Ed Reed 'Committed To Playing Football In 2010'

Following the conclusion of the 2009 season, Ravens S Ed Reed admitted he was pondering retirement.

"I've been thinking about it," he said. "It kind of hit me on the sideline. It hit me now because I don't know how much I'm going to be able to have going forward. It'll be a long offseason just thinking about. It hurts just thinking about it."

At the time (January 18th), he said the odds of him playing in 2010 were 50/50. Well, his friend and financial advisor, Brad Davis, tells Jason La Canfora of NFL Network, he'll be playing in 2010.

"Ed is as committed to football as I have ever seen," Davis said. "Come September, if everything continues to go well with his health, Ed will be on the field."

Reed tells Davis that he feels like he's 25 again.

The Ravens defense can't fall too far with Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, no matter how many years they've been playing now.

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Ravens LB Ray Lewis shocked by help given to Tebow

If you haven’t caught wind of this yet, Ravens LB Ray Lewis conducted an ESPN Radio interview that just came across our news desk and included some compelling comments on Broncos rookie QB Tim Tebow‘s popularity.

It was Tebow, of course, who dominated the headlines leading up to last month’s draft, and his immense popularity already is proving itself on the NFL level as his jersey was the top seller on NFLShop.com in April.

Lewis was candid Thursday when asked by Colin Cowherd if he was shocked by how big the Tebow story became leading up to and during the draft.

“The thing I was more shocked by, is you see all the people who were willing to help him,” Lewis responded. “I don’t know many people who were willing to help other athletes like that. Jon Gruden loved him to death. You see all these people who took out their personal time to really work with him and make this big issue, big issue, big issue. I don’t know why he was any different than anyone else. Every young child has that dream, that same dream that Tebow had. So I don’t know why he was bigger … than any of the other guys.

“He went to a big program, and, yes, he might be a favorable person, but nobody else in the league, definitely not veteran players, see themselves differently than any other player.”

Lewis clearly takes issue with the aspect that Tebow — a rookie — has received special attention but stopped short of saying he would be a target because of it.

“The target is always simple,” Lewis said. “You play this game for one reason. You play this game to find people’s weaknesses. If he is going to be a target … basically he plays the quarterback position, so, from my position, the target is just hit him in the mouth and keep rolling.”

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Bruce Allen Believes Rocky McIntosh Will Sign Soon

Washington Redskins general manager Bruce Allen said during a radio interview that he believes restricted free-agent LB Rocky McIntosh will re-sign in the near future.

McIntosh remains a restricted free agent. He can no longer negotiate a new contract with another NFL team so his rights essentially belong to the Redskins.

“I’m sure he will sign his tender in a very short time,” Allen said.

McIntosh did not attend the Redskins’ first mini-camp in mid-April.

When the Redskins line up in a 3-4 defense, McIntosh is expected to move to inside linebacker, Allen said.

McIntosh has played outside linebacker--on the weak-side--in the Redskins’ 4-3 defense the last four years.

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No. 1 Priority for Damione Lewis Is Learning 3-4

FOXBORO, Mass. -- As soon as defensive lineman Damione Lewis got word of the Patriots' interest in his services this offseason, he picked up the phone and called some friends and former teammates for advice.

He had one question: How difficult is the transition from a 4-3 to 3-4 defense?

Responsibilities differ greatly for defensive linemen when they make the switch, and Bill Belichick's 3-4 system is considered one of the most difficult to learn. Speaking generally, defensive linemen in a four-man front typically aim to shoot through the gaps in the offensive line to disrupt the quarterback or running back. It's fairly cut and dry -- pin your ears back and raise hell.

"From what I’m seeing right now [in New England], it’s a little slower than the 4-3 because my whole career, I’ve just been an up-the-field, penetrating guy," said Lewis, who spent the last four seasons in Carolina. "In the 4-3, I had one solo job, and that’s to penetrate and be disruptive. It didn’t matter if you made a tackle the whole game, but as long as you penetrate and made the ball bounce, then you did your job. This is totally different from that. That’s what makes it fun and makes it exciting."

Linemen in Belichick's three-man front are responsible for opening up plays for the linebackers. New England's defensive linemen usually square up nose-to-nose with the opposition's offensive linemen and are told to control two gaps -- the open space to the offensive lineman's left and right side.

While they're in a 3-4 set, the Patriots' defensive linemen are mostly asked to stay home, read the offensive line and any activity in the offensive backfield. It's a matter of keeping good leverage, and excellent handwork cannot be overlooked. They can't afford to get forced toward the wrong gap, or the play could wind up disastrous.

For instance, Vince Wilfork was tossed around a split-second before Ray Rice broke free for an 83-yard touchdown run on the opening play of the Patriots' 33-14 playoff loss to Baltimore. Wilfork had a tremendously productive 2009 season, but he missed three consecutive games, and his timing might have been off when he returned for the postseason, showing the effects of one error.

Wilfork was asked what would be Lewis' biggest adjustment while making the transition to New England's scheme.

"Two-gap," Wilfork said before busting out in laughter. "That’s all of our challenges. That’s a big challenge, but I think a guy like that will do everything in his willpower to be here and be effective. He’ll see that two-gapping is new. For guys who have been here a while, when you start back up, you get away from it a little bit. It’s nothing to be concerned about because we’re all going to be starting with the same thing, but I think it’s going to take a little bit more for him because his style of play is a little different from ours. But he’ll get it together."

It's not just on Lewis, though. The Patriots also added veteran Gerard Warren and drafted defensive linemen Brandon Deaderick and Kade Weston. And it will be the second year in the system for 2009 draftees Myron Pryor and Ron Brace, the latter of which struggled so much with the adjustment last season that he barely saw the field. Veterans such as Wilfork, Ty Warren and Mike Wright have established themselves within the system over the last several years, and they're heavily counted upon with this learning process.

"A lot of these guys come in, and it's a completely different defense where you've got to read offensive linemen as opposed to just getting off in a gap," Wright said. "It's a lot of reading, a lot of patience and a lot going on."

In a loose translation, New England's defensive linemen are like cornerbacks because they've got coverage assignments, and they're forced to read, react and not allow anyone to take over their zone. While most 4-3 systems are purely about physicality -- see ball, chase ball, get ball -- New England's 3-4 forces its linemen to combine their physical skills with smarts and instincts.

The process can't be mastered overnight or in one season, although few, if any, schemes can be perfected in one calendar year. It's all about the drive and determination of each player, as well as the coaching staff's ability to efficiently communicate their instructions.

"Obviously, learning the defense is very hard," Pryor said. "Learning what your responsibility is, responding to the play, that’s something that I want to get better at."

The evolution of New England's defensive line will play a major role in the team's success in 2010. The 2009 trade of Richard Seymour left a gaping hole in the Patriots' starting unit, and reserve Jarvis Green departed in free agency this offseason.

The new arrivals have been already working out at the facility with defensive line coach Pepper Johnson, trying to take a crash course in the technique they'll need to thrive in New England. It's just one early step in the process, four months before the regular season.

"It's coming along pretty well," Gerard Warren said. "But once things get to moving full speed, that will be the real test for how I'm picking it up."

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Portis airs a grievance with Arrington over Taylor

One player who's been in regular attendance during the Redskins' offseason conditioning program is Clinton Portis. And he's expected to be present at the team's second minicamp this weekend, showing coaches why he deserves to start ahead of Larry Johnson and Willie Parker this season.

He spoke recently with Chris Russell of 106.7 The Fan and among his most intriguing comments were the words he directed toward former Redskin LaVar Arrington. Portis discussed Arrington's actions following the death of Sean Taylor.

"I lost a lot of respect for LaVar at that moment, speaking at Sean's funeral," Portis said. "To get up, I really thought that was, um, I don't know what you call that. LaVar ain't know Sean like that. For the people who did, seeing how LaVar was going to portray -- I remember me and Sean was going to jump LaVar, you know, for throwing pie at Sean's face his rookie year and trying to haze Sean and be the tough guy. He felt like it was a joke. We didn't like that [expletive]. For all the attention LaVar claim and that him and Sean was cool -- they wasn't cool. Sean ain't [expletive] with LaVar. Sometime, people should stop... I don't think you should do that. If you cool with somebody or you know somebody, you knew 'em. Don't go and portray. Set out an image like this is your buddy, this is your pal -- like you all hung, when you all really didn't. I don't think that's fair, man."

As for Arrington's response, he tweeted earlier this week: "he said some dumb stuff again whats with this kid? they say he hired a pr firm to clean up his image-they need to tell him my name coming out of his mouth will only make this pr firms job harder..."

"i mean really does this guy have a real man crush on me?lol i have been told im sexy lol anyways as usual hes crossed the line again..."
"if u didnt think this guy was a baphoon b4 this certainly makes a strong case and there will b no rant sorry"

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Winslow, others help Plant City youth league replace stolen gear

PLANT CITY - Tampa Bay Buccaneers star Kellen Winslow has pitched in. So has the NFL. And big companies such as Mosaic, Walmart and GTECH.

The goal: raise $25,000 to help a youth sports program recover from thefts and vandalism at its home field in east Hillsborough County..

A year ago, the Plant City Eagles youth program was hit hard when helmets, jerseys and shoulder pads valued at $15,000 were stolen from the storage building/concession stand, and the ice machine, scoreboard and snow-cone machine were vandalized at the program's home field at the Bealsville Recreation Center

The loss of funding from the concession stand also needed to be replaced, said William Thomas Jr., public relations and fundraising board member of the Improvement League of Plant City Inc., sponsor of the youth organization.

"Whoever hit us knew just how to hurt us," Thomas said.

That's where the community has stepped up.

Winslow Jr., who sponsored Eagles players at a youth football camp he hosted last summer, donated $5,000 in cash and in kind last year.
"When I heard about what happened to the kids at Plant City, I felt that I needed to help out because of how much this program meant to the children and the community of Plant City," said Winslow, who was acquired the Bucs before last season. "Even though I had just arrived here in Tampa, I felt like this was a perfect opportunity to help out the community."

His donation was matched by the National Football League Youth Football Fund Program, which ordered equipment valued at $5,000.
Mosaic, a phosphate company that recently opened its Florida headquarters in Lithia, has donated $2,000.

"We have a presence in the Bealsville community – some of our employees live there – and we wanted to help," said David Townsend, assistant vice president of public affairs for Mosaic.

Other supporters include Walmart, GTECH Corp. and the Hillsborough County Parks and Recreation Department, which put up a security fence, lighting and surveillance to discourage further burglaries at the Bealsville complex, 5009 Nesmith Road.

Car washes, summer chicken and ribs dinners and a Halloween haunted house in the historic Glover School organized by parent volunteers have accounted for $6,000.

The Eagles' goal is to "acquire new equipment all at once for the 242 boys and 110 girls" in the program, Thomas said.

"New equipment has a life span of three to five years," said Wesley Joyce, Eagles equipment manager. "By acquiring new equipment all at one time you allow the program's concession stand time to recover and keep pace with replacement and maintenance. Our hope is to get to a point of being self reliant and not depending heavily on support from local businesses in years to come. Mosaic's contribution and support sends a clear message and inspires us as volunteers to press forward."

The organization still needs a $1,000 transmitter for a scoreboard that was stolen.

