case early this year.

Since April 12, Jay is batting .346 with a home run and five RBI. He's not crushing the ball, but he is getting on base consistently.

Defensively, he's still struggling—but that's taking a back seat at the moment because Bourjos' offense has been slow to get going.

Batting only .190 through 42 at bats, Bourjos is still getting acclimated to his new team and home field. The season is still young and the front office still seems committed to giving him time to get warmed up, no position is guaranteed in this organization.

He who earns the job, will hold the position.

For now, Bourjos has the slot, but if he doesn't heat up soon that could change quickly.

At least, it will if Jon Jay has anything to say about it.

Bookmark and Share

Surgery not recommended for Ryan Jackson

Padres infielder Ryan Jackson may not need surgery after all, as reports he has been diagnosed with a just a strain in his right wrist. It was previously reported that he would need surgery on the wrist, though further examination was needed, which he received via the team's doctors in San Diego.

Bookmark and Share

Jon Jay seeing more starts in center field

Jon Jay has started three of the last four games in center field for the Cardinals.

Manager Mike Matheny is simply playing the hot hand, as Jay has four hits -- including a three-run homer -- in 12 at-bats over that stretch. "Jon has done a nice job, and I think that is something that all these guys need to know from us," Matheny said. "It is, ‘What do I need to get an opportunity to play?’ Jon had four quality at-bats (Wednesday). It’s a good day for him to keep that swing going." With the Nationals starting lefty Gio Gonzalez Friday, Peter Bourjos should be back manning center field.

Bookmark and Share

Ryan Braun's ninth-inning homer carries Brewers

Pittsburgh — With boos cascading down from every angle of PNC Park, Ryan Braun let his bat do the talking Saturday night.

The embattled rightfielder went 3 for 5, scored four runs and homered twice, with his second — a two-run shot off all-star closer Jason Grilli with one out in the ninth inning — lifting the Milwaukee Brewers to a dramatic 8-7 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates.

"I embrace the challenge of an atmosphere and an environment like this," Braun said, referring to the crowd of 32,490 that let him know in no uncertain terms each time his name was announced how he's viewed in Pittsburgh.

"As a competitor, I think it makes it enjoyable. It makes it challenging. One way or the other, they're either going to be really happy or I'm going to enjoy it. Facing Jason Grilli, you know you've got your hands full.

"He's one of the best relievers in baseball and has been over the last few years. I was fortunate I was able to get the barrel to (the ball)."

The Brewers led, 4-1, before a five-run fourth inning made possible by several miscues — defensive and otherwise — allowed the Pirates to rally against starter Matt Garza, who remains without a victory after his first four turns in a Milwaukee uniform.

Pittsburgh scored again in the sixth to make it 7-5 before Braun scalded a ball to left-center off left-hander Tony Watson with one out in the seventh. It went over the fence on a line, narrowing the deficit to 7-6.

"I was surprised it carried out," Braun said, his troublesome right thumb still encased in ice. "I knew I had backspun it, but I thought it would maybe one-hop the wall or if I got lucky, get it off the wall. So I was surprised that ball got out."

Mark Melancon and Jim Henderson (2-0) each threw scoreless eighth innings to set the stage for Braun's big blow in the ninth.

After Grilli fanned Carlos Gomez for the first out, Jean Segura fell behind 0-2 before slapping a slider into left. With the boos raining down on him yet again, Braun strode to the plate and wasted little time angering the fans even more.

Grilli threw a 94-mph fastball that Braun hammered to straightaway center, just feet to the right of his first blast in the Milwaukee bullpen. Suddenly the Brewers were back in front, 8-7, and very quickly closer Francisco Rodriguez started warming up.

"Seggy got a base hit and I took my jacket off and I hadn't even stretched," Rodriguez said. "I turn around and the ball is coming flying into us, so I had to start getting ready quick."

Grilli got out of the frame with no further damage, but Rodriguez got a little extra time when Aramis Ramirez was plunked the at-bat after Braun's homer.

As it turned out, Braun's homer represented the first two runs scored by the Brewers off Grilli since 2007, when he was with the Detroit Tigers — a span of 17 scoreless innings.

"That's the type of statistic we don't want to be aware of," said Braun, who has 20 multi-homer games. His previous, a three-homer game, came April 8 across the state in Philadelphia.

"I don't think many teams have a lot of success against a guy like that — or their whole bullpen, for that matter. Their whole bullpen throws 95-plus; they all have great stuff.

"There's a reason they've been so successful. So it's not a good formula to have to come back against a team like this, but tonight we were able to do it."

Rodriguez entered and got the dangerous Andrew McCutchen to ground out to third before plunking Pedro Alvarez to bring the go-ahead run to the plate in the form of Jose Tabata.

With two hits and two runs already, Tabata jumped on Rodriguez's second offering and hit a tailor-made ground ball to Scooter Gennett, who started a game-clinching, 4-6-3 double play capped by a terrific stretch at first by Mark Reynolds.

It was the sixth save of the season for "K-Rod" and 310th of his career, tying him with Hall of Famer Goose Gossage for 20th on the all-time list.

"It means a lot," he said. "When you're right there with a Hall of Famer, I take a lot of pride in that. But at the same time, I'm not pitching for records at all. I pitch because I like this game, not for records or anything. But it's a privilege for me to be on that list."

And so it goes for the Brewers, who still hold the best record in the major leagues at 13-5 and sport an impressive 8-1 road record after stealing victories each of the last two nights from the Pirates.

On Friday, Milwaukee overcame four errors in the field and a couple of more on the base paths to win, 5-3. There were even more miscues in this one, but the Brewers were able to prevail again on the strength of Braun's big performance.

"We won another game that we probably shouldn't have won," said Brewers manager Ron Roenicke.

Rodriguez put it another way.

"We feel like we just took one out of their pocket," he said. "The crazy game yesterday, the way it ended up today, we'll take it. You're catching breaks, you have to capitalize and take it."

Bookmark and Share

Is Miami’s addition of RB Knowshon Moreno a bad thing for Lamar Miller?

Bookmark and Share

Following in Jimmy Graham’s footsteps, two Miami hoop players turn to football

It’s becoming something of a Miami tradition for basketball players to suddenly take up football with hopes of becoming a star tight end.

