2011 UM Sports Hall of Fame Photos

Check out photos from the 2011 UM Sports Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony featuring proCanes Dan Morgan, Santana Moss Reggie Wayne and Bobby Hill. Congrats to all four of them and the other 4 inductees of this year’s class.

The former greats inducted into the UM Sports Hall of Fame on Thursday:

Daphne Jongejans-Bousquet, diving (1985-88) — UM’s only eight-time All-American women’s diver, a three-time Olympian (1984, 88, 92) for The Netherlands.

Ian Duvenhage, women’s tennis coach (1982-88) — Led team to seven consecutive NCAA appearances and a top-five ranking for four of those seasons. Won the USTA doubles title in 1983, while coaching.

Bobby Hill, baseball (1997-99) — UM’s career leader in stolen bases, with 139, and second in runs scored. Holds school-record 87 runs scored in 1998, when he hit .404. Second-round draft pick of Cubs in 1999.

Yolanda McCray, track (1995-99) — NCAA 100-meter hurdles champion in 1999. Six-time All-American. Graduated with six UM school records in hurdles (2), relays (3) and the 60-meter dash. Now in U.S. Army.

Dan Morgan, football (1997-2000) — UM’s career leader in tackles (532). As a senior, won the Butkus Award, Bednarik and Nagurski Awards as the nation’s top defender.

Santana Moss, football (1997-2000) — All-American who set UM records for receiving yards (2,546), all-purpose yards (4,402), punt-return yards (1,196) and punt-return touchdowns (6).

Tyce Routson, diving (1995-97, 2000) — Four-time NCAA champion (platform 1997 and 2000; 3-meter 1995 and 97). Eleven-time All-American.

Reggie Wayne, football (1997-2000) – Career receptions leader (173) and second in career receiving yards (2,510). Second to Moss in receiving yards (2,510) and tied for third in career touchdowns with 20.

Click here to see the rest of the photos! -->

Click here to order Reggie Wayne’s or Santana Moss’s or Dan Morgan’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Moss, Wayne & Morgan Inducted into UM Hall of Fame

Santana Moss came to Jungle Island ready to shine. He didn’t want just any outfit to wear for one of the most special nights of his life.

“I called my tailor last week and said I needed some threads that represent my school colors,’’ said Moss, shortly before he was inducted into the University of Miami Sports Hall of Fame. “I threw this together — wanted to bring out some orange and green.’’

The former UM receiver wore a green-and-orange plaid jacket, gold tie, beige linen pants and cream-colored leather shoes to match his cream shirt.

Moss, now with the Redskins, did not disappoint. Nor did the other former UM greats inducted Thursday, including Indianapolis Colts receiver Reggie Wayne and retired Carolina Panthers linebacker Dan Morgan.

All seven former UM athletes were warmly received by a full house of 450 loyal Hurricanes fans, including football coach Al Golden. Only one inductee, track star Yolanda McCray, couldn’t make it because she is serving in the U.S. Army.

“I’m thankful, man,’’ Moss said. “Even to this day in the NFL, I know a lot of my knowledge comes from my days at UM.”

Said Wayne: “I am so proud to be in this situation. I am being inducted at one of the best athletic universities ever.’’

And this, from Morgan: “After all the dedication and hard work we’ve put in, to be recognized like this is definitely a huge honor.’’

The athletes seemed in awe of one another. Former UM tennis player and women’s coach Ian Duvenhage, now the men’s coach at Vanderbilt, said he was shocked when he heard the other UM athletes in his class.

“I was pleasantly surprised when I found out about this honor, but when I realized who I was included with, I was mortified. I was like, ‘Wait a second, these people are all superstars. What am I doing with them?’ ”

Click here to order Reggie Wayne’s or Santana Moss’s or Dan Morgan’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Jamaal Green Now a Border Patrol Officer

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Falcons have their eye on Miami DL Allen Bailey

University of Miami defensive lineman Allen Bailey is now scheduled for an official visit with the Atlanta Falcons in addition to his private workout, according to a league source with knowledge of the situation.

Bailey is definitely on the radar of the NFC South champions.

He's also slated to visit the Denver Broncos and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Per a source, Bailey is going to be visited in Miami by an NFL head coach and general manager.

The powerful, sculpted 6-foot-3, 285-pounder ran the 40-yard dash in 4.71 seconds at the NFL scouting combine and registered a 36 1/2 inch vertical leap, a 9-9 broad jump and bench pressed 225 pounds 27 times.

Named second-team All-Atlantic Coast Conference, Bailey led the Hurricanes last season with seven sacks as he posted 45 tackles, 11 for losses.

A converted linebacker, Bailey has played defensive tackle and end. He has drawn varying grades with at least one NFL team projecting him as a late first-round selection and others expecting him to go in the second round.

Draft analysts have questioned whether Bailey fits best at tackle or end. He said he believes his best position is as a 4-3 defensive end.

"I feel like I probably could put on more weight, but we’ll see," Bailey said. "I’d played strictly outside the last three years, so it was an adjustment going inside. I got the swing of everything and adjusted pretty well."

As a junior, Bailey recorded seven sacks and 11 tackles for losses to earn first-team All-Atlantic Coast Conference honors.

For his career, he finished with 107 tackles, 33 for losses and 20 sacks.

Bailey grew up in an extremely small Georgia town called Hog Hammock 15 miles off the coast on Sapelo Island. Recruiters had to take a half-hour boat ride to get to Bailey, which has a population of about 50 people.

The legend goes that recruiters were renting speed boats to outhustle the competition for Bailey.

