Bennie Blades Archives

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Denny Fortney Archives

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Javon Nanton Archives

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Constantine Popa Archives

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Check out WQAM's interviews with proCanes This Week

Dan Morgan, Jon Vilma and Lamar Thomas were guests on WQAM this week. Additionally Randy Shannon was also a guest on WQAM this week. Click here to listen to the interviews.

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Reggie Wayne will chase milestones vs Giants

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark have been catching touchdown passes from Peyton Manning for almost a decade.

On Sunday night, in Manning Bowl II, both could reach new milestones with the Indianapolis Colts quarterback.

Wayne needs one more TD reception from Manning to tie the John Unitas-to-Raymond Berry connection (63) for second in Colts franchise history.

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Kellen Winslow 'questionable' against Carolina

TAMPA - A week after facing the Browns with a full squad, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers may be short-handed Sunday in Charlotte.
Tight end Kellen Winslow, who appeared in all 16 games last season, practiced sparingly this week and is listed as questionable on Friday's injury report due to a chronic knee problem, meaning he has a 50-50 chance of playing.

"It's the same battle he's been fighting his whole career,'' Bucs coach Raheem Morris said.

Winslow has had multiple surgeries on his right knee, which was injured in a motorcycle crash that forced him to miss the 2005 season with the Cleveland Browns. The most recent surgery this past offseason was described by Morris as minor, an arthroscopic procedure to clean up scar tissue.

Winslow caught four passes for 32 yards in the Bucs' season-opening win against the Browns, his former team.

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Calais Campbell fined for slamming Sam

St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford achieved a lot of firsts last Sunday in his NFL debut against the Arizona Cardinals. First completion, first touchdown pass, and first interception among them.

Now from the NFL office in New York comes word of another first -- first player fined for an illegal hit on Bradford.

The league has fined Big Red defensive end Calais Campbell $5,000 for roughing the passer.

The play occurred on the second possession of the second half, on what looked like a helmet-to-helmet hit by Campbell on Bradford.

On the play, Bradford completed a short pass to Daniel Fells.

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Dedrick Epps Happy to Be With the Dolphins

Omar Kelly on his twitter account said, former Hurricane TE Dedrick Epps said he knows the key to getting promoted to the Dolphins' 53 is showing he can contribute on special teams. How does Dedrick Epps like coming back to MIA? Loves it, told me "nothing better than being back home."

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LB Leon Williams ready for his shot

IRVING -- With inside linebacker Sean Lee questionable with a hamstring strain, it means Leon Williams will take over his spot on special teams. If necessary, Williams will also back up Bradie James on the strongside in the nickel package.

"This is a big opportunity," Williams said. "You don’t want to capitalize on somebody’s injury, but that’s the way the game is. It’s definitely an opportunity. I’m going to be playing on special teams and a lot of things can change in the game with good special teams play. That’s what I’m looking forward to doing and preparing for that and whenever I’m needed and called on defense, I’ll be there."

Williams was one of the last players to make the team in a crowded field of linebackers. He has some experienced. Williams signed as an undrafted free agent with Cleveland in 2006 and after playing 46 regular season games, including 12 starts, he was released after the 2008 season.

Williams spent a year with the United Football League's New York Sentinels and former Cleveland Browns defensive coordinator Todd Grantham told the Cowboys to give Williams a look after the UFL season.

The Cowboys liked his athletic ability and decided to give him a chance.

"I felt like the training camp I had was the best of my career," he said. "I would have felt alright wit myslef if I was cut."

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Jonathan Vilma practices Thursday

New Orleans Saints LB Jonathan Vilma (groin) fully participated in practice Thursday, Sept. 16, according to, and should start at San Francisco.

Huddle Up: Vilma had four solo tackles and a pass deflected in the opener vs. Minnesota. That was last Thursday so he's had plenty of time to recover.

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Ray Lewis' hit on Dustin Keller was like "throwing a big TD"

Ray Lewis described his fourth-quarter hit of Jets tight end Dustin Keller, saying “it’s like a quarterback throwing a big touchdown.”

The Ravens linebacker anticipated the play because he saw Keller run the same pattern before in his film study.

“When you got that perfect setup and you see this man coming, you go ‘pop’ and you hit him right on the button,” Lewis said. “When you get up, you know it was that play. It’s what you work for. Playing my position, that’s my touchdown.”

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Clinton Portis declines to comment, with help from Albert Haynesworth

Clinton Portis and Albert Haynesworth performed a scripted skit for reporters in the locker room Thursday afternoon in which Portis declined to answer questions and Haynesworth covered the running back's mouth with strips of black athletic tape.

A Redskins media relations official informed reporters that Portis, who, in a prepared statement, apologized for inappropriate comments he made about female reporters earlier this week, was ready for his scheduled weekly media availability.

When reporters approached Portis at his dressing stall, however, he initially did not speak. When a reporter asked Portis about his ill-advised comments during the radio interview, he held up a spiral notebook with "No Comment" written on one of the pages while Haynesworth, standing to Portis's left, tore a piece of tape and applied it to Portis's lips.

When a reporter asked about Sunday's game against the Houston Texans, Portis turned the page and held up the notebook again: "Thanks For Coming." Haynesworth applied another piece of black tape.

As reporters continued in vain to engage Portis, up went the notebook twice more with: "God Bless You" and "Have A Good Day." Haynesworth did his part with more tape, and then the players left the locker room together.

Redskins officials probably would prefer that Portis's lips remained perpetually sealed. He occasionally has inserted his foot into his mouth during interviews -- though not to the extent of his misstep this week -- or has stirred controversy by ripping former head coach Jim Zorn and quarterback Jason Campbell.

But this was Portis's first opportunity to explain himself after making comments that, at the very least, displayed some insensitivity on the subject of female reporters. It does raise questions about how sincere Portis's apology was. Perhaps the Portis-Haynesworth two-man act should go on the road. It didn't play well in Ashburn.

Click here to order Clinton Portis’ proCane Rookie Card.

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Unlikely winner: Kelly Jennings vs. Gore

Kelly Jennings' open-field tackle on Frank Gore stood out as one of the more surprising visuals from Week 1 in the NFC West.

Jennings is a 5-foot-11, 180-pound cornerback. Gore is two inches shorter and nearly 40 pounds heavier.

The former teammates at the University of Miami remain friends, but Jennings once described an open-field encounter with Gore as a potential worst-case scenario. That's what made Jennings' aggressive, decisive tackle on Gore such an impressive feat.

"I tell you what, Kelly has been preparing himself since OTAs and I'll be the first to tell you, he had a great spring, kept getting better throughout camp and you can just see the guy really playing with as much confidence as I've ever seen him," teammate Jordan Babineaux said Wednesday.

Jennings is a fifth-year player entering the final year of his contract. His career bottomed out a couple years ago, but Jennings said newfound perspective has helped him get back on track. The Seahawks' new leadership felt good enough about Jennings this summer to trade incumbent starter Josh Wilson.

"He really cares about what he is doing," Babineaux said. "You really notice it in his game."

Not that Jennings is crowing about that take-down against Gore.

"One-on-one, if he has a change to run me over, I know he would definitely take the opportunity," Jennings said.

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Fast friends Sam Shields and Morgan Burnett avoid rookie blues

Morgan Burnett and Sam Shields first met during offseason workouts in Green Bay. Burnett was the third-round pick out of Georgia Tech. Shields was the undrafted free agent from The U (Miami).

The duo became roommates and are nearly inseparable — even in the Packers lineup.

“We clicked up the first day,” Burnett said. “You won’t find us without each other.”

Burnett’s words apply on the field and off.

The safety was expected to play a significant role beginning as a rookie. When Atari Bigby stayed away from organized team activity workouts and mandatory minicamp looking for a new contract, Burnett played with the starters.

Shields was just trying to make the team.

An ankle injury kept Bigby out of training camp and on the physically unable to perform list, making Burnett the official starter.

Shields quietly climbed the ranks during camp, made the 53-man roster and was named the No. 3 cornerback with Brandon Underwood out with an injury.

The Packers played strictly nickel and dime packages throughout the 27-20 win over Philadelphia in the season opener with Burnett and Shields playing the entire game.

“Me and Morgan, being freshmen,” Shields said, “being in the ACC we played against each other and now playing with each other at Green Bay.

“I can’t explain. It was more exciting than I thought (it would be).”

The two went relatively unnoticed for most of the game, which is a good thing because they weren’t getting beat.

But both had their bad moments. Burnett missed on three tackle attempts and was evaded on a screen play to LeSean McCoy.

Shields was beat just twice, but bit on a double-move and gave up a 17-yard touchdown from Michael Vick to Jeremy Maclin in the fourth quarter.

“It was a good start for them,” defensive coordinator Dom Capers said. “There are some things they’d like to clean up. I think you’ll see them play more aggressively because of the kind of guys they are. Both worked extremely hard in preparation.

“When you’re playing your first game on the road, there’s probably going to be a little reluctance. I think you’ll see them play more aggressively this week. You’ll see both those guys get better as the season goes on.”

Shields was not the only one slightly surprised the Eagles didn’t throw his way more often — a trend unlikely to continue. Rookie cornerbacks get picked on. New York Jets cornerback Kyle Wilson found out quickly on “Monday Night Football” courtesy of quarterback Joe Flacco and receiver Anquan Boldin, who finished with seven catches for 110 yards.

Morgan and Shields are fairly even-tempered and neither seems to get too excited about the good things or too depressed about the bad.

“Quiet guys,” safety Nick Collins said. “I expect, as the season goes on, they’ll start talking a little more. Right now they’re just taking it real slow, trying to understand what’s going on around here.

“The main thing you want to be is humble. Both of those guys are very humble. They accept coaching and that’s all you can ask from a young player.”

At least they have each other, and Capers thinks that goes a long way.

In the pass-oriented NFL, the strong safety and nickel cornerback will be tested regularly. The Packers are scheduled to face Brett Favre (twice), Jay Cutler (twice), Tony Romo, Donovan McNabb, Matt Ryan, Tom Brady and Eli Manning this year, so the duo will have to put any rookie tendencies to bed in the near future.

“Likes kind of attract,” Capers said. “We like what we see in both these guys in terms of their professional approach. The time they spend together looking at tape.

“They’re both in the same situation so they can relate to each other from the standpoint that they come in as rookies and the next thing you know they’re out there starting in Philadelphia. And under close scrutiny because they are rookies. Everybody in the league knows when you’ve got a rookie out there starting. I think there’s a comfort in having your best buddy right out there with you.”

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Ochocinco talks trash with McGahee, McClain on Twitter

Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chad Ochocinco traded some serious trash talk via Twitter (see below) with Baltimore Ravens running backs Willis McGahee and Le'Ron McClain on Tuesday.

The Bengals face the prospect of opening the season with an 0-2 record if they lose at home to the Ravens Sunday at 1 p.m. Both the Bengals and fantasy owners hope Ochocinco can focus more on repeating his 12-catch, 159-yard, 1 TD performance against New England than on settling a score with McGahee and McClain.

And Jets fans, also take note of Ochocinco taking a shot at Jets coach Rex Ryan ...

Here's Tuesday's Twitter exhange:

Ochocinco to McGahee: “even though you play offense i will whoop yo a** to #justsayin from the shoulders or the field”
McGahee: “#justsayin this aint what you want homeboi....4real,4real”

Ochocinco: “bruh dont pull a Rex Ryan and write a check yo a** cant cash, i will play defense this week just to hit you in yo mouth fool!!!!”
McGahee: “Chad listen man you must still think your doing a reality show bra bra I'm going to be real and give you a reality check son”

Ochocinco: “STFU before i cave your face in with my fist boy, when i touch the field this sunday its gone be a reality show, ultimate catches”
Ochocinco: “you know i aint wrapped up to tight, i had my wisdom teeth pulled today with no sedation, be careful messin with crazy folk!!!”
McGahee: “Chad stop lying about you got your wisdom teeth pulled wit no sedation,u not on (wwf) raw you don't have to lie to kick it”

Ochocinco: “aight this shh done got personal, when i see you on the field i am going straight to the jaw, i will take the fine 4 beatin u up”
McClain to Ochocinco: “c'mon maboi you can't go at my running back @23McGahee like that!!!”

Ochocinco to McClain: “i will whoop yo a** to!!!!”
McClain: “it's gonna take you and and a few more bengals for that task ya feel me!!! You don't want bringdapain McClain, #thinkaboutit”

Ochocinco: “dont give a flying f_** about your lil slogan, bring the pain crap, GTFOH, you and anybody else got a problem see me sunday”
McClain: “well having saying that I'll see ya Sunday!! Put cha big boy pads on too not the high school ones ya feel me!! Go Ravens!!”
Ochocinco: “thats funny because i still wear my highschool pads every sunday, i wear 15-16 size small Power shoulderpads” McClain: “we will see!! Go Ravens”

Click here to order Willis McGahee’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Seahawks’ Kelly Jennings corners big plays

RENTON — Admit it, you didn’t think Kelly Jennings was going to make that tackle.

