Thursday, September 30, 2010

Robert Smith, Pete Bercich called "smartest teammates"

From Sid Hartman's "Patience, not firing, needed by Gophers"

September 30, 2010


Former Vikings center Matt Birk, now with the Baltimore Ravens, was named The Sporting News' sixth-smartest athlete last week. An economics major at Harvard, the former Cretin-Derham Hall standout scored 34 out of a possible 36 on his ACT college entrance exam. Asked to name the smartest teammate he ever had, Birk told the magazine, "Robert Smith was pretty smart, and Pete Bercich with the Vikings. He and Robert used to have crazy discussions about physics, the fourth dimension. They might as well have been speaking another language."

Young Penguins make a splash

Influx of talent gives Youngstown State a lift.

By Lyndal Scranton

September 30, 2010

When Eric Wolford was hired as Youngstown State's football coach in December, he found a program that had slipped.

Asked on Wednesday his first evaluation of the Penguins, Wolford said he saw a lack of discipline and, more important, talent.

"We needed to do a better job recruiting," Wolford said. "Our level of talent had dropped significantly, especially after watching film of everyone in the league."

With 13 freshmen in his two-deep depth chart, Wolford's team is one of the Missouri Valley Conference's early surprises.

The Penguins, 3-1 overall and 1-0 in the league, are ranked 20th entering Saturday's game at Missouri State.

"It looks like they have the old Penguin swagger back," MSU coach Terry Allen said.

That appeared especially true last week. After falling behind reigning league champion Southern Illinois 14-0, YSU reeled off 31 unanswered points to win.

The Penguins have done it with a strong running game (sophomore Jamaine Cook averages 103.5 yards), good quarterback play (freshman Kurt Hess is completing 70 percent of his passes) and takeaways (a plus-5 in turnover margin).

"That's what wins football games," Wolford said of turnover margin. "The (ball) is gold and you have to take care of it."

Wolford, a former assistant under Steve Spurrier at South Carolina, said the players have bought into the toughness that he has demanded.

"We've created a culture and environment that's competitive," he said. "If you don't do things right (on the field), you're gonna be standing next to me.

"We like to work hard and do things right. It's early, but I feel we're headed in the right direction."

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Former Hawkeye Humpal motivates team as honorary captain

Doing things the right way: Former University of Iowa linebacker Mike Humpal speaks to the team Friday after practice while UI head coach looks on.

Sept. 25, 2010

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Mike Humpal was a teammate with several of the current University of Iowa football players when Humpal starred as a linebacker for the Hawkeyes from 2005-07. Following a walk-through Friday, Humpal delivered a motivational message to the team as it prepares for Ball State on Sept. 25.

"When you're going through here you hope you do things the right way," Humpal said. "You want to make sure you treat people the right way and this is a sign that maybe I did OK."

Humpal graduated in spring, 2007, with a degree in health and sports studies. He resides in Coralville and works as a sales representative selling implants for another former Hawkeye, Jason Olejniczak, at Biomet.

"Now I'm getting ready for deer season to start," Humpal said.

Humpal was named an Iowa co-captain prior to the 2007 season. He joined running back Albert Young as a co-winner of the team's Most Valuable Player Award following the 2007 season.

Humpal was a two-year starter for the Hawkeyes. He was a four-time member of the Big Ten's all-Academic team. As a senior he led the Hawkeyes in tackles with 123. That figure is the 27th best seasonal tackle total in Iowa history. He led the Big Ten in tackles per game (11.8) in 2007.

The New Hampton, Iowa, native had 197 career tackles and six interceptions. He played in the 2008 Hula Bowl all-star game and was drafted in the sixth round of the 2008 NFL Draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Humpal will accompany the Iowa captains to the center of the field for the pregame coin-flip. He will also be with the Hawkeyes in the locker room before and after the game and on the sidelines during the contest.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Rex Ryan remembers Ted Ginn differently than Dolphins fans

By Michael David Smith

September 24, 2010

The Dolphins selected Ted Ginn Jr. with the ninth pick in the 2007 draft and traded him to the 49ers three years later for the 145th pick in the 2010 draft, so he wasn't exactly a high-value draft choice for Miami.

But at least one person believes Ginn was a great player as a Dolphin: Jets coach Rex Ryan.

When a reporter reminded Ryan today that Ginn no longer plays for the Dolphins, Ryan said, "Well, that's good."

In comments distributed by the team, Ryan recalled that Ginn beat Darrelle Revis for a 53-yard touchdown catch in the first Dolphins-Jets game last season and returned two kickoffs for touchdowns in the other Dolphins-Jets game.

"Ted Ginn destroyed us," Ryan said.
"I know people in Miami said, 'Oh, he's disappointing,' and all that but, you look at the games last year against us, he destroyed us. He caught a long touchdown pass against us. He returned two kicks for touchdowns so, hopefully, that will hurt them this week."

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Mike Humpal named honorary captain

In this 2007 photo, Iowa linebacker Mike Humpal tackles Illinois quarterback Isiah Williams.

Hawk Central

September 23, 2010

Former Iowa linebacker Mike Humpal will serve as the Hawkeyes’ honorary captain during Saturday’s game against Ball State at Kinnick Stadium.

Humpal was a co-captain for the 2007 season, and the shared team most valuable player honors with running back Albert Young that season.

Humpal was a two-year starter and four-time member of the Big Ten Conference’s all-academic team. As a senior he led the Hawkeyes in tackles with 123. That figure is the 27th best seasonal tackle total in Iowa history. He led the Big Ten in tackles per game (11.8) in 2007.

The New Hampton native had 197 career tackles and six interceptions. He played in the 2008 Hula Bowl and was drafted in the sixth round of the 2008 NFL draft by Pittsburgh.

Humpal will accompany the Iowa captains to the center of the field for the pre-game coin-flip. He will also be with the Hawkeyes in the locker room before and after the game and on the sidelines during the contest.

He’s a sole man

In the middle of the Seahawks’ fifth-ranked run defense is Colin Cole, a nose tackle who was once told he didn’t have what it takes to play in the NFL. Look who’s smiling now.

By Clare Farnsworth

September 23, 2010

As Colin Cole was being led to the hallway outside the Seahawks’ locker room, he had no idea what awaited him: TV cameras. And lights. And reporters. And tape recorders.

Not the reception the team’s nose tackle usually gets. While he draws crowds on the field, the life of an interior lineman can be one of solitude when it comes to media attention. Then, the first question he was asked Wednesday concerned his shoes, not the way Cole has been clogging the middle for a run defense that ranks fifth in the league after two games.

“Without a doubt. There’s no question about that,” offered the affable Cole, who was wearing a pair on beyond-neon sneakers, when asked if he has the snazziest shoes on the team. “My shoe game is better than most.”

More to the point, this sole brother’s on-field game has been as noticeable as his shoes.

Entering Sunday’s game against the San Diego Chargers at Qwest Field, the Seahawks’ defense is allowing averages of 57 rushing yards per game and 2.0 yards per carry. And Cole has been right in the middle of most of that good stuff. He leads all the linemen with nine tackles, but even more important is the way his disruptive, space-eating presence has allowed others to make plays.

“When centers block him, he doesn’t move very much,” coach Pete Carroll said of Cole, whose 335 pounds are packed upon his 6-foot-2 frame to create a body that was made to play nose tackle.

“He needs to control the line of scrimmage and not get knocked back. He doesn’t have to run sideline to sideline to make his plays; he makes his plays in the box.”

The box is that area between the tackles on the line of scrimmage where only the strong survive, and it takes even more to thrive.

