All Canes Radio With Aldarius Johnson

Every Thursday Night joins All Canes Radio to bring the latest news on not only current Hurricane football but also proCane news and exclusive interviews with current and former proCanes live from the Titanic Brewery in Coral Gables. Click here to listen to this week’s show and hear our exclusive interview with former Hurricane and proCane-to-be Aldarius Johnson. Johnson talks about his preparations and workouts as he gets ready for the NFL Draft, his days as a Hurricane, that huge 4th down catch he had against Wake Forest and much more!

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DeMarcus Van Dyke & Allen Bailey Host Party

On Saturday night February 4, 2011 DeMarcus Van Dyke and Allen Bailey are hosting a party at Club SoBe Live and will be celebrating the King of Comedy Larry Dogg’s Birthday. Join them at midnight on Saturday Night!

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Meet Danny Valencia

Danny Valencia will be at Hit A Double in Boca Raton, FL tomorrow from 6-8pm to help raise money for Spanish River HS. Help spread word!!!

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Baraka Atkins Signs Contract

The fact that fixing the defense is the top priority was suggested by the transactions the Cowboys made in January, 2012. They signed two players, safety Justin Paplin-Ross (undrafted) and OLB Baraka Atkins( drafted by in Seattle in the 4th round in 2007), to futures contracts in early January, and they also signed defensive tackle Robert Callaway (was on Detroit’s practice squad last season) to a 3 year deal, and signed .C.J. Wilson (played 4 seasons in Carolina before being cut in September, 2011). In addition, they re-signed 2 defensive players from the practice squad: cornerback Mario Butler (undrafted 2011), linebacker Orie Lemon (undrafted 2011).

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Season Review: Eric Winston

LT Eric Winston started each game for the Texans, the fifth straight season he achieved the feat. In his best season yet, Winston served as the primary protector of QBs Matt Schaub and rookie T.J. Yates and played a major role in helping the 10th highest-scoring team in the league.

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Season Review: Rashad Butler

After a promising 2010 that saw him make four starts, OT Rashad Butler's season came to an end after just two weeks due to an elbow injury. Butler's injury opened the door for rookie Derek Newton to become a contributor. Butler's return will only add depth to the position going into training camp.

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Season Review: Willis McGahee

Few expected RB Willis McGahee to end the season in the Pro Bowl and with more 100-yard games than anyone else last season, but that's what happened. He became the first 30 years-or-older RB to surpass 1,000 yards and average more than 4.7 yards per carry since Fred Taylor in 2007.

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Kenny Phillips talks Super Bowl XLVI

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Jimmy Graham has let go of the bitterness from his childhood

Saints tight end Jimmy Graham is in Indianapolis this week talking less about football than about his childhood, when he suffered from abuse and spent time in the foster system. Graham, whose life story will be featured as part of a documentary on the USA Network on February 10, talked this afternoon about the ways he has moved on from that.

“I’ve forgiven the people who need to be forgiven for the things that happened to me as a child,” Graham said. “I would never change those things. The things I went through as a child have molded me into the man I am today. I think I’m blessed to have gone through those things.”

Graham talked about how his life turned around when he was welcomed into the home of Becky Vinson, now his adoptive mother, who encouraged him to focus on both academics and athletics. He ended up earning a basketball scholarship to Miami and then switching to football and getting drafted by the Saints.

“I always thought I was just a dumb kid,” Graham said. “And finally someone stepped into my life and told me all the things I could do, and how smart I was, and all of a sudden I’m going to college.”

Graham said he’s a better man today because of what he went through as a child.

“That’s a part of me and it’s always going to be a part of me,” Graham said. “I was blessed to have gone through those things.”

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Antrel Rolle leading Giants fit to a T-shirt


The Super Bowl, that’s where.

It sure can appear to be a cute slogan on a cool T-shirt by an entrepreneurial safety living the life, but it is so much more than cute or cool or potentially profitable. Antrel Rolle is not merely a part of Super Bowl XLVI, he’s one of the major reasons why the Giants still are around after their season nearly was capsized by too much bad football, most notably by the defensive backfield Rolle inhabits.

Mention “Where Trel At?” to Rolle’s teammates and they start grinning. He’s guilty of the same facial expression.

“No matter what kind of mood you’re in, no matter what kind of day you’re having, when you hear that it just puts a smile on our face,’’ Rolle said yesterday. “Something so little has definitely brought us closer together as a team.’’

For stretches of the season the emotional temperature of the Giants could be gauged by Rolle, who in his second season with the team emerged, in his own way, as the fire to Eli Manning’s ice. Justin Tuck, a team captain, admittedly struggled with his leadership duties as injuries compromised his work on the field, and there’s no doubt Rolle stepped in to fill the void.

His indignation as the Giants were sliding was palpable, just as it is clear he is intensely confident his club will take care of business Sunday night against the Patriots.

There were times this season when it wasn’t readily apparent that Rolle and the team felt the same way. There was the big one, after the dreadful 23-10 loss to the Redskins, when Rolle went on a riff about players with “nicks and bruises’’ needing to forget about the ashes and pains and get out on the practice field. The Giants haven’t lost since.

“When Antrel stood up and talked about players practicing … in my opinion that was the pivotal moment for us,’’ safeties coach David Merritt told The Post.

Impactful with his words, Rolle this season spent just two games at his natural safety position, as he has been asked to fill holes at nickel cornerback, which cut deeply into his play-making ability. Where Trel At? could be a search for where he will line up next, but it’s not. Instead, it’s the handiwork of safety Deon Grant.

“Trel [is] the type of guy who can get ready in two minutes,’’ Grant said. “If it’s 10:30, we’re supposed to be on the football field, he starts getting dressed at 10:27. So I walk in there he’s nowhere to be found I’ll be like ‘Where Trel At? Where Trel At?’ and everybody liked the way I started saying it. They ran with it.’’

Actually it was equipment gurus Joe and Ed Skiba who turned the phrase into a T-shirt, which now is available on

“The Skibas, they just sort of took it and ran with it, making fun or our Ebonics and ending sentences with a preposition,’’ Rolle said. “Everyone says its now. I have my teammates’ sons walking around saying ‘Where Trel At?’ Everywhere I go.’’

There’s more coming. Rolle’s linguistic crutch — one he’s recently tried to shed — is coming to a crew-neck near you.

“If we go out there and win this thing on Sunday just watch me on the parade, watch me on the float, I will be sporting an ‘At The End Of The Day’ shirt,’’ he said.

This is all part of a two-year transition for Rolle, who initially chafed under the weight of coach Tom Coughlin’s guidelines but now is in line as one of his greatest supporters. Rolle barely spoke to the media when he played for the Cardinals, but now his locker is a must-stop destination, just as his weekly radio spot on WFAN is required listening.

“I’m in the New York swing of things right now,’’ Rolle, a Miami native, said. “I can actually say New York is my second home.

“I can’t see anything being greater than being an athlete and playing in the brighter stage of New York. It’s something I’m definitely blessed to be in. I’m gonna try to capture it and appreciate it and ride it until the wheels fall off.’’

He hopes no one has to ask Where Trel At? late Sunday night, because Rolle plans on being up there on the victory podium, finishing what his Giants started.

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Ray Lewis: A gentleman off the field

On a trip to Dallas from BWI last week, to my surprise, I was sitting next to Ray Lewis of the Ravens. He was on his way to the Pro Bowl in Hawaii, and I'm sure it was a bittersweet trip for him. Mr. Lewis accommodated anyone and everyone who asked for an autograph with respect and dignity. He was most kind and considerate, even while being interrupted during a telephone call for an autograph while we were sitting at the gate. I did take the liberty of congratulating him on a great season, and he shook my hand with appreciation. He handled himself as the professional he is, and never once during his private moments was he upset with anyone who approached him.

There are some great defensive linebackers that have defined NFL teams over the years, such as Ray Nitschke with the Green Bay Packers, Dick Butkus of the Chicago Bears, and Sam Huff of the New York Giants. Included in that list will be the city of Baltimore's Ray Lewis. He will be in the minds of many fans and players the definition of Baltimore and it's rich connection to the game this town loves.

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Antrel Rolle finally finds solid ground with help from safeties coach

INDIANAPOLIS — The text message is saved in David Merritt’s phone for quick access.

That’s how much it means to Merritt, to Antrel Rolle and to the Giants’ Super Bowl season.

Antrel stay the course my young brother! Putting coaching aside you are right where God would have you to be at this point in your life and career. Find out through prayer WHY are you here? What lesson is to be learned or who are you supposed to help here on this team or in this area!!!
Merritt paused as he read the text aloud.

“Now we’re going outside of football: ‘in this area,’” he said before continuing.

Know that God has US here for a reason & sometimes a season. You may get that chance to leave in the end but WE must finish this season the right way, working unto God & not man!

This was 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 18 — roughly three hours after the Giants inexplicably lost to the lowly Washington Redskins and 2½ hours following Rolle’s ripping unnamed players who don’t practice through some hurts during the week.

At 7-7 and facing a second straight season without a trip to the playoffs, Rolle was griping via text to the Giants’ safeties coach about the defensive game plans and the lack of in-game adjustments.

The key line in Merritt’s message (“You may get that chance to leave in the end ...&rdquoWinking was in reference to conversations Rolle had with the Giants’ staff.

He was unhappy with his role as the nickel cornerback. He was angry and considered Perry Fewell’s schemes inflexible. And for a few months by that point, he was hoping his time as a Giant would soon be over.

“He kept telling us he wanted out,” Merritt told The Star-Ledger.

Now, not so much.

In only a few weeks, the Giants’ loudest voice has gone from complaining to offering only constructive commentary about every facet of the team, including coach Tom Coughlin, with whom he’d previously clashed. He’s a content, high-energy inspiration for those around him and his turnaround has galvanized Coughlin as well as his teammates.

Many were involved in helping Rolle through the process. None has gotten less due so far than Merritt and his text-message therapy.

“Dave Merritt has helped me a lot. We’ve had a lot of 1-on-1 personal conversations, not anything about football, but about life in general,” Rolle said Thursday. “And he’s also a huge reason why I was able to buy into playing my role as a nickel (cornerback). I was extremely frustrated after the Washington game.”

According to Merritt, Rolle’s frustrations first boiled over after the victory over the Arizona Cardinals in October.

“There were a couple of things that happened during the game and I kind of critiqued him on it,” said Merritt, who is the only defensive coach who has been with the Giants since Coughlin arrived in 2004. “Although he played a fabulous game, I just wanted to get a point across about technique. And from that point on, we started butting heads a little bit.”

So began a couple of contentious, delicate months. Rolle was hot and Merritt tried to cool him down.

A linebacker for the Miami Dolphins and Cardinals from 1993-96, Merritt understood Rolle’s gripes about Fewell not making in-game adjustments. Merritt explained those changes couldn’t be made because the Giants had rookie linebackers Jacquian Williams and Greg Jones on the field.
And during the Washington game, rookie cornerback Prince Amukamara saw a lot of action in the first half.

“You’re right in a sense. But at the same time, we’re right by not putting all of this pressure on these young players,” Merritt recalls telling Rolle. “If you start to say at halftime, ‘Let’s do this now,’ it’ll blow those kids’ minds.”

Merritt wasn’t alone in trying to convince Rolle. Safety Deon Grant, general manager Jerry Reese and his family all had conversations with him.
And then, there was the chat he had with Fewell.

“He said, ‘Trel, you have to think about it this way: You and Deon are tight, right?’ I said, ‘Yeah,’ ” Rolle recalled. “He said, ‘Y’all are like brothers. How many more opportunities do you think he’s going to get to actually reach a Super Bowl?’ And when I thought about that, it actually brought tears to my eyes.

“From that point on, I never saw the game about me. I never saw the game about anything having to deal with me. I saw the game about my teammates, I saw the game about Coach Coughlin and I saw the game most of all about Deon Grant.”

Rolle and Fewell are fuzzy on the timeline of that meeting, though it sounds like it was right around the time of Merritt’s text message.
And now, just listen to Rolle.

“It really doesn’t matter to me if I play another down at safety again as a Giant,” Rolle said. “As long as we have a ‘W,’ at the end of the day, I’m good with that.”

Merritt was asked if he sees any similarities between himself and Rolle. He wanted to say yes so very badly, so he paused and tried to stifle a grin.

“No,” he finally said with a laugh. “He’s so outgoing and I am not as outgoing as he is. He doesn’t lack confidence. Maybe that’s the one thing I identify with in what I do and what I can do as a coach.

“But other than that, no. Not his swagger, not his dress. ...”

Then again, maybe these two are more in tune than they think because, in answering a question about butting heads with Rolle, Merritt said: “At the end of the day, when you approach him after you’ve had that disagreement, you go right back and say, ‘Do you understand what I’m saying? Is everything cool?’ And as long as he can look me in the eye and say, ‘Yeah I got you, Coach. I’m good.’”

Sorry but we missed the last half of that. We were too busy snickering after the “at the end of the day” part.

“There ya go! That’s an Antrel-ism!” Merritt exclaimed. “As a matter of fact, maybe he got it from me, to be honest with you.

“I’m going to give it to him, though.”

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Vince Wilfork: 'We'll do our talking Sunday'

INDIANAPOLIS -- Patriots defensive lineman Vince Wilfork and several of his teammates said Thursday they weren’t going to get into a war of words with Giants defensive lineman Chris Canty, who said Wednesday that New York fans should “get ready for a parade.”

“The game is never won in the papers or in the media,” Wilfork said. “We’ll do all our talking on Sunday.”

Canty made the statement to a New York television station. When asked if he was worried about giving the Patriots bulletin board material, he said he didn’t care.

