Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Tauscher Voted Ed Block Courage Award Winner

By Mike Spofford

December 30, 2008

Offensive tackle Mark Tauscher saw his season end on Dec. 7 with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, but that didn't stop his teammates from recognizing his efforts in 2008.

Tauscher recently was voted by his teammates as this year's Ed Block Courage Award winner, an award given annually to one member of each NFL team for displaying commitments to the principles of courage and sportsmanship while serving as inspirations in their locker rooms.

"It's as good an award as you can get," Tauscher said. "When you have the respect of your peers, especially your teammates, you really value those opinions, so it's something I take a lot of pride in."

Tauscher, a nine-year veteran, is known as a player in the Green Bay locker room who will get himself onto the practice field as well as the game field no matter what minor bumps and bruises might ail him. This year most notably he returned to the field for the Nov. 30 game against Carolina just six days after leaving the Monday night game in New Orleans with an injured hamstring.

"He has great leadership abilities, and he displays those at all times," center Scott Wells said. "He's the consummate pro. He practices when he's hurt, does what he has to do to go out there and get ready, and then plays at a high level."

Tauscher is respected by his peers both for the type of player he is and the kind of teammate he is. He's also noted for being very involved in the community, and his TRIFECTA Foundation (Tauscher's Reading Initiative For Every Child To Achieve) is still going strong. He said $20,000 in grants were just handed out last week.

For his part, Tauscher doesn't ask for or command respect because "the guys that seek that out are usually the guys that don't get it," he said. He prefers to earn it, and he has.

"He's a guy that when I came in as a rookie for that rookie camp and OTAs, he talked to me right away," third-year lineman Tony Moll said. "He made me feel really comfortable and really let me fit in, let me join in things he was doing. From there, I developed a lot of respect for him as a teammate, and over time we became really good friends. He's definitely deserving of the award."

That's not something he sought either. He considers his dedication to his job and the team part of the profession.

"You take a lot of pride in getting out to work, regardless of being dinged up," Tauscher said. "When you have guys who play a lot of games, I think that's something that young guys usually look to. I know I did when I was a young guy. It's just being consistent and always being out there and knowing you can be counted on by your teammates."

That made it all the more difficult for his teammates to see Tauscher's season end early. He injured the same knee that wiped out his 2002 season, and he's scheduled for surgery sometime in early January.

The injury and the fact that he's in the final year of his contract make his future in Green Bay somewhat uncertain, but neither Tauscher nor his teammates is concerned with that now. Everyone just wants to see him healthy and ready to play again, and there are no doubts about his ability to recover.

After going through knee rehab six years ago, Tauscher came back to start 88 of the next 93 games, missing just five contests in 2006 due to a groin injury.

"It's tough as a teammate and a friend to see somebody go down like that, especially since he's been down the road once before," Wells said. "I know it's frustrating for him. We get frustrated for him. We move on in the professional aspect, but on a personal level, it's hard to see somebody go through that.

"He's the type of guy who has the right personality. He'll be able to bounce back from it."

Shock's Smith reaps USA Basketball's annual honor

December 29, 2008

Katie Smith was one of two Shock players to start all 34 games last season.

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) — Detroit Shock forward Katie Smith has been named USA Basketball Female Athlete of the Year.

The three-time Olympic gold medalist and co-captain of the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team also will be nominated by USA Basketball for the U.S. Olympic Committee SportsWoman of the Year.

Smith averaged 4.9 points and 1.9 assists per game as part of the Beijing Olympics gold-medal winning team. She was the only member to participate in all the USA Women's National Team's training camps.

Smith also was named the 2008 WNBA Finals MVP after helping the Shock win the 2008 title. She averaged 21.7 points and more than three rebounds in Detroit's sweep of San Antonio in the finals.

Whitner to donate winter clothes to Closing the Gap students

By Chris Brown

December 28, 2008

Prior to today’s game Donte Whitner, in conjunction with his Team 20 Foundation will donate coats, hats and gloves to the Closing the Gap School students from Buffalo who have been his guest at home games all season long.

Working with local United Way representatives will hand out those winter clothes to the students prior to the season finale today at the Bills store as all the winter clothes will be Bills team merchandise.

“The students are always so grateful just to come to the game,” said Whitner. “I want to give them something they can use long after the game and what’s better than Bills gear!”

Colts' Clark hits milestone

December 28, 2008

INDIANAPOLIS – Peyton Manning, Marvin Harrison and Dallas Clark wasted no time in hitting milestones Sunday against Tennessee.

Manning extended his own NFL record for 4,000-yard passing seasons to nine, while Harrison moved into second on the NFL's career receptions list and Clark broke the franchise's long-standing single-season record for yards receiving by a tight end.

And they needed only about 23 minutes to complete the trifecta.

Manning entered the game needing 93 yards to hit 4,000, achieving it on a 55-yard touchdown play to Joseph Addai. The two-time league MVP left the game after the opening possession, finishing 7-of-7 for 95 yards with one TD and a perfect 158.3 rating. He has failed to hit 4,000 yards passing in only two of his 11 NFL seasons — 1998, his rookie year, and 2005, when he threw only 14 passes in the final two games and finished with 3,747 yards.

Dan Marino ranks second all-time with six 4,000-yard seasons.

Harrison, the record-setting receiver, achieved another milestone midway through the second quarter. A short pass from Jim Sorgi gave Harrison his seventh reception of the game and 1,102 in his career. It moved him past Cris Carter for second all-time, leaving him behind only Jerry Rice, who holds the league record with 1,549.

Clark also had his moment in the spotlight.

He needed 41 yards to break the record set by Hall of Famer John Mackey in 1966. Clark accomplished that when he turned a short pass into a 23-yard gain on the second play of the second quarter. He left the game with six catches for 59 yards, giving him 848 yards, 19 more than Mackey's previous mark.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Zastudil stands out against Steelers

Tony Grossi's edge for Browns-Steelers

December 29, 2008


Browns conclude the season having not scored an offensive touchdown in six games - 24 quarters plus all but :13 of a 25th quarter. Watching Bruce Gradkowski try to run the offense left you wondering why didn't they put in Richard Bartel. Then again, the fifth quarterback is always the most popular guy in town, no?



Willie McGinest looked like he left everything he had on the field. With a bum knee, Willie Parker has no business beating anybody to the edge, but he did. The Browns did knock Ben Roethlisberger out of the game with a concussion. Little consolation in that.


Special teams

Hats off again to punter Dave Zastudil, who had another unbelievable game kicking with a sprained plant knee. On six punts, he averaged 48 yards gross and 45.3 yards net. Nobody else stood out.



Mike Tomlin might hear about playing Roethlisberger too long, but the Steelers entered the playoffs rusty last year and were ousted at home. It was the offensive line's fault for not protecting their franchise quarterback.

Wolfpack's O'Brien is 'a bowl coach'

Ken Tysiac, Staff Writer

December 28, 2008

Six-game win streak in postseason games comes from preparation, motivation


N.C. State coach Tom O'Brien was 6-1 in bowl games as Boston College's coach and finished his tenure with the Eagles with a six-game bowl winning streak:

Friday, December 26, 2008

Jeff Davidson Is the Straw That Stirs the Panthers Offense

December 25, 2008 - 10:56 PM

Steve Reed

CHARLOTTE - As the Carolina Panthers stumbled toward the finish line last season, there was some debate over the merits of hiring Jeff Davidson as offensive coordinator 11 months earlier.

Well, those days are long gone.

Nobody is complaining about the former Bill Belichick understudy anymore.

Carolina's offense is on a roll like we've never seen before in 14 years, scoring at least 28 points in each of the last six games.

They've never been stronger on the ground, rushing for a franchise record 2,203 yards and 29 touchdowns. With 19 points Sunday against New Orleans, the Panthers will surpass 400 points for the season, something they've only done once before (1999). That's a far cry from the Carolina team that scored more than 28 points only twice all of last season and finished 26th in the league in scoring and 29th in total offense.

The only conclusion is that the problem last year wasn't Davidson, but that rather the fact that he was handcuffed by the fact he didn't have a quarterback to work with after Jake Delhomme went down with an elbow injury in Week 3.

Carolina's offense started well in 2007, but the injury to Delhomme set them back more than anyone can realize and the Panthers were never able to recover while playing musical chairs at quarterback all season.

Consistency at the quarterback position this season, along with some key upgrades at wide receiver (Muhsin Muhammad), running back (Jonathan Stewart), right tackle (Jeff Otah) and right guard (Keydrick Vincent) have the Panthers poised to finish 12-4 and win the NFC South if they can defeat the Saints on Sunday at the Louisiana Superdome.