“He’s been very effective in the first couple of games and really given us good play,” Carroll said of the nose tackle he inherited in January when he signed on to be the Seahawks coach. “The style really suits his makeup. He’s very physical at the point, doesn’t get knocked around and also has good instincts to find the football.”

That style Carroll referred to is “a combination of 3-4 principles with 4-3 personnel,” as Carroll puts it.

That style also fits Cole as well as his flashy shoes. He also was the nose tackle in his first season with the Seahawks, but that was in 4-3 personnel with 4-3 principles. Now, Cole is closer to being the true nose tackle he was born to be.

“The defense the way it is right now kinds of allows me to move around a little bit and get singled up a little bit,” Cole said. “So I’m able to move laterally and locate the ball a little bit better. Last year, I was in a gap so it was easier for those guys to get two blockers on me and just kind of stay on me.

“That made it a lot harder to get to the ball. Now, with the two-gap scheme, as well as sliding head-up over the center, he brings me to the play most of the time. It’s pretty good to play off him, especially when I’m single-blocked, and make plays. Last week and the week before that, I was able to make a couple plays outside of what of a normal nose tackle is able to do.”

Obviously Cole is not doing everything by himself. There’s also three-technique tackle Brandon Mebane , who’s also bigger than he was last year but still as active; five-technique end Red Bryant , a 323-pound converted tackle; “Leo” end Chris Clemons , who has played the run better than advertised for a rush-end; Junior Siavii and Kentwan Balmer , two more big, active players who have been used in the line rotation; middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu , the metronome of the defense; active outside ’backers Aaron Curry and David Hawthorne ; strong safety Lawyer Milloy , who will turn 37 in November but is playing like he’s going to be 27; free safety Earl Thomas ; and cornerbacks Marcus Trufant and Kelly Jennings .

“We’re really making the holes small and making it hard for guys to be able to get in there and run up the middle,” Cole said when asked for the Seahawks’ secret to their run defense after two games.

“Most people want to establish the middle running game. But we’ve been able to squeeze off holes and whatever’s been outside guys have been able to scrape over the top – we’ve got fast linebackers who are able to scrape over the top and get to things.”

The way the Seahawks are playing, especially against the run, is hard to overlook.

“The first thing that’s always stood out to me about their defense is they’re fast,” Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers said during a conference call interview. “They really fly around. Even more so, to go with that fast, this year’s team (has) that size inside.

“They’re big and obviously playing really well against the run. They have really stuffed the run the past (couple) weeks, so it’s going to be a challenge certainly to run the ball.”

It’s all by design. Carroll and John Schneider wanted to get bigger, without sacrificing any speed on defense.

“We look for big guys to hold the point,” Carroll said. “So you need bulky, big, strong guys. That’s why it’s important for Colin Cole to be part of this defense in the middle.

“We thought we could get big. We were preparing for our division, as well – a division that likes to run the football with big backs and tough backs. We thought that would all fit together so that’s why we went that way.”

No one is happier than Cole. This is a guy who signed with the Minnesota Vikings as a free agent after not being selected in the 2003 draft. He spent time on the practice squads of the Vikings and Detroit Lions that season, only to be released. He was on the Green Bay Packers’ practice squad in 2004, before being signed to the active roster in late November. From 2005-08, he started eight games for the Packers.

So when the Seahawks went after him in free agency last year, his first reaction was: Where do I sign?

“It means the world to me,” Cole said of being not only wanted but appreciated. “I was actually sitting back last night talking with my wife about this whole situation, and thinking of where I’ve come from.”

That discussion was interrupted by a commentator on TV.

“It was the same gentleman who told me I wouldn’t make it in this league and I’m not good enough,” Cole said. “To have the opportunity to do well these first two weeks, obviously I’m happy.”

That commentator obviously didn’t account for the soul of this sole man.

“Any time you get a chance to make some tackles and make some plays, and cause some disruption, it’s a lot of fun,” Cole said. “And going above and beyond what I’m expected to do is exciting to me.”

Monday, September 20, 2010

Stoops, Arizona coming on strong

By Steve Ramirez

September 19, 2010

It was a slip of the tongue, but in another way it wasn't.

ESPN announcer Mark Jones, who covered the University of Arizona's home game against then-No. 9 Iowa on Saturday, mistakenly called Wildcats coach Mike Stoops "Bob," his brother who is coach at Oklahoma.

That's how most view Mike Stoops, playing second fiddle to Bob Stoops, who has won one Bowl Championship Series title and annually has the Sooners in the hunt in the BCS race.

But Mike Stoops is slowly gaining.

He's building a budding program at Arizona, which defeated the highly touted Hawkeyes 34-27 Saturday and is playing its way into contention in the Pac-10 race and the BCS title quest.

The Wildcats, with quarterback Nick Foles and California High School product Nic Grigsby at running back, are picking up believers. They moved from No. 24 to No. 14 in this week's USA Today coaches' poll and it looks like things can only get better.

Originally after it was announced that Jeremiah Masoli wouldn't be leading Oregon's high-octane offense this year, I picked the Wildcats as the team to beat in the Pac-10.

I came off that statement after seeing what Ducks coach Chip Kelly had, but the Wildcats have the tools to test Oregon and Stanford, our two favorites to win the Pac-10 and wind up in Pasadena.

But don't sleep on Arizona. Foles might be the best quarterback you never heard of.

In a conference that includes Washington's Jake Locker, Stanford's Andrew Luck and USC's Matt Barkley, Foles has held his own the past two seasons.

He threw for 2,486 yards and 19 touchdowns last year in leading the Wildcats to second place and the Holiday Bowl. This year, he's thrown for 877 yards and five scores, including 303 yards and two touchdowns in the upset of Iowa.

Throw in Grigsby, a speed demon who helps keep defenses honest, and this definitely is a team to watch.

The Wildcats should prove their point again this week when they host California, which is fresh off a 52-31 loss to Nevada.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Manningham Leads Giants in Receiving Yards

Aaron Kampman recognized as an Insightful Player

Aaron Kampman is a valued member of the Insightful Player™ team. An Insightful Player™ is a person of integrity, such as a current or former NFL player, who shares their personal message of hope for the sole purpose of lifting the spirits of all, especially children.

Jacksonville Jaguars Aaron Kampman

Devout Faith, Love of Family and Strength of Character Have Seen Him Through the Best of Times — and the Very Worst of Times

Aaron Kampman remembers vividly the moment a few years ago when he received the shocking news that his high school coach, Ed Thomas, had just been fatally shot. The event was inconceivable to nearly everyone affected by it. As Aaron explains, “Parkersburg, Iowa is a town of 1800 people. Things like this just don’t happen there.”

The tragedy of losing his friend and mentor – a man who generated four professional football players from a tiny Midwest high school — cemented in Aaron’s mind the powerful lessons that Coach Thomas had taught him over the years, lessons reinforced by his solid Christian upbringing in a two-parent home. “One of the great lessons that Ed taught was that when adversity strikes, it’s not at that moment that you develop the capacity to handle it. Your character is cultivated over time, so that when adversity does strike, you have the ability to handle it with grace, dignity, and perseverance. It doesn’t take away the pain but it gives you the ability to manage it.”

Growing up as the second of three boys, Aaron believed his childhood was typical. “I grew up in a small rural town in Iowa. It was a great way to grow up. But it was also a little bit of a bubble. When I got to college, I first realized the blessing of coming from a two-parent home.”