When Alex Smith completed a short pass to Frank Gore on San Francisco’s opening drive Sunday, there was no chance Jennings, a guy who gives up almost 40 pounds to the 49ers burly running back, was going to stop him in the open field, right?

But in a season-opening victory that featured a number of big plays from the Seahawks’ defense, perhaps no individual effort was bigger than Jennings’ open-field tackle of Gore in the first quarter. When Gore caught the third-and-goal pass from Smith, only Jennings stood in the way of a San Francisco touchdown. Jennings, who is listed at 180 pounds, is slender enough that, early in his Seahawks career, he was saddled with the nickname, “Slim.”

Now, “Slim” is a perfectly suitable handle for a poker player, or maybe a pool shark, but it’s hardly the ideal moniker for a professional football player. But Jennings was up to the task, taking down Gore for a 1-yard gain, forcing the 49ers to kick a field goal. It was the first of three straight series in which Seattle’s defense held strong after the 49ers drove deep into Seahawks territory. And who knows how differently things might have turned out had Gore bowled over Jennings to give the 49ers an early 7-0 lead.

“I’ve been the small guy all the time,” Jennings said. “Tackling is something I’ve been working with the coaches on and trying to improve on. That’s something I look to get better on game by game. ... It was crunch time. You’ve got to make a play, got to make a tackle and get off the field. That’s all I was thinking.”

For Jennings, the play was just the beginning of a solid game that showed exactly why the Seahawks put their faith in the former first-round pick. Throughout training camp, Jennings was in a back-and-forth battle with Josh Wilson for a starting job, but on Aug. 31, the Seahawks traded Wilson to Baltimore for a draft pick. At the time of the trade, Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said part of the reason the team felt comfortable dealing Wilson was the play of Jennings, and on Sunday Jennings backed up that faith with an impressive game.

“He played very well,” Carroll said. “Kelly had a really solid game on the couple chances that he had, he made a couple great tackles in the open field. He played the ball well a couple times. He was in the right place throughout the game. He played aggressive coverage throughout, too.”

Jennings has had his detractors since the Seahawks took him with the 31st pick of the 2006 draft. He started 15 games in his second season, but only 12 over the next two seasons while battling Wilson for a starting spot. And while the Wilson trade wasn’t totally a positive for Jennings — the two are close friends and were roommates on road trips — he plans on taking full advantage now that the job is his.

“Stepping back looking at it, I know I haven’t always been in this place,” Jennings said. “I’ve been up and down with some things in my game, and right now I feel like I’m in a place where my game is starting to elevate, my confidence is there. I feel like it’s starting to work out for me.”

When the Seahawks traded Wilson, many felt it was only a matter of time before rookie Walter Thurmond moved into the starting lineup. And while the trade was a sign that the Seahawks have confidence in the fourth-round pick, Thurmond may have to settle for a reserve role for longer than expected if Jennings keeps up this level of play.

“He really earned that spot,” Carroll said of Jennings, “and he came out and played like it.”

Click here to order Kelly Jennings’ proCane Rookie Card.

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Kenny Phillips back with a big-play bang

EAST RUTHERFORD – Kenny Phillips could not watch anymore.

Disgusted and frustrated by Carolina's ability to gut his defense with a record-setting performance on the ground in a forgettable farewell to the old Giants Stadium, Phillips did the only thing he could do from the couch in his Miami home.

He shut off the television.

At that moment, his comeback – and that of his team – began.

"I had to stop watching," Phillips said. "To see us have a game like that, I had to turn the channel."

Nearly nine months later, Phillips and the Giants were finally able to turn the page.

It's no coincidence he was back at safety helping the cause, providing several game-changing plays that turned Sunday's 31-18 victory over the Panthers into something plenty more memorable in their New Meadowlands Stadium debut.

Not only was Phillips on the field, the third-year pro never left it as long as the Giants' defense was out there, proving he's a lot closer to his standout form than most expected.

Phillips missed all but two games last season after an MRI revealed patellofemoral arthritis in his left knee, a condition that required surgery. One of the Giants' most valuable players – not to mention the foundation of their secondary last season — landed on injured reserve Sept. 24, 2009.

"Last year it was noticeable; we hurt not having him there," defensive tackle Barry Cofield said of Phillips' absence. "He's a playmaker."

Two of the biggest plays the Giants made Sunday involved Phillips, whose presence changes the complexion of a defensive unit out for redemption.

The hard-hitting 23-year-old tripped up DeAngelo Williams on a third-down run that was seemingly headed for a touchdown, forcing the Panthers to settle for a field goal in the first quarter. Phillips came up huge in the fourth quarter as well, intercepting a Matt Moore pass in the end zone to thwart another Carolina drive deep in Giants' territory.

"Any time they got the ball in the red zone, we just had to man up and get our offense back the ball," said Phillips, who finished with four tackles, starring in a secondary that got more from its safeties Sunday – Deon Grant and Antrel Rolle included – than it did most of last season. "I was just trying to make a play [on the interception]. The quarterback's scrambling, he's looking for someone to throw the ball to. I was just able to step in front of one."

The crowd of 77,245 greeted Phillips with one of the loudest ovations in the pregame introductions, welcoming back a player who represents the team's present as much as he does its future.

"It felt great and if I was kind [of] wimpy, I probably would've shed a tear," Phillips said with a laugh. "[My knee feels] good: No pain, no anything. I don't feel limited in any way."

Phillips didn't look limited, either, delivering a jarring welcome-back hit of sorts soon after by popping Carolina's Gary Barnidge on Grant's interception at the goal line.

"That got me going," Phillips said, and fortunately for the Giants, he never had to stop.

"Kenny's a great player, so he's going to make a difference X and O wise," Cofield said. "His presence is exceptional because he covers so much ground. A lot of times where you might have to put an extra guy here or put an extra guy there, Kenny can cover both of them and it makes it easier on us. He loves playing in the box. He hits you. He can do everything a safety is asked to do."

After rushing for 247 yards in their last game, the most the Giants ever gave up in their old stadium, this time the Panthers managed 89 yards on 24 carries, averaging 3.7 yards per carry.

"You try to leave the past in the past, but we definitely played with a chip on our shoulders," Phillips said. "We wanted to come out and open this stadium up the right way."

The Giants did that with a victory, and they did so with Phillips having the level of impact he did before his knee surgery.

Reporters gathered around Phillips amidst the Giants' postgame celebration; as he stood in front of his locker getting dressed, teammate Corey Webster joked from two lockers away: "Right where [Phillips] left off. I like it."

Nobody appreciated being in that position more than Phillips himself.

Click here to order Kenny Phillips’ proCane Rookie Card.

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Ed Reed getting anxious on PUP

One week into his six-week stay on the PUP list, safety Ed Reed is getting antsy. Reed said Thursday that he called the NFLPA last week in an attempt to reduce his mandatory six-week inactive stint.

“I thought I could have got it reduced,” said Reed, who is recovering from offseason hip surgery and won’t be allowed to play before the Oct. 24 game against the Bills. “Maybe I should’ve called [commissioner Roger] Goodell. It’s all in the game. You’ve got to abide by the rules and all I can do is take advantage of this time, and I know these guys are going to do their jobs.”

Reed said he remains on schedule to return in late October.

“I was scheduling myself to be back the first game,” he said. “As an organization, as a player … we thought the best thing would be to give it a couple more weeks. We didn’t know how many weeks it was going to take for me to get fully back, even after this six weeks. But, like coach said, it’s going to be hard to hold me back these next couple weeks.

“I think it’s been getting better. I’m working hard, doing a lot of work with trainers here, my doctor. I’m just keeping that dialog up, [to] make sure they’re communicating and I’m doing everything I possibly can.”

Reed said it was difficult to watch Monday night’s opener in the Meadowlands from the sideline, “but I understand my role, I understand my part right now, so it makes it easier for me to communicate with the guys to yell out all the tendencies I see to them.”

Reed served as an extra coach against the Jets, and this week, he said he’s looking for ways to get better in that role.

“You might see me with a notebook this week,” he said, “just helping the guys out. It’s harder … to get into the flow of the game on the sidelines. [I’m] just trying to know the game plan, see what they’re doing, how they’re attacking their zones one drive, and get some pointers from that.”
Reed also played peacemaker during pregame warm-ups Monday night when he attempted to calm down Jets defensive end Shaun Ellis after a brief confrontation with Ravens running back Ray Rice.

After a short exchange of words at mid-field, Rice flipped a football at Ellis, who responded angrily. Former Raven Bart Scott then threw a hard pass back at Rice. Reed grabbed hold of
Ellis to keep the situation from escalating. Reed attributed the incident to the emotions of the game and in particular, pregame posturing between the two teams.

“Guys were talking a lot of smack, getting caught up in other things outside of football. When the game starts to get a little personal, then you’ve got other issues you’re dealing with. I think guys were just a little overly hyped at the beginning. The little incident with Ray Rice and Ellis, I don’t want to say [it was] a misunderstanding, it was just two guys having conversation.

“Yeah, I didn’t see that until ESPN and the NFL Network showed it. It was just like some things are taken overboard. Bart is a smarter player than that. It reminded me when he threw the [flag] a couple years ago, when we played the Patriots down here with the whole referee thing. But you’ve got to be smarter than that, you can’t let emotions get to you too much in this game.”

Meeting reporters before practice, Reed also made these points:

On the play of Tom Zbikowski, his replacement at safety, including the aborted attempt to return a punt from the Ravens’ 5-yard line:

“[He played] really good. That [the punt return] takes you down really bad. But he’s doing awesome. Like I told him, just concentrate on playing safety right now. We pay you to play safety. But I know he’s a hell of a return guy, a smart guy, and all he was trying to do was make a play. And I know if I was back there, I probably would’ve done the same thing. As long as you protect the ball and be smart with it … you’re trying to do the right thing for the team.”

On whether he was impressed with the defensive effort against the Jets:

“I’m not impressed with our defense. Our defense has been like this. We’re going to continue to do these things and play hard-nosed football. It’s about getting better every week, so there’s really nothing to be impressed about, outside of going out and getting the win, the way we know how to do it. We got the utmost confidence in ourselves, we just got to go out and do it.”

Click here to order Ed Reed’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Bears Must Let Devin Hester Concentrate on What He Does Best

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Devin Hester says that we should be patient.

"It's a long season," he says.

That it's OK he only had one ball thrown to him last Sunday.

"Everybody is satisfied," he says.

That maybe he'll get a few more chances this week.

"I'm just trying to help out in any way I can," he says.

I think it's terrific that the Bears receiver is such a team player. I think it is equally terrific that he seems to actually not hate answering these questions anymore, and is thoughtful with his answers.

So why do I want to shake my head every time I see him?

It's not necessarily last Sunday that I feel badly about, when Jay Cutler found Hester just once for a 17-yard reception in the first series of the game and not again in 34 pass attempts.

It's not even about last year, when Hester had 757 receiving yards on 57 catches and three touchdowns, or 2008, when he had 51 catches for 665 yards and three touchdowns.

It’s the whole thing. It's the fact that one of the most dazzling and talented athletes in the league is now in his fifth season and it feels more and more like the Bears have completely wasted his vast abilities.

It has always been clear where Hester's heart lies.

"I know what I'm best at," he said in February of this year on "The Waddle & Silvy Show" on ESPN 1000. "The return game is my bread and butter, so if I had to cut back on my receiving and go back to returning, that's something I would love to do."

No mystery why he loves it. He was the most dynamic performer in the NFL in 2006, his rookie season, and again in '07, a two-year span in which he combined for 11 regular-season touchdowns on punt and kickoff returns and -- who can forget? -- a touchdown on the opening kickoff of the Super Bowl.

While trying to make him into an elite receiver -- because if he wasn't going to be one of the best, what was the point? -- the Bears switched Hester's focus permanently before the 2008 season and now haven't seen him return a kick for a touchdown since December 2007.

Was he even a returner anymore? He attempted 31 in '08 and seven in '09. On Sunday alone, he had five punt returns for a combined 17 yards and an average of 3.4 yards, including one fair catch and a long of nine yards. (He averaged 15.5 yards per punt return in '07.)
If he still loves it, he sure doesn't look like it.

As he has for much of the last two seasons, Hester looked tentative against the Lions and even eager to get out of bounds.

"I'm just trying to hit a home run again," he said gamely. "It's coming any day. I just have to be patient and just be there when it comes."

As the team's richest receiver by a longshot, (his approximately $30 million four-year deal, signed prior to the '08 season, includes a $15 million guarantee and a $10 roster bonus based on the performance of a No. 1 receiver), Hester looks as unappreciated as ever.

"If Devin would've gotten open, I would've thrown him the ball," said Bears quarterback Jay Cutler Wednesday, when asked why he couldn't find Hester on Sunday.

Devin Aromashodu has clearly become Cutler's favorite target with 5 catches against the Lions, along with Greg Olsen. Johnny Knox need only be in the right place occasionally, and he and Hester will be battling it out each week.

"It's going to be game by game who gets the ball depending on what coverage -- if they're rolling strong, if they're rolling weak -- we're going to go with the matchups," Cutler said, recovering nicely. "They were doing some stuff to Devin, putting some guys over the top of him. But Devin's going to have his games. I'm not worried about that. He's going to play really well this week. So I'm excited for him."

