Thursday, August 30, 2012

The San Francisco 49ers Need a Healthy Ted Ginn Jr. to Win Super Bowl

By John Rozum

August 30, 2012

Ted Ginn Jr. is a bigger component of the San Francisco 49ers than given credit.

Still, Ginn has dealt with health concerns before and 2012 does offer concern. According to Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle:

Ginn limped off the field after he was tackled around the right ankle on a 9-yard reverse in the third quarter of San Francisco's 29-24 preseason win Sunday.

Ginn was taken to the locker room, and X-rays were negative, head coach Jim Harbaugh said.

San Francisco needs Ginn completely healthy for a run at Super Bowl XLVII, because the last thing any 49ers fan wants is a special teams encore from the NFC Championship game.

He can also help out a lot more offensively than expected. Since the Niners possess so much talent they have an opportunity to expand the playbook by presenting a more dynamic attack on top of the traditional calls.

Let's see where Ginn fits in the offense and why he's needed in winning the Bay Area's sixth Vince Lombardi Trophy.

Adds Another Dimension to the Running Game

Obvious plays with Ginn on the ground are any kind of reverse, end-around or direct snap if San Francisco were to sneak in the Wildcat.

The jet sweep, though, is the one option where Ginn can really do some damage to defenses.

It can, however, quickly go awry when used in predictable formations and game situations.

For one, it can be an easy read because the defense simply has to contain and be aware of blindside blocks. With Ted Ginn, the 49ers have the luxury of fielding Frank Gore in the backfield.

Any time Gore gets the rock inside, Ginn should be sweeping around the edge on a fake. And this is not to be like those end-around fakes we constantly see on every running play between the tackles.

Ginn has to remain close to the line of scrimmage and come directly across the developing play, not bending into the backfield for the fake. Maintaining precise linearity prevents the linebackers and secondary from viewing the handoff/fake because of the traffic caused by the offensive and defensive lines.

In short, the second level players briefly freeze like it's a play-action pass.

When Ginn finally receives the handoff, he'll see open space around the edge and the chance to turn on the jets. This can also be used as a double play-action pass (first off Gore) in which Ginn turns his fake into any route combination downfield.

This keeps the defense honest and will force the ends to rush upfield more quickly, thus creating a safer pocket for Alex Smith.

Stretch or Widen Coverage Downfield

Alex Smith is one fortunate signal caller in 2012, because the 49ers have supplied him with an abundance of talent.

With targets like Randy Moss, Michael Crabtree, Mario Manningham and tight end Vernon Davis, Smith can't go wrong. Include the running game with Gore and rookie LaMichael James—who is also a receiving threat—and Ginn will never face double coverage.

One thing the 49ers must steer clear of, though, is lining Ginn up in non-spread formations.

This will just limit his acceleration and speed because the more aggressive corners will jam and use the boundary as an additional defender. Put Ginn in the slot and inside of Moss, however, and he has more room to create separation and get downfield.

No one can match him in single coverage and every Cover 2 scheme will have to honor him, splitting down the middle. Even if teams go Cover 3 or 4 against the Niners when in a spread formation, Ginn can just drag over the intermediate level.

He's eerily similar to Mike Wallace of the Pittsburgh Steelers in that Ginn must get the rock when in stride. Doing so allows him to burn past any would-be tacklers for excellent yards after the catch.

No, he's not going to make 40-plus receptions but he won't have to.

Ginn is just another viable option for Smith, as his speed alone will prevent a defense from doubling any one of San Francisco's receivers.

Special Teams Part 1: Kick Returning

Being a double-duty return man is quite unique in today's NFLand the 49ers have a major competitive advantage with Ginn back deep.

Reverting back to his days on the Miami Dolphins, Ginn compiled 3,386 kick return yards and took two back before joining San Francisco in 2010.

The video is of Ginn's two touchdowns with Miami that happened during the same game three years ago.

Here, we see Ginn in his element. He displays excellent vision, athleticism at dodging tackles, patience and that impressive high gear to outrun defenders when in open spaces.

As dominant as Ginn was in South Florida, his most efficient year came with San Francisco in 2011. There, he was third in the league, averaging 27.6 yards per kickoff return and totaled 800 yards with one score.

Kickoffs are where this man is most dangerous because he's already hitting near full stride while the lanes are being set up. All Ginn has to do is pick a side and burst through the slimmest of openings.

Field position is obviously key, and setting up this offense past its own 20-yard line before each possession only gives the Niners another major edge.

Special Teams Part 2: Punt Returning

Known just as well for his punt-returning skills, Ginn wasn't present for the 49ers during the NFC title game last January.

After Kyle Williams lost two fumbles on punts it was evident that Ginn was sorely missed.

After all, Ginn enjoyed his best season as a punt returner with 466 yards, one score and a 12.3 average in 2011. Unlike kickoffs, though, punt-returning requires even more patience, trust and anticipation in order to be consistent.

When fielded blocks aren't as smoothly set up as kickoffs and in spite of a designed return in place, it's mostly improvisation from the returner and a solid effort of blocking from everyone else. And with his experience, Ginn has been a prime performer on punts.

His acceleration and lateral quickness is the most vital here, because getting upfield sooner is needed. On kickoffs he's already running, so acceleration and field awareness doesn't factor in as much.

But because Ginn can explode fast and change directions on a dime, he gives San Francisco another field position advantage.

And the worst-case scenario comes in the form of punters attempting to direct the punt away from Ginn. Doing so, however, sometimes results in a shanked punt that still gives the Niners better field position.

Any way you slice it, Ginn is a distinct asset to the 49ers and his contributions will lead to a Super Bowl.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Markus Kuhn: "He looks like the real-life Thor"

ON THE MARKUS: Some Giants compare him to comic-book hero Thor, but German-born DT Markus Kuhn also reminds some of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator as he fights to make the team.


August 24, 2012

It was not exactly a shocker to hear “Born In The USA” blaring from the gigantic speakers last Saturday night at MetLife Stadium during a break in the Giants-Jets preseason game and, without really thinking, Rocky Bernard, who was sitting on the bench, began singing along to one of Bruce Springsteen’s most popular rock anthems.

Alongside Bernard in the cluster of defensive tackles, rookie Markus Kuhn listened to the lyrics of the chorus and couldn’t help but feel just a bit slighted.

“That’s just messed up, man,’’ Kuhn said to his humming-along teammate.

“He’s from Germany,’’ Bernard explained.

Yes he is. Kuhn was not born in the USA, but rather in Weinheim, Germany, although many of the Giants believe Kuhn hails from much, much farther away: Asgard, home of one particularly hunky, hammer-throwing, long-haired Norse God.

“He looks like the real life Thor,’’ Justin Tuck said.

And he sounds like a latter-day Arnold Schwarzenegger, which is why he has been referred to as “The Terminator,’’ and one day in training camp up in Albany, he couldn’t believe what mindlessly came out of his mouth when bussing his tray in the team cafeteria. As he left the table, he stated to teammates, “I’ll be back,’’ and it sounded, accent and all, just like the famous movie line.

“I didn’t even realize I said it and they all started cracking up laughing,’’ Kuhn said.