Not only the closeness of his family but also the model his parents put forth regarding community service had a powerful influence on Aaron as he was growing up. “My dad owns a lumberyard. My mom is a registered nurse who works for the county and travels around and takes care of people, particularly elderly people. So from a very young age I saw both of my parents demonstrate an ideal of service and a work ethic that became deeply ingrained in me.”

During their eight years in Green Bay, Aaron and his wife were deeply entrenched in the community, volunteering frequently for charities, food pantries and fundraisers. His prodigious generosity has not gone unnoticed in the athletic community. In 2003, he was Packers finalist for the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award. He was named one of the NFL’s “Good Guys” by The Sporting News and received the “Nice Guy Award” at the 2004 Doug Jirschele Sports Award Banquet in Clintonville, Wisconsin.

His Christian faith has also led this two-time Pro Bowl selection into a series of missions overseas. He and his wife traveled to Mannheim, a military community in southwestern Germany, with the Christian organization Unlimited Potential Incorporated to share their faith with U.S. troops stationed there. In 2007 the couple took a two-week tour of India as guests of Gospel for Asia. Two years later their destination was Kenya, where they visited Christian humanitarian missions in rural communities.

Even as he devotes his time and energy to aiding the impoverished, Aaron never overlooks the importance of his local fan base. After signing with the Jaguars, he paid for a large ad in Green Bay area newspapers to thank residents for their support. He also serves as a tireless role model to his team members and other football players. He notably used the misfortune of an injury at the end of the 2009 season to demonstrate the difference a good attitude can make.

Observing the actions of the late Coach Thomas’ family in the year since his death has cemented Aaron’s belief in the strength to be derived from faith and community. “Joy, I believe, is something that is deep seated in your heart and gives you the eternal perspective that no matter what happens in this life, it’s okay. It’s an ability to see beyond the present circumstances.” Thomas’ sense of character had a ripple effect that would reach more than just his football team. Recently his widow and sons accepted the Arthur Ashe Courage Award, presented at ESPN’s ESPY Award Ceremony. Thomas’ wife and sons have founded the Ed Thomas Family Foundation in partnership with the National Christian Foundation to benefit those causes that Coach Thomas’ family believes will extend his influence and honor his priorities of faith, family, character and integrity. Aaron serves as a board member for the Foundation.

His Christian faith and insistence on living out his ideals, as well as his unflagging charitable outreach and respect for his fans and fellow humankind, makes Aaron Kampman an Insightful Player™ team member worth emulating.

Instant replay of Aaron’s guiding principles:

1. Never lose sight of your faith in God. Your relationship with Christ should be the compass that guides you through life.
2. Take time to seek out silence and stillness. These moments are what help you to build inner character strength and foster your spiritual growth.
3. Embody your principles in how you treat others: your family members, your community, your team members, and the less fortunate to whom you minister.
4. Be an integral part of your community. Reach out to others, and stand in for anyone who needs a role model or a source of emotional support.
5. Recognize the opportunities you have been given, whether they are great or small.
6. Leverage your advantages – physical strength, spiritual awareness, the love of family and friends, or whatever you have been given – while finding ways to overcome your weaknesses.
7. In times of greatest crisis, remember you are not alone.
8. Understand the difference between happiness and joy: happiness is the pleasure that come from positive circumstances, but joy is rooted in the knowledge that God is in control, even in the face of adversity.
9. Follow the spiritual imperative to forgive those who have wronged you or others.
10. Let your deeds and actions ceaselessly reflect your most dearly held principles.

The Insightful Player™ series is brought to you by Coach Chrissy Carew, Master Certified Personal and Business Coach. Chrissy has been deeply inspired by her father, the late Coach Walter Carew, Sr. Her father is in several Halls of Fame as a high school football coach and baseball coach (as well as high school and college athlete). He used sports as a way to help kids build strong character and teach them valuable life skills. The Insightful Player™ campaign was created to help make our world a much better place.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Could Yanda stick at right tackle?

By Dan Kolko

September 16, 2010

Back in training camp, offensive coordinator Cam Cameron was asked if Marshal Yanda was an option as the Ravens' right tackle with Jared Gaither out with a back injury.

Here was Cameron's response: "Absolutely, but you can move guys around too much. I think Marshal Yanda can be as good a right guard as there is in the league. I believe that. And if you keep bouncing him around from guard to tackle, guard to tackle, it really doesn't help him."

Sure enough, when the Ravens took the field against the Jets in the regular season opener on Monday night, Yanda got the start at right tackle, and Chris Chester slid in and played right guard.

The coaching staff went with that rotation over one that would have featured a slightly banged up Oniel Cousins at tackle and Yanda at his normal right guard spot.

The decision (insert your Le'Bron James jokes here) was a good one.

While Yanda was semi-responsible for the crushing hit that quarterback Joe Flacco took on the Ravens' opening play of the game (Flacco deserves some of the blame himself for holding the ball too long), he bounced back, and played pretty well against an aggressive and physical Jets front-seven.

Chester held tough as well, and the Ravens' offensive line as a whole allowed only two sacks all game.

"I thought they did really well, just watching the tape," head coach John Harbaugh said of Yanda and Chester. "There were plays that we'd like to have back all the way across the front. And again, that's a really good front. Those guys practiced there for about a week-and-a-half for the most part, so I think they're ready to do it, but there's nothing like a game to learn from."

Asked if the Ravens consider Yanda a long-term option at right tackle with Gaither still ailing, Harbaugh responded to the affirmative.

"Yes, yes, we do," he said simply.

Yes, the Ravens would prefer to keep Yanda at guard and let him establish himself at that position. But the four-year veteran has more game experience than Cousins at right tackle, is more dependable, and isn't as injury prone.

We might see Cousins work his way back into the rotation at some point, but for now, with Gaither still out, Yanda is the Ravens' best option at right tackle.

Kampman leads Jaguars to opening day victory

September 15, 2010

National Football League

AFC Notes

Jacksonville: DE Aaron Kampman was signed by the Jaguars to a four-year deal, with $26 million guaranteed, even though he was coming off a torn knee ligament suffered with Green Bay, where he played linebacker last season. There were concerns he would see part-time action, but he missed only a handful of plays Sunday in the opener against Denver and had 1.5 sacks. He also had nine tackles and six pressures of QB Kyle Orton.

Colts' Anthony Gonzalez back into now-crowded WR corps

By Tom Pedulla, USA TODAY

August 29, 2010

Anthony Gonzalez went through training camp last year as the heir apparent to Marvin Harrison, the Indianapolis Colts' all-time leading receiver.

Now, after a knee injury ended an expected breakthrough season in less than one quarter, he finds himself locked in a battle for playing time with young teammates who caught on during on his absence.

"You go through a whole host of emotions," Gonzalez says of his lost season. "I realized for me to be happy, I need to be playing on Sundays."

Yet the only certainty as the defending AFC champions sweat their way through toward the start of the regular season is that quarterback Peyton Manning, as often as he throws, cannot possibly keep everyone satisfied.

Reggie Wayne, a Pro Bowler each of the last four years, commands Manning's attention as he aims to surpass 1,000 receiving yards for the seventh consecutive season. So does Dallas Clark, who holds franchise records for catches (356) and touchdowns (41) by a tight end.

Then there are the young talents who made the most of their expanded opportunities. Pierre Garcon, a sixth-round choice from Mount Union in 2008, exceeded all expectations with 47 grabs for 765 yards and four TDs. He was an even greater force in the postseason, pulling in 21 passes for 251 yards and two scores.

Austin Collie, a fourth-round pick from Brigham Young, paced all first-year receivers with seven touchdowns. He tied the Minnesota Vikings' Percy Harvin for most receptions with 60 and generated 676 yards.