Hester, who is so bored apparently that he had his hair cut into a mohawk and is making plans to shave it entirely, said upon watching the film that he thought he was open a couple times "but some of the plays aren't designed for me.

"That's the way it goes. You might get one, two balls, and next week, you might get 15, 20. That's what I'm hoping for this week [in Dallas], get my hands on the ball a little bit more, try to help out as much as I can."

No doubt, he will get more balls thrown his way and he may even be the leading receiver on occasion. But that wasn't the plan upon removing a player from a role in which he was a threat to score every time he touched the ball.

We'll see what Martz has in store. Meanwhile, the average career of an NFL wide receiver, according to the NFL Players Association, is 2.81 years and Hester's star clock is ticking.

"It's not an offense that says we're going to force the ball to this guy and this guy and then see if they can stop us," said Olsen. "We have too many good players and too many guys who can run around and catch the ball, so we don't need to force it to anyone."

Hester said he and Cutler are "communicating more than we ever did," which doesn't exactly sound like they were best buddies last season. For now, he is preaching patience.

"It's a long season," Hester said. "We have what, 15 more games? Every receiver will get a fair amount of balls and it's just a matter of time when I'm going to get mine."

Except that a matter of time was not the plan.

Click here to order Devin Hester’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Comments Sits Down With Assistant VB Coach Ashley Woods

Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. - Nova Southeastern University assistant volleyball coach Ashley Woods recently sat down with for a quick question and answer session.

Q: What does it mean for you coming back to South Florida?
A: I've been coaching in this community for a while now, and it's where I spent almost half of my career playing. The support from both fans and kids I've coached has really been tremendous. I've tried my best to give back to the South Florida volleyball family and it's so wonderful to continue my relationship with those people.

Q: Do you plan to make any noticeable changes in the volleyball program?
A: I really just want to learn our system and provide a fresh perspective. Two areas that I really want to focus on are blocking and attacking. As a right side, I had to go up against a lot of great outside hitters, and I had to be really efficient as a hitter myself. If I can get our outsides and opposites to pick up on defensive schemes and block really well, then we can be really successful.

Q: What is your main focus coming into the season?
A: I want to thoroughly prepare for our opponent each week. I want them to know who they are playing inside and out and go after their weaknesses. This was something that was done extremely well for me at the professional and collegiate level and I want to bring those techniques to this team.

Q: How does Division I compare to Division II?
A: I think there is more of an emphasis on floor defense. Usually hitters are smaller in DII programs so we have to train them on how to hit "undiggable" balls and really use angles. As a defender, you have to be ready for anything. I was really impressed with the defensive effort by all teams at the UIndy tournament we played in. Some of those rallies were amazing to watch!

Q: Is it important to be able to relate to today’s student-athlete to be able to get an understanding of who you are dealing with?
A: Absolutely. As coaches we have to remember that they are students first and foremost. We are also training them to become great people as a whole. There is life after volleyball and we have to help them preapare for that. In my mind, if a coach can master the right mix of mentor, coach and leader, they are doing the right thing by their athletes. I want to be great at all three.

Q: How important is it to recruit in-state?
A: I think it's really important to give back to the community that supports us. If there is an out-of-state kid that we think will make a great fit, then we will definitely pursue her. However, we support the idea of allowing families to be able to watch their players compete and supporting our team. I remember when I played in college and high school and having my family in the stands was really special to me, especially at Miami where they couldn't watch as often.

Q: When you are not coaching what keeps you busy?
A: Recruiting! It takes a lot of work making phone calls, emailing and logging each prospective student athete's progress with us. I've been around the high school and club level for a long time and I enjoy interacting with players from that realm. When I'm not on official business, you can usually find me at the beach! I love all the sunny South Florida weather and there's plenty of sunshine year-round.

Q: When the dust settles and you finally have time for yourself, what is the first thing you are going to do for you?
A: Get some furniture for my living room and dining room! I can't wait to decorate!!!

Woods’ Favorites
Food: Paella! It originated in the area where I played professionally and I've had the best!
Cuisine: Cuban
Color: Coral
Sport outside of volleyball: Basketball
Professional Athlete: Dwyane "The Rock" Johnson
Destination: Tenerife, Canary Islands
TV Show: TrueBlood
Movie: 300
Type of Music: House
Book: Bridge to Terabithia

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Chris Perez emerges as one of the top positives from the 2010 season

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Chris Perez saved his 20th game of the season on Tuesday night. In doing so, he became the youngest pitcher in Indians history to do it.

"That's cool," said Perez, 25. "Anything you do where you're the youngest or the first to do something in an organization like this that's been around so long and has had so many great players ... it's pretty cool."

The Indians have been playing baseball in the American League since 1901. The save has been an official statistic since 1969.

"It's not what I'm thinking about when I'm out there, but it's nice to be the first to do anything because our careers are just a blip on the radar screen," said Perez. "Fifteen years from now, when I'm retired, I might still be able to say I was the youngest to do that.

"That would be pretty cool. I'd like to do a lot more before I'm done."

When Perez looks back at this season, it won't be because of the Indians' won-loss record. It will be because he claimed the closer's job.

Perez opened the year as closer because Kerry Wood was on the disabled list. When Wood returned in May, he went back to the set-up role.

Perez returned to closing in mid-July when Wood went back on the disabled list. The job finally became totally his when the Indians traded Wood to the Yankees on July 31.

Perez is 2-2 with a 1.84 ERA and 20 saves in 24 chances. He's converted 10 of 11 chances since Wood was traded, including registering a save on the day of the deal.

He is 9-for-10 in one-run save situations. Over his last 29 appearances, starting on June 28, Perez has allowed two runs in 29 2/3 innings for a 0.61 ERA.

"This year I knew the job was mine out of spring training, but I didn't know for how long," said Perez. "I was trying to show them through the season that when Kerry was gone, I was the guy ... that they didn't have to go through three guys.

"Next year I'll come in and there's no question that I am the guy. As long as I do my job early in the season, it will be mine. I think that will play a big part in starting the season on the kind of roll I'm on now."

Perez said the difference between now and the start of the season is confidence and having a good mental approach to the job.

"Instead of throwing harder to get the guy out, I've slowed things down in my mind and body," said Perez. "It's coming out just as hard. Early in my career, I'd just throw as hard as I could and hope it would go where I wanted to."

Manager Manny Acta has watched Perez grow in confidence.

"This guy has overmatching hitters over the last three months," said Acta. "You can tell by his mound presence that he's full of confidence."

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San Francisco's Aubrey Huff gets a giant chance at first postseason

SAN FRANCISCO — Hawaii's warm breezes can wait. When October rolls around, Aubrey Huff would much rather feel San Francisco's cool winds, even if they knock down a few of his drives.

Now in his 11th season, the Giants first baseman went into the Thursday with 1,463 regular-season games played without a postseason appearance, the third-highest total among active players behind the St. Louis Cardinals' Randy Winn (1,705) and the Texas Rangers' Michael Young (1,493).

The closest Huff came was last year, when the Detroit Tigers— who acquired him from the Baltimore Orioles in a mid-August trade — lost a one-game playoff with the Minnesota Twins. Even the excitement of that race was dimmed by Huff's poor performance with Detroit, for which he batted .189 with two homers in 40 games.

Now he's one of the key contributors on a contending team, which he finds invigorating.

"You're not as tired. You're not looking forward to the end of the season as much," Huff says of the difference between playing for a contender and an also-ran, which would kindly describe his time with the Tampa Bay Rays and the Orioles.

"This time of year in Baltimore I'd be getting in at 4 (p.m.) for a 4:30 stretch and be out just as soon as the game was over. Now I get here by 1:30, 2 and stick around after the game, go over situations. You're constantly thinking about the game. But teams like I've been on, you're just waiting for Hawaii."

With the Giants challenging for both the National League West lead and the wild card, Huff figures to be playing meaningful games down to the final week of the season and perhaps beyond. That would certainly make up for all those home runs lost to AT&T Park.

Just about every time left-handed swinging Huff pounds a ball with all his might at the ballpark, only to have its unforgiving dimensions or the cool, damp air of the San Francisco summer rob him of a home run, the TV cameras catch him grimacing, occasionally even taking out his frustrations on inanimate objects.

"There have certainly been some games when it has been frustrating, some balls, especially late in the game, that would have won some games for us," Huff says. "But that's the way baseball is. You look around the league and some guys hit in bandboxes and some guys hit in giant yards, and that's just the way it is."

Plus, his experience as a first-year Giant has been so rewarding, there's not much point in harping on the few negatives. Not only has Huff revived his career, but he is thriving as a veteran presence in the clubhouse, keeping his teammates loose with his offbeat sense of humor.

Coming off a season when he batted .241 and his home run total dwindled from 32 in 2008 to 15, Huff drew scant interest as a free agent before taking San Francisco's one-year, $3 million deal, which represented a $5 million pay cut.

He has paid off handsomely, leading the Giants in home runs (24) and RBI (81) with an on-base-plus-slugging percentage of .898. Signed as a first baseman, Huff has also provided great versatility with his willingness to play the outfield — where he had not seen action since 2006 — which opened a spot for rookie Buster Posey when he first came up in late May.

Posey has since moved to his regular position behind the plate, while Huff is back at first. If the Giants remain in contention until the end, Huff figures to garner MVP votes. He and outfielder Andres Torres, who's out for up to two weeks because of an appendectomy, have been the Giants' two constant sources of offensive production.

"On a consistent basis, they've had the biggest impact on this club," manager Bruce Bochy says. "You look at the numbers, on-base (percentage), power. ... Those two have been as consistent as anybody we've had. We hate to think where we'd be without those two."

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Danny Valencia Loves Target Field

Minneapolis - Danny Valencia is a rookie who doesn't lack confidence. Consider the T-shirt the proud University of Miami product was wearing after the game, blaring "The 'U' invented swagger" on the front.

Minnesota's up-and-coming third baseman couldn't have expected to do this well, though.

Valencia's one-out single in the 10th inning drove in Michael Cuddyer from second base and gave the Twins a 2-1 victory over the Detroit Tigers on Wednesday night.

Valencia is batting .332 with 16 doubles, two homers and 24 RBIs in 208 at-bats, one of a handful of first-year players thrust into action this season.

"We need 'em. That's for sure. Especially now, with all the injuries we've had to endure in the past two months," Cuddyer said. "For him to come up and fill in nicely is huge."

The Twins kept their four-game lead over Chicago in the AL Central, improving to 7-1 against the Tigers at Target Field, despite nine strikeouts and only four hits allowed in a career-high nine innings by Detroit starter Max Scherzer.

With the hard-throwing Ryan Perry (2-5) pitching, Cuddyer singled to start the inning and stole second base while Delmon Young struck out. Then Valencia, whose single in the fifth helped the Twins score their first run against Scherzer, smacked a single to center on a 3-2 count that was deep enough for Cuddyer to score standing up just before the throw from Austin Jackson.

"I knew I'd be able to play up here obviously, but to do this well it's pretty surreal," Valencia said. "I'm just happy the way it's going right now."

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Scott Maine returns to South Florida — as a reliever for the Chicago Cubs

MIAMI GARDENS — It's such old news to Scott Maine and his family. But every now and then, a Chicago Cubs teammate will ask the rookie pitcher from Jupiter about the scar that runs across the top of his head from ear to ear.

"I tell them I was in a car accident,' he said. "And basically that's the extent of the conversation.'

For Maine, the scar is a reminder of his difficult and painful path to the major leagues, a journey with one obstacle that nearly ended his career and another that nearly ended his life.

That journey will take a momentous turn Friday night, when family, friends and former Dwyer High School teammates come to the Cubs-Marlins game at Sun Life Stadium to see Maine for the first time as a major league player.

"It's kind of surreal,' said Bud Maine, Scott's father, who attended two Cubs games in Washington after his son was called up Sept. 1. "This was expected, but unexpected.'

Expected because Scott, 25, was determined to be a big-league pitcher since his days as Dwyer prospect. Unexpected because he nearly died five years ago in an accident on Florida's Turnpike.

Maine came back from Tommy John surgery on his left elbow in his sophomore year at the University of Miami in 2004. But one August day in 2005, he lost control of his truck in Broward County.

He was hospitalized for more than three weeks, including two days in an induced coma. He underwent surgery to reduce swelling in his brain and to insert seven titanium rivets in his skull.

Marlins first baseman Gaby Sanchez, who played with Maine at UM, remembers going with a group of Hurricanes players to see their bruised and battered teammate in the hospital.

"We all kind of just stopped and looked at life and how quickly it could just end,' Sanchez said.

Sanchez said he couldn't help but be skeptical that day when Maine told teammates in a slurred whisper that he would pitch again soon.

But he did bounce back the next season, going 12-3 and picking up Miami's only win in the 2006 College World Series.

He was drafted by Colorado in the 23rd round that year but didn't sign. A year later, he was picked in the sixth round by Arizona, which converted him to a reliever.