Jimmy Graham did it and has gone on to become one of the best players in the NFL at his position as a member of the New Orleans Saints.

Now two more Hurricanes are looking to follow in Graham’s footsteps.

Erik Swoope, an athletic 6-foot-5, 220-pound forward who averaged 5.0 points and 2.7 rebounds per game last season, has decided to enter his name into the upcoming NFL draft – even though he’s never played organized football at either the high school or college levels.

“I’m excited to enter my name in the NFL Draft and pursue a professional football career,” he Tweeted on Tuesday.

At least one team appears to be taking Swoope’s bid seriously. The Denver Broncos gave him a private workout last week.

Like Swoope, Hurricanes teammate Raphael Akpejiori is also exploring the possibility of playing football. The 6-foot-9, 241-pound forward has announced his intention to play tight end for Miami’s football team as a graduate student next fall.

Akpejiori, a native of Nigeria, averaged 0.8 points and 1.8 rebounds per game in his final season of college basketball.

Bookmark and Share

Broncos schedule workout with QB Stephen Morris

Even if the Broncos can’t draft every prospect they like, it can’t hurt to check out as many as possible while they’re unattached.

The Broncos have Ole Miss receiver Donte Moncrief and Miami quarterback Stephen Morris on their workout schedule.

Morris probably wouldn’t become a candidate for the Broncos’ roster unless he fell to the seventh round or undrafted pool. The Broncos already have two young backup quarterbacks in Brock Osweiler, a second-round draft pick in 2012, and Zac Dysert, a seventh-round selection in last year’s draft.

The 6-foot-2, 213-pound Morris is an intriguing prospect because he has superior arm strength and ran the 40 in 4.63 seconds.

Bookmark and Share

Cowboys Will Work Out LaRon Byrd

LaronByrd 2
IRVING, Texas -- With the NFL draft at the forefront of their minds, the Dallas Cowboys are not ignoring free agency.

Two-time Pro Bowl guard Davin Joseph visited with the club earlier in the week, and wide receiver LaRon Byrd will work out for the team on Thursday, according to sources.

Byrd, 6-foot-4, 220 pounds, spent last year on injured reserve with the Arizona Cardinals because of a concussion. He was released earlier in the month and worked out recently for the New York Giants.

Bookmark and Share

Aubrey Huff Unloading Beautiful San Diego Pad – $3.995 Million

I’m having a hard time believing Aubrey Huff only made $57,825,001 during his MLB career. This guy hammered out 242 dongs and the most he ever made in a season was $10,000,000.

Anyway, Huff is selling his San Diego pad for just shy of $4 million.

According to his realtor:

Resort living in this single-level estate on one of the prettiest corner lots and locations in the prestigious guard gated community of Rancho Pacifica. Beautifully constructed with the finest attention to detail and design, and wonderful integration on the elevated south- and west-oriented lot for maximum enjoyment of the open vistas, sunlight and ocean breezes.

Real Highlights Of Aubrey’s San Diego Resort
• 5 beds, 5 full baths and a half
• Basketball court
• Pool that is perfect for a bikini photoshoot
• 15 miles from Whole Foods
• 14 miles from Goldfingers strip club

Mortgage: $15,477/mo. before you start talking about taxes and gardeners

Bookmark and Share

Yonder Alonso fields grounders at third base just in case

SAN DIEGO -- With Chase Headley nursing a mild strain of his right biceps, and with the Padres short on options at third base, first baseman Yonder Alonso crossed the diamond during batting practice prior to the game Wednesday against the Rockies.

Alonso took ground balls three hours before the game under the watchful eye of manager Bud Black and others.

Consider it insurance in case the team gets in a bind and needs someone to man the hot corner in a pinch.

"We've got a third baseman who is day to day with a biceps strain, and if something happens tonight, we might need someone to go over there," Black said. "[Alonso] has got good hands and a good arm. We're going to look at it a little."

Alonso has appeared in two games at third base during his Major League career -- with the Reds in 2011 and once with the Padres last season.

Alonso isn't a complete stranger to the position. He played it a lot as a youth and moved over to first base at the University of Miami because Ryan Braun played third base.

Bookmark and Share

Ryan Braun still bothered by thumb

Milwaukee Brewers OF Ryan Braun (thumb) is still being bothered by his ailing right thumb, which is why he was held out Wednesday, April 16. He's hitting .269 with three home runs and 10 RBIs, but his homers and seven of his RBIs came in one day on April 8.

Fantasy Tip: This is something you'll need to keep an eye on. Braun started slow, minus the breakout game against the Phillies. He may need to continue to be rested in the near future to avoid making his thumb worse.

Bookmark and Share

New York Giants Meet with Wide Receiver LaRon Byrd

LaronByrd 2
The Giants brought in free agent wide receiver LaRon Byrd, who previously spent two seasons with the Arizona Cardinals.

Byrd, an undrafted free agent who signed with the Cardinals in 2012, opened eyes in his first camp and preseason, even drawing comparisons to teammate Larry Fitzgerald. However, in his first NFL season, the 6'4'' wideout managed only a single reception for eight yards and often struggled with drops. Then, in his second camp with the team, found himself on the wrong end of a Bruce Arians criticism.

"Not really, to be honest," Arians said last season. "He had a couple nice catches that were unbelievable throws. He's too inconsistent right now. He has talent and a good future, but he's got to get more consistent."

Ultimately, Byrd suffered a concussion and was waived. Upon clearing waivers, he was placed on season-ending Injured Reserve (IR). The Cardinals then released him earlier this month.

In addition to Byrd, the Giants are also reportedly interested in wide receiver Sidney Rice (Seattle Seahawks), although it remains unclear if he'll also be meeting with the team on Tuesday.

Bookmark and Share

Is Erik Swoope the next Jimmy Graham?

Miami’s Erik Swoope is following in the footsteps of a former Hurricane, Jimmy Graham. Swoope officially declared for May’s NFL draft Tuesday.

Erik Swoope @eswoope21 “I’m excited to enter my name in the NFL Draft and pursue a professional football career.”