Gonzalez (6-0, 193) was Indianapolis' first-round draft choice from Ohio State in 2007 as the Colts saw age overtaking once-speedy Harrison. He did not produce 1 yard in 2009. He injured ligaments in his right knee while blocking in the first quarter of a season-opening 14-12 victory against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

He initially did everything possible to recover without having surgery, and the Colts, well aware of his potential impact, left open the door by keeping him inactive for the next 13 games.

Much to Gonzalez's frustration, intensive treatment was able to reduce swelling in his knee only to have it return upon increased exertion. He finally had arthroscopic surgery during the first week of November and eventually realized that only an extended rest would ensure a complete recovery. The Colts placed him on injured reserve on Christmas Eve.

Gonzalez, whose 57 catches for 664 yards and four touchdowns in 2008 represented a promising step after a 37-catch, 576-yard rookie season, is exactly where he wants to be. From a physical standpoint, that is.

"I certainly don't feel like anything is lost. I don't feel my speed is gone. I don't feel like my quickness and agility are gone," he says. "If anything, everything is better.

"I put in more work this offseason and made more sacrifices."

Jim Caldwell is taking notice.

"He's been doing very well. He's really come along," the second-year head coach says. "He understands the offense well. He's catching the ball well. He prepares well."

While Caldwell realizes he has more receivers than he can accommodate with starting roles, he views that as far more of an asset than a problem as the Colts bid to extend their NFL record by producing an eighth consecutive season with at least 12 victories.

They also are eager to rebound from a 31-17 loss to the New Orleans Saints in Super Bowl XLIV.

"This league, no matter how you stack it up, it's a passing league," Caldwell says. "A lot of guys have made a lot of money on third down. You like to have as many weapons as possible."

Gonzalez acknowledges that the situation troubled him before he finally came to grips with it.

"A week before camp, I said, 'If I keep thinking about this, I'm going to drive myself crazy.' Worrying about getting only five reps while somebody else has seven reps, I'm not going to do that."

Gonzalez says everyone involved is doing everything possible to keep it a healthy competition that will ultimately benefit the team.

"I'm not sure it's like this everywhere, but nobody is vindictive, nobody is sabotaging anybody," he says. "We're all just showing up and putting our best game on tape.

"At the end of the day, none of us has a say, so there is no point worrying about it."

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Was Kampman the missing piece to the Jaguars defensive line?

By Alfie Crow

September 14, 2010

The signing of free agent defensive end Aaron Kampman was one of the most criticized signings of the off-season, nationally. Some pundits even dubbed it as one of the dumbest moves of the off-season:

"This move would have been great a year ago. Unfortunately, Aaron Kampman tore his ACL in November, which means there's a very small chance he'll be anywhere close to 100 percent by the season opener.

With that in mind, why would the financially strapped Jaguars just burn away $11 million like this? I don't get it, but I guess there's a reason wise teams like the Colts and Steelers are in Super Bowl contention every year - they're smart enough to realize that you don't win by acquiring overpriced free agents."

I won't name who said that, it should be pretty easy to figure out.

So far, the $11 million looks like money well spent. Aaron Kampman is making a new word resonate through Jacksonville Jaguars fans.


re•lent•less adj \-ləs\ : showing or promising no abatement of severity, intensity, strength, or pace

This is what Aaron Kampman brings to the defensive line, as a whole. The man does not stop and it rubs off on the rest of the players. I think it's hard-wired in rookie defensive tackle Tyson Alualu as well, and you can see the ripple effect it has. Guys on the defensive line want to match that. The young guys on the defensive line want to match that intensity by Kampman. He's stepped right in and is that leader the team needed on the defense.

"The key to everything in the organization is to be relentless, that’s the kind of mentality we wanted in this game. We just wanted to be relentless and come out victorious," said rookie Tyson Alualu.

"Kampman is a proven player with incredible awareness and determination. He’s a guy that the motor never stops, that’s what Joe Cullen talks about all the time is motor, and being in pursuit of the quarterback. He hit the QB and was real close on a couple others where when our coverage gets a little better, and it will, he’s going to have additional sacks. It was a huge day for him, he was very dominant out there," said Jack Del Rio after the game.

While it's silly to project after only one game, Kampman is on pace to shatter the over under set by Las Vegas.

I don't think double digit sacks for Kampman are out of the question, but the big deal will be the effect on the rest of the line. Even Derrick Harvey, who's been heavily criticized by fans, had an excellent game that will go largely unnoticed because of the play of Alualu and Kampman. The defensive line should get better as the season goes on, especially Kampman.

Remember, Kampman's "no where near" 100%.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Tauscher eager to get off and running

By Jim Polzin

September 12, 2010

Green Bay offensive tackle Mark Tauscher (65) beats Chiefs defensive tackle Ron Edwards to a loose ball in a 2007 game at Kansas City.

PHILADELPHIA — Like many of you, Mark Tauscher was camped out in front of a TV when the Green Bay Packers opened the season a year ago.

Chances are, you got a lot more enjoyment out of the Packers’ 21-15 win over the Chicago Bears than Tauscher did. Watching the game at home with his wife and some friends was pure torture for Tauscher, a former University of Wisconsin athlete who was out of football while undergoing rehab for his injured knee.

“It was tough,” Tauscher said earlier this week. “That’s kind of when reality set in. … It was really weird. I kind of had an understanding of the situation, so that made it a little bit easier. But it was definitely tough to watch.”

You can imagine the mixed emotions tugging at Tauscher. These were his teammates — some of whom are among his closest friends — winning a game against one of the team’s hated rivals. Naturally, he felt happy for them.

But to watch the game play out on a big screen instead of being there manning his usual spot at right tackle? And not knowing when he’d get back on the field — or which team he’d be playing for if he did? Naturally, he felt sorry for himself.

And his attempt to be a neutral observer? Well, that failed miserably.

So here we are, 364 days later, and Tauscher is back where he belongs. When the Packers begin the 2010 season today against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field, Tauscher will be making his 129th career start at right tackle for a team many are predicting will end up in the Super Bowl.

“This,” Tauscher said, “is obviously a better scenario.”

Road to recovery

Tauscher tore the ACL in his left knee during a game against the Houston Texans late in the ’08 season. The timing couldn’t have worse for the Auburndale native, who went into the offseason as a free agent.

In March of last year, Tauscher contacted the UW strength and conditioning staff and began rehab work under the watchful eye of assistant director Scott Hettenbach and athletic trainer Henry Perez-Guerra.

Tauscher worked out five days a week at the Kohl Center. On the weekends, he did more work on his own.

“It was difficult because he didn’t know if the Packers were going to bring him back, but he really never wavered,” Hettenbach said. “It was low-key — he didn’t want to make a big deal out of it.

“His whole thing was to be ready when a phone call comes, whether it was the Packers or somebody else.”

The phone eventually rang and it was indeed the Packers, who were in desperate need of some help before their franchise quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, ended up in a full body cast. Tauscher re-signed with Green Bay Oct. 12 and replaced overmatched right tackle Allen Barbre in the starting lineup less than four weeks later at Tampa Bay.

To say Tauscher’s return saved the Packers’ season would be a huge stretch, but there are numbers to support the argument his presence provided a major boost to a struggling offensive line.

The Packers were 6-2 in Tauscher’s eight starts. More importantly, after allowing 41 sacks in the first nine games of the season, Green Bay allowed 10 in the final seven. All of those seven games included Tauscher and left tackle Chad Clifton, who missed four games with an ankle injury early in the season, as the bookends of the offensive line.