"They'll find you anywhere," said Bailey, who chose Miami over Alabama, Florida and Georgia. "I wanted to get out of the state of Georgia, so why not Miami? It was pretty close. I’d never traveled too much. I didn’t travel at all until my senior year of high school. So, I wanted to do that."
It was tough for Bailey to organize games since there were only about 20 kids on the island.

"We had football, basketball, outdoor stuff," Bailey said.

Bailey bench presses 420 pounds and power cleans 375 pounds and was twice named Strength Training Athlete of the Year.

He has several nicknames, including Billy Bicep.

That met with Tampa Bay coach Raheem Morris' approval.

"Billy Bicep, Popeye. Big Bailey, a whole list of them," Bailey said. "Favorites for me were Popeye and Billy Bicep."

Bailey said he talked to Tampa Bay, Atlanta, the Kansas City Chiefs, San Diego Chargers and the Cleveland Browns for combine interviews. He also interviewed with the Falcons at the Senior Bowl.

Bailey has an 18 1/2 inch wingspan, 10 1/2 inch hands.

Bailey said his best football remains ahead of him.

"I kind of know some of my weaknesses," Bailey said. "Hands need work sometimes, getting off blocks, attacking blockers."

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Devin Hester: “They are changing the whole fun of the game.”

Devin Hester joined ESPN Radio Chicago to talk about what he thinks about the new kickoff rules, if the new rule will hurt Bears as a team, and whether the NFL has gone too far with this rule change.

What he thinks about the new kickoff rules:
“Actually I have been down here in Miami practicing on my leg because I got a strong feeling that I’m not going to get any returns, so I said, ‘Hey let me try to do the kickoff to keep a job going’ but to be honest they might as well put up the arena nets, man, cause it’s going to be a lot of balls going in the endzone, man.”

How many kickers can keep him from returning kicks for touchdowns:
“I think all of them are capable of doing it.  It is just that a lot of kickers have just been bloopin’ kicking, you know not really trying to force them into the endzone because they know we are going to bring them out.  So what they have been going to be doing is blooping them up in the air and giving their defenders enough time to at least try to make a tackle, and now they have the five-yard rule where they put them up 5 yards and now it is just easier for them to kick it in the endzone.”

Whether he is going to be more inclined to return a ball five yards deeper into the endzone:
“I have but I heard that if it goes in the endzone it is automatically a touchback…  I mean, we are the type of team that we have the green light from day one that you know if they kick a line drive and it is not a certain amount of hangtime that we are capable of taking it out, and the coaches give us the green light to do it, but at the same time that is going to be real tough for returners.”

If the new rule will hurt Bears as a team:
“I think it could hinder us a little, you know, because we dwell off good field position.  That is one of our key assets to our offense; a good return game giving the offense good field position and not only giving them good field position , but we kind of do put points on the board when it comes to return game.  And that right there I think is going to hurt us a bit and really grow up on this new rule and really take it serious.”

Whether the NFL has gone too far with this rule change:
“Yeah they have gone too far.  They are changing the whole fun of the game.  The fans come out to see, especially to Chicago, to see returns. That is one of our key assets to our team, fans dwell on our big returns and taking that out the game, not only do they now kick it out of bounds when it is time to punt the ball but now you get this advantage on kickoffs, you know where we thought we were guaranteed a kickoff and now you are taking that away from our return game, now it is like you are taking the whole return game out the picture.”

If he expects to be playing football on September 8th:
“I feel 100% sure that we are going to play this year.  I don’t think this world will revolve without any football.  This is what keeps this world going, I feel, the fans dwell on football season and the day that a season ends they start talking about next year.  So I don’t think they are going to allow this to carry out before the season starts up.”

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

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James Jones Gets His Sport On

View more videos at: http://www.nbcmiami.com.

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James Jones helps spark 18-0 run that finally puts away Detroit Pistons

AUBURN HILLS, MICH. — Many, including Erik Spoelstra at times, have presented this as an either-or proposition. If Mike Miller plays, James Jones sits. There are only so many minutes to divide among reserve perimeter-oriented players on a Heat team that features two of the world's best starters at those positions.

Yet Wednesday against the Detroit Pistons, for a third straight game, Spoelstra checked Miller and Jones into the game together.

And, later, they were both out there again, during the stretch that the Heat pulled ahead and away.

With LeBron James triggering the offense and Dwyane Wade on the bench, Miller and Jones each made three-pointers during an 18-0 run that helped the Heat overcome a sluggish defensive start, and the ragtag Pistons, in a 100-94 victory.

"Potent," Jones described the lineup.

Let's start with promising.

And let's start with the two reserves, rather than focusing on the starters - even as James, Wade and Chris Bosh combined for 66 points, 19 rebounds and 13 assists. By now, you pretty much know what they're giving you. To beat teams far better than Detroit, however - even on a night that Rip Hamilton (27 points) found his 2004 form - the Heat must get some offensive production from its bench.

Wednesday, the Heat got 22 points from Miller and Jones. They weren't lights out, making 5 of 12 three-pointers, but that shouldn't dim the enthusiasm. They weren't shy, even Miller, who has often been reluctant to fire.

This is what the Heat needs its shooters to give its stars: "Daylight," Jones said.

When they're threats, James, Wade and Bosh have the space to operate.

"We can take advantage of the 'four' guarding me, get him out of the paint, and just open up the floor, so when (they) attack, there aren't too big bodies down there," Jones said.

"When we make a couple shots, make teams pay, they really have to adjust how aggressive they are on our main three guys. Because if they are, me and Mike will just do what we do, shoot open shots."

