Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Jeff Uhlenhake believes his job working with student-athletes helps to keep him young. As a strength coordinator for the Buckeye football team, he appreciates the carefree attitude most players have about the future and finds their optimism to be contagious. In return, Jeff is pleased to talk with them about his experiences on and off the football field, as a former player and current coach.
Among the insights he is quick to share with players is the concept of taking the term student-athlete literally. “You are a student first, athlete second,” Jeff said. “I tell them to develop educational abilities in school and to have a balanced life. Playing sports by itself isn’t everything and they must do their best with the educational process.”
Inducted as a member of the Ohio State Athletics Hall of Fame in 2008, Jeff knows what he’s talking about. After playing football in high school, he was a red-shirt Buckeye for a year and a four-year starter. In 1990, he earned a bachelor’s degree in hospitality management from the College of Education and Human Ecology—and admits it took a small village to get him there.
“When you give financial support to any athletics team, that’s one of the things behind the scenes that you don’t think about. Those tutors aren’t free and I’m grateful I had the opportunity for the help needed,” Jeff said.
In 1989, he joined the Miami Dolphins for five years and played alongside Dan Marino. He then joined the New Orleans Saints for two years, and concluded his National Football League career with the Washington Redskins.
Jeff’s financial success at that time inspired him to make a major gift to help Ohio State student-athletes excel. With assistance from the university’s Office of Planned Giving, he established a trust that will provide scholarship opportunities in the future.
Jeff had previously created an endowed scholarship, an experience that he has found rewarding. “I received a thank you letter from a student over two years before he realized he was actually writing to me,” Jeff said. “It was great to see his surprise when he recognized the connection.”
With his professional playing experience, Jeff made a transition to a career in coaching—first at the high school level, then for the NFL and the Cleveland Browns, and eventually to Ohio State and Central Ohio. It was a return to where his heart is. “you work with some of the best players in the nation, yet you know there’s a real purpose behind the program. Jim Tressel has a true mission for making an impact on these young lives,” Jeff said. “That’s a great highlight of the situation here at the university.”
Jeff clearly recalls the day in 1976 when, as a third-grader, he watched the Wolverines beat the Buckeyes 22-0. The memory of that day more than 30 years ago fueled his passion for the rivalry—and he knew he would be a Buckeye for life.
Both his brother and sister are alumni and their parents are avid Buckeye fans, still attending many games a season. “There is a total commitment there by my family,” he said.
A resident of Columbus, Jeff is married to Angie, a high school biology teacher now taking some time to care for their two young sons, Jake and Ben. The proud dad is thrilled the boys are showing some athletic skills. “Even so, I just want them to be good kids and to always represent themselves well,” he added.
Dallas Clark leads the NFL in receiving yards through two weeks
By Jamey Eisenberg
September 25, 2009
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- It was only one game against a team that struggles to defend tight ends, but Dallas Clark showed why we touted him this offseason as the best player at his position with his performance Monday night at Miami.
Clark helped the Colts beat the Dolphins with seven catches for 183 yards and a touchdown. They're biased, but Indianapolis quarterback Peyton Manning and wide receiver Reggie Wayne agree with us that Clark is the best tight end in the NFL.
Wayne said he even plans to make "Vote for Dallas Clark for Pro Bowl" T-shirts this season.
"Oh yeah, by far he's the best," Wayne said after Monday's game. "I felt like that for years. I felt like he's been way overdue to get his props."
Added Manning: "Dallas doesn't go underappreciated around here. I certainly hope he gets the national attention he deserves."
We're trying Peyton, we're trying. But Clark has plenty of competition to be the best tight end this season. In fact, the position is loaded with talent, and it might be the best year we've ever seen for tight ends.
It also helps that some teams -- like Miami, Buffalo, St. Louis, Detroit and the Giants -- have struggled to defend tight ends. The Dolphins, for example, allowed Tony Gonzalez to catch five passes for 73 yards and a touchdown in his debut with the Falcons in Week 1 before Clark ran through their secondary.
This week, the Dolphins face Antonio Gates, and the Chargers should expect Gates to play well just like Gonzalez and Clark.
"We always want to get Antonio going," San Diego coach Norv Turner said in a conference call Wednesday. "We are going to look for ways to get him the ball."
Clark, Gates, Gonzalez and Jason Witten came into 2009 as the best tight ends in most Fantasy leagues. We expected Kellen Winslow, Chris Cooley and Jeremy Shockey would bounce back after poor seasons last year, and so far they haven't let us down.
We were also counting on Owen Daniels, John Carlson and Dustin Keller to keep improving, and each one is off to a good start. The only tight end who we liked that has struggled so far is Greg Olsen, but we still expect him to rebound once he and Jay Cutler develop a rapport.
Along with that, there have been pleasant surprises with how Todd Heap has come back from his injury woes, Benjamin Watson looks rejuvenated with Tom Brady's return and Brent Celek has turned into a better sleeper than we anticipated. There have also been positive signs from Heath Miller, Kevin Boss, Jermichael Finley, Zach Miller and Visanthe Shiancoe.
And the numbers suggest tight ends are thriving. Through two games, there are 10 tight ends with at least 10 catches, six with at least two touchdowns and 18 with at least 75 yards receiving.
Clark leads the NFL in receiving yards with 222, and Celek (14), Cooley (14), Carlson (12), Gonzalez (12) and Winslow (12) are among the NFL leaders in receptions. There's no reason to suggest these tight ends will slow down their production either.
Winslow (19), Celek (18), Cooley (17), Gates (16) and Witten (14) lead their team in targets, and Carlson (16), Gonzalez (16), Daniels (16) and Clark (14) are second on their respective teams. It shows how much quarterbacks are leaning on tight ends.
Fantasy owners should be happy with the tight end play to start the season. And in case you missed on one of the elite tight ends, there are options to add off the waiver wire with Celek (70 percent ownership), Boss (69 percent), Heap (58 percent), Watson (55 percent) and Finley (27 percent) still available in some leagues on CBSSports.com.
Can these tight ends keep up this level or production? That's what we'll have to find out. And we're curious to see if Clark will remain in the No. 1 spot as we predicted.
Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers is one person who disagrees with us. Like Wayne and Manning, he's biased toward his own tight end, but he said Gates is the best in the NFL based on his career and continued production.
"Other quarterbacks would answer their tight end," Rivers said when asked on a conference call about Gates. "I think he could be argued as the best, and I certainly feel he is."