"Working scoreboards allow a team to host playoff games, thus increasing concession stand revenue," Thomas said. Also needed are a used or new industrial electric fryer and 35 more helmets and shoulder pads.

The program aims to provide a high-quality youth football and cheerleading program while teaching game fundamentals and values needed in life, according to the Eagles' website. It includes a fee-based summer camp and free monthly clinics from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. the third Saturday monthly.

To donate or for information about the program, go to www.plantcityeagles.com.

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Mama's boy: Sunseria Smith brings out the softer side of son Ray Lewis

One of the fiercest, most intimidating linebackers in NFL history is a mama’s boy.

When Ray Lewis isn’t scaring the bejesus out of opposing running backs, he takes his mother to the movies. He chats with her on the phone for hours. He swings by her house — one he bought for her with the millions he’s earned playing for the Ravens — when he gets a craving for her homemade turkey spaghetti.

Nothing has ever come between Lewis and his mother, Sunseria Smith, (pictured left, handout photo) not even a rough, poverty-riddled upbringing or a hotly contested game of Taboo. They’re tight. And though Lewis sidesteps the suggestion that he’s a mama’s boy — “I call it mama’s best friend,” he said — he most certainly is one.

“There’s no greater day than Mother’s Day,” Lewis said Tuesday on a conference call with his mother and a reporter who can be classified as a mama’s boy, too.

On Saturday, Lewis and Smith will celebrate Mother’s Day a night early at the Children’s Guild’s Cabaret for Kids fundraiser, where they will receive an award for their charitable work for local disadvantaged children through the Ray Lewis 52 Foundation.

“We found both Ray Lewis and his mother as just perfect examples of the spirit that transforms the lives of troubled children,” said Children’s Guild President Andy Ross. “Ray said he would take care of his mom — now he’s trying to help the world.”

The first mother-son duo to be honored with a Sadie Award, Lewis and Smith said they’re blessed to be fortunate enough to help out families suffering through experiences similar to the ones they endured when Lewis was growing up in project housing, and then a cramped two-bedroom apartment, in Lakeland, Fla.

“It was a struggle to feed our family,” said Smith, who, with the help of her parents, raised Lewis and his four younger siblings in a single-parent household. “That’s why we’re so passionate about what we do. We had to stand in line to get food, too. We didn’t have it all but we made it because we had each other.”

Smith, who was 16 when she gave birth to Lewis, worked three jobs to keep food on the table. “I saw her never quit,” Lewis said. “I saw what ‘never quit’ means.” Being the oldest child in the household, he was often left to watch after his brother and three sisters. Lewis learned to cook, clean, iron and wash clothes. “Ray had to grow up early because we needed Ray to be the man of the house,” Smith said.

“She was very strict with our rules, and if we broke them, we had to suffer the consequences,” Lewis said. The consequences once included a paddling in front of his sixth-grade classmates after Smith got a call from a teacher about her spitball-shooting son. “She wanted to teach us the right way to live, to respect people, use your manners, make sure our schoolwork was on point, and the house was clean. A lot of my discipline comes from her.”

Lewis said it was always his goal to one day reward his mother for her perseverance. When he made it to the NFL as a first-round pick of the Ravens in 1996, he forced his mom to retire, bought her a house in Randallstown and moved her and his siblings up to Maryland.

She has stood next to him, as well: through the birth of his own kids; through the dark days when he was implicated in a fatal stabbing in Atlanta (a murder charge was dropped, but he pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice); and through the glory days of a Super Bowl win.

Lewis made one of Smith’s dreams come true in 2004 when he surprised her by inviting her to his graduation ceremony at the University of Maryland, University College. Between NFL seasons, Lewis had been finishing a bachelor’s degree in management studies, fulfilling a promise he made to her when he left the University of Miami after three years to enter the NFL draft (pictured right, Lewis and Smith embrace after Lewis was drafted in 1996; photo by AP). Smith wasn’t privy to this.

“I knew what would make her smile for years and years and years,” said Lewis, who turns 35 next week. “And that would be if her baby boy, her firstborn, went and got his degree.”

Smith bawled through the ceremony.

“Being Ray Lewis’ mom is an honor,” Smith said. “Every time I see my child step out on the field … that’s what Mother’s Day is all about.”

But Smith was hesitant to let her first-born child, an ambitious jokester even then, take up sports. Working three jobs left her no time to take him to practice, and she had little cash to buy cleats and gear. “When I came to Mom about sports, that’s the last thing she wanted to hear,” Lewis said. “She said, ‘Boy, I don’t got no money for you to play football.’” When Lewis was 10, Smith reluctantly gave in.

In Florida, Lewis joined the Lakeland Lumberjacks youth team, walking to practice if needed, then went on to star at Kathleen High School. For the first few years, though, Smith, working around the clock, never got the chance to watch his games. Lewis would tell her how well he had played. “But she couldn’t understand that,” he said. Strangers stopped Smith to compliment her son, and local newspapers wrote about the slightly undersized tornado tearing up the football field. But reality set in — that Lewis might not be blowing smoke when he told her, “One day you’re never going to have to work again a day in your life” — the first time she saw him in action.

Lewis, then in ninth grade, took a reverse on a kickoff return 73 yards for a touchdown. He gave his mom the ball. “He ran the reverse back, and I was like ‘Man, that kid has talent,’” said Smith, her laughter infectious. “‘He’s for real!’”

You know how the story of Ray Lewis, future Hall of Famer, went from there.

Today, Lewis and his mother are still tight. They cook out by his swimming pool, take trips to the bowling alley, play epic games of Taboo — and playfully talk trash while doing so. Tuesday, Smith’s claim of supremacy in the word-guessing party game caused Lewis to cry out, “Mama, you haven’t won in five years!”

Smith now lives five minutes away, in Owings Mills, and this past Sunday, she dropped off a pan of turkey spaghetti, one of Lewis’ favorites, with a note that read “I love you, Blessed Man of God.”

“I almost hurt myself with that turkey spaghetti,” Lewis joked. “When my mom cooks for me, you’d think she was cooking for eight people.”

Even with Lewis deep in the twilight of his fine career, decades removed from the struggles of his childhood, one of the hardest hitters in football history still has a sizable soft spot for his mother.

“There’s nothing we don’t do together,” Lewis said.

Spoken like a true mama’s boy.

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Bucks' Off-season Challenge is Keeping Salmons

An important part of the Milwaukee Bucks off-season will be trying to re-sign guard John Salmons.

The Bucks went 22-8 after acquiring Salmons from the Chicago Bulls, and he averaged 20 points a game.

But Salmons will likely opt out of his contract and become a free agent, putting Milwaukee in a possible bidding war.

"Making a decision, a free agent decision, there's a lot that goes into that. Milwaukee is definitely a place I am definitely considering," Salmons said.

"He's a solid player. He can play inside, he can play outside. He can handle the ball, he can find guys, and he can shoot the ball. I mean, he's definitely a solid player, and for this team to continue to improve they definitely need to bring him back," Bucks center Kurt Thomas said.

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Jason Geathers Signs With Tampa Bay

The Tampa Bay Storm have signed wide receiver/linebacker Jason Geathers and linebacker Eric Ortiz, announced Head Coach and General Manager Tim Marcum.

“We are a little banged up right now and had some room on the roster to bring some people in,” said Marcum. “Jason and Eric are two guys we feel can help this team right now.”

Geathers (6’-4”, 220 lbs., Miami) returns for his fourth season in the AFL and first with the Storm. He spent the previous three seasons with the San Jose SaberCats where he twice earned a spot on the Arena Football League All-Ironman team for his two-way play. Geathers finished the 2008 season with 37 receptions for 365 yards and five touchdowns; defensively he recorded 22 tackles, four fumble recoveries, three pass breakups and two forced fumbles. In 2001 he won a National Championship with the Miami Hurricanes.

The Tampa Bay Storm take on the Jacksonville Sharks this Friday, May 7 at the St. Pete Times Forum, festivities kick off at 4:30 p.m. The game can be heard on 1250-AM WHNZ with Jack Harris calling the play-by-play and Jason Dixon analyzing the action. This game is the AFL National Game of the Week on the NFL Network

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Ed Reed has offseason "procedure" in hip area

Ed Reed probably won't be on the field for this weekend's minicamp, but it has nothing to do with retirement.

The Ravens' Pro Bowl safety underwent a "procedure" in his hip area this offseason, two league sources confirmed to The Sun. Ravens officials wouldn't confirm whether Reed had surgery.

Reed missed four games in December because of a hip injury. He returned to play the regular-season finale at Oakland and two playoff games, where he made two interceptions.

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Jimmy Graham has modeled himself after fellow Hurricane star Shockey

BATON ROUGE -- If the New Orleans Saints tried to clone one of their players, Drew Brees would surely be the first selection.

Tight end Jeremy Shockey would likely not be. Though a proven, versatile force at tight end for the Saints and previously the New York Giants, the controversial Shockey has never been what you might refer to as a role model.

Last week in the third round of the NFL Draft, the Saints selected a tight end from Shockey's old school -- the University of Miami - named Jimmy Graham, who likes to model himself after Shockey -- on the field that is.

"When I came to play for the University of Miami, it was his film that I was watching," Graham said last week. "It was his Pro Day tape that I watched to prepare for my Pro Day. So I know his game, and I have kind of tried to pattern myself after him."

Graham (6-foot-7, 260 pounds) only watched that film of Shockey (6-5, 251) last year as the 2009 season was his first in college football as a fifth-year senior. He went to Miami from Charis Preparatory Academy in North Carolina as a Street & Smith honorable mention All-American basketball player. As a senior in the 2008-09 season, Graham averaged 5.9 rebounds and 4.0 points a game. His strength was shot blocking as he registered 36 of those and finished his career with 104 blocks for eighth in school history.

In his one season of football for Miami, Graham caught 17 passes for 213 yards and five touchdowns. Hence, Saints coach Sean Payton's reluctance to agree with his scouts on the drafting of Graham.

"Honestly, in the process, I was probably the one who was skeptical in the beginning in regards to the idea," Payton said. "I kept looking for reasons to not like the player and couldn't find any. You're waiting to hear that we have to develop his hands or that he's going to struggle learning at first. But he has a unique skill set. He really does. He catches it very efficiently, so it's exciting. I think that was one specific player that everyone felt pretty good about. He's a guy that we got very attached to. He wants to learn. I like all the measurables that saw with him. What's most important is you just have to like him, and you have to have a vision for the player."

That vision involves Shockey. An AFC coach recently called Graham's selection "the best pick in the draft," according to NFL guru Peter King of SI.com.

"Give him time, and in that offense, he'll be better than Shockey by the start of next year," the coach said. "We also love the pick with David Thomas (Saints' veteran tight end) in a contract year. Graham is big and physical enough to develop into an adequate blocker. As a receiver, he's got more upside than any tight end drafted over the weekend."

Graham hopes to learn from Shockey. When the Saints were practicing for the Super Bowl last January at the University of Miami, Graham sought out his football idol.

"He was in the cold tub, and I walked up to him and introduced myself," Graham said. "He knew who I was, and he told me that he had been watching me all year and that he was very proud of me and what I had done. He just told me that if I keep working hard and stick with it that the sky is the ceiling. For me, that was incredible. He's a guy that I look up to in football, and he has done a lot. For him to say that about me meant everything."