How he looks, what he says and how he says it are fun diversions, but the Giants need to know if the kid can play. Actually, he’s not a kid, but a 26-year old rookie who came to football late (age 15) and is one of only two German players ever to get selected in the NFL Draft (offensive lineman Sebastian Vollmer was a 2009 pick of the Patriots).

The Giants face the Bears tonight in the third preseason game and coach Tom Coughlin said his starters will at least play until halftime. When the reserves take over, Kuhn again will get his chance to show he’s worth keeping around.

When training camp started, Kuhn, a seventh-round pick from North Carolina State, seemed destined to be practice-squad material, given he was so raw and the defensive tackle position was so loaded. Things have changed. Chris Canty remains out following knee surgery, Marvin Austin is sidelined with back issues and Shaun Rogers is dealing with a blood clot in his leg and hoping he can salvage his season. There’s light at the end of the tunnel for the likes of impressive first-year Dwayne Hendricks and former Broncos tackle Marcus Thomas. Kuhn also has a shot.

“I don’t look at this at all, my approach doesn’t change if everybody’s healthy or no one’s healthy,’’ Kuhn said. “I’m not working harder or less hard, I tried to fight for a spot before and I’m still trying to fight for a spot right now.’’

In his two games and in several practices Kuhn has managed to do something to get him noticed — the “flashes’’ coaches always want to see. Early in the third quarter against the Jets, in one of his first plays, Kuhn was able to penetrate and trip up Tim Tebow for a 1-yard loss. Back home, his buddies noticed.

“If I wasn’t thinking about it all the time if you watch ESPN you’re almost forced to think about him,’’ Kuhn said of Tebow. “I obviously know about him and he’s a good player. I mean, he’s a famous guy, he’s a famous athlete, not only in the U.S., so even my friends in Germany were like wow, making fun, going ‘You were able to touch Tim Tebow!’ Things like that. I like the effort he plays with so it was definitely good to get him.’’

No one has questioned Kuhn’s effort, and if the numbers don’t work for him, he’s virtually assured of sticking around on the practice squad.

“He’s just a funny guy, he’s a fun-loving guy, he’s a typical high-effort white guy, which our room always seems to have one,’’ Tuck said. “He’s a strong guy, a guy who seems to be getting the reads well. I’m interested to see how he’s gonna do in that final preseason game when he has to play a lot of snaps, and not just flashes.’’

Thursday, August 23, 2012

A conversation with Cleveland's Phil Dawson

By Pat McManamon

August 23, 2012

Phil Dawson has to be a freak of nature, or he’s simply extremely talented. In his first 12 seasons in the league, he made 10 field goals of 50 yards or longer. Last season alone he made seven. Last week in Green Bay he made two longer than 50 and another of 47. Since 1999, the guy has been the ultimate professional, and if the Browns retired numbers his number “4” would belong right next to Lou Groza’s.

He’s suffered through losing seasons, finished a game kicking off and making field goals and extra points with a broken arm and made just about every key kick asked of him -- including the one off “the Dawson bar” in Baltimore. The only time he misses is when a snap goes awry, or something else bizarre happens -- like when a 2002 overtime kick in Pittsburgh hit the helmet of Kimo Von Oelhoffen. He’s never ducked a question, and always talked about supporting the team. And he’s done it while being a devoted father and husband to his three children and wife Shannon.

In the list of pro’s pros in Cleveland, Dawson belongs at the top.
This week, Dawson sat down with Pat McManamon and discussed his successes, his approach, the nuances of kicking and his career. They equate to a manual for any young player about what it means to be a pro, and by extension what it means to be a Cleveland Brown.

Question: What is up with you making all these 50-yard field goals? Are you getting stronger as you get older?

Answer: I think a lot of it is perception. I was always known growing up as a guy with a big leg. For whatever reason when I got to the NFL, my label was the opposite. I think sometimes in this league when you’re good at one thing people automatically assume you’re not at another.

So if you’re an accurate field goal guy, you must not be a strong field goal guy. Or conversely if you’re a big-leg field goal guy you must not be very accurate. That’s just kind of how it goes.

There’s some of that. But another is opportunity. A lot of years I didn’t even try a 50-yarder. That means I didn’t make one and when you don’t make one now you get a labeled as a guy who can’t make one.

And then the third thing is I’ve worked my tail off, so I have gotten stronger. Is that not why we go in the weight room in the offseason? Is that not why we do the flexibility training and all that kind of thing?

So … opportunity, have gotten stronger, and just the confidence now when I go out to try one of these. In the case of the other night (in Green Bay), I had just been out there five minutes earlier. You make one now you feel like you can make another.

Q. You had as many 50-yarders last year as you had the first nine years. Is that simply a matter of trying? I remember Chris Palmer used to punt from the 30.

A. It was a special year when things came together. But in a 10-game season my senior year at high school I had four 50-yarders. I’ve been doing this a long time.

Q. How about at Texas?

A. I had like 13. I was kind of known for making the long field goal.

I mean I’m very appreciative of the opportunities, and I have gotten stronger and more confident and all that stuff, but I’m not necessarily doing anything that’s surprising me.

Q. What do you do specifically in training to help?

A. A typical day for me in the offseason is in the weight room for two, two and a half hours. Then I’m on the field doing all my on-the-field kind of stuff. The older I’ve been getting I’ve been getting into flexibility.

Q. Yoga? Any of that kind of stuff?

A. Yoga. Pilates. Massage. All that kind of thing. If it were just strength, Ahtyba Rubin would be our kicker. It’s a combination of strength and flexibility.

Q. Is it a workout tailored for you or did you come up with it?

A. There’s a place called the HIT Center of Austin - High Intensity Training Center of Austin. Those guys really helped me out this past offseason. I’m really excited about where my body’s at right now.

Q. I apologize if this is not appropriate, but the general rule says that as guys age they are not supposed to get stronger.

A. Like I said, I don’t know that I’m that much stronger than I’ve ever been. I just feel better and I’m more confident. And I’m able to display the strength that I have better with all the flexibility and all that kind of thing. And if we’re saying stronger, then that’s assuming we were weaker. It’s all back to opportunity.

Q. Did you find that yoga helps your frame of mind too?

A. (Dawson leans back and smiles.) I can’t stand that part of it.

Q. Seriously?

A. I just want to stretch. Let’s make my hamstrings feel loose. That’s what I want.

Q. No happy music?

A. Nooo.

Q. I was trying to think, and obviously there have been a lot of losses so there weren’t a ton of opportunities, but I could not remember a time when you were asked to make a game-winning or game-tying kick when you missed it?

A. Well, St. Louis last year.

Q. Well those were weird circumstances (when the snap went awry after hitting the guard’s leg).

A. There’s one. I’m trying to remember what it was. … It hasn’t happened often, fortunately. Or I wouldn’t be here. That’s the reality of my job. I can make 90 percent of my kicks and if I miss the wrong one …

Q. How long longer do you want to keep doing this?

Multiple years. I feel great.

Q. You have a number? Five?

A. I’ll tell ya … I don’t know the exact number, but I’m not going to be a guy that keeps playing and tries to eke out years. I want to perform at a high level. I want to try to be the best there is in the league. And I want to be central to what my team is trying to accomplish. And if that’s not the case, I’ll be gone.