Gates gets his turn at the Dolphins this week. We'll find out if he can perform like Clark did, and it should be fun to watch the tight end battle continue throughout the season.
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
September 29, 2009
By Justin Cohn
How is Dallas Clark not a Pro Bowler? How is he not a household name among NFL fans?
What Clark, the seventh-year tight end out of Iowa, has been doing lately has been magnificent. One might argue he is the most important cog in the Indianapolis Colts’ offense, aside from quarterback Peyton Manning.
And by lately, I mean the last three years.
Clark has been demonstrably successful this season in prime-time games. He had seven catches for 62 yards and a touchdown during Sunday night’s 31-10 victory at Arizona, and that comes after seven catches for 183 yards and a touchdown in a 27-23 Monday night victory at Miami. He’s become a staple of the highlight TV shows.
In 2007 and 2008 combined, he had 135 catches for 1,464 yards and 17 touchdowns. Compare that to the AFC’s three Pro Bowl tight ends of last year: Clark had more touchdowns than Tony Gonzalez’s 15, he equaled Antonio Gates in receptions and touchdowns, and he eclipsed Owen Daniels in both categories.
And Clark played fewer games than all three.
It’s true that you can pretty much spin statistics any way you want. And the blocking ability of tight ends has to be greatly accounted for, too. But Clark could be the most versatile tight end in the NFL.
Clark is essentially the Colts’ No. 2 receiver, especially since Anthony Gonzalez’s knee injury. He lines up wide, in the slot and on the offensive line. He draws double coverage sometimes, blocks defensive ends other times. He even runs the ball.
On third-and-one early in Sunday’s game, the Colts (3-0) knew they couldn’t rely on Joseph Addai or the offensive line to get a first down – they’d already missed on one earlier – so they went with Clark on an end-around that gained seven yards. On the next play, Manning connected with Reggie Wayne for a one-handed 20-yard touchdown and a 7-3 lead.
The next Colts drive saw Manning find Clark on a 10-yard slant pattern for a touchdown and a 14-3 lead. The game was never again in doubt.
This is nothing new. It’s no secret that Clark is Manning’s go-to guy when the pressure is on, say on third-and-five, and that’s because he’s reliable during moments of such magnitude.
There is no way that the 6-foot-3 Clark is as big as his listed weight of 252 pounds, and he’s not as physically overpowering as either the 6-foot-4, 260-pound Gates or the 6-foot-5, 243-pound Gonzalez.
Granted, those guys revolutionized the position by proving they could be a receiving force on every down. But Clark is revolutionizing things, too, through his sheer versatility. He should be beloved, not just by fantasy football players crazy for his stats.
Gonzalez, typically regarded as the NFL’s best tight end, had just one reception for 16 yards in the Atlanta Falcons’ 26-10 loss to New England on Sunday. That was a big game for the Falcons. When was the last time Clark had such meager production in a big game? The best I could come up with was a two-catch, 15-yard effort in a 24-20 loss to New England – in 2007.
So you can take Gonzalez, Gates, Jason Witten or Chris Cooley. These days, I’ll take Dallas Clark, and I bet I’m not the only one who would.
Jim Mora and Tim Ruskell added nearly a half of ton of physical toughness to the Seahawks this season.
By Clare Farnsworth
September 27, 2009
After struggling through a tough 2008 season, Seahawks president Tim Ruskell and coach Jim Mora decided the team needed an infusion of toughness.
Enter, in order, nose tackle Colin Cole, wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh, fullback Justin Griffith, defensive lineman Cory Redding and cornerback Ken Lucas.
Together, they bring 34 seasons of NFL experience to the mix – not to mention more than half a ton of toughness.
“Either guys have it or they don’t,” Mora said. “A team has it or they don’t have it. We’ve made a concerted effort in the draft and free agency to find guys that have a strong physical presence.
“These guys are all tough. They’re all tough.”
This makeover wasn’t just a coach longing to have more toughness on his team. It became an organization-wide obsession.
“We made a point with our scouts, to have that be a filter we put all these guys through. Where are they on the toughness scale?” Ruskell said. “Because that’s the point of emphasis with the coaching staff, so it has to be the point of emphasis for the personnel department.
“Jim made it a point of emphasis all offseason – that’s how you win the close games, that’s how you win the road games, that’s how you win playoff games. Toughness. Our record is not good in road games forever, and you can’t keep blaming the travel and the time zone.
“There’s something more to it than that.”
It’s toughness. And, unlike proper footwork or textbook tackling technique, it’s not something that can be coached.
“I don’t know that you go through three weeks of training camp and just create nastiness,” Mora said. “We look at guys and say, ‘Are they tough guys? Are they great competitors? Are they guys that can intimidate on the field? Do they have a strong physical presence?
“And we try to add guys like that to the mix.”
Redding finds it, well, tough to argue with the logic or the selection of players.
“If that was the goal – to get toughness – than they fulfilled it once they got all of us,” he said, smiling. “So I think they did a good job.”
With all that said, here’s a look at each of the tough guys the Seahawks added to their mix:
Colin Cole – All it takes is one look at the 6-foot-1, 330-pounder to see that “toughness” could be his middle name.
It’s also a prerequisite for the position he plays.
“Certainly, you start with the nose tackle,” defensive end Patrick Kerney said when asked about the team ratcheting its toughness quota. “He has to be the toughest player on the team because he’s going to be battling two guys more often than not, down after down.
“We have toughness in Colin.”
But where did Colin get his toughness? “I can’t say that I’m the epitome of what toughness is, but for me it goes all the way back to high school and wrestling,” he said.
Cole wasn’t just a wrestler – and definitely not a ’rassler. He was the undefeated state champion his senior year at South Plantation High School in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. – and his only loss as a junior came at the state tournament. His combined two-year record: 61-1.
It was wrestling that taught Cole how to establish a good base when someone else is trying to knock you over, and how to use his low center of gravity and natural power to impose his will on others.
“Prior to me wrestling, I don’t know that I had the balance, I don’t know that I had some of those things that I utilize playing defensive line now,” he said.
It also was wrestling that gave Cole an outlet for his aggressive nature.
“If it hadn’t been for wrestling, I would never have gained the abilities that I’ve got right now – especially to be able to play on the interior the way I do,” he said. “All the attributes that you have to have to play, I got from wrestling.
“Every play, every snap, for me is hand-to-hand combat. Every snap for me is tight quarters. Hands. Hand placement. Balance. When guys are coming at your legs, you’ve still got to play square; you’ve got to still play with speed. But at the same time, sometimes you have to play off one guy to get another guy.”