Fast forward a few months later, and Shockey is Graham's teammate.

"I can't tell you how excited I am," Graham said. "Obviously, he's a Miami guy. But to watch him and learn from him what he knows about the game and to have him teach me every day, I can't express in words how excited I am."

Graham has the bold confidence that is classic Shockey.

"I was an explosive basketball player -- a shot blocker, an aggressive rebounder," Graham said. "The ability to go up and get rebounds and timing blocked shots and to move my feet and have touch around the basket while working on my hands -- that translates well to football. I have the ability to go get the ball, and my footwork is something that translates to football. I started playing football last year and was able to do a lot in the little bit of time that I had, and now I'm going to the next level. I'm just excited to take on the opportunities. I don't think it's going to take that long."

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Donnell Bennett has high hopes for Year 2

Year two of the Donnell Bennett era has begun for the Northeast football team.

The former Miami Hurricane and NFL running back finished 5-6 and earned a district playoff game in his first season in 2009. With a glut of talented and hungry players, the key word this spring is work.

"The discipline really lacked last year," said Bennett. "So we're really honing in on that now. We also need to focus on coaching them up."

The Hurricanes rode an aggressive defense to a 4-2 record to close last season, and defense is something they take pride in at Northeast. The core for this "black hole" unit will be in the secondary, with Noel Cesar and Aaron Stephens at safety and Timothy Green and Vovic Vosher at the corners. In the front seven linebacker Jaylan Jackson and defensive end Bryant Dubose should be problems for opposing offenses. Dubose, at 6-4, 240-lb, should have the greatest impact with his combination of size, speed and athleticism.

Depth will not be an issue for this group.

The offense is not quite as polished, but is also as deep.

"We need to match the defense's intensity on our offense this year," Bennett admits.

Sophomores Brandon Thompson and Keevis Jones will compete for the starting quarterback position, with the strong-armed Jones the likely candidate. Thompson is one of many impact players coming up from last season's junior-varsity team that went 6-3.

At wide receiver, Jeremy Glinton is the leading returner from last season's group with 11 catches for 133 yards and a touchdown. What the group lacks in experience it makes up for with size and speed, with three possible starters all over six feet tall.

The rushing duties are expected to be split between Timonte Baker, Detron Wallace and Robert Jackson. Baker is the team's leading returning rusher from 2009, when he carried 73 times for 376 yards and three scores.

Execution of the fundamentals will be the key for Northeast to turn that corner this season, according to Bennett. "We'll see what happens when we get pads on," he said.

The Hurricanes coaching staff consists of Fred Flowers (defensive coordinator); Romanique Lewis (linebackers); Vinny Panetta (JV head coach and offensive line); Julio Martinez (quality control); Rich Peterson (defensive line); Chuck Wyche (quarterbacks) and Charles Williams (wide receivers/special teams).

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Decision process starts for Salmons

St. Francis — John Salmons is a wanted man.

His Milwaukee Bucks teammates were unanimous in hoping the 6-foot-6 shooting guard would return next season, as they made a last stop at the Cousins Center before heading their separate ways Monday, a day after their first-round playoff exit.

Salmons has an option worth $5.8 million for the 2010-'11 season. He can exercise the option or opt out of the deal and become an unrestricted free agent, or he might sign a contract extension with the Bucks.

Asked on a scale of 1 to 10 where he would rate the importance of signing Salmons, point guard Brandon Jennings didn't hesitate.

"It's a 10," Jennings said. "He's a scorer, somebody who helped us get to the playoffs. Without picking him up I don't think we would have been in the fifth or sixth spot (seeded sixth). I think we would have been fighting to get to the eighth spot."

The Bucks went 22-8 after acquiring Salmons in a Feb. 18 trade with the Chicago Bulls, who were looking to clear salary space to make a run at an elite free agent this summer.

Salmons was coming off the bench in Chicago and growing increasingly frustrated, but the cloud lifted as soon as he joined the Bucks.

"The city has been great and the fans have been great," Salmons said. "My teammates have been great, and it's a really good coaching staff.

"When you get traded, you never really know what to expect. We made a great playoff run and had an opportunity (against Atlanta) but just didn't pull it out."

Salmons averaged 19.9 points in 30 regular-season games with the Bucks and led the team in scoring 16 times while providing a needed offensive jolt.

And he averaged 17.0 points in the playoffs despite being limited to eight and 11 points, respectively, in the final two games of the series against the Hawks.

The 30-year-old Salmons said he had not decided whether to opt out of the final year of his contract and was still talking to his agent about it.
"It's probably a pretty good option, to opt out," he said.

If he does opt out, the Bucks would lose the exclusive negotiating status they now hold, and Salmons would have to wait until the free agency period begins July 1 to start having discussions with any teams.

"This is why contracts are done with opt-outs," Bucks coach Scott Skiles said. "A guy has a right to do what he needs to do.

"We certainly have great interest in John; that goes without saying. He's been our kind of player. He's serious about the game. And he was very, very productive for us."

Salmons said the positive finish in Milwaukee and cohesiveness among the players would be something he considers in making his decision.
Salmons has played for four teams in his eight-year career: Philadelphia, Sacramento, Chicago and Milwaukee. And he has played for three teams in the last two seasons and been traded twice.

"Moving is getting a little old," Salmons said. "It's a business and it's part of it. Quentin Richardson got traded five times last summer.

"For me the main thing is what I feel God wants me to do. I'm just going to pray on the decision."

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Gaby Sanchez drives in 13th run in loss

Gaby Sanchez went 2-for-4 with his 13th RBI in Florida's 3-2 loss to the Giants on Wednesday evening.

Our View: Florida's unknown first baseman is now hitting .275 through 25 games this season. He's a rock-solid NL-only league option.

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Chris Perez takes blame for loss to Blue Jays

Asked about attempting to use closer Chris Perez for a five-out save Wednesday, Indians manager Manny Acta referenced Mike Marshall and Rollie Fingers, two elite relievers who haven't pitched in the big leagues in 25 years.

The multi-inning save isn't quite that dead. Yankees closer Mariano Rivera, for instance, had seven among his 44 saves last season. But it's not the norm. While both Acta and Perez were a bit defensive about the move after Wednesday's 5-4 loss to Toronto, it made sense and should have worked.

Called on with a runner on first and one out in the eighth, Perez struck out Toronto's Alex Gonzalez and Jose Bautista to end that inning, then he retired the first two batters in the ninth and got two strikes on Fred Lewis. But Lewis doubled, Aaron Hill's routine grounder went through shortstop Luis Valbuena's legs for an error and Adam Lind hit a 1-2 pitch for a two-run, go-ahead homer.

"I haven't been overused, I'm not tired, we have an off day," Perez said. "I was still throwing the same stuff in the ninth. I don't think coming in in the eighth hurt me at all."

Among his 13 career saves in St. Louis and with the Indians, three have been more than one inning, all in 2008. But in 11 appearances this season, Wednesday was the first time Perez went more than one inning, which was part of the point.

With the bullpen fresh, Acta said he decided he'd finish the last two innings with the two relievers he trusts most right now, Tony Sipp and Perez. Sipp got two outs in the seventh and one in the eighth, and then Perez was called. After Valbuena's error kept the game alive, Acta went to the mound to make sure Perez's arm and head were still in the game.

"He said, 'I'm fine, let's go, we'll get this guy right here,' " Acta said. "So I thought he reacted well."

He just left a fastball, a pitch he was trying to elevate, in the middle of the plate for Lind.

"It's easy to sit here and blame it on Valbuena, but the truth is I didn't make the pitches when I needed to," Perez said. "I'm totally to blame for this."

But the five-out attempt isn't what did it, even if Perez said he didn't know it was coming.

"I'm there to pitch. I don't care if it's one inning or two innings," Perez said. "I didn't have an idea. They don't come over and ask you. I didn't expect it, but they gave me plenty of time to get loose.

"I'm a young guy. I throw when they tell me to throw. I look at it as me getting some good work and that's what I need right now. It's no secret we haven't been playing good baseball and there haven't been a lot of save opportunities, but at the same time I was called on to do a job. We wouldn't be talking about anything else if I could have executed some pitches."

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Giants Still Concerned With Kenny Phillips

3) The Giants signed Antrel Rolle and Deon Grant to help at the Safety position this off season. Then they drafted Safety Chad Jones in round three. What does this tell us about their prognosis of the health of Kenny Phillips?

I think it tells you a lot. It definitely tells you they're uncertain, which is what I -- and several of my colleagues -- tried to tell you from the very beginning. The Giants kept insisting he'd be 100%, he'd be the same player, etc., but there was no way they could know that. It's a serious knee condition. Many doctors, far smarter than you and I and the Giants' PR staff and coaches, insist a condition like this has the potential to derail a career. At the very least there's no guarantee Phillips will ever be the same player again. And I think you've started to hear the Giants finally admit that. In a pre-free agency interview, GM Jerry Reese said something like "we can't put all our eggs in Kenny Phillips' basket" at safety. Before the draft, Tom Coughlin said the team is "hopeful" -- not sure -- that Phillips will be ready by Opening Day.

If they were sure, they wouldn't have spent $37 million on Antrel Rolle AND signed Deon Grant AND drafted Chad Jones. That would be some insane overkill. Now, there is still a possibility Phillips will be back and be 100% and be the same player. In that case, the Giants are supremely deep at that position (and they can say goodbye to Michael Johnson). But they just don't know if that will happen. So they were smart to hedge their bets.

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Jon Beason Carolina Panthers Linebacker Strength Training Program

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Shields: Speed to burn

Undrafted free agent cornerback Sam Shields said he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.19 seconds between his junior and senior years at Miami.

A finalist in the Florida state high school 100-meter race (he finished seventh at 10.5), Shields said he figures he could have tried for the Olympics if he had put his mind to track and field.

"It was just a football thing," he said. "I was really focused on that."

Shields said he had scholarship offers from Miami, Florida, Florida State and LSU coming out of high school.

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Michael Irvin delivers 'really powerful speech'

Dez Bryant wasn't the only player who got a dose of Michael Irvin on Saturday.

The Hall of Famer addressed all of the players at the end of the first practice session and was thanked with a round of applause.

"I just wanted to make sure that they understand, from a man who wishes he could still be running around, the great opportunity that they have in front of them," Irvin said.

"His speech sounded like one of his Fourth and Long speeches," said receiver Jesse Holley, who won Irvin's reality show last year to land a spot on the Cowboys practice squad. "Anytime Mike gets a chance to speak...

"It was a really powerful speech about opportunities."

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From the archive: Flashy Michael Irvin, a clan's hope, has firm foundation

This story originally published in the May 8, 1988 editions ofThe Dallas Morning News.

•   •   •

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Ten people have been sitting on the Irvins' front porch for more than an hour on a warm afternoon, waiting for Michael Irvin. Occasionally, cousin John will arise from his perch on a paint bucket to look down the street that bends in front of the neat, white home. Derrick, the youngest of 17 Irvin children, laughs and says John "thinks he can smell Michael coming." John neither smiles nor allows his eyes to leave the street. He stands up again. "Here he comes," he says, dutifully.