The criticism of Miller is that he hasn't shot them enough, with no more than three attempts in any of the past five games. This week, after a practice, Spoelstra spoke of the difficult transition that Miller needed to make, from a 32-minute playmaker to more of a part-time stand-still-and-wait shooter, and that it was the coaches' and players' responsibility to help him be more than that, to engage Miller in the offense on the move, in rhythm.

Spoelstra also downplayed any concerns about Miller's misses, saying that "if you only get two or three looks per game, I don't make any evaluation, whether the ball is going in or not. That's not enough of a sample. That's not even fair."

Miller acknowledged the difficulty of so often shooting cold, or sporadically. That's something Jones has done throughout his career, in part due to other limitations.

"My role is not the same as it was in the past, but I knew that before I came here," Miller said. "I've got to go out there and do my job."
Wednesday, Miller made his first three-point attempt of the evening.

Later, he made the one that started the rally. The one at the end of the third quarter.

"We were down five," James said of the start of the fourth quarter. "We looked at the monitor, we were down eight."

That was because a Mike Bibby three-pointer had been erased by the officials, on replay, after the fact.

"It was either go now, or how long were we going to wait?" James said.

The same could have been asked about Miller.

Until Wednesday night, when he and Jones got going together.

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Draft expert Tony Pauline breaks down 2011 proCane Draft Picks

Heard Tony Pauline of SI.com and DraftInsider.net on WQAM this morning with Joe Rose and found his take interesting on the draft prospects of several Miami Hurricanes.

The ‘Canes will stage their rescheduled Pro Timing Day on Friday morning in Coral Gables. Their first effort on March 10 was rained out in the early going:

CB DeMarcus Van Dyke: “He did practice well at the Shrine Game and had a good Senior Bowl. Definitely third round, maybe second- round area for a team that takes a liking to him. The problem with Van Dyke is the fact he’s pencil thin. I mean, He’s built like a flamingo.”

DL Allen Bailey: ”I think he’s got Miami Hurricane-itis. He just never developed. … Even in that game against Ohio State when they lost, he was a force. … Seemed to have a nondescript senior season, which is again what we said about a lot of the Miami Hurricanes under the past coaching regime. … He still has the talent. He’s a guy that can play a lot of positions. I think if he’s coached and developed well, he’s going to be a star at the next level. … Ordinarily he’d be a first-round pick. He’s probably going to slip into the second round, where he’d be good value.”

WR Leonard Hankerson: “Early second-round choice.”

CB Brandon Harris: ”Depends on the eye of the beholder. I never really thought he was a true first-round pick, I think he’s an early second-round choice.”

LB Colin McCarthy: ”Little bit down. Didn’t have a great senior year, didn’t run that well. You’re probably talking fourth round, maybe third-round area.”

OL Orlando Franklin: ”Third-round guy. Just has to learn the nuances of the position well, block with better balance. He’s on the ground too much but he’s got terrific size. He’s got some innate ability. A team is going to take him and develop him.”

Overall, a decent draft haul for most schools, but not Miami. As Pauline noted on the air, it’s a “far cry from the days when they usually, annually put five and six guys into the first round.”

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Brandon Harris To The Houston Texans in the 2nd Round?

Houston Texans: Round 2: Brandon Harris, CB, Miami

Harris drops out of the first round while the playoff teams go for offensive and defensive line help. The Texans scoop up this natural corner and hope he makes a quick vault into the starting line up soon. I could even see trying to trade up a few spots to grab him. Being a ‘Cane doesn’t hurt either.

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Reggie Wayne, Santana Moss and Dan Morgan, to be inducted Today in the UM Sports Hall of Fame

Indianapolis Colts receiver Reggie Wayne was home relaxing last fall when he got the phone call.

“Congratulations!’’ announced close friend Santana Moss, a Washington Redskins receiver and University of Miami teammate of Wayne’s in the late 1990s.

“Thank you,’’ Wayne replied skeptically.

“So, what exactly am I being congratulated for?’’

At 7 p.m. Thursday, Wayne will be one of three former UM football players – including Moss and retired NFL linebacker Dan Morgan – to be inducted into the UM Sports Hall of Fame at Jungle Island.

The other five: divers Daphne Jongejans-Bousquet and Tyce Routson, women’s tennis coach Ian Duvenhage, baseball player Bobby Hill and track-and-fielder Yolanda McCray.

“So sweet!’’ said Wayne, 32, the father of boys ages 7 and 1. “The brotherhood of my UM teammates has stuck with me like nothing else.’’

Morgan, 32, played at Coral Springs Taravella High and is the father of a 3-year-old son and daughters 5 and 2. He is traveling to the ceremony from his home in Charlotte, N.C., where he once played for the Carolina Panthers. Morgan called Thursday’s honor “crazy’’ and said his UM memories “are just as fresh in my head now as they were back then. I think of coming in with guys like Reggie and Santana, coming off the probation years and having that little weight room with barely any air-conditioning. We wanted to win so badly. In some ways, we’re like the forgotten people who were a big part of helping bring the Miami program back.’’

Not nearly forgotten, though they graduated and left to become NFL first-rounders just nine months before their younger teammates won UM’s first national title in 10 years. Wayne, Morgan and Moss were freshmen in 1997 and played through 2000, the year the Canes went 11-1 and were edged out by Florida State in the final Bowl Championship Series standings.

Theirs was the class that never got to the promised land, but laid the groundwork for their successors to get there. Theirs was the class that became Hurricanes in the midst of severe NCAA sanctions, determined to bring the program from its low point to the mountain top.