Delhomme didn't want to get into comparisons between Davidson and the man he replaced, Dan Henning. But he admitted things are much different than they were his previous five seasons in Carolina.

"The quarterback has more on his plate, so to speak, where Dan's we really didn't," Delhomme said. "We have a lot more. We're heavily involved in the run game checks and things like that. But that's what's great about this offense - you try to get us in the right spot and the right situation."

Delhomme said different personnel - most notably a bigger, more physical offensive line - has been a big difference, too.

"I think Jeff is doing a great job," Delhomme said. "It's going well so far. We just need to keep it going."

The star of the offense has clearly been running back DeAngelo Williams, who has already established a team record with 20 touchdowns this season and needs 108 yards to break Stephen Davis' single-season franchise rush-ing record.

Williams attributes his success to getting more comfortable in his second year under Davidson.

"When I got a better understanding of the new concepts it was toward the end of the year because we had the quarterback issue," Williams said. "We had quarterbacks going down so he didn't fully give us the whole offense. We were kind of hindered a little bit.

"We finally got in the groove in the offseason and he gave us the whole playbook. We got the concepts down, got everything down. Our offensive line started gelling together and understood what they were doing up front. When I got a better understanding of the offense, them getting comfortable with me and me getting comfortable with them, we just all pulled it together. We got our run game, our passing game and everything going together."

Williams said he feels like the Panthers are in a zone with their play calling.

"Jeff is doing some great play calling down the stretch," Williams said. "He's getting us into situations where we can be successful. I think we're being more consistent this year than we have the past two years. I think that's the big change that I see, the consistency."

The Panthers have been particularly effective in the red zone, scoring touchdowns on 66.7 percent of their trips inside the opponent's 20-yard line - the best mark in the NFC.

And while the Panthers may be viewed as a "three yards and a cloud of dust" offense, that's not necessarily true.
Williams has six touchdown runs of 30 yards or more, one shy of Jim Brown's single-season record set in 1958.

"He's finishing well," Delhomme said.

Now the Panthers offense hopes to do the same heading into the postseason.

This Is Why Phil Wears the "C"

December 17, 2008

It's all Browns all the time over at Deadspin, who dug up the following quote from Browns Captain Phil Dawson from that we're obliged to share here:

When asked [after Monday night's loss to the Eagles] how it felt to eclipse the franchise record for most field goals in a season, Phil Dawson, kicker of the 4-10 Cleveland Browns, said: 'There's an old saying back in Texas that says, 'You know that white speck on top of chicken poop? It's still chicken poop.''

That's a good saying. We hope that Dawson might have shared it with his teammates as well. Note that Dawson did not say that he was out there having fun, doing his thing, jibber-jabbering and whatnot, even though he broke a rather prestigious franchise record. Too bad that the young Brownies are so much less likely to look up to the kicker than they would to, say, a certain multi-millionaire receiver who wants to convince us that poop is something other than what it is. (God, f*ck that guy.)

Anyway, thanks Phil, for giving us Browns fans something to cheer about for the first time in quite awhile. You're much more than just a white speck to us.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Vrabel labeled a throwback

Seau likens LB to Mecklenburg

By Mike Reis

December 24, 2008

FOXBOROUGH - At 39 years old, the senior presence in the Patriots' locker room, linebacker Junior Seau realizes that some of the things he says fly over the heads of his 21- and 22-year-old teammates.

One recent example came when Seau, lauding the all-around work of Mike Vrabel, compared him with Broncos great Karl Mecklenburg.

"A lot of the kids don't know who that was," Seau chuckled. "But it tickles [Vrabel]."

Mecklenburg played from 1983-94, appeared in six Pro Bowls and three Super Bowls, and was someone Seau admired when he was entering the NFL himself in 1990. Versatility and durability were Mecklenburg trademarks, and Seau sees plenty of that in the 33-year-old Vrabel.

"He's the utilityman. He knows it all," Seau said. "He knows the game of football, and with his smarts and his athleticism, having the combination of that and his experience, it's hard to find a player like that."

Vrabel's versatility has come in handy in recent weeks, as he's found himself working at outside and inside linebacker in practice after a run of injuries that included Pierre Woods (jaw), Tedy Bruschi (knee), and Gary Guyton (ankle).

Mecklenburg has no qualms with the linkage.

"I've followed Mike's career, and I look at it the same way as I did my career - he moved around a lot and has been effective in different roles," said Mecklenburg, who resides in Denver and is a motivational speaker.

"That's unusual because the positions are all different, so you have different footwork, and you have to adjust mentally to all the different assignments you get. It's hard to do, but Mike does it as well as anyone."

Vrabel also continues to lead the defensive huddle, so it's his responsibility to make sure all defenders are operating off the same script.

That has been especially important as the team integrates Seau and Rosevelt Colvin, both of whom were signed earlier this month.

Vrabel, whose third-down stop of a Tim Hightower run on the first series of Sunday's win over the Cardinals helped set a tone for the afternoon, said yesterday that the team is still doing "a lot of things with different people in there now, so guys are getting a lot more comfortable."

Although he's not close to the situation, Mecklenburg isn't surprised that Vrabel - who has played in all 15 games and has been credited by coaches with 60 tackles - has helped keep the Patriots' defense intact. Vrabel's sack totals might be down (he has 4 this season after ringing up 12 1/2 last season), but his value is not.

"As an ex-football player, you tend to look at games the way you used to look at film, and you see what guys are doing wrong more than right, and he doesn't do many things wrong," Mecklenburg said.

"Individually, he's an excellent player and he does it in the teamwork concept. It's nice to see the game played that way."

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

OU's Bob Stoops a finalist for American Heart Association's Paul 'Bear' Bryant College Football Coach of the Year Award


December 16, 2008

HOUSTON, Dec 16, 2008 /PRNewswire-USNewswire via COMTEX/ -- The Paul "Bear" Bryant Awards committee of the American Heart Association selected its Bryant College Football Coach of the Year finalists. The winner will be voted on by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association (NSSA) and named live at an awards dinner benefiting the American Heart Association on Jan. 15, 2009 at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Houston.

The selection committee consists of current and past event chairmen, Bryant family representatives, NSSA representatives, college football sports analysts and former collegiate players and coaches. The Bryant College Football Coach of the Year is the only college coaching award given after all the bowl games have finished.

Also during the January event, Oklahoma legend and Super Bowl Champion, Coach Barry Switzer, will receive the Bryant Lifetime Achievement Award. The award recognizes excellence in coaching on and off the field during a career, allowing recipients to take their place in history alongside legends such as Bryant. Recent Lifetime Achievement recipients include Tom Osborne, Glenn "Bo" Schembechler, Jack Pardee and Lou Holtz.

The 2008 Paul Bear Bryant College Football Coach of the Year Finalists, in alphabetical order: Mack Brown, University of Texas; Turner Gill, University at Buffalo; Mike Leach, Texas Tech University; Houston Nutt, University of Mississippi; Chris Petersen, Boise State University; Nick Saban, University of Alabama; Bob Stoops, University of Oklahomaand Kyle Whittingham, University of Utah…

…Bob Stoops, University of Oklahoma - Stoops has become the first coach in Big 12 history to win three consecutive conference titles. Under his direction, Oklahoma has captured six Big 12 titles in nine years and the 42nd conference championship in Sooner history. In his 10th year with the Sooners, Stoops has led his team to a 12-1 overall record and a 7-1 record in the Big 12 Conference. With the No. 1 BCS ranking, Oklahoma will now have the chance to win another national title on Jan. 8.

Panthers' Offensive Coordinator Jeff Davidson doing a "fantastic job"

December 15, 2008

By Andrew Mason

Comments from head coach John Fox at his weekly press conference one day after the Panthers' 30-10 win over the Denver Broncos:

On how running back DeAngelo Williams has improved from last season: Like any growing process, it's been all around I think. Physically, I thought he worked very hard. This is a grueling season. I think it takes awhile to adjust to. Some people make if faster than others; some people never get it. But physically I thought he really, really worked hard in every area from endurance to speed training to strength. Then, we had a first-year offensive coordinator last year. He was a young player and the whole system was new to him as it was to our whole offense. I think Jeff Davidson has done a fantastic job. Like any system, it takes a while to get used to. Whatever business you're in, that first year is usually the toughest. So it usually gets better and more comfortable after that. A lot of that -- mentally, maturation, there are all kinds of words -- but he got better only through hard work, and it's a tribute to his work ethic.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Dawson sets Browns' franchise record for field goals in a season

December 16, 2008

By Mary Kay Cabot

Dawson record:

Phil Dawson's 27-yard field goal in the first quarter gave him a franchise-record 30 for the season. He topped the mark of 29 set by Matt Stover in 1995.