A few moments later, the dark gray BMW eases slowly into the driveway, and Michael Irvin unfolds from the front seat. He smiles widely. He is wearing a white University of Miami T-shirt with "Press On" written across the chest, green shorts, tennis shoes with no socks, and a Dallas Cowboys cap. A gold medallion beats against his chest as he comes up the sidewalk, a medallion three inches wide with the head of a lion at its center, suspended by a gold rope chain an inch in diameter. He wears a large, square national championship ring on the middle finger of his left hand. A diamond stud flashes in his left ear lobe.

This is the Michael Irvin the nation knows: flashy, brassy, a hero to his fans; the man who points at the sky when he scores; the man who, upon meeting President Reagan after the Hurricanes beat Oklahoma for the national championship, circled his fist in the air; the man who talks so much; the wide receiver who inspired Cowboys general manager Tex Schramm to say "he should accelerate our return to the living" after he was chosen in the first round of the NFL draft.

He is all of those things to most of the people waiting on the front porch, and something more: He is their hope. He is a dream house to his mother, business backing to one brother, a guarantor on loans for at least two other siblings and a vicarious exit from a spare, no-frills lifestyle for the entire family.

"I know that's the way it is," Michael says later, without rancor.

"It's definitely been 'Michael this, Michael that,' the last couple of years. Somebody's always got their hand out. I'm a 20-year-old kid with a 40-year-old man's responsibilities."

He smiles slowly now, the corners of his mouth easing his cheeks back.

"But that's all right," he says. "I love them. They're my family.

And there's nothing like seeing your family back you."

Michael's family shaped him. He learned all the traditional values, from responsibility and the work ethic taught by his father to a respect for religion from his mother. And, growing up in a three-bedroom house with 18 other people, he developed what is sometimes an acerbic wit as a means of personality survival.

But, now that he is on his own, he still is not alone. His family is behind him, but he may be pulling more than they are pushing.

A discussion of Michael Irvin's family invariably turns into a numbers game. Michael is the 15th of Walter and Pearl Irvin's children, thought to be the last child until a sister followed six years later, and then another brother three years after that. There are 10 girls and seven boys, ranging in age from 39 (Alice) to 13 (Derrick). There are two sets of twins: Janet and Sheila and Daughn and Vaughn.

Pearl already had six children when, in her "early 20s,' she met Walter, at the time an owner of a small restaurant. Large families ran on both sides. She came from a family of 13 children, he from a family of eight. They married and had 11 more children and never enough money, right up to the time he died of cancer in 1983.

No one could find Michael after the family learned of their father's death, and Pearl feared that Michael had thrown himself in the pond behind the house. A coach called a few minutes later, saying Michael was all right. He had run the five miles to St. Thomas Aquinas High School.

"I asked a priest at my school why my father had to go through all that, just when we could see the light at the end of the tunnel," Michael said. "Sometimes I'll wonder what it would be like if he were here. I can see him at the games, with a suit, a hat and a cigar in his mouth.

"I talk to my father before every game. I really miss him. When things are going good, that's when I miss him most."

He says he points to the sky after a touchdown because he is saluting his father. A friend of the family says she couldn't believe Michael could be so touching about his father. She says he talks and clowns so much that it is difficult to imagine a serious, thoughtful side.

Pearl said it is because her son is the image of his father.

"My husband loved children," Pearl said. "When we first got married, he said, 'I want to have so many children that we have to name them Cornbread, Peas, Mashed Potatoes.' "

"I don't know if life would have been any simpler if we hadn't had so many. I don't think life is ever meant to be simple.'

But Walter Irvin's rules were simple. Anybody who didn't want to go to school could quit, but that person would have to go to work. When Walter left in the morning for work as a roofing contractor, everyone else was to leave the home, also. No one stayed home who was healthy, employable or of school age.

He had a curfew. When it was dark, the kids came home. They say they never felt in danger growing up, mainly because of the protective nature of the people in the neighborhood. Everyone knew their neighbors, and a stranger is always regarded with long, watchful stares. The older children discipline the younger children, as did other fathers. One by one, Vaughn said, he has watched the fathers die, and watched the neighborhood change because of it.

Golden Heights is a pocket of small, brightly-colored houses sitting hard by the narrow streets. Hot-house plants such as crotons, philodendrons and scheffleras border lawns little more than 10 yards deep, giving a poor neighborhood an almost festive appearance. The neighborhood is connected to the major thoroughfare of Sunrise Boulevard by 27th Avenue, an umbilical cord dotted with small businesses that have bars over the windows and doors. Vaughn says one of the businesses is the center of neighborhood drug activity.

"A woman down the street used to have drug fits in the morning,'

Vaughn said. "We'd all just laugh. But I told them that, one day, it would come knocking on our door. And it did.'

He said the family took care of its drug problem. His father was strict. No alcohol was allowed in the house. Walter tried to cut off any potential problem areas. One summer night, he walked to a drive-in to retrieve his children who were not home by midnight.

Like the other fathers, he also was not shy about disciplining other children. He once caught Michael and several of his neighborhood friends swimming in the pond that separates their back yard from the old city dump. The pond, or "rock pit,' was forbidden. Walter had once pulled a drowned man from it. He lined all the children up, gave each a spanking and told them to go home and tell their parents why they were punished.

Walter was a big man, more than six feet tall with thick, powerful arms. Michael says he was the only man who ever scared him.

"He was Superman,' Michael said. "People don't understand how hard he worked. He'd get up at 6 or 7 o'clock in the morning and come home at 8 o'clock at night, six days a week, then he'd go preach on Sundays.'

Walter traveled to Americus, Ga., and Fort Myers, Fla., twice a month to preach in Primitive Baptist churches, a splinter of the denomination that finds most normal Southern Baptist trappings to be un-Biblical. They have no choir, no home or foreign mission board. The services are long, sometimes lasting all day, ending with a church supper.

Pearl Irvin said they also are "foot-washin' Baptists,' meaning they wash the feet of their brethren as a sign of humility and service.

Pearl said she was washing the feet of "a sister' one Sunday when she felt what seemed like a pair of hands reaching around her waist. She heard a whoosh, as if a great wind had entered the church, and then she felt the 2-month-old fetus in her womb begin to kick and jump. She knew this baby would be special, she said, because he had been blessed.

Either blessed or spoiled, Michael soon proved to be the favorite.

On hot, sticky nights, his brothers would send him to steal a fan from their sisters in the next room. They reasoned that, if caught, Michael would get in the least trouble.

The Irvins didn't have air conditioning or didn't run it much when they did because they couldn't afford the electric bill. They could afford little of anything. Vaughn says he would wear a set of clothes one day, and Daughn would wear it the next. Tennis shoes that were too small but still had rubber on the soles would have the tops cut out, leaving the toes exposed. Michael says Christmas often meant no present at all.

His poor past is one of the reasons he likes to flaunt his jewelry and other material possessions. He told a man who is customizing his BMW he didn't want tinted windows because he wanted people to see him as he drove it and know that the man driving the expensive BMW is Michael Irvin.

"I'm still like a big kid because we didn't have that much growing up,' Michael said. "I'd see kids running out in the streets with all their new Christmas stuff. I'd tell them before Christmas that I'd be going to Grandma's, so they wouldn't ask where I was. But I'd be there inside, looking out the window at them.'

Bitterness never occurred to him, he said, because he understood.

His Aunt Fannie, Pearl's older sister who lives down the street, says Michael was never one to be depressed about anything.
If anything, he was too happy.

"He was always kissing you, kissing you all over the mouth, real hard," she said, tilting her head back and popping her palm against her mouth. She retreated to another room in the house and brought back a photo album. An 8-year-old is smiling back from one of the yellowing photographs. "He was always smiling, always happy."

Willie, Pearl's oldest son, says Michael has the smile of his mother. A short, solid, square-shouldered woman, Pearl greets someone she has met only once with a firm hug. She smiles easily and often. The tone of her voice in conversation rises and pitches likes waves, occasionally accelerating and then breaking into laughter before petering into silence.

She is the root of the family's spiritual beliefs. She says she likes to be alone at times so she can hear God's voice. Only when she is still, she said, can she hear it. And she is never alone in the little three-bedroom house she has lived in for 28 years. Someone is always there. A dozen telephone calls placed to the house on Northwest 28th Avenue over a three-day period were greeted by a different voice each time.
The Irvin house always has been a center of activity. If not playing in what used to be a vacant field two blocks away, children would congregate in the Irvin yard and the street in front of the house. Michael sometimes played tackle in the street. For basketball, they would set up a goal by the street and nail the rim of what had been a bicycle wheel to a backboard.

"I had kids everywhere, 75, 80 kids," Pearl said, throwing her arms outward and laughing. "They were always saying, 'Miss Pearl, can I have some water? Miss Pearl, can I have something to drink?' Oh! I went out to that goal post one day and I shook it until it came down."

The children kept playing anyway. The Irvin boys often played as a team, taking on other neighborhoods, and Michael always was the best.
He was the only Irvin to attend college on an athletic scholarship and only the third of the Irvin children to earn a degree. There was no money to send the rest.

Michael's athletic ability took the family by surprise. They knew he was good when he was in high school but weren't sure how good until Willie saw him play basketball in the 10th grade. Only a sixth man because the coach wouldn't let underclassmen start, Michael led the team in scoring in the first game Willie saw.

"I just stood there with my mouth open," he said. "It was unbelievable."

A few years later, Michael would be winning dunking contests. But his athletic participation soon became a point of contention in the community.

He tried to transfer from Piper High School to St. Thomas after his sophomore year, primarily because he was angry about receiving a three-day disciplinary suspension. Piper officials would not grant him a waiver to participate in sports at St. Thomas, which had been accused of recruiting high school players. A court case followed, with Michael eventually losing. He was not allowed to participate in sports at St.
Thomas during his junior year.

Family members agree that the year off from sports was good for Michael. His grades improved. He became better focused on his goals.
George Smith, St. Thomas' coach, moved Michael, who had been a defensive end and offensive tackle, to wide receiver, a move that coach and player said was natural for his talent and disposition.

Michael began to work harder. He ran everywhere. He would borrow Willie's car on dates, return it and then run the five miles home. He still runs. He ran with teammates when they had to run penalty laps at Miami. He ran at night on the beach, often being stopped by police. He runs for a reason.

"When you come up in such a big family, you learn to put out 150 percent when you get a good thing," he said. "I work out two or three times a day. I like going to practice. It's like a high. The best part of football is when I'm giving myself up, running the stairs with a 30-pound weight jacket or running with my equipment on.

"People would say, 'Mike Irvin, you're a fool.' But I'd tell them that, in the fourth quarter, I know I've worked harder than that other guy, and that helps me beat him."

He had learned as a junior in high school that hard work was all that separated him from what he wanted. And, now that he has it, he has become the family focus. His earning power already has been felt. A black Volvo sedan sits in the driveway. Michael gave his white Datsun 280Z to his nephew, Tony Sands, who will be a freshman running back at Kansas this fall.

Michael is able to do things for his family that no one else has.

His mother wants a new house, a "big house with a big kitchen and plenty of cabinets.' She wouldn't say in front of her children but, later, when they are gone, she said she would like to live in Dallas.

She said she would welcome the quiet, to be still and hear God's voice and dream her dreams.

"She believes so strong," Michael said. "She tells me she has dreams about all kinds of things. She sees the house. Sometimes she gets real deep.