The four most productive NFL tight ends in 2013 each have basketball backgrounds. The list doesn’t even include the Denver Broncos’ Julius Thomas, who played basketball at Portland State before turning to the gridiron his final year on campus.

As a forward for the Hurricanes, Swoope averaged 2.6 points during his career. Swoope’s time in Miami is defined by his athleticism, leadership and rim-rattling dunks.

At 6-5 and 220 pounds, Swoope is an impressive specimen, but he’ll need to add weight to play tight end in the NFL. Swoope lost 20 pounds prior to his senior season, according to Miami’s official website. If Swoope can play at 240 to 250 pounds, he’ll be more effective.

Swoope will inevitably be compared to Graham, because they came from the same school. However, the better comparison is to Antonio Gates. Swoope, like Gates, didn’t play football at the collegiate level. Swoope never even played football at the high school level. Whereas Graham, Thomas and the Cleveland Browns’ Jordan Cameron all played at least one season of college football before making the leap to the NFL.

But that doesn’t mean teams aren’t interested in Swoope. NFL teams now scout basketball programs for the types of talent that could possibly translate.

The Denver Broncos, for example, already struck gold with Thomas, and they may attempt to do so a second time who worked out Swoope last week.

Bookmark and Share

Mike James gained muscle, recovering well

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers showed off some excellent depth at the running back position last season, as they were able to recover from two season-ending injuries to their top two backs. Doug Martin was the every-down, workhorse back and face of the offense to start the season after his excellent rookie year, but he tore his labrum relatively early in the season and was replaced by rookie Mike James.

The Miami product always looked solid, but now he looks like a guy who could blossom after impressively racking up 295 yards on 60 carries (4.9 YPC) before breaking his ankle in mid-November. Bobby Rainey showed some flashes replacing him and Brian Leonard wasn’t an awful fourth guy on the depth chart overall, so the Buccaneers can definitely feel confident about their RB situation going forward, especially with Martin leading the way and James behind him.

620 WDAE’s Bucs beat writer Tom Krasniqi tweeted that he recently spoke with James, and he added that James “looks bigger” after adding some more muscle. The running back told Krasniqi that “he’s coming along well” from surgery to repair his broken ankle, so it sounds like he’s ready to threaten for some significant snaps behind Martin in a new-look Buccaneers offense that will feature a revamped line, Josh McCown at quarterback, and possibly Mike Evans replacing Mike Williams as the WR opposite of Vincent Jackson.

Bookmark and Share

Brandon Linder Awaits His Fate As NFL Draft Nears

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Hometown boy, Brandon Linder, is looking to make it to the NFL.

Brandon, a former University of Miami offensive lineman, loves the outdoors as much as he loves the football field.

With the NFL draft less than a month away, Brandon is getting ready for the opportunity of a lifetime.

Brandon at the annual draft will hear his name called—where he ends up is anybody’s guess and, to be honest, Brandon just wants to play football.

“This something that–ever since I was a pee wee in football–this has been a dream of mine. Ever since high school and college, it started ‘hey I can do something with this, I can make this my career and this is something that I want to do,” said Linder.

Linder, who is expected to go anywhere from the third to the fifth round, spends hours a day preparing for his next big step. But despite his dedication to football, Brandon always finds time for his other passions; bow hunting, diving and fishing whenever he gets the chance to use his custom UM rod and reel.

“You know I work out five days a week, it’s like seven in the morning to like noon, so like in the afternoon I can sneak out and get a little trip and even if I’m driving around here fishing the lakes, fishing for a peacock bass, that’s something that satisfies me,” Bradon said.

What the South Florida native can’t escape from is the wait, the wait to see what the next chapter in his life holds.

Whether it’s in Green Bay, Seattle, Kansas City, or maybe right here in Miami in his hometown with the Dolphins.

“I’ve been born and raised here, you know it would be something cool to be being a hometown kid, going to high school and college here, I think that would be awesome. But again, it’s really not up to me and I’m grateful for any opportunity that I do get”

Whether it’s dodging alligators in the everglades or avoiding sharks off the Bahamas, Brandon knows that those adventures will pale in comparison to the challenges he is about to face in the NFL.

“Now that I’ve transitioned about learningicon1 about the NFL and all that stuff, I feel like it’s a big gap , that I can’t wait to start learning all this new stuff that I would have to be learning”

Bookmark and Share

Clinton Portis, former NFL star, sells Miami condo to avoid foreclosure

Clinton Portis, former running back who played in nine NFL seasons, has avoided a foreclosure on his condominium in Bristol Tower in Miami by selling it for $900,000, reports the South Florida Business Journal.

Purchased for $665,000 in 2004, the 2,070-square-foot condo sold for enough to allow Portis to repay his full loan as well as earn a 35 percent profit.

According to the report, the property was slated for foreclosure by JPMorgan and Chase, which filed a lawsuit against Portis and his mother regarding the original $512,000 mortgage Dec. 12. The mortgage was granted in 2004, the year in which Portis joined the Washington Redskins after his first two seasons at the Denver Broncos for an eight-year contract for $50.5 million.

An earlier report on the website says that as the property is not listed as his homestead residence, it may be an investment property or housing for a relative.
Portis began his career at the University of Miami. When he was still relatively unknown, Lee Corso singled out Portis' performance during a defeat by Florida State, saying "that kid can play for me any time." Portis' sophomore season was not as successful as he lost his job to Michael Rainha. However, in 2001, Portis bounced back as the Hurricanes won the National Championship.

Portis last suited up in 2010, playing only five games due to injury. He officially retired from the game in 2012 and was one of several dozens of former players in a lawsuit against the NFL over concussions they suffered. However, the lawsuit was resolved when the NFL agreed to compensate the players and provide for their medical care.

Last April, Portis was inducted into the UM Sports Hall of Fame.

Bookmark and Share

Ray Lewis sells Highland Beach home for $4.77 million

Ray Lewis, the former Miami Hurricanes and Baltimore Ravens linebacker who retired as a Super Bowl champion last year, has sold his oceanfront mansion in Highland Beach for $4.77 million, Palm Beach County property records show.

Lewis bought the 6,788-square-foot home at 3573 S. Ocean Blvd. for $5.22 million in 2004. He listed it for sale at nearly $5 million.