Oklahoma's Wilson captures 2008 Broyles Award


December 9, 2008

Little Rock, Ark. — The Oklahoma Sooners have the best offense in the nation. Now, they can boast of the top assistant coach, as well. Oklahoma offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson was presented the 13th Annual Frank Broyles Award by officials from The Rotary Club of Little Rock during a luncheon at the Doubletree Hotel on Tuesday. The award is given annually to the nation’s top NCAA assistant football coach.

Other finalists include Florida associate head coach, defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Charlie Strong, who will get another crack at besting Wilson in the National Championship Game; former Utah assistant head coach, defensive coordinator and defensive line coach Gary Andersen, who was recently named head coach at Utah State; TCU defensive coordinator and defensive line coach Dick Bumpas; and Ball State offensive coordinator Stan Parrish.

Wilson’s offense is coming off one the greatest five-game stretches in NCAA history, and is the highest-scoring team in NCAA history. Oklahoma’s 62-21 victory over Missouri in the Big 12 Championship Game last Saturday was the fifth consecutive game that the Sooners have gone over 60 points, a feat last accomplished 89 years ago. Oklahoma finished the season with 702 total points scored, the first team in the NCAA to score more than 700 for a season in the modern era.

More important, Oklahoma is one victory away a national championship. With the nation’s highest-scoring offense and a quarterback, Sam Bradford, who is a clear finalist for the Heisman trophy, is there any need to make a further case for why Wilson was again a finalist for the Broyles Award?

Wilson, who was a finalist in 2000 as a member of the Northwestern staff, has directed what may end up being the most explosive and prolific offense in the storied history of the Sooners’ program. Oklahoma, which is 12-1 and will play Florida in the National Championship game, leads the nation in scoring offense, averaging 54 points per game. The Sooners have scored at least 61 points in each of their past five games, including victories over Texas Tech and Oklahoma State, both ranked in the top 10 at the time.

“Kevin has done a remarkable job of building an offense with great balance and diversity,” Stoops said. “Not only has he schemed us in a way that makes our team difficult to defend, but he has developed players at several positions who are now excelling for us. I can’t say enough about his work here; he has been a tremendous asset.”

No one has excelled more than Bradford, who averages 343 passing yards per game, has thrown 48 touchdowns to six interceptions and leads the nation with a 186 quarterback rating. But this isn’t just a passing offense. The Sooners two feature backs, and Chris Brown and DeMarco Murray, average 85 and 77 rushing yards per game, respectively. Four times this season both Murray and Brown each went over 100 yards rushing.

Perhaps most impressive is the number of players that have found success in Wilson’s schemes. In four games this season, six different Sooner players have scored a touchdown.

Most everyone that follows college football knew Oklahoma’s offense was talented before the Sooners late-season assault on opponents’ end zones. But the past three games have ratcheted the nation’s respect for Wilson’s offensive squad into the stratosphere.

On Nov. 22, against Texas Tech, then the hottest team and No. 2 in the nation, Oklahoma piled up 625 yards of total offense and scored on 10 of 13 possessions in a game that was never close. Then, the next week, playing then-No. 7 Oklahoma State and needing an impressive performance to move up in the BCS standings, the Sooners had 557 yards of offense in another dominating offensive performance. From the second quarter on, Oklahoma had eight possessions. It scored seven touchdowns and a field goal.

Before the game, Oklahoma was ranked below Texas in the BCS standing. Bradford, who passed for 370 yards and four touchdowns, and ran for another, against Oklahoma State, said it was Wilson that provided the inspiration the team needed.

“We did a great job responding," Bradford said. “Coach Wilson challenged us before the game that when things aren’t going good, great teams fight back.”

In the Big 12 Championship game last Saturday the Tigers had little chance against the Oklahoma juggernaut. The Sooners filed up 627 yards of total offense, and set the seaon scoring record with 3:33 left in the game.

Wilson himself offered a frightening scenario to Florida—he thinks his offense can get even better.

“Really strong teams play well at the end,” Wilson said. “We’ve been trying to emphasize to our guys for weeks that as well as we’ve been playing, we still think our best ball’s in front of us.”

About the Broyles Award

There are few coaches whose efforts have forever impacted the game of college football. Bear Bryant, Knute Rockne, Frank Leahy and Eddie Robinson have set the standard for victories and championships on the gridiron. However, when it comes to selecting, developing and producing great assistant coaches, the legacy of Frank Broyles stands alone.

Former Broyles assistant coaches who have become head coaches have gone on to coach in 20 percent of all Super Bowls and win almost 15 percent of all Super Bowl titles plus five national collegiate championships, more than 40 conference titles and more than 2,000 games. More than 25 Broyles assistants went on to become head coaches at the college or professional level, including Joe Gibbs, Hayden Fry, Raymond Berry, Jimmy Johnson, Johnny Majors, Jackie Sherrill and Barry Switzer (full list below).

In 1996, the Broyles Award was established to recognize the dedicated, hard-working assistants like those who worked for Broyles, and to date, 59 finalists and 11 winners have been honored. Like many of Broyles’ assistants who went on to do great things, numerous coaches recognized by the Broyles Award have since remained in the spotlight, with 25% of finalists and winners going on to become head coaches, including four of the six finalists from 2004.

The Broyles Award is a member of the National College Football Awards Association. The NCFAA was founded in 1997 as a coalition of major collegiate football awards. The purpose of the NCFAA is to protect, preserve and enhance the integrity, influence and prestige of college football’s various awards. The NCFAA also encourages professionalism and the highest standards possible for the administration of college football awards and the selection of their winners.

Phil Dawson’s Great Season Just Business As Usual

By Steve Dimatteo

December 14, 2008

Simply put, Phil Dawson is the man. Last year, I purchased a Braylon Edwards jersey because he is a playmaker (or was), and I figured he would be the guy to wear because he was about to be a Pro Bowler and would most certainly be with the team for some time. Yet I somehow forgot to mention the workhorse, the only guy still with the team since the 1999 expansion, and the only guy scoring points for the Browns in the last three games.

Sure, the Plain Dealer ran a good piece about him as a potential Pro Bowler this season (Lord knows he deserves it), but his contribution to the team goes well beyond just one good year. He has had to endure each God-forsaken season with every inept offense. I would imagine that it is hardly any respite that he had one 10-6 season and a blip of a playoff appearance.

I just want to take this space to thank Dawson for putting up with everything since 1999. No matter what, he continues to go out each and every week and deliver. We all know that kickers never the attention they deserve; if we aren’t hearing from them, it just means they are doing their job. However, Dawson has been the symbol of the Browns organization for years and he embodies everything this hapless group could ever hope to be. He remains consistently professional and it just isn’t recognized nearly enough.

I did buy a Braylon Edwards jersey. If I want to call myself a real Browns fan, I need to do the right thing and scour the internet for Dawson’s. After all, since 1999, who could possibly compare?

Clark raises the bar

By Mike Chappell

December 14, 2008

He sets game, season receiving records for a Colts TE

The Detroit Lions got Dallas Clark's attention in the first quarter, then the Indianapolis Colts veteran tight end spent the rest of Sunday afternoon extracting some serious payback.

The best game of his career and one of the best by a tight end in Colts history included 12 receptions, 142 yards and one touchdown. All were instrumental in Indy sidestepping an upset bid by Detroit and stretching its winning streak to seven games with a 31-21 victory.

The banner day began with a bang.

Clark's first reception was a 4-yarder. He ran an underneath crossing route, and ran smack dab into linebacker Ryan Nece, who wrapped him up and planted him into the turf.

"I was happy I was able to hold onto the ball,'' Clark said. "Those are good ones. That's all you can tell those guys -- 'Nice shot' -- and just try to find your mouthpiece and go back to work.''

Which he did.

Detroit relied heavily on its cover-2 defense, keeping safeties Daniel Bullocks and Kalvin Pearson deep to limit quarterback Peyton Manning's deep opportunities to Reggie Wayne and Marvin Harrison.

"The tight end has the chance to work some of the holes in there against cover-2,'' coach Tony Dungy said. "We see (the cover-2) a lot in practice. Our guys know how to work against it and Dallas did a good job.