The Seminoles, losers to UM in 2000, went on to lose to Oklahoma in the BCS national championship game, while UM defeated Florida in the Sugar Bowl. The Canes could only lament their lone 34-29 loss at Washington in the second game of the season – quarterback Ken Dorsey’s first road start. That would be UM’s last loss before a momentous 34-game win streak that included a national title and ended with the Fiesta Bowl loss to Ohio State in another national championship game.

“I always consider our class as builders of the foundation,” said Wayne, who went 5-6, 9-3, 9-4 and 11-1 under Butch Davis. “We had a bunch of true freshmen who didn’t know the difference between our left and right feet, but we hung in there as brothers and took the good with the bad, took coaching pretty well and made it our business to get better every year. We showed everyone the way. But just think. If we could have redshirted, we would have won a title.

“Still, the way my life has gone,” said Wayne, a former Super Bowl champion and New Orleans native who lives with his family in Southwest Ranches, “I wouldn’t take it back for anything in the world. It’s storybook.’’

Moss, 31, grew up in Miami, graduated from Carol City High and has an offseason home near Pompano Beach. He said he was in awe when he learned he was to be inducted, like his teammates, in his first season of eligibility.

“I went down the list and was like, ‘Man! Did this guy get in yet? Did that guy get in yet?’ ” said Moss, who has a 6-year-old daughter and sons 10 and 1. “The years have gone by so fast, but I’ve never forgotten a moment that I spun at that school.

“I was pushed onto the field and I grew up from there. I caught the first pass thrown to me, a post corner on the sideline from Ryan Clement against Pittsburgh. It was the third game of my freshman year. Those are memories you never forget.’’

Some of Moss’ favorite UM moments: Beating FSU for the first time as a senior and his last game in the Orange Bowl against Boston College, a 52-6 victory in which he scored three touchdowns and set the all-time UM all-purpose yards record with 4,402. He also broke a 62-year-old UM career punt-return record by accumulating 1,196 yards over his four seasons.

Morgan’s favorite memory was defeating the top-ranked Seminoles 27-24. “Absolutely the happiest time in my Hurricane history,’’ said the linebacker who won the Bednarik and Butkus Awards and Nagurski Trophy in 2000.

And Wayne’s most cherished memory, besides breaking the UM record for career receptions (173), which still stands: “Making a pledge after our 5-6 freshmen year that we wouldn’t cut our hair until we made a bowl game – me, Santana, Darryl Jones, Ed Reed, Delvin Brown… We beat N.C. State in the Micron PC Bowl

in 1998, and I went back to my old look. The dreads and stuff were never me.

“The years do go by fast,’’ Wayne said. “But I’ll always be a Hurricane.’’

Click here to order Reggie Wayne’s or Santana Moss’s or Dan Morgan’s proCane Rookie Card.

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John Salmons can't find groove in loss

John Salmons hit just 3-of-14 shots for eight points, four boards and three assists in Wednesday's tough loss to the Kings.

This was a must-win game for the Bucks' playoff hopes, but Salmons just couldn't find his shot. He'll be better on most nights, and is still a viable fantasy option despite tonight's disaster.

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Ryan Braun's New Muscle Milk Commercial

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Scott Maine optioned to Class AAA Iowa

MESA, Ariz. — While the fifth-starter drama continues to play out this spring, the makeup of the rest of the Cubs’ Opening Day pitching staff took shape with a small round of cuts Wednesday.

Among the cuts was left-hander Scott Maine. The move eliminated the option of carrying four lefty relievers and seemed to assure three in the bullpen.

Manager Mike Quade, however, suddenly suggested that he might choose to carry only two (apparently not wanting to tell second-year pitcher James Russell just yet that he’s on the roster).

Maine, in his first big-league camp after debuting last summer, was optioned to Class AAA Iowa along with right-hander Justin Berg. Non-roster righties Angel Guzman and Todd Wellemeyer, both battling back from injuries, were reassigned to minor-league camp, leaving four pitchers over the opening limit in camp.

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Breaking down Leonard Hankerson

This year, defense is going to dominate the early part of the draft, especially defensive linemen. Still, there will be a good number of offensive linemen and wide receivers going in the first round. Two players who could very well fit into the bottom third of the first round are receiver Leonard Hankerson of Miami and offensive tackle Derek Sherrod of Mississippi State.

Hankerson was a highly recruited receiver from the Ft. Lauderdale area. Rivals.com had him as a 3-star recruit and Scout.com as a 4-star player. He played as a reserve his first and second years before becoming a starter and Miami’s go-to receiver his final two seasons. Last year was his breakout season with 72 catches for 1,156 yards and 13 touchdowns. He followed that up with strong Senior Bowl and combine performances.

Hankerson has very good size for a receiver, as he measured 6-1 and 209 pounds at the combine and ran a 4.44. When watching tape of him I thought he was going to be a 4.55 type, as he is a long strider who doesn’t have a real explosive burst. Still, he is very smooth with good flexibility. He breaks down well and gets in and out of cuts quickly. Hankerson has long arms and huge hands (10 5/8) and plays taller than his size because he is so long. While he has some concentration drops, he has very good hands and shows the ability to pluck the ball. He does an excellent job of adjusting to the ball in the air and making difficult catches. He shows good courage and will go inside to compete for the ball in traffic.

This past season he played in the slot much of the time and had to run a lot of underneath routes. He runs good routes and uses his body control and flexibility to get separation. He is quick off the line of scrimmage and does a good job escaping jams. He gets open both by using moves and a change of pace. He can uncover versus both man and zone and does a good job reading coverages. While he is very good with the short and medium routes he is also an effective deep receiver. He is good at tracking the deep ball. As a runner after the catch, he is not overly elusive but he uses his speed well and has strength.