Maine came to the Cubs in the November 2009 trade for pitcher Aaron Heilman. Maine made his major-league debut Aug. 27 at Cincinnati, throwing one inning and striking out the first batter he faced, pitcher Johnny Cueto. In seven appearances, Maine has a 3.86 ERA and two holds in seven innings.

Sanchez said he'll be thrilled to see his old Hurricanes teammate in a Cubs uniform Friday night.

"He went through a lot more than most guys have to go through to get to this same point,' Sanchez said.

"Guys go through Tommy John (surgery) and make it to the big leagues after the surgery, but after going through an accident of that caliber where he could've died easily, it's something that shows his character —- he knew what he wanted to become and he was able to do it.'

Maine said the accident has helped him keep his Cubs call-up in perspective. He has been able to focus on improving as a pitcher rather than being wowed by life in the major leagues.

"I've been through so much as far as baseball and life in general. I don't really get too excited about certain things. I don't show it at least,' he said. "I still have to go out there and pitch. You can't be stuck on the fact that you are there.'

He hangs out with other rookies. And he's living at a Hampton Inn hotel in downtown Chicago because he said it didn't make sense to rent an apartment with the season almost over.

Oh, and he has adopted a look favored by many major leaguers - he shaved his head.

"It's easier to keep it looking nice,' he said.

Sure, it shows off the scar, but Maine doesn't mind.

"It's a part of who I am,' he said. "I can't go around hiding the fact that I got a huge scar on my head. It's kind of a cool story.'

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Comments Sports Minute: Week 1

Hey! Each NFL week we will be doing a Sports Minute Update on the Canes4Life Show which airs every Saturday morning on CBS 4 at 11:30am. If you’re in the Miami area, you can head over to Harrison’s Sports Grill (1674 S Red Rd Miami, FL 33155) every Wednesday Night at 6pm and watch the live taping of the show where you’ll be able to hear former Hurricanes’ opinion on the current state of Miami Football and also meet those former players after the taping. Each week we will be posting our Video update on the site. Though a little delayed this week, we still wanted our fans to check it out!

Thanks for watching!

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Dajleon Farr on injured list

The Bills signed tight end Rob Myers to their practice squad on Monday. He replaces tight end DajLeon Farr, who was placed on the practice squad/injured list due to an ankle injury. Farr is rehabbing in Miami.

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Look fast: Hester's Mohawk won't last long

Devin Hester soon will no longer have hair flowing from the back of his helmet.

The Bears wide receiver sported a new look Sunday at Soldier Field for the season opener against the Detroit Lions. "Da Hess," as he calls it, is a braided Mohawk with some intricate designs. "Da Hess" is carved into the left side of his head.

The haircut took 90 minutes at Gurnee Mills mall for a couple professionals Hester regularly has handle his hair.

"It was my idea," Hester said. "I wanted to try something different before I cut it off. I am going to get rid of everything here pretty soon."

Hester has grown out his hair since his rookie season in 2006. Maybe if he has a big game Sunday at Dallas he'll keep the dreads a little longer before he goes back for what will surely be a shorter stay in the barber's chair.

"I'm gonna get it taken off here," he said.

Click here to order Devin Hester’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Javarris James reportedly gets promoted from practice squad But Hasn’t Happened Yet

The Patriots have apparently replaced RB Laurence Maroney on the roster. According to’s Adam Caplan, it came because of a promotion.

Former Miami star Javarris James will be activated to the 53-man roster, giving the team its fifth running back. He had been on the practice squad.

[Updated: I’m told this has not happened yet. It may, it may not. In his news conference, coach Bill Belichick said, “We have four running backs.” We’ll see..

In the locker room, James said he had no idea about the promotion, nor did his teammates. But considering the team carried five running backs last year, it wouldn’t be a complete shock.

The cousin of NFL star Edgerrin James fits the mold of a Patriots type of guy. He’s big and physical — 6-foot-1, 215-pounds — and has focused on pass blocking. At The U, he had 103 carries for 492 yards with six touchdowns, while also catching 13 passes for 85 yards.

Belichick said he’s been impressed with James, a former Miami Hurricanes star, and didn’t rule out activating him by the end of the week. The Patriots currently only have 52 players on their active roster.

“I think he’s done a good job in the short time that he’s been here,” Belichick said of James. “He picked things up, was a hardworking kid. It seems like he’s got some skill. I thought he had a good preseason. That’s why we brought him here on the practice squad. He’s learning the system, picking up things — sort of a little different from the way that he’s done them before, but he’s a smart kid. [He] works hard. We’ll see how it goes.”

When asked to compare Javarris to Edgerrin James, his cousin Belichick said: “I really didn’t have a lot of experience with Edge. He’s a lot bigger physically. I think they’re a different style of player. They play the same position… It would be hard for me to make that comparison. They look different to me physically.”

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Phillip Buchanon And Andre Johnson Have A Long History

When Phillip Buchanon showed up at the 1998 Nike Football Camp in Miami, he wasn't having the greatest day. "I was actually mad because I was late," he says, "and I wanted to play receiver but they made me play defensive back." Buchanon played just about every position at some point or another during his time at Lehigh Senior High School in Florida and excelled at most of them, but it was a guy he lined up across from at that Miami camp who got him locked into the cornerback position for the rest of his career -- a tall wide receiver from Miami Senior High School who was considered one of the best in the country.

The guy's name was Andre Johnson, and the coaches not only wanted Buchanon to play defensive back, they wanted him to cover Johnson.

"The first time I was guarding Andre," Buchanon says, "I noticed that he was a big receiver but I did not know he was that fast. He ran a go ball on me, and I was like, 'Aw, man, he's big AND fast,' so he kept me on my P's and Q's. That was the biggest memory from that camp."

That memory makes it sound like Buchanon was beaten soundly, but that wasn't really the case. In fact, the stories that came out of that camp are what brought him to the attention of the University of Miami and put him firmly on the path to being a pro player.

It also gave him, oddly enough, a new friend in Johnson. "You gotta think," Buchanon explains, "we played at Nike camp together; I was the top DB, he was the top receiver, so we were matched up the whole day, the whole dang camp. So it's been ever since then. His mom and my mom talked about it, and I went to Miami, he went to Miami, and we became friends. We were always around each other."

Which means that -- given that the Redskins are lining up against Johnson's Houston Texans this Sunday -- that Buchanon has some knowledge that could be useful to the guys in his defensive backfield. "Maybe," he says. "If Carlos (Rogers) and DeAngelo (Hall) wanna ask me I'll definitely tell them some of his moves and stuff that he does."

It's not something that Buchanon considers out of bounds, in the culture of football -- "I mean, I'm not ratting him out," he says, in response to reporter's question, "I'm just trying to help the team here," -- but he's also not sure how much good it does to know a few of Johnson's moves.

"Whether you know it or not what he's doing, he can still make things happen," Buchanon says. He explains Johnson's skills like this:

"His numbers speak for themselves," Buchanon says."Like they say, numbers don't lie. 1,500 yards back-to-back years, he's a Hall of Famer, a Pro Bowler, he does it all. He's been doin' it since high school. And he's a hell of a guy. He doesn't cause any confusion with the coaches and players, he's very quiet, very low-key, and he just plays football."

Asked how to stop him, Buchanon falls back on an oldie-but-goodie: "We hope to contain him, you know?"

The duo's friendship might make Buchanon's knowledge more valuable, but it doesn't make him any more excited for the game. "Man, I'm excited to play ANY game so I can make some plays," he says eagerly. "I'm just hungry to make some plays right now."

Going against one of the top offenses in the league last year, he should have his chance.

Click here to order Phillip Buchanon’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Ray Lewis' son is good at football, too

I just stumbled across this short blog post from The Orlando Sentinel (via Pro Football Talk) about how Ray Lewis III, the son of Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, piled up more than 500 total yards in a high school football game over the weekend. The 5-foot-9 sophomore plays running back and linebacker for Lake Mary Prep in Orlando, Florida.

I'll let the numbers in the Sentinel post do the talking:

Lake Mary Prep (2-0) sophomore Ray Lewis III racked up 504 total yards in the Griffins’ 34-7 football win over Windermere Prep last week.
He registered 206 yards and two TDs on punt returns, 101 on kickoff returns, 104 rushing, 27 receiving and 66 on passing, where he completed 6 of 6 attempts.

The son of Baltimore Ravens LB Ray Lewis also had six tackles and a pass deflection.

Click here to order Ray Lewis’ proCane Rookie Card.

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Bears receivers coach says Hester will get chances

Bears receivers coach Darryl Drake read between the lines before any question about Devin Hester's one-catch performance was asked.

Drake was well aware of quarterback Jay Cutler's Wednesday news conference, when Cutler said he would have thrown the ball to Hester more if the receiver had been open against the Lions. And Drake knew Hester thought he was open on a few plays, although Hester was targeted just once in 35 pass attempts.

"But contrary to what everybody is trying to do in pitting Devin against Jay — and I think that's a bunch of bull and is really (screwed) up that people would even do that — the matchups weren't with Devin,'' Drake said.

In defense of his receiver, Drake saw no problem with Hester casually nudging for more touches, although Hester admitted there is no distinct No. 1 option in this scheme.

"If there's a receiver in this offense who doesn't want the ball, I don't want him,'' Drake said. "He needs to play somewhere else. You want guys who want the football, and Devin understands his opportunities are going to come.''

Running back Matt Forte led the Bears with seven catches for 151 yards in the opener. Devin Aromashodu led the receivers with five catches for 71 yards, and he was targeted a team-high 10 times. Johnny Knox was targeted seven times and caught three passes for 52 yards.

"That ball can go anywhere, and it's all based on what's happening, coverage-wise,'' Drake said. "Devin had a rolled-up coverage and a safety over him. And he ain't going to get it every time. But there are times when he'll get it. It will come his way.

"What (offensive coordinator) Mike Martz does is he does a great job with matchups, and he's going to take advantage of the matchups. Where were the matchups Sunday? Where? The matchups were with D.A. (Aromashodu) and Matt Forte. D.A. had some opportunities, didn't complete all his opportunities, but that's where the matchups worked.''


Ray Lewis backs up the talk

Last week, Ravens linebacker and bear whisperer Ray Lewis promised Rex Ryan and the Jets, who rarely passed up an opportunity to hype themselves up this offseason, that blocking him would be "a very hard damn task come Monday night."

As promised, Lewis made a seamless transition from big talk to big hits, silencing the rowdy New Meadowlands Stadium crowd when he thumped Jets tight end Dustin Keller in the closing minutes of the Ravens' 10-9 victory. Lewis' huge open-field hit on Keller topped the list of SportsCenter's top plays on Tuesday morning, and his impassioned play in the Week 1 grudge match prompted Ravens coach John Harbaugh to call Lewis "the best linebacker in football."

"Ray Lewis has lost a step? I don't think so," Harbaugh said at his post-game press conference.

After the game, Lewis kept the chatter to a minimum. (Really, what else did he need to add after his frenetic play and his inspired pre-game speech pushed his teammates to the win?) His parting shot in his war of words with his former coordinator: "I respect Rex. We won a Super Bowl together. But anytime you challenge a warrior, a warrior is going to respond."

And by respond, Lewis means on the playing field. Not at the podium. 

Click here to order Ray Lewis’ proCane Rookie Card.

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Joe McGrath gets a kick in the butt

The two favourite hobbies once listed by Joe McGrath on an old background form are eating and sleeping. One of the books he read in college was The Automatic Millionaire.

Former teammates used to call him "Peter Griffin," thanks to an apparent likeness to the mythical character on Family Guy.

He received a college scholarship to play on the offensive line at the University of Miami, which would be a big deal even for an American teenager, but seemed more improbable given McGrath grew up in Moose Jaw, Sask. At one point, he had it all.

McGrath worked hard and lived life harder, and was typical of many non-imports who play his position, convinced he would have a CFL job for as long as he wanted because he was big and could block. Ten days ago, all of it went away.

Not only was he out of work, released by the Edmonton Eskimos, but coach Richie Hall said he was too soft when he sent McGrath packing.
It was one thing to be released; something entirely different to have a reputation formed because of what a former employer thought of your performance, and the only job prospect was a practice roster offer.

It's not hard to be humble now.

There's a better than reasonable chance, given the deplorable state of the offensive line of the B.C. Lions, that a tentative first step of practice roster work will become more concrete and the 29-year-old guard/ tackle will eventually be worked into the rotation.

If it happens, it will complete McGrath's tour of all four Western Division teams and allow him to continue a seven-year CFL career.

What it will also do is enable McGrath to change the things not only Hall said needed to be fixed but reinforced by Lions coach/GM Wally Buono. And it will also enable McGrath to prove there's more to him than being a Canadian lineman who only has a job because of his passport. "I have a reputation and I think I have to repair it, but I also know my skills," McGrath said Saturday.

"Sometimes you need a kick in the butt because you take things for granted and Wally has given me a kick in the butt. Yes, I need to hustle more, but I want to live up to my full potential and not what others think of my potential."

It had been some time since McGrath had been forced to confront reality.