"I want her to have a reward for all she's done. That's why I've got to work a little harder, because it's my mom's reward. I'll break my back for that."

Willie had the same goal when he went to college at Bethune-Cookman. He returned with a degree but without the means. He has been a teacher and counselor, and his dignified manner befits those professions. He led much of the conversation in a three-hour visit at his mother's house two nights before Michael arrived from Miami.

But, as Willie led, everyone felt free to step in. Questions were only interruptions. A fan stirred the warm air in a tiny den off the living room as one thought spilled into another.

The size of the group was in constant flux as family members moved in and out, recalling games, catches, scores, opponents, where they were sitting, what they were doing, how long it took to get there, all the details of Michael's football career. Their voices were those of children: excited, animated.

They recalled what it had been like on draft day, when the Cowboys made Michael their first choice.

"I told all the children to get in front of the TV to watch," Willie said. "Then I said, 'Now dream a little bit. Maybe one day, it'll happen for you.' "
It has not happened for any of the other Irvin children. All either have jobs or are in school and all are healthy. They have done more than most would have thought possible for 17 children from a poor family. But none has been as wildly successful as Michael, and that may be more than enough for all of them.

"I used to dream that I would come back from school one day and help my mother," Willie said. "Now Michael will be able to do it. I could never be envious of him, because he's my brother. The cars don't bother me, the gold ropes don't bother me, none of that. I'm just happy for Michael. I'm just proud of him . . . We're all proud of him."

He stared at the floor as he finished his last sentence and, for the first time all evening, the room was quiet. There was only the hum of the fan.

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Bucks' Salmons headed to Hawks?

Milwaukee Bucks shooting guard John Salmons(notes) could stick around Milwaukee for another season and make $5.8 million or he could opt out and see if any team is interested in offering more dough than that.

If he opts out, it appears that the Atlanta Hawks will be very interested since its star shooting guard, Joe Johnson(notes), appears to be ready to fly the coop as well, according to the Milwaukee Journal Times. Johnson will be a free agent and there are a few teams that supposedly would like to bring him aboard, most noticeably the New York Knicks.

The 6'7" Johnson is averaging 20.9 points per game in the playoffs. He had an average of 21.3 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 4.9 assists per game during the season. The 6'6" Salmons put up 17 points per game during the playoffs and averaged 15.4 points, 2.8 assists, and 3.3 rebounds per game during the regular season.

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Decision process starts for Salmons

St. Francis — John Salmons is a wanted man.

His Milwaukee Bucks teammates were unanimous in hoping the 6-foot-6 shooting guard would return next season, as they made a last stop at the Cousins Center before heading their separate ways Monday, a day after their first-round playoff exit.

Salmons has an option worth $5.8 million for the 2010-'11 season. He can exercise the option or opt out of the deal and become an unrestricted free agent, or he might sign a contract extension with the Bucks.

Asked on a scale of 1 to 10 where he would rate the importance of signing Salmons, point guard Brandon Jennings didn't hesitate.

"It's a 10," Jennings said. "He's a scorer, somebody who helped us get to the playoffs. Without picking him up I don't think we would have been in the fifth or sixth spot (seeded sixth). I think we would have been fighting to get to the eighth spot."

The Bucks went 22-8 after acquiring Salmons in a Feb. 18 trade with the Chicago Bulls, who were looking to clear salary space to make a run at an elite free agent this summer.

Salmons was coming off the bench in Chicago and growing increasingly frustrated, but the cloud lifted as soon as he joined the Bucks.

"The city has been great and the fans have been great," Salmons said. "My teammates have been great, and it's a really good coaching staff.
"When you get traded, you never really know what to expect. We made a great playoff run and had an opportunity (against Atlanta) but just didn't pull it out."

Salmons averaged 19.9 points in 30 regular-season games with the Bucks and led the team in scoring 16 times while providing a needed offensive jolt.

And he averaged 17.0 points in the playoffs despite being limited to eight and 11 points, respectively, in the final two games of the series against the Hawks.

The 30-year-old Salmons said he had not decided whether to opt out of the final year of his contract and was still talking to his agent about it.
"It's probably a pretty good option, to opt out," he said.

If he does opt out, the Bucks would lose the exclusive negotiating status they now hold, and Salmons would have to wait until the free agency period begins July 1 to start having discussions with any teams.

"This is why contracts are done with opt-outs," Bucks coach Scott Skiles said. "A guy has a right to do what he needs to do.
"We certainly have great interest in John; that goes without saying. He's been our kind of player. He's serious about the game. And he was very, very productive for us."

Salmons said the positive finish in Milwaukee and cohesiveness among the players would be something he considers in making his decision.
Salmons has played for four teams in his eight-year career: Philadelphia, Sacramento, Chicago and Milwaukee. And he has played for three teams in the last two seasons and been traded twice.

"Moving is getting a little old," Salmons said. "It's a business and it's part of it. Quentin Richardson got traded five times last summer.

"For me the main thing is what I feel God wants me to do. I'm just going to pray on the decision."

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Aubrey Huff helps Giants beat Marlins 9-6 in 12

MIAMI — Aubrey Huff hit a two-run single to break a tie in the 12th inning Tuesday night, and the San Francisco Giants earned a seesaw victory over the Florida Marlins 9-6.

The Giants' Aaron Rowand hit a two-out solo homer in the ninth against Leo Nunez to tie the game. Dan Uggla's three-run homer with two out in the eighth off Sergio Romo gave the Marlins a 6-5 lead.

Unbeaten Giants ace Tim Lincecum had 13 strikeouts in seven innings and left with a 5-3 lead, but he was denied his fifth win of the season when Florida rallied.

Lincecum was up 3-0 before Hanley Ramirez hit a three-run homer in the sixth. Lincecum's ERA soared to 1.70, but aside from the homer he was in top form, allowing only five hits and one walk.

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Randy Phillips waits for medical OK to practice with Lions

Allen Park -- Former Miami (Fla.) safety Randy Phillips was a bystander during the Lions' three-day rookie minicamp over the weekend. He stood on the sidelines in uniform with a helmet but didn't participate in drills. And while he was initially listed among the undrafted free agents to sign with the Lions on the team's Web site, he is not yet under contract.

That's because Phillips failed his physical last week prior to the start of the rookie orientation camp, his agent, Tony Fleming, confirmed. But Phillips, who underwent surgery in to January to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder, is expect to sign with the Lions once he's cleared medically with the shoulder.

"He's with us right now, and he's not able to practice right now," Lions coach Jim Schwartz said Saturday, declining to get into specifics. "So we'll just see where that goes."

Phillips, who played through the shoulder injury last season and missed most of 2008 with a torn ACL, was the Hurricanes' fourth-leading tackler last season and tied for the team lead with two interceptions despite missing three games.

The 6-foot-2, 210-pound safety had several offers to join other NFL teams last week after going undrafted. But the Lions' uncertainty at the strong safety position and Phillips' ties to Lions secondary coach Tim Walton, who was his defensive coordinator and position coach for three years at Miami, played a role in his decision.

"I think it's a great opportunity to get back with him because he's the one that saw the most in me when he was here," Phillips told the Palm Beach Post. "We had a great relationship. I'm excited about getting up there and working with him. ...

"They're a young team looking to get better. They're going to put the best guys on the field. I'm eager to walk into that situation and give it my all. I know I can be a starter in the NFL. I just got to stay healthy."

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Peter King: We shouldn't forget about Jeff Feagles retiring

Look up the retiring punter's bio and the thing that jumps out is this: the number 22. From 1988, when he entered the league as a free-agent punter making $52,000 with Raymond Berry's Patriots (Steve Grogan and Russ Francis were teammates), Feagles played every game for 22 consecutive seasons. That's 352 straight games played, an NFL record. I don't care if you're a snapper or a ballboy; to never have a tweaked hamstring or suffered a bum back in 22 years and to play every game is amazing.

"The Favre streak is insane,'' Feagles said last night, referring to Favre's NFL record 285 consecutive starts. "He's the iron man of football. I'm just the lonely kicker. But I'm proud I was able to go to work for my team every Sunday.'' Late in his 20s, Feagles began a regimen of stretching (professionals stretched him three days a week for an hour; he eschewed yoga) and used chiropractors to stay in shape -- and he never got too far out of shape during the offseason.

Feagles won't go down as the longest punter ever (his 41.6-yard average is 110th all-time), but he should go down as the best directional punter of all time. His hang times are famous -- he once had a documented 5.83 hang time on a practice punt, the highest I've ever heard of -- and he practiced by putting a garbage can downfield and trying to land the ball in it.

"I'm not the strongest,'' Feagles said. "But I can put it where I want it.''

Shouldn't that be the mantra for young punters today? This is a field-position game, and Feagles so often controlled it by kicking it away from foes and pinning teams back. His 554 punts inside the 20 are 173 more than any other punter since the stat has been kept.

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Irvin's speech makes impression on young Cowboys hopefuls

IRVING -- Michael Irvin was a Hall of Fame receiver. He's almost as good a talker.

Irvin met with the 35 players at Cowboys rookie minicamp after their first practice Saturday. He gave them a 7-minute speech before leading them in breaking their post-practice huddle.

"His speech sounded like one of those 4th and Long [TV show] speeches he had," said receiver Jesse Holley, who spent last season on the Cowboys' practice squad after winning Irvin's reality series. "Anytime Mike gets a chance to speak, you know he's going to speak. It was a really powerful speech about opportunities, the privilege it is to be not only in the National Football League, but to be a Dallas Cowboy, and the things it's going to take to take this team to the next level. Some of the guys in this room are definitely going to be components in helping us get to that next level."

Irvin played 12 seasons, but he wishes he had one more.

"I tell them from the standpoint of a guy who wishes he could still run one more route," Irvin said. "Because it will be quick, and you will be telling some young guy, 'Trust me, [it's quick], so just make the most out of it.'"

Irvin hung around the field until top draft choice Dez Bryant was done catching kickoffs. Irvin hugged Bryant, and then talked to him about the responsibility of wearing the No. 88 made famous by Drew Pearson and then Irvin. Bryant wasn't made available for comment, but Irvin said he thinks Bryant understands the responsibility that comes with playing for the Cowboys and wearing a famous number.

"A lot of people have worn that Cowboy helmet before him," Irvin said. "[I told him] the honor it is to wear a Cowboy uniform. He plays for everybody that has played before him and for everybody that is going to play after him. I just wanted to give him a sense of the enormity of it all. And I think he understands that. He remains humble, and that's a good sign."

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Opting out 'good option' for Salmons

MILWAUKEE -- Even with Andrew Bogut healthy, the Milwaukee Bucks weren't supposed to do much this season.

They certainly weren't expected to make the playoffs or throw a serious scare into the heavily favored Atlanta Hawks in the first round, not after Bogut was lost to a gruesome arm injury near the end of the regular season.

So when the undermanned Bucks took an unlikely 3-2 series lead before losing the last two games, they reignited Milwaukee's largely latent NBA fan support and briefly took center stage in a crowded local sports scene.

"It was great," Bucks coach Scott Skiles said Monday as players cleared out their lockers. "That's what was so disappointing about Game 6. You could tell, it was palpable, the disappointment after the game in the locker room."

Skiles said he'll be "haunted" by those last two losses for a while, but the way the season ended doesn't detract from a team that tried hard on defense, rebounded well and didn't get derailed by individual players' agendas -- not exactly the sorts of things the Bucks were known for before Skiles came to town.