Q. Have you looked at any guys’ careers and said, ‘He’s done it into his late 30s’?

A. I’m aware of what guys have done, but I think I’ve kind of traveled a different path. I’m still in the North. I’m still kicking off. I’m still kind of the blue-collar path.

Q. Yet you’re still kicking in Cleveland …

A. Yeah. A lot of these guys that have hung on have maybe put in their time in a Northern climate and they make their way down South or they get in a dome or maybe they give up kickoff duties and that kind of thing. I have no desire to have my role diminished at this point. I love the challenge of kicking in bad weather.

Q. You do? Seriously? There isn’t part of you that would want to kick in better conditions?

A. I sometimes wonder ‘what if.’ What would I be able to do in conditions that allow you to demonstrate things. Especially kickoff wise. We’re so limited here what we can do in our stadium. And I’ve had to listen forever how I can’t kick off. I’ve had my moments where I’ve thought, ‘If I played in a dome or down south.’

Q. That’s another thing to me that’s impression. Your touchbacks are up there with anyone’s in the league. Until the weather gets cold, but that’s going to happen to everybody.

A. When we went to Indianapolis last year, I had three touchbacks in the game. I’m thinking if I had eight games in the dome … Another whole thing is opportunities to kick off. We don’t score as much. Of course my touchbacks are going to be less.

Q. Is there any part of you that would like to focus just on field goals?

A. I love the whole thing. The challenge of preparing for an opponent. Using different kicks to attack whatever scheme it is they are coming at us with. That’s usually a high intensity point in the game. I love feeling that.

Q. When you say you’re limited in Cleveland to what you can do on kickoffs, how so?

A. With traditional winds, you have to go one way or the other in terms of direction. Not many people are hitting touchbacks. Maybe early in the year in our stadium. By October, not many people are banging touchbacks. So instead of just hauling off and kicking it, you’re placing it, hanging it, making it go this way or that way, that kind of stuff.

Q. I think back to certain games in your career. The one in your rookie year at Pittsburgh to beat them. When you kept kicking with a broken arm. You didn’t ask out, and it must have hurt like blazes.

A. It was bad.

Q. And the other was the long one in the snow against Buffalo when we all thought Romeo (Crennel) was nuts to have you try it and you made it. Any others jump out?

A. The other was the one was at Buffalo on Monday night (a game-winner in 2008). It was cold. The ball wasn’t traveling well. To be on that stage, to make that kick, was very …

Q. That’s the night of the famous Phil Savage e-mail.

A. Was it? Oh boy …

Q. See what you caused?

A. Got overshadowed (joking)

Q. Do you feel appreciated in Cleveland?

A. Absolutely. There is a tangible feeling I have when I come into our stadium. The fans, the security guards at the door of the locker room, the policemen who patrol the hallways, the ticket attendants. Whoever I see down there it’s pretty fun, pretty neat. And going around town, bumping into people. Yeah, I think I am appreciated by them.

Q. You probably don’t want to hear this because you have multiple years left, but if the Browns ever retire numbers yours should be next to Lou Groza’s, in my mind.

A. That’s an argument I’ll let everyone else make. To even be considered is an honor given the amount of respect I have for him and what he did for this place.

Q. Know the number of points you need to catch him?

A. Not exactly. I think it’s like 190 something.

Q. A year and a half?

A. Well, two years. If we’re lucky.

Q. Do you set goals every year?

A. Yep. I keep most of them to myself. I’m trying to be the best. Still some personal goals I’d like to accomplish. I’d like to win some games. I would gladly sacrifice a couple missed kicks to have an opportunity to make some in game-winning situations. That’s where I am with my career. As long as I’m playing I’ll try to be the best there is, and the day that’s no longer there it’s time to hang it up.

Q. The argument could be made that you are among the best, but because the team has lost it’s not noticed. Is that frustrating at all?

A. Yeah. It’s frustrating. Not for ego. It’s what drives me, to be quite honest. I came into the league undrafted. I joke with (special teams coach Chris) Tabor that I’m going to have this chip on my shoulder surgically removed the day I retire.

But I’ve learned to use criticism and doubt for being overlooked as fuel. But I’ve also had to learn in some respects that shouldn’t be the result of all your efforts. To get the pat on the back, to get the recognition.

There needs to be a certain amount of satisfaction in knowing what your job is, coming out here and doing your job. I think those are gonna be the things that I remember and enjoy the most when I’m done. Things that a lot of people don’t realize. Knowing how difficult a 33-yarder was on a certain day when maybe my back was tight and I wasn’t feeling good. Being able to still make it. Rising to the challenge.

Those are the things I take satisfaction in. If the day ever comes when I get recognized for what I’ve done here, great. But if it doesn’t, that’s enough.

Q. Do you feel like your peers recognize you?

A. I do, and that means a lot. Knowing so many coaches around the league now, players. It’s fully rewarding to hear what they have to say.

Q. Last question, of all the guys you’ve encountered here, who taught you the most about being a pro?

A. Chris Gardocki. I wouldn’t be here without Chris. Some of it was spoken word, but most of it was just watching the way he approached things. Some of my game day quirks to this day, that people are like ‘what in the world are you doing?’ … I learned from Chris Gardocki.

Q. Such as?

A. Oh good grief. I take that sticky spray that the trainers use to do tape, and I spray it before I pull my socks on because it holds your socks nice and tight. Who would have ever thought to do that? But I watched Chris do it so then I did it.

That’s kind of a stupid one, but there’s some more important ones that I do. Just the way he knew his opponent. The way he studied the weather. The way he was intense even out here on each and every kick.

We get a label as kind of screwing around, but when it was time to do his thing he did his thing. He played 17 years, never had a punt blocked, was an All-Pro twice. There you go.

I’m on year 15, haven’t gotten to the Pro Bowl yet but I’m going to keep focusing on each and every kick, and hopefully now Reggie (Hodges) and Christian (Yount) and the guys that are in my little group, we’ll have our fun, but they’ll see when it’s time to go to work there’s no messing around and everything is important.

That’s what I learned from Chris.

Q. I lied about that being the last question. The contract situation (for the second year in a row Dawson is playing under the franchise tender, without a long-term deal) doesn’t seem to bother you when you’re playing.

A. Not now. Offseason it’s tough, because you’re not out here doing anything constructive with it.

Q. But you’ve also proven you can work in the offseason on your own.

A. Yeah. Like I said. I’m going to approach every season the same way. Every year has its distractions, and this year my contract situation is a distraction. I just have to deal with that and do what I can.

Q. You probably don’t remember, but back when Butch Davis was coach and Earl Little complained about not being able to go out to dinner on the road, I asked you about it and you said the only thing you wanted to change was winning. You said you’d practice naked if it meant more wins. That’s not a real pretty image.

A. (Laughs) No, it’s not. But that’s what it’s about.

Q. How are the kids, the family?

A. Great. That’s the hardest part. We moved to Austin because we didn’t know with the contract, and now they’re in school. They come up for home games, but it’s brutal not being around them. But they are doing great.