Overall, because of his size and route running ability, Hankerson has the skill set to eventually become a No. 1 receiver in most NFL offenses. Like most receivers coming out of college he is going to need some developmental time but he has excellent upside.

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Sean Payton's scouting report on Shockey

NEW ORLEANS -- Jeremy Shockey has been a controversial figure throughout his career, but he got a glowing sendoff from one chapter Tuesday morning.

It came from New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton, who made the decision to release Shockey before the lockout.

“It was probably more difficult for me because of my relationship with him going back to New York,’’ said Payton, who was an assistant coach with the Giants in Shockey’s rookie season. “He’s one of my favorite players ... and he plays with passion. He brought a swagger to what we do.’’

Shockey signed with Carolina and Payton was happy to give a detailed scouting report of what the tight end can bring to the Panthers. And continued raving about Shockey’s swagger.

“It’s an aspect of his game where it’s almost calming to everyone around him because he can kind of take on that role and make the big catch and be ready to come up with the big play,’’ Payton said. “I think it’s a little contagious as well. He has got strong hands in traffic. He’s bigger than anyone ever thinks until you see him and you’re up next to him and you realize this guys is big. He’s a big target with strong hands and he has got that ability to, fourth-and-four, to win the game, he has that ability and sees himself making that play and that has never changed.

“To his credit, he’ll come into training camp in great shape. He’s something. He’s a rare athlete and someone, and I’ve seen Year 1 to where he’s at now, and there are aspects of what he does and what he brings to the table. I also think he’s a great teammate.’’

Payton said he’s happy he’ll still get to see Shockey twice a year.

“What was best for him, even if it wasn’t as good for the Saints, made me happy,’’ Payton said. “He’s in our division obviously, and you respect him and you understand the threat he presents. But more than anything else, I was happy mostly for him.’’

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

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Sean Payton said decision to release tight end Jeremy Shockey was difficult for him personally

New Orleans Saints Coach Sean Payton said the team's decision to release tight end Jeremy Shockey was especially difficult for him because of their close relationship that dates back to their days together with the New York Giants.

"He's one of my favorite players before and he plays with passion. He brought a swagger to what we do," Payton said Tuesday. "The one thing that's interesting when you win a Super Bowl, it can really validate any decision you've made up until that point in regards to free agent moves, players drafted, coaches hired. That doesn't mean there aren't mistakes on the road to a Super Bowl. But that game and after the game seeing him and his mother is pretty strong.

"Any time you end up parting ways with a player like that it's difficult. His case with my history it was hard."

One of the reasons Shockey became expendable was the emergence of rookie tight end Jimmy Graham in 2010. Although Graham is still developing as a football player after playing just one season in college at Miami (Fla.), he clearly has the talent to be a game-changing offensive weapon. The 6-foot-6, 260-pound former basketball player caught 31 passes for 356 yards and five touchdowns in 2010, with four of those TDs coming in his final three games of the season.

"I felt like, most importantly, none of it was too big for him. I think he saw himself as someone who should excel in this game now. We began to see that especially the last third of the season," Payton said. "I think he has got some work to do in regards to the running game. But he has a lot of ability. We've got to look closely to what we want to do within the framework of what runs while he's in there and how do we want to utilize him while he's in there. Certainly he and (free agent tight end) David Thomas are built differently and will have different roles. But we obviously saw enough of him as the season progressed and feel real good about his development. Jeremy had a lot to do with that as a veteran player helping him. The future is bright for him."

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

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Lawyer: Patriots' Brandon Meriweather didn't shoot anyone

New England Patriots safety Brandon Meriweather, who has been in a media storm over his possible involvement in a recent Central Florida shooting, should no longer be considered a suspect, according to his lawyer.

Fort Lauderdale attorney Adam Swickle met with Orange County Sheriff's Office investigators today to deliver witness statements that he said proves his client was not responsible for the Feb. 28 shooting.

"We have confirmed that Brandon was nothing but a peace-keeper," Swickle told the Orlando Sentinel. "All of the witnesses confirmed that at no point did Brandon have a gun, or threaten to shoot, and did not shoot anyone."

Swickle added that his investigator, Robert Crispin, interviewed at least one person who identified another man who had a gun and was threatening people with it immediately prior to the shooting.

Swickle declined to name that person, but said he has a lengthy criminal history. That information was passed on to investigators at the sheriff's office, Swickle said.

The sheriff's office said the shooting is still under investigation.

"An attorney met with investigators today and provided them with several witness statements," Sheriff's spokesman Cpt. Angelo Nieves said. "Some of those individuals have also been interviewed by Orange County deputies."

Nieves said investigators are not ready to make an arrest or charge anyone with the shooting.

"We are not ready to characterize him [Meriweather] in any other fashion," Nieves said. "The investigation is continuing to move forward."

The Sheriff's Office earlier released information that Meriweather, a former star at Apopka High School and Pro Bowl NFL player, was present when two men were shot on Feb. 28.

Swickle does not deny his client was there the night of the shooting, but said he had nothing to do with it.

Nico Glendale Stanley, 23, and Quentin Louis Ramone Taylor, 24, were injured during the shooting which occurred about 2 a.m. near Marvin C. Zanders and 17th Street in Apopka. One of the victims is related to Meriweather, Swickle said.

Sheriff's records show there was a fight at the Blue Jeans Lounge in Apopka on the night of shooting. Later a fight broke out at a nearby home where the shooting took place.

But when deputies responded to the area, they found no evidence of a shooting.

A short time later an Apopka police officer working at Florida Hospital Apopka alerted Orange County deputies that two gunshot victims arrived at the hospital on their own.