"That's what they gave us today and we did a good job of taking it.''

Clark's 12 receptions were a personal high, two shy of tying Harrison's single-game club record. It was the first time a Colts tight end caught at least 10 passes in a game. His 63 catches on the season break his own club record for a tight end, set last season when he had 58. Clark's 142 yards also were a personal best and upped his season output to 684, eclipsing his career high of 616 set last season.

There was nothing beforehand to indicate Clark would emerge as an offensive focal point.

"It's not really like that,'' Manning said.

Any one of his options, he added, can generate big numbers, depending upon how the defense reacts. It might be Wayne, who finished with seven catches for 104 yards; Harrison, who moved into the No. 3 slot in NFL history with 1,095 receptions; Anthony Gonzalez or one of the running backs.

Or Clark.

Everybody's eligible, and on alert.

"We have no token routes,'' Manning said. "Every player on every pass play is a live option because the ball could come to them. That's why everybody runs full-speed routes and puts a lot of pressure on the defense.

"They were kind of mixing some zone and some man (coverage) and Dallas did a great job versus zone -- catching the ball, getting yards after the catch. And a couple of times they did play man, he did a good job of beating man coverage.''

Two of Clark's receptions -- the longest and the shortest -- earned Manning's postgame praise.

Clark gave the Colts a 21-10 lead late in the second quarter by finding a soft spot in the Lions defense in the back of the end zone for a 3-yard touchdown. He had four catches for 57 yards on the eight-play, 78-yard drive.

"That touchdown was outstanding, getting his feet inbounds,'' Manning said.

Late in the fourth quarter, Clark helped position the Colts for Adam Vinatieri's 31-yard field goal with a 31-yard reception to the Detroit 31. He beat coverage by Pearson.

"Great catch on that last series, kind of a back-shoulder seam throw,'' Manning said.

And just think, no one really saw it coming.

"Every game kind of has its own personality,'' Clark said. "Especially with the weapons that we have, you never know what defenses are going to do, who they're going to try to stop.

"You could tell that the focus was on Marvin and Reg. I'm just glad I was able to step up like that and make some catches.''

Monday, December 15, 2008

Cleveland Browns' kicker Phil Dawson has put up numbers worthy of a Pro Bowl nod

December 13, 2008

By Mary Kay Cabot

Browns special teams coach Ted Daisher thinks kicker Phil Dawson is deserving of his first Pro Bowl this season, especially considering the adverse conditions he kicks in every week.

"If you took into account his whole body of work, he would [make the Pro Bowl]," said Daisher. "It didn't hurt to kick five field goals on a Monday night [in Buffalo], including the 56-yarder. He'd get my vote, but unfortunately we can't vote for our own guy."

Pro Bowl teams will be announced Tuesday.

"That would mean a tremendous amount," said Dawson. "It's been a goal of mine for a long time. There's been a couple of years sprinkled in my career where I thought I might have a chance and obviously haven't made it. Given how much respect I have for the other kickers in the AFC, if it happens it would mean a great deal."

Dawson has made 29 of 34 field goals this season, including 3 of 5 from 50-plus yards. His 29 field goals tied Matt Stover's team mark set in 1995.

"Obviously, with three games left we'd like to think he'll break that record," said Daisher. "I think that Phil is one of the best kickers in the NFL. I really do. He kicks in an environment that is challenging to kickers. Adam Vinatieri, was here a couple of weeks ago with Indianapolis, he may be in the Hall of Fame someday. He is maybe the best pressure kicker in the last 10-15 years. He missed a field goal that was two sections over from the goal post. It missed by 20-30 yards. With the combination of the wind and just being in this area of the country and playing on grass, it makes it very difficult to be a kicker.

"You look at Buffalo, New England, the Jets and Giants, they have turf. That's the firm footing that those guys get that we don't get week in and week out. Phil is under some adverse conditions. I think he's done a great job, I really do. He has missed two of the 50-yarders but other than that I think he has had a terrific year. I think he is one of the top two kickers in the NFL, along with Pittsburgh's Jeff Reed."

Dawson, third on the Browns' all-time scoring list behind Lou Groza and Don Cockroft, needs seven points to reach 900 for his career.

"I think that his numbers put him right up there [for the Pro Bowl]," said coach Romeo Crennel. "Unfortunately, if your team is not winning, that kind of knocks you down a little bit. I think that all plays into it, but he's having a really good year."

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Osborne lauds Pelini's work in first season

Associated Press

December 7, 2008

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - Tom Osborne isn't assessing Bo Pelini's performance on wins and losses - though the Nebraska athletic director says 8-4 was a "very good" first season for the Cornhuskers' coach.

To Osborne, the most important thing Pelini did in 2008 was change the culture
after a malaise set in during Bill Callahan's four years.

Osborne said Sunday that he was looking for better effort, a better attitude and a higher level of confidence. He says Pelini delivered on all counts.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Dawson hopes to kick down Pro Bowl door

December 5, 2008

By Tom Withers

BEREA - Phil Dawson hasn't been to Hawaii since his honeymoon. He'd like to take his wife back in February to celebrate their 10th wedding anniversary.

And maybe play in his first Pro Bowl.

"It could be two trips in one," Dawson said with a smile Thursday as he laced up his spikes before practice. "I could even play it off as, "Honey, I'm taking you back to where it all started, and if you don't mind, I'm going to kick a few balls while we're here.'"

Shannon Dawson wouldn't mind mixing some sun and fun with football.

Overlooked for years, Dawson may deserve a Pro Bowl spot.

Cleveland's rock-steady kicker has been one of the few bright spots this season for the dismal Browns (4-8), who have failed to live up to high expectations. But while his teammates commit penalties, drop passes and miss tackles, Dawson, as always, has been dependable, exact and consistent.

Just like his kicks.

The lone player left from the Browns' 1999 expansion team, Dawson has converted 26 of 30 field-goal attempts and made three of the longest kicks of his 10-year career, including a game-winning 56-yarder to beat Buffalo on Nov. 17. Dawson recently made 13 straight field goals - three over 50 yards - and his next make will match his career high (27) for a season.

Only Lou Groza and Don Cockroft have scored more career points for Cleveland than Dawson, who also scored the first rushing touchdown for the new Browns on a fake field goal in 1999.

However, one thing has remains out of Dawson's range: a Pro Bowl.

"It's a career goal of mine," Dawson said. "Sometimes you wonder if people notice what you do. Unfortunately, I've been on a losing team eight of the last 10 years. There's been probably about three seasons sprinkled in there where I thought I had a chance. Not to take anything from the guys who were named because the AFC is loaded with great kickers, but I feel pretty good about what I've been able to do in the conditions I find myself in."

Ah, the conditions.

In Cleveland's lakefront stadium, the weather in November and December can be unbearable and unpredictable. With swirling, gusting winds, lake-effect snow, freezing temperatures, rain, ice and sleet, it's no place for a picnic.

No, it's not San Diego and it's not under an inflatable roof, which is why Dawson's precision - he's currently the league's seventh most accurate kicker of all-time at 83.2 percent - is so impressive. Dawson has to kick on a natural, grass surface as temperamental as the weather. Even on dry days, Cleveland's turf can be unforgiving.

"For Phil to have the career he has had here is unbelievable," said long snapper Ryan Pontbriand, a Pro Bowler last season. "I'd rank him above just about everybody because of where he has played and what he has done."

Week after week, visiting kickers and punters express their disbelief to Dawson and Browns punter Dave Zastudil about the challenge of doing their jobs well in Cleveland. In last week's 16-6 loss to Indianapolis, Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri missed a 46-yarder and later told Dawson he can't imagine kicking here all the time.

"When Adam, who has made game-winning kicks in the Super Bowl, tells me how difficult it is to kick in Cleveland and how glad he is that he doesn't have to kick here, that means a lot," Dawson said.

Never one to make excuses, Dawson was wide right with a 34-yard kick last week that he said looked perfect as it came off his right foot.

"I did everything exactly how I wanted to, and the ball didn't go in the air the way I thought it would," he said. "That's why I say I'm close to going insane because as hard as I work and as prepared as I am, when you kick in Cleveland you are going to have kicks that don't go through that should.

"That's just the way it is. It's a different ballgame when you kick here."

Players and coaches will vote on the Pro Bowl teams next week, and Dawson figures to get strong consideration from his peers. But in the subjective and often skewed fan voting, Dawson doesn't get the recognition he's due. Partly because he plays on a losing team, Dawson isn't perceived to be in the same class as Vinatieri or Tennessee's Rob Bironas, a Pro Bowler last season who missed his only field goal try in a 2005 game at Cleveland.