Court Rules for Punter on Injury

August 22, 2012

Tom Tupa, 46, who played 18 seasons in the N.F.L. as a punter, is eligible for workers’ compensation for a career-ending injury on the field, Maryland’s highest court ruled Wednesday.

Tupa sustained the injury while warming up for a preseason game in 2005 at FedEx Field in Landover while playing for the Washington Redskins. The court rejected the idea that football injuries should not be considered accidental because of the rough nature of the sport. Tupa’s injury happened “out of and in the course of (his) employment,” the Maryland Court of Appeals said in its 16-page opinion.

“He was warming up for a game when he landed awkwardly and thereafter sought immediate medical treatment,” Judge John Eldridge wrote in the opinion. “Ample evidence was presented to show that Tupa suffered a compensable accidental injury during the course of his employment.”

The team and insurers argued that Tupa’s injury was not an accidental personal injury within the meaning of Maryland’s workers’ compensation law.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Dawson's bionic leg

August 20, 2012

By Mary Kay Cabot, The Plain Dealer

‘D’ wins two-minute drill: The first-team defense prevailed over the first-team offense in the two-minute drill, forcing Brandon Weeden into four straight incompletions. D’Qwell Jackson was disruptive, sacking Weeden and batting down one of the passes. Seneca Wallace was up next and fared better against the second-team defense, opening with a deep ball to Josh Gordon and finding him again for another short completion. The drive ended on a 41-yard field goal by Phil Dawson. Weeden got another crack at the two-minute drill, this time against the second- and third-team defense, and produced a 45-yard Dawson field goal.

Dawson’s bionic leg: He keeps getting better with age. Dawson, who made kicks of 52, 47 and 53 yards in Green Bay, boomed a 62-yarder in practice Sunday.

Injuries: Tight end Ben Watson, receiver Rod Windsor and Jackson (shoulder) returned to practice. Rookie linebacker Emmanuel Acho has been out the past two days (no details). Defensive end Frostee Rucker (knee) was limited. . . . Rookie offensive lineman Ryan Miller walked inside with a trainer during practice.

Schedule: Today’s practice is closed to the public. Tuesday and Wednesday are open from 8:45 a.m. to 11:15 a.m. For updates, call 877-627-6967.

Phil Dawson is amazing

From "Terry Pluto's scribbles"

August 17, 2012

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Scribbles in my notebook after the Browns' 35-10 preseason win in Green Bay Thursday:

Phil Dawson is amazing. He kicked field goals of 53, 52 and 47 yards. He also kicked an extra point from about 37 yards when Cousins was flagged for a 15-yard penalty. "I actually practice that, extra points after a 15-yard penalty," said Dawson. "It's never happened before to me, but I figured if I kicked long enough, one day it would."

Nate Ebner starting to flash some defensive skills with pair of picks today

By Karen Guregian

August 17, 2012

Thanks to YouTube, we’ve already gotten the sense Nate Ebner’s special teams abilities are off the charts. Now that he’s been on the field a few weeks as an active participant, we’re starting to see his potential as a defensive back.

Today, he picked off two passses, both off tips.
One was thrown by Brian Hoyer, the other by Ryan Mallett. He had an interception on Wednesday, as well.

So we’ve seen some ball skills, along with Ebner having a knack for being in the right place at the right time. He’s turned some heads this week, no doubt about it.

”This is really the first week he’s actually been on the field and been able to do a few more things defensively. (He) didn’t really have a lot of experience just defensively at Ohio State but smart kid, understood what they were doing real well defensively. I think he’s learning,” Pats director of player personnel Nick Caserio said earlier in the week. ”I think it’s a process for him. But he has good size, he’s smart, he can run. I think there are just some things he’s going to have to learn technique-wise and just seeing things, whether it’s formation, empty, just the multiplicity that goes into defense in general but that specific safety position because there’s so much communication that’s involved in that spot.”

Friday, August 17, 2012

Catching up with Nate Ebner

August 16, 2012

By Mike Reiss

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Sixth-round draft choice Nate Ebner was selected with special teams in mind, as he was widely viewed as Ohio State's best player in the kicking game. Furthermore, he only played a few snaps on defense in his final season with the Buckeyes.

Still, one of the things that has stood out in recent training camp practices is Ebner's ball skills at safety (he's had a few interceptions this week).

On Tuesday, director of player personnel Nick Caserio was asked about Ebner and his work on defense.

"[He] didn’t really have a lot of experience just defensively at Ohio State but [he's a] smart kid, [and] understood what they were doing real well defensively. I think he’s learning. I think it’s a process for him," Caserio relayed. "But he has good size [6-0, 210], he’s smart, [and] he can run."

Caserio added that for such an inexperienced defender, there are things Ebner will have to learn from a technique standpoint, in addition to reacting quickly to formations and shifts, and being able to communicate that.

The coaching staff has tested him early, at times putting him on the field with some of the club's other top defenders.

Ebner, who missed the first week of camp with an undisclosed injury after passing his conditioning test, spoke with reporters after Wednesday's practice and said he's accepting every challenge put in front of him.

"It's been great to be a part of this team," said Ebner, who played on two of the top special teams units in the preseason opener. "I have good people to watch and learn from. We have a lot of great leaders on this team, and good guys to follow in their footsteps."

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Dallas Clark quick to make an impact for Bucs

By Ira Kaufman

August 8, 2012

If Dallas Clark was looking for a challenge, he came to the right place.

Tampa Bay's new 33-year-old tight end is back in a grassroots classroom after nine seasons on NFL grass, soaking up the principles of offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan while developing a rapport with Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman.

"It's different, but it's fun,'' Clark said after Tuesday's practice. "There's absolutely no carryover from what I dealt with in Indy – and I didn't think that was possible. It's all fresh and it's all new, which makes this camp pretty important for me.''

After nine years in Indianapolis refining his vision to see the game through the eyes of former Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, Clark is starting over with a young 6-foot-6 quarterback who is still growing.

"Dallas didn't have as many (offseason) practices as the rest of us, but he's been an absolute stud,'' Freeman said. "The guy loves football and it's going to be great to have him here. I'm very excited to work with him.''

Clark evolved into Manning's trusty safety valve with the Colts, catching 100 passes in 2009 before a wrist injury and other health problems caused him to miss 15 games the past two seasons.

Indianapolis released Clark five months ago and it took 10 weeks before he spurned the Patriots and agreed on a one-year deal with the Bucs worth $2.7 million, with $1 million in guaranteed money.

"He's already made an impact,'' Bucs guard Davin Joseph said. "To see him come in here and work as hard as a rookie, that's special. The man's playing with a purpose. A guy with his credentials could start to taper down at this stage of his career. Clark isn't doing that …and it's refreshing to see.''

Clark signed with the Bucs on the same day the club jettisoned veteran tight end Kellen Winslow, who failed to live up to Schiano's expectations of a "Buccaneer man.''

"Dallas Clark has been a great teammate and leader for us, a huge addition,'' general manager Mark Dominik said. "He's out there helping our young guys get better. That tight end position is so important to a quarterback, and he runs such precise routes.''

According to Sullivan, it's critical Clark and Freeman think alike when a particular coverage scheme prompts an audible.