Inside Football Note of the Week:
Dating to the start of the 2008 season, here are the stat lines for the two most important targets on the Indianapolis Colts, including the playoff loss at San Diego in January:
Though Manning has thrown 29 more passes targeted for Wayne than for Clark since the start of last season (169 to Wayne, 140 to Clark), I'm not overly surprised at the parallel place they reside in Manning's quarterback thought process. Even when Marvin Harrison was on his last legs in Indy in the last couple of years, Clark was getting comfortable as Manning's slot receiver, and with Harrison hurt so much, Clark began to share the go-to receiver role with Wayne. Now with Harrison retired and his replacement, Anthony Gonzalez, down for a few weeks with a sprained posterior-cruciate ligament, you can expect to see the same regimen as last year through the next few weeks. Last night in Arizona, as if to echo this note, Manning threw each man nine passes, and each man caught seven, and each man scored one touchdown. Talk about your symmetrical players.
It's likely Clark and Wayne will alternate being Manning's men in the coming weeks, and perhaps even when Gonzalez returns. That's because Manning takes so long to get totally comfortable with new receivers. I've been told that Gonzalez hasn't become the kind of go-to receiver Manning looks for because he's too exact and doesn't yet have the kind of rapport with Manning the veterans do.
"It takes every receiver who comes into this offense a few years to not just be a receiver running routes, but to be a useful target,'' Clark told me. "It took me four years. It's hard to narrow down why, but a good answer is experience. It's my seventh season now, and it's seeing a lot of plays with [Peyton], in the same film room with him, then getting out on the field and feeling it. Same thing with Reggie. I'm sure he didn't have the chemistry in year three he does now."
We saw this last Monday night in Miami, and not just on the opening play of the game, when Manning froze linebacker Akin Ayodele with play-action and looped a throw to Clark, who made an 80-yard catch-and-run TD out of it. The best example of the sonar between Manning and his receivers came on the last play of the first half, with the Colts holding the ball at the 50-yard line with eight seconds left. Manning needed 17 to 20 yards, minimum, to get into Adam Vinatieri's realistic field-goal range, and he needed it quickly, so there'd still be enough time left to go try the kick.
Before the snap, Wayne went to offensive coordinator Tom Moore and told him that two Dolphins were going with him wherever he went; let me run a deep clear-out, Wayne said. Moore told Manning, and Moore called for Wayne to do as he said, and Manning went to the line knowing that if the Dolphins did what Wayne said, he'd clearly have to go to another receiver.
Clark was lined up to the right of the line, and his assignment was to run a corner route across the field. On this play, there's no defined depth to the pattern. "Peyton's got to know, and I've got to know,'' Clark said. "My landmark depends totally on the defenders.''
Clark has to find the midway point between the linebacker in shallow coverage and the safety or safeties downfield. For Clark, on this play, the soft spot was about nine yards downfield, and he cut left and ran diagonally across the field. Manning hit him near the left hash, and Clark sprinted out of bounds. Twenty-yard gain. Two seconds left. Vinatieri's 48-yard field goal ended the half.
By Neil Rudel
September 27, 2009
UNIVERSITY PARK - Want a good reason why Kirk Ferentz and Iowa have won seven of the last eight meetings with Penn State?
Pop in the tape of the latest edition of the series played Saturday night at Beaver Stadium and won by the Hawkeyes 21-10.
The Nittany Lions jumped out to an early 10-0 lead and could not have looked better.
They were innovative in their formations, with four- and five-receiver sets, and they turned Daryll Clark loose on a couple of options for the first time this year. They decisively moved up the field twice in racking up 147 yards and a two-score lead on 20 plays.
Then Iowa, as it has so many times in the series, adjusted, and Penn State mustered no other sustained drives on the rest of this long, rainy night.
In the process, the Lions absorbed a damaging Big Ten-opening loss, wasted a courageous effort from their defense, which was missing All-American linebacker and team leader Sean Lee, and were totally unmasked as a top-five team.
Joe Paterno arrived at the media room soaked and beaten.
Penn State's sudden turnaround after the first quarter was hard to fathom but easy to explain: Iowa took Penn State's shot, regrouped and won the last three quarters, 21-0.
Paterno often talks about how games are like chess matches, but the Lions couldn't follow their opening moves. Or counter Iowa's.
The Hawkeyes extended their pattern of beating Penn State at its own game - with a tough defense, a punishing running game and the kind of special teams the Lions used to field.
Asked why Ferentz's teams have become so difficult to beat, Paterno said, "he's a fine coach, and he's got a fine staff."
Leading 10-0, Penn State forced a punt at the outset of the second quarter, but Iowa's Ryan Donahue skied one almost straight up and pinned the Nits at their own 6. The play somehow turned the game and the momentum completely around.
Penn State looked uncomfortable and unprepared in the shadow of its own goal post, and its offensive-line problems quickly resurfaced.
First, the Lions false started, moving them back to their 3. Then Evan Royster was dumped for a 2-yard loss in which he was fortunate just to get to the 1. After a 1-yard gain by Joe Suhey, Daryll Clark was sacked for a safety in the end zone on a slow developing play that would have been better replaced by a quick kick.
"That changed the field position," JoePa said.
It also triggered the offensive unraveling that wound up coughing up four turnovers - three interceptions by Clark and a fate-sealing fourth-quarter fumble by Royster - and protection issues that culminated with a blocked punt that Iowa returned for what proved to be the game-winning touchdown.
Paterno didn't think Iowa made noticeable adjustments.
"They played it pretty much the same as they played from the beginning," he said.
He did praise the Lions' defensive effort and deservedly so: The unit only gave up one late touchdown, and that was after it was on the field for pretty much the entire last three quarters.
"I thought we played a strong game defensively, as did they, obviously," he said.
When questioning shifted to Clark, who seemed to take three steps backwards, Paterno said, "it was a team loss. It wasn't one player or one play."
And so Ferentz's domination of the Lions' legend continues, and while no one seems to know how much longer Paterno wants to coach, and whether he'll fulfill his latest three-year commitment, one thing is clear:
The best coach Penn State can find to replace JoePa was shaking his hand at midfield, in victory again, Saturday night.
Monday, September 28, 2009
SCRIBBLES IN MY BROWNS NOTEBOOK FROM BALTIMORE . . .