"It all kind of fell into place," Skiles said. "The main thing is, we didn't have what I guess I'll call the typical NBA issues that crop up on teams, the agendas and things that go on a lot that are just human nature-type things. It was a really, really good group to coach."

Now with Bogut expected to be fully healed in time for next season's training camp and guard Brandon Jennings coming off a brilliant rookie year, the Bucks will have a good chance to build on their success and aim even higher next season -- and, perhaps, make Milwaukee more of a basketball town along the way.

"It's just the beginning," Jennings said. "Buckle up, because it's going to be a long ride."

But will John Salmons be sitting shotgun?

Bucks general manager John Hammond acquired Salmons in a trade deadline deal with Chicago, landing a versatile scoring threat the team sorely needed. Salmons was in the middle of a so-so season for the Bulls but flourished after the move to Milwaukee.

"Chicago wasn't going well," Salmons said. "But coming here just turned my season around."

Bogut, Jennings and other Bucks players said it was critical for the team to bring Salmons back.

Salmons has a player option for next season, or he can opt out of his contract to become a free agent. Salmons acknowledged that opting out was "a pretty good option" but wasn't by any means ruling out a return, noting that the Bucks could contend with Bogut healthy.

"To have him back next year, who knows? We could become a real threat to teams in the East," Salmons said. "We've got to see what happens."

Skiles expects Salmons to test the market.

"We certainly have great interest in John," Skiles said. "I mean, that goes without saying. He's been our kind of player."

As it turns out, so was Jennings, who was seen as a risk when the Bucks took him with the No. 10 overall pick in the draft.

All he did was put up a 55-point performance just weeks into his NBA career, go on to start every game for the Bucks and prove himself to be a capable point guard on both ends of the floor.

Confidence never was a problem, either.

"I do talk a lot," Jennings said. "You talk a lot, you're going to have to end up backing it up. I think I did a great job of that this year."

Jennings will spend the offseason putting on some muscle and working on his midrange jumper.

Meanwhile, Bogut isn't quite sure when he'll be able to resume working on his game, but has vowed to be healthy in time for preseason training camp. He can't help but wonder what would have happened in the playoffs if he hadn't been hurt.

"I think we scared the daylights out of Atlanta for that series," Bogut said. "Would I liked to have been there? Obviously. It's a frustrating time."
Bogut's injury interrupted what was by far his best season since the Bucks took him with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2005 draft.

"He is the key, the centerpiece, to everything the Bucks do," veteran Jerry Stackhouse said.

While Bogut was highly visible during the Bucks' playoff run, fellow injured player Michael Redd wasn't around the team. Redd sustained a season-ending left knee injury for the second straight year, and Bogut acknowledged that not even Redd's teammates are sure he'll make it back.

"It's very tough to comment on a situation like that," Bogut said. "He's going through rehab, [it] could possibly be a career-ending injury for him. It's a tough time for him. Obviously we still don't know whether he'll be here with us next year or what's going on."

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Zach Railey takes out opening Finn race in France

For the third time in a row, the Finns lost their opening race at a major regatta; after losing the opening day in both Miami and Palma, on Sunday it was the turn of the SOF Hyeres, the fourth leg of the 2010 ISAF Sailing World Cup.

In fact the Finns raced for two hours on Sunday, but finally ran out of wind and time while the fleet was heading up the second bear and was sent home in the early evening with no scores on the board. The conditions for the rest of the week looked equally bad, and Monday morning came and went with a postponement, glassy seas and no wind.

Finally a breeze broke though at just after 13.00 the Finns were called out to sail just one testing race in about 5 knots of wind - but at least it was one race down.

The fleet were so keen to get going that Florian Raudaschl (AUT), Matt Coutts (NZL) and Rafal Szukiel (POL) were all Black Flagged out of the start. Picking up where he finished in Palma, where he won the medal race, the 2008 Olympic Silver medallist Zach Railey (USA) won the opening race in very light and shifty conditions.

Railey said, "There have been very tough conditions so far. I rounded in fourth at the first weather mark and it was the first downwind that really made the race for the top 10 boats. It was very hard to know where to go, but I was able to round in second at the leeward mark and then had a great fight with Ioannis Mitakis (GRE) for first and second in the race."

Mitakis is a relative newcomer in the fleet and last year won the Junior European Championship. Gasper Vincec (SLO) completed the top 3, with the current World Cup leader and winner in Miami and Palma, Ed Wright (GBR) in fourth.

Railey concluded, "I'm glad to just get a good score in the race. It was very difficult to know what the wind was going to do so I feel fortunate to have got in a good race. In the second race the RC made the right decision to call off the race as there was no wind to race in at all."

Racing continues until Friday when the medal race will be held for the top 10 sailors.

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No comeback for Feagles: 'I won't pull a Favre' »

Jeff Feagles woke up a week ago Monday with a sore back and a swollen knee and suddenly feeling every one of his 44 years. So instead of going to workout, he made a pot of coffee for his wife and then told her that his NFL career was done.

That’s the whole story on how Feagles, one of the best directional punters in NFL history, finally decided to hang up his spikes. And unlike some people, once he made his decision, it was final. There will be no changing his mind.

“I’ve taken my last swing,” Feagles said inside the packed auditorium at the Giants’ practice facility. “I’m not going to be the guy that goes back and says ‘Yeah, well, you know I’m going to be training.’ I was trying to train to play this season. If I was going to train, I would play.

“But I’m not going to be the guy that comes back and pulls a Brett Favre on you.”

Assuming that’s true, Feagles put an end to a remarkable career this afternoon - - one that included nearly 41 miles of punts in the regular season alone. In his 22 years, he never missed a game, playing in an NFL-record 352 straight. He punted 1,713 times for 71,211 yards.
That’s 213,633 feet … or 40.5 miles.

No wonder Tom Coughlin hailed him as “in my opinion, one of the greatest Giants of all.”

“I will forever in my mind have a vision of Jeff Feagles, who is an incredibly talented directional punter,” Coughlin said. “My vision is of Jeff lofting the ball down into the corner of the field, inside the 5 yard line, and David Tyree catching the ball before it goes out of bounds and before it goes into the end zone.”

Feagles was one of the best at those “coffin corner” kicks because, as Coughlin said, he was a master of “an art which is fast fading in our game.” Nowadays, punters are more interested in showing off their leg strength, booming kicks down the field. Feagles was more of a technician, especially in his many later years.

But Feagles knew those years in the NFL were at an end, even after he re-signed with the Giants earlier this month. He said that “as I got older, one of my goals was to be able to walk away from the game on my own terms,” but he feared that was growing increasingly unlikely. He also feared that he wouldn’t be able to kick up to his usual high standards.

“I didn’t want to get out there and put my team or myself at risk,” he said. “And I’m miserable when I’m not playing well. (My wife) Michelle can attest to that. So can the kids. I didn’t want to go through that again.”

So instead, he made the decision to walk away while he still could.

“My mind was telling me that I want to go back and do this,” Feagles said. “I think my mind will tell me that I always want to do this. Because it’s a great game. I’ve been doing it half my life.

“But I started working out and my body, it’s just not recovering the way it’s supposed to. I’ve always been very, very hard in my training. That’s why I’ve been able to play so long. But I just can’t do it anymore. My body is just not letting me respond to it. It’s time to move on.”


Feagles will almost certainly not end up in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, because no punter ever has. But kicker Lawrence Tynes, who was at his press conference, believes he should “be a lock.”

Tynes also raved about Feagles’ ability as the holder for field goals and his presence when Tynes was attempting kicks. That could definitely be an issue for Tynes and the Giants this year.

“It’ll be a work in progress,” Tynes said. “We’re going to have to do a lot of work. Jeff was very good. You think about the year we won the Super Bowl when we had two rookies snapping. He was very good. And the thing Jeff was, was a very calming, confident presence on the field, which always made me feel really good.”

Click here to order Jeff Feagles' proCane Rookie Card.

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Javarris James gets his shot with Colts

The Houston Texans' official website reports Texans HC Gary Kubiak said the team has been moving WR Andre Johnson around more in their formations to prevent against constant double teams.


After 22 seasons, 41 miles, Giants punter Jeff Feagles announces retirement

Giants punter Jeff Feagles retires

Jeff Feagles has punted for more than 41 miles in his professional career. He is the oldest player to earn a Super Bowl ring. He was the last one standing from the roster of the immortal “Tecmo Super Bowl” video game.

And today, after 22 seasons in the NFL and a record 352 consecutive regular-season games, the 44-year-old punter announced his retirement in a press conference at the Giants' Timex Performance Center.

"This game takes a toll on your body, and eventually it tells you you can't do it anymore," Feagles said. "That day is today."

Feagles had hoped to return for one more season -- particularly after the way the last one ended, with the Giants missing the playoffs -- but ran into physical hurdles as he started the team’s offseason program. He informed the team before last week’s NFL Draft he was considering retirement, leading to the Giants’ seventh-round selection of former East Carolina punter Matt Dodge.

"My mind was telling me that I wanted to go back and do this. ... But I started working out and my body is not just recovering the way it's supposed to," Feagles said. "I'm not going to be the guy that's coming back and pulling a Brett Favre on you."

Arguably the best directional punter in league history, Feagles could angle his punts out of bounds or pin them against the sideline with near-scientific precision. He debuted for New England in 1988, and played for five NFL teams in his career, spending the past seven seasons with the Giants.

Feagles was part of the Giants’ Super Bowl XLII championship and had one of his best seasons late in his career, posting a coveted 40.2-yard net average in 2008 – one of his two Pro Bowl seasons. At today's press conference, Giants coach Tom Coughlin called Feagles "one of the greatest Giants of all time."

"I'm proud to be a football player, and I'm proud to say I'll always be a New York Giant," the punter said.

His career ends after 1,770 punts, in both regular and postseason, 247 of which landed out of bounds and 514 which landed inside the 20 (though that data was not charted before 1991, so those figures are incomplete).

Competing to replace him are two players who have zero punts in the NFL: Dodge and Jy Bond, a former Australian rules football player whom the Giants signed in March.

Dodge -- whose college coach, Skip Holtz, calls him a “punter in a weightlifter’s body” on account of his 6-1, 224-pound frame -- was both a punter and kickoff specialist for East Carolina and can also placekick.

A transfer from the 2005 Appalachian State FCS national championship team, Dodge played three seasons for East Carolina and ranked second in the nation last fall with a 45.8-yard average. He had a 39.1 net average, with 24 of his 67 punts inside the 20 and 22 traveling 50 or more yards.

Click here to order Jeff Feagles' proCane Rookie Card.

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NY Giants' Lance Leggett catches a pass during rookie mini-camp

New York Giants' Lance Leggett, left, catches a pass as Seth Williams defends during rookie football mini-camp, Friday, April 30, 2010, in East Rutherford, N.J.

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Javarris James’ has big shoes to fill in Indy

INDIANAPOLIS — Javarris James has played the name game his entire life.

There was high school and college, and now the NFL rookie must do it again in, of all places, Indianapolis.

No, the younger James doesn’t mind following his older cousin, Edgerrin, in another old stomping ground — as long as he gets a shot to carve out his own niche as a Colts running back.