At Miami, McGrath was at a school which won an NCAA championship in 2001. It meant a party hearty lifestyle, an instant NFL opportunity for many of his teammates and almost a guaranteed CFL job.

"Whether you are a Division One football player and have a lot of opportunity or you're at high school, you think the world is easy," said Sherko Haji-Rasouli, a Miami linemate of McGrath and another player who understood his physical gifts and the role they would play in eventually landing him work with the Lions.

"The fact you're at Miami and have great business opportunities, you definitely had the feeling things are fine and dandy. It's just coincidence Joe is a goofy, play-hard type of guy. I love making fun of him."

McGrath was savvy enough to understand the leverage gained by being a Canadian lineman when he left the Eskimos prior to last season after five years and signed as a free agent with the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

But he demanded a trade five days later, costing the Eskimos a first-round draft pick this year to get him back from the Riders. And any remaining equity expired with the Eskimos' 1-6 start.

A player who had his football career seemingly well in order was suddenly surrounded by his father, Joe Sr., who cut short a Las Vegas vacation and flew home to Edmonton to help his son try to figure out what to do next.

The Lions may not represent a last chance but they are the first team willing to give him a platform to present a different side of himself.
"People are going to put you down, and I know I got a bad rep. But 90 per cent of it is false and I know I've got a lot of years left," McGrath said. "I'm always going to have my confidence."

It may not be easy to take Miami out of a Moose Jaw boy but if humility is the goal it helps if you are down to perhaps your last chance.

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Padres claimed RHP Cesar Carillo off waivers from the Phillies

Padres claimed RHP Cesar Carillo off waivers from the Phillies. The Phillies claimed Carillo off waivers from the Padres last week, only to designate him for assignment on Sunday.

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Ryan Braun knocks in three to lead Brewers

Ryan Braun had a two-run homer and an RBI double Wednesday to help the Brewers beat the Astros 8-6 in 10 innings.

Braun's double tied it in the ninth before Mat Gamel and Jonathan Lucroy knocked in runs in the 10th. Braun has turned in four straight multihit games, and he's batting .395 with six homers and 25 RBI since the beginning of August.

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Ray Lewis rocks Dustin Keller's world

Click here to order Ray Lewis’ proCane Rookie Card.

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Dedrick Epps Signs With Dolphins

The Dolphins have been searching for tight ends who they can develop and challenge John Nalbone. After auditioning many (including ex-FSU tight end Caz Piurowski) in recent days, they instead added an ex-Cane: Agent Brett Tessler said on his weekly appearance on WINZ-940 that Miami signed Dedrick Epps to the practice squad. Epps, who spent camp with San Diego, had 19 catches for 247 yards for UM in 2009.

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Bryant McKinnie will have stitches removed from his finger

Vikings LT Bryant McKinnie will have stitches removed from his right ring finger Friday. McKinnie dislocated the finger in Week 1 and doctors had to cut it open because they were unable to pull it back into place.

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

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Will Jimmy Graham Be Getting Any Playing Time?

Q: I know he has a hurt ankle but when do you see Jimmy Graham getting some playing time? Derek Ribardi, Morgan City, La.

A: That's a difficult question to answer at this point. A lot will depend on Graham's ability to contribute on special teams. Right now, the third tight end, Tory Humphrey, plays in the Saints' "heavy" run sets when they go to two- and three-tight end formations in the running game. He also contributes on punt return teams and place-kick units. Blocking is not Graham's forte. When Zach Strief returns, he could assume Graham's blocking role and that would free up Graham to be the third tight end on game days. It's unlikely the Saints will have four tight ends active on game days. To be active, Graham will need to contribute on special teams in some way. Otherwise, he might be looking at a red-shirt season.

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Clinton Portis says Redskins gave up on him last year

Redskins running back Clinton Portis said Tuesday that he believed the organization gave up on him last year and was getting ready to "ship him out."

The nine-year veteran said during his weekly appearance on 106.7 The Fan that the arrival of head coach Mike Shanahan in Washington has revived him. Players and coaches have commended Portis this year for coming to training camp in shape and displaying a new commitment to the team.

Portis said the team believes in Shanahan's scheme, a contrast with last year, when, he said, not everyone believed in former head coach Jim Zorn. He said the team is more unified and that players are headed in the same direction.

Portis said he is trying to keep a "low profile. No matter what I do somebody's gonna be opposed to it," he said.

He also said the news media are blowing the team's conflict with defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth out of proportion. Portis said he has reached out to Haynesworth.

Click here to order Clinton Portis’ proCane Rookie Card.

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Coach Harbaugh: Ray is still Ray

The Ravens handed out two game balls last night - one to tight end Ed Dickson, whose girlfriend gave birth to a baby boy just before kickoff, and one to GM Ozzie Newsome, who, as head coach John Harbaugh put it, "established what it means to be a Raven".

If you want to know Dickson's son's name, you're going to have to wait. The rookie wants to see his kid's face before settling on anything.
Can't blame him for that.

During Harbaugh's postgame press conference last night, he stopped at the end of his opening statement, and added one thought unsolicited.
"Ray Lewis has lost a step?" Harbaugh asked himself rhetorically. "I don't think so. Ray Lewis is the best linebacker in football, no doubt about it. He showed it tonight."

Lewis' stats from last night (four tackles, no sacks, no tackles for loss) might not show too much, but the 10-time Pro Bowler was all over the field, taking on lead blockers, dropping into coverage on the rare occasion the Jets decided to test the Ravens' pass defense, and laying the lumber any chance he got.

Two crunching hits come to mind right away - the one on Jets fullback Tony Richardson which freed up a teammate to make a stop on a big third down, and the highlight reel hit he delivered on Jets tight end Dustin Keller, which dislodged the ball from Keller's hands and nearly dislodged his head from his body.

The 35-year-old Lewis has heard people question whether he's too old to play an effective middle linebacker in the NFL. He might not be exactly the same player that he was five or six years ago, but we saw last night that he's still got plenty of football left in him.

"When you hear people say stuff like that, I always tell people to just turn on the film," Lewis said. "When you love the game, just keep playing the game and don't worry about all the outside influences.

"The bottom line is my team looks at me as a leader of this team, and I'm going to go out and keep leading them, no matter what nobody says."

Click here to order Ray Lewis’ proCane Rookie Card.

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Devin Hester forgotten man in Week 1

One game does not make or break a season. Keep that mind when analyzing the role of Devin Hester in the Chicago Bears' offense.

Mike Martz could easily make a concerted effort to get Hester the ball on Sunday in Dallas, which would force many of us to reconsider our placement of Hester in the hierarchy of Bears wide receivers.

Because right now, Hester looks like the third option at wide receiver, at best.

"Targets" is a somewhat misleading stat in the NFL. Sometimes a player can be "targeted" for a pass that is simply uncatchable, thrown out of bounds or thrown into a crowd of defenders. Although the statistic can be flawed, there is no way to overlook how Jay Cutler distributed the ball on Sunday against the Detroit Lions.

Here is the breakdown of Cutler's 35 pass attempts against Detroit in terms of "targets".

Devin Aromashodu: 10
Johnny Knox: 7
Matt Forte: 7
Greg Olsen: 6
Chester Taylor: 4
Hester: 1

But here is another example of why things are never black and white in the NFL. One might make the argument Hester isn't getting the ball because Cutler doesn't trust him to be in the correct spot, at the correct time, in this highly synchronized passing system.

On the other hand, this could be a case where Hester is doing his job and getting open, but for whatever reason, the quarterback simply refuses to look his way.

Or maybe it was just a fluke.

The Bears insist this system allows for a different receiver to step up in any given week and lead the team in receptions or yardage. That very well could be the case, but because the opportunities presented to Hester versus Aromashodu and Knox were so out of whack last week, it raises legitimate questions.

Click here to order Devin Hester’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Clinton Portis apologizes for comments

WASHINGTON -- Washington Redskins running back Clinton Portis, known for his outspoken viewpoints, had plenty to say on the radio Tuesday about women reporters in NFL locker rooms.

The league swiftly condemned his comments as inappropriate and offensive, and Portis later issued an apology through the Redskins.
Addressing the NFL's investigation of the New York Jets' treatment of TV Azteca reporter Ines Sainz, Portis said that both sides have wandering eyes when the sexes are mixed in such a setting.

"I think you put women reporters in the locker room in position to see guys walking around naked, and you sit in the locker room with 53 guys, and all of the sudden you see a nice woman in the locker room. I think men are going to tend to turn and look and want to say something to that woman," Portis said in his weekly appearance on 106.7 The Fan.

The Jets are being investigated by the NFL after a few players made catcalls directed at Sainz on Saturday while she was waiting to interview quarterback Mark Sanchez. Also, an assistant coach seemed to deliberately throw the ball to players who were near Sainz during a practice drill.

Portis said he wasn't aware of what went on with Sainz, but he offered his opinion on what he considered to be a female reporter's perspective.
"You know, somebody got to spark her interest, or she's going to want somebody. I don't know what kind of woman won't, if you get to go and look at 53 men's [bodies]," Portis said. "I know you're doing a job, but at the same time, the same way I'm going to cut my eye if I see somebody worth talking to, I'm sure they do the same thing."

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said the league quickly addressed the player's remarks with the Redskins.

"The comments are clearly inappropriate, offensive, and have no place in the NFL," he said in an e-mail. "We have contacted the Redskins and they will discuss the matter directly with Mr. Portis."

A few hours later, the Redskins issued a statement from Portis.

"I was wrong to make the comments I did, and I apologize," the statement said. "I respect the job that all reporters do. It is a tough job and we all have to work and act in a professional manner. I understand and support the team on these issues."

Redskins spokesman Tony Wyllie also issued a statement, saying the Redskins "have a clear and unambiguous policy about being professional on these issues."

"We will take the necessary steps to remind everyone about it," Wyllie said. He did not say what those steps would be.

The Association for Women in Sports Media said it has been in contact with the NFL about Portis' remarks and appreciates the league's swift response. The AWSM also released a statement detailing the history of the legal battle for equal access to locker rooms.

"AWSM continues to monitor issues regarding locker-room access and is committed to helping create and maintain a work environment that is free of harassment and hostility," the statement said.

In the past Portis has riled teammates and coaches when speaking his mind. He uncharacteristically stayed out of the spotlight through this year's training camp and preseason. Recently, he has been talking about how much he was enjoying his new low profile.

"I realize you can't satisfy people," Portis said last week. "And there's no reason to continue to try, no matter what you do. If I talk to the media, the headline's going to be I bash somebody I shouldn't bash. If I don't talk to the media, I'm a jerk for not speaking, so you can't satisfy people."

Click here to order Clinton Portis’ proCane Rookie Card.

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Chris Myers & Co. make it easy for Foster

Remember the difficulty the Texans had running the ball last season?

Remember their repeated failure in key goal-line situations?

Remember the lack of physical play up front a year ago? (And the year before that? And the year before that? And &hellipWinking

Well, at some point Sunday, tailback Arian Foster wasn’t running downhill against the Indianapolis Colts. He was running downmountain.

Take nothing away from Foster, who displayed speed and shiftiness that he was not known for coming out of college, but the virtual gravitational pull from the Texans’ offensive line continually slung him, untouched, into the Colts’ secondary.

Center Chris Myers was at the center of the Texans’ record-setting ground attack.

Often questioned, criticized and condemned by fans and media alike, including yours truly, Myers has had some difficult work days since taking over at center for the team in 2008. He had a game to remember Sunday.

If offensive linemen danced like so many defenders do when they make a nice play, Myers would have been doing the dougie all day.

There have been occasions when Myers has been abused by some of the league’s top interior linemen. Of course, those interior linemen abuse almost everyone they face.

And Myers never made a big deal, or any deal for that matter, of playing on an injured ankle last season, though it clearly affected his play. He suffered a high ankle sprain when a teammate fell on his leg early in training camp, but he returned for the season opener and didn’t miss a start.

Playing with pain

After suffering a dislocated kneecap — instead of being front and center, his kneecap had moved behind his leg — Myers said he would play football even if it meant that after retiring he would be in a wheelchair for the rest of his life.

A speed lineman whom University of Miami teammate Brett Romberg described as “light in the britches,” Myers was hurt more than most would be by the ankle injury. But he is old school, an “all ball” and “lunch pail” guy,” Gary Kubiak says.

“There is no excuse,” Myers said. “I had to deal with it.

The no-excuse approach, which Myers learned in part from a tough football upbringing that included teaching from his uncle, Dennis Kelleher, who played on Miami national championship teams in the late 1980s, and his grandfather, Tom Kelleher, an NFL official for 28 years (1960-87), didn’t slow down us critics.

“(Criticism) comes with the territory,” Myers said. “Being the center, you’re in the middle of the group of five. If you’re not able to hold up, it’s evident and shows up on the film.

“People try to downplay you and say you’re not good enough. I’ve used that as motivation, fuel to the fire, to keep fighting every single day. I understand critics out there are there to help you and hurt you.”

We critics are quiet this week.