September 28, 2009
By Terry Pluto
Here's a positive: Kamerion Wimbley had a sack. He batted down a pass. He had a quarterback hit, five tackles, and was a factor on defense. Can't say the same for anyone else. Punter Dave Zastudil (51-yard average) had a tremendous day, twice pinning Baltimore near the goal line. When your punter is one of the few stars, it's indeed a grim day.
Lewis, Dawson could be sidelined
By Mary Kay Cabot
September 26, 2009
(Plain DealerCleveland Browns running back Jamal Lewis might miss sunday's game against the Baltimore Ravens with a hamstring injury.)
The Browns might have to face the Ravens Sunday without two of their best offensive weapons: running back Jamal Lewis and kicker Phil Dawson.
Lewis is doubtful to face his former team with a hamstring injury suffered last week in Denver, meaning there's only a 25 percent chance he'll play. He hasn't practiced all week, including Friday's final full workout before the game. If he can't go, he'll be replaced by the combination of Jerome Harrison and rookie James Davis.
Dawson was added to the injury report on Friday as questionable with a right calf injury, meaning there's a 50-50 chance he'll play. He was limited in practice and afterward the Browns worked out four free-agents kickers, both on kickoffs and field goals. They were Shane Andrus, Matt Bryant, Brandon Coutou and Billy Cundiff.
The Browns can sign a kicker on Saturday if Dawson isn't ready to go. They could also use punter Dave Zastudil on kickoffs, although he's been battling an injury to his right (non-kicking) knee. Zastudil is listed as probable for the game.
The loss of Dawson would be huge because he's been so good against the Ravens. In 19 career games, he's made 24 of 26 field goals against Baltimore. The highlight was his 33-yard game-winning field goal for a 33-30 overtime victory in Baltimore on Nov. 18, 2007. That kick followed a bizarre 51-yarder that sent the game into OT -- the one that smacked off the left upright, hit the gooseneck support and then bounced out in front of the goalposts and onto the field, confusing the fans and the officials.
Browns coach Eric Mangini wasn't available after the injury report came out to comment on Dawson's status.
The loss of Lewis would also be monumental, considering that the Ravens are No. 1 in the NFL against the run, yielding only 41 yards per game. Even with a healthy Lewis, the Browns were 27th in the NFL in rushing with an average of 71.5 yards per game. The Ravens haven't allowed a 100-yard rusher in 37 games, the NFL's longest current streak.
Harrison missed the opener with a knee injury but came back against the Broncos to gain 8 yards on three carries. He also caught four passes for 24 yards. Davis sat out last week's game against the Broncos with a shoulder injury suffered against Minnesota. In that game, he gained 5 yards on four carries and caught three passes for 4 yards.
"It's going to be a task for everybody, not just those two guys," said offensive coordinator Brian Daboll. "This is an outstanding defense and these guys have worked during the week. They know what our expectations are. This is a tough, hard hitting linebacker core, front core with (Haloti) Ngata and Trevor Pryce in there. These guys understand what the expectations are and they're going to go in and give their best effort, and whoever is in there that's what we expect."
Mangini acknowledged that Lewis' absence would be felt on the field and on the sidelines.
"Obviously his experience with playing there, with understanding the things they do is helpful," said Mangini. "It's helpful not just from his personal playing, but also to share that experience with guys like Jerome (Harrison) or James (Davis). It could be Cedric (Peerman) or Lawrence (Vickers) or any of those guys. I think that his background helps those guys as well. There is a benefit there."
Last season, Harrison scored his first career TD against Baltimore on a 19-yard screen pass from Derek Anderson.
"They have a great defense, very talented," said Harrison. "They're a veteran group and they're in the right spot. They help their offense and it's going to be a hard-nosed, physical game."
He praised linebacker Ray Lewis, who made a sensational fourth-down stop last week against the Chargers to seal the Ravens' victory.
"He's very smart, and he studies formations," said Harrison. "When you play against a guy like that, you just try to be as sound as he is. But it's always fun to line up and go against the best. That's what you live for."
The No. 1 ranking isn't rattling him or Davis.
"We had a good week of practice," he said. "If it comes to us playing, we'll be ready. We'll just have to see what we can do."
Thursday, September 24, 2009
By Bryan Sullivan
September 22, 2009
Orchard Park. N.Y. —
Donte Whitner has not shied away from attention since entering the NFL four years ago.
The Bills’ free safety guaranteed his team would make the playoffs last year. He has always talked about being among the league’s best at his position.
Games like Sunday’s will not only help establish himself among the league’s elite, but might help end Buffalo’s 10-year playoff drought.
Whitner returned an interception 76 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter, helping the Bills beat Tampa Bay 33-20 in Sunday’s home opener at Ralph Wilson Stadium. He also recorded eight tackles.
“I always have confidence in myself,” Whitner said. “Over the past three years I have played so many positions here. I bounced around from game to game. Playing the free safety position is not easy, but if you do your job you’ll make plays on the football.”
Whitner’s TD stalled the momentum of Tampa Bay’s second drive. After going three-and-out on their first possession, the Bucs drove to the Bills’ 25. With a first-and-10 right outside the red zone, quarterback Byron Leftwich overthrew running back Carnell Williams. Whitner grabbed the errant throw and went untouched to the end zone. Instead of the game possibly being tied at seven, the Bills were ahead 14-0.
“We were in a three-deep coverage, and I saw the quarterback was getting some pressure, I just wanted to make a jump on the ball,” Whitner said. “It felt good. It was just great team defense.”
Whitner’s play quickly rubbed off on his teammates.
The Bucs were on the move on the ensuing possession, getting to the Buffalo 43. Whitner’s partner at safety, Bryan Scott, intercepted Leftwich and returned it to the Tampa 32, setting up the Bills’ third score of the game, a 31-yard Rian Lindell field goal that made it 17-0.
“The ball just came out, and I don’t get too many opportunities like that so I knew I had to take advantage,” Scott said. “Turnovers are contagious. You keep attacking, and eventually all of you are getting after it.”
Whitner is part of a veteran secondary. He joins seven-year veterans Scott and Terrance McGee to give Buffalo one of the most experienced units in the league.
“Guys are really comfortable with each other,” Whitner said. “They hang out during the week. We work extra on getting our communication down. It’s been helping because more guys are comfortable and working together.”
The Bills’ defense proved up to the challenge in the second half. Tampa’s only points came late in the fourth quarter. Even after Trent Edwards threw his first interception of the season, the Bills stopped Tampa Bay on the following possession. Lindell kicked a 27-yard field goal on Buffalo’s next drive to put the Bills ahead 23-14.