“Obviously, Tom Brady made a statement at their pep rally. Obviously, both teams are here to try to win a football game,” he said. “It just is what it is. I’m not trying to inflame anybody or anything like that. I want our fans to be excited about the game that’s coming up on Sunday. It’s going to be a great football game. It’s going to be a 60-minute game, and hopefully we can put ourselves in the best position to be successful.”

“I stand beside what Vince says,” said New England linebacker Jerod Mayo. “A good team will lose on Sunday -- hopefully, it’s not us. There are two good teams going at it. It’s good that he has that confidence.”

“I don’t blame him for saying that,” said Patriots offensive lineman Logan Mankins. “Hopefully, our fans are getting ready too. We want to win the game, they want to win the game. We know that only one team can, so, whichever teams wins is going to have a big party, and the other team will be very disappointed.”

“It’s his opinion. He’s entitled to his own opinion,” said New England defensive end Mark Anderson. “The best team will win Sunday night. All we’re going to do is continue to work, continue to prepare and do what we have to do and correct any mistakes so we can play at a high level on Sunday.”

Though Canty suggested that the comment was not the basis of a war of words, Patriots receiver Deion Branch -- when interviewed by the Mut & Merloni show on Thursday morning -- was clearly irked by Canty's comments.

"Philadelphia said that, too," Branch said of Canty's parade boast, referring to an Eagles team that offered numerous boasts in the buildup to Super Bowl XXXIX in 2005. "[At] 6:30, we'll see Chris on the football field Sunday. ... We'll be there. He can say they've got a parade and all that stuff. That's cool."

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Reggie Wayne plays Xbox with kids, talks about future with Colts

INDIANAPOLIS — One of the most obvious effects of the turmoil in the Indianapolis Colts' front office is that the players are left hanging to a great extent. Even marquee free agents like center Jeff Saturday and wide receiver Reggie Wayne have little to go on. All they know is that new head coach Chuck Pagano has replaced Jim Caldwell, new general manager Ryan Grigson has replaced the Polians when it comes to personnel, and team owner Jim Irsay appears to be at the head of it all in ways he never was before.

The drama between Irsay and Peyton Manning is important, but almost ancillary when you look behind the curtain. The Colts will almost certainly draft Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck with the first overall draft pick no matter what happens with Manning. Because this franchise, which staggered to a 2-14 record after Manning's injuries had him out for the 2011 season and a string of bad drafts by the Polians left the cupboard near bare, is now rebuilding from the studs to the roof.

Wayne, who has played for the Colts since he was selected by them in the first round of the 2001 NFL Draft, became the face of the team's receiver corps when  Marvin Harrison started to decline in 2007. His string of seven straight 1,000-yard seasons was broken last year by just 40 yards, as he went from catching Manning's passes to running around for errant throws from the likes of Curtis Painter and Dan Orlovsky.

So, what's a great player to do when he doesn't know his future? On Wednesday, Wayne blew off some steam with a huge line of kids at the NFL Experience event, playing Xbox Kinect and proving that the physical activity involved in the game can leave the most elite athlete a little bit gassed. He told Yahoo! Sports that this bit of pre-camp training was definitely a challenge.

"Gassed isn't even the word — I'm getting worked!"

Wayne, who could go elsewhere and become the fulcrum of a number of receiver-thin teams around the NFL if he so chose, was philosophical about the Colts' offseason changes.

"There's nothing you can do, really — you can only control what you can control. It's Jim Irsay's team, and he's got to do what's best for the organization. It's his team, and it's a business for him. As you said, there are a lot of changes happening, and I feel sorry for those coaches who were fired, because I've been with a lot of them nine or ten years. But coaches and players know — when you sign your name on a contract, it's not forever. It's not a given you'll be back each year. So, it was hard to see them go.

"At the same time, I am a Chuck Pagano fan — he's the new guy there, and he's a great hire," Wayne said of the former Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator. "If you're going to fire some great guys, you've got to get some new guys, and Chuck Pagano is a great guy to bring in. He'll do a good job of adding some fire and enthusiasm to that team.

I asked Wayne if he liked the hire of new offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, formerly of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Was Wayne ready to run a large percentage of percent trips and bunch formations, as the Steelers always had under Arians and his predecessor, Ken Whisenhunt? That would be a pretty drastic change from the three-wide, single-back stuff the Colts dispensed more than any team through the Manning era.

"Whatever he asks me to do, I would do it. I'm a football player, and I love to play football, and I Just want to go out there and have fun. Just enjoy the game I've been playing since I was seven years old."

Wayne also said that he hasn't talked to Manning about his future in the NFL, the neck and nerve injuries Manning is trying to recover from, and whether the two men will ever hook up in Indy again. With little brother Eli representing the New York Giants in the Super Bowl, and Manning acting as the family Host Committee around town, Wayne's longtime quarterback has bigger fish to fry.

"Actually, we don't [talk about it]. This has been a big time for him and his family, with Eli being in the Super Bowl. So, I'm sure he has his hands full. But at a good time, I'll talk to him, and see how he's doing. I know he's got a lot on his plate already — trying to get back and proving to everyone that he can play. After the Super Bowl dies down, I'll check in on him and see how his progression is going. He's definitely [someone] I know is going to do everything he can to get back out on that field.  [He wants to] prove everybody wrong who says that he can't get back out there and get it done.

"He's a competitor, he's a hard worker, and I really feel that he'll be playing somewhere next year — if not for the Colts, then for someone."
So, if Manning did go elsewhere, and Wayne was re-signed to a long-term deal with the Colts, would he be up for catching passes from Andrew Luck instead?

"I'm fine with it," he said. "One thing about that — it doesn't matter who throws the ball; it's still up to me to catch it and do something with it. So, I would love to play with Peyton again, but if not [in the NFL], I guess we'll just have to go in the backyard and play."

"No matter who it is [at quarterback], the ball's still going to be brown, and it's still going to be 100 yards from goal line to goal line. Nothing changes with me. If I go out there with a new quarterback, I'll do everything I can to help him perform well."

While Manning is able to enjoy showing his family around town, many of the Colts who live in the area are left with the sting of the Super Bowl festivities going on after a season in which the home team was the worst in football. That's given Wayne some time to reflect after so many years of team success with Manning at the helm.

"It's been rough — nobody likes to lose.  But is it what it is — we've had tons of great years on that field, and one tough year … I guess you take it on the chin and just keep going. I can guarantee you that if I'm on that team again, we will do everything we possibly can to change the hopes and change the times back."

Whether the Colts have both, one, or none of the vestiges of the Manning-Wayne duo in Indianapolis for the 2012 season, it's been a great ride. We'll have to wait and see who's around -- for next year and beyond -- to reverse recent Colts history.

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Antrel Rolle has changed since meeting, Perry Fewell says

INDIANAPOLIS — Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell called Antrel Rolle into his office for a meeting at some point during the regular season — Fewell estimated it to be in November, though neither could remember exactly when.

The reason for the impromptu meeting was simple: Fewell didn’t like what he was seeing in the safety-turned-nickel cornerback. He knew Rolle was upset about his position change; Rolle had made public that he believed the nickel back position wasn’t the best way to use his talents.

So Fewell thought Rolle needed a reminder that the team is bigger than he is. And he struck a cord by mentioning Deon Grant, Rolle’s best friend on the team, and putting the team’s goal in perspective.

“He said, ‘’Trel, you have to think about it this way: You and Deon are tight, right?’” Rolle told The Star-Ledger, recalling the conversation between he and Fewell.

“I said, ‘Yeah.’

“He said, ‘Y’all are like brothers, right?’

“I said, ‘Yeah.’

“He said, ‘How many more opportunities do you think he’s going to get to actually reach a Super Bowl or win a Super Bowl?’

“And when I thought about that, it actually brought tears to my eyes and from that point on I never saw the game about me. I never saw the game about anything having to deal with me. I saw the game about my teammates, I saw the game most of all about Coach Coughlin, and I saw the game most of all about Deon Grant.”

Fewell said he’s seen a change in Rolle since that meeting, which became another step in Rolle’s steady evolution from disgruntled newcomer to Tom Coughlin enthusiast over the course of a year.

“I just wanted him to think about when we’re going out and we’re playing, there are some guys that probably won’t get a chance to play anymore after this year,” Fewell said. “And it could be your best buddy. It could be the guy you sit next to in the meeting.

“We got to think about team before we think about anything else. As a leader — that’s what he is on our football team — he has to lead and not just for himself, but for others. So I just wanted him to think about that as the leader of our defense so he could really take in the total perspective.”

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Vince Wilfork has grown into his role

INDIANAPOLIS -- The mantle of leadership is an honor for some, a burden for others. With it comes mounting pressure, expanded responsibilities, heightened expectations.

And that is exactly why Vince Wilfork has been waiting his whole life to assume his role as the key component of the Patriots' defense.

"Either you are a leader, or you're not," said Wilfork, in a quiet moment before Super Bowl madness overtook him. "You can't fake it, can't hide from it. But you can grow into it.

"And that's what I have done."

He has been a monstrous presence, both in the spiritual and physical sense, for a Patriots defense that has prompted more questions than answers.

Yet no one doubts Wilfork's impact on this Super Bowl season. He has drawn three blockers and still penetrated offensive lines. He has been steady as well as spectacular, picking off his first two career interceptions and returning a recovered fumble for a touchdown. He was a wrecking ball in the AFC title game, snuffing out Baltimore's trap play on a critical third-and-3 late in the game, then harassing quarterback Joe Flacco into throwing the ball away in the final minutes on fourth-and-5. Wilfork was in the trenches for 67 of his defense's 70 snaps, a physical, explosive, whirling mass of destruction who lined up in multiple positions with the aim of intimidating and confusing the Ravens' offense.

"The most incredible performance I've ever seen from him," offered former teammate Troy Brown.

It was a dominant display in a breakout year for Wilfork. One of the most satisfying components, he revealed, is he hasn't been fined a single time this season by the league, a departure from the past when he was routinely flagged -- and penalized financially -- for his aggressive play.

That self-control is yet another stepping stone toward the maturity of the biggest man on the field.

"I'm not surprised by any of it," declared Richard Seymour, his close friend and former teammate in New England. "He's always been hungry to be the best lineman in the game.

"I'll put it like this: if someone gets on his bad side, he can destroy a game."

Therein lies Vince Wilfork's greatest strength -- and his greatest weakness. The intensity and energy with which he plays football has turned him into a perennial Pro Bowl talent, but also threatened to handcuff him when those emotions went awry.

Former Santaluces High School coach Ray Berger has watched with pleasure as Wilfork has grown from an oversized eighth-grader with a ferocious temper to an oversized All-Pro adult with a restrained demeanor he's worked tirelessly to manage.

"Vince was always the nicest kid in the world off the field," Berger said. "But on the field, it was a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde thing. He was a kid who didn't know how to channel his energy.

"I can't tell you how many times I had to drag his butt into my office and have a man-to-man regarding those out of control moments."

Berger said part of the struggle for Wilfork was he already displayed an NFL body by the time he was 15 years old.

In his freshman high school season, Wilfork slugged a running back and was ejected from the game.

During his sophomore year, when Santaluces held its annual black and red scrimmage among teammates, Wilfork and his brother David, an offensive lineman, ended up on opposite sides. And, when Vince delivered a ferocious late hit to the running back, his brother David took exception. David shoved Vince, then Vince shoved back.

"Next thing you know, the two of them are rolling around on the ground near the pole vault pit," Berger recalled. "I'm thinking, 'No, Vince, not your brother!' Their dad had to come out of the stands to break them up."

Wilfork said the scrum escalated because after David hit him, a teammate on David's side tried to join the fray.

"It was a brother thing," Vince said. "It was OK for my brother to hit me, but once the guy on his team hit me too, David turned on him. Then it was the two of us [Wilforks] against him."

It was an embarrassing scene, a spirited spring scrimmage run amok. Vince heard about it from both of his parents when he returned home.

"I was always a hothead," he admitted. "I wore my passion on my sleeve. I had to learn there are certain ways you can do things to get the same outcome."

Berger tried to explain to Wilfork that it was paramount he respect opposing players and coaches, particularly since those coaches often voted for the all-star teams. Wilfork nodded in agreement, but immediately forgot those warnings once he got on the field.

"So one day we're having a full squad scrimmage," Berger said. "I said, 'We're going full tilt -- but don't hit the quarterback.'"

The quarterback was Ricky Bethel, who later played at Florida Atlantic. The moment the ball was snapped, Wilfork plowed through the offensive line and leveled him.

"I tried to stay calm," Berger said. "I didn't call Vince out. I just said, 'Remember what I said, now. No hitting the quarterback.'"

The ball was snapped a second time. Wilfork drilled the quarterback -- his quarterback -- again. Berger, increasingly agitated, warned Wilfork, "That's enough."

What Berger didn't know was Bethel had been taunting Wilfork throughout the scrimmage. He needed to be taught a lesson, and Vince figured he was the man(child) for the job.

So, on the third snap, Wilfork crushed Bethel for a trifecta of devastating sacks.

"He completely ignored what I told him," Berger said. "I started screaming at him. I mean, I was hot. But so was Vince. He started coming for me. Now I'm a big guy, but when I realized how angry Vince was, and remembered how big he was, I told the kids, 'Someone better hold him back.'"

The coach and the player separated and walked to opposite ends of the field. Berger was still fuming when Wilfork came up from behind and slapped his rear end.

"His version of an apology, I guess," Berger said.

Over time, and after a bushel full of penalties at the University of Miami, Wilfork began to understand his fiery approach needed to be corralled.

But it didn't happen overnight.

"It took some time," he conceded. "This was how I had always played football. I'm still learning."