"Dallas has a great veteran presence, an ability to diagnose what's happening around him,'' Sullivan said. "He's brings a savviness to the position and he's done a heck of a job picking up a new language after being in a different system all those years.''

It took a while for Clark and Manning to forge a meeting of the minds in the heat of competition.

"It's all about repetition,'' Clark said. "As (former Colts offensive coordinator) Tom Moore would always say, 'You've got to fight boredom.' That's what the NFL is – doing the same thing over and over again until it's automatic. It's about a quarterback and a receiver constantly talking to each other, on the sideline and in the classroom.

" 'What are you seeing? Where do you want me?' It's more about Josh telling me. That's the way it was with Peyton. I tried to see it one way and hoped we had a match, but if Peyton saw something else, I had to make sure I saw it the same way.''

During a recent Bucs practice, former Colts president Bill Polian marveled at Clark's knack for finding open seams and holding onto the ball, despite contact.

Polian said the Bucs were smart to add an experienced free agent like Clark, who joins 37-year-old safety Ronde Barber as the only players on a 90-man roster older than 30.

"He likes everything about football,'' Polian said. "He loves going to meetings, he loves getting his ankles taped, he loves practice, he loves watching film. There is nobody who likes football more than Dallas Clark. He's got a smile on his face every day and if he's healthy, he'll be a great addition for the Bucs.

"He's a guy who will go down the middle and take the hit. If you drew up the ideal football player in terms of temperament, athletic ability, love for the game and work ethic, it's No. 44. Central Casting invented guys like that. That's what real football players look like.''

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

NC Sports clients honored in Ohio State Football's All-Time Dream Team

From Tim Bielik's "Ohio State Football: The All-Time Dream Team"

August 15, 2012

QB: Troy Smith

Of all the Heisman Trophy winners in the school's history, Troy Smith is the only quarterback to bring home the hardware.

Smith's senior season, sans the national championship game, was incredible and almost set the standard for what a true dual-threat quarterback should be able to do.

Smith racked up about 8,000 yards of total offense and 68 touchdowns in his career, 31 of which came in the 2006 season.

Ohio State has had some solid quarterbacks in recent years, but Smith has been a cut above the rest, and he should be the standard for how Buckeye quarterbacks should play.

WRs: Cris Carter, Ted Ginn, Jr.; TE: John Frank

Ohio State has produced as many good receivers in the past 25 years as any other school in the country, and the two best from those eras couldn't be more different.

Ted Ginn, Jr. may have been the fastest receiver in school history, with an ability to get behind almost any DB at will.

Ginn finished his career with over 4,000 all-purpose yards and 26 touchdowns between rushing, receiving and returning.

His last touchdown was a kickoff return against the Florida Gators in the 2007 BCS National Championship Game. Unfortunately, he got injured and missed the rest of the game.

Ohio State has not had a great history of TEs, but John Frank was an excellent player at the position.

Frank is the career leader among TEs in receptions (121) and yards with 1,481. He was a two-time All-American.

DL: Mike Vrabel, Dan Wilkinson, Jim Stillwagon, Bill Willis

The defensive front four of the OSU Dream Team is full of relentless, athletic players that made plays in both the running game as well as while rushing the passer.

Mike Vrabel, now an assistant with the Buckeyes, recorded 33 sacks and 66 TFLs in his career, both of which are school records. He then went on to help New England win three Super Bowls.

LBs: Chris Spielman, Andy Katzenmoyer, A.J. Hawk

Ohio State has long been a linebacker powerhouse and produced three amazingly talented linebackers in three respective decades.

Andy Katzenmoyer may have been the most imposing linebacker in school history, as "Big Kat" towered over opposing offenses.

He started 37 games from 1994-96 and recorded 197 tackles, 50 of which were losses and 18 sacks. He was also the first inside linebacker in school history to win the Butkus Award.

K: Mike Nugent; P: Tom Tupa

When it comes to kickers at Ohio State, Mike Nugent was as reliable as they come.

Nugent has the career marks in FG percentage (.818) and scoring with 365 points. He also won the Lou Groza Award and was named a first-team All-American in 2004.

Tom Tupa was very reliable as well, not just as a punter but also as a quarterback.

He threw for 1,786 seasons and 12 TDs as a senior in 1987, starting both at quarterback and at punter. Tupa enjoyed an 18-year career in the NFL with a career average of 43.4 yards per punt.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Pro Bowler From Anamosa Working Hard For Ravens

By David Driver, Reporter

August 12, 2012

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — He made his first Pro Bowl appearance in January, closed on a house in Marion in May, has a second child on the way and is getting ready for his sixth season in the National Football League.

It might be easy for Marshal Yanda, a graduate of Anamosa High School, to become comfortable as an offensive guard/tackle for the Baltimore Ravens. But that is not the case for the former Iowa standout, whose team beat Atlanta, 31-18, in its first preseason game Thursday at Atlanta.

“Even though I made the Pro Bowl that doesn’t change my approach,” Yanda said after a recent practice in suburban Baltimore County. “I am not taking the foot off the pedal as far as becoming a great player. There are things in my game I can get better at. I need to take the right approach day-by-day and get better as a player and teammate and keep moving forward.”

The Ravens, who open the regular-season at home Sept. 10 against Cincinnati, are the only team in the NFL who have made the playoffs each of the past four years. Baltimore just missed a trip to the Super Bowl with a loss to New England, 23-20, in the AFC championship game in January.

“That is behind us now. That was a really tough loss to swallow,” said Yanda, listed at 6-foot-3, 315 pounds. “We know what we have to do. We still have a damn good football team. That (game) is in our rearview (mirror). We want to finish those plays. We just came up a couple plays short. That is how it goes. You can’t win them all. We are past it now and looking forward to this year.”

A consolation of sorts for Yanda, who turns 28 in September and was drafted by the Ravens in 2007, was his first trip to the Pro Bowl in Hawaii in late January with his wife and extended family.

“It was one of the coolest things I have ever done in my life, to go out there and be around the best in the game,” he said. “It was a very humbling and awesome experience. I was like a kid in a candy store. We would go to the dinner table and there is Drew Brees. We were like two kids.”

He and his wife, who have one child and the other due in October, had never been to Hawaii and were able to visit Pearl Harbor and other sites.

Yanda was among 17 people, mostly family members, who made the trip to Hawaii. He footed the bill of $25,000.

“It was a wash since we won the game,” said Yanda, who got $25,000 for being part of the winning team. “It was perfect.”

Yanda, who played at North Iowa Area Community College in Mason City before heading to Iowa, said he took suggestions from some of his Baltimore teammates who had been to Pro Bowl games about making the most of the opportunity.

“I took the advice of the older guys. You never know. You could blow a knee” and never make another Pro Bowl, he said.

He made four fishing trips to Canada before reporting to camp with the Ravens. And Yanda continued to work out this summer under Hawkeye strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle in Iowa City.

Yanda is not the only Ravens player with ties to Iowa. Veteran field goal kicker Billy Cundiff is from Harlan and played at Drake, safety Sean Considine played at Iowa and offensive lineman Kelechi Osemele was a second-round draft pick this year from Iowa State.