The unit forced three punts, but the biggest play came in the third quarter. Whitner and linebacker Marcus Buggs stuffed Derrick Ward on a 4th-and-1 from the Bills 43 with 4:56 remaining in the third.
“(The Bills) executed their game plan — great job by their coaching staff, great job by the Buffalo Bills,” said Bucs head coach Raheem Morris.
By Patrick Magee
September 24, 2009
Saturday's trip to play No. 20 Kansas won't be anything new for Southern Miss coach Larry Fedora and some of his assistants.
The last time Fedora coached in Lawrence, Kan., he was an offensive coordinator at Oklahoma State, which beat the Jayhawks in a 42-32 shootout in 2006.
"They had a great atmosphere," Fedora said. "They're not just a basketball school anymore. Those guys can play football and they've done well and the fans support them."
Saturday's game has already been announced as a sellout at Memorial Stadium, making 10 sellouts in the last 12 games at the 50,071-capacity stadium.
The coach on the USM staff most familiar with the KU program is offensive coordinator Darrell Wyatt, who was on the Kansas staff from 1997-2000. He worked his way up to the same role he serves today at USM, offensive coordinator and associate head coach.
"I had a great experience there," he said. "My daughter was born there and I'm looking forward to going back in a strong way. We know they have a very good football team."
In seven years at Kansas, coach Mark Mangino has made significant improvement in a program that was mostly known for its struggles. The last two seasons have provided the first back-to-back eight-win seasons since 1908 and 1909.
"I think it's a credit to a commitment from the administration," Wyatt said. "Coach Mangino has a great staff and he's been building the program piece-by-piece. They've recruited talented athletes. They play very hard and they're a very disciplined football team. They spread you out on offense and play with their hair on fire."
And his 183 yards Monday is the most by a Colts tight end.
By Reggie Hayes
September 24, 2009
INDIANAPOLIS – Colts tight end Dallas Clark’s 80-yard touchdown catch against the Dolphins on Monday night put him on his way to one of the best performances by a tight end in the last 40 years.
But it’s not the longest or most significant catch of his life.
Clark went 95 yards on a pass reception in the University of Iowa’s win over Purdue in 2002, a moment he says changed the direction of his career.
“It was a little five-yard out and I broke a couple tackles and went down the sidelines,” Clark said. “That’s pretty much why I’m here today.”
Clark believes that single play put him in the NFL.
“That play was the one that made people say, ‘Oh, wow, a tight end went 95 yards?’” Clark said. “That kind of got NFL teams’ attention and kind of after that, everything took off.”
Clark later scored the game-winning touchdown on a seven-yard fourth-down pass from Brad Banks in Iowa’s 31-28 victory.
“That game pretty much got the radars going,” Clark said of the NFL’s interest in his talents. “That was special and people still talk about it when I go back to Iowa. I know it’s just Iowa, but to the people, that game was important, too, it was a special game. It’s really just one of those things where your number was called and you try to make the best of it.”
The Colts picked Clark in the first round in the 2003 draft and the rest, as they say, is history.
And he’s clearly not done “making the best of it” when it comes to being an impact player on the Colts’ offense. Clark’s 183 yards receiving in the Colts’ 27-23 win over the Dolphins marked the most by a tight end in Colts history and was the fourth-highest by an NFL tight end since 1970. He was one yard short of making the Top 10 all-time by a Colts receiver.
Quarterback Peyton Manning read the defense and found Clark over the middle on the Colts’ first play from scrimmage. Clark broke one tackle and seemed on the verge of losing his balance, but used his deceptive speed to go the distance.
He said he didn’t feel he was going down at any point.
“It was one of those ‘Wait a minute, I’m still up,’ moments,” Clark said. “I was thinking it took me awhile to recover and I thought people would come up behind me, but the pattern of the play removed a lot of people from the area. So that helped me get that acceleration back.”
Clark had big catches, including a 49-yarder, on both of the Colts’ touchdown-scoring drives in the second half.
His 183 yards have been topped by tight ends only three times since 1970: the Broncos’ Shannon Sharpe had 214 in 2002, the Jets’ Rich Caster 204 in 1972 and the Browns’ Ozzie Newsome 191 in 1984.
Maybe it shouldn’t be surprising that Clark had such a big game, considering starting wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez is out with a knee injury.
Clark said he was happy to see the younger guys – receivers Pierre Garcon and Austin Collie and running back Donald Brown – make big plays at crucial points of the Miami game.
“You can practice all you want and prepare all you want, but the best way to learn how to handle situations like that is to be in them,” Clark said. “You hope the first time you’re in something like that it turns out well for you. Those are critical moments where you have to do everything right, there’s no room for error, and they did it.”
Clark said he believes in the old Tony Dungy rule about not getting too high after a win or too low after a loss. But he acknowledged the Miami win felt special.
“That was a challenge to stay even-keeled,” Clark said. “It was just fun, a great environment. They had everything going. It was just a beautiful football environment, and just a really good team victory.”
The Colts (2-0) will play at Arizona (1-1) at 8:20 p.m. Sunday at University of Phoenix Stadium. The game will be on NBC-TV.
By Matt Algarin
September 23, 2009
With only two touchdowns on the year, where do you go with your offense? Obviously, your passing and rushing threat wouldn't scare a child, let alone an NFL-caliber defense.
At least when you are the Cleveland Browns anemic offense, you can count on Phil Dawson.
You're probably saying to yourself, "What? A kicker?"
Think about it.
When most running backs gained more yards last week than you have gained all year, there may be a problem.
Jamal Lewis is hurt again. He will be out for Sunday's game against the Raven's with a hamstring injury that Mangenius will no doubt try to disguise as God knows what.
And most defenses will not be worried when you are throwing James Harrison out as your backup, blowing away the opposing defensive lines with a blazing 2.7 yards per rush.
Then you look at the receivers and, needless to say, opponents will again not be trembling.
Don't get me wrong, I am a Browns fan through and through. I remember sitting in old Cleveland Municipal Stadium, freezing my butt off, cheering on my home team.
But when your leading receiver has only seven receptions for 104 yards, you have to worry a little. Then again, at least Braylon Edwards has been able to hold on to the ball so far.
At least we can take comfort in the fact that our Pro Bowl return man, Josh Cribbs, is tied for the team lead in receptions.