Wilfork was a rookie when the Patriots last won the Super Bowl, an eager apprentice to Seymour and Willie McGinest, who he incessantly peppered with questions.

"He was constantly asking, 'What should I do on this play? How can I stop this from happening?'" Seymour said. "He came from a penetrating defense at Miami into a two-gap system, and he wanted to get it right. He was one of those young players that you knew immediately wanted to be great, not just good."

Wilfork's talent, size and mobility was obvious to everyone, including New England's opponents. They very quickly devised ways to negate the nose tackle's imposing presence.

"Vince was on the ground a lot as a young player," Seymour said. "He was knocking offensive linemen into the backfield, so to neutralize his effectiveness, as he was pushing them back, they were pulling him down.

"He used to get really ticked off when Bill [Belichick] showed him falling over in the film room.

"But you can't make tackles from the ground."

The learning curve for Wilfork was arduous. His exceptional size was equaled only by his uncommon athletic abilities, but none of that mattered when he let his temper rule his play.

He played almost every position at Santaluces High School, but later ruled out center (after he got hit in the head) and running back. "Some 5-foot-4 dude hit me so hard I dropped the ball," Wilfork said. "That was it."

He lined up at fullback in high school and went in untouched for a touchdown because nobody dared to tackle him. He played on the kick return team, and once, when the kick was short, he fielded it and lumbered down the sideline with six opposing players attached, trying to haul him down.

Seymour swears Wilfork can throw a perfectly tight spiral more than 50 yards. His current teammates claim his basketball dunks are on par with those of the great Darryl Dawkins. Wilfork also threw the discus and was a state champion (and later, an all-Big East conference) shot-putter.

He forever endeared himself to his Patriots teammates when, as a rookie, he accepted Belichick's challenge to field a punt cleanly, thereby earning the squad a night off. After making the catch, he did it again in Year 2, this time holding an extra football. In Year 3, he fielded the punt one-handed with two other footballs cradled into his left side.

"It took Bill until Year 4 to realize I wasn't going to drop any," Wilfork said.

In his fifth year, Belichick finally gave up and picked someone else.

It hasn't been easy being the anchor of a 31st ranked defense that has been shredded both on and off the field this season, but Wilfork has resisted taking those barbs personally. His versatility has enabled Belichick to experiment with different looks.

"V is a lot different than any nose I've ever seen," said linebacker Rob Ninkovich. "He can play a nose technique, a 3 technique, a 5 technique, he can play defensive end.

"You never get that much versatility out of a guy who is 350-plus pounds, but V can move.

"We always say we're happy he's on our team. I wouldn't want to have to line up opposite him."

Ask the Patriots' offense what it's like to be hit by Vince Wilfork, and they assure you he never delivers the crushing blows that he does to opposing offenses.

"He just kind of wraps us up and calls it a day," reported Kevin Faulk. "He knows better than to kill us."

His evolution continues, said the big man. There are still days when his adrenaline overtakes him. Wilfork's goal of making it through the season without a single penalty was lost early in the year.

He believes his guys will rise to the occasion in the Super Bowl, and promises that, as their leader, he will remain on an even keel.

"I'm not saying we're the best defense in the league," Wilfork said, "but we'll make plays."

Seymour will be watching from his home in the Bay area. He and Wilfork vacation together each year with their families. One year they went to the Kentucky Derby, another to the Bahamas. With each passing season, Seymour says, he senses Wilfork has reached yet another level of maturity.

"He just grew in wisdom," Seymour said. "He was always very smart, but nothing surprises him anymore.

"Vince has all the weapons now, especially from a mental standpoint."

Wilfork has been asked again and again about his first Super Bowl, and the last time his team played the Giants for the championship.

Those experiences, he says, are irrelevant.

"I'm a different player," he said. "Very different … I would get pissed off quick, and would retaliate quick. Now I kind of laugh and smile."

That comes from the power of straddling the fine line of emotion with leadership and poise.

It comes from a big man who has grown up on the job.

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Hobie Sailor of the Month - Zach Railey

A number of sailors had outstanding results and breakout performances at last week’s US Sailing’s Rolex Miami OCR. However, no sailor was as dominant as Finn sailor Zach Railey (Clearwater, Fla.), a member of the US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics. Railey cruised through 11 races in the 25-boat Finn class and won by an 18-point margin. He won six races and finished the regatta with nothing worse than a third-place result in any race. US Sailing caught up with the 2008 Olympic silver medalist following last week’s ISAF Sailing World Cup event to discuss the win and his training leading up to the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in Weymouth, England. 

US Sailing: How did it feel to win your first ever gold medal in an ISAF Sailing World Cup event?
Railey: It was great to get the first one, and to do it in the U.S. and in Miami where I spent a considerable amount of time training and racing was extra special. I sailed at the University of Miami, so it’s always nice to get a win here. It means a lot to me because I was able to have my family here to share the moment with. Of course my sister Paige is here competing, and my parents were able to come down for the final day of racing.

US Sailing: Are you satisfied with how you are competing now as we approach the Olympics this summer?
Railey: I think we’ve put together a solid overall plan to get me prepared for Weymouth. We are on schedule, if not ahead of schedule with six months to go. We also understand that there is a long list of things that need to get done. That’s one of the important things about knowing that this is a four year process. You have to continually get better all the time. One of the hardest things to do is to take a few steps back before you can take steps forward. For us, we are not afraid to change things and experiment to see if we can get better. Hopefully everything comes together for the Olympics. We feel confident about what we are doing.

US Sailing: What type of experimenting are you doing with your preparation?
Railey: We are experimenting with everything, including on the technical side, with different sails, cloth materials, sail shapes, panel layouts, mast characteristics, how we sail the boat, our technique, decisions on the race course. It really never ends. We also experiment with our physical fitness by making sure we are at the correct weight, with a focus on weight distribution, body fat percentages, nutritional combinations of what I am eating on the water versus off the water, what I am eating before a race, post race, during a race. The list is exhausting. We are constantly working on things and checking them off the list. The goal is to have everything covered in six months for the Olympics.

US Sailing: Discuss your training regimen and what goes into the decisions you make to be at your best physically?
Railey: We’ve been working hard with our performance enhancement team. Chris Herrera from Bow Down Training has put together a great program. Right now we do cardio sessions in the morning. During the regatta, cardio is very light if we do any. It depends on how heavy the wind is forecasted that day. If we expect heavy wind, we won’t have a morning cardio session. After I sail, we debrief, get something to eat, and go to gym for a couple hours. There is one more big event this year and that’s the Olympics, so we understand that if we have a six or seven day event, we know that it is six or seven days we could have been lifting at the gym and getting stronger to get ready for ultimate goal at the Olympics. When I am not at the event, I am at the gym twice a day with cardio in the morning and weights at night, Monday through Saturday. I take Sunday off or I’ll do some light jogging or stretching.

I can’t give enough credit to the performance enhancement team and the US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics. From our physical therapists to sports psychology, I believe we have competitive advantage because of their work. The time and effort we put in off the water is starting to show on the water. We push ourselves physically more than we ever have.

The program is specifically tailored to what I need in the Finn. It factors in things like my body type and what my metabolism is like. Stu McNay in the 470, for example, is doing a program completely different than what I am doing. Our bodies are different. Our weight is different. The needs in the boat for what our bodies and muscles need to do are different. What’s amazing about the program is that they are so specific and detailed for what we need as an individual athlete. I don’t think there is another program in the world that can do what Bow Down has done. The science that goes into it is incredible.

US Sailing: What is it like to have discussions with your family about actually having the opportunity to sail with your sister Paige in the Olympics?
Railey: It’s very interesting that we have this opportunity and obviously our family is excited. We don’t know how we are going to handle it yet. We want it to be a competitive advantage for us. There are lots of different pressures at the Olympics. Having my family there to relieve some of those pressures is really going to help us. It will be an incredible experience and a lifelong dream for our entire family. I can’t wait for it to happen. It has been a dream since we were little kids. To miss out on it in 2008 and for Paige to come back as strong as she has is impressive. To realize that goal will add to the experience of the Olympics. It will be a massive competitive advantage for us.

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Tamara James named to ACC Legends Class

CORAL GABLES — Former Miami Hurricanes guard/forward Tamara James, the school’s all-time leading scorer with 2,406 career points, has been chosen as a member of the ACC Women’s Basketball Legends Class of 2012.

The Legends Class will be honored at the ACC Women’s Basketball Tournament during halftime of the first semifinal on March 3 in Greensboro, N.C.

James, who played one season in the WNBA with the Washington Mystics and has been playing professionally in Europe and Israel since, was named first-team All-ACC in 2005 and 2006 and first-team All-Big East in 2004. She led the ACC in scoring with 22.3 points per game in 2005 and 21.5 in 2006.

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Playing with Pat Burrell

I played some part of 15 seasons professionally, so I have had a lot of teammates. Most of whom were major league players, a few of whom were the best in the world. But no teammate could reduce major leaguers into jealous green globs of envy like Pat Burrell.

From the time he walked into a major league clubhouse, he had an uphill climb. Maybe it was his Golden Spikes award, maybe it was having the nickname "Pat the Bat" before he took one major league swing, maybe it was because few players look like they could be both on the cover of GQ and on the cover of Sports Illustrated.

He also walked in chest high, with a swagger, something that old-school players grumbled about. But just like Jimmy Rollins, he was part of Rookie 2.0. Once I embraced the dynamic duo, I would call them "PB & J." Can't beat 'em, join 'em. They came with the confidence that the big leagues was where they belonged from day one; they played with a certain kind of freedom. Burrell was drafted, signed a big league deal right out of the gate and was taking batting practice with the big club from the jump. That wasn't his fault, that was the time. Signing a major league deal and taking batting practice with a major league team came in the negotiations. Certainly, when I was signed by the Cubs as a first-rounder in 1991, I didn't even get a ticket to Wrigley for a press conference.

I remember watching Burrell's first batting practice and hearing the whispers around the field. His swing: "He hits with a lot of top spin." His image: "He kind of reminds me of any good-hitting first baseman with no glove." He was already eroding locker room goodwill, just for taking BP. All eyes were on him.

Then the real game began and he became more than the first-round draft pick on a joy ride; he became a teammate, my left fielder. He came off a spring training, where he truly looked like he was on his way. Dominating the game, hitting to all fields, hitting for power and average. It was the first moment when we all finally said, "OK, I see why they thought this guy was good."

But such is the path of the No. 1 pick in the country. Pat was one of the pioneers of draft picks who had a very public following before the ink dried on his pro contract, and I knew with the power came a huge burden. It made it more difficult for big league teammates to think of him outside of the privileges he had without paying for them with long-term minor league blood, sweat, and tears. So it became easier to simplify Pat and decide that everything was hype and flashes of brilliance. So Pat had to keep swinging.

Once he arrived in Philadelphia, one of the toughest cities to play for on earth, he came with a mountain of expectation. On the surface, he looked like he could shrug it off, that he belonged here, that this was his destiny. But when I had a chance to really talk to him, he saw it as something he had to seize and enjoy, and not take it for granted. In fact, he was very sensitive to the criticism, knowing that he had to overcome plenty of personal challenges to handle this opportunity.

I watched him become one of the hardest-working outfielders I ever played with. When you are a center fielder, you know the body language of your corner outfielders. Slumping corner outfielders work on their swing or stare into space after a foul ball. Pat stayed locked in on every pitch, and this was coming from a player who was getting knocked for having no real position when he broke in.

The conversation about Pat slowly started to shift on the team. Coaches now had to slow him down because he would throw so much in practice that they were worried he would hurt his arm. He was relentless at working on that ball down the left-field line when he was trying to cut off and throw the runner out at second base. He got so good at it that I looked forward to seeing which baserunner would test him. He was so accurate that he hardly ever missed.

I played with faster outfielders than Pat, but few worked as well with me. He always paid attention to where I had to position him for the hitter, always knew the situation, and if he had something to add, he respectfully suggested something else. Hustle was never an issue. If he didn't get to a ball, it was simply because he couldn't.

Even when the money rolled in, he was still working out there. The Phillies offered him a contract right after the first breakout year. All the armchair GMs (composed of both players and fans) came alive talking about how the organization couldn't wait to throw money at him. They decided he hadn't done it for long enough. Even if that was true, that wasn't his fault. He kept working on that ball down the left-field line.

He also had to endure the jealousy and voyeurism around his social life, often more of a topic than his game. Certainly, he loved to get after the nightlife and seemed to be in a vicious circle between self and being in character (I called him "Ray Liotta" on a few occasions). Just as most players with his kind of access. But his name was daily tabloid fodder and everyone knew the fame level of his date before they did his batting average. Nothing was more interesting than when his Hollywood ex-girlfriend sang the national anthem when we were playing the Dodgers. He took a lot of heat about that one. From me, in particular.

Even then, there were reasons given for his "success" off the field. His hair, his height, the money, the big league uniform. There was nothing he actually earned, even when he earned it, and at times, I knew that bothered him.

When I was living in Chicago, I was watching a Cubs game with a friend when Pat was playing against them. My friend said, "What has he done? Nothing. He just keeps getting paid." So, I corrected him. "Actually, he has done a lot more than you think." So I pulled up his stats and my friend said, "That is a lot better than I thought." Sure, he had the one horrible year, he struck out a lot, but he drove in his runs, he got on base and he played hard.

"He could be doing more, but he is doing more than you thought." That was how Pat came into the game and how the peak of his earning years ended up. But he closed it out in fine fashion, even with releases and demotions. He still brought home three rings, two from championships and one from his wedding. Sure he struggled mightily at times and some took joy in seeing him get knocked down a few pegs, but from my vantage point, Pat very much understood that he had to work at what everyone thought he was given.