“He definitely flashes the necessary tools to be able to play in this league,” Yanda said of Osemele. “His head is spinning a little bit, as all rookies do at that time. It is still early. He works hard, he wants to get it. He looks very promising.”

Osemele, an All-American at ISU, gives Yanda a lot of credit for helping him make the transition to the NFL.

“It has been invaluable the experience he brings to the table,” Osemele said. “It is remarkable because he was in the same position (six years ago). He has been there and done that. He is a successful guy and he knows how to play the right way.”

Yanda said he can only get better as a veteran. “You definitely know what to expect. You gain more and more experience every year,” Yanda said.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Henery Passes Test With Clutch Kick

August 10, 2012

By Chris McPherson

When Alex Henery's game-winning 51-yard field goal cleared the uprights with plenty of room to spare on Thursday night, there wasn't much reaction from the kicker.

Holder Chas Henry already had his arms raised to signal a successful kick while the ball was still in the air. Henery's teammates swarmed him on the field. As Henery jogged to the sideline, still showing no emotion, his teammates continued to mob him. Wide receiver DeSean Jackson sprinted down the sideline to slap him on the helmet.

"It was pretty cool to get everyone excited like that and get the win," Henery said. "Everyone's happy I guess."

Maybe it's Henery's "aw, shucks" attitude that allowed him to thrive on this opportunity. The most accurate kicker in NCAA history was the Eagles' fourth-round draft pick just a year ago. Henery set the NFL rookie record and single-season franchise record for field goal accuracy (88.9 percent). With 118 points, Henery also set the franchise rookie record for scoring. Henery will begin the 2012 regular season with a streak of 16 consecutive successful field goal attempts, which is currently the third-longest in team history.

Last season, Henery did hit a 51-yard field goal at Dallas, but he never faced a game-tying or game-winning clutch situation.

"It's good to get some of those in before the start of the regular season. I was happy with how I hit it," said Henery, who also had three touchbacks. "I think every kicker looks to get in those situations. It's good to get practice at them and know how to handle situations like that."

Henery did not alter the lean of the ball or adjust his kicking style for the distance. Henery said Mother Nature assisted by providing a little wind at his back. In fact, Henery was more than happy to offer compliments to everyone else but himself. He credited the offense for getting him in a position where he could attempt a game-winning kick. Then, he praised long snapper Jon Dorenbos and Henry, who got the ball down where Henery wanted it.

"They're perfect like they've always been. I can always rely upon them in situations like that," Henery said. "They came through and I was able to too."

The preseason is a time to find out about your football team. The Eagles learned on Thursday night that Henery's strong leg can be trusted in the clutch.

Matt Spaeth Tournament Raises Thousands for Sports, Hanover Food Shelf

Former St. Michael-Albertville standout and now Chicago Bear Matt Spaeth presents a check to the Hanover Food Shelf for $7,000, raised at his annual golf tournament in June

By Mike Schoemer

August 10, 2012

Super Bowl Champion and second-year Chicago Bear Matt Spaeth, a former Minnesota Gopher standout and St. Michael-Albertville native, has literally raised thousands of dollars now for local charities and organizations with his summer golf tournament.

This year was no different.

Spaeth and the St. Michael-Albertville Football Boosters would like to thank everyone who made the 2012 Matt Spaeth Charity Golf Tournament a huge success.

A total of $7,000 was donated to the Hanover Food Shelf, and $3000 will be given to the STMA Student Fund to help students at STMA High School.

The tournament was held June 29 at Fox Hollow Golf Course.

Mangino Wraps Up Ohio Tour in Columbus

By Brandon Castel

August 10, 2012

COLUMBUS — There was an unmistakable figure at Ohio State’s preseason camp this week.

Though he was dressed to blend in with his surroundings, a chameleon Mark Mangino is not.

The former Oklahoma offensive coordinator turned Kansas head coach is as recognizable as just about any figure in college football, even though he hasn’t patrolled a sideline since the 2009 football season.

Mangino, who was 50-48 in eight seasons at Kansas, spent three days with the Buckeyes as part of his multi-city tour of professional and college football training camps this fall.

“He’s good friends with Ed Warinner, so he just wanted to observe and watch practice,” said OSU head coach Urban Meyer, who allowed Mangino all-access to his first week of practice this fall.

“He’s got a thing going on with the Browns. And he’s a friend of mine. He’s a great football coach.”

Mangino actually started his football tour down in Cincinnati, where he caught Bengals training camp on Saturday. The 55-year old football coach met up with long-time friend Jonathan Hayes, now the tight ends coach for Marvin Lewis in Cincinnati.

Hayes played tight end at Iowa in the 1980s, and eventually spent 11 years in the NFL as a tight end with the Kansas City Chiefs and Pittsburgh Steelers. He and Mangino worked together as assistant coaches under Bob Stoops from 1999-2001.

They were both a part of the staff in 2000 when the Sooners beat Florida Sate, 13-2, in the Orange Bowl to win the BCS National Championship.

Mangino, who was an assistant under Jim Tressel at Youngstown State University until he graduated in 1987, also stopped by Browns training camp on Sunday to say hello to Cleveland’s first-year offensive coordinator Brad Childress.

He and Childress worked together at last winter’s East-West Shrine College All-Star Game in St. Petersburg, Fla. That experienced reminded Mangino of what he has been missing since he was forced to resign back in 2009.

At the time, Mangino was only two years removed from leading Kansas to a 12-1 season, including a 24-21 win over Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl.

“What he did at Kansas, I often talk to Ed Warinner about that,” Meyer said with a pause for emphasis.

“Ed was the offensive coordinator when Kansas went and won the Orange Bowl. Think about that for a minute. I think Kansas is a great place, but that was a heck of a football team.”

Quarterback Todd Reesing was the key contributor to the Kansas aerial attack that season, but it was Warinner who put the offense into motion. That’s why Mangino wanted to spend some time watching his former assistant work with the offensive line at Ohio State.

He ended up spending three days in Columbus, watching Warinner, checking out the special teams and sitting in the film room as Meyer and his staff broke down the tape of that day’s practice.

Mangino also got a chance to talk with OSU strength coach Mickey Marotti, along with former head coaches John Cooper and Earle Bruce. It was reminiscent to the time Meyer spent touring preseason camps at Oklahoma and Texas a year ago.

Much like Meyer was—even if he didn’t realize it—Mangino is likely setting himself up for a return to coaching, possibly as early as next season.

“I very much am looking forward to getting back on the field,” Mangino told in Kansas City.

“I'd like to be a head coach because I feel I have some unfinished business. But I'll say if being an offensive coordinator or being a position coach is the opportunity that is the best fit for me and the best fit for them, I'll do it.

“I miss it,” he added, “I just miss it.”

Be like Bolt? 49ers rave about team speed

Ted Ginn, Jr. was a near-unanimous choice to win the gold medal if the 49ers held an Olympics-like 100-meter dash among players.

By Matt Maiocco

August 9, 2012

SANTA CLARA -- We don't know exactly why, but football evaluators use the 40-yard dash as the measure of a player's speed.