“There was certainly a benefit to having him back,” Packers offensive coordinator Joe Philbin said of the 6-foot-3, 320-pound Tauscher, a seventh-round draft pick in 1999. “I think he contributed, obviously. You’re playing a team sport, you’ve got 11 guys, you hope that as the season goes on your football team’s going to get better, you’re going to see improvement from everybody.

“I think all those things add up. He certainly may have made a difference, but you certainly hope that the other guys around him rallied a little bit and got better as well.”

Tauscher’s biggest impact might have come in the locker room. He’s popular among his teammates — especially Rodgers — and served as a calming influence upon his return, according to his teammates.

“It was nice having him back, just having another veteran in the group,” center Scott Wells said. “We were a very young offensive line last year when he wasn’t there. Even when he wasn’t playing (after rejoining the team), just talking to the guys that were playing and giving them some pointers (was great). It was almost like having a player-coach.”

Fresh outlook

Tauscher, who turned 33 in June, enters his 11th season with a new lease on his career. He signed a two-year contract worth more than $8 million in the offseason and, unlike most years when he dreads the start of training camp, actually looked forward to it this time around.

“This is as good as I’ve felt in a couple years,” he said. “I feel refreshed. I feel like a young 30-year-old.”

It shows, according to Packers offensive line coach James Campen.

“I’ve never had that type of surgery,” Campen said. “(Packers assistant offensive line coach Jerry) Fontenot has had it and others have had it, and they say the next year is better, much better. And certainly from a mental standpoint he feels much better. Certainly his movement and just look at him — look at his physique, I’m sure you guys can see that, too — he’s in shape and he looks good.

“He looks as good as he ever has.
His weight’s down, so I’m sure he’s very confident.”

The entire offensive line is confident. The starting group — Tauscher, Clifton, Wells and guards Daryn Colledge and Josh Sitton — got an abundance of reps during training camp and played well. Rodgers wasn’t sacked in the preseason — he attempted 53 passes — and led the No. 1 offense to seven touchdowns on 13 possessions.

“I think the biggest thing is, there’s a lot of maturity in that room,” Campen said. “And the maturity has come from the younger guys growing up and obviously the guys in the middle recognizing that what transpired the first eight, nine games and seeing it shift over and performing pretty good the last half of the season.

“I think that just knowing what that was like and felt like and the criticism — which were all just and correct — they don’t want to go back to that.”

Tauscher doesn’t want to go back, either. He certainly feels much more comfortable at right tackle than he does in front of a TV.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Kampman inspires Jaguars' defense against Broncos

By Gene Frenette

September 12, 2010

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — When Jack Del Rio asked Aaron Kampman to talk to the Jaguars during Saturday's walk-through practice, his only instructions to the nine-year NFL veteran were to speak from his heart.

Kampman's speech resonated with teammates in a big way. He talked for about five minutes about playing the game with passion and relentlessness. Kampman's emotion resonated with the Jaguars, especially when the man paid $26 million to energize a maligned defense told them about the adversity of recovering from knee surgery last December.

"Everybody took that speech to heart because Aaron's character is something that we all want to replicate," said Jaguars' guard Uche Nwaneri. "He's a very determined, gritty guy, but at the same time, he loves his teammates. You knew when he made that speech that it was from the heart and it touched us in the heart."

One day later, Kampman's impact in his Jaguars debut showed he's not just all talk. This Iowa farm boy, along with rookie first-round draft pick Tyson Alualu, made sure they didn't pass up that one chance to make a favorable first impression.

For a franchise and fan base starving to be relevant again, Sunday's riveting 24-17 victory over the Denver Broncos at EverBank Field was big on several other fronts:

* The star quarterback turned out to be not the hometown hero (the Broncos' Tim Tebow, who ran twice for two meaningless yards). It was the Jaguars' David Garrard with three touchdown passes and a career-high passer rating.

* Despite oppressive temperatures and a heat index of 105, then a 33-minute lightning delay, an announced crowd of 63,636 was rewarded for its patience under brutal conditions.

* With so much pro-Tebow sentiment as a backdrop, the Jaguars prevailed in a season-opening game that was an absolute must as a confidence builder.

But when you look at the abundance of feel-good moments the Jaguars will take, none may be as meaningful as seeing Kampman inspire a defense to stop being the pushover it's been for the last couple years.

I know it's only a small snapshot, but Kampman delivered the kind of forceful impact Del Rio and general manager Gene Smith insisted would happen once his left knee was healthy.

It was more than just his 1.5 sacks and evoking memories of Tony Brackens in his prime. Sure, the way Kampman came up the middle to put quarterback Kyle Orton on the ground on the first series was impressive, but it was more Kampman's every-down presence.

With Alualu and Terrance Knighton providing the inside push, the Jaguars' pass rush looked nothing like that pathetic unit from last year that repeatedly gave opposing quarterbacks all day to throw. And more often than not, it was Kampman making sure Orton's body paid a price for staying in that pocket.

In his three years coaching with the Detroit Lions, Jaguars defensive line coach Joe Cullen remembers the former Green Bay Packer sacking his quarterback nine times in six games, saying "the guy just literally beat us up." Orton received the same treatment.

"I don't know what the numbers are, but we hit (Orton) a bunch," Kampman said. "What it does to a quarterback is make him uncomfortable, makes him start thinking, 'Uh, oh! I gotta get rid of the ball.' Sacks are awesome. I love getting sacks. They're great. But sometimes, pressure is just as meaningful.

"I remember one time, I laid into (Orton) and heard him go, 'Uhhhhhhh!' That can't feel good."

Here's what felt good to a Jaguars' defense that has been rightfully criticized in recent years for its inability to get offenses off the field when it matters. Twice in the fourth quarter, after Garrard's 24-yard touchdown pass to Kassim Osgood gave Jacksonville the lead, the defense came up with big stops.

Denver was repelled on third-and-3 and fourth-and-3, with a blitzing Sean Considine tipping the third-down pass. Another drive ended with a Daryl Smith interception after Kampman thumped Orton for the umpteenth time.

"Welcome to the 2010 Jaguars; that's what we have to be about," said cornerback Rashean Mathis. "If Orton can't get the ball out in the first two or three seconds, we know our guys are coming and hitting him in his mouth. And that's lovely. I'm back there smiling. You can't ask for more as a corner."

Knighton said opponents are going to have to game-plan more for Alualu and Kampman, which he expects to lead to more sacks for everybody else. "It's going to rub off on the whole defensive line," he said. "This is only the start."

And what a new beginning it was. Del Rio was so exuberant walking off the field, he flung his cap into the stands.

Hats off to the Jaguars' defense. With a new defensive front, they don't look like the sad sacks they used to be.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Dallas Clark ready to build on 100-catch season

September 6, 2010

By John McGlothlen

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) – Dallas Clark knows there is no such thing as a perfect game or a perfect season in the NFL.

The goal is to keep improving, no matter what the record-breaking stats suggest.

So after posting the two best seasons ever by a Colts tight end, back-to-back, Clark has returned to Indy to chase perfection.

“I’m doing the same thing that I’ve been doing the last seven years,” the Colts’ tight end said during the offseason. “I come to work, and I don’t want to become complacent. I’m not trying to focus on what I did last year. Each year, whether it’s bad or good, you have to look at it as a fresh start.”

Clark was so busy working out Monday that he didn’t even have time to answer questions in the locker room.

But starting over isn’t exactly what the Colts have in mind for the new dad.

Almost from the moment Indy drafted Clark with the 24th overall pick in 2003, Peyton Manning & Co. could see how valuable Clark could be in this high-scoring offense.