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With team’s blessing, Gaby Sanchez tries to break aquarium glass at Marlins Park

Marlins president David Samson briefed reporters today on a variety of topics, from the health of Hanley Ramirez and Josh Johnson to the team’s plans for Yoenis Cespedes and Juan Carlos Oviedo.

But the most amusing item Samson shared had to do with the two aquariums behind home plate.

The tanks are installed, with water and coral decorations, and fish will be added in the middle of February.

Two layers of thick glass surround the tanks, but the Marlins wanted to make extra sure that no foul ball or wild pitch would crack the tanks or affect the fish.

That’s where first baseman Gaby Sanchez comes in. He was asked to visit Marlins Park two weeks ago with a simple mission — fire a baseball as hard as you can against the tanks.

“We just did a test on that,” Samson said.

“We had Gaby sanchez here and he threw a ball as hard as he could against the tank and hit didn’t even make a mark and nothing moved inside the tank. We have an extra layer of glass in front of the glass that’s in front of the fish.

“No ball will (damage) the tank, as fast as Gaby threw it, that’s for sure.”

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Vince Wilfork & Antrel Rolle Reflect on The U

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Rocky McIntosh does radio interview about recruiting ‘hostesses’; wife not amused

Washington Redskins linebacker Rocky McIntosh did an interview with The Sports Junkies on 106.7 The Fan in DC on Wednesday. The Junkies wanted to know about Rocky's days as a high school recruit being courted by big-time colleges, with a special emphasis on any male/female interactions that may have been involved.

Rocky got into it a little bit, but apparently did so while on speakerphone ‒ and it doesn't sound like his wife approved of the subject matter. You can hear her get involved at around the 2:00 mark. Here's the clip:

According to Wikipedia, Rocky married his wife Alessia three days before the NFL draft after meeting her on his first day at The U. Wikipedia makes no mention of Alessia making Rocky sleep on the couch on Feb. 1, 2012.

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“Butterball” Vince Wilfork says people are surprised he can dunk

On Monday Patriots coach Bill Belichick gushed about how athletic and in shape defensive tackle Vince Wilfork is. But Wilfork says most people don’t realize just what a good athlete he is.

Asked today what most surprises people that he can do, Wilfork said, “Probably dunk a basketball. People look at me and are like, ‘He’s a butterball, he can’t.’”

There’s no hiding the fact that Wilfork is fat. He’s listed at 6-foot-2 and 325 pounds, which pegs his body mass index at 41.7, on a scale where anything over 30 is obese. And Wilfork probably weighs a good deal more than 325 — in college the Miami Hurricanes listed him at 344 pounds, and he sure doesn’t look like he’s lost 19 pounds since college.

But football is a sport in which fat people can thrive, especially if they’re as athletic as Wilfork. If Wilfork plays as well against the Giants in the Super Bowl as he did against the Ravens getting to the Super Bowl, he could become the biggest Super Bowl MVP ever.

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Kenny Phillips and Antrel Rolle have all the answers for Giants

INDIANAPOLIS –— Six years after Kenny Phillips found himself asking Antrel Rolle what life as a Miami Hurricane was like, the roles were reversed.

As a senior at Miami Carol High School in 2004 Phillips consulted with Rolle, then a senior at the University of Miami, during his recruitment by the Hurricanes. He asked what to expect and what he should look forward to in Coral Gables.

Rolle's must had the right answers -- Phillips became a Hurricane.

Later, when Rolle was a free agent in 2010 after five seasons with the Arizona Cardinals, Phillips, then in his second year with the New York Giants, was the one with the answers.

Rolle must have heard the right things -- he joined the Giants before the 2010 season.

On Sunday, they'll roam the Giants' secondary together in Super Bowl XLVI against the New England Patriots.

"It took a year but, I mean, we're on the same page," Phillips said during Tuesday's Media Day. "We know what's going on. He's been a big part of what we do on defense. We ask him to do so many different roles and he does a good job in all of them."

Phillips and Rolle are the last line of defense for a unit that was ranked 27th in the NFL in total defense, allowing 376.4 yards per game – of which 255.1 were in the air. This week at the Super Bowl, however, Rolle reassumed the elder statesman role. His last game for the Cardinals was Super Bowl XLIII in Tampa, a 27-23 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers and Rolle had three tackles.

This time around, Rolle will be able to share his Super Bowl insights with a fellow Hurricane.

The two have coined themselves AK-47. The A is for Antrel and the K is for Kenny, and when their numbers are added up (21 for Phillips and 26 for Rolle), it equals 47.

"We're dangerous," Rolle cracked.

As the starting free safety, Rolle led the Giants in tackles this season with 96, of which 82 were solo. Phillips had 63 tackles and four interceptions as the starting strong safety.

Their friendship started during the 2004 season when Rolle presented Phillips with a scholar-athlete award in Miami. Phillips impressed Rolle that night and the two stayed close.

"Right then I knew he was an exceptional talent as an athlete but also with the brains to go along with it," Rolle said. "That's always a plus."

Growing up in Miami, Phillips joked he didn't have a choice about being a Hurricanes fan and he admired Rolle as most high school football players looking up to college stars would. They kept in touch during Phillips' recruitment and became closer when Rolle returned to Miami to work out during the summers.

Phillips smiled wide when he talked about playing along side someone he looked up to for years.

"It's been like that ever since I got in the league," he said. "When I first got here, I had (former Giants cornerback) Sam Madison and a guy like (Giants free safety) Deon Grant, that have been playing since I was in high school. It's great because when you go to a guy they have great knowledge."

Rolle knows the feeling.

"I looked up to Deon Grant so it all kinda follows suit," Rolle said.

"Deon's like the grandfather of the group, I'm like the father and Kenny's like the son."

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Ray Lewis will be back in 2012

Linebacker Ray Lewis told reporters after the season-ending loss to the New England Patriots that he planned to return for a 17th NFL season, but the team is still awaiting word from free safety Ed Reed.

“Ed doesn’t give definitive answers,” Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti said, adding that he thinks Reed “still has the desire to play.”

Bisciotti said it would be difficult to replace both Lewis and Reed at their respective positions, but he believes the Ravens already have their replacements -- in terms of impact -- on the roster in linebacker Terrell Suggs, defensive tackle Haloti Ngata and cornerback Jimmy Smith.

“We have great players like Ngata and Suggs that are their replacements,” Bisciotti said. “We don’t have enough money after paying Ngata and Suggs to go get Hall of Famers at linebacker and safety. … So I don’t think you replace them, and then safety and linebacker might not be our two best positions three years from now. They might be rookie or second-year guys.”

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Ravens “Assuming” Safety Ed Reed Will Return

Baltimore Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti said at his end-of-the-season press conference that the team is “assuming” 33-year-old safety Ed Reed will return to the team, according to

“Ed doesn’t give definitive answers,” Bisciotti said. “We’re assuming he’s going to be back. He’s under contract and I think he still has the desire to play.”

Reed is signed through the end of next season. The 10-year veteran has dealt with a slew of injuries the last few seasons, missing four games in 2009 and six games last season. This year, he played through neck, shoulder and ankle injuries but did not miss a game, according to

Reed finished the season with 52 tackles, one sack and three interceptions and was named to his eighth Pro Bowl.

“We didn’t get that same proclamation we got from Ray [Lewis],” Bisciotti said.

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Kenny Holmes rooting for his friend and former team in Super Bowl XLVI

It should come as no surprise that Kenny Holmes will be rooting hard for the New York Giants to win Super Bowl XLVI.

He played for them from 2001-03.

"Absolutely, I'm rooting for the Giants," said Holmes, the former Vero Beach High School and University of Miami standout who spent three years with the Giants after four seasons with the Tennessee Oilers/Titans, "Not only did I play there, but one of their coaches, Jessie Armstead, is a really god friend of mine,"

Holmes and Armstead played together in New York and at UM, where Holmes was Tennessee's first-round pick in the 1997 NFL Draft.

It was with the Titans that Holmes, a starting defensive end, made it to Super Bowl XXXIV in Atlanta's Georgia Dome.

You might remember that game -- especially the final play: The Kurt Warner-led, Dick Vermeil-coached St. Louis Rams escaped with a 23-16 victory when linebacker Mike Jones tackled Titans receiver Kevin Dyson one yard shy of the goal line.

"We were one yard away from going to overtime," Holmes said. "I think about that a lot."

Still, Holmes, the former Vero Beach defensive coordinator who now coaches defensive tackles at New Mexico State, plans to watch Sunday's Super Bowl. And he'll be rooting for the Giants.

At some point, though, his mind will drift back to Jan. 30, 2000 ... and that last play.

"One yard," he said. "I'll never forget it."

That should come as no surprise, either.

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Colts Hire Alfredo Roberts

The Colts have hired three coaches to Chuck Pagano's staff, including a pair of Ravens assistants,'s Alex Marvez reported Wednesday. 

Marwan Maalouf will join the Colts as special-teams coach, and Roy Anderson will be their safeties coach, according to The Baltimore Sun also reported the hirings. Maalouf was the Ravens' assistant special-teams coach in 2011, and Anderson was the Ravens' defensive assistant / secondary. Pagano was the Ravens' defensive coordinator before taking the Colts' head-coaching job last week.

Also, the Colts have added Alfredo Roberts, most recently the Buccaneers' TE coach, in the same capacity, according to the report.

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Future proCanes JoJo Nicolas and Lee Chambers apply REV Strength System

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Reggie Wayne open to Colts return

INDIANAPOLIS -- Reggie Wayne doesn't know what will unfold with Peyton Manning. He doesn't know what will happen with him, either.

The Indianapolis Colts receiver has an expiring contract and could be lined up to explore unrestricted free agency for the first time.

Wayne is connected to NFL Play 60 sponsor Kinect for Xbox 360, and during a break playing with school kids Wednesday, he said he would not be averse to being part of a Colts rebuilding project.

This is what I have, this is all I know," he said. "So I wouldn't mind being part of a rebuilding process. They need some old heads, too, you know? It would be an honor to still be part of this organization even with a rebuilding phase. I know there are going to be some guys on the team that I still know, I know the head coach, Chuck Pagano, pretty good (from their time together at the University of Miami.) I'd just look at it as my rookie year all over again."

Wayne could be a popular target for teams who believe a veteran wide receiver is a missing ingredient. He said he'd enjoy being courted and happily share a meal and shake some hands with other teams.

But he's not dreaming of something different or better than what he's known his whole career.

"I've not talked to the Colts and rightfully so," he said, pointing to all of the change for a team with a new general manager (Ryan Grigson) and coach. "I'm sure at some point in time I will hear something from them. If not, I'll understand that also.

"No regrets. I love the city. I love that organization. I'll still be a Colt for life."

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Bryant McKinnie Grades Out Well For Ravens

LT Bryant McKinnie: B-plus. Essentially deemed trash by Minnesota, McKinnie became treasure in Baltimore. Needing a final piece to a struggling OL during the preseason, the Ravens signed McKinnie, who stabilized the unit for the 2011 season. 

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Leonard Hankerson visits the Longview school

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49ers Should Re-Sign Tavares Gooden

Tavares Gooden -- The four-year veteran was one of the 49ers' core special-teams players. He had just one tackle on defense for the season, but he came up with 12 tackles on special teams. He is scheduled for unrestricted free agency. He could return in the same role next season.

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Toomer: Jeremy Shockey’s absence helped Eli

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Eli Manning is gunning for his second Super Bowl title on Sunday. According to his former teammate Amani Toomer, Manning might not have won his first title if Jeremy Shockey was healthy in the 2007 season.

Appearing on NBC SportsTalk Wednesday with Florio, Toomer said Shockey “tried to take advantage” of Eli by pressuring him for the ball.  Toomer said there was “no question” Eli improved his play after he didn’t have the distraction of Shockey in the huddle.

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Antrel Rolle says he’s come around on Tom Coughlin

A year ago Giants safety Antrel Rolle said that it was time for coach Tom Coughlin to realize it’s 2011 and update his coaching methods. But in 2012, Rolle says he has come around to see the wisdom in the way Coughlin does things.

“My first season I questioned a lot of things that coach Coughlin was doing,” Rolle said today. “After taking a step back and reflecting on all of it, I understand exactly why he is the way he is. I used to always wonder, I felt like he was always trying to turn us into men. Does he not know that we are men before we ever step on the football field here as a Giant? I used to ask myself questions like that. Once I matured enough and I took a step back, he is not trying to turn us into men, he is trying to help us become better men. That is something that I realize and that is something that I have taken on my shoulders and I am man enough to admit.”

Rolle now credits Coughlin’s structured approach to running the team for the way the Giants have been able to deal with the distractions of the Super Bowl.

“I understand everything behind his discipline and his structure, it comes with a reason,” Rolle said. “Things are tough in New York and he has to be that way. He has prepared us for a bigger and brighter stage, which is the stage we are on right now. For us to come here and be able to handle all the press, all the media, all the festivities and things around us and our team has done an exceptional job doing that. I see it, I see it in our eyes that our focus is the game and the game only. I think that this is what he has been trying to prepare us for all year I long. He has just going about it in different ways.”

It’s easy to see why players would find it frustrating that Coughlin has exacting standards about minor details like how they wear their socks, but Rolle said he now sees some benefits to Coughlin holding the players to a high standard. It’s hard to argue with the success Coughlin has had as a head coach.

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Former run stuffer Wilfork now Patriots' disruptive force

INDIANAPOLIS -- Vince Wilfork is asked a question: When did his transformation from good player to one of the best at his position in football happen? How did it happen?

"That's two questions," he joked.

So it is. But when?

"I don't know," he said. "These are hard things to answer. It's just happened."

How? "A lot of it is just confidence," he said. "No question."