The 49ers have a number of players who ran the 40 in sub-4.4 seconds during their respective pre-draft workouts. And with the amount of speed on the team, it would make for some good competition.

Cornerback Tarell Brown, who ran in the low-4.4s at the NFL scouting combine in 2007, struggled when asked who would be atop the podium if there were an Olympics-like 100-meter dash among 49ers players.

There might not be anyone like Olympic sprints champion Usain Bolt on the 49ers. But there are plenty of players who can bolt down the field.

"Definitely, Teddy (Ginn)," Brown said. "We have a bunch of guys who can run. We got six guys -- or more. Vernon (Davis), Randy (Moss), Teddy, me, (Chris) Culliver. A.J. Jenkins. And there are some other young guys, (Deante') Purvis, (Nathan) Palmer.

"If we had a relay team, we'd win the NFL Olympics."

Cory Nelms, who ran track at Miami (Fla.), was clocked as fast as 4.35 in the 40 last year. So, of course, he envisions winning the gold among the 89 players on the 49ers' roster. Ginn is his choice for the silver.

As for the bronze . . . "believe it or not, Randy. He can get down there."

Nelms mentioned Kyle Williams, who ran 4.34 at his 2010 pro day, as someone who would be in medal contention. When asked about rookie running back LaMichael James, Nelms answered, "I've never seen him open it up."

Running Frank Gore picked James for third behind his projected top two of Ginn and Davis.

"You can tell he's fast," Gore said of James, who clocked a 4.32 at the combine in February.

Jenkins, who was timed as low as 4.30 in the weeks leading up to the draft, also lists James as the bronze medalist. He resisted the urge to put himself on the podium.

"The first one has to be Ted Ginn," Jenkins said. "Who's the second-fastest? I'm not going to say myself. I think the second-fastest is Kyle Williams. I'll put LaMichael at third. I'm not being biased."

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Ebner finally gets to strut stuff

Patriots defensive back Nate Ebner (43) defends against wide receiver Brandon Lloyd (85) during training camp. (Staff photo by Keith Nordstrom)

August 7, 2012


FOXBORO - Brandon Morabito's favorite player is finally on the practice field for the Patriots.

Nate Ebner, the sixth-round choice of the Patriots whose name was announced on Draft Day by the 10-year-old Norton lad at Radio City Music Hall, has recovered from an undisclosed injury and has been doing what comes naturally to him - running up and down the field at breakneck speed, trying to hit someone.

Special teams are Ebner's forte. It's what he did at Ohio State when he wasn't playing rugby - he walked onto the football team to see what he could do in addition to being a world-class rugby player - and it's what attracted Bill Belichick's attention during the draft.

Technically, for classification purposes, Ebner is a defensive back. But he has been a regular participant in special-teams drills since returning to the practice field at the end of last week.

He said he wasn't worried that his absence from the practice field was going to hold him back.

"I'm not really worried about that," he said. "I'm just going to focus on getting better every day and taking it one step at a time. Wherever they want to play me, I'm going to do whatever I can for the team. That's all I'm worried about, doing the best I can wherever they put me."

Ebner is a rock-hard 6-0, 205 pounds and he's already established his toughness by playing rough-and-tumble rugby. In fact, he really doesn't have any football role models or Patriots to idolize because of his unique upbringing in the sport. But he said he still needs to be shown the ropes of this endeavor, and he knows where to look for examples of what he needs to learn.

"I just try to watch what the veterans do," he said. "I want to earn their respect. There's a bunch of great guys out here."

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Bill Polian says Dallas Clark still important player

Ex-Colt GM sees Clark's upside

By Stephen F. Holder

August 7, 2012

Former Colts general manager Bill Polian, visiting Bucs camp Monday with Sirius NFL Radio, offered his sentiments while watching practice.

Polian is uniquely qualified to address free-agent signee TE Dallas Clark, who was a Colt until last season — also Polian's last with the team.

As he watched Clark, 33, have another good practice, Polian seemed convinced Clark could be an important asset if healthy.

"He's still as good a player as you can find," Polian said. "The Dallas Clark intangibles are off the charts. If you drew up a football player and said I want the guy to have a love for the game, great work ethic, smarts, cares about football and his teammates, tough — if you looked all of those up, his picture comes up. He's as good as it gets in that regard. And he is, and was, exceptionally talented. He's as talented as any receiving tight end as there's ever been in the league.

"The only question is his health."

It's a big question considering how much time Clark has missed in the past two seasons — 15 of 32 games — but Polian has a theory on why Clark looks so good.

"Maybe the fact that he had that layoff last year might actually be good for him," Polian said of Clark, who played six games in 2010. "The 100-catch season (in 2009) took a real toll. You don't catch 100 balls down the middle and not take a lot of hits. Hopefully he's back and feeling better and if he stays healthy, he's a great addition to the football team on and off the field. He's as good as it gets."

Polian also addressed coach Greg Schiano's heavy-handed approach.

"That's exactly what this team needed," Polian said. "This is a team that needs discipline. They have to cut out the penalties and the mistakes — all the things that don't help you win. He knows how to win and I don't doubt that he'll be successful."

TCU excited about Randy Shannon’s arrival

August 5, 2012

By Tim Griffin

FORT WORTH — TCU made a big national splash last month when former Miami coach Randy Shannon was hired as the Horned Frogs’ new linebackers coach.

TCU coach Gary Patterson said that Shannon has barely arrived at TCU after visiting with his daughter who is serving in the military in Europe. But he expects Shannon’s expertise to quickly impact the Horned Frogs.

“It’s unbelievable,” Patterson said. “Here’s a guy who turned down eight to 10 coordinator jobs in about every conference in college football.”

Shannon worked under Larry Coker at Miami, where he led helped lead two teams to national championship games and had three defenses that led the nation in total defense.

He later served as Miami’s head coach for four seasons before he was fired at the end of the 2010 regular season. He went 28-22 in four seasons as the Hurricanes’ head coach.

Patterson and Shannon have been friends for many years. He visited TCU twice on spring fact-finding visits since leaving Miami and also watched several of TCU’s bowl practices before the 2011 Rose Bowl.

“We coach a lot of the same kind of principles that he did,” Patterson said. “It’s the way we do our schemes.”

In a way, being able to attract Shannon to join Patterson’s coaching staff is an indicator of TCU’s growing influence in college football.

Several TCU defensive players said Sunday they can’t wait for his arrival.

”Talking to our linebackers, they are excited,” TCU sophomore strong safety Sam Carter said. “We know by him being at Miami and some of the players who came from there that he’s an amazing coach. We’re glad to have him here.”

Former TCU linebackers coach Tony Tademy resigned after spending seven seasons on Patterson’s staff to spend more time with his family. Tademy has taken an assistant coaching job at Duncanville High School.

Monday, August 06, 2012

Cardinals' Dave Zastudil sets Hall of Fame game record

From Darren Urban's article "Hall of Fame game aftermath"

August 5, 2012

It is way, way late – going on 2 a.m. local time – and I have to get up much too early to catch a plane to Missouri on our next stop of this magical mystery tour of the preseason. So this aftermath is going to be short and sweet (OK, let’s see if it really is once I finish):

Dave Zastudil had a great day punting in his home state, including a Hall of Fame game record 79-yarder.