But let's put our focus back to Dawson, who has been the only bright spot on this offense so far. Dawson's 47-yard field goal in the first quarter of Sunday's game at Denver put him in a tie with Don Cockroft for second place on the teams all-time field goal list.
With 216 field goals as a member of the Browns, Dawson is only 18 away from tying Hall of Famer Lou Groza for first all-time.
The downside to this historic moment for Dawson is that after his second field goal of the day, it makes him the team's leading scorer on the season.
Dawson, who is perfect on the year, may just lead this team in scoring the entire season unless the offense can get off its butt and get in gear.
In the Week one loss to the Vikings, Dawson became only the third Browns player to reach 900 career points with the team. The kicker now has 914 points, putting him behind only Cockroft with 1,080 and Groza with 1,608.
So please give Phil Dawson a hand. We should be extremely proud of his accomplishments with our beloved franchise.
At least we have someone who can score on a consistent basis.
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Opening-play touchdown leads to career game of 183 yards for veteran tight end
By Phillip B. Wilson
September 22, 2009
MIAMI -- The few plays that the Indianapolis Colts had the football on an unusual Monday night, it usually ended up in the trusty hands of tight end Dallas Clark.
And that was just enough, despite only 14 minutes and 53 seconds of possession time, to squeak out a 27-23 Colts victory over Miami at Land Shark Stadium.
On the game's opening play, Clark started the "Monday Night Football" party with an 80-yard touchdown reception. In the fourth quarter, he set up quick Colts touchdown drives with key catches, the first for 49 yards and the latter for 17 yards.
By game's end, Clark had a team-record 183 yards on seven catches, which ranked as the fourth-highest yards total in a game for a tight end in the NFL since 1970. Denver's Shannon Sharpe had 214 in 2002, the New York Jets' Rich Caster had 204 yards in 1972 and Cleveland's Ozzie Newsome gained 191 yards in 1984.
The Dolphins learned on the first play covering Clark with a linebacker is asking for trouble. He ran past Akin Ayodele, caught the play-action pass down the middle of the field, broke a tackle from safety Gibril Wilson and had nothing but open field. The Colts were ahead 7-0 in just 12 seconds.
"Hopefully everyone had their drinks and chips and were sitting down and didn't miss that one," Clark said. "Good thing I stretched, so I didn't pull a hammy on that one.
"It was a good way to start. We needed it. That's the way you need to start on the road, especially in an environment like this, it's just a great football environment. It was a good way to open."
The quick score was also the start of a trend for the evening. The Colts put up points quickly. The defense couldn't get off the field and gave the points up slowly.
That meant fewer plays. The Colts had the ball for just three plays in the third quarter.
By the end, the Colts ran 35 plays to the Dolphins' 84. But Clark still came up clutch.
Down 20-13 early in the fourth, Clark almost scored on another big play as he took a second-and-7 pass from Peyton Manning and gained 49 yards to the Colts 24.
"I know, if I just had some more blockers downfield," Clark said of possibly scoring on another long one. "Ah, I'm just joking. It was close."
The Colts tied it four plays later on Donald Brown's 15-yard run up the middle.
The Dolphins responded with another long drive, this time 10 plays that ate up 6:16, and took a 23-20 lead. But back came the Colts. The key Clark catch this time was a 17-yarder to the Dolphins 48.
Two plays later, Manning hit Pierre Garcon on a bubble screen pass that the second-year native of West Palm Beach, Fla., broke for the 48-yard touchdown that was the game's final score.
"It was fun," Clark said. "We did what we had to do.
"Great call and a great audible to get that screen to Garcon. Everyone did their assignments and made their blocks and you're not catching him. He was probably the fastest guy on the field."
By JOHN WAWROW, AP Sports Writer
September 20, 2009
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Donte Whitner returned an interception 76 yards for a touchdown and Terrell Owens — after being negated most of the game — scored on a 43-yard catch in his home debut to cap a 33-20 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday.
Whitner also made a key stop on fourth down less than a week after he was left crying in frustration after the Bills squandered an 11-point lead in a 25-24 season-opening loss at New England.
Buffalo (1-1) ended a five-game home losing streak. The Buccaneers (0-2) have lost six straight and continue to struggle on defense after allowing 438 yards.
Tampa Bay's once-respected defense has now allowed 332 yards or more in each of its past seven games. It's given up 400-plus yards in each of its two games this season following a 34-21 loss to Dallas last weekend. The defensive backfield continues to be susceptible to the deep pass.
Before Owens' touchdown, Lee Evans opened the scoring with a 32-yard touchdown reception. Tampa Bay allowed three TDs of 40 yards or more against Dallas.
So much for Bills quarterback Trent Edwards' inability to go deep. After being labeled `Captain Checkdown' for most of the preseason, and questioned by Owens this past week for overlooking a few opportunities to go long against New England, Edwards responded.
He finished 21 of 31 for 230 yards with two scores and an interception.
Edwards hit Evans in stride just inside the right pylon — and ahead of Ronde Barber — five plays into the Bills' opening drive. The TD to T.O. came on a similar play, with Owens going up to get the ball just ahead of cornerback Aqib Talib.
Owens celebrated his first touchdown with Buffalo — and the 140th of his 14-year career — by jumping into the arms of several teammates in the end zone. Some fans in the sold-out stadium celebrated by tossing up popcorn in tribute of T.O.'s famous saying: "Getcha popcorn ready."
Byron Leftwich finished 26 of 49 for 296 yards and three touchdowns, but threw two costly interceptions. Carnell Williams, Kellen Winslow and Jeramy Stevens each scored touchdowns after the Bucs fell behind 17-0 in the first quarter.
Whitner played a big role in that by stopping the Bucs on their second possession. After Leftwich marched Tampa Bay 55 yards, Leftwich dropped back to pass and his arm was in motion when he was hit on the leg by defensive tackle Kyle Williams.
The pass sailed over Williams and into the arms of Whitner, who danced up the right sideline untouched. Whitner also stopped Derrick Ward for a 1-yard loss on fourth-and-1 early in the third quarter after the Bucs had cut Buffalo's lead to 20-14.
With the Bills up 20-7 and threatening to score late in the first half, the game's momentum suddenly turned in Tampa Bay's favor. Fred Jackson was running inside the Bucs' 20 when he lost control of ball after taking a hard hit from Barber.