For once, even Bill Belichick is more effusive than Wilfork. "He's been huge," Belichick said. "Vince has had a great year for us. He's had obviously a great career, had an outstanding year last year, but this year it's even gone a step higher."

Wilfork has always been good, but this season there was an escalation, a supernova, and as he blew up, so did a once-ridiculed New England Patriots defense.

"We had a lot of critics this year," Wilfork said. "The main thing I've been focused on is winning, not myself."

It's much more complicated than that, of course. Wilfork won't say it, but as defensive leaders like Tedy Bruschi and Rodney Harrison retired to studio sets and daily manicures -- leaving a leadership gap on defense -- it was Wilfork's big heart, serious skill and ample derriere that filled the void quite well.

There's something else that has happened with Wilfork, something perhaps more important.

Wilfork has become almost unstoppable. The man with the ample girth, quick wit and fast feet has quietly developed into one of the most ferocious interior players in the sport while simultaneously developing into a team leadership and dynamic force perhaps second to only Tom Brady.
Wilfork is now The Round Mound of Beat-Down.

"Vince is a highly competitive guy," guard Logan Mankins said. "He's strong, very strong. He's tough and for someone his size, he has very good endurance. He can keep going. It's not two plays and he's out of the game. He stays out there and he's still going."

What Wilfork has done is become an interior player not content with simply bull-rushing or overpowering. He has become a varied talent, and as Wilfork got better this year, so did the Patriots defense.

It's an interesting phenomenon. I actually think Wilfork has suffered in terms of recognition because he doesn't look like the prototypical ripped defensive lineman. His muscles are hidden by layers of blubber, and he doesn't have road-rage-like symptoms similar to a certain defensive lineman in Detroit. He's a talented grinder who doesn't draw massive media attention or seek it. Just a blue-collar guy with skills.

"I see the guy every day," offensive lineman Brian Waters said. "I know he works hard, I know he has a clear understanding for the game plan, I know he works as hard as anybody especially on that side of the ball. Vince is a hard guy to deal with. I've had the opportunity to play him in a different type of defense. The guy is a big guy who has some very good movement, very good feet and hands.

"That's something very difficult for a lineman to deal with. When you see him, you think it's all power; you just want to get your hands on him right away. As soon as you get too far over your toes, make too quick of a decision, he does something that all of the sudden gets you off your rocker and then he does have amazing amount of power and leverage. It doesn't surprise me at all that he's been able to be as productive as he has so far in his career."

One of the defining moments when Wilfork went from wide-bodied run-stopper to transformed all-around defender came late in the fourth quarter of the AFC title game against Baltimore. The Ravens had the ball at the Patriots 30 and trailing by three points. Wilfork obliterated two Baltimore plays. He hit Ray Rice for a 3-yard loss on third down, which forced the Ravens to go for it on fourth. On that fourth down, he was able to get to quarterback Joe Flacco and force an incompletion.

Wilfork wasn't always like this. He was once mostly used solely on first and second downs as a simple run stopper, but he has grown into something else.

When the Giants and Patriots first met in the Super Bowl, they viewed Wilfork as the biggest threat on defense. Imagine what they think of the new and improved Wilfork. They're going to need a tranquilizer gun to stop him.

Wilfork is playing the media game well. He has recently agreed with the notion that the Giants should be favored because they're hot.

"I would see why people would say they need to be favored," Wilfork said. "They're a heck of a ballclub. It seems like the later in the season it gets, the better they get. They peak at the right time. I understand, and trust me, I see the same thing that they see."

This is what New York sees: a dangerous player getting exponentially nastier. And they would be right.

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Pat Burrell and the Class of 1998

Pat Burrell, the first overall pick in the 1998 draft, is expected to announce his retirement in the coming days. J.D. Drew, another top player from the same class, may do the same. So, here’s a look at the top players from the 1998 draft, as judged by Baseball-Reference’s version of WAR (the list only includes 1998 picks who signed):

49.8: CC Sabathia - Cle - 20th overall
46.3: Mark Buehrle - CWS – 1139th

45.9: J.D. Drew – StL – 5th
30.9: Matt Holliday – Col – 210th
24.0: Adam Dunn – Cin – 50th
20.2: Aaron Rowand - CWS – 35th
18.7: Pat Burrell – Phi – 1st
17.9: Brandon Inge – Det – 57th
16.3: Mark Mulder – Oak – 2nd
15.8: Austin Kearns – Cin – 7th
15.5: Jack Wilson – StL – 258th
15.2: Carlos Pena – Tex – 10th
14.2: Aubrey Huff – TB – 162nd
13.6: Juan Pierre – Col - 390th
13.3: Jeff Weaver – Det – 14th
13.3: Eric Byrnes – Oak – 225th
12.2: Morgan Ensberg - Hou – 272nd
12.2: B.J. Ryan – Cin – 500th
10.3: Eric Hinske - ChC – 496th
10.3: Brad Wilkerson – Mon – 33rd
9.4: Matt Thornton – Sea – 22nd
9.0: Ryan Madson – Phi – 254th
8.3: Brad Lidge - Hou – 17th
8.0: Nick Punto – Phi – 614th
7.9: Adam Everett – Bos – 12th
7.8: David Ross – LAD – 216th
7.4: Gerald Laird – Oak – 45th
7.4: Jason Michaels – Phi – 104th
7.1: Felipe Lopez – Tor – 8th
7.0: John Buck – Hou - 212th
6.5: Bill Hall – Mil – 176th
6.4: Brian Lawrence – SD – 502nd
6.2: Corey Patterson – ChC – 3rd
6.2: Kip Wells – CWS – 16th
6.1: Joe  Kennedy – TB – 252nd

Burrell comes in seventh, which seems about right given his lack of defensive value. Of the players below him, only Inge and Pena would seem to have much chance of passing him on the list, and it’s entirely possible Inge will produce negative WAR over the remainder of his career.

The Phillies, incidentally, also landed Madson, Punto and Michaels. They and the Reds were the only teams to land draft four semi-useful players in 1998, as I judge it anyway. The Reds selected Todd Coffey along with Dunn, Kearns and Ryan.

Here’s that list:
4 – Phillies, Reds
3 – Astros, Athletics, Cubs, Rockies, Tigers, White Sox
2 - Blue Jays, Braves, Cardinals, Rays, Red Sox
1 – Brewers, D’Backs, Dodgers, Expos, Giants, Indians, Mariners, Mets, Orioles, Padres, Pirates, Rangers
0 – Angels, Marlins, Orioles, Royals, Twins, Yankees

The Orioles drafted Cliff Lee and the Yankees picked Mark Prior, but neither player signed. I’d say the Royals had the worst draft of all: they had the 4th (Jeff Austin), 30th (Chris George) and 31st (Matt Burch) overall picks and got nothing from them.

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Ray Lewis headlines ESPN's 'All Era' team

Last week, ESPN revealed its NFL “All Era” team, which recognized those current players whose attitudes and styles of play would make them successful in, well, any era, whether it is today’s pass-happy NFL or the days when Dick Butkus and Jack Lambert roamed the field and the word “concussion” was crazy medical jargon.

Three Ravens were in the top 14 -- linebacker Ray Lewis, safety Ed Reed and running back Ray Rice. Lewis was No. 1 on the list, which was based on voting by 20 Hall of Famers -- legends such as Mike Ditka, Warren Moon and Jerry Rice -- and senior writer John Clayton. Lewis was said to be “the overwhelming top pick.”

“[It’s] humbling,” Lewis told “Because those are guys that I had a dream one day, to say, 'I want to be in the NFL. I want to be that, and leave a mark on it.' When you watch Jim Brown, he left a mark on the game by the way he played. And the difference of Jim Brown and all the others -- the Lynn Swanns and all the other people, it's pure effort -- that's it. He was gifted with great talent, but everything else was effort.

“And when you hear men like that speak about you, you humble yourself, to say, 'Wow,' you know, to know that when you do strap up your cleats and you buckle up your chin strap, that somebody is always watching, and they're paying you a lot of respect by the way you go at the game. It's the ultimate respect in this game, that when you leave this game, you'll mainly be remembered by what your peers and what people watching you say."

Seven of the top 14 players on this list are members of the Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers. That says something about the brand of football that is played in the AFC North, especially in the NFL’s hardest-hitting rivalry.

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Andre Johnson's Season Slowed By Injuries

Perennial Pro Bowler Andre Johnson was on course toward his fourth 100-catch season when he sustained a hamstring injury against the Steelers on October 2. After missing six weeks, he returned against the Falcons on December 4 before a second hamstring injury cost him three more games. Johnson did return in time for the playoffs and pulled in 13 catches for 201 yards and a score.

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Antrel Rolle addresses Rex's trash talking

INDIANAPOLIS -- Antrel Rolle, the Giants' version of Bart Scott -- sans the middle-finger salute -- said Tuesday at Media Day that the Christmas-Eve win over the Jets was the turning point to their season. And he suggested the Giants were motivated by Rex Ryan's pre-game trash talking.

"You can't talk with your mouth," Rolle said. "You can only go out there and let your pads do the talking."

Obviously, the Giants love talking about that game, especially Rolle, the biggest yapper of them all.

"That's when it all started, when we were all on deck," he said. "The practices were phenomenal, it was electrifying. We were flying around like maniacs that week. There was a lot of trash talking, and we just said we're going to let our play do the talking."

Rolle also wasn't shy about claiming the Jets benefitted from some "outrageous calls," saying, "I think they were definitely getting fed the biscuit."

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Dwayne Hendricks Will Be On German TV

INDIANAPOLIS — Duzz geebts noor here Puls 4.

No, I didn’t just take my hand and drag it across the keyboard. Those were the words scrawled on a notebook by a German media host, who said it translated to “Only can be seen on Channel 4.”

It’s a message that Giants backup DT Dwayne Hendricks was asked to say on camera during the team’s Media Day availability. It took Hendricks a few takes, but he eventually nailed it.

“It basically shows that the NFL isn’t just a U.S. thing,” he said. “It’s spread into other countries, even Germany. Just knowing that it’s not going to be a statewide or countrywide, but worldwide event provides more incentive.”

German TV reporters are fun, but no one brings the party like the Spanish-speaking media. One news team was equipped with a boom box and a 6-foot pole with a disco ball attached on a string. The team was going up to players asking them to do their best Victor Cruz-inspired salsa dance.

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Antrel Rolle remains confident

INDIANAPOLIS -- Less than 24 hours after saying the Giants boarded their flight with the mentality that "we are expecting to win" Super Bowl XLVI, Antrel Rolle reiterated his confident state of mind.

"We are going to win this thing," Rolle said when asked again about the Giants' mentality at Super Bowl media day on Tuesday. "We are going to win this thing for a lot of good reasons."

However, Rolle said he was not guaranteeing a Giants' victory over the Patriots when asked if that was a guarantee. The safety said he was just expressing how the confidence the Giants feel.

That confidence also extends to how Rolle feels about the Giants' ability to slow down Tom Brady and his offensive weapons like tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez.

"I definitely think so," Rolle said. "Tom Brady is an exceptional quarterback, but I feel like if we put our mind to it and play the way we have been playing, and if all of us go out there and play as one, we might not be able to stop everything he is doing but we'll stop a whole lot of the things he is trying to do."

"We are definitely going to take care of business," Rolle added. "Those guys are exceptional at what they do. And we understand that. But so are we."

The Giants' confidence has been surging ever since they beat the Jets on Christmas Eve. They've won five straight games since then.

"We were pretty confident in 2007," Justin Tuck said when asked to compare the confidence of this team to the one that won Super Bowl XLII.

"That's something that this football team rarely lacks. We are a confident bunch of guys. I would say our confidence level was just as high in 2007 as it is today."

Rolle said on Monday that the Giants "wouldn't have boarded the plane if we didn't expect to win" when asked about the team's approach to the Super Bowl.

"We have come here for one thing and one thing only which is to win," Rolle said on Monday. "We are expecting to win this game come Sunday."

The Giants have felt all season that if they come with the right approach and execute, they'll win.

"When we go out there and have that mentality that we have, and we fight, I don't think we can be denied," Rolle said. "I'm not saying we can't be beaten. Any team in the NFL can be beaten. But we are not going to be denied at this point."

"We are not going to sell ourselves short this opportunity."

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Vince Wilfork gives Eli some Giant props

INDIANAPOLIS - Even the Patriots have appreciated Eli Manning’s play this season. And one of the Pats - big defensive tackle Vince Wilfork - has been so impressed by the Giants QB that he ranked Manning right alongside New England’s own QB star, Tom Brady.

“He’s probably one of the better quarterbacks in the league right now,” Wilfork said of Manning. “A lot of people might not agree, but I’m gonna tell you right now, you can put him with the Bradys and the Rivers, Brees, all these guys. You can throw his name in the mix right now because of what he’s done.”

That, of course, is exactly what Manning tried to do in the preseason, when he said he considered himself Brady’s equal. Wilfork added that he admired Manning’s performance two weeks ago, when the quarterback led the Giants past the 49ers for the NFC title.

The 316-yard, two-TD outing was hardly Manning’s finest statistical outing, but he did it against a physical defense that sacked him six times and hit him another 12 times.

“He just kept getting up,” said Wilfork. “It just goes to show you the type of warrior he is. He’s a tough guy, man. To have a quarterback who takes the pounding and gets up and dusts himself off and leads his team to victory, you have to tip your hat off to him.

“You can just see the heart of a champion that he has.”

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Antrel Rolle doesn’t back down from talk

Antrel Rolle is no stranger to speaking his mind. He’s also no stranger to being confident. Often times for Rolle, that has created a volatile mix.