Taylor, who was shot in the face, spoke to detectives for the first time on March 9, more than a week after the shooting. Stanley, 23, who was grazed by a bullet in the face, spoke to detectives on March 7, according to the sheriff's office.

A website broke the news of Meriweather's possible involvement in the shooting on March 10 and quoted high-power, Orlando attorney John Morgan, who said he represented the two men injured in the shooting.

He later told the Orlando Sentinel he was not sure of Meriweather's involvement in the shooting.

Stanley and Taylor attended Apopka High School with Meriweather, who graduated in 2002.

Meriweather was a star athlete for the Blue Darters and later a star football player at the University of Miami. He was a first-round draft pick by the Patriots in 2007.

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Hester Dissapointed by Kickoff Rule Change

NEW ORLEANS -- Unlike Chicago Bears general manager Jerry Angelo the day before, coach Lovie Smith didn't mince words Tuesday when expressing his disdain for proposed changes to the kickoff rules.

The proposal passed Tuesday when NFL owners voted to move kickoffs up to the 35-yard line starting next season. Touchbacks will remain at the 20-yard line.

Although the NFL's competition committee proposed modifications to increase player safety, Smith pointed out that the Bears have experienced only one injury -- a sprained ankle -- on kickoff or kickoff returns in the last two years.

"You just wonder how did we get to this point?" Smith said before the rule passed. "First off, I can't believe we're really talking about it, the most exciting play in football. You would think we would want to keep that in.

"We would work as hard as we could to try to make it safer, but to eliminate that to me is just kind of tearing up the fiber of the game a little bit. Yeah, we have a great returner. But that's a big part of the game. Our fans are probably more interested in coming there to see Devin Hester running a ball back as opposed to seeing a kicker kick it out of the end zone with no action."

The original changes to kickoff rules proposed by the competition committee would have moved the starting point on kickoffs from the 30-yard line to the 35, moved touchbacks from the 20 to the 25 and eliminated all wedge-blocking schemes.

The competition committee tweaked the original proposal after widespread opposition Monday from coaches. Teams can continue to use two-men wedges.

The proposal was designed to increase the number of touchbacks and decrease the number of injuries on kick returns. The Bears are one of just eight teams in 2010 to have 10 touchbacks or fewer (5), and their touchback percentage (7.6) was third-lowest in the NFL.

The teams voted on the measure Tuesday, and the proposal needed a 75-percent yes vote from ownership to pass.

Hester is disappointed by the rule change.

"They're going too far. They're changing the whole fun of the game," Hester said Tuesday on "The Waddle & Silvy Show" on ESPN 1000. "Fans come out -- especially in Chicago -- to see returns. That's one of the key assets to the team. Fans [like] our big returns. You take that out of the game, not only do they kick it out of bounds when it's time to punt the ball, now you get the disadvantage on kickoffs. We felt we were guaranteed [a chance] on kickoff returns and now you're taking that away, it's like you're taking the whole return game out of the picture."

Hester is considered by many to be the best return man to ever play in the NFL. Meanwhile, his return partner, Danieal Manning, leads the league since 2008 in kickoff returns of 40 yards or more.

"You know how I'm gonna respond to the question," Smith said before the vote. "We're totally against the rule. Teams that don't have a good returner, of course they're not for it. I know we're talking about player safety, but I don't know if that's making the game safer by eliminating [it]. You can say that about every pass play. Every play where there's a little contact you could say that. OK, yeah, I'm biased. [But] talking with our trainers, the last couple of years, we've had one ankle sprain on our kickoff return and kickoff team. So we haven't had injury."

Smith pointed out the potential for increased emphasis on strong-legged kickers that blast the kickoff out of the end zone.

"I'm all for making the game safer, but this seems like it's more than that. Before long, we'll start putting the ball on the 20-yard line -- starting the game that way -- and eliminating the play. That's what you're doing," Smith said. "You're putting more emphasis on the kicker. I like seeing our kicker Robbie Gould go out -- but to kick field goals -- not necessarily him being the focal point on the kickoff. For the fans, it's about the excitement of the game. That's an important play in our game."

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Greg Olsen's role will grow in 2011

Bears GM Jerry Angelo claims that Greg Olsen's role in the offense will grow in his second season under OC Mike Martz.

"He'll be more prominent this year ... because of the familiarity that our coaches have with him," said Angelo. We could see Angelo's contention if there was evidence Olsen's role grew as last season wore on, but there isn't. Olsen finished 21st in the league in tight end targets, behind the likes of Kevin Boss, Tony Scheffler, Tony Moeaki, and Jermaine Gresham.

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Lockout allows Vernon Carey to heal

NEW ORLEANS— If NFL players weren't locked out and the Miami Dolphins had begun the team's offseason training program coach Tony Sparano said it's doubtful he'd have the services of the two starting tackles.

Left tackle Jake Long and right tackle Vernon Carey were nursing a handful of injuries in 2010 and both had surgery when the season was over.

Sparano pointed out both tackles, who have started the past three seasons, will likely be healthy enough to practice by training camp, if the lockout ends.

NFL players must conduct their rehab without the assistance of team doctors and trainers, which means Long and Carey are on their own at this point.

Sparano said the rehab goal was to have Long and Carey ready for "gametime."

Sparano did express concern about the fact Carey, who played at a weight that was generously listed at 340 pounds, can't work on his conditioning because of his knee problems. That inactivity might lead to weight gain.

Carey, a former University of Miami standout who has started 92 of the 106 games he's played for the Dolphins, has a weight clause included in his contract.