Time to get physical

The Texans’ offensive linemen met Monday morning to watch tape of their handiwork. Myers and his fellow linemen counted more than 20 knockdowns as they opened enough holes for Foster to rumble for a franchise-record 231 yards, the second-most rushing yards for a running back in an NFL season opener.

Myers can’t play much better, but if he is anywhere near this good all season, the Texans’ offensive line will be fun to watch.

When the whistle blew after Foster’s 1-yard touchdown run in the third quarter, the player deepest in the end zone was Colts linebacker Gary Brackett, some 3 yards beyond the line of scrimmage.

He didn’t start there.

Brackett’s repositioning was an involuntary displacement thanks to a textbook block thrown by Myers at the goal line.

On another third-quarter play, Myers and guard Wade Smith lit into Fili Moala at the snap.

After Smith quickly left to go find somebody else to push around, Myers took Moala, a 6-4, 300-pound tackle from USC, on a joy ride. They were six yards downfield when Foster ran past them on his way to an 11-yard gain.

At Miami, where Myers was versatile enough to play four of the five offensive line positions, they used to call such a block a “Metrorail.”

Myers and former Hurricane teammate Eric Winston got a chuckle during their film study, as apparently Houston’s Metro rail line on the east side of Reliant Stadium now veers through the building.

Myers knows what happened Sunday is just a start.

“It is only Week 1,” he said. “Everybody is on a high, the city is on a high, but it is only one game. We have to come out against Washington and repeat that effort.”

Remember last season when Texans running backs never seemed to break long runs? (The team finished last in the NFL in runs of more than 20 and 40 yards.)

In the fourth quarter Sunday, Myers stepped through a hole to seal it off from any linebacker or safety that might be there. He threw a cut block at safety Antoine Bethea, and though he didn’t drop him, Myers slowed Bethea enough that he never got a finger on Foster. Twenty-five yards. Touchdown. Ballgame.

Remember when we used to criticize Chris Myers every week?

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Ryan Braun homers, goes 2-for-4 in Brewers loss

Ryan Braun went 2-for-4 and hit a home run off of Bud Norris in the Brewers' loss Tuesday night.

Braun's elite power has been missing all year, but it's been up a tick since the All-Star break, and he's had some key injuries. He's had a nice year, but the hemming and hawing is justified - fantasy managers didn't spend a first-round pick to get 20/15 production. Here's hoping his power returns in 2011 - a few more flyballs would help immensely.

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Chris Perez Saves Tribe Win Over Angels

The Indians, behind two home runs and four RBI from Shelley Duncan, defeated the Los Angeles Angels tonight 4-3 to take the opener of their three-game set at Progressive Field.

Chris Perez put runners at the corners with one out in the ninth but worked his way out of the jam to earn his 20th save and to give the victory to Josh Tomlin (4-3), who pitched into the seventh and then watched Rafael Perez and Joe Smith carry the game to the ninth for Chris Perez to finish up.

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NFL U Week 1 Photos

Check out photos from Week 1 of the 2010 NFL U season of all of our proCanes. Click here or above on the proCanes Gallery link.

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proCanes Stats From Week 1 of the 2010 NFL U Season

Andre Johnson (Texans): 3 catches 33 yards

Darryl Sharpton (Texans): Played but did not record any stats

Vince Wilfork (Patriots):
3 tackles, 2 solo tackles, 1 pass deflection

Brandon Meriweather (Patriots): 7 tackles, 3 solo tackles

Jeremy Shockey (Saints): 3 catches 23 yards

Jonathan Vilma (Saints): 4 solo tackles, 1 INT returned 5 yards, 1 pass deflection

Santana Moss (Redskins): 6 catches 77 yards

Clinton Portis (Redskins): 18 carries 63 yards, 1 catch for 1 yard

Rocky McIntosh (Redskins): 10 tackles, 8 solo tackles, 1 sack, 1 tackle for loss

Calais Campbell (Cardinals): 2 solo tackles, 1 sack, 1 tackle for loss

Antrel Rolle (Giants): 8 tackles, 7 solo tackles

Kelly Jennings (Seahawks): 5 solo tackles, 1 pass deflection

Frank Gore (49ers): 17 carries 38 yards, 6 catches 45 yards

Kellen Winslow (Buccanneers): 4 catches for 32 yards

Roscoe Parrish (Bills): 2 catches for 35 yards 1TD, 3 punt returns for 30 yards

Greg Olsen (Bears): 4 catches, 37 yards

Devin Hester (Bears): 1 catch, 17 yards, 5 punt returns for 17 yards

Willis McGahee (Ravens): 6 carries -2 yards, 1TD, 1 catch -6 yards

Ray Lewis (Ravens): 4 solo tackles


Tavares Gooden (Ravens): 2 solo tackles

DJ Williams (Broncos): 10 tackles, 8 solo tackles

Sinorice Moss (Giants): DID NOT PLAY on IR Will miss the entire 2010 Season

Bruce Johnson (Giants): 3 solo tackles

Kenny Phillips (Giants): 4 solo tackles, 1 pass deflection, 1 INT

Reggie Wayne (Colts): 7 catches 99 yards 1TD

Jon Beason (Panthers): 10 tackles, 6 solo tackles, 1 tackles for a loss, 1 pass deflection

Phillip Buchanon (Redskins): 3 solo tackles, 1 tackle for a loss, 1 pass deflection

Antonio Dixon (Eagles): Played but did not record any stats

Sam Shields (Packers): 3 tackles, 2 solo tackles

Randy Phillips (Lions): 2 solo tackles

Jimmy Graham (Saints): DID NOT PLAY, INACTIVE

Leon Williams (Cowboys): DID NOT PLAY, INACTIVE

Spencer Adkins (Falcons): Played but did not record any stats

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Rocky McIntosh Looks Good in Game 1

Rocky McIntosh looks ready-made to be an inside linebacker in the 3-4 defense. He was very active all night and is easily the team’s best linebacker in coverage. His sack, despite being blatantly held on the play, was a thing of beauty, as he used one arm to yank Tony Romo to the turf. If Rocky stays healthy I expect the best season of his career and a big payday from somebody whenever the NFL plays football after this year.

Click here to order Rocky McIntosh’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Frank Gore kept in check during Week 1

San Francisco 49ers RB Frank Gore rushed 17 times for 38 yards and caught six passes for 45 yards during Week 1. Our View: The 49ers fell behind and Gore never got on track, but don't worry. Gore had over 2,000 total yards in 2006 on a woeful San Francisco side quarterbacked by Alex Smith.

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

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Reggie Wayne Is An Elite Receiver

I was surprised that so many pundits took shots at Wayne all summer, essentially suggesting that he's an ordinary talent simply riding Manning's coattails. Go watch Wayne's second-quarter touchdown again; he's always been grossly underrated as a technician. You'll never take a loss on this investment.

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

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Ray Lewis launches apparel line

On the same day he will start his 15th NFL season, Ray Lewis launched a new apparel line.

The Baltimore Ravens All-Pro linebacker began marketing Monday RL 52 Style, with a portion of the proceeds from sales to benefit the Ray Lewis Foundation.

The items — including hats, T-shirts, jackets and jewelry for men and women — will don an RL 52 logo. The intial items, a fall line, are available exclusively online at

Lewis plans to roll out new items as the football season progresses, including women’s apparel and jewelry by New York designer Mauri Pioppo.

It’s the second business venture in the last month unveiled by Lewis. In August, Lewis formed RL52 Realty, a commercial real estate advisory firm in Boca Raton, Fla.

Other business ventures for Lewis include MVP Entertainment, a 63,000-square-foot family entertainment venue set to open at the Hunt Valley Towne Centre. Lewis was previously the namesake of a shuttered barbecue restaurant in Canton.

Click here to order Ray Lewis’ proCane Rookie Card.

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Common bond for Reggie Wayne, Andre Johnson

The texting was hot and heavy between two close friends who also happen to be two of the NFL's top receivers.

Through the early portion of the preseason, the electronic dialogue connecting the Indianapolis Colts' Reggie Wayne and Houston's Andre Johnson -- former University of Miami teammates and four-time Pro Bowl selections -- focused on what Johnson ultimately would receive and Wayne was seeking.

That would be a contract extension.

"It's kind of weird,'' Wayne said. "This offseason we were talking about that. Once he got his contract done, I texted him, 'Congratulations.' First thing he asked me was, 'So, what's up with yours?' ''

Wayne's reply to Johnson was short and not-so-sweet.

"Absolutely nothing.''

Wayne paused, then continued his conversation with local media.

"At least somebody's getting paid,'' he said. "I'd like to send a congratulations out to Miles Austin. He got paid.''

Even though Johnson had five years remaining on his contract, Houston responded to his demands and gave him a two-year extension that could be worth as much as $38.5 million if he hits every trigger and included $13 million in guarantees. He's tied to the Texans through 2016 and could earn up to $73.5 million over the next seven seasons.

Dallas owner Jerry Jones reached deep and gave Austin a six-year, $57 million contract.

Wayne boycotted all Colts activities during the offseason as he sought an extension that never materialized. He's under contract through 2011 and will earn $5.47 million this season and $5.95 million in '11.

In July, during the absence of Wayne and defensive end Robert Mathis, team president Bill Polian said the Colts didn't have the ability to consider extensions for either, in part due to the NFL's labor uncertainty.

"I've got two years left,'' Wayne said. "I'm going to do my time and see where I go from there.''

So, he's come to terms with the Colts' no-extension stance?

"I ain't got no choice,'' he said. "I can read between the lines. I know what's going on. I'm not going to let that affect my production.''

No one should question Wayne's commitment or dependability. Among receivers over the past six seasons, he ranks No. 1 in receptions (532) and yards (7,494), and is No. 5 in touchdowns (52).

The problem with Wayne is timing. Johnson is 29 and Austin 26. Wayne will be entering his 12th season and will be 33 when his current contract is up.

"In two years, I'll worry about that,'' he said.

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

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Sam Shields holds his own in oft-used nickel package

Rookie Sam Shields played the entire game in his debut as the Packers’ No. 3 cornerback and gave up a 17-yard touchdown pass in what otherwise was a surprisingly uneventful day.

Shields played every defensive snap because the Packers played their nickel or dime personnel the entire game against a Philadelphia offense that often features three-receiver sets and includes one of the NFL’s better receiving tight ends in Brent Celek.

Defensive coordinator Dom Capers did his best to protect Shields with help over the top, mostly from rookie safety Morgan Burnett. Shields allowed two completions, both in the fourth quarter: the 17-yard touchdown to receiver Jeremy Maclin, and a 12-yard out pattern to receiver DeSean Jackson.

“I think it was a good start for (Shields and Burnett), two rookies coming into a hostile environment like this playing against a good football team,” Capers said. “I don’t think there will be many people that will have more skill than (the Eagles) have. Their two young receivers (i.e., Jackson and Maclin) are both first-round picks. Jackson is a guy you certainly don’t want to be catching the ball over the top and getting those 50-yard touchdowns. There will be a lot of corrections to make, but we’re off and running, and it’s a good start.”

On the touchdown, Shields was matched one-on-one with Maclin on the backside, got turned around on a double move and gave up his position on the inside, allowing an easy throw for Michael Vick. The play came on a third-and-17.

“He did a double move, and that’s a route you have to be disciplined on and stay inside,” Shields said.

"I think I did pretty good," Shields said. "On the touchdown, he gave me a double-move. That's a hard route to cover. But that's going to happen. I had a lot more time on the clock, so I couldn't think about that."

The Packers gave deep help to both Shields, who plays left cornerback in the nickel, and Tramon Williams, who’s the right cornerback, in order to limit Jackson’s chances for big plays. Last season, Jackson averaged 18.5 yards a catch and caught nine touchdown passes.

He finished with four catches for only 30 yards.

“We tried to help out on both sides some, because all you have to do is watch a little bit of tape and you can tell that guy is special,” Capers said. “We put together a big-play tape of him, you look at that, it gets your attention.”

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Kenny Phillips gets warm welcome at New Meadowlands

The biggest cheers of the pregame introductions seemed to be reserved for the player who once figured to be the least likely to be on the field. But safety Kenny Phillips never doubted he'd be back.

And after he returned to action with a touchdown-saving tackle in the first half and an end-zone interception in the second, there is no doubt that he is.

"I knew I could do it," Phillips said. "The doctors and trainers were confident I could make a 100% recovery. The coaches had confidence enough to make me a starter and I didn't want to let them down.

"I felt like myself out there," said Phillips, who played his first game since Week 2 last year and since undergoing microfracture knee surgery. He admitted to being almost overcome by emotions.


"If I was kind of wimpy," he said, "I would've shed a tear."

There was nothing wimpy about his play, particularly when he stopped Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams from his clear path to the end zone in the first quarter by tripping him on the 2, forcing the Panthers to settle for a field goal. His interception came with 6:27 remaining in the game and the Giants trying to hold on to a 31-16 lead.

"I think he went out there and showed everyone today that he is back and he is healthy," fellow starting safety Antrel Rolle said. "And he's going to be the Kenny Phillips of old, if not even better."

Is that possible? Maybe. When asked if he felt the same way he did a year ago and two years ago, Phillips said he didn't.