Rolle raised some eyebrows — and perhaps elbowed out some more room for himself on the Patriots’ bulletin board — when he said the Giants wouldn’t have boarded the plane to Indianapolis this week if they weren’t confident they would walk away winners.

Rolle is quick to give the Patriots respect, but just as quick to point out he’s simply saying what he truly believes.

“I’m not guaranteeing anything,” Rolle told “NFL Total Access” Tuesday. “But I did mean what I said when I said that we wouldn’t have boarded the plane if we didn’t expect to win the game.”

Rolle was asked if he’s simply saying what everyone else on the Giants is thinking.

“Without a doubt,” he responded. “And we do.”

It’s no secret the Giants are a confident bunch. It’s been a common theme throughout the team’s current seven-game winning streak.  And Rolle is plenty comfortable telling everyone as much.

“We’re a confident team,” he said. “I’m a confident player. This is what you need at this point. This is (the) Super Bowl.”

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Vince Wilfork talks about a ton of fun

INDIANAPOLIS - When he first went to a Super Bowl back in 2004, Vince Wilfork was a rookie surrounded by teammates seeking their third ring.

Now he's the elder statesman and he looked back Monday at the chemistry magic those teams had.

"Richard (Seymour), Willie McGinest and those guys were a fun bunch," Wilfork said during a media session at the JW Marriott. "When you build a football team and you talk about character and you talk about leadership, those guys always come to my mind.

"They played the game the way that it needed to be played. When it was time for business, it was time for business. When it was time for fun, it was time for fun. I think everybody rallied from that. I learned a lot from those guys. Some was good, some was bad. I’ve tried to forget the bad."
Wilfork fills the same role McGinest did for this team. He's played bad cop some days, a big brother on others. Early in the season, when the defense was horrific, he was often too disgusted to stick around after games and share his feelings.

But as the Patriots slowly improved, he came to appreciate the diligence and attitude of the players he's been surrounded with. 

"We have fun," said Wilfork. "You have to have fun playing this game. The guys I have in this locker room all think they're the best at whatever. I think I can throw the ball better than Tom (Brady). Tom think he can beat me in the 40. We have a lot of fun."

There's been an unmistakeable bounce in the verbal step of Bill Belichick this week. Asked about that on Monday, Wilfork said, "All year he’s been like that. It’s been kind of a relaxing year for all of us, just not knowing how much pressure he could put on us physically. Everything he’s asked us to do, we’ve responded. It’s been a fun season just seeing guys come to work each day.

"I think he appreciates that, and I appreciate that as a teammate," Wilfork added. "Trust me, at times Bill can be difficult to deal with. But I think he sees a difference in this team. I think he knows that he has a pretty tough football team, a smart football team and a team that’s never going to let him down. We have one more game to go. Hopefully we won’t let him down.”

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Dwayne Hendricks Will Be On Giants Sideline

Dwayne Hendricks isn’t sure if he’ll get on the field Sunday in the New York Giants’ biggest game of the season, but that isn’t stopping the 2004 Millville High School graduate from enjoying everything the NFL’s grandest stage has to offer.

Hendricks, 25, and his teammates arrived in Indianapolis on Monday as Big Blue prepares to take on the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI. Kickoff is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Sunday.

The teams participated in NFL Media Day on Tuesday at Lucas Oil Stadium, where the 6-foot-3, 305-pound Hendricks got his first real taste of the frenzy surrounding the spectacle.

As part of the Giants’ practice squad, Hendricks will be allowed on the sideline for the game, but will not be dressed for play.

“Indy is great, we just wrapped up Media Day and it was a pretty incredible experience,” the defensive lineman said in a telephone interview. “The town is showing nothing but love for us. Everyone has been very hospitable.

“I heard there were something like 7,000 people at the event, which someone said might be a record. When I got back to our hotel room downtown, I looked out the window and there’s just fans everywhere. I’m seeing a lot of blue, because that’s what both teams wear.”

Hendricks, who is currently a member of the Giants’ practice squad, has appeared in just one game this season — in a 24-20 win over the Patriots on Nov. 6, when the Millville native played on special teams.

Being a part of that victory is something that has stuck with Hendricks this season.

“I was just saying to myself that the last time I had an opportunity to play was a win against New England, and it feels good knowing I had a hand in that,” Hendricks said. “For me, I don’t know if I’ll get a chance to play Sunday, but you have to be ready because you never know what could happen.”

Super Bowl week creates a circus-like atmosphere in the host city every year, but Hendricks, who played college football at University of Miami, maintains staying focused shouldn’t be a problem.

“The NFL and New York Giants have put together a good plan that allows you to separate yourself from the distractions,” he said. “The best thing to do is just stay in your room, watch film and maybe try to sneak in a movie during some downtime. Whatever you can do to keep yourself out of the spotlight.”

There will be no hiding from the bright lights Sunday, however.

The Giants, who didn’t clinch a postseason berth until claiming the NFC East division title with a win over Dallas on the final week of the regular season, hope to ride their hot streak to their first Super Bowl title since beating New England, 17-14, in 2008.

“It’s mainly about clicking at the right time, and I feel like we’ve done that on both sides of the ball over the last five games,” Hendricks said of the Giants. “Coach (Tom) Coughlin has been here before and knows the right way to go about it. He knows what’s best for the team, and we are all willing to do whatever it takes to win the game.”

Hendricks was signed by the Giants as a free agent rookie in 2009.

Even if he doesn’t suit up Sunday, he still plans to use the Super Bowl as a learning experience.

“I consider it a blessing to be a part of this,” Hendricks said. “It’s only my third year in the league, and I’ve learned that if you put in the hard work, not just the typical hard work, but over and beyond, that it pays off. To have this opportunity shows that.”

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With a will to match his size, Wilfork is everything Haynesworth wasn't

INDIANAPOLIS — Vince Wilfork was asked on Tuesday how, in his eight years with the New England Patriots, he has survived the changes in where he plays, in what his duties are, in who his linemates and defensive mates are, what philosophy and scheme they play … and how he's thrived all along the way.

"I don't know," he said after a pause. "I play my heart out. I play the hardest. I never give up. I approach each game the same way."

Calling Wilfork the anchor on the Patriots' defense is almost damning him with faint praise. Without him, they might not have a defense at all, and even with him, for much of this season, their defense wasn't much to talk about, unless it was given as a reason the Patriots wouldn't be at the Super Bowl right now.

Ahead of Sunday's Super Bowl XLVI against the New York Giants, Wilfork is 6-2 and listed at 325 pounds (to the ear-splitting laughter of everybody associated with the NFL), and he uses every inch and ounce to their fullest.

He has mix-and-match parts around him, at best, but with him there, they all work. It makes one wonder what this season would have been like for the Patriots, and for Wilfork, had there been another lineman of the same age, size, weight, speed, strength, athletic ability, pedigree and potential for wreaking havoc. Someone who would create a tandem that would be unstoppable.

Oh, wait … there was a lineman like that with the Patriots. Wasn't there?

It's hard to remember. Albert Haynesworth has been gone from there a long time now.

Arrived in August, to great fanfare, near-unanimous praise for what a coup Bill Belichick had pulled off, and wild speculation about how this branded the Patriots as favorites. (At least one dope, for a publication you might now, made them Super Bowl favorites that very day. You're welcome.)

And after all that, Haynesworth lasted eight games. The Patriots cut bait the week after the Giants came back to beat them 24-20. They haven't lost a game since, 10 wins in a row. Strange, at some point you'd think they would have missed his three tackles, total, for his entire tenure there.

It should come as no surprise that when Belichick explained why he not only chose not to keep him around, but to not even play him much in that last game against the Giants, Wilfork's name came up. Basically, he said, Belichick had a lot of linemen he had to get into the mix. Besides, the one who's already in it, that is.

"Vince is a guy that obviously we don't want off the field," he told reporters then, "but the rest of those guys, they can't always play."

These are things that have never been said about Wilfork, 30, in his NFL career. He broke in on the third Patriots championship team, and he said he absorbed the atmosphere instantly—and absorbed the lessons of those who had established it.

"My rookie year, you look back at that squad—Willie McGinest, (Mike) Vrabel, Richard Seymour, Tedy Bruschi, Rodney Harrison, guys who led by example," he recalled. "You saw how they worked."

Now, he is who they once were, for players with far less name value than he'd had. He sets the tone, they follow. "All of my life I've thought that I'm a leader," he said, "and I think leaders have to take control at some point and show the will to do whatever it takes to turn things around, whether it's bad or a positive.

"At a young age, I always had that fight, but it's a good fight."

Wilfork has it. Haynesworth used to have it, but he didn't bring it with him to New England. He's not at the Super Bowl with them.
It's not their loss, or Wilfork's, though. It's his.

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TEs don’t worry Antrel Rolle

INDIANAPOLIS — No team in the NFL has figured out a way to stop the tight end duo of Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. The Giants are no exception, as the Patriots [team stats] tandem combined for 12 catches, 136 yards and two touchdowns in New York’s 24-20 win in Week 9.

Despite that, safety Antrel Rolle has no doubt the Giants will be able to stop the most productive tight end duo in NFL history on Sunday.

“Think? No. I don’t think it,” Rolle said. “I know it.”

Rolle isn’t lacking self-confidence and he certainly isn’t intimidated by the Patriots offense.

“You have to have that determination,” Rolle said. “You have to be determined to win. They put their pants on just as well as we put our pants on, so we’re not really worried about all the other outside things.”

Containing the tight ends is a priority for safety Deon Grant, but it’s not his top concern.

“We’re going to definitely get (their numbers) down, but at the end of the day, they find open zones or beat a guy here and there,” Grant said. “If we give them that and still come away with the victory, we’ll take it all day. They can have 500 yards. If we come away with the win, we could care less about it, but we’re definitely going to try to keep that down.”

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Michael Irvin says: Peyton Manning should only play for the Colts

The most talked-about quarterback in Indianapolis this week isn't Tom Brady or Eli Manning, it's Peyton Manning, who might never don a Colts uniform again.

Just about everyone has an opinion about Peyton -- whether he will or won't play again, and if he does, whether he'll be in Indianapolis or elsewhere.

The NFL Network's Michael Irvin is among those who would cringe watching Manning in the colors of one of the other 31 teams.

"It’s a unique situation," Irvin said. "People say it’s like what Brett [Favre] went through in Green Bay, but this is different. They had such tradition before Brett got there.

"Whatever understanding we have of what [Colts Owner Jim] Irsay calls 'the horseshoe,' Peyton made. I heard Irsay say, 'He knows the horseshoe comes first...' What are you talking about? The horseshoe is first?

"The horseshoe was nothing before Peyton got here. You could have taken that horseshoe, you couldn’t have given it away. It wasn’t lucky, it was killing you. Until Peyton got here."

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Warren Sapp zaps Lions' Suh for second-year performance

Indianapolis — You can say what you want about Warren Sapp, but the man knows more about playing defensive tackle in the NFL than most. He's a seven-time Pro Bowler, a four-time first team All-Pro, who recorded 438 tackles and 96.5 sacks over his illustrious career.

His opinions about Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh have merit, and, they are going to sting.

"From his first year to his second year, he hasn't worked on anything," said Sapp, who is working the Super Bowl with "We're looking at the same guy rushing in the same fashion as he did when he first got into the league.

"You can get away with that at first because they haven't seen you. But that second year, you've got to come show me something, son. He came with that same bull rush."

Suh had 10 sacks and 66 tackles as a rookie. His production fell to four sacks and 36 tackles last season. Besides not learning any new pass rushing techniques, Sapp believes Suh also suffered from having offseason rotator cuff surgery after his rookie year.

"What affected him was, he plays such a power game; just grabbing people and slinging them out of the way," Sapp said. "He had rotator cuff surgery. I had one on each shoulder and I know what that's like."

Asked if he ever regained full strength in his shoulders, Sapp said, "They say when you rehab, you are supposed to come back stronger than you were, but, no."

Suh was also set back, Sapp felt, by the lockout.

"He was put into a situation where there was no offseason, no rehab or any of the things you need to do to get that shoulder strength back," Sapp said. "Without that power, I mean, he's never been a hip-flipper or a real pass rusher, per se. He just overpowered people out of his way.

"At this level, everybody is that strong and that's what you saw. Him with the shoulder and people started to understand that he was just going to go through them; that's all he was going to do. So, all I have to do is get a nice strong base and be ready."

Sapp also blamed defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham a bit for not moving Suh around more on the line.

"It was a joke," Sapp said. "He was always on that left side. Finally they moved him to the right side late in the game (at Green Bay) and he got a sack. They put him on the same side all the time so people could wham block him and everything because they knew where he was every time.

"When I was moving from side to side, teams had to map that thing out. Suh was in the same spot every time and I was like, 'Come on, Gunther, stop it.'"

Sapp is still shaking his head over Suh's continuous attempts to defend himself after his infamous stomp on Thanksgiving Day.

"He's still talking about how he was trying to step over the man," Sapp said. "What universe is he living in? I don't get it. If you can't be honest about your actions on tape, let's just send this out."

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Pat Burrell Lists Scottsdale Pad Shortly Before Retirement



Recently retired slugger Pat Burrell won’t be heading to desert for Spring Training any longer after hanging up his cleats on Monday, which may be one of the many reasons why the outfielder recently put his Scottsdale, Arizona on the market. Burrell, who played twelve seasons with the Philadelphia Phillies, Tampa Bay Rays and San Francisco Giants, is asking $3.695 million for the contemporary home found within Estancia Club, an affluent gated community that features the Troon North golf course.