"You’ve just got to learn to deal with it," James said as Indy’s rookie mini-camp opened this weekend. "When you go through it all this time, I understand what it takes. You know, Edgerrin did a lot of great things."

He became the Colts’ career leading rusher, helped lead Indy back to NFL prominence and formed a surprisingly strong bond with this Midwestern city.

Signing another member of the James family has rekindled those fond memories and created hope among some fans that the next James in the finally line can bring back the old magic.

It’s asking a lot since they’re hardly carbon copies.

Javariss arrived in Indianapolis on Friday with short, neatly trimmed hair and an engaging smile, a stark contrast to Edgerrin’s trademark dreadlocks and glittering gold teeth. The younger James hasn’t yet exhibited his cousin’s carefree spirit, either.

Even their resumes are different.

Javarris comes to Indy as an undrafted free agent, not a first-round draft pick like Edgerrin in 1999.

Edgerrin left school after his junior year, had a starting job in the NFL at age 21 and won NFL rushing titles in his first two pro seasons. Javarris is already behind two first-round draft picks, Joseph Addai and Donald Brown, on the depth chart and may have to beat out Michigan’s career rushing leader, Mike Hart, to win a roster spot.

James’ top priority: Being on the active roster when he turns in 23 in September.

But the younger James isn’t at a disadvantage in all fazes.

He has already gotten an inside look at the Colts and, thanks to his cousin, knows four-time MVP Peyton Manning — things Edgerrin had to learn when he came to town.

"I spoke with Peyton in the locker room, and I was surprised he remembered me," the rookie said Friday. "The last time I met him, I was about 10 or 11 years old."

The now grown-up James understands there will be countless comparisons between himself and a cousin who became so revered within the organization that team owner Jim Irsay sent Edgerrin a Super Bowl ring after the Colts’ win it after the 2006 season. By then, he was playing for Arizona.

Colts coaches have anticipated the questions, too, so they’ve advised the rookie to focus on being himself.

"Yes, that’s been said to him and Edgerrin told him that, too, on several occasions," coach Jim Caldwell said. "He is who he is, and he has own set of skills that he has to rely on.’

Fortunately for James, he’s been here before — literally.

James ran for 4,500 yards at the same high school his cousin attended in Florida, Immokalee. He took the scholarship from Miami, where his cousin became a star, and the younger James wound up starting more games (28 to 17), earning more letters (four to three) and rushing for 2,162 yards compared with Edgerrin’s 2,960. At Miami, he worked out with Pro Bowl receiver Reggie Wayne, one of Edgerrin’s best friends and now his new teammate.

The hardest part is just beginning.

James became a better player with the Colts. He ran for 9,226 yards in seven seasons in Indy, topping 10,000 career yards during his three seasons in Arizona. And his career might not be over yet.

"I think he wants to go back at it for one or two more years," the 22-year old said. "You know he wanted us to be on the same team. That’s probably not going to happen here, but he always loved this place."

And Indy loved him back.

Now Javarris will try to create the same excitement, the same bond, the same numbers that his cousin did in Indy by putting his own stamp on it.

"People automatically expected me to do the same things in high school and college that he did, but I learned that that I had to be my own man," the new Colt said. "It’s a lot to expect of someone. But when you have a cousin and a role model like that, I feel honored to be compared with him."

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Sam Shields on fast track for roster spot

GREEN BAY — If you’re a fan of the University of Wisconsin football team, then you should remember Sam Shields.

He was that blur in a white Miami (Fla.) uniform that streaked across your television at the beginning of last year’s Champs Sports Bowl.

Shields took a reverse on the opening kickoff and raced 90 yards for a touchdown — only it was called back to the UW 16-yard line for a clipping penalty.

“It was like right by me when I was running,” Shields said. “I seen the dude clip him. I’m like, ‘Aw, man. I hope they didn’t see it.’ But then I seen the flag.”

The touchdown might not have counted. But it showed the sort of explosiveness that Shields possesses, a commodity the Green Bay Packers — his new employer — sorely lacked in the return game last season.

Shields, who signed as a free agent in the wake of last weekend’s NFL draft, is officially listed on the roster as a cornerback. But his best shot at making the Packers likely rests on his ability on special teams.

Shields said he played on both return teams and both coverage units at Miami. With his exceptional speed — he was timed in the low 4.3s at the school’s pro day leading up to the draft — he was particularly effective working as a gunner on punt coverage.

“I love that a lot,” said Shields, a track standout at Booker High School in Sarasota, Fla., who also ran track during his sophomore year at Miami.

Despite his rare speed, Shields wasn’t used as a kick or punt returner with the Hurricanes — the return against UW was on a set play. But he said he handled those assignments in high school, and returned kicks on the scout team at Miami.

The Packers seem interested in seeing how Shields would fare in that role. He said the team spoke to him about working in the return game before he signed, and he fielded kicks and punts during Friday’s practice, the only workout open to reporters during this weekend’s rookie orientation camp.

“That’s someone that jumped out at everybody, just talking with (cornerbacks coach) Joe Whitt as we were walking off the field,” Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy said. “He has exceptional speed, and he looked very natural as far as catching the ball as you move forward and really attacking the landmark. I thought just the number of balls he did catch, that did jump out to me.”

As for his primary position, Shields is still developing at cornerback. He was recruited out of high school as a wide receiver and played there during his first three years at Miami.

But after catching 37 passes for 501 yards and four touchdowns as a true freshman, Shields’ production fell off as a sophomore and again as a junior.

He switched to cornerback in spring practices last year and started 10 games as a senior.

“I feel more comfortable than I used to be,” said Shields, who had 41 tackles, two pass breakups, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery as a senior. “It’s just now up here, you’ve got to do a lot of calling. Back in college you listened to the safeties, and whatever the safeties gave you, then you’re clear. But now you’ve got to do a lot calling, so that’s been tough on me.”

Shields said he picked the Packers’ offer over ones from Oakland, Washington, Detroit, New Orleans and Kansas City. He might not have been available as a free agent were it not for a March arrest for marijuana possession.

Shields said police found the drug in his truck, but that it belonged to the grandmother of one of his two daughters. The charges have since been dropped.

“At the time it happened,” he said, “I thought everything was over for me.”

Not so.

“I got a lot of calls after the draft, and I thought the Packers were a good fit for me, doing my homework, looking at the depth chart and things like that,” he said. “I can see myself working with Charles Woodson and Al Harris, getting some work in to help out.”

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Sinorice Moss On Thin Ice Again?

Could this be the season that Sinorice Moss finally doesn't make the Giants? The fifth-year wideout and returner has been hanging on by a thread the past few seasons, barely making the roster out of camp. But this really could be the year the team keeps one fewer receiver and cuts Moss, provided it feels good about its other return specialists.

Click here to order Sinorice Moss' proCane Rookie Card.

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Frank Gore Not Sold On Sharing Carries?

In theory, the 49ers want to move toward a multi-back system to take some of the workload off their featured back.

But just try selling that idea to Frank Gore.

"You have a hard time trying to explain to Frank how some other guy needs to play," Coach Mike Singletary said. "He just doesn't get it. I think as time goes on he'll be a little more willing to do that."

Gore has four consecutive 1,000-yard rushing seasons, a franchise first. His 6,653 yards from scrimmage since 2006 are topped only by Steven Jackson (6,766) and LaDainian Tomlinson (6,692).

But Gore has also battled ankle injuries and his hard-nosed running style raises concerns about wear and tear. The 49ers drafted rookie Glen Coffee to take some of the load a year ago, but Coffee had only 83 carries on the season and had more than two carries in a game only once after Week 7.

The 49ers think Gore can stay fresher and healthier over the course of the season if they get him a well-timed breather. The team points to recent New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys teams of examples of successful running back committees.

That's why they the 49ers used a sixth-round pick on Anthony Dixon, a 6-0, 233-pound back from Mississippi. Dixon lacks breakaway speed but, like Gore, he's a powerful inside runner.

"I embrace the contact," Dixon said. "Very physical."

Unlike, say, the Giants' recent trio nicknamed "Earth, Wind and Fire" for their divergent skills (Brandon Jacobs, Derrick Ward and Ahmad Bradshaw), the 49ers' three backs all feature similar styles.

Gore, Coffee and Dixon are all downhill-type runners and there is no change-of-pace, outside threat on the roster.

But that's fine with director of player personnel Trent Baalke, especially after using his pair of first-round draft picks to beef up the offensive line.

"The style of offense we run is go big or go home," he said.

Click here to order Frank Gore's proCane Rookie Card.

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Steelers Release UDFA Center A.J. Trump

The Steelers released rookie free agent center A.J. Trump before the start of mini-camp on Friday. Trump was signed as undrafted free agent out of the University of Miami on Monday. The Steelers roster now stands at 90 players with 80 under contract.

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Interview With Dedrick Epps

Some of you know of my love affair with the University of Miami, until now I haven’t had the chance to interview any current or former players. That all changed this afternoon when recently drafted tight end Dedrick Epps agreed to take a few questions from me.

Epps earned a starting job on a talented Miami team in 2008 and subsequently turned that into leverage to become the 12th rated tight end in the 2010 NFL draft.

He finished his career at ‘The U’ with 49 receptions for 634 yards and six touchdowns. He was a seventh round selection of the San Diego Chargers and gets to learn from one of the best tight ends in the league in Antonio Gates.

What’s it like playing in a program with a storied history like Miami’s? Does that increase the pressure? Or alleviate it?
Playin’ for the U is an honor. Greats have created a tradition that we all strive to maintain as a Hurricane. It adds a little pressure, but that’s what you go to the U for.

What was going through your head during the NFL draft?
The main thought I had during the draft was not getting picked. I saw a lot of Tight Ends go in the 5th-6th round and I thought I would eventually get the call.

You get to learn from one of the best tight ends in the game in Antonio Gates, are you looking forward to picking his brain?
I’m very excited to learn from Gates, I’ve watched him make great athletic catches and be a premier Tight End in the league, so I plan to learn as much as I can before the season starts.

Do you spend more time working on blocking or receiving?
I try to spend more time on blocking, I feel like its the weaker part of my game, but I still do some drills to polish catching.

What team did you root for growing up?
I was a Cowboys fan growing up, by the time I got to high school I wasn’t keeping up with football just the playoffs and the Super Bowl.

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Dwayne Hendricks Feeling the Heat in Minicamp

Coaches were fired up. "Let's go," Coughlin shouted. "Stop feeling sorry for yourselves." Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell picked up where he left off yesterday, racing UDFA DT Dwayne Hendricks to the turf field and yelling at the defense on one drill, "You did not sprint all the way through to the goal line. BS!"

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Bryant McKinnie Eager for the 2010 Season

27CDB6E-AE6D-11cf-96B8-444553540000" id="q3ooelhd" width="432" height="415"><a href="http://video.msn.com/?mkt=en-us&brand=foxsports&playlist=videoByUuids:uuids:6bf8edc5-e007-4726-b56a-ef3a99ae4db9&showPlaylist=true&from=IV2_en-us_foxsports_videosearch&fg=everyzing" target="_new" title="McKinnie eager for 2010 season">Video: McKinnie eager for 2010 season</a>

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

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Dez Bryant and Michael Irvin meet

Michael Irvin got to meet the receiver who will wear his No. 88. Irvin and Dez Bryant spoke for roughly five minutes after the Cowboys first practice session.