"It was probably one of the second-windiest or third-windiest games I've ever kicked in," Bironas said.

In the most recent Pro Bowl fan balloting, Dawson isn't among the leaders (the league only releases the Top 5 vote-getters) and will need overwhelming support from coaches and players to win.

"I think this is another one of those years where I've got a shot," Dawson said. "But there's a lot of good guys out there having good years."

Dawson can help his chances with a strong game against the Titans (11-1) on Sunday. He'll have family members on hand, including his 5-year-old son, Beau, who'll be seeing his first NFL game. Last year, his oldest son, Dru, came to his first game in Baltimore and Dawson kicked a 51-yarder on the final play of regulation, a boot that caromed off the goal post's neck and over the crossbar.

"Hey," Dawson said, raising his eyebrows. "Let's see what happens this time."

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Al Johnson has brains, experience to step in

By Edgar Thompson

December 6, 2008

As a rookie last season, center Samson Satele started 16 games and was one of the few bright spots during a 1-15 season.

But Satele hasn’t been quite as impressive as a second-year player and could find himself fighting for a job he’s held ever since he arrived in South Florida.

Recently acquired center Al Johnson not only is going to push Satele, Johnson could unseat him.

Signed recently off waivers as he’s recovered from two knee surgeries, Johnson played four seasons under Tony Sparano and Bill Parcells. This week, Sparano called Johnson, “the smartest lineman I’ve ever coached.”

Told of Sparano’s comments, Johnson said, “I’m glad he thinks that highly of me in the past. I just hope I can stay that way; that’s the biggest thing.”

Like Satele, Johnson is a former second-round pick (in 2003 out of Wisconsin) who had a quick rise, starting 31 games in 2004-05 for Parcells’ Cowboys.

Signed by the Cardinals last season, Johnson said he suffered a knee injury that he said was misdiagnosed and eventually needed two surgeries. He finally began to feel close to 100 percent around Thanksgiving and his agent, Neil Cornrich, contacted the Dolphins.

“This was by far the best situation I could ask for,” Johnson said. “Everything fits. I just have to knock a little bit of the rust off.”

Joining a team in the midst a playoff race, Johnson knows “90 percent” of the offense and a number of ex-Cowboys. He also knows several members of the coaching staff and front office, including Parcells.

He said he’s noticed a change in his former head coach, who’s now Miami’s head of football operations.

“He’s a lot different now than he was when he was a head coach,” Johnson said. “He doesn’t seem like he has so many things on his mind … a little bit more mellow.”

Sparano said this week was like training camp for Johnson, who wasn’t in game shape. Once he is, coaches could give him some snaps at center, which could free Satele to play guard - a position in search of answers because of last Sunday’s season-ending injury to Justin Smiley.

Second-year pro Andy Alleman will start in place of Smiley at left guard Sunday, but if he struggles Johnson would offer Sparano some flexibility with Satele, who played some guard in college.

At 6-foot-5, 305 pounds, Johnson is a little bigger than Satele, who is 6-foot-3, 300 and relies more on quickness than power.

Satele, who turned 24 Nov. 29, is expected to make his 29th consecutive start this weekend. But he realizes Johnson will be challenging him.

“He’s going to be pushing me and I’m going to watching him … closely,” Satele said. “I’m going to learn a lot from him. He doesn’t know it, but I’m going to be watching a lot of film of him.”

Johnson, a six-year veteran and 45 NFL starts, said he’s impressed with Satele, but also sees some bad habits he has to fight himself.

“He’s a good young player. Plays hard,” Johnson said. “He’s been in this offense. But I think sometimes all young players, including myself, get into a lull once in while.”

Monday, December 08, 2008

Shannon restoring 'The U' to glory days

By Andrew Miller

November 20, 2008

When Miami coach Randy Shannon was in December of 2006, he was supposed to bring "The U" back to its glory days.

The longtime defensive coordinator and Miami native was a popular choice among the current Hurricane players.

But last year's 5-7 mark, including an embarrassing 48-0 loss to Virginia in the final game at the Orange Bowl, had some Hurricane fans wondering if the 41-year-old was the right choice.

Well, this year Shannon has silenced his critics. The Hurricanes are 7-3 and 4-2 in the league with an excellent chance to make it to the ACC Championship game on Dec. 6 in Tampa, Fla.

And Shannon has done it with underclassmen, especially a freshman class that was ranked fifth nationally by last February.

The Hurricanes, who entered the AP Top 25 poll this week for the first time in two years, have 11 freshmen on their two-deep roster, and those first- and second-year players have accounted for 80 percent of the Hurricanes' all-purpose offense (3,355 of 4,180 yards).

The freshmen have accounted for 100 percent of team's 1,812 passing yards. Twenty-five of the 33 touchdowns scored by the Hurricanes this season have been scored by either freshmen or sophomores.

The news gets worse for the ACC as the Hurricanes currently have the ninth-ranked recruiting class in 2009, according to

Oh yeah, the Hurricanes also lead the nation in number of players with undergraduate degrees with 13. For the record, Clemson has eight.

Al Johnson the "smartest lineman" Sparano ever coached


December 4, 2008

DAVIE — Whenever rookie left tackle Jake Long had a question on game days, he knew he could turn to veteran left guard Justin Smiley.

"Justin is a guy who could un-muddy the water for him a little bit," Dolphins coach Tony Sparano said Thursday. "He had the ability during games, when things are happening fast, to help Jake slow it down a little bit.

"Now, Jake has to be able to do that. I think he can."

The entire offensive line will face more pressure with Smiley out for the season with a broken right leg, an injury sustained Sunday against St. Louis. This Sunday against Buffalo, second-year guard Andy Alleman will make his first NFL start.

Smiley had made 61.

"That's what this league is about, getting in there when you get your opportunity and proving you can play and belong," Alleman said. "I just want to make sure there's no drop-off there."

The Dolphins faced a similar challenge when starting right guard Donald Thomas broke his right foot in the opener against the New York Jets.

But Thomas was a rookie sixth-round pick, not a high-priced free agent like Smiley, and Miami coaches have tinkered at right guard since Week 2.

Ikechuku Ndukwe replaced Thomas but has shared snaps with other linemen, including Alleman.

"Andy has been playing; that's a good thing," said right tackle Vernon Carey, who is second to Smiley among Miami's offensive linemen with 60 starts. "The thing is he has to get in synch with left tackle and be on the same page."

Integrating a new left guard in the middle of a playoff race will be a challenge for a unit that depends on communication and continuity. That much was clear against the Rams.

Miami's O-line committed five penalties for 40 yards, including a false start by Alleman and a holding call on Ndukwe. The latter negated a touchdown run by Ricky Williams.

"It was one of those games where each of us took our turns with mistakes," center Samson Satele said. "That can't happen. If we do that against Buffalo, everything goes downhill."

Sparano said he expects the Bills, 6-6 and desperate for a win against 7-5 Miami, to try to exploit Alleman and the middle of the inexperienced line.

"I would expect they would try a few more line stunts," Sparano said. "They like to walk people up a little bit, confuse you a little. I would expect they would try to expose him and just see exactly what he knows and how he responds."

Alleman, who played college ball at Akron, was a third-round pick by New Orleans last year. The Saints cut him Sept. 2, and the Dolphins signed him.

Sparano has been impressed by Alleman's growing confidence since his first significant action a month ago - 33 snaps during a 21-19 win against Seattle.

Sunday, Alleman stepped in for Smiley in the first half and again pleased Sparano, a longtime offensive-line coach before joining the Dolphins.

"The guy just was flying all over the place," Sparano said. "That's a good sign when a guy walks into a game like that in that kind of situation and he plays that fast."

If Alleman slows down or the line hits another snag, Sparano has options.

Brandon Frye, a second-year pro out Virginia Tech, has appeared in the past three games and is the first backup option at guard. But the wild card could be Al Johnson, a six-year veteran signed by Miami from Dallas last week.

Johnson, 29, has made 45 starts, including 31 at center for the 2004-05 Cowboys. He also plays guard. But he is coming off a severe knee injury and hasn't played in '08.

"He's the smartest lineman I ever coached," said Sparano, who was with Dallas before taking over the Dolphins. "But physically would be the issue."

With one month to go and the playoffs in sight, there are many questions facing the line. Satele said effort wouldn't be one of them.