He’s fast enough to burn defenses daring to cover him with a linebacker, agile enough to make circus catches and shifty enough to fake out anyone measuring him up for big hits. It’s a rare combination for a 252-pound guy, which is also why Clark is among the NFL’s best tight ends.

Since signing a six-year, $41.76 million contract in 2008, Clark has proven to be worth every penny.

Over the last two seasons, he has 177 receptions, produced the first 1,000-yard season of his career, become the second tight end in league history to haul in 100 catches in a season and, yes, even earned that elusive first Pro Bowl trip. His numbers even broke the franchise records John Mackey set in the ’60s.

Clark played a key role in the Colts’ Super Bowl run in 2006, and his versatility to split out as a receiver and create mismatches is one of the reasons Indy is so proficient in the no-huddle offense.

Not bad for a former college walk-on who needed seasons to learn all of the nuances of Indy’s offense. His new job is to teach the rest of his four-man gang his old tricks.

“He’s one of the best, if not the best, in the league,” backup tight end Jacob Tamme said Monday. “Our offense gives the tight end a chance to do some things, and that’s been really instrumental in what he’s done and what we’ve done.”

Clearly, the Colts are loaded in the passing game.

The only four-time MVP in league history will spend this season distributing the ball to perhaps the most talented receiving corps he’s ever had. There’s Clark and Pro Bowl receiver Reggie Wayne, emerging contributors in Austin Collie and Pierre Garcon and former first-round pick Anthony Gonzalez.

Add Tamme and rookie Brody Eldridge to the mix, and the toughest job for the Colts might be keeping everyone happy.

“All I wanted was what was promised to me,” Gonzalez said Monday when asked about the competition for the No. 2 receiver’s job. “Whet her a job is open, whether there’s a competition is something that is determined by the coaches, not by the players.”

The only other real question is health.

Gonzalez lost his job as Wayne’s complementary receiver after going down with a season-ending injury in the first quarter of last season’s season-opener. He pulled a hamstring in the offseason but now says he’s healthy heading into Sunday’s opener at Houston.

Clark, however, missed the entire preseason with an undisclosed upper left leg injury. That left most of the snaps to Tamme, a three-year veteran, and Eldridge, who is considered more of a blocking tight end than a Clark clone.

Coach Jim Caldwell hasn’t said whether Clark will start against the Texans, but Clark did practice Monday and has “guaranteed” he will be on the field this weekend.

So what does Clark have planned for an encore?

Stay tuned.

“That’s the beauty of football. There’s no such thing as a perfect game,” he said. “You can never relax, you’re always trying to stay on top of your game.”

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Mark Stoops comes by coaching naturally

By GUERIN EMIG World Sports Writer

September 7, 2010

NORMAN - Like most kid brothers in that time and place, little Mark Stoops tagged along with his older siblings, doing what he could to earn their favor. The older siblings being Ron Jr., Bobby and Mike, that meant Mark played all kinds of ball against some of the biggest, toughest kids in Youngstown, Ohio.

As a result, the first thing anyone thought Mark might grow up to do was play football, not coach it.

"As a kid, you talk about Pop Warner, around fifth grade, he was so advanced catching the ball and running. Cause that's all he did keeping up with us," said Bob, the second Stoops boy and seven years older than Mark. "I mean, he was a terror. Offense, defense, he was like Dick Butkus and Walter Payton. We would go to his games and just laugh because he's just killing everybody."

Eventually, bodies and skill sets evened out. Mark continued to prosper - "He may have been the best athlete of all of the Stoops boys," said Don Bucci, who coached all four at Youngstown's Cardinal Mooney High - but not enough to consider any kind of pro career.

So he followed his older brothers again. He coaches for a living, and he is excelling at it.

Mark Stoops is in his first year as defensive coordinator at Florida State. He'll be with the Seminoles when they play Bob's Oklahoma Sooners Saturday at Owen Field.

A formidable challenge, sure, but one Mark will expect to meet, based on both last week's season opener and the decades-long track record of his defensive-minded family.

Under Mark's influence, a Seminoles defense that ranked at the very bottom of the ACC last season didn't allow a touchdown in their 59-6 rout of Samford last Saturday.

Before Florida State, Mark coordinated defenses at Arizona under older brother Mike. In the Stoops' six years together, the Wildcats went from 108th nationally in total defense to 25th.

Before Arizona, Mark coached defensive backs at Miami.

"One of the best hires I ever made," said Larry Coker, the former Hurricanes coach who made the call after consulting with Bob Stoops at Oklahoma. "His kids played so hard and they knew exactly where to line up."

Miami won a national championship in Mark's first season, then led the nation in pass defense in 2002 and '03.

Mark Stoops has encountered success, to one degree or another, at every stop of his 20-year coaching journey.
He even benefited from his one year at South Florida in 1996, which he spent preparing the Bulls for their debut season of '97.

"My brother, Bob, was up at Florida at the time," Mark said after being introduced at Florida State last February. "We weren't even playing any games, so it was an opportunity to go up and spend a bunch of time with Bob. I think the bread and butter of my system was built during that first year at South Florida."

The brotherly influence is every bit as profound today as it was in Youngstown.

That could have been Bob Stoops addressing Oklahoma media or Mike at Arizona the day of Mark's press conference in Tallahassee. And not just because he was describing the 4-3, multiple zone-coverage scheme he and his brothers had long preferred.

"We're very precise," Mark said. "We try to be accurate in what we do and how we get it taught... You can't fake your way around these things. You can't just go out there 'Rah! Rah!' and all that. There has to be a complete understanding of the system... You're gonna have to earn your way."

Asked about the mood he encountered in the FSU locker room, Mark channeled his big brother from December of '98, when Bob encountered the beaten-down Sooners.

"The first thing I told them was, 'Hey, there's no more of that. There's no more putting your head down. We're gonna be very confident,'" Mark said. "I wanted them to understand they had the ability. We had to get the confidence back and get their heads up and get ready to roll....

"It's going to be a lot of teaching. We have a lot of work to do. But if they look at it with an open mind and are willing to work, then we can do some great things here real quick."

It was just what the Seminoles needed.

"A new attitude," defensive end Brandon Jenkins called it in the St. Petersburg Times. "A new defense."

Sounded pretty familiar to those in Norman, actually. And Tucson. And Youngstown.

"When Mark was here, his father was still one of my assistants," Bucci said of Ron Stoops Sr., the Mooney defensive coordinator until his passing in 1988. "He went home from practice and worked on film with his dad like his brothers did. Mark was a little more quiet than some of the other Stoops boys, but you could tell he had all the tools to coach, just like Ronny, Bobby and Mike."

"Mark, along with the rest of us, gravitated to it because we were so used to competitive situations and enjoying them," Bob Stoops said. "That's all we grew up around. I think we all came by it naturally."

Friday, September 03, 2010

Kirk Ferentz to sign extension

September 2, 2010

By Adam Rittenberg

Iowa announced Thursday it will extend coach Kirk Ferentz's contract through the 2020 season.

School officials expect Ferentz to sign the contract Friday, before he opens his 12th season for the Hawkeyes. Ferentz, the second-longest tenured coach in the Big Ten behind Penn State's Joe Paterno, will be paid $3,675,000 annually plus a longevity bump that begins at $325,000 and increases every year.

"I've said publicly, and privately to Kirk, that it would be my goal to have him retire at Iowa," Iowa athletic director Gary Barta said in a statement. "This contract is a statement supporting that commitment."