The buyers were Dragos Alexe and Susanne Kramer. The home, built in 2001, has seven bedrooms, eight and a half bathrooms, a five-car garage and 58 feet of water frontage, according to the listing. 

Listing agent Emily K. Roberts, of Tauriello & Co. in Delray Beach, declined to answer questions, saying Lewis is “pretty private.”

Bookmark and Share

Gaby Sanchez makes most of starts at first base

CINCINNATI -- Gaby Sanchez's two home runs Monday night proved crucial in what ended up as a win after rain suspended the game. For him, they also were important because they came against right-handed pitchers.

"We don't face too many lefties or anything like that," Sanchez said. "Being able to come in and help the team out any which way is definitely a positive. That's what I'm here for."

Through their first 13 games, the Pirates have faced one left-handed starting pitcher, the Chicago Cubs' Travis Wood. As a result, the left-handed Travis Ishikawa started 10 of those games at first base, leaving the right-handed Sanchez with only three.

Manager Clint Hurdle said in spring training that he would not use a strict platoon between Ishikawa and Sanchez. The slew of right-handers out of the gates, combined with the fact the Pirates are scheduled to face five right-handers the rest of the week, means Hurdle must start Sanchez against right-handers if he wants to start him at all.

"It's not all hard numbers," Hurdle said of how he decides when to start Sanchez. "We're kind of old-school here. We'll look at what our eyes tell us and what our gut tells us and sometime the numbers scream at you. Sometimes, you can look at a batting average and it can read .200 and if you dig deeper it's four hard-hit balls and he only got two hits in 10 at-bats."

In 18 plate appearances through eight games, Sanchez had an .333 on-base percentage and .688 slugging percentage. In the weekend series in Milwaukee, Hurdle said, Sanchez worked on nothing but hitting the ball the opposite way.

"[Monday] felt good," Sanchez said. "Things that I'm putting in play in the cage and on the field during [batting practice] paid off. The thing is just to continue it, continue that feeling, continue getting the pitch that I need."

Sanchez's two home runs represented a third of the Pirates' long-ball output Monday night. The teams combined for 10 home runs in six innings before rain stopped the game.

"Definitely crazy," Sanchez said. "I'd never been in a game where that many home runs are hit by both teams, let alone one. It's one of those things that happens. Both teams were swinging the bat well."

Bookmark and Share

Peter O'Brien Named FSL Player of the Week

Tampa, Fla. - The first Player and Pitcher of the Week for the 2014 FSL Season was named today by the Florida State League. This was for games played April 3-13, 2014.  

The Player of the Week was Tampa Yankees Catcher Peter O'Brien. He played in 10 games, batting .333, with thirteen (13) hits in 39 plate appearances. His hits included four (4) homeruns and two (2) doubles. He had six (6) RBI's and scored (6) six times. His slugging average was .692 and his OBP was .366. This is Peter's third year in professional baseball and he resides in Miami Gardens, FL.

The Pitcher of the Week was Dunedin Blue Jays Lefthander Matt Boyd. Matt started two (2) games and had two (2) wins. His ERA was 0.00. In (12) innings pitched he allowed eight (8) hits, issued one walk, and struck out nine (9) batters. This is Matt's second year of professional baseball and he was born in Mercer Island, WA.

The Tampa Yankees are the Single-A Advanced Affiliate of the New York Yankees. For more information about the Tampa Yankees call (813) 673-3055 or visit

Bookmark and Share

VIDEO: Lamar Thomas - UM Hall of Fame acceptance speech

Bookmark and Share

VIDEO: Clinton Portis - UM Hall of Fame acceptance speech

Bookmark and Share

VIDEO: James Jones - UM Hall of Fame acceptance speech

Bookmark and Share

Broncos work out University of Miami basketball player Erik Swoope

The Broncos were rewarded for taking a chance on a former college basketball player when Julius Thomas blossomed into one of the most productive tight ends in the league last season and it seems they’re trying to see if lightning will strike twice. was the first to report that Erik Swoope went through a workout with the Broncos on Thursday and Manny Navarro of the Miami Herald snapped a photo of the session while it was going on. He averaged five points and 2.7 rebounds for the Hurricanes as a senior forward and never played football for Miami coach Al Golden’s squad.

Swoope is listed at 6-5 and 220 pounds, which would make tight end or wide receiver seem like the spots he might be able to fill on a football field.

Should Swoope make it to the NFL, he wouldn’t be the first former Hurricane hoopster to transition to the gridiron. Saints tight end Jimmy Graham made the same switch, although Graham played a year of football at the U before heading to the NFL. Expecting the same would be foolish, but NFL teams have been intrigued by athletic basketball players since Antonio Gates hit the league and strong workouts could position Swoope to be the next to benefit from that interest.

Bookmark and Share

Andre Johnson's University Of Miami Hall Of Fame Acceptance Speech

"Well I didn't prepare a speech... a lot of people know I don't talk much. But I'm truly humbled to be here tonight. To be inducted into the UM Hall of Fame is a tremendous honor. I had a childhood dream of being a Hurricane and playing for the University of Miami.

"I'm looking at guys in this room like Michael Irvin, Lamar Thomas, Horace Copeland... you know these guys have laid the foundation and when I came into UM in 1999 with Clinton, we had a goal, and our goal was getting the University of Miami back to where it was. And the guys before us had laid the foundation, and we accomplished that goal in 2001 and beat Nebraska in the National Championship.

"I'd like to thank my mom, my uncle and my brother who've been pretty much my support system since I've been playing the game of football. I don't think they've missed a game that I've played since little league, to high school to professional, so I'd like to thank them for being there for me.

"I'd like to thank all my coaches: Coach Kehoe, Coach Soldinger, Coach Mark. And I'd be wrong if I didn't thank Curtis Johnson. He was a hell of a receivers coach. He's the head coach over at Tulane now. He saw things in me that I didn't see in myself. Coming into UM, he wanted me to play in a way that I wasn't used to playing. He wanted me to play very physical and I wasn't used to that, so he started calling me "soft." I think as a player you don't like to be called soft; I don't care who you is. Like I said he saw things in myself that I didn't see in myself and he was hard on me. At first I didn't understand it, but as time went along, I figured it out. Me and him became real close friends and we still talk now today, so I'd like to thank Curtis Johnson because he's had a heck of an impact on my career.