He's due a base salary of $4.15 million in 2011, but considering the six-year, $42 million deal he signed in 2009 escalates over the next four seasons, it's possible the 29-year-old could become a cap casualty if a salary cap returns in 2011.

Tackle is one of the deep positions in the 2011 draft, and the Dolphins tendered veteran backup Nate Garner last month, ensuring he returns. Lydon Murtha, Matt Kopa, Allen Barbre are the other tackles on the roster.

But it sounds as if Sparano and General Manager Jeff Ireland have Carey in their plans for next season. Sparano even ruled out the possibility Carey would be moved to guard, a position he played early in his Dolphins career, and while at UM.

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Calais Campbell Changes Agents

It was suspected that with the passing of Gary Wichard, many of Pro Tect Management’s clients would be venturing to new agents and agencies.  While Wichard had been suspended by the NFLPA at the time of his death, it was speculated that he was still operating for his clients behind the scenes, which is why very few clients had left his firm.  Now that he is no longer around to advise the clients he recruited, it is likely that many of those clients will seek out new representation.  Calais Campbell has done just that.

The former University of Miami and current Arizona Cardinals defensive end has switched from Pro Tect Management to Ben Dogra and Tom Condon of Creative Artists Agency (CAA).  Since joining the Cardinals in 2008, Campbell has logged 13 sacks and 136 tackles.  Calais’ brother, Severin Campbell, is a 2011 NFL Draft eligible outside linebacker from Montana.  He has also signed with CAA for representation.

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Jemile Weeks gets 3 hits off Jonathan Sanchez

A's second-base prospect Jemile Weeks might not have millions in the bank and a long major-league resume like his older brother, but he does have three hits against Giants starter Jonathan Sanchez. Brewers shortstop Rickie Weeks can boast only two, in 11 big-league plate appearances.

Jemile singled, doubled and homered against Sanchez in a Triple-A game at the Giants' minor-league complex Tuesday. Though the major-league team was off, Sanchez needed a start to stay in line for his April 1 season debut at Dodger Stadium.

Sanchez threw about 85 pitches and allowed five runs (four earned) in four innings. He walked one and struck out six, including four of five hitters in one stretch.

Sanchez did not care that he got hit, saying he used the start to refine his changeup, which he wants to throw in any count, especially on the first pitch to get ahead 0-1.

"I felt pretty good," he said. "I was getting everything over the plate. I threw a lot of changeups today, getting a feel for it. I got stretched out today. That's what I wanted to do."

Hitters are hard to walk in minor-league games because they are aggressive (even those drafted by Billy Beane). Still, Sanchez's good strikeout-to-walk ratio is a positive sign. In four Cactus League starts, he has 14 strikeouts and four walks, a trend that could keep him in games longer if he carries it into the season.

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Vote For Andre Johnson To Be on the Madden 2012 Cover

The "Madden NFL 12" cover athlete will be unveiled live on SportsNation on ESPN2!
Your votes will determine who graces the cover of Madden 12. Join hosts Colin Cowherd and Michelle Beadle on "SportsNation" throughout the voting period for interviews with the candidates and more!
SportsNation, weekdays at 4 ET on ESPN2!

Voting dates:
Opening Round: March 21-27
Second Round: March 28-April 3
Third Round: April 4-10
Semifinals: April 11-17
Finals: April 18-26

Click here to vote if you don’t believe in the Madden curse, or if anything vote for someone you want to be cursed!

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Devin Hester opposed to kickoff rule change

The NFL Competition Committee met Monday in New Orleans to propose a host of rules changes, one of which is a plan to move kickoffs up to the 35-yard line from the 30. The theory is that the shorter distance will lead to more touchbacks, which will cut down on the violent impacts that lead to injuries for special-teams players.

Hester is a key weapon in Chicago's attack, using his speed and elusiveness to create game-changing plays. The 28-year-old has an NFL-record 14 kickoff and punt returns for touchdowns since entering the league in 2006.

"I see the NFL is trying to take the kickoff game out," Hester tweeted Sunday. "They already punt out of bounds. What's next?"

Bears general manager Jerry Angelo told the Chicago Sun-Times that the opposition to the potential change goes beyond his team's interests.
"It's not just because of Devin Hester," Angelo said. "It's because it's one of the most exciting plays in football."

Bears president Ted Phillips said the team will listen to the committee's pitch on the rule change but doesn't expect to get behind it.

"With our return game being such a big part of our offense, I would tend to think we would vote against it," Phillips told the Chicago Tribune on Sunday. "There are some aspects to the proposal, including the elimination of the two-man wedge and having all the players except the kicker no more than 5 yards behind the ball, that would be more acceptable than moving the kickoff to the 35."

NFL owners will vote on the proposal Tuesday.

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

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Tim James honored by Miamim Heat for military service

The last time Tim James stood on an NBA court in South Florida, he was a Philadelphia 76ers reserve looking to gain traction in the league.

He returned to AmericanAirlines Arena on Saturday night as a U.S. Army Corporal and a source of inspiration and admiration for many.

The Heat honored James before Saturday’s game as part of its long-standing Home Strong initiative.

“I can’t thank the Heat enough,” James told reporters about 90 minutes before the ceremony, as he sat on a podium alongside 7-year-old son, Tim Jr.

“I can’t express in words how I feel about this ceremony and to represent all the men and women in the United States Armed Forces. This is for everyone that has been killed or maimed or spent plenty of time away from their families.”

James, selected 25th overall by the Heat in the 1999 draft, played in just four games for Miami as a rookie and was traded the following offseason to Charlotte. He appeared in just 39 more NBA games, for Charlotte and Philadelphia, then played in Japan, Turkey and Israel before retiring in 2007.

