Friday, July 27, 2007

Jeff Uhlenhake: Only Rookie Starter

Satele may be rarity: Rookie starting at center


July 25, 2007

DAVIE — Jim Langer was lying on a trainer's table 35 years ago this month when offensive line coach Monte Clark walked in and told him he would make his first career start in the Dolphins' season opener against the Kansas City Chiefs.

"My reaction was, 'I hope I'm ready,'" Langer said today. "Fear is a great motivator."

Langer said he was also thankful he was entering his third season.
Samson Satele will likely have no such luck. The Dolphins' second-round pick enters training camp as the odds-on favorite to become just the second rookie to open a season as the Dolphins' starting center.

The other guy obviously wasn't Langer. And it wasn't Dwight Stephenson, either. No, the two greatest centers in Dolphins history, both Hall of Famers, didn't get their chances until their third seasons.

The only rookie to start a season at center was Jeff Uhlenhake, a solid, though often-injured player from 1989-93.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Spotlight on Matt Spaeth

TE Miller To Lose Reps To Rookie Spaeth?

July 24, 2007
By Paul Eide

With news circulating of Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians plan to use multiple receiver sets in 2007, and with the team investing a third round pick on a tight end, speculation has arisen about third year player Heath Miller's role in the offense. Miller was largely a forgotten man in 2006 and failed to reach expectations in his second year.

After opening the NFL's inaugural game of the 2006 season with 101 yards and a touchdown versus the Dolphins, Miller had only 292 yards over the next 15 games. To further emphasize how statistically underwhelming Miller was consider this: aside from his opening day game performance he failed to total more than 35 receiving yards in any other game. This is especially troubling considering quarterback Ben Roethlisberger set career highs in attempts, completions, yards and touchdowns in 2007.

Matt Spaeth (6-7, 270), out of Minnesota, was selected by the Steelers in the third round of this year's NFL Draft. He is the all-time career leader for the Gophers in receiving yards (1,291) and receptions (109) by a tight end breaking the records set by current Colts tight end Ben Utect. As a senior, he won the John Mackey Award as the nation's top tight end after finishing with 47 receptions for 564 yards (12.0 avg.) and four touchdowns.

A two-time All-Big Ten first-team honoree, Spaeth finished his career with 12 receiving touchdowns. For all the accolades he received thanks to his work as a target in the passing game, Spaeth established a reputation as one of the best blocking tight ends in the country.

Nicknamed "Big Money" for his ability to gain first downs and touchdowns, Heath Miller was a three-year starter at tight end for the University of Virginia. He led ACC tight ends in receiving every year of his college career and he was the 2004 recipient of the John Mackey Award. He finished his career holding ACC records for most career receptions (144), yards (1703) and touchdowns (20) by a tight end.

After a promising rookie season that culminated with the Steelers winning the Super Bowl, many felt Miller took a step backward last season. Miller was called upon to block more last year than in his rookie season but that alone does not account for his lack of production. Miller's statistics declined across the board and he accumulated less catches, yards and touchdowns than in 2005.

Regardless of who gets the most work, the Steelers have solidified the tight end position with two players who contribute to an offense in multiple ways, something head coach Mike Tomlin is willing to utilize.

"I am a three tight end guy. We value the tight end without a doubt," said Tomlin. "You can get in a two-tight end set or multiple tight-end sets, it creates problems because of the number of gaps along the line of scrimmage that you have to defend. Matt's a big guy. He's got very good hands, and good route savvy. When it came time to pick Matt specifically, he was clearly the highest rated guy on our board. We really think that Matt can come in and give us another dimension at tight end."

Friday, July 20, 2007

Donte Whitner's Charity Event

Whitner Hoping For Strike Against Cancer
by Chris Brown,
July 18, 2007

Bills safety Donte Whitner isn't all that different from anyone else when it comes to family. Growing up in a household with a mother and grandmother as his main role models along with four other siblings, Whitner learned quickly that family comes first.

Whitner is fortunate to still have all of his immediate family members in his life, but his grandmother Rosetta Whitner is currently battling lung cancer. Diagnosed close to a year ago Ms. Whitner is undergoing chemotherapy treatments at the Cleveland clinic.

"My family has never lost a family member this close to us," Whitner said. "So it gets kind of tough."

The illness with which the eldest Whitner is afflicted has prompted Donte to take action against the disease in the form of a charitable bowling tournament to be held this Saturday (July 21) at the Corner Alley in downtown Cleveland.

"My grandmother's condition has compelled me to do this," said Whitner. "I love my grandmother dearly and I hope that she can beat this, but there are a lot other families across the country and around the world that are battling cancer as well. I really think if a lot of people can come together and raise money with events like this that it can really help to speed up the cancer research process."

The tournament has been aptly titled 'Cancer Strike' and Whitner has already gained the support of several current NFL and former college teammates that will be attending the event.

"Lee Evans is coming out and I really reached out to all of my teammates and asked them to come up," said Whitner. "I know a majority of them will be here. Some former teammates too like Takeo Spikes and Nate Clements will be in for the event as well. Troy Smith will be here as will Ted Ginn. We've got a number of guys coming."