"To sum it all up, this is where I wanted to be. I wanted to be a Hurricane, living my childhood dream, but I never thought I'd be in the UM Hall of Fame. I guess all the hard work has paid off and I thank everyone who supported me through it all... everyone who's been there for me and kept me positive and kept me on track, so thank you."

- Andre Johnson April 10, 2014

Bookmark and Share

Terrell Davis Expects Longevity from RB Frank Gore

Jim Harbaugh said last month that he expects 30-year-old running back Frank Gore to have “three more good years” in the NFL.

Terrell Davis agrees.

"What we've seen for 10 years has been a rock,” Davis, now an NFL Network analyst, told over the weekend. “How long can he continue to be solid for the Niners? Hopefully for a few more years.”

Gore, the San Francisco 49ers all-time leading rusher, rushed for 1,128 yards in his ninth season for the team last year. He enters 2014 with one year remaining on his contract and turns 31 in one month.

Davis, the Denver Broncos all-time rushing king, knows a thing or two about playing the contact-heavy position of running back. He played seven seasons in the league but was limited to 17 games over his final three.

Gore, meanwhile, has never played in fewer than 11 games in any one campaign.

“I expect him to continue to do what he's been doing, being a guy that once the opportunities are there and he's presented with the ball, he's going to make good on it,” the three-time All-Pro said of Gore, who entered the NFL in 2005, four years following Davis’ retirement at the age of 29. “I don't see anything changing for him this year unless the injuries crop up for him."

Bookmark and Share

Pressure is on Greg Olsen

Greg Olsen last season became the first Panthers tight end to lead the team in receiving since 1997 – and that was before the team held a fire sale at the wide receiver position.

Coming off the two most prolific receiving seasons by a Panthers tight end, Olsen has as much to gain as anyone following general manager Dave Gettleman’s tear-down and rebuild of the wide receiver corps.

And while Olsen said last week he’s always thrived when given more opportunities to catch the ball, he’s not ready to sound the alarm the way many Panthers fans – and at least one of his teammates – have.

“I know everyone at one point was kind of panicking. Would it have been nice to have those (receivers) back? Of course,” Olsen said at a screening of the movie “Draft Day.”

“But I think we’ve signed a lot of guys that can fill a lot of those roles,” Olsen added. “We’re putting it together. It’s hard to judge a team in March. When the season gets closer, that will be a better example of what our team is.”

Running back DeAngelo Williams said he was “still in shock” after the series of events that saw the Panthers release franchise receiving leader Steve Smith and lose wideouts Brandon LaFell, Ted Ginn Jr. and Domenik Hixon via free agency during a three-day stretch in March.

“I joked with people that my fantasy value went up after we got rid of our four receivers, but it’s the truth,” Williams said last week during an appearance on the NFL Network’s “NFL AM” show. “I went from probably being drafted in the fifth and sixth round to being in the first round – me and Jonathan (Stewart) alike because we have no receivers.”

The Panthers have begun to replenish the wideout position, but the tight ends and running backs figure to be featured prominently in 2014 – as they were in Mike Shula’s first season as offensive coordinator.

Shula is said to want to use more “12” personnel this year – one back, two tight ends and two receivers.

Fourth-year quarterback Cam Newton seems most comfortable running two-tight end sets. During his rookie season, when he passed for 4,051 yards to break Peyton Manning’s rookie record (since broken by Andrew Luck), Newton had the luxury of throwing to two pass-catching tight ends in Olsen and Jeremy Shockey.

The past two seasons Olsen hasn’t had a wing man.

But the Panthers added a potential No. 2 tight end last week when they signed Ed Dickson, who caught 54 passes three seasons ago in Baltimore. They previously re-signed fullback/tight end Richie Brockel and acquired blocking tight end Mike McNeill.

And then there’s the tight end/basketball forward/bodybuilder whom Newton calls ‘Swole Bones’ – Brandon Williams, the former Oregon tight end and small-college basketball player who remains something of a project.

But all that tight end inventory and well-paid running back depth won’t matter much if the Panthers don’t have wideouts consistently catching passes and stretching the field vertically – as Williams noted on his NFL Network appearance.

Williams’ concern isn’t necessarily the quality of the new receivers, but the fact they won’t get any work with Newton until training camp, when Newton is scheduled to return from ankle surgery.

“I just don’t want to see eight, nine guys in the box week in and week out because we’re working on our timing,” he said.

Olsen said it was tough to watch Smith go – as both a teammate and friend (the two remain neighbors). But he’s eager to see what Jerricho Cotchery, Jason Avant and Tiquan Underwood bring to the offense as well as the locker room.

Williams, the franchise’s all-time rushing leader, was asked whether the receiver shakeup puts more pressure on him.

“No, it puts more pressure on the front office because you make these moves and getting rid of our four receivers and then you have to bring in guys,” Williams told NFL Network. “Not saying that they’re no-name guys, but our guys made their name all on themselves.”

But Olsen said Gettleman made a name for himself last year by taking other teams’ castoffs and turning them into starters and contributors on a 12-win, playoff team.

“There is a plan. We have to trust in that,” Olsen said. “Mr. Gettleman’s done an awesome job since he’s gotten here in a short time putting pieces in place to fill holes. And doing so with guys other people maybe overlooked. Last year a lot of the guys that came in were in that type of situation and were huge parts of our team.”

Bookmark and Share

D-Jax signing hurts Santana Moss' roster chances?

ESPN Redskins reporter John Keim believes Santana Moss' road to making the roster became more difficult when the team signed DeSean Jackson.

Jackson's signing shifts Andre Roberts into the third-receiver, slot role formerly manned by Moss. Turning 35 in June, Moss was a shell of his former self last season, struggling to a 42-452-2 campaign. Moss will likely have to beat out one of Aldrick Robinson or Leonard Hankerson in training camp to keep his job.