Former NFL star Harold Morrow will help with football camp at Maplesville

August 2, 2012

Harold Morrow, a 10-year NFL veteran and former Auburn University star, and Brent Hubbert, head football coach of the Maplesville Red Devils, will once again host the annual Kickoff Classic in Maplesville.

The event will take place on Saturday, Aug. 4 from 9 a.m. to noon CDT at Maplesville High School, located at 1256 Alabama Highway 139 in Maplesville.

During this free event, kids aged 5-18 will learn new skills, with in-depth instruction and demonstrations from an experienced and knowledgeable coaching staff, including Morrow and Hubbert as well as Fred Smith, a former defensive back at Auburn; Brandon Morrow, a former fullback at Auburn; and Reid McMillon, an All-American player and former Auburn fullback.

Kids will be grouped by age, position, ability and experience to allow coaches to progressively teach basic and advanced techniques to the best benefit of each group.

“As someone born and raised in Maplesville, this local community has made me who I am today,” Morrow said. “Each year, I look forward to partnering with Brent on this event, to give back to the community and to create some great football memories. I look forward to seeing the Maplesville community, and all surrounding communities, at the upcoming football camp.”

Parents and caretakers are asked to pre-register their child or children at the following link: For more information, please email

“Maplesville High School is pleased to host the Kickoff Classic 2012,” Hubbert said. “This will be a fun day for the kids to hone their skills, make some friends and enjoy a great summer day in Alabama.”

Friday, August 03, 2012

Yanda proves his toughness on the line

By Steven Petrella

July 31, 2012

Leading up to the Ravens' Week 17 contest against the Cincinnati Bengals last season, Marshal Yanda's ribs were in so much pain he couldn't bend over to put on his socks and shoes.

Yanda found a way to block out the pain, like he has throughout his career as he enters his sixth NFL season. The discomfort Yanda felt months ago after he suffered bruised ribs Week 16 against Cleveland, was just a memory on Tuesday as he participated in training camp. When asked to reflect on playing through the pain, Yanda chose to focus on the present, saying he is 100 percent.

The right guard, who also had emergency calf surgery in December, has shown how valuable his toughness can be for the team's offensive line.

"Injuries, they happen, you just gotta grind through them," Yanda said . "You try to play as best you can to help the team win, and as long as they won't be detrimental down the road, you have to take them in stride."

Yanda has started all 16 games each of the last two seasons and earned his first Pro Bowl selection last season after helping running back Ray Rice rush for a career-high 1,364 yards.

From farming roots, Yanda played college ball in his home state at the University of Iowa, which he said always seems to churn out hard-nosed, tough pros.

"[Toughness] came from my parents and growing up on a farm," Yanda said. "Then when I went to college, they kinda drill it into you there, and I liked that anyway. So I got it from a farm and Iowa."

Despite his thrashing of opposing defenses, there's a much lighter and more easy-going side to the 6-foot-3, 315-pound lineman.

Yanda can often be seen joking around with teammates during practice, but acknowledges he has to toe a fine line between having fun and not taking his work seriously.

"Obviously, you want to have fun, but you don't wanna be joking around too much," Yanda said. "It's practice, and since we gotta do it anyway, there's no reason to be miserable and hate it like a lot of guys do."

Leadership and toughness have made Yanda one of the NFL's best offensive lineman, Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said. While he has become a staple and one of the league's toughest men to face in the trenches,the rest of Baltimore's line still has plenty of questions this preseason.

Yanda is one of just two linemen back at the same position this season — Ben Grubbs left for New Orleans, Bryant McKinnie's physical status is unknown, and Michael Oher flipped from the right side to the left. Matt Birk, although he didn't practice Tuesday, will return at center, Bobbie Williams is expected to fill Grubbs' void at left guard, and Jah Reid has found himself in Oher's old spot.

"No matter what, you have to have certain players that you can rely on," Harbaugh said. "And he's one of our guys. And the more of those guys you have, the better."

Yanda knows that a starting job in the NFL is never safe, and despite the consistency he has shown his previous five years , he wants to keep improving.

The Pro Bowl and second-team All-Pro (2011) selections were goals of his, Yanda said. But he knows that a player is only as good as their next performance.

"You're either going forward or backward, you can't stay the same," Yanda said. "So I want to keep getting better or I'll go the other way and won't be playing."

Seattle Storm's Katie Smith visits with kids at Salvation Army in White Center

Katie Smith, Olympic Gold Medalist, and the leading scorer in Women's professional basketball history (7580 points) who now plays for the WNBA Seattle Storm came to speak to kids at the White Center Salvation Army summer day camp.

By Patrick Robinson

July 31, 2012

Olympic Gold Medalist and professional basketball star with the WNBA Seattle Storm Katie Smith paid a visit to the White Center Salvation Army July 31 and spoke to more than 40 kids from The Salvation Army summer day camp program.

She came to sign autographs on pictures and basketballs and give the kids an opportunity to meet a professional athlete, ask questions, and get some inspiration, motivation and guidance from her positive messages.

Smith spoke about her diverse interests growing up, mentioning her 4H participation and urged kids to pursue many interests, "not just stuff you are good at," she said. She cited the fact that she was her high school's valedictorian because while she was skilled at sports she worked hard on her studies too. "School and learning opens up all the doors," she said, "Never stop learning."

Kids asked 'how hard is basketball practice?' and Smith acknowledged that "It's hard. It's intense. You want to win and you're trying to figure it out. That's what practice is. I'm tired at the end of the day. My legs hurt, and instead of putting an icepack on it, I sit in an ice bath."

Smith stayed and posed for photos with staff and kids and answered more questions.

Set up by Salvation Army Sports Director Sean Connors, the visit came about as the team was looking for participants to compete in their Youth Sports Night Pre-game Free Throw Contest coming up Aug. 16 before their game against Phoenix. A personal visit by Smith was offered, as a way for kids to get to meet and learn from a professional basketball player.

The contest before the game is part of a ticket package. For $20 players get a ticket to the game (family and friends can pay only $15), an Adidas Title IX T-Shirt, entry to the Challenge, and can win other prizes. Sign in begins at 12:30. The game is at 7pm at the Key Arena. If you'd like more information about the challenge or for tickets visit www.wnba/storm or contact Lauren Wilkins at 206-272-2552.

Smith, 38, who plays Guard with the Seattle Storm joined the team in 2011, after playing for the Minnesota Lynx (1999-2005), Detroit Shock (2006-2010), and Washington Mystics (2010-2011). She graduated from The Ohio State University in 1996, and began her professional career with the Columbus Quest (ABL). Her combined professional career with the ABL and WNBA makes her the all-time leading scorer in women’s professional basketball with a total (so far) of 7580 points scored.

The Salvation Army Summer Kids Camp in White Center is one of many kids programs, including after-school homework tutoring and computer labs, youth athletic leagues, music lessons for kids and teens, and an evening meal program.

At Day Camp throughout the summer, the kids participate in similar and more activities in a safe, encouraging environment. Families in White Center also participate in The Salvation Army rent/utility assistance program, food bank, and holiday assistance.

Popular Posts