Whitner made bowling the sport of choice for the event for a couple of reasons.

"I like to bowl," he said. "I go down to the alley in my spare time and release some stress. One night I was at the alley and I was thinking I should do a bowling event that benefits cancer and it grew from there."

"It's something that a lot of guys in the locker room do. Not all of them may be very good at it, but a lot of them do like to bowl. We just want to come out and have a good time at this event and talk a little trash and ultimately raise some money to benefit cancer research."

Already getting some corporate support for the event, Whitner also hopes fans turn out to have fun with some NFL players, raise some money and take part in a chance to win some quality items up for auction.

"We'll have a Terrell Owens jersey, my jersey, Troy Smith and Ted Ginn jerseys," Whitner said. "We'll have some signed footballs and bowling pins. We have a lot of good auction items here for fans."

The grand prize for the winning six-member team is $5,000, half of which will be donated to cancer research.

Rosetta Whitner, the motivation for the tournament's creation, is not expected to attend the event since she's scheduled for a chemotherapy treatment the day before the event.

Her grandson however, is planning on his grandmother and his newly formed charity venture to both be around for a long time.

"I think it will be fulfilling and I plan to do this annually," said Whitner. "Hopefully my grandmother will beat it and can be an advocate for beating cancer and cancer research."

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Robert Smith to co-host "Sports and Society"

Schaap: Sports provide window into society

By Nate Peterson
July 6, 2007

ASPEN — Jeremy Schaap's two books individually examine the lives of two seminal sports figures of the 1930s, an era when sportswriters wrote about athletes' exploits on the field, not off it.

By contrast, Schaap's work as a writer and television reporter focuses primarily on sporting issues that exist outside the lines - complex topics that often reflect societal trends.

While he has never been one to shy away from reporting on controversial athletes and subjects, Schaap believes there are some boundaries that sports journalists shouldn't cross. He questions the integrity of reporters who stalk star athletes such as Yankees third basemen Alex Rodriguez with the sole intention of tarnishing a reputation just to sell newspapers.

"It's unfortunate, the kind of journalism that puts A-Rod on the front page of the [New York] Post when he's with another woman," said Schaap, who will co-host an Aspen Ideas Festival discussion titled "Sports and Society" on Saturday with HBO sports reporter and filmmaker Jon Frankel and former Minnesota Vikings running back Robert Smith. "Between journalists and athletes, it has become much more adversarial over the years. There's something sad about that, but it's kind of the way journalism has gone as a whole. Forty years ago, the same people who covered the White House wouldn't write the same thing about the Lyndon Johnson administration that they write today about the Bush administration."

Schaap said he certainly understands the factors that have led to the current intrusive state of sports reporting. Scribes in New York certainly knew about some of Babe Ruth's off-the-field indiscretions when he was swatting home runs for the Yankees in the '20s and '30s, but they respectfully turned the other cheek. That's not the case with someone like Rodriguez, the modern day equivalent of the Great Bambino who, because of his mammoth $252 million contract, is constantly scrutinized by fans and members of the media.

"It's so much bigger now and the athletes are compensated so well, and are making so much more money than the people watching them," Schaap said. "A-Rod may be the best of all time, but nothing he does satisfies anybody because he's making $25 million. If he was making $150,000 a year, like Mickey Mantle, I think it would be different."

The son of an award-winning sports writer and TV journalist, Schaap said the best advice his father, Dick, imparted to him was to report fairly and evenly and to never make oneself the focus of the story.

"You have to approach your subjects with a bit of skepticism, but also respect," Schaap said. "I think he taught me that cheap shots, at the end of the day, there's really no point for them. You have to be fair, even when you're charged with going after somebody. From their perspective, even if they view it as negative, I think you have try to maintain a level of fairness."

The discussion with Smith and Frankel will likely focus on a number of recent sports stories that have had a broad cultural impact, Schaap said. As his body of work shows, Schaap is intrigued with the role sport plays in society at large.

"There are so many stories that have a wider cultural meaning," he said. "Sports provide a real window into so many cultural cross currents. I think we're going to discuss how sports is both a reflection of society and how issues that are important in sports somehow cross into other things. The discussion was partly inspired by some of the big stories - stuff like the Don Imus and Rutgers controversy, and the steroids controversy."

Schaap also mentioned the topics of race and racism, both at the heart of his newest book, "Triumph: The Untold Story of Jesse Owens and Hitler's Olympics." Schaap will lead a discussion about the new book earlier in the day Saturday.

The panel discussion about sports and society presents "an opportunity to talk about race issues and how they are perceived differently by people of different races," Schaap said.

One such example is Barry Bonds' chase of Hank Aaron's home run record which, surveys show, draws decidedly different opinions from whites and blacks across the country.

"Seventy-five percent of blacks are excited for Bonds to break the record, while only 25 percent of whites want him to do so," Schaap said. "That's an interesting study of America."

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