Bookmark and Share

Clinton Portis evades foreclosure on Miami condo

Similar to how he skirted linebackers in the NFL, former Pro Bowl running back Clinton Portis evaded foreclosure on his Miami condo by selling it for enough to repay his loan.

JPMorgan Chase Bank filed a foreclosure lawsuit in December against Portis and his mother over the 2,070-square-foot unit in Bristol Tower at 2127 Brickell Ave. It concerned a mortgage granted for $512,000 in 2004.

Portis recently sold the unit for $900,000 to 2127 Brickell Property, which is managed by Paulo Javier Taborga Diaz.

Not only did that fully repay the loan, the sale was a 35 percent premium over the $665,000 that Portis paid for the condo in 2004, as the former University of Miami star benefitted big time from the real estate rebound.

Portis played for the Denver Broncos and Washington Redskins and last saw game action in 2010.

Bookmark and Share

Dwane Casey has his players’ ears, and John Salmons would know: ‘He gave us something to shoot for’

TORONTO — Here is the list: Larry Brown, Randy Ayers, Chris Ford, Jim O’Brien, Maurice Cheeks, Eric Musselman, Reggie Theus, Kenny Natt, Vinny Del Negro, Scott Skiles, Paul Westphal, Keith Smart, Mike Malone, Dwane Casey.

John Salmons is in his 12th year in the NBA, and he has played for 14 head coaches. Because of the volume, that means some have been good coaches and some have been bad. Some have had the respect of their players, and some have not.

“It’s a tough spot for a head coach,” Salmons said in a conversation with three reporters earlier this week. “The majority of the players get paid more than the coaches. A lot of times players have more power than coaches. If it’s a good organization from the top, the coach pretty much follows. If the organization gives the coach some leeway, some power from the top, then he [has respect].”

The Raptors have yearned for that type of stability for years now. June 2004 was the last time a general manager and coach ascended to their positions at roughly the same time for the Raptors, when Rob Babcock and Sam Mitchell landed those jobs, respectively. Last year, it was clear that general manager Bryan Colangelo and Casey, the Raptors’ coach, disagreed on some rather essential points.

This year, it seemed like a lock for that pattern to continue. Colangelo was removed as general manager, replaced by Masai Ujiri, who was emboldened with a five-year contract. Ujiri retained Casey, but did not extend his contract, which ends after this season. The situation still looked like a petri dish capable of growing more organizational dysfunction.

Yet, there was Casey on Wednesday, punctuating a four-game winning streak by harping on the Raptors’ diminished defence. He has continued to coach to his beliefs, and the players have not sensed any interference from above.

“A lot of organizations don’t allow coaches to do certain things,” Salmons said. When asked if that included setting a team’s rotation, Salmons nodded. “In this organization, they give [Casey] a lot of leeway to coach. Players see that and know that he’s got the back of the organization and they have to fall in line.

“All year he’s been trying to build for this moment. He was always looking at the bigger picture. Even when we were in the middle of making our run, he always had the bigger picture in mind … He gave us something to shoot for.”

They have not yet hit their target. The Raptors are 12-6 since March 9, an excellent record. However, the raw win-loss numbers lie a little bit: The Raptors have allowed 105.7 points per 100 possessions, just 17th in the league. In the three months prior, they had ranked fourth in the same category.

For Casey, who has preached defence for his entire tenure, that is worrisome. Part of the slippage has been injury-related, with Patrick Patterson, Amir Johnson and Kyle Lowry all missing some time and playing hurt in other games. Casey also pointed to calendar-related distractions — the playoffs are close, so it is hard not to let your mind wander.

However, for a team with so little playoff experience, it is critical that a coach has his players’ attention at this time of the year.

“You can tell if a coach is saying one thing and don’t really mean it or saying one thing and doing something different,” Salmons said. “That’s when players tend to lose respect for coaches. With [Casey], what you see is what you get. Straightforward, tell you how it is.

“Players want honesty. Just tell me what you want or what I’m not doing. You know what I’m saying? Just let me know. Don’t just hang me in the wind not knowing. I think they do a good job of that here. That’s a big deal.”

Bookmark and Share

Loomis: No deadline for Graham deal

BATON ROUGE, La. -- New Orleans Saints general manager Mickey Loomis shot down the notion Wednesday that the Saints and tight end Jimmy Graham will aim to strike a new deal by the middle of this month.

A report by Pro Football Talk last month cited a source as saying the two sides would try to reach a long-term contract agreement before the April 22 deadline for Graham to file a grievance over his franchise-tag designation. Graham was officially designated as a tight end, though it’s expected that Graham and agent Jimmy Sexton will file the grievance to argue that he should be considered a wide receiver based on where he lined up most often last season.

“Look, I’m always optimistic. But there’s no deadline here,” Loomis said when asked if that April 22 date was being used as a target.

Loomis, who spoke to the media while attending LSU’s pro day, declined to give any specific updates on how talks are developing with Graham. But he seemed to indicate that the pace hasn’t picked up much since the Saints first placed the franchise tag on Graham more than a month ago.

When asked for the most rational way for fans to look at the situation, Loomis cracked, “Well, when does training camp begin?”

“I don’t have an answer for that,” Loomis continued. “That’s a two-way street. You know, you guys [in the media] have been through this lots of times. I think all of us would rather have things done sooner rather than later, but it doesn’t always happen that way. So we’ll keep going, well keep at it in the process. Obviously we want to have Jimmy Graham on our team when training camp begins, and I am sure he wants to be with us.

“So we’ll just keep plugging away at the process. He’s got a great agent. And all his people, they know what they’re doing, and so do we. Hopefully we’ll come to a conclusion at some point.”

Saints owner Tom Benson gave a similar response during the NFL meetings last month when asked about the timetable for a new Graham deal, suggesting that he wouldn’t be surprised to see talks drag out like they did with franchised quarterback Drew Brees until July two years ago.

However, the potential grievance could throw a wrinkle into things.

If Graham does file a grievance, then his case would eventually be heard by a third-party arbitrator, who would be agreed upon by the NFL Management Council and the NFL Players Association. If that arbitrator agrees that Graham should be considered a wide receiver, his franchise-tag salary would soar from $7.05 million to $12.3 million.