"We couldn't wait to get out there as an O-line group," he said Wednesday when practice resumed. "Vernon talked to us and wanted us to fire out, step it up a little because we had a bad game."

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Osborne pleased with Pelini's first year at NU

By Mitch Sherman

November 30, 2008

Tom Osborne stopped short of proclaiming surprise with Nebraska's level of success this season under Bo Pelini.

After all, it was Osborne's decision to hire the guy.

But the progress of the Huskers during an 8-4 regular season left Osborne with a good feeling about his first-year coach.

"That's one thing you're always looking for," Osborne said. "Which way are you going? Most teams are either getting better or they're tailing off. I think, obviously, we have improved. The chemistry on the team among coaches and between coaches and players is good. The players have enjoyed playing football this year.

"I feel good about it. A lot of good things happened this year."

Osborne, the former coach on the job as athletic director for 13 months, said Friday after Nebraska rallied to beat Colorado 40-31 that he saw growth in the Huskers and Pelini.

"I think Bo has really transitioned well from a defensive coordinator to a head coach," Osborne said. "There are added responsibilities. I've been very pleased with the way he's handled the team, discipline matters."

Notably, Osborne said, Pelini's demeanor on the sideline improved. The 40-year-old coach faced scrutiny early in the year after drawing a costly unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty late in a Nebraska loss to Virginia Tech.

Then on Nov. 1 at Oklahoma, television cameras caught him often losing his temper during another NU defeat.

Osborne and Pelini discussed the matter early this month. The coach has toned it down of late, even Friday in an emotional game featuring busted plays that led to three Colorado touchdowns.

Pelini blamed himself for the botched field-goal fake that allowed CU to score on a 58-yard return to tie the game at halftime.

"Bo is a really smart guy. He's very intelligent," Osborne said. "There isn't very much I've told Bo or suggested to him that he didn't already know. We talked from time to time, but I don't tell him how to coach. I don't micromanage anything.

"I've just been really pleased with his progress and development as a head coach. I think he's done a great job this year."

As for the team's progress, Osborne said he looked for improvement on defense after a 5-7 finish last year that cost Bill Callahan his coaching job.

"You look at where we ranked in total defense," Osborne said, "and that obviously had to change. I thought that one of the main attractions of Bo was that we knew we were going to face a lot of great offenses this year."

Nebraska ranked last in the Big 12 and 112th nationally a year ago in total defense, surrendering 476.8 yards per game. It has allowed 361.5 this season to rank third in the Big 12 through Friday and second in conference games at 364.9.

NU allows 29.2 points per game, a drop of 8.7 from last year, and 3.9 yards per rush after foes averaged 5.2 in 2007.

Some numbers don't show improvement: Nebraska opponents averaged 8.1 yards per pass attempt and 13.8 per completion this season, up from 7.2 and 12.4 last year.

The biggest difference one year can make on defense? It had to do with the NU offense. The Huskers lead the nation in time of possession, holding the ball for 34 minutes per game. That's the best figure nationally in at least the past four years -- TOP data before 2005 was not immediately available.

In Big 12 games, it's an astounding 36:27 average after another dominant clock performance Friday.

As a result, NU opponents this year ran 201 fewer plays through 12 games than last season.

"Definitely, the offense has helped out the defense this year," Osborne said. "We've become more of a complete football team."

Osborne praised the work of offensive coordinator Shawn Watson, among two assistants on Callahan's staff retained by Pelini.

"I think Shawn made some very good moves this year," said Osborne, himself a former longtime play-caller. "He obviously has put more emphasis on the running game. He's added some option football. He's added some zone-read with the quarterback having the ability to keep the ball. And he's done very well with the passing game, too.

"We've done very well on offense and become pretty hard to stop."

Keeping Watson, according to Osborne, remains a priority. The 49-year-old assistant drew interest from Alabama after last season and figures to attract attention again soon.

In addition, receivers coach Ted Gilmore is believed to be a candidate for the head coaching job at Wyoming.

"You always like to keep your coaching staff intact," Osborne said. "But you also realize the fact that if people get an opportunity, that's good for them. You wish them well, and you help them. We'll see what happens."

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Stoops honored by Big 12 coaches

By John Shinn

December 3, 2008

— Oklahoma brought home a load of awards on the coaches’ All-Big 12 team announced Tuesday. Coach Bob Stoops was named co-coach of the year with Texas Tech’s Mike Leach. Quarterback Sam Bradford was named the offensive player of the year. Center Jon Cooper took home the offensive lineman of the year award and linebacker Travis Lewis was tabbed the defensive newcomer of the year.

The Sooners had eight selections on the first team with six coming on the offensive side. Bradford, running back DeMarco Murray, fullback Matt Clapp, tight end Jermaine Gresham, and offensive linemen Phil Loadholt, Duke Robinson and Trent Williams were all named to the first team.

Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and safety Nic Harris were first-team selections on the defensive side.

Wide receiver Juaquin Iglesias, Cooper, defensive end Jeremy Beal, Lewis, safety Lendy Holmes and cornerback Dominique Franks were all named to the second team.

Running back Chris Brown, linebacker Keenan Clayton and offensive lineman Brandon Walker received honorable mention.

The Sooners’ entire starting offensive line was recognized in some capacity.

Bradford’s selection as offensive player of the year marked the fourth time an OU player has received the honor. Former quarterbacks Jason White (2003 and 2004) and Josh Heupel (2000) previously won the award. OU is now tied with Texas for the most offensive player of the year winners in conference history.

Stoops, who took home coach of the year honors in 2000, 2003 and 2006, has been honored by the league’s coaches four times.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Ted Ginn Sr.: Having the Courage to be Different

(CBS) Time for a break from all the bad economic news. Instead … The Good News, stories to be thankful for, featuring an American who made his community better against the odds. Correspondent Armen Keteyian takes us to Ohio:

November 30, 2008

Ted Ginn Sr. just might be the most unlikely head of a high school in the country.

A local football coach, he never went to college and doesn't have any teaching or administrative credentials. Yet the school he conceived and runs, the Ginn Academy, is one of the most successful public schools in Cleveland.

"I did so many things different," Ginn said. "I did what other people didn't do. You know what I'm saying?"

"They're going right …" Keteyian said.

"And I'm going left. Because if you're going right and it's not working, you gotta do something different."

So the boys-only Ginn Academy targets at-risk teens, because Ginn says he knows how to reach them.

"You have to teach a kid to dream and not just to dream, you can dream big."

But there's a lot of people that talk about dreams. There are very few who create their own academy with 200 at-risk boys walking the halls, going to class.

How was he able to convince people that his way was the right way?

"I'm not talking about it. I'm being about it. I'm doing it everyday."

He says he needs sweatpants and a whistle, because he runs his school - now in its second year - the way he runs his football teams.

For example, the kids wear uniforms - red coats, with different kinds of ties for different grades.

"You know, when you step on the field you dress, you got a uniform," Ginn said. "And I got the red jackets because you have to be tough to wear a red jacket everyday. They gonna laugh at you. But if you believe in why you wearing that jacket, you know, whatever they say don't matter, you know?

"You gotta have courage to be different."

The students agreed. "When you dress up in the morning, you have a different look, you have a different walk in your step," one boy said.

"It makes us feel better inside like we get more pride," another said.

But Ginn says, a big part of standing out is standing together as so-called Ginn men, living the words recited at the beginning and end of every day:

"We will stay patient, poised, and seize every opportunity for success."

"That's not language you hear a lot in the inner city, Ted," Keteyian said.

"That's right."

Ted Ginn Sr. has been changing the language of the inner city for nearly 30 years, as a coach at nearby Glenville High School.

A machinist by trade, Ginn was working as a school security guard and volunteer assistant coach at Glenville for 10 years when the head coach job opened up.

Without a college degree, Ginn didn't meet the requirements for the job. But he believed he could make a difference and he wouldn't stop until everyone else did, too. He got the job and soon was winning one state title after another.

His "sons," as he calls them, went on to receive more than a million dollars in college scholarships. Among them: Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith, and Ginn's actual son, Ted Ginn Jr, a rising star with the Miami Dolphins.

And that led Ginn Sr to lobby the city board of education with an idea that, at first, sounded outrageous: To start an academy. And how did he get from football coach to head of school?

"Dr. Sanders," Ginn laughed.

"He has the unique capacity to be a teacher, a leader of men and women, and I felt very strongly that he just possessed this wonderful talent to work with young people," said Eugene Sanders, CEO of the Cleveland Metropolitan School District.