The ball flew up and directly into the hands of safety Sabby Piscitelli, who returned it 72 yards up the sideline before being caught from behind by Roscoe Parrish. Leftwich capitalized on the next play by hitting Carnell Williams for an 8-yard touchdown pass.
Monday, September 21, 2009
September 20, 2009
By Steve Reed
ATLANTA — Coach John Fox insisted Carolina’s 28-20 loss to the Atlanta Falcons wasn’t a moral victory for the Carolina Panthers, even though it sure sounded like one in the locker room.
Carolina’s offense, in particular quarterback Jake Delhomme, played much better on Sunday at the Georgia Dome, but the Panthers still turned the ball over twice and had a punt blocked resulting in only their second 0-2 start in the Fox era, leaving them two games behind the Falcons and New Orleans Saints in the NFC South.
Fox said “there’s no consolation prize in this league — you either win or you lose,” but several players seemed encouraged that the Panthers took a step forward — at least offensively — after a dismal seven-turnover performance in a 38-10 loss to Philadelphia in the season opener.
“There’s nothing that’s good in a loss, but I’m happy for Jake and I’m happy for our offense a little bit after we did so poorly last week. At least we let us have a chance to be in the game this week,” said offensive tackle Jordan Gross. “(Last year) was a different story and we’re figuring out who we are in ‘09 and I think we moved a little bit in the right direction today.”
“Offensively, it was night and day,” said wide receiver Steve Smith, who caught eight passes for 131 yards.
Smith called it an “important” game for Delhomme, who completed 25 of 41 passes for 308 yards, and the offense which put up 440 yards.
“It was probably the most important thing as far as all of the criticism we got as an offense,” Smith said.
And yet, the bottom line is the Panthers are 0-2.
“I don’t think it’s a head for the hills, or whatever words you want to attach to it to make it more than it is,” Smith said. “I think Jeff Davidson did an exceptional job calling the plays and we put ourselves offensively in good positions and Jake made some clutch throws.”
September 18, 2009
By Katherine Dunn
Something student-athletes hear over and over again during their high school years is the importance of succeeding in the classroom as well as on the field. After a while, that advice can go in one ear and out the other.
One person who proves the truth in that advice is Chisom Opara, a Gilman graduate who is now a scout for the Cleveland Browns. The subject of today’s “Alumni Report,” Opara knows he wouldn’t still be in football if he had not succeeded in class as well as on the field.
He wanted to make it as an NFL player, but he didn’t, so he found a way to fall back on a career that kept him very close to the sport he loved.
Like Opara, most high school athletes will not play professional sports. There just aren’t enough roster spots in the NFL, the NBA, the WNBA and other pro leagues. But you don’t have to play to have a career in those sports.
Just look at how many people surround an NFL team – everyone from coaches to scouts to athletic trainers to public relations specialists. It takes a village to keep a professional team running. At the college level, there are lots of supporting positions, too, and you can see how many people work to make sure your high school and club teams run smoothly.
There are other careers in sports, too, such as sports management and sportswriting or broadcasting. Do you have any idea how many people it takes to pull of Sunday Night Football?
Opara’s 3.5 grade-point average at Gilman sure helped draw the interest of college coaches from such academic powerhouses as Princeton, Harvard, Stanford, Duke and Virginia. He chose Princeton and earned his degree in politics.
“The percentage of people who make it to the professional ranks if you really look at it across all sports, it’s very small,” Opara said. “It is an uphill battle. Certainly, if you’re good enough and you try hard enough, there’s a chance, but not everybody’s going to make it. But there are other opportunities to stay around the game, whether it’s coaching, scouting, being a trainer, equipment manager, working in operations. There’s a lot of opportunity up there. Even when I was coming up, I didn’t realize there were people who scouted me when I was in high school. That aspect of it didn’t really dawn on me until college, and I started to become a bit more into it.”
Opara said he thought about other careers, such as investment banking, or teaching and coaching high school football, but when his chance came in the front office, he jumped on it. Today, he can’t thank Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome and Browns general manager Phil Savage enough for giving him the chance to stay in the NFL, but Opara made a lot of that happen himself. He got the grades in high school to get to Princeton, and he got his degree even though he went back for it after a tryout with the Ravens in 2003.
Without the ability to communicate well, he wouldn’t be any better at his job than I would be at mine.
“It kind of underscores the importance of combining the athletic part with the academic part,” Opara said, “because in my job, your ability to write and communicate is very important. If you’re just a good football player and you can’t write and communicate, you can’t express your opinions, then jobs like scouting and jobs like coaching are not going to be as open to you. That just underscores the balance of succeeding athletically and also pushing yourself academically.”
Greg Olson, left, became the Bucs offensive coordinator just 10 days before the season opener against Dallas last week.
By IRA KAUFMAN
September 18, 2009
TAMPA - The Greg Olson era is two weeks old and no one has any gripes, except for the twins, Kenneth and Grayce.
Daddy's never home.
Tampa Bay's new offensive coordinator is logging major hours at One Buc Place, and judging by the results of Sunday's opener against Dallas, it's time well spent.
"I've always liked Greg as a person, and I'm glad he got this opportunity," Bucs right tackle Jeremy Trueblood said after Tampa Bay rolled up 450 yards in a 34-21 loss. "He did a heck of a job in Week 1. The guy knows what he's doing, and the communication was excellent all day."
Olson was hired as quarterbacks coach last year and was promoted Sept. 3 when the Bucs fired Jeff Jagodzinski only 10 days before the season opener.
Now, he's responsible for devising a new weekly game plan while helping his quarterbacks implement the details.
"It was tough on him," said Byron Leftwich, who wasn't sacked or intercepted against the Cowboys in posting a passer rating of 89.1. "All that week he was running around. I know he wasn't getting much sleep at night because his responsibility changed - just like that. For us to go out there and play the way we played offensively is great."
Only six times in franchise history have the Bucs gained more yards than they accumulated against the Cowboys, who led the NFL in sacks last year and came away dazed and confused.
"They were making plays early," Dallas linebacker Bradie James said. "We were moving around and they were gashing us a little bit. We had to make some adjustments."
Although he had served as an offensive coordinator with the Lions and Rams, Olson was not interviewed by the Bucs following the dismissal of Coach Jon Gruden, who called all the plays for seven seasons.
Despite the 26 first downs and a plan of attack that had the Cowboys off balance all day, Olson isn't satisfied with his debut effort.
"Obviously, not good enough," he said. "Our goal on every series is to score touchdowns, score points, and we didn't get that done. But the overall execution, the mechanics, were good for the first time out. It's exciting, and I feel blessed to have this staff. When the switch was made, they bought into it as well."