Set on a lot those measures just under an acre-and-a-half, Burrell’s two-story pad is one big league property. The stone and stucco estate measures in at slightly under 7,000-square-feet and offers four bedrooms and five baths. It boasts total home automation via a smart home system by Control 4, which allows for the control of the alarm, door locks, drapes, lights, thermostat and other installed functions using a wireless touchpad. Other amenities include an upstairs office and game room, which can be accessed using either an elevator or stairway, along with first-floor features such as a living room, formal dining room, media room, wet bar and gourmet kitchen.

Following a standout career at the University of Miami, Burrell was drafted with the first overall pick in the 1998 MLB Draft by the Phillies. He would develop into one of baseball’s premier power bats during his nine-year tenure in Philadelphia, hitting a total of 251 home runs (292 HRs for his career), while helping the Phillies capture a World Series in 2008. After a short stint with Tampa Bay, Burrell (aka “The Machine&rdquoWinking signed with San Francisco midway through the 2010 season and was instrumental in a Giants playoff run that ended with a World Series championship.




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Columnist Phil Rogers has decided Ryan Braun’s appeal for us

Phil Rogers of the Chicago Tribune writes an overview of the Brewers.  He devotes much of it to arguing that the Ryan Braun contract was a terrible move by the Brewers, and even compares it unfavorably to Alex Rodriguez‘s original $250 million deal with the Rangers.

Yes, the contract that will never pay him more than $20 million in a season and, compared to lots of other superstar deals, actually seems somewhat reasonable on the cash even if the length carries some risk. Hey, it’s his column, he can write what he wants.

But the most interesting thing about it is that he seems to blame the contract for Ryan Braun’s positive drug test in October. And, unlike the folks who have reported on the test, does not believe that it was inadvertent or the result of a tainted supplement or something. No, Rogers believes that it was Braun “amping up” his game in order to justify what, in the grand scheme of things, pretty reasonable contract:

“Braun would have been a fool to say no to the deal, but it puts the onus on him to perform. So the guy who led the National League in slugging as a rookie amped up his game to again lead the NL in slugging and to compile a .994 OPS last season, earning an MVP award — and then he tested positive for a banned performance-enhancing substance.”

So great it is that Rogers can see past everything else being reported about Braun’s test, capture his true motivation — a desperate desire to justify his insane contract — and determine his specific transgression, which was to “amp up his game” and perform.

Thank you, Detective Rogers. Your services here are invaluable.

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Danny Valencia Not Far From Above Average

Danny Valencia has broken in at third, and we're waiting to see if he takes off.

Interesting note about Valencia. MLB third baseman had a .252/.316./.390 slash line last year with 15 homers and 75 RBI. Valencia's: ..246/.294/.383 with 15 homers and 72 RBI. It's hard to find production at that position, and Valencia is not far away from being above average.

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What was wrong with Frank Gore?

The 49ers began the 2011 season with a power-running offense, one that leaned heavily on workhorse tailback, Frank Gore. At the midpoint of the season, however, something changed. Gore became less of a focal point, and the 49ers went from a team that ran more than it threw to one that called 33 pass plays against 24 run plays in the NFC Championship game. That seemed odd, especially for a team that was built for power football in December and January and for an offensive unit whose most valuable weapon for years had been its running back.

The explanation is partly due to the way defenses played the 49ers - they decided that San Francisco's passing game was the lesser of the two evils. And that itself is a very good reason for the team to spend a good chunk of its offseason capital bolstering the passing game with pass catchers.

But it also was because of Gore. He did not suffer a serious injury like he did in 2010 when he broke his hip. But his heavy workload at the beginning of the season left him with an array of nagging, smaller injuries by midseason that, according to a source with knowledge of Gore's condition, kept him from shouldering the same load he did at the beginning of the season.

As Gore's workload began to wane over the second half of the season, observers figured the 49ers were saving him for the playoffs, and that his role would return to normal in January. That didn't happen. Gore, who will turn 29 in May, averaged nearly 20 carries over the first half of the season. He averaged 15 in the second half and the playoffs.

When Gore had the ball in his hands, he seemed to fine. But he often removed himself from games at the end of the season and in the playoffs. During a critical fourth-quarter drive against the Giants in which the 49ers ground attack appeared to be gaining the advantage against the New York defense, it was third-string runner Anthony Dixon who entered the game. He was tripped up on a potentially big run on 2nd and 4, and ended up gaining three yards. On third and 1, he was stopped for no gain.

What occurred in 2011 points to the 49ers adding a runner in the offseason.

The 49ers may have overused Gore early in the season, but what other choice did they have? The passing game was still in its infancy, and the two other running backs on the roster were, in Kendall Hunter, a rookie, and in Dixon, a young runner who still hasn't won over the coaching staff. Dixon carried the ball only 29 times in the regular season and averaged three yards a carry. Gore averaged 4.3 yards and Hunter 4.2.

Hunter proved to be a pleasant surprise, hitting the line of scrimmage sharply and taking care of the football. But the 49ers see him as more of a change-of-pace runner. Even if the 49ers added a wide receiver - or two or three - in the offseason, they still are a team that at its core wants to overpower defenses and run the ball down their throats. That's something they were unable to do at the most critical part of the season and something they will have to remedy in the offseason.

49ers top rushers
Frank Gore: 282, 1211 yards, 4.3 avg.
Kendall Hunter: 112, 473 yards, 4.2 avg.
Alex Smith: 52, 179 yards, 3.4 avg.
Anthony Dixon: 29, 87 yards, 3.0 avg.

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Willis McGahee Defends Tim Tebow, Jabs Ravens Fan Making Fun Of Broncos QB At Pro Bowl

While Denver Broncos running back Willis McGahee was signing autographs during Thursday's Pro Bowl practice, a Baltimore Ravens fan felt the need to take a shot at one of his teammates, Tim Tebow.

To be specific, the Baltimore supporter made fun of Tebow by saying if Denver had a better quarterback, the team would win more often. We're not sure why he chose that route, considering Tebow started off 7-1 as the starting quarterback, helped his team win a division title and won a playoff game -- the same number of playoff wins the Ravens had this year.

Either way, McGahee's comeback was fantastic.

"That's not nice. That's like saying if you had a better kicker, you'd have won," he said, causing the rest of the fans in the area to scream "Oh!" like a bunch of grade school students. Even the Ravens fan was impressed.

McGahee, of course, was referring to Baltimore's heartbreaking loss in the AFC Championship Game to the New England Patriots, in which kicker Billy Cundiff missed a chip shot that would have sent the game into overtime. Again, we're not sure why the Ravens fan would take a shot at Tebow for not winning enough when Denver and Baltimore won the same amount of playoff games in 2012. Nonetheless, we thank the fan for this clip.

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Reggie Wayne Uncertain of His Future with the Colts

As the Indianapolis Colts look to rebuild this coming offseason, veteran wide receiver Reggie Wayne is uncertain of his future in the only city he’s called home as an NFL player.

Right now Wayne remains as confused as anyone else as to what the future holds.  His contract will expire this offseason and he’ll become a free agent.

“I have no clue, man,” veteran receiver Reggie Wayne said. “I’m leaning on you guys (the media). You’re all saying it’s a new regime and that’s what it is.

“This is one time all of the players are outside of the loop, even 18 (quarterback Peyton Manning). Nobody has a clue.”

Wayne admits that the past few weeks have been really crazy.

“It’s made me do something I never did before, and that’s watch freaking ESPN every day,” Wayne said, laughing per the Indy Star. “It’s like a soap opera. You’re wondering, ‘OK, what’s next?’

“You hear something, then you see it on the ticker, that the Colts are doing this or that. At one point we were thinking Jim Tressel was going to be the coach. All of a sudden it’s Chuck Pagano.”

“It’s been a surprise every day,” he said. “You just take it in stride.”

At the age of 33, I’m sure Wayne believes he has a few more good years left in him, the only question that remains for him is,  where will he play from here on out.  It’s clear the Colts are ready to move on and get younger, so it appears that he’ll be looking for a new home in 2012.

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Antrel Rolle doesn’t mind being outspoken

INDIANAPOLIS - Antrel Rolle hasn’t always been like this, the type of player to whom media flock. He barely said a word when he played in Arizona, didn’t invite the scrutiny, the attention, the leadership role. That’s not the case anymore, not in New York.

As he said, “Whatever I feel at that moment I’m going to say.’’

He has. And yet, though Rolle said, “I’m not a fan of the media at all,’’ the media is surely a fan of him.

“With this team, I just felt like certain things needed to be said,’’ Rolle said. “I don’t come in with any premeditated thoughts because that’s not who I am. I just speak for the moment, I never speak out of anger. I only speak out of passion and concern for my team.’’

Prior to the Giants’ game against the Patriots in November, the 29-year-old safety said New York didn’t need to worry about its schedule, the schedule had to be worried about the Giants. He called Wes Welker human. He seemed more than confident.

He didn’t give quite the same sound bites yesterday, but he maintained that he’s just being himself when he opens his mouth, even when he’s surrounded by tape recorders and microphones.

It’s something that, he said, came from his parents; his mother is a high school counselor, his father a police chief. He watched them find success over the years, watched the hard work it took for them to get there.

“They always stood strong for what they believed,’’ said Rolle. “I guess it kind of trickled down to me. That’s the way I see things. A lot of times I take a lot of heat for a lot of things. I understand that.

“But at the same time I don’t care what the outsiders say. I only care about what’s going to come forth in our locker room with our guys. My teammates understand me, and those are the only people who need to understand me. They know that I’ve never been a problem, I’ll never be a problem, and everything I say is for the betterment of this team.’’

Rolle’s willingness to speak up seemed to spur the Giants to where they are now. After New York lost to the Redskins to fall to 7-7, the safety criticized teammates for not playing when nicked up, for not being committed enough.

The words had an effect. The next week the Giants beat the Jets in a must-win game. And New York hasn’t lost since, winning five straight to make it to the Super Bowl.

Rolle, a first-round draft pick of the Cardinals in 2005, played in the Super Bowl three years ago, Arizona losing in the final moments. He signed with the Giants in 2010 on a five-year, $37 million deal, and had a team-leading 96 tackles and two interceptions this season.

Rolle said he’s not thinking about that last trip. He’s focused on the Patriots and on Sunday and on the Giants defense.

“Defensively I think we had our struggles this year,’’ Rolle said. “Right now, we have a [tough] mentality. That’s the way we look at it. That’s the way we want to keep it. We’re very confident in our approach. But, most of all, I think we’re very smart in our approach.’’

They’ll need to continue to be smart against the Patriots’ high-powered offense. But if there’s one thing that can be counted on, it’s that Rolle will stay confident in his abilities and in the abilities of the Giants’ defense. And that he might just be convinced to talk about it before week’s end.

For now, though, Rolle is staying away from controversy, away from anything that might incite the Patriots.

Rolle said that, outside of the locker room, outside of the media attention, he really doesn’t say all that much. He is a “chill, low-key guy.’’ And then something happens, something propels him to speak out.

“I’m just trying to go out there and be a player,’’ Rolle said. “If swagger is what it is, then that’s what it’ll be. I don’t approach every game the same. Sometimes I might be the most quietest guy in the locker room. Sometimes I might be the most animated in the locker room.

“I never know what I’m going to be. I just go out there and play it by ear, and be whoever I’m supposed to be on that given day.’’

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Vince Wilfork plays big at big times

FOXBORO — Vince Wilfork [stats] was part of a Super Bowl winning team in his rookie season in 2004. The Patriots [team stats] defensive tackle figured he was destined for multiple championships, but learned through a number of postseason disappointments that nothing is guaranteed in the NFL.

That’s what made the Patriots 23-20 win yesterday over the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Championship Game so sweet for the eight-year veteran.
“Every time you get here is a blessing. You’ve got 32 teams that everybody’s fighting to get to this moment. It didn’t really dawn on me in ’04,” Wilfork said. “Years passed, ’07 came, we lost, and then you’re like, ‘Whoa, you know, this thing is serious.’ I think about every moment. I think about it all the time. It’s a special feeling. To be in this situation was a great feeling but you have to cherish this moment.”

Wilfork did everything in his power to ensure that the Patriots returned to the Super Bowl. The 6-foot-2, 325-pounder took up residence in the Baltimore backfield, recording three of his six tackles — including a sack — behind the line of scrimmage.

Wilfork was especially dominant in a pivotal sequence late. With the Patriots clinging to a 23-20 lead with 3:36 remaining, the Ravens had third-and-3 from the Pats’ 30-yard line. Baltimore attempted a Ray Rice run up the middle, but Wilfork blew up the play for a 3-yard loss.

“To be honest with you, on the run, I think they just cut me loose,” Wilfork said. “I don’t know. I’m always taught when someone (doesn’t) block you, it’s a set up and all. I don’t know if they just missed a block or it was a set-up block and I just beat it.”

On the next play, Wilfork bull-rushed Pro Bowl center Matt Birk and grabbed hold of Joe Flacco. The Baltimore quarterback couldn’t free himself of Wilfork’s grasp and was forced to throw a wild incompletion.

“It was just an adjustment we made on the sideline,” Wilfork said. “We went to a different front and we knew exactly what we had to do and I got the matchup I wanted and we got the matchup we wanted and we took advantage of it.”

Though the defense needed one more stand to seal the victory, Wilfork’s disruptive plays loomed large.

“I thought Vince had a lot of big plays today,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. “He leads the way for us on defense — he and Jerod Mayo. Vince is obviously our most experienced player and he’s been a great leader, great captain all year. His leadership has been tremendous.”
It’s helped that Wilfork has had willing followers this season.

“They never gave up,” Wilfork said of his teammates. “They’re very, very passionate about what they do. They love this game and I can take the field with anybody like that.”

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Antrel Rolle tackles leading role for Giants

INDIANAPOLIS – Even if Antrel Rolle hadn't been here before, he probably would make you think he has.