"I think there are a lot of correlations between what we learn as an athlete to life and particularly to school. And I think the results speak for themselves," Sanders said.

Indeed, they do. While about 69% of 10th graders in Cleveland's public high schools are on or above grade level on standardized reading tests, the red coats average nearly 82%.

What does that mean to Ginn?

"That means everything, because that's what it is - that's what you are gauged by. You're going to be judged by the tests," he said. "They want to compete, you know? They don't wanna be shamed."

The Academy's first class will graduate next year. Ginn sees every student as a representative of himself and his academy - and that means sending each one to college and into the world as a man … a Ginn man.

"I wanna be the best, the greatest," he said. "We got the greatest kids in the world. We're not even near where we need to be, you know? The best."

The Ginn Academy Creed

Our mission is to become exemplary students who will reach our full potential and beyond.

We will recognize our genius and realize our self-worth.

We will stay patient and poised to seize every opportunity for success.

We are guided by scholarship, leadership and service to all mankind.

The Ginn Academy will cultivate us to become global leaders of the century.

Phil Dawson: Kudos to the Cleveland Browns' Kicker

By Nate Powers

November 27, 2008

Phil Dawson is the full package when it comes to not just kickers, but professionals too. He has been an ultimate professional since arriving with the 1999 expansion Browns.

His on-the-field record makes him perhaps the greatest kicker in team history, and his approach makes anyone want to imitate him as a professional and a man.

Since becoming a pro in 1999, his field-goal percentage is 83.6 percent, which ranks him first on the Browns all time and fourth all-time in NFL history.

He made his 200th kick earlier this year (He now has 206), and he is the only player in Browns history to make a 50-yard field goal in three consecutive games.

He is the only player to score 100 points in four consecutive seasons, and with 96 points this year, he seems to be on his way to five. He is ranked third all-time in points on the team with 872.

With his field goal at the end of the Monday Night game at Buffalo, he recorded his 11th career game winner. Romeo Crennel didn't even flinch when he sent Dawson out to kick.

The low point in his career came two years ago, when he missed a 26-yard kick in a home game against the Jets, and boos echoed through the stadium.

What nobody knows is that he spent the entire night at the Cleveland Clinic, to be with his daughter who was being treated for a staph infection she didn't have.

This happened after his daughter stopped breathing at home and she was rushed to the hospital. His daughter was born that summer.

The missed field goal followed and so did the news that the staph infection was wrongly diagnosed, and her blood sample was misplaced. She returned home after three days and is as healthy as his other two children.

After the season, a rumor spread that the Browns were interested in Olindo Mare, even though Dawson was more productive in cold weather.

Believed to be on a short leash, Dawson delivered with one of his best seasons if not his best. He won a game in Baltimore and with the help of "the Dawson bar," and also setting a career high in points with 120 (second best in team history).

Who can forget kicking the 49-yard field goal against Buffalo, which also hit the Dawson bar. The kick might have been the most amazing play since the Browns' return in 1999.

As the years go on, Dawson gets better, and he gets more chances at longer field goals. In his first three years in the league he didn't try a field goal longer than 50 yards. Since 2002, he has tried 14 and has made 10.

Dawson was an undrafted free agent from Texas, where he made 9-of-15 from 50 yards or longer. Dawson's offseason lasts two weeks, and then he's back on the weights preparing for the next season.

When Dawson was signed in 1999, he almost went unnoticed since the Browns had signed so many players that year because of their return.

He credits his standard of work ethic off of his father, and his mentor, former Browns punter Chris Gardocki.

After 10 years Dawson has established himself as one of the best kickers in Browns history, if not the best.

Dawson has always shown respect for the great ones that came before him whether it be from the Browns, or the Longhorns, Even his high school where another Browns kicker, Matt Stover went to school.

The Browns kicker has never sold himself short, he leaves it all out on the field.

Browns fans should be happy with the kicker they have, because people like Phil Dawson don't come around too often.

Giants' Johnson leads team in tackles against Redskins

December 1, 2008

Zastudil having superb season

Browns-Colts: Quarter-by-quarter breakdown

December 1, 2008

Third quarter: Browns 6, Colts 3

What happened: Phil Dawson misses 34-yard field-goal attempt that would have made it 9-3 at 9:55. Dawson pushes it right. Browns fail to capitalize on Brandon McDonald's interception. ... Adam Vinatieri misses 46-yard field goal at 4:07. Quarter ends with Colts in possession deep in their end.

Browns nuggets: Kellen Winslow Jr. is injured at 14:38. He walks off. ... On third-and-7 from Cleveland 26, Derek Anderson throws behind an open Braylon Edwards. It would have been a first down by plenty. ... Corey Williams has returned. ... Dave Zastudil delivers 56-yard punt at 13:28; Colts mishandle return for minus-2. ... McDonald's terrific coverage turns into interception in front of Reggie Wayne at 13:21. Browns take over at Colts 49. ... Anderson misses badly on deep ball to Donte Stallworth. ... Anderson connects with Edwards for 20 early in quarter. Great throw, great route. ... Winslow (ankle) questionable to return. ... On third-and-2 from Colts 17 with 10:37 left, Josh Cribbs takes shotgun snap out of "flash'' formation and gets nothing. Play comes after timeout. ... Syndric Steptoe takes hit but hangs on for first-down catch on third-and-short at 2:22. ... Zastudil pins Colts at 4 with 1:04 left. Zastudil has been having a superb season.

Colts nuggets: They are not on their game at outset of quarter. ... Clint Session smells the Cribbs "flash'' and stuffs him. ... On third-and-6 from Colts 40 with 6:55, Manning throws excellent pass to Reggie Wayne for first down on left sideline. Not much defense could do. ... Drive stalls at Browns 28, then Vinatieri misses low and left.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Zastudil has big day against Colts

Tony Grossi's edge at Browns-Colts

December 1, 2008

Offense: The Browns did well to control the clock and keep Peyton Manning off the field. It was Derek Anderson's misfortune, however, that his offensive tackles failed him on the two biggest plays of the game. First, Joe Thomas was bull-rushed by Dwight Freeney, resulting in the fumble and touchdown return by Robert Mathis, and then Kevin Shaffer was bull-rushed by Mathis on the play that injured Anderson's knee. EDGE: Colts.

Defense: The last time the Colts failed to score an offensive touchdown in a regular-season game was also here in the 2003 season-opener -- 91 games ago. Brandon McDonald turned in his best NFL performance, saving one TD with a breakup in the end zone, and the Colts were stopped twice at the goal line to save another. Holding the Colts to 215 yards and Manning to a 46.8 rating is an exceptional feat. EDGE: Browns.

Special teams: The only standout here was Dave Zastudil, who averaged 50.5 yards on four punts and landed one at the 4. Phil Dawson made two field goals, but his miss from 34 yards forced the Browns to try for a touchdown at the end. Adam Vinatieri had a welcome to Cleveland moment: He missed badly from 46 yards. And that was at the easy end. EDGE: Browns.

Coaching: The Browns' offensive gameplan allowed them to keep Manning at bay. Defensively, coordinator Mel Tucker had Manning frustrated most of the day. The Colts made a good adjustment in their rushing scheme to pull off the two biggest plays of the game. And they did escape with a much-needed win. EDGE: Colts.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Zastudil consistent in more than just punting

By Jim Horvath

November 26, 2008

For those who know him, the consistency and reliability that Cleveland Browns punter and Bay Village native Dave Zastudil has displayed in his seven year pro career are only an extension of the steadiness that he has shown on and off athletic fields all his life.

“Dave is the same person he has always been,” said T.J. Putnam, his longtime friend and former athletic teammate in several different sports from grade school through through their high school years at Bay High School.

“With some people, there might be a change because he’s made the NFL and has more money and status now, but not Dave,” said Putnam. “He’s the same as he’s always been. He’s a great athlete and is always one of the leaders in the locker room wherever he’s gone. But he’s a very down to earth, caring guy who has always helped others when they need it. He’s the guy who our principal would have the new kids go around the school with because he knew Dave would take care of them and show them around.”

Dave’s parents, Tom and Terri Zastudil, who still live in Bay Village, said Dave has always displayed concern for others.

“He’s always been a leader, whether it’s with his teammates or in another activity,” said Tom. “He’s a consistent person. He always was able to get the other guys on a team to work toward the common goal by working together.”

Tom said the entire family has always been giving, but said Dave carries on tradition well.

“We all take part in work campaigns and projects around the area,” Tom said. “But I think he got the extra caring gene from his mother. She’s always active with the church and many other places.”