The ninth-ranked Hawkeyes, coming off an 11-2 season and a win in the Orange Bowl, return one of the best defenses in the nation and several offensive stars, including quarterback Ricky Stanzi and running back Adam Robinson. They host Eastern Illinois on Saturday.

Ferentz is 81-55 at Iowa with two co-Big Ten championships. He is a three-time Big Ten coach of the year who was named national coach of the year in 2002. Iowa has reached January bowl games in six of the last eight seasons.

Ferentz, 55, is one of eight FBS head coaches who have been in their current position since 1999.

"I am grateful to the University of Iowa and thrilled to begin my 12th season as head coach and 21st overall with this world class institution," Ferentz said in a statement. "The players, coaching staff and I are looking forward to competing this season."

Ferentz's name has been linked to a number of NFL openings since he won The Associated Press National Coach of the Year in 2002. He never made the jump from Iowa City, though, and now appears set to join Fry serving as head coach for at least 20 years.

"Kirk is arguably the best football coach in the country," Barta said. "Beyond that, he and his wife, Mary, are world-class people who care deeply about the university and the state."

The 10 best players of the Tressel era (so far)

September 2, 2010

By Bill Livingston

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- The list of the 10 best players of the Jim Tressel Era at Ohio State begins with a Heisman Trophy winner and ends with a Dick Butkus and Bronko Nagurski award winner.

How hard is it to make this team?

Harder than it has proven for Michigan, in a complete reversal of the trend of The Game before Tressel, to beat the Buckeyes. And that's proven to be a stumper eight times in nine years, including the last six in a row.

1. Troy Smith, quarterback (2003-06) -- Video game numbers: 46 TD passes, 10 interceptions in his final two seasons, including a 30/6 ratio in his Heisman year of 2006. He was the leader of three wins over Michigan, all with "SportsCenter Play of the Day" efforts. The Glenville product was the dominant force in college football in his electric senior season. Had it not been for the resounding thud of his BCS Championship Game performance against Florida, he would rival two-time Heisman winner Archie Griffin as Ohio State's greatest player ever.

2. Maurice Clarett, running back (2002) -- The most polarizing figure in Ohio State football history, Clarett was the freshman on whose shoulders the national championship hopes rested. No one ever made more amazing runs for no gain or little gain, as time and again the one-year wonder avoided drive-killing losses. Clarett scored the winning touchdown after breaking a backfield tackle in the championship game, but the Buckeyes would never have gotten that far without the ball he stole from Miami safety Sean Taylor after Taylor's end zone interception. With no OSU field goal on that drive, there would have been no overtime.

3. Will Smith, defensive end (2000-03) -- The leader of the ferocious front four of the 2002 national championship team, he recorded 10.5 sacks and set the tone for the upset of Miami with a bear-paw swat and sack of Dorsey for a loss on the very first play.

4. Michael Jenkins, wide receiver (2000-03) -- Facing fourth-and-14 in the first OT against Miami, or facing fourth-and-2 at the Boilermakers' 37 in the final minute and change at Purdue, who ya gonna call? Jenkins always answered with huge catches.

5. Chris Gamble, cornerback (2001-03) -- Yes, he was roughed up in the end zone on fourth down in the first OT by Miami, on the penalty that prolonged the tying drive. He also played 106 other snaps in that game and caught OSU's longest pass of the night. A throwback as a two-way player, Gamble made an interception to save the day against Purdue in 2002 was strictly Willie Mays/Vic Wertz stuff in terms of ground covered.

6. A.J. Hawk, linebacker (2002-05) -- The best of a terrific trio that included Bobby Carpenter and Anthony Schlegel, Hawk won the Vince Lombardi Award as the best lineman or linebacker in the college game. No less than legendary Texas coach Darrell Royal left the Horseshoe in 2005 raving about Hawk and his fellow linebackers.

7. Ted Ginn Jr., wide receiver (2004-06) -- Scoring on kickoff and punt returns, swerving on end arounds, flying into the clear on deep balls, even passing for a score, the Glenville flash was an all-purpose threat. Opponents had to find him in a hurry, because he was the fastest man in college football.

8. Will Allen, defensive back (2000-03) -- Doss' caddy for three years intercepted Michigan's John Navarre at the sill of the Buckeyes' goal on the last play in 2002; caught a pass Matt Wilhelm tipped in the end zone to hold off Cincinnati; knocked Willis McGahee out of the Fiesta Bowl on a clean hit, and recovered the fumble of the Hurricanes' Roscoe Parrish in the same game; and stopped an N.C. State running back inches short of the goal on fourth down in the third overtime. In his senior year, Allen was an All-American.

9. Mike Doss, safety (1999-2002) -- Fierce hitter and three-time All-American, Doss was a champion at every level of the game. His ramble with an intercepted pass got Ohio State started in the upset of Miami in the national championship game.

10. James Laurinaitis, linebacker (2005-08) -- Three time All-American, Butkus Award winner as the top college linebacker, Nagurski Award winner as the top college defender, Laurinaitis was a very, very good college player. But he just didn't make that many game-changing plays and "hit the rewind button" collisions.

Dawson hits another game-winning field goal

K Phil Dawson celebrates with his teammates after drilling the game-winning FG.

September 3, 2010

By Tony Grossi

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Browns rookie running back Montario Hardesty's preseason debut was good while it lasted. But it ended prematurely with an injury to his left knee.

It brought the Browns' preseason to a thudding conclusion, with Hardesty talking dejectedly after the game with crutches lying in front of him and an MRI exam waiting on Friday.

"I can't say it's not frustrating," Hardesty said. "I've just got to keep my head up and keep working in the program."

The Browns pulled out the win over the Chicago Bears, 13-10, on a Phil Dawson 36-yard field goal as time expired. The victory evened their exhibition record at 2-2. Dawson earned both wins with field goals on the last play.

In perhaps his last act as a Brown, quarterback Brett Ratliff patched together the game-winning drive in the final 2:18. Veteran receiver Bobby Engram had two catches for 21 yards on the drive.

Coaches always manage their final preseason game with fingers crossed, hoping to avoid injuries. But this could become a routine occurrence whenever Hardesty takes the field. The talented back's injury problems at Tennessee have been well-chronicled. Now he has hurt both knees before playing a regular-season game.

A bone bruise on his right knee caused Hardesty to miss 27 days of training camp and three preseason games. That's the knee on which Hardesty had surgery to repair the dreaded anterior cruciate ligament tear as a freshman in 2005.

The injury to his left knee occurred on his seventh carry in his preseason debut against the Bears. That's the knee that reportedly received an arthscopic procedure in 2006.

Hardesty started the game and quickly demonstrated the skills that endeared him to Browns General Manager Tom Heckert on draft day. His second and third runs each went for six yards, and his fourth was a one-yard burrow over right guard for a touchdown.

Hardesty had another six-yard run, breaking through a tackle. Then on his seventh attempt, Hardesty did not get up after gaining two yards.

He was quickly surrounded by Browns' medical personnel. Hardesty left the field on his own and then was swarmed by five medical personnel as he sat on a table on the sideline.

After a few minutes, Hardesty walked dejectedly to the locker room with a trainer. He finished with 25 yards and the TD on seven carries. Coach Eric Mangini said he won't know the extent of Hardesty's injury until tests are completed.

James Davis replaced Hardesty and made an emphatic case to make the final roster. Davis, locked in a battle with Chris Jennings as a reserve back and special teamer, rushed 15 times for 66 yards and had gains of 12 and 14 yards on short Colt McCoy completions.

Jennings had 18 yards on five carries.

Speaking of McCoy, the rookie finally had some fun and reason to feel good about his first NFL preseason. But it didn't start out that way.