So describes the confidence of the New York Giants free safety, back in the Super Bowl three years after playing for the Arizona Cardinals in a last-minute loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Rolle's self-assuredness has created controversy this season with bulletin-board comments, but being the leading tackler on a team playing for a championship speaks for itself.

"When you're hearing all the talk — 'he's a big mouth; he's this and that' — it's tough especially knowing you're not that person," the two-time Pro Bowler said Monday after the Giants arrived to begin practicing for Sunday's rematch against the New England Patriots. "There's definitely a bigger picture than what it's made out to be."

To Rolle, it's more about motivation than bragging, something he and the Giants have fed off of during their five-game winning streak. Being their top tackler in the regular season (96) and postseason (21) suggests how busy he has been on a team lacking a nickel cornerback, often playing near the line.

Rolle figures to be active against the Patriots, who aim to send tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez and wide receiver Wes Welker downfield against him and Kenny Phillips. Forget about what happened in Week 9 in Foxborough, Mass., when New York won 24-20 after Rolle caused a stir by calling the Patriots offense "nothing spectacular" and suggesting that Giants opponents should fear them.

With the stakes different this time as well as the look of both teams, actions speak louder than words, and Rolle is focused as he seeks a different outcome in this championship appearance. There's no doubt he loves his position, a switch from where he played when entering the league in 2005.

Drafted eighth overall as a cornerback by the Cardinals, the Miami (Fla.) product admittedly didn't like or understand the system and asked to switch to safety three years later. Rolle quickly took to his new job and its mental demands, which paid off immediately with the first of consecutive Pro Bowl selections.

His second, in 2010 with the Giants, demonstrated his quick adaptability to a new team as well as to New York.

"He hasn't given up a lot of big plays. He's playing much sounder and less-risky football, and he has done what they've asked," Giants radio announcer Bob Papa said. "They've gone this whole year without a nickel corner, and throughout a lot of the season he had to play against the slot (receiver).

"He even said it's not his strength and hasn't really done it in a long time, but he said, 'Whatever the team needs me to do, I'm going to do.'

"He has morphed himself into this real team player. Not that he wasn't beforehand, but he's really become a leader on this team, too."

So much so that when the Giants were reeling at 6-6, Rolle thought they would still make the playoffs. That has been borne out with a late-season and playoff run that has made their No. 27 defensive ranking a distant memory.

But while the boasts have been dialed down, the Giants seem to be carrying out Rolle's beliefs without him saying a word.

"As a defensive unit, we've had a lot of struggles," he said. "But right now we have a bad-ass mentality. That's the way we like to look at it, that's the way we want to keep it, and we're very confident in our approach.

"At the same time, when the bell goes off on Sunday, we're in attack mode."

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Retiring Pat Burrell stacks up well vs. other No. 1s

Pat Burrell had a better career than you think. In fact, "Pat the Bat" had a better career than the vast majority of the other No. 1 overall draft picks, maybe 75 percent of the overall No. 1s, or maybe even more than that.

Of the first 34 overall No. 1s, from Rick Monday in 1965 by the A's to Burrell in 1998 by the Phillies, only five clearly had a better career than Burrell. That would be Ken Griffey Jr. (1987, Mariners), Alex Rodriguez (1993, Mariners), Chipper Jones (1990, Braves), Harold Baines (1977, White Sox) and Darryl Strawberry (1980, Mets). That's three out of 34 with Hall of Fame resumes, one with an extremely long and productive career and a fifth who probably should have been going to Cooperstown. Burrell falls into the next group of nine who had very nice careers but far short of great. But he's probably at or near the top of that group, so while he never became a superstar or even made an All-Star team, he was a solid first selection, certainly a lot more solid than most top picks.

The other eight No. 1 overalls I'd put into that good-but-not-great category would be Jeff Burroughs (1969, Senators), Bob Horner (1978, Braves), B.J. Surhoff (1985, Brewers), Andy Benes (1988, Padres), Phil Nevin (1992, Astros), Tim Belcher (1983, Twins), Shawon Dunston (1982, Cubs) and Mike Moore (1981, Mariners). I'd rank Burrell seventh overall, just behind Monday at No. 6 but ahead of the others in this group -- though, if someone wants to reorder the players within that group I wouldn't necessarily quibble. Burrell could be eighth, ninth or 10th, but he's clearly in the top third, at the very worst.

Shawon Dunston has a pretty good case to be at or near the top of this second group, too, with 150 home runs and an all-time shortstop arm in a 20-year career, but I'd put him just below Burrell. Benes has really solid stats, with a 155-139 record and 3.97 ERA, but he didn't have as much impact as Burrell. Burroughs and Horner has similar careers to each other, with some high highs (an MVP in Burroughs' case) but either not quite as much length or consistency. Surhoff was versatile and a high average hitter (.282) but he's more famous for having been picked ahead of Barry Bonds, Barry Larkin and Will Clark in that stellar '85 draft.

Burrell, who has confirmed will retire (Tim Dierkes of @mlbtraderumors first reported the news), hit 292 home runs, twice finished in the top 14 in MVP voting and was a key contributor on two World Series winning teams, the 2008 Phillies and 2010 Giants (although the '10 World Series wasn't his finest hour). Burrell was a prodigious and consistent power hitter for the Phillies, and he had a very respectable .834 OPS for his career.

It's amazing how many of the overall No. 1 picks, especially the early ones, simply did not deliver. Danny Goodwin, a marginal major leaguer, was twice a No. 1 pick overall pick. David Clyde was the biggest-hyped high school pitcher maybe ever. Mike Ivie never became the big slugger some figured he might be. Tim Foli was a notable scrapper, but at some point , big-league scouts figured it wasn't worth taking a scrapper No. 1 overall.

Only two of the 34 No. 1s overall never played in the big leagues, Steve Chilcott (1966, Mets) and Brien Taylor (1991, Yankees). Chilcott was an incredible miscalculation, and was a mistake that is illuminated by the man picked right behind him, Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson. Taylor never regained his 99-mph fastball or any of his early promise after injuring his left shoulder defending his brother in a bar fight after he signed a record $1.55-million contract after a negotiation depicted by "60 Minutes'' and a couple impressive minor-league seasons. Shawn Abner, Matt Anderson and Al Chambers were busts in their own right.

Counting the ignominious New York picks Chilcott and Taylor, 19 No. 1 overall picks from '65 to '98 clearly had inferior careers to Burrell's (at least in my mind). And while that may say something about the crapshoot aspect of the amateur draft, some bad early picks before scouting improved or something else entirely, Burrell can't be considered any sort of disappointment, no matter how you measure it.

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Jon Jay not satisfied with previous success

In two years in the big leagues, Cardinals outfielder Jon Jay has already won a World Series and played well enough that two outfielders were traded to give him more playing time.

But you won't see the 26-year-old Jay feeling like he has it made anytime soon.

After appearing in a team high 159 games last season and contributing both in the field and at the plate, Jay is motivated for even bigger things in 2012.

"I'm continuing to try to prove myself in this league," Jay said. "It's my third season, which is crazy, but I'm just trying to be consistent out there and help the team win. Nothing changes for me. I'm just trying to get better and get smarter."

Jay's first two big league seasons were eerily similar. He burst out of the gate with a fast start in both, allowing the Cardinals to make deadline deals to help the club.

The Cardinals traded Ryan Ludwick to the San Diego Padres for pitcher Jake Westbrook at the trade deadline in 2010, handing Jay the everyday spot in right field.

Last July, his production allowed the Cardinals to trade Colby Rasmus to the Toronto Blue Jays in a deal that brought back key contributors Edwin Jackson, Octavio Dotel and Marc Rzepczynski. Jay took over the regular spot in center field following the deal.

But both times Jay was handed a regular spot in the lineup following the trades, the Miami native struggled at the plate. Jay was hitting .396 at the time Ludwick was traded in 2010 but hit just .239 over the final two months to finish the year right at .300.

He was hitting .312 when Rasmus was traded on July 27 last year and proceeded to hit .222 in his next 21 games with 17 strikeouts and just three walks. He hit .277 the rest of the way, finishing at .297.

Jay had 24 doubles, 10 home runs, 37 RBI and 56 runs scored for the Cardinals in 2011 and shrugged off a playoff slump to provide a key hit in the tenth inning of Game 6 of the World Series to help fuel their dramatic come-from-behind win.

With six-time All-Star Carlos Beltran added to the outfield mix in the offseason, Jay is out to prove he's worthy of the everyday playing time from the start to finish in 2012.

"I feel like if you look at my whole year, I was pretty consistent – defense, offense, helping the team win," Jay said. "Once you've tasted some success, you want to keep improving. That's the common thing you see from the guys who are great players in this league. They have a great year but they still want to build on it and keep getting better. That's what I want to do, continue to build my resume and continue to show that I can play out there.

"The biggest thing for me is just getting smarter out there. You know the pitchers better and they know you better, so just being able to make adjustments quicker and knowing what is the better formula to react to all that."

Jay was ticketed for another heavy workload in center field until Beltran was signed to help replace some of the offense lost when Albert Pujols signed with the Anaheim Angels.

Beltran will start the season in right while Allen Craig recovers from knee surgery, meaning Jay will get plenty of action in center early in the season. But when Craig returns, a healthy Beltran could cut into some of Jay's time in center.

But the uncertainty doesn't have Jay worried or disappointed. It's kept him humble.

"I'm going to prepare how I always do and be prepared to play every game," Jay said. "You never know what's going to happen. I just want to get myself ready so when I do get a chance to go out there, I can be consistent and help the team.

"I'm going to show up, be prepared and when my name is in the lineup, I'm going to play. I understand how this game works, we're out there to win and that's the bottom line. One of the things with Tony (La Russa) was he mixed and matched the lineups but it was always for a reason – to win. And that's what we did."

New manager Mike Matheny and the Cardinals hope Jay helps them do plenty of winning this season.

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Jemile Weeks likely to hit leadoff

Oakland Athletics 2B Jemile Weeks is likely to hit leadoff in manager Bob Melvin's batting order this year. OF Coco Crisp is a candidate to hit third, with SS Cliff Pennington hitting second.

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Pat Burrell retires with two World Series rings, 292 homers

Pat Burrell returned home with a battered reputation when he joined the San Francisco Giants in early June 2010.

Once a feared slugger and one of the top run producers in the National League, Burrell had been summarily dumped by the Tampa Bay Rays, who got a tiny return (a .218 batting average) on their $16 million investment in him and didn't care for his sour attitude.

A change of scenery clearly did wonders for Burrell, who attended high school in San Jose and was reunited on the Giants with old buddies Aubrey Huff and Aaron Rowand.

Burrell, who announced Monday he was retiring at 35 because of a chronic foot injury, teamed up with then-rookie Buster Posey to energize the Giants' sluggish offense, helping them clinch the NL West title and win their first World Series since moving to the West Coast in 1958.

"Pat the Bat'' delivered 20 homers and 64 RBI in two-thirds of a season for the power-starved Giants, repeatedly coming through in the clutch. Just as significantly, he became a clubhouse leader and a unifying presence, a prime example of the "castoffs and misfits'' manager Bruce Bochy said formed his tightly knit club.

Burrell also gained cult status of sorts as the suspected man behind the mask worn by the character Brian Wilson identified as "the Machine,'' a big fellow clad in a bondage outfit who appeared on the background as the Giants closer was doing a national TV interview. Burrell has never publicly acknowledged playing the role.

He certainly played a bigger role in the Giants reaching the World Series than winning it, as he went 0-for-13 with 11 strikeouts against the Texas Rangers, making him 1-for-27 in his two trips to the Fall Classic.

But his one hit was a seventh-inning double that turned into the winning run of Game 5 of the 2008 World Series, the clincher for the Philadelphia Phillies as they defeated the Tampa Bay Rays.

Burrell hit 251 of his 292 career home runs with Philadelphia to rank fourth in the history of the club, which drafted him No. 1 overall in 1998. He played nine of his 12 seasons with the Phillies, and though he never was an All-Star, Burrell was a key figure in turning what was a last-place team when he arrived in 2000 into a perennial power.

"Congrats Pat B for a great career!'' Phillies outfielder Shane Victorino tweeted. "It was amazing being your teammate for all those years in (Philadelphia).''

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Zach Railey could do no wrong

Racing summary:  US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics won one gold, two silver and one bronze medals on the concluding day of US Sailing’s 2012 Rolex Miami OCR in the Finn, Women’s RS:X, 49er and Women’s Match Racing, respectively. The regatta was capped off today with the final medal race, a double-points race to determine overall medalists where USSTAG won four of the medal races.

Performance highlights include: Zach Railey (Clearwater, Fla.) could do no wrong this week, winning the medal race and securing his first ISAF Sailing World Cup gold medal. “Yesterday I was able to put myself into a good situation before the medal race,” said Railey. “I definitely knew there would be some pressure from the Danish sailor. We were locked into a really tight match race right before the start, I was able to break away before the start and sail my own race.”

After a somewhat disappointing World Championship last month in Australia, Railey refocused and came back stronger. “That was the goal going in; I wanted to capitalize on the week, and go out in a dominating fashion for the week. Getting that goal accomplished is definitely a huge plus for us. It’s been a great week. I’ll be very honest. I was disappointed with the World Championships. I had a black flag in the third race. I really had to change the way I approach my regattas. I wanted to come here and show that all of the training we’ve putting in is paying off. We worked a lot on boat speed and technical set up. We really want to try and start putting it together and performing at events. At the Worlds, getting a black flag was my fault. I had to switch my focus and match the other USA boat.” (photo Mick Anderson/

USSTAG’s Caleb Paine (San Diego, Calif.) finished 5th in the medal race for 5th overall.

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