Irvin did most of the talking. What did he share?

"The responsibility of wearing Drew Pearson's number,'' Irvin said. "A lot of people have worn that Cowboy helmet before him and the honor it is to wear a Cowboy uniform and that he plays for everybody that has played before him and for everybody that is going to play after him.

"I just wanted to give him a sense of the enormity of it all. And I think he understands that. And he remains humble and that's a good sign.''

Irvin calls Bryant a natural receiver, adding, "I don't know if I have seen anybody that has the body control and the natural ability to receive a football like Dez Bryant in a Cowboy uniform in a long time.'' Pearson, who also wore No. 88, told Irvin to go do better things with that number than he ever did. Irvin told Bryant the same.

Some have compared Bryant to Carolina's Steve Smith. Irvin said Smith is smaller and a little faster up the field than Bryant, but Bryant is bigger and just as physical. Edge, Bryant. He said he sees a little bit of Baltimore's Anquan Boldin in Bryant's lower body and ability to go get the ball.

And in what ways does Bryant remind Irvin of himself?

"That's his sanctuary out there,'' Irvin said, pointing to the field. "That's where it's all OK.

"When you get a guy where his sanctuary and his peace is on the field, you can get some things out of him. You can get some good play out of him. Because out there, everything is all right, and he'll always give you everything he has on the field. He'll be winner on the field.''

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

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Kick Cancer with Greg Olsen of the Chicago Bears and TMC

Did you know that the American Cancer Society indicates if you are a male your chance of developing any type of cancer is 1 in 2? And if you are a female your chances are 1 in 3? These shocking statistics underline the pervasiveness of this terrible disease. If cancer has not already touched your life or someone you know, the chances are that it will.

Why are we writing about this dreaded disease in a blog about supply chain management and transportation?

TMC, C.H. Robinson and the companies we work with are very focused on giving back to the community. Our customers are not just interested in these programs – they are active participants.

We've updated the format of our charitable initiatives and are pleased to announce that Greg Olsen of the Chicago Bears and TMC have teamed up to help fight cancer. Yes, I know not all of you are Bear fans and, for many of our overseas friends the NFL is probably just another acronym. But this good cause supports the fight against one of the world's most debilitating diseases. Cancer has zero respect for national boundaries.

Also, just as we are more than supply chain professionals, Greg is much more than a football player. Together with members of his family, he started Receptions for Research, a foundation that supports the fight against cancer. Greg and his family have been touched by this disease. His mom is a cancer survivor, and through her the family has gained first-hand experience of battling and overcoming the disease.

C.H. Robinson employees are no strangers to the battle, having lost family and friends to cancer. The company's involvement in the fight includes contributing to a variety of organizations that support cancer research. The C.H. Robinson Foundation recently donated a million dollars to the Children's Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota to help build the C.H. Robinson Infusion Center, which is the largest, most comprehensive regional pediatric infusion center in the region. C.H. Robinson also sponsors the MJ Golf Classic, which benefits CureSearch, the world's largest childhood cancer research organization. And, three years ago, C.H. Robinson created a Pink Ribbon Watermelon program that educates consumers on breast cancer awareness. For every Pink Ribbon Watermelon bin sold to a retailer, C.H. Robinson donates $2 to a breast cancer organization of the retailers choosing.

As part of this multiyear effort, TMC, a division of C.H. Robinson will again host a large-scale kickball event on the Chicago lakefront this summer. The 2010 event, Kicks for a Cure, a large scale kickball tournament, will be held on July 10, 2010 in Grant Park on Chicago's lakefront to benefit Greg Olson's Receptions for Research foundation.

Kickball? Does this really raise a lot of money?

Yes, kickball ---the common variety that you played in grade school – can raise a lot of money with the right organization and support.

Still, Kicks for a Cure is no ordinary event. It attracts many hundreds of people to Grant Park where they have a lot of fun in support of this great cause. Make no mistake; this event is not to be missed. In the past six years, it has raised over $750,000 (net) for charitable causes. If you have attended a Kicks for a Cure event in the past, we encourage you to post a comment highlighting your experience.

Getting involved is easy.
1) Get a team together and play. This part is fun and easy. Each team must raise a small amount of money to participate. Don't be misled; these small amounts add up quickly. To sign up, visit the Kicks for a Cure website.
2) Volunteer your time. Believe it or not, securing individuals to referee games is our biggest challenge. Yet refereeing is a simple and easy way for anyone to contribute, and keep in mind that you might get to referee NFL pros!
3) Donate money to the cause. Every little bit counts.
4) Purchase a day pass. If you don't want to play but would like to be a spectator, you can purchase an individual day pass or a group of day passes.
5) Donate products. Our players will need juice, water, snacks, etcetera. This event is big enough that it requires a small scale supply chain of its own!
6) Spread the word. Please become a Facebook fan!  Direct friends, family and colleagues to Facebook, YouTube, or the Kicks for a Cure website for support!  Also, check out the Greg Olsen video below or view it on YouTube.

Click here to order Greg Olsen's proCane Rookie Card.

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Jon Jay makes most of first career start

Jon Jay has played in a state championship game in high school and in the College World Series while at Miami. Neither compared to what Jay felt like Friday night when he made his first start in the major leagues.

Jay, called up to the big leagues for the first time Monday, started in right field and batted second against the Cincinnati Reds. He had made three pinch-hit appearances this week but saw his name written in manager Tony La Russa’s lineup card for the first time when he got to the park Friday afternoon.

“I think every day when I am starting, no matter where I am at, you get a little nervous,” Jay said. “The butterflies, the competitive feeling…But I just have to remember that it’s baseball and go out there and do my thing.

“Obviously nothing can compare to the big leagues but I know I have been able to perform on that stage before and just having that in the back of my mind, obviously this is a new thing for me, it’s the big leagues, but I have the same mind frame and the same confidence that I’ll be able to be successful. “

Jay did his thing in the top of the second inning, catching a fly ball off the bat of Jonny Gomes and firing home to nail Jay Bruce at the plate. Bruce had tagged up and tried to score, but the left-handed throwing Jay threw a strike to catcher Yadier Molina, who blocked the plate perfectly and applied the tag to end the inning.

Jay then hit a ground-rule double down the left-field line in the third inning for his first major league hit. He had been 0-for-4 to start his major league career, counting a ground out in the first inning, before taking an outside pitch the opposite way to left and bouncing it off the foul line and into the stands.

Ushers informed the fan who caught the ball that it was Jay’s first major league hit and he agreed to give the ball back to Jay.

It’s been a week to remember for Jay, who was called up Monday and made his major league debut by pinch-hitting against the Braves’ Tim Hudson less than an hour after arriving at the ballpark. After starting the year at Triple A Memphis with a 16-game hitting streak, Jay is still having a hard time believing he is in the majors.

But now that’s he here, Jay hopes to stay as long as possible.

“It’s just one of those things where I take it day to day,” Jay said. “I think every day I am going to get a little bit smarter. I have great teammates and great coaches here and I just have to lean on them a little bit but at the same time, do my work in the film room and the cage and all that stuff. Every day I am adapting and I’m starting to feel more comfortable every day.

“I think it’s been fine. Just trying to find my way around and stay quiet and listen and see how guys go about their business here. I’m just trying to learn every day.”

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Les Levine: Chris Perez needs lesson in baseball etiquette

After Friday night's 9-3 loss to the American League Central front-running Twins, the Indians finished April with a record of 9-13.

Somewhere Eric Wedge is smiling.

No matter what Manager Manny Acta and his staff did in spring training to get the Tribe in position for a good start, it didn't work.

But Wedge wouldn't be smiling if he still was the manager of this team and the Angels' Howie Kendrick did what he did Wednesday night in Anaheim.

Kendrick laid down a bunt single on the first pitch he saw from Indians closer Chris Perez for a walkoff 4-3 win, with what has mistakenly called a suicide squeeze. A suicide squeeze occurs when the bunt takes place as the runner from third is heading home with fewer than two outs. No matter what happened with the baserunner, it wouldn't have mattered if the Indians could have thrown out Kendrick at first base.

Remember Wedge's reaction when Omar Vizquel laid down a suicide squeeze as a member of the Rangers? He all but called out the manhood of Vizquel for having the audacity to do such a thing.

Acta responded the way he should have responded, by saying Kendrick made an excellent play. Somehow, Perez didn't get the message.

Perez, who previously threw his catcher, Lou Marson, under the bus for not blocking some wild pitches earlier in the season, had an interesting observation about Kendrick.

"It was a stupid play that just happened to work," he said. "It caught us off-guard, but it wasn't a smart baseball play. What percentage of the time is he going to take a first pitch from a pitcher he hasn't seen and put it where he did?"

Chris, maybe someone should mention some of the finer points of the game to you. Those are the exact reasons Kendrick did it.

The infield was playing back and was caught off guard. He also knew you would be falling off the mound on your delivery. Here's some news for you, based on your theory of never facing him before. Under the circumstances, he had a better chance to succeed laying down a bunt than he would have had trying to get a regular base hit to end the game. A .300 hitter still fails seven out of 10 times.

On the other hand, Kendrick could have taken a couple of pitches from Perez. After all, a walkoff wild pitch is an easier way to bring in the winning run.

What shouldn't be overlooked is the Russell Branyan at-bat earlier in the game, with one out and the bases loaded, with the Tribe trying to extend a 3-0 lead.

Branyan couldn't get his bat on the ball and struck out for the second out of the inning, and the Indians were not able to score. In the bottom of the inning, Torii Hunter smashed a three-run home run to tie the game, setting up the bottom of the ninth when Kendrick executed anything but "a stupid play."

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No ‘off’ year for Lauryn Williams

This is a rare “off” year for Lauryn Williams. But that doesn’t mean she’s taking time off.

In the cycle of the international track and field competition calendar, 2010 is a year with no Olympics or world championships. Williams, a Rochester High School graduate and 2004 Olympic silver medalist in the 100-meter dash, hasn’t competed all year and likely will not compete at all or do so on a limited basis.

“Why would you want to play the other 17 games if there’s no Super Bowl at the end?” said Williams via phone earlier this week. “I think there’s value in letting your body recuperate.

“They always say work smart instead of working hard as you get older. You know what your body can take. I don’t have to worry about being fast right now.”

Williams, 26, is using the time to continue her training and refine some of the nuances in her running. She’s working on correcting what she calls “an ugly arm” in her form, hoping to shave even a fraction off her time.

She’s also getting the chance to do a few more appearances. She said she gets anywhere from five to 15 requests per month to appear at various events to promote track and field. In a regular competition year, she’s not able to fulfill most of those requests. Now, she has more time.

She spent Wednesday at the U.S. Olympic headquarters in Colorado Springs as part of the Athlete Ambassador Program, a coalition of athletes and other personalities that promotes drug-free competition.

“We just want a level playing field,” said Williams, the 2005 100-meter world champion. “Not just for ourselves, but for the fans.”

In 2011, with a world championship meet on the calendar, Williams will again ramp up her training. The following year will be the Olympic Games in London. By then Williams will be just a month short of her 29th birthday, up in years by sprinter’s standards.

But don’t be surprised if Rochester’s favorite daughter is representing the USA for a third time.

“I’ll be ready for 2012,” she said.

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