"Felt better," he said.

It was very similar to the impact he had in the season opener last year, when he had two picks against the Dallas Cowboys.

"I guess I did bad, then," he joked. "I didn't get two."

When it was over, Phillips said he didn't have any lingering problems from the knee surgery. He's fully healthy.

"No pain or anything," he said. "I don't feel limited in any way."

Click here to order Kenny Phillips’ proCane Rookie Card.

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Phillip Buchanon, Devin Thomas handle returns

One question the Redskins refused to answer in the week leading up to Sunday's season-opener concerned the team's return specialists.

The Redskins had used only two punt returners in the preseason, but Terrence Austin was assigned to the practice squad and Brandon Banks was inactive Sunday night.

When Dallas punter Mat McBriar took the field toward the end of the Cowboys' opening drive, Washington special teams coach Danny Smith called on cornerback Phillip Buchanon to return the punt.

Buchanon actually entered the game three times on special teams but didn't return a single punt. McBriar had a touchback, one punt that went out of bounds and another that his teammates downed on the Redskins' 5-yard line.

Washington's kick returner was also a question mark, and the Redskins didn't get a chance to answer that one until the start of the second half. Receiver Devin Thomas entered Sunday night's game for the first time on the kickoff that opened the half. He caught the kick a yard into the end zone and ran it out to the Redskins' 34-yard line, nearly breaking it entirely.

Click here to order Phillip Buchanon’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Beason upset with defense's performance in season opener

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Nobody played better defense in the preseason than the Carolina Panthers.

But then, as we all know, the preseason means nothing.

The Panthers allowed the New York Giants to roll up 376 yards on offense and score four touchdowns, numbers that didn't sit too well with LB Jon Beason, the team's defensive leader.

“It’s not Panther football,” Beason said after Carolina's 31-18 defeat. “We are trying to establish a new level of excellence here and a level of play that’s consistent. We didn’t play 60 minutes of football. The second and third quarters were unacceptable. The good thing about it is we had some big plays and we had four turnovers. We have some things that we can build on.”

FS Charles Godfrey had two interceptions for the Panthers off tipped balls and SLB James Anderson added a third.

“We didn’t play too well,” Godfrey said. “We didn’t play our type of defense. We had some little miscues on defense assignment-wise. Not paying attention to details cost us a couple of touchdowns and that’s not us. That’s not what we do. We have to go back and correct those.

“We played our game in the preseason. But that didn’t roll over to the regular season. But we’ll get back to that defense and we’ll be all right.”

After posting 20 sacks in the preseason, the Panthers only managed one on Sunday and got none from their defensive ends. The lone sack came from MLB Dan Connor on a blitz.

“It was different out there today,” said DE Everette Brown. "They did a good job of mixing things up offensively. We just have to get pressure on the quarterback and get him down. Eli (Manning) was too comfortable out there and he was allowed to make checks and look off receivers. That’s something that's not good for this defense. It starts up front, run or pass.”

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

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proCanes Extend TD Streak to 123 Regular Season Weeks

Did you know that a former Miami Hurricane/current proCane has scored at least one touchdown in 123 consecutive regular season NFL weeks? Dating back to Week 15 of the 2002 season where Clinton Portis scored 4 TDs, at least one proCane has scored a TD in each regular season week since then. We have chronicled every touchdown since 2002. See below:

Week 1 2010:
Reggie Wayne - 1 TD - Indianapolis Colts
Roscoe Parrish - 1 TD - Buffalo Bills
Willis McGahee - 1 TD - Baltimore Ravens

Week 17 2009:
Willis McGahee - 3 TDs - Baltimore Ravens
Frank Gore - 2 TDs - San Francisco 49ers
Greg Olsen - 1 TD - Chicago Bears

Week 16 2009:
Andre Johnson - 2 TDs - Houston Texans
Frank Gore - 1 TD - San Francisco 49ers
Greg Olsen - 1 TD - Chicago Bears

Week 15 2009:
Reggie Wayne - 1 TD - Indianapolis Colts

Week 14 2009:
Andre Johnson - 2 TDs - Houston Texans
Willis McGahee - 2 TDs - Baltimore Ravens
Frank Gore - 1 TD - San Francisco 49ers

Week 13 2009:
Andre Johnson - 1TD - Houston Texans
Willis McGahee - 1 TD - Baltimore Ravens

Week 12 2009:
Frank Gore - 1 TD - San Francisco 49ers
Reggie Wayne - 1 TD - Indianapolis Colts
Santana Moss - 1 TD - Washington Redskins
Willis McGahee - 1 TD - Baltimore Ravens

Week 11 2009:
Frank Gore - 1 TD - San Francisco 49ers
Andre Johnson - 1TD - Houston Texans

Week 10 2009:
Frank Gore - 1 TD - San Francisco 49ers
Reggie Wayne - 2 TDs - Indianapolis Colts

Week 9 2009:
Greg Olsen - 3 TDs - Chicago Bears
Frank Gore - 1 TD - San Francisco 49ers
Kellen Winslow - 1 TD - Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Week 8 2009:
Frank Gore - 1 TD - San Francisco 49ers
Reggie Wayne - 1 TD - Indianapolis Colts

Week 7 2009:
Reggie Wayne - 1 TD - Indianapolis Colts
Brandon Meriweather - INT returned for a TD – New England Patriots
Devin Hester - 1 TD - Chicago Bears

Week 6 2009:
Jeremy Shockey - 1 TD - New Orleans Saints
Greg Olsen - 1 TD - Chicago Bears

Week 5 2009:
Clinton Portis - 2 TDs - Washington Redskins
Ed Reed - INT returned for a TD - Baltimore Ravens
Kellen Winslow - 2 TDs - Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Andre Johnson - 2 TDs - Houston Texans
Reggie Wayne - 1 TD - Indianapolis Colts

Week 4 2009:
Greg Olsen - 1 TD - Chicago Bears
Reggie Wayne - 1 TD - Indianapolis Colts
Willis McGahee - 2 TDs - Baltimore Ravens
Santana Moss - 1 TD - Washington Redskins

Week 3 2009:
Santana Moss - 1 TD - Washington Redskins
Willis McGahee - 2 TDs - Baltimore Ravens
Sinorice Moss - 1 TD - NY Giants
Devin Hester - 1 TD - Chicago Bears
Greg Olsen - 1 TD - Chicago Bears
Reggie Wayne - 1 TD - Indianapolis Colts

Week 2 2009:
Antrel Rolle - Blocked Field Goal Return for a TD - Arizona Cardinals
Andre Johnson - 2 TDs - Houston Texans
Willis McGahee - 2 TDs - Baltimore Ravens
Kellen Winslow - 1 TD - Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Frank Gore - 2 TDs - San Francisco 49ers
Bruce Johnson - 1 TD - New York Giants

Week 1 2009:
Willis McGahee - 2 TDs - Baltimore Ravens
Kellen Winslow - 1 TD - Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Reggie Wayne - 1 TD - Indianapolis Colts
Jeremy Shockey - 2 TDs - New Orleans Saints
Frank Gore - 1 TD - San Francisco 49ers
Devin Hester - 1 TD - Chicago Bears

Click below to see the rest of the list:

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Roscoe Parrish badly bruises his back

Bills WR/PR Roscoe Parrish revealed after Sunday's loss to Miami that he suffered a "badly bruised back."

He could barely walk after the game. Parrish hauled in two passes for 35 yards and a touchdown in the defeat, adding 30 yards on three punt returns. We'd tentatively expect him to play in Week 2 against the Packers.

Click here to order Roscoe Parrish’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Bryant McKinnie would have returned to game

LT Bryant McKinnie (finger) would have returned to the game Thursday night if the Vikings had another possession late in the fourth quarter.

McKinnie took a lot of flak for being carted off with finger injury, but the Vikings cart all injured players to the locker room. Though the finger ended up being dislocated, McKinnie expects to play next week against the Dolphins.

McKinnie got a ton of grief on Twitter last night when he left the game in the fourth quarter with a dislocated finger, abandoning his team while they were trying to mount a desperate late comeback.

Actually, the grief wasn’t so much about him leaving the game, it was the fact that he had to be driven off on a cart when it was “only” a finger injury. The reason for McKinnie being carted off is because it is Vikings policy to cart all players off when they have suffered an injury.

I won’t repeat some of the things Bryant was called. Suffice it to say, fans were not thrilled with what they perceived to be a lack of toughness on McKinnie’s part.

Because Bryant is a big Twitter guy himself, I’m sure he read a lot of the stuff people were calling him. In response to these online catcalls, Bryant has posted a picture of the injured finger, which had to be worked on by a doctor this morning.

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

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Santana Moss leads Redskins wideouts in Week 1

Santana Moss led the Redskins wide receivers with six catches for 77 yards in the Week 1 win over Dallas.

Moss had a big drop that could have led to a major gain, but overall he looked pretty good. The Redskins need to put in a call to the Chargers tonight to ask about Vincent Jackson, because Anthony Armstrong was the only other wideout with a catch (and he had just one). Veteran Joey Galloway was targeted just once. Moss is far and away the best member of the receiving corps, which means he should get a ton of targets (he was targeted nine times tonight), but it also means he could face many double teams.

Click here to order Santana Moss’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Ed Reed Commits to Personal Training Camp

Baltimore Ravens all-pro safety Ed Reed will not participate during Monday’s game against the Jets because he is on the Physically Unable to Perform list, but Reed believes that he could have played at the expense of long term injury.

“I felt good enough to play, but I don’t know if I’d have lasted the whole season,” Reed said Thursday. “That’s that problem. We had so many guys working out hard all offseason and during training camp.  I haven’t been through training camp.”

In order to make up for the time that he has lost, Reed has committed himself to enduring a personal training camp.

“I wouldn’t be doing those guys justice if I came back not having been through that grueling type of work, so I have to take these six weeks to put myself through it.”

Reed is famous for his meticulous film study and he has not taken time off from doing that. In addition, he has been conditioning with Ravens trainers on a side field, lifting weights, and using resistance bands to strengthen his injured hip.

“I know why I’m on the PUP,” said Reed.  “There aren’t any negative feelings.  I have to get right for the team, however long that takes.  I have to take that time. I know we’re going to battle through and be a lot better than people think, with or without me, because I know the guys we have on this team.

“So, I’m good with it, but I’m not good with it because I want to be out there.”

Click here to order Ed Reed’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Coach McDaniels Praises DJ Williams

Broncos coach Josh McDaniels has praised the potential of D.J. Williams as an inside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme to many around the league.

And Sunday Williams showed flashes of being a key player in all the Broncos do on defense. Williams was credited with 11 tackles. Some of those came down the field a bit as he was in chase mode, but he was quick to the ball much of the day.

The Broncos varied their fronts and rotated plenty of personnel in on a brutally hot day, and for the most part controlled Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew in early-down situations.

Jones-Drew had 10 first-down carries in the game and only two of them went for more than four yards - a 6-yarder and an 8-yarder, both in the fourth quarter. That's precisely when the Broncos had both of their free-agency additions — Jamal Williams and Justin Bannnan - in the game up front.

Jones-Drew's backup, Rashad Jennings had the Jaguars' only first-down run of the game that was more than eight yards, a 15-yard carry early in the third quarter when the Broncos were in their nickel package (five defensive backs).

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Kellen Winslow gets a 'personal' victory over his old team

TAMPA, Fla. -- He was the last Tampa Bay player announced at Raymond James Stadium on Sunday, the final one to sprint onto the field for the season-opener. He carried a a bright red Buccaneers flag billowing on a pole and, like always, that perpetual chip on his shoulder.

He sprinted straight to the Browns' bench, and waved the flag in the faces of the team that drafted him and once called him the franchise's future.
What did you expect? It's Kellen Winslow Jr.

He's not exactly humble, and he doesn't really like to hide. The Browns knew he was there from the moment he stepped on the field, and they knew this game was special for him since it was the first time he was facing the team that traded him in February 2009.

"It's just having fun," Winslow smiled after watching his Buccaneers triumph, 17-14. "It's just having fun, and if you can intimidate them or get them out of their mind games, get them thinking about other stuff other than the game, I'm all for it."

After all, this is the same tight end who once boasted his play at 90 percent was "still better than any tight end out there," who infamously got in a motorcycle accident that cost him a season in Cleveland, who sparred with management over how he contracted a staph infection, and who might never live down proclaiming, "I'm a soldier!" after a college game when he was at Miami.

But just like the Winslow who spent five seasons in Cleveland, his brash behavior wasn't fully backed up by his performance on the field Sunday. He's returning from a reported sixth knee surgery in the off-season -- on the right knee that suffered a torn ACL in the 2005 motorcycle accident -- so it's another slow start to the season. He caught four passes for 32 yards, and one in the third quarter marked his 300th career reception.

He admitted he has "a ways to go" before he's fully recovered from the latest surgery, but was happy to revel in the triumph over the team that traded him.

"When you get traded or demoted, it's personal," Winslow said. "Yeah, you want to get some revenge and play as well as you can. But it was just all in fun."