That decision would give one side tremendous leverage in its long-term contract negotiations. So it remains possible that both the Saints and Graham’s camp would ultimately prefer to work out a deal on their own terms before it reaches the point of an arbitrator’s decision.

One way or another, Graham will almost certainly become the highest-paid tight end in NFL history, surpassing Rob Gronkowski’s $9 million average with the New England Patriots. The biggest question is whether Graham’s deal will be closer to $10 million per year or $12 million.

Bookmark and Share

Jon Jay hits three-run homer in win

Jon Jay got the start in center on Monday and hit a three-run homer off the Brewers' Matt Garza.

Jay has started five of the Cardinals' 13 games so far, with four of those coming in center. That's probably a bit more than he should play over Peter Bourjos, but the Cardinals do want to keep Bourjos healthy. Obviously, it worked out nicely tonight, with Jay making his first big contribution of the year.

Bookmark and Share

proCanes Clinton Portis, James Jones, Andre Johnson set to join UM Sports Hall of Fame

James Jones has two NBA championships with the Miami Heat.

Andre Johnson ranks second all-time in NFL receiving-yards-per-game with the Houston Texans.

But the honor that ignites their already fierce pride in a way that can’t quite be compared to anything else, stems from their hometown dreams as children growing up yearning to be Miami Hurricanes.

Jones and Johnson will join a prolific class when they are inducted Thursday night into the University of Miami Sports Hall of Fame.

“To do anything here at home, in my backyard, is something that I’ll be close to forever,” said Jones, 33, a 6-8, 215-pound small forward who graduated from Miami American High, starred at UM from 1999 to 2003 and has been with the Heat since 2008. “Every time I go to a Hurricanes game or watch the Canes play or watch a Hurricanes football game or think about college sports and the U, I’ll know I have a place in history there.

“It’s a legacy. I’ll be the first in my family to do something like that. Hopefully I can set the mark for my family, my kids and especially kids from the city who dream of those types of things, but never really get the opportunity.’’

Johnson, 32, graduated from Miami Senior High and helped bring UM’s football program back to prominence from 2000 to 2002, earning a national title with the Hurricanes in 2001 while being named the Rose Bowl’s Co-MVP (along with fellow UM Sports Hall of Famer Ken Dorsey) with seven receptions for 199 yards and two touchdowns against Nebraska.

“A tremendous honor,” Johnson said this week as he prepared to work out on campus. “Growing up as a child I always wanted to be a Hurricane. It was a dream of mine. Then, to be able to come here and win a national championship and help get the school back to where it had been before, that was the greatest feeling for me.

“Those were the best days of my life and I wouldn’t trade them for anything in the world. You were a kid and came together with a bunch of guys from different places and built something real special. You look at guys from other colleges and you can tell they don’t have the brotherhood we have here.’’

Johnson will be joined in being honored by fellow football inductees Lamar Thomas, a Hurricanes receiver from 1988 to 92, and running back Clinton Portis, who shared in the 2001 national title and went on to star with the NFL’s Denver Broncos and Washington Redskins.

Thomas, who was drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1993, finished his NFL career with the Miami Dolphins (1996 to 2000) and returned to UM to earn his bachelor’s degree in 2008. He was recently hired as the wide receivers coach at Louisville, and will meet his Hurricanes on the other side of the field in the season opener at Louisville.

Portis now serves as a football analyst for the ACC Digital Network.

The other former Hurricanes being inducted include hometown athletes Wyllesheia Myrick, a two-time All-American in track who left UM with several school records from 1998 to 2002; and infielder and pitching star Javy Rodriguez (1999 to 2002), who led UM to its last two national championships in ’99 and ’01. He returned to complete his UM degree in 2011 and now coaches at alma mater Gulliver Prep.

Rounding out the honorees are Cuban native and current FIU diving coach Rio Ramirez, who earned four individual national titles with UM from 1997 to 99; and pitcher Jeff Morrison, who starred at Delray Beach Atlantic High and led the Canes to the College World Series three consecutive seasons (1979 to 81).
Morrison went on to receive his law degree from Georgetown and spent the next 30 years as an attorney in Atlanta. He is now working on his PhD at Georgia State, and will begin a second career this fall as a history professor.

Bookmark and Share

Frank Gore's value worth cap number

In February, San Francisco 49ers general manager Trent Baalke said he didn’t think the team would necessarily have to ask running back Frank Gore to take a pay cut.

Fast forward a month-and-a-half, with the heavy financial lifting of the offseason completed, the 49ers have not adjusted Gore’s pay. His 2014 salary cap number is $6.45 million. Barring an unforeseen development, the 49ers likely will not approach Gore to take a cap hit this year.

Gore has the highest salary-cap number among running backs in the NFL. Gore turns 31 in May. That is an ancient age for an NFL running back. Check out this Kevin Seifert piece on how running backs decline quickly.

But that’s the point about Gore -- he’s still productive. Gore had 1,128 yards and averaged 4.1 yards per rush in 2013. Four of the running backs with a higher salary-cap renumber in 2014 had more yards than Gore last season. They were Adrian Peterson, whose cap number is the highest for a running back at $14.4 million, LeSean McCoy, Matt Forte and Marshawn Lynch.

Gore is older than all of the running backs with a higher salary cap number in 2014. But with his production in the same range, it doesn’t appear to be a stretch that Gore remains among the highest paid players at this position despite his advanced age.

Bookmark and Share

Devin Hester's heart still in Chicago

Return man Devin Hester departed for the Atlanta Falcons via free agency, but it’s clear he’d like to still be with the Chicago Bears.

Hester made that apparent Wednesday with a couple of posts on his Twitter account.

@D_Hest23: “To all my Bears fans I never wanted to leave the Bears, the organization decided to go another route with me. The things I did in Chicago”

@D_Hest23 : ”probably would never happen again and I always wanted to retire as a Bears

Hester’s correct that there’s a good chance his exploits in Chicago won’t ever be duplicated, but he shouldn’t dismiss the possibility of eventually retiring as a Bear. From the looks of everything, the sides parted on good terms. When the Bears announced they wouldn’t be re-signing Hester, general manager Phil Emery put out a complimentary statement, thanking the return man for his contributions over the years.