He enlisted in the Army in September 2008 because “I always had a fascination with the military. Some people in my house would get mad at me because I would sit and watch the Military Channel for hours on end. And I had a fascination with current events.”

James, 34, was deployed to Iraq on July 27, 2009, became a corporal that October and served for 12 months there before returning to the United States in July 2010.

What scared him most in Iraq? “Having a bunch of mortar rounds fly out of nowhere, bombs going off around you, just to know someone is out there taking shots at you aimlessly and not knowing where those projectiles are going to land was pretty much the scariest part,” James said. “We had an incident on base where friendly fire went off that killed a couple of our own soldiers.”

James has spent recent months at Fort Hood in Texas, helping prepare servicemen “for what’s going to happen in Iraq or Afghanistan. We do a lot of convoy live-fire training. We do a lot of training in wooded areas where no one is around.”

James said when he joined the military, “people looked at me like, ‘You’re lying. You weren’t an NBA player.’ But then they’re like, ‘Wow. He’s telling the truth.’ ”

James, who attended Miami Northwestern and the University of Miami, drove to the UM campus Saturday morning and spoke with coach Frank Haith.

“I haven’t been back in a long time,” he said. “Amazing facilities they have now. It’s a long way from the Hecht [Athletic Center].”

James drove 90 minutes to San Antonio when the Heat played there earlier this month to thank Udonis Haslem and James Jones “for sending care-packages over and signing box loads of T-shirts for the guys in our unit.”

He said he didn’t know until recently that Haslem wears James’ former number (40) to honor him. “We competed against each other at the AAU level and it shocked me,” he said. “It really means a lot. It touched me, to have that impact on U.D.”

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Danny Valencia hitting well this spring

After batting .273 in 11 games last spring, Twins 3B Danny Valencia has had a much better go-round this year. He has gone 13 for 38 (.342) with one homer and five RBI in 15 games, with a .390 on-base percentage and .553 slugging percentage.

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Reds reassigned Yonder Alonso

Reds reassigned INFs Yonder Alonso, Zack Cozart, Chris Negron and Todd Frazier to minor league camp.

Alonso hit .300/.344/.467 over 30 at-bats this spring, but he remains blocked at first base and in the outfield at the big league level. The offensive-minded prospect will serve as a first baseman and left fielder for Triple-A Louisville until the Reds can find a spot for him in the majors or a trade partner.

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Todd McShay Projects Orlando Franklin to Go in the 1st Round

31st PIck of the 2011 NFL Draft: Pittsburgh Steelers
Record: 12-4 | Top needs: OT/OG, CB, NT, WR, TE

Orlando Franklin, OG, Miami (FL)
Cornerback is a possibility here but Smith might be too much of a character risk, and Aaron Williams of Texas might be better at safety. There are also other options among offensive linemen but Franklin has experience playing guard and tackle, he plays with a chip on his shoulder and employs the kind of physical style the Steelers look for in their offensive linemen.

42. Houston Texans: CB Brandon Harris, Miami (FL)

64. Green Bay Packers: DE Allen Bailey, Miami (FL)

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Leonard Hankerson to the Rams?

Leonard Hankerson, St. Louis, 47th overall (Second round)

If Mark Clayton isn’t around, Hankerson would possibly be St. Louis’ best receiver right away. Guys like Danny Amendola, Brandon Gibson and Danario Alexander would get their hands on a few passes, but none have the No. 1 wideout potential that Hankerson possesses. Like all eventual Rams wideouts, Hankerson’s production in this scenario would also hinge heavily on Sam Bradford’s development.

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John Salmons posts third consecutive 20+ game

John Salmons continued his hot offensive play by scoring 22 points on 8-of-17 shooting with a 3-pointer, three rebounds, three assists and a block.

This is the third consecutive game with 20 or more points for Salmons. If the Bucks continue to milk their starters for the scoring, Salmons may continue to keep this scoring pace up.

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Scott Maine on the Bubble?

Scott Maine:  The Cubs would like to have one more lefty.  Given his strong finish last season, the Cubs would like it to be Maine so they can try and stretch Jeff Russell out as a starter in AAA.  Maine has a 5.40 ERA this spring.

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Aubrey Huff continues surge with homer in Giants' loss

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Right-hander Brandon McCarthy pitched scoreless ball until allowing two runs in the eighth inning on Sunday, and the Oakland A's survived Aubrey Huff's fourth homer in five games to subdue the San Francisco Giants, 6-4, in Cactus League play.

McCarthy (1-0), who recorded the longest outing by an A's starter this spring, walked none and struck out five, while lasting two batters into the eighth inning.

Trailing, 6-0, the Giants roused themselves to score four runs in the eighth, when singles by Brandon Belt and Ryan Rohlinger finished McCarthy. After Freddy Sanchez's bases-loaded groundout generated San Francisco's first run later in the inning, Huff launched a drive off right-hander Fernando Cabrera that cleared the right-field wall. Two of the runs were charged to McCarthy.

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Aubrey Huff to see action in left field

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Manager Bruce Bochy said Friday that first baseman Aubrey Huff will appear in left field before the Giants break camp in Arizona on March 27.

Huff provided flexibility last year by starting 24 games in left field and 33 in right. Many of these appearances occurred before Buster Posey became the everyday catcher and ceased playing first base.

Of course, Huff, who's entering the first year of a two-year, $22 million contract, likely would play left if rookie Brandon Belt makes the team and occupies first. Belt grounded out in a ninth-inning pinch-hit appearance against the Dodgers on Friday, dropping his spring batting average to .277.

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