Apparently, Olson has company in the wee, small hours.
"I believe (offensive line coach) Pete Mangurian spent the night here Tuesday," Olson said. "I really enjoy coaching the position (quarterbacks). With the added responsibility of coordinator, it means I have to work more hours."
As the Bucs head to Buffalo this weekend, Olson has quickly earned the respect of a young offense.
"Coach Olson did an excellent job of making sideline adjustments," wide receiver Michael Clayton said. "You see his charisma out there and it's real exciting. The communication was great from the press box to the sideline."
Olson showed a strong commitment to the ground game and mixed up his pass plays as Leftwich found 10 different targets among his 25 completions.
"They kind of went out and created an identity last week," Coach Raheem Morris said of Olson's dynamic opening statement. "Now they have to live up to it. A standard is set when you continue to do it."
Olson said he will be adding pages to the offensive script over the next month as he plays catch-up following Jagodzinski's abrupt departure.
In the meantime, his slimmed-down version worked quite nicely on opening day.
"We never felt like we were ever stopped," Olson said. "We just kind of stopped ourselves a little bit. We felt like we kind of had Dallas' number, so to speak. We knew what they were doing and we knew how we wanted to attack them."
By Tully Corcoran
September 17, 2009
17 YEARS AG0 | Sept. 19, 1992
LAWRENCE -- A 49-7 win at Oregon State didn't do it, and neither did a 62-10 home win over Ball State.
But on Sept. 19, 1992, Kansas coach Glen Mason led the Jayhawks to a 40-7 win against Tulsa, which propelled KU into the Associated Press Top 25 for the first time since 1976, breaking a 16-year drought that remains the longest in school history.
And, wouldn't you know it, No. 24 KU lost to Cal the next week and fell right back out.
The Jayhawks finished the season at No. 22. It was a year that included an Aloha Bowl win, which was KU's first bowl berth since 1981, and a win against Kansas State, which would be KU's last until 2004.
By Katherine Dunn
September 18, 2009
When Gilman graduate Chisom Opara emerged as a standout wide receiver at Princeton, he started thinking about a career in professional football. Now, he has an NFL career - although it's not exactly the one he envisioned.
Opara, an All-Metro and All-State receiver at Gilman in 1998, tried to make the Ravens as an undrafted rookie in 2003. His dream of playing for his hometown team ended when he was waived in the final round of cuts. Shortly after that, however, he was picked up by the Ravens' front office.
Now, Opara, 26, is a college area scout for the Cleveland Browns.
"It is an incredible way to stay in the game," he said. "When the weekends come around now, you have some of the same feelings when the game starts and watching the game. It's probably the next best thing" to playing.
Opara never thought about playing in the NFL when he was young. He didn't even think about it at Gilman.
Opara started playing in seventh grade, and as a Gilman senior he scored 18 touchdowns, rushed for 664 yards and caught 54 passes for 942 yards. That brought scholarship offers from Virginia, Duke and Stanford, but Opara opted for Princeton.
As his Tigers career progressed and he began moving up the school's career receiving charts, he started thinking a little further ahead.
"Once you get to your sophomore or junior year, you see these other guys who you've lined up with ... getting chances to play in the NFL," said Opara, who finished his Princeton career second all time in receiving yards and third in receptions. "Dennis Norman, who was actually my host when I went to visit there, he made the NFL. Obviously as a young kid, to you that's the coolest thing ever, but when you start to see other people do it who come from the Ivy League, it starts to become a lot more real."
He was disappointed not to make the Ravens' practice squad in 2003, but the end of one career possibility opened the door to another. He spent 10 months as a Ravens player personnel assistant and then was hired by the Browns.
Opara lives in Atlanta and travels all over the Southeast scouting college teams for the best players.
"Basically, I evaluate players from both sides as far as what they can do on the field and who they are off the field, their background, work ethic, how they do in school, their character. The other half is watching the film and going to the games and evaluating what you think the player can do at the NFL level," he said.
During the season, he spends much of the week on the road, traveling through one area of the Southeast at a time, looking at players from big schools and small schools.
"It's tough at times, and it can be a grind being on the road and away from home for so many days at a time, but a lot of times I'm walking away from practice at the end of the day thinking about how much I really love what I'm doing. It's one of those jobs that feels natural for me to do - watch players and get this information and write reports. I love what I do, and I really couldn't imagine doing anything else at this point."
Once in a while, Opara gets home to Baltimore during the fall. Last weekend, he made a stopover to watch the Greyhounds play DeMatha.
When he's here, of course, he's subject to some serious ribbing about working for the enemy - one of the Ravens' rivals in the AFC North.
Opara, who acknowledges that he has gone over to "the other side," laughs when he thinks about it.
"One of my teammates from high school, Henry Russell, who coaches at Gilman now, he took me to my first Ravens game, Ravens versus the Steelers. We sat up probably three or four rows from the top fence, and for every single home game that I was around, he was around. He kept inviting me to go. Huge Ravens fans. He constantly is reminding me about that. 'How could you do this? I wasted all these tickets on you,' and stuff like that. People do give me a hard time, but I think it's all in good fun."
Thursday, September 17, 2009
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
By MIKE McLAIN Tribune Chronicle
September 11, 2009
BEREA - The players selected six captains Wednesday to represent the team for the regular season.
Tackle Joe Thomas and running back Jamal Lewis were selected on offense. Inside linebackers D'Qwell Jackson and Eric Barton were the defensive selections. Joshua Cribbs and kicker Phil Dawson were named on special teams.
"This means a great deal to me," Dawson said. "It's a responsibility that I take seriously and I consider it a privilege to represent these guys."
Dawson is the only member of the expansion 1999 Browns still with the team. No other member of the '99 team is in the NFL.
Perhaps no player on the roster knows the importance of getting off to a good start more than Dawson. The Browns have won only once in 10 season openers since their return to the NFL after a three-year absence.
"I doubt a lot of these guys even know that, and that's probably good," Dawson said. "This is a football game we have this Sunday. That needs to be our mentality in terms of trends and what's happened in the past. It's true what happened, but it shouldn't affect our preparation."
Jackson, entering his fourth season, has quietly developed into a leader.
"It's good knowing my teammates respect me that much," Jackson said. "I take pride in what I do. We all have fun and get along well in here. It's a great honor. I have to go out and keep proving myself each day to hold up to that title."