McCoy fumbled the first snap from rookie Shawn Lauvao -- who started at center and probably added that backup role to his starting job at right guard. McCoy then suffered a sack on his fourth play when he tap-danced in a well-formed pocket.

But McCoy showed the resiliency that made him the NCAA's all-time winningest quarterback at Texas. Playing into the third quarter, McCoy regrouped and went on to complete all 13 passes he attempted for 131 yards. He was sacked three times.

Last week, McCoy said he never practiced a single play he ran in the Detroit game. He obviously got more reps in two days of practice this week, and it showed.

McCoy, though, may have broken a bone in his left (non-throwing) hand.

Defensively, the Browns' "starters" for this game allowed Chicago quarterback Todd Collins to complete six of his first seven passes in his first outing with his new team. Collins, an old pro entering his 16th NFL season, needed only three plays to find the end zone after McCoy's first-play fumble.

Collins flipped an easy touchdown to tight end Greg Olsen from 15 yards. Olsen beat backup safety DeAngelo Smith by about five yards.
Collins finished the first half completing 10 of 15 for 139 yards. His passer rating was 118.5. Backup running back Chester Taylor hit the Browns for 23 yards on four carries.

The Browns fielded a defensive unit to start the game that included mostly backups. Rookie Joe Haden got a few reps at cornerback. The linebackers were Jason Trusnik, David Veikune, David Bowens and Marcus Benard. Veikune, Trusnik and Benard were still playing into the fourth quarter.

Usually, playing time in the fourth quarter of the final preseason game is a ticket to the waiver wire. But Benard might be the team's best pass rusher at linebacker and he was working with the No. 1 unit earlier this summer.

Ratliff's winning drive at the end took receiver Jake Allen off the hook. Ratliff had the Browns close to scoring territory with 4:29 left in the fourth quarter when his pass deflected off Allen's hands and was intercepted by Bears safety Aaron Webster.

The Browns' deep backups denied Bears rookie quarterback Dan LeFevour the chance to savor victory. LeFevour moved the Bears to the Browns' 39, but was flattened for a sack on third down by defensive end Brian Sanford.

UI To Extend Ferentz's Contract

Iowa's head football coach to be a Hawkeye until 2020

Sept. 2, 2010

IOWA CITY, Iowa - - The University of Iowa announced today it will extend Kirk Ferentz's contract with the intention that he will be like his predecessor, Hayden Fry, and serve as the head coach of the UI's football program for more than two decades. UI officials expect the contract to be signed Friday.

Ferentz will begin his 12th season as Iowa's football head coach Saturday when the nationally ranked Hawkeyes entertain Eastern Illinois at historic Kinnick Stadium.

The extension puts Ferentz under contract with the UI through the 2020 college football season.

"I've said publicly, and privately to Kirk, that it would be my goal to have him retire at Iowa. This contract is a statement supporting that commitment," said Gary Barta, the UI's director of athletics, who also noted that Ferentz's experience at the UI also includes eight years in the 1980's as a member of Fry's coaching staff.

"Kirk's `fit' at Iowa and his desire to live and work here is as strong as any I've seen. The continuity and leadership he brings as our head coach and the same among his staff of assistant coaches provides us a great foundation and important stability," Barta added. "I am grateful to the University of Iowa and thrilled to begin my 12th season as head coach and 21st overall with this world class institution. The players, coaching staff, and I are looking forward to competing this season," said Ferentz.

Much like Fry - and former UI coach Forest Evashevski, who will have a street on the UI campus named in his honor Friday morning - Ferentz has raised the level of achievement by the Hawkeyes while providing the UI Athletics Department significant stability in a key leadership position during the last 11 seasons, a stay that ranks second only to Penn State University's Joe Paterno in years of service among Big Ten Conference head football coaches.

Ferentz is one of only eight coaches in the NCAA's Football Bowl Subdivision who has been head coach at the same school since the 1999 season. The members of the "Class of 1999" who are still at the same school that hired them includes only Ferentz, Mack Brown (Texas), Randy Edsall (Connecticut), and Bob Stoops (Oklahoma).

The average years of service for the 10 position and strength and conditioning coaches that report directly to Ferentz is 10 years. Like Ferentz, offensive coordinator Ken O'Keefe, defensive coordinator Norm Parker, and Chris Doyle, the football program's director of strength and conditioning, all are entering their 12th season in Iowa City. So, too, are position coaches Phil Parker (defensive backs) and Eric Johnson (tight ends and recruiting coordinator).

In addition, Iowa is one of only 11 NCAA FBS programs to have the same full-time coaching staff in 2010 for the third straight year.

Ferentz's total annual compensation under the new agreement will be $3,675,000. This total is comprised of annual base income of $1.87 million, an increase of $250,000, and annual supplemental compensation of $1.48 million, an increase of $80,000. Ferentz will also receive annual longevity compensation beginning in 2010. That amount starts at $325,000 and increases annually.

A three-time winner of the Big Ten Coach of the Year award and the Associated Press National Coach of the Year in 2002 when Iowa made its first of two appearances in a Bowl Championship Series event, Ferentz will enter 2010 as the highest paid coach in the Big Ten Conference and will rank among the highest nationally.

Ferentz and the members of his staff will also continue to be eligible for bonuses based on performance. Barta said those bonuses are competitive with those available to coaches across the country who have achieved at the level Ferentz has as head coach of the Hawkeyes.

"Kirk's leadership is invaluable, and our success in the sport of football has a direct and significant impact on all of our other 23 sports," said Barta.

Ferentz's 2010 Iowa squad is coming off an 11-2 season a year ago that included a 24-14 victory over Georgia Tech in the 2010 FedEx Orange Bowl. That win was Iowa's first in a Bowl Championship Series event since Evashevski guided the Hawkeyes to a 38-12 victory over California in the 1959 Rose Bowl.

The Hawkeyes enter 2010 picked among the teams to contend for the 2010 Big Ten Conference championship and the conference's automatic entry in the Rose Bowl game. A championship would be the Hawkeyes' third under Ferentz; Iowa won or shared titles in 2002 and 2004, and placed second to Ohio State a year ago after having taken the Buckeyes into overtime in the team's game last season in Columbus, Ohio.

The significant impact of the success of the 2009 Hawkeyes was highlighted last month when the UI Athletics Department announced that all seven games on Iowa's 2010 schedule had reached sellout status. Iowa will enter Saturday's home opener having sold out 42 of its last 44 home games, a total that includes a stretch of 36 straight sellouts from 2002 to 2008.

Iowa is one of eight college football programs in the nation to compete in six January bowl games in the last eight seasons. The Hawkeyes have also been bowl eligible in each of the last nine seasons.

Under Ferentz's direction student-athletes in Iowa's football program have also competed successfully in the classroom. For example, the football program's most recent Graduation Success Rate of 74 percent ranked second best among the 10 teams that competed in the five 2010 BCS games.

"Kirk is arguably the best football coach in the country. Beyond that, he and his wife, Mary, are world-class people who care deeply about the University and the state," Barta said.

Coach Institution Total Years First Season
1--Joe Paterno Penn State 44 1966
2--Frank Beamer Virginia Tech 23 1987
3--Larry Blakeney Troy 19 1991
4--Pat Hill Fresno State 13 1997
5--Kirk Ferentz Iowa 11 1999
Mack Brown Texas 11 1999
Bob Stoops Oklahoma 11 1999
Randy Edsall Connecticut 11 1999
Coach Institution Total Years First Season
1--Joe Paterno Penn State 44 1966
2--Kirk Ferentz Iowa 11 1999

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