His mom, Terri, said she’s proud of her son in many ways that go well beyond his athletic skills.

“He’s been helping people out for as long as I can remember,” she said. “It’s great that he’s a fine athlete, and it’s fun to watch him as his parent. But in addition to using his abilities on the field, he’s used it to help others where he can,” said Terri. “He’d be helping other people out anyway, but it’s great that he uses all the gifts he has to help others.”

For his part, Zastudil said he’s glad to give back to other people.

“It’s great that I’ve been fortunate enough to get this far professionally,” Dave said. “Because of it, I’ve been able to do some things that most people aren’t able to or don’t have the resources to do. So, I’m glad to give something back and help out in different areas.’

Zastudil’s willingness to use his athletic and people skills extends to many areas, his parents noted. Putnam agreed, adding that as the holiday season nears and the spirit of giving grows, said he expects his longtime friend to be active in it by continuing to help others.

“He does it all year round,” said Putnam, who currently is a manager at the city of Dublin Recreation Center near Columbus. “It’s a little tougher during the season, but he’s always been there when you need him. He’s been great, whether it’s just talking with me as a friend when I want to talk or doing something for a group that needs help.”

In some recent examples, last February, Zastudil was a sponsor for a Super Bowl party which raised funds for Rise Above It, a non-profit organization which helps young adults battling cancer. Some other activities that he he’s helped in recent months with include reading books for young children for the Cuyahoga County Public Library system, appearing at an alumni event for his collegiate alma mater, Ohio University, or the extensive help he has given to athletics at Bay High School. He’s aided the Fields of Dreams renovation of athletic facilities for the school district and helped the high school football team.

Tom said all those activities and more are typical for Dave.

“He’s that type of person,” he said. “He’ll do it for people and places that he doesn’t know as well.”

He cited as one example, Dave lending a hand and helping raise $4,000 for the Willoughby South High School track program.

“As soon as he found out they needed help, he got involved,” Tom said.

Officials with the Fields of Dreams project said he’s been just as active with the group’s work in raising funds for renovating the various athletic facilities for the Bay School District.

“He has been a major contributor,” said Barb Harrell, one of the Rockets Renovation group’s leaders. “He has certainly helped out a lot financially on his own, but he’s also worked with other people and groups. He’s always helpful and encouraging and he genuinely cares about what’s going on.”

Clint Keener, superintendent of the Bay School District, said Zastudil has helped draw attention to the field work both intentionally and unintentionally.

“Certainly it helps having someone of his stature help out by raising funds and taking part in the project,” Keener said. “He helps bring other people in when they see he’s taking part and we appreciate it. It shows the type of person he is.”

Keener said Zastudil’s strong work ethic even brought accidental attention to the field and renovation work several months ago.

“We got a call this summer about someone going out on our new fields and using them without permission and possibly causing some problems,” Keener said. “So, when we went to check it it out, it turned out to be Dave and (Browns placekicker) Phil Dawson, who were practicing their kicking and working out. Of course, our reaction: leave them be and let them practice, but we’re glad people are interested in the fields.”

Putnam said he isn’t surprised by that story.

“Dave’s always been a hard worker, so that’s typical of him. But it also shows the type of place Bay is,” he said. “It’s a great place because people care about their community and what’s going on. I’d love to come back there some day and I know Dave was glad to come home.”

Zastudil, who spent his first four seasons in the NFL with the Browns’ AFC North rival Baltimore Ravens, agreed with Putnam.

“It was a lot of fun growing up there with guys like T.J.,” he said. “We got to do a lot of things because people care about Bay Village. T.J.’s the type of guy who’ll be my friend forever. I’m glad that I can help give a little back and give other kids the opportunity to use some good facilities in the community.”

One teenager who has benefited from Dave’s help both personally and with the field is Bay High School senior Brian Harrell, a second team all district kicker in 2008.

“He’s a great guy,” said Harrell. “He helped me personally with my punting and kicking. He started working with me when I was a sophomore and I really appreciate it. He’s always stressed consistency and hard work.”

Harrell said Zastudil has helped the entire football team with more than just the new athletic fields.

“He’s brought in other Browns and they all helped us out,” he said. “It’s nice to get that kind of help from players who have achieved what they have to get that far.”

Zastudil admits that with he and his wife Jennifer now having had their first child, Mckenzie, he is even more aware of family and community.

“Having our daughter makes us want to help around not only where we live, but in the Cleveland area and other places when we can,” he said. “Being a parent makes you think of those things.

“I’m fortunate because I had great parents and a supportive family, and my in-laws are super people as well. Now, we just continue and try to give something back that the kids and other people can use,” he said.

Kampmans Ring Bells for Salvation Army

November 25, 2008

Packers defensive end Aaron Kampman normally wears green and gold, but Tuesday night he and his family donned red aprons at Bay Park Square Mall in Ashwaubenon to help the Salvation Army of Brown County.

It's their second year supporting the cause as bell-ringers.

They say they're especially grateful for the service the Salvation Army provided their hometown when a tornado devastated Parkersburg, Iowa.

"They did a great job supporting people from the community we're from, so now this is obviously part of the community we're from, and we're just trying to do our small part," Kampman said.

The Salvation Army hopes to raise more than one million dollars this year but staffed kettles raise more money than un-staffed kettles, and the organization needs more people to sign up for bell-ringing.

Browns’ Dawson as good as it gets when it comes to kickers

By Dan Coughlin

November 25, 2008

Browns kicker Phil Dawson rejects the hero’s crown.

“I don’t like it. I’m more comfortable going to work,” he said the other day in the Browns’ locker room.

He thinks of himself simply as a guy with a job and, in this economy, anyone with a job considers himself lucky.

The Browns were equally lucky when they picked him up as a free agent back in 1999, when the franchise was getting started. Dawson has been winning games with last-minute field goals since he was in high school, later as a four-year starter at the University of Texas and for the last 10 seasons with the Browns.

His 57-yarder Monday night to beat Buffalo was his personal best, but it was just another day on the job. It was his third successful 50-plus kick of the season. For his career, he’s 10 of 14 from 50 yards or more, an incredible success rate.

Looking at that tiny opening between the uprights from 57 yards away is like looking at a vertical mail box slot.

“If I stared at that narrow opening I’d get a lot of negative vibes. I pick out a spot and aim for it. I’m glad it was 57 yards. No one expects you to make a 57-yarder,” he said.

He didn’t elaborate about the location of the “spot.” It’s probably some metaphysical dot somewhere in the spectrum that you and I wouldn’t understand. It’s like pondering how the Father, Son and Holy Ghost work. There are some things mortals are not supposed to understand.

According to accuracy percentages, Dawson is the fourth-best kicker in NFL history and the all-time best in Browns annals, which is saying something. The Browns’ kickers include Lou (The Toe) Groza, Don Cockroft, Matt Bahr and Matt Stover, a star-studded cast unparalleled in NFL history. Groza’s widow, Jackie, still drives around with the most recognizable license plates in Ohio. “TOE,” they say and that’s not vanity, that’s fact.

Field-goal kicking is not a one-man job, however. It’s a three-man operation, probably the most symbiotic play in football.

Most plays involve no more than two people working together. The quarterback hands off to a running back or he passes it to a second person.

In Dawson’s line of work, he depends on a long snapper and a holder to perform their jobs perfectly. If the snap is a couple of feet up, down or to the side, the timing is thrown off and four things can happen. Three of them are bad — ball fumbled, kick blocked, kick missed.

Long snapper Ryan Pontbriand might be the best who ever snapped the ball. Now in his sixth season, the 29-year-old Texan from Rice vindicated Butch Davis, who drafted him in the fifth round, one of the few times in the history of the draft a pure long snapper was picked.

I can’t remember Pontbriand ever making a bad snap. Not even one that’s a little bit off. Dawson says every snap has the same number of revolutions so the laces are always in the same place when holder Dave Zastudil catches it. Ideally, the laces always face away from the kicker. I’ve been watching the pro game for almost 60 years, and I’ve never seen anyone better than Pontbriand.

(I probably just jinxed him.)

Dawson says he kicks from a spot exactly 73/4 yards from the line of scrimmage, which means he starts every kick with a math problem.

“If the ball is on the 12 1/2 yard line, I’ve got to add 7 3/4. I’m glad I help my second-grade son with his math homework,” he said.

“If you miss, is it because you did the math wrong?” asked a reporter.
“That’s what I’m going with,” said Dawson.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

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