One team source even said that “Devin holds a very special place for me. He is loved and well-respected by everybody. This is one of the harsh realities of the business aspect of the NFL.”

“For the past eight seasons we have been honored to have Devin Hester as a part of our organization,” Emery said in a statement. “While Devin has redefined the pinnacle standard of the return position in the NFL, the memories and contributions he has given us cannot be measured by stats or numbers. Not only is Devin a special player, he is also an exceptional person. He is a great teammate, husband and father. Devin represented the organization off the field as well as he did on it. When his career is over, he will always be a welcome member of the Bears family. We thank him for his dedication and wish his family the best.”

Hester finished the 2013 season averaging 27.6 yards per kickoff return and 14.2 yards on punt returns, and is the NFL’s all-time leader in punt return touchdowns (13) and total kick return TDs (18). In all, Hester has produced 20 return TDs, which is an NFL record.

Bookmark and Share

Ryan Clark plans to wear Sean Taylor’s No. 21 in practice

SeanTaylor copy
Last Wednesday, newly signed Redskins safety Ryan Clark posed a question on Twitter.

@Realrclark25: “Redskins fans I've worn #21 to practice for 6 years now. Would it be disrespectful to wear it in Washington?”

The reaction from fans was mixed, while former teammate Clinton Portis seemed to indicate that he’d prefer the late Sean Taylor’s number remain off limits, even in practice.

Clinton Portis, @TheRealC_Portis: “ @Lizzs_Lockeroom @Realrclark25 one of my favorite players & has a lot of respect for ST21 but no need to give a glimpse of hope let 21RIP

During an appearance on 106.7 The Fan’s LaVar and Dukes show later that day, Clark explained his close relationship with Taylor, with whom he played for two seasons in Washington.

“The day that Sean passed, I had just got out of the hospital, battling for my life,” Clark said, referring to the emergency operation he underwent after the combination of his carrying the sickle-cell trait and playing in the high altitude of Denver deprived his major organs of oxygen. “The day I got the opportunity to fly down for the funeral, I had just gotten the tubes taken out of my side in order for me to get on the plane. So that’s what he means to me.”

Clark, who signed with the Steelers as a free agent in 2006, began wearing No. 21 in practice to honor Taylor in 2008 after the NFL denied his request to change his number from 25.

“Every time somebody asks me why I wear a different number to practice, I get to tell Sean’s story,” Clark continued. “I get to tell people about the guy I love. I get to tell people about the guy who was possibly on his way to being the greatest safety to ever play the game. And that got cut short. He never got to realize his full potential. But it gives me the opportunity to remind people of him. And maybe people in Washington don’t need that. Maybe that’s the thing.”

Clark, who will wear No. 25 in games, said he would have tried to switch to No. 21 if he signed with any team but the Redskins. A few days later, he tweeted that he received the go-ahead to wear No. 21 in practice from Jackie Garcia Haley, the mother of Taylor’s daughter.

@Realrclark25:” Spoke to Jackie whom was engaged to Sean before he passed and she gave her blessing to wear #21 to practice. All I needed!!”

Bookmark and Share

Ryan Braun channels the booing to his advantage

Philadelphia – Ryan Braun knows he’s going to be booed at every stop on the road this season for the Milwaukee Brewers, some places louder than others.
But, according to manager Ron Roenicke, boo the Brewers’ embattled star at your own risk.

“At times, it certainly drives him,” Roenicke said Tuesday night after Braun whacked three home runs and drove in seven runs in a 10-4 romp over Philadelphia.

“There’s no question about that. He’s a special hitter. Those guys, when they turn it up, they turn it up.

“I was with the Angels (as a coach) a few years back and we let Jose Guillen go. And there were some kind of negative things along with that. And every time he came back in town, our fans would boo him. And every time they’d boo him, he got a huge hit. And I was just like, ‘Leave him alone.’

“Really, it makes a difference. Those guys who can turn it up, you don’t want to be messing with him. Here, definitely, it is rough. He’s going to deal with this issue. There’s no better way to quiet people up than doing what he’s doing.”

During the Phillies' home opener, Braun definitely heard his share of boos – and then some. But it wasn’t the first time that happened, and it won’t be the last, so Braun said he just tries to channel that energy to his advantage.

“I dealt with it the last two years,” said Braun, who became a primary target of boo-birds by finally admitting to PED use during his 2011 MVP season and accepting a season-ending 65-game suspension in 2013.

“It’s nothing new to me. I dealt with it in 2012 season. It’s not anything that’s really new to me or anything I haven’t experienced before.

“I try to use it to my advantage. As a competitor, the more hostile the environment, the more enjoyable it can be. I just focus on things I can control. I focus every day on trying to be successful.

“It’s great when we’re coming into places like this and winning games. I think here and Boston are probably two of the most challenging places to come in and win games. Just do what I can to help our team win.”

If the booing actually fuels Braun, he was asked if he’d like it to continue.

“I wouldn’t say that I want it, if it’s my choice,” he said with a smile. “But I don’t know that I have much of a say in the way fans are going to react. So, I might as well make the best of it and use it to my advantage and use as motivation.”

No matter how motivated he was in Boston, Braun struggled at the plate because a chronic right thumb issue flared up. But, with a change in the padding in his batting glove and an adjustment in his stride at the plate, he produced the second three-homer game of his career against Philly.

“I’ve dealt with it for a while,” said Braun, who had no homers or RBI before his big game against the Phillies. “There’s some ebb and flow, good and bad. I’m optimistic and hopeful that eventually we’ll figure something out that makes a difference but I’ve dealt with it for a while.

“The longer you deal with any injury, the easier it becomes to find a way to compensate. So, hopefully I’ll find a swing that I’m comfortable with.”

That’s the hope of everyone with the Brewers, because a productive Braun makes a deep lineup considerably more dangerous.

“Everybody knows he’s been struggling with this,” said Roenicke. “When that power shows up again, it’s a relief for all of us because this guy is important for us in our lineup. He doesn’t necessarily have to drive balls all the time but it’s important, in that third spot, to be good hitter.

“We need him to be that kind of guy. Not always launching balls out of the park, but to just be a good hitter.”

Bookmark and Share