That's why he waved his new team's flag in front of his old team. He knows Browns coach Eric Mangini simply wanted his "own guys" on the team after he was hired. But he was still more emotional than usual for Sunday's game.

"Kellen obviously wears his heart on his sleeve, and it was definitely there this game," said Bucs center Jeff Faine, who was drafted by the Browns in 2003. "He took a couple big hits, and he stayed in there."

Winslow said he only knows five players on this current Browns team. A total roster turnover in less than two years has left him with no animosity toward the players, but somehow still leaves him with a fire to topple the team where he earned Pro Bowl honors in 2007.

"I had a good time [in Cleveland]," Winslow said. "We didn't win very much over there, but when I got traded, it felt personal. I'm in a better situation now."

This time, he's even on the team that won.

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

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Reggie Wayne: "At least somebody's getting paid"

Colts receiver Reggie Wayne would like a new contract, but he seems to realize he's not getting it any time soon. And so as he looks around the league and sees other players getting big-time deals, he's trying to look on the bright side.

"At least somebody's getting paid," Wayne mused, per John Oehser of FanHouse. "I got two years left. I'm going to do my time."

Wayne said that when he heard the Cowboys gave wide receiver Miles Austin a new deal, he sent him a text congratulating him on his contract.

"The first thing he asked me was,'What's up with yours?''' Wayne said. "I texted him, 'Absolutely nothing. Nothing going on.'''

Realistically, Wayne shouldn't expect anything going on any time soon. The Colts' priority this year is to get a new deal done for quarterback Peyton Manning, whose contract expires after this season. Wayne, who still has two years left on his deal, is going to take a back seat to Manning. There's also the little matter of Wayne turning 32 this season, and the Colts' front office having seen with Marvin Harrison that when you extend a receiver on the wrong side of 30, you often end up regretting it.

"Either we're going to get something done or not," Wayne said. "Nobody came up to me and said, 'Reggie, let me holler at you.' I can read between the lines. I know what's going on. I'm not going to let it affect my production. It's a business and I am going to treat like a business. Let's go out there and make plays and go forward from there. In two years I'll worry about it and we'll see how it goes."

Two years is a long time in an NFL player's career, but Wayne seems to know that's how long he needs to wait.

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Seahawks put their trust in cornerback Kelly Jennings

RENTON — Kelly Jennings can admit it now.

The Seahawks cornerback lost his confidence a couple of years ago, which is not good if you're an NFL defensive back.

"I'm humbled now," said the former University of Miami star. "This league can do that to you. I'm at a spot and in a place where I realize that this is a business and a game that I love to play.

"I've been given opportunities. I've been up and down. And now I have an opportunity again."

The Seahawks will start Jennings in the 1:15 p.m. regular-season opener Sunday against San Francisco at Qwest Field. The Seahawks just traded two-year starter Josh Wilson, and rookie Walter Thurmond — who is returning from a knee injury — isn't ready for a full-time workload.
Jennings has shuffled in and out of the lineup so often the past four seasons he almost bristled when it was suggested he's making a comeback.

"Not a comeback," he said. "I've heard that before. I've still got a lot to prove. I haven't won anything. I didn't win a spot. The team made the choice they made and all I can do is go be the best I can be and let the chips fall where they may."

Jennings, who graduated early from Miami with a finance degree and earned a second bachelor's degree in business management, talked a lot about perspective and a rocky history with the Seahawks.

Drafted 31st overall in the 2006, he was billed as a shutdown corner, but then booed and singled out by Seahawks fans as the weak link in a secondary that gave up many big plays the past several seasons.

He started 15 games in 2007 and lost his job in '08. In the season finale against Arizona, Jennings dislocated his left shoulder and tore the labrum cartilage.

Last season, he returned perhaps sooner than he should have and started six games, but failed to distinguish himself.

"I knew that he was down a bit, but he's one of those guys that keeps a lot of things inside," cornerback Marcus Trufant said. "We kind of talked about it some. It comes down to just being confident, trusting in yourself and going out there and taking care of business."

Trufant and Wilson appeared to be the starting cornerbacks during training camp and the exhibition season, which relegated Jennings to a backup role before the surprising trade last week.

"Kelly has done a wonderful job for us," coach Pete Carroll said after dealing Wilson to the Baltimore Ravens. "He's really a good technique player, and we're pleased as heck to have him play."

At 5 feet 11, Jennings has the height Carroll likes in cornerbacks, although his playmaking skills are questionable. He has just one interception and admittedly needs to improve on his ballhawking ability.

He'll get plenty of chances this season to make plays because opposing quarterbacks will likely avoid throwing at Trufant, who played like a Pro Bowler in exhibition games.

"I know teams are probably going to challenge me more because Tru does have his swag back and he's playing well," Jennings said. "So that's just a challenge to me. I've got to be ready. Study film and do what I got to do."

Click here to order Kelly Jennings’ proCane Rookie Card.

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Charmaine Clark gets opportunity to play internationally

With no time to rest on her laurels, former Bradwell Institute Lady Tiger basketball player Charmaine Clark will pack up her business management degree and basketball career at the University of Miami to hit the Women’s European Basketball League playing in Iceland.

The Hinesville native attended BI her freshman year in the 2002-03 school year and made and immediate impact on the Lady Tiger basketball squad.

"Charmaine came in as a freshman with so many skills that she had already developed," Lady Tiger coach Faye Baker said. "She was a freshman on the team when we went to the final four, which is the best we’ve done since I’ve been the coach. She is very special to me."

Being from a military family, Clark moved to Virginia her sophomore and junior year, but returned to Hinesville where she rejoined the Lady Tigers as a senior.

"In her senior year she was our primary ball handler," Baker said. "She was the best ball handler on our team at that time. So in many instances, especially when a team was pressing us, she would have to be the one who would have to bring the ball out."

Clark said basketball was always her favorite sport. She said her mother placed her in different athletic programs but basketball was her priority.

"I started to play on the boys’ team when I was younger and right then I realized I could actually do something with this sport," she said.
Her career in college happened by chance.

"In October of my senior year my AAU coach, Chris Stacy, took me to a tournament to Atlanta," Clark said. "It was me and two of my other teammates at Bradwell. I was debating whether I wanted to go, but decided to do it and that is when coach Katie Meier saw me.

Meier, the UM women’s basketball coach was impressed by Clark’s performance. Clark said other schools like Duke and Kentucky had their rosters set and turned their back on her senior year.

"But coach Meier said she saw something in me that would make a big impact at Miami," Clark said. "The following week coach Meier came to BI and watched me and talked to coach Baker and we sat down and talked and the following week I went down and had my official visit.

She said the whole process took less than a month. She started as a freshman and played all four years while earning her degree in business management.

"Everybody has talent and the difference is confidence," she said about playing at the collegiate level. "Your confidence level will dictate your skill level on the court because everybody is on the same basketball level. Your confidence is what sets you up above every other player."

Clark is now taking her confidence and skills overseas for a professional career in Iceland.

"We are just processing the paperwork," she said with a smile. "My agent thinks it’s a good fit. She has seen me play throughout the season and she said this would be a good fit for me. It’s a good place for me to shine and a good opportunity for other people to see me and see if another team wants to pick me up."

Clark said Iceland is looking to place her as a guard in the 1, 2 or 3 spot.

"I always knew there was unlimited potential for Charmiane," Baker said. "She went off to Miami, had a great career, graduated and I’m really proud of that fact. And now she is going on to bigger and better things. I’m very proud of her."

Women’s European Basketball League has a reputation for being highly competitive compared to the WNBA. Clark said she prefers the European league and is ready for the challenge.

"The best thing to prepare for basketball is to play basketball," she said when asked how she would prepare for the next level of competition.

"The European reputation, the competitiveness and even the financial gain is better for our young ladies," coach Baker said about the league. "A lot of the people that play in the WNBA actually play in the European league during their off season. It’s a great opportunity and not one that everyone gets. You are talking about playing on a professional level and there are only a small percentage of players that actually get an opportunity to compete on that level. It’s a great opportunity for her to get that chance to continue doing something she loves to do."

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Phillies designated RHP Cesar Carillo for assignment

Phillies designated RHP Cesar Carillo for assignment. The Padres DFA'd Carrillo when major league rosters expanded on September 1 and the Phillies claimed him eight days later.

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Aubrey Huff doing it all as Giants' MVP

SAN DIEGO -- Aubrey Huff can beat you with his bat and his surprising defensive ability. But on Friday night he beat the Padres with his legs. He's a player with an old-time attitude who might very well be the Most Valuable Player on the Giants squad this season.

"It's been a fun run so far," Huff said after he scored the only run as the Giants edged the Padres, 1-0, at PETCO Park to pull within percentage points of first place in the National League West. "But to me it doesn't mean anything unless we make the playoffs."

In 2009, he split the season with the Orioles and Tigers, batting .241 with 15 homers and 85 RBIs. But as a 33-year-old free agent, for most of this past winter he didn't have a place to play.

"I didn't really have a job until these guys called late in the offseason," he recalled. "I knew I had a lot in the tank. The summer has been very satisfying. But we still have a long way to go."

Huff leads the team with 24 home runs and 81 RBIs in 137 games. His .291 batting average is the highest on the club for anyone who's played in more than 100 games.

The Giants knew he could hit when they signed him to a one-year contract worth $3 million. But they weren't sure of his depth as a player.

"I knew Aubrey was a good player," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "I didn't know he was this good defensively. He did a good job when we used him in the outfield -- right field or left field. He really worked hard at first base. I know he was a DH a lot over [in the American League]. He took it upon himself to get the work in to make himself better."

Huff has played in 80 games at first base this season and another 63 in the outfield. He's committed only three errors, all of them at first base. He hadn't played the outfield since 2006 when he was with the Astros, so his 1.000 fielding percentage out there is, let's say, unexpected.

Huff, though, has never considered himself to be a one-dimensional player.

"That's what you guys say," Huff said, pointing toward the media. "I've gotten that my whole life and you don't know where it comes from. You just roll with it and go out there and play. You don't worry about what everyone else thinks and says."

Huff even has six stolen bases this season and his swipe of second with no one out in the seventh was a key play in a then-scoreless game. Huff was hit in the funny bone by Padres starter Clayton Richard to open the inning. After several pickoff attempts from reliever Luke Gregerson, Huff took off as Pat Burrell struck out, just beating the throw from Padres catcher Nick Hundley.

"You know, Aubrey is pretty good over there, reading pitchers," Bochy said about Huff's baserunning ability. "He gets a good jump when he needs to and we let him go sometimes."

Huff confirmed that Bochy gives him a green light to run at will.

"I'm not a burner or anything," said Huff, who only has 31 steals in his 11-year career. "I have some good instincts about when to go and when not to. I don't have Darren Ford speed. When a pitcher is throwing 97 [mph] I'm not going to make it. I've got to pick my spots. Like tonight, it was perfect timing. We're struggling trying to score runs. I figured I'd take a chance."

Running on contact minutes later as Jose Guillen grounded to short ahead of him could have been a big mistake. Huff barely beat Miguel Tejada's throw to third baseman Chase Headley, who was a split-second late making the tag.

"It was actually a dumb play on my part," Huff said. "From where I was at, it looked like it was going to go into the hole. I thought he hit it a lot harder than he did. So once I went, you've got to go, you've got to get there. I headed to the inside of the bag and Headley was over to my right. I was safe. But it's not the way you draw it up. It was not a smart play."

Huff scored when Juan Uribe barely beat out the back end of a ground-ball double play. It was the game's only run and once again Huff proved his value and versatility.

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Gaby Sanchez skips appeal, begins serving 3-game suspension Friday

WASHINGTON Gaby Sanchez has chosen to forego his appeal of a three-game suspension stemming from last week's brawl with the Nationals. He will begin serving it Friday and miss the three-game set at Nationals Park.

Meanwhile, Nationals outfielder Nyjer Morgan, had his appeal heard Friday, but Major League Baseball has not issued a ruling. With his suspension not starting any earlier than Saturday, Morgan was in the Nationals' lineup, batting eighth on Friday.

"I'd rather have [Sanchez] sitting down against Washington than against Philadelphia," said manager Edwin Rodriguez, whose team returns home Monday to start a three-game series with the National League East-leading Phillies. "His offense will be more needed against Philadelphia."

Sanchez approached Rodriguez during early batting practice Friday with his plan.

"I just want to get it over with and not worry about when it's going to be," Sanchez said. "If I wait, then who is [the suspension] going to be against? Is it going to be against the Braves, who are ahead of us, or the Phillies, who are ahead of us? Just want to get it out of the way and not have to think about when a hearing is going to be, when this is going to be, what kind of suspension am I going to get?"

Sanchez is able to take part in batting practice, but he won't be allowed in the dugout during the next three games. With Sanchez sitting, Rodriguez put Wes Helms at first and Emilio Bonifacio at third against left-hander John Lannan.

Rodriguez did not take issue with Morgan playing.

"I'm 100 percent sure our players are ready to play baseball," Rodriguez said. "I was talking to some of the Nationals coaches and they turned the page. It's time to play baseball."

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