Friday, August 31, 2007

Texas WR Pittman suspended for borrowing car

AUSTIN -- The Texas Longhorns suspended wide receiver Billy Pittman for three games Friday after learning he broke NCAA amateurism rules by borrowing a friend's car this summer.

In a statement, the No. 4 Longhorns did not identify the friend but said the person had no connections to the school.

Pittman, a senior, was already going to miss Saturday's game against Arkansas State with a shoulder injury. He will be eligible to return Sept. 22 against Rice.

"I want everyone to know I'm really sorry," Pittman said. "It was an honest mistake and I'll do everything I can to make up for it."

Pittman has 69 catches for 1,206 yards and nine touchdowns over the last two seasons.

Pittman is the latest Texas player suspended for off-the-field issues this summer. Linebacker Sergio Kindle and defensive end Henry Melton are also suspended three games after both were charged with DWI.

A third player, freshman linebacker Dre Jones, was suspended indefinitely after being charged with aggravated robbery. A fourth player, former safety Robert Joseph, was charged in the same incident. Joseph had already left the team after being arrested in a separate incident over the summer.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press


Woods and Co. slog as Villegas takes lead

NORTON, Mass. -- They have combined for 121 victories and 19 majors. But when Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Vijay Singh played together Friday for the first time on the PGA Tour, the only number that mattered was on their scorecards.

The "Big Three" was a combined 3-over par.

On a day when Camilo Villegas shot a career-low 63 at the Deutsche Bank Championship, the biggest buzz outside Beantown was on the three biggest names in golf, who delivered some memorable moments they would rather forget.

Mickelson twice went on a search-and-rescue mission in the forest along the ninth hole, trying to find his golf ball and figure out how to hit it. He wound up with a triple bogey that spoiled an otherwise solid round of 70.

Woods took three shots to get out of the bunker on the 298-yard fourth hole and made double bogey. He spent the rest of the sunny afternoon on the TPC Boston trying to get back to even par, missing four birdie putts inside 10 feet and settling for a 1-over 72.

Singh set the tone for this mighty threesome by four-putting from 15 feet on the opening hole. He shot 74. It was the second straight week in the PGA Tour Playoffs that Singh had a four-putt double bogey.

"I don't normally four-putt from that close," he said.

Woods was asked how he would describe the festivities and summed it beautifully.


Good thing for them the tournament isn't over.

Woods hit his second shot into the water on the par-5 second hole, and combined with his double bogey on No. 4, was at 3 over through four holes and already 10 shots out of the lead.

"It's not like I haven't been in this position before," Woods said. "I kept saying, 'I basically have 68 holes to make it up."'

Villegas was three groups ahead and playing the kind of golf expected out of the glamour boys.

"Kept the ball in play and rolled in some beautiful putts," Villegas said. "I was happy with my round. It's very early in the week, and it's time to keep it going."

He had a two-shot lead over former Masters champion Mike Weir and Ryan Moore, while Barclays winner Steve Stricker continued his solid play with a 67 that helped his chances of staying atop the playoff standings.

The Deutsche Bank is most critical for Weir, who needs to finish at least fifth to have any chance of getting to the BMW Championship next week. Otherwise, it's three weeks off before playing the Presidents Cup at Royal Montreal.

Weir started his round by holing a bunker shot for birdie, and he finished it by hitting into the swamp short of the par-5 18th green and getting up-and-down for par and his lowest round of the year.

"Today was nice to get a lot out of my round," Weir said. "A lot of the rounds I've played this year, I look back and I think, 'I should have been three or four better.' Today, I can't look at really anything that I could have done much better."

The same couldn't be said for Woods, Mickelson and Singh.

The only other time they played together was two years ago at the PGA Grand Slam of Golf, an exhibition for the four major champions of the year (Singh got in as an alternate). This was the first time on the PGA Tour, courtesy of a new playoff system that groups players the first two rounds based on their position in the standings.

Some 8,000 fans covered every inch of grass, except when they scattered as an errant shot bounced their way.

"It was a fun day," Mickelson said. "We just didn't get out of it what we wanted."

Mickelson only had a couple of dodgy holes. He hooked his tee shot into the gallery on the par-5 seventh, hit another hook into the face of a cross bunker, then hit that one into a greenside bunker and escaped with par.

His caddie, Jim "Bones" Mackay, looked ultra serious when he asked at the back of the green, "Do you know the PGA Tour record for most square footage of sand raked in a single round?"

One rake job was worth the trouble.

Mickelson hit 3-wood into the front bunker on the newly designed fourth hole, which tempts players to drive the green on the par 4. With the ball near the back lip, Lefty holed the shot for eagle to go to 3 under for his round.

Woods was in the middle of that bunker, but all anyone saw was a blast of sand -- no ball. It came out soft and plugged under the top lip of the bunker, so Woods lashed at it again to jar it loose and send it back to where he started. His third sand shot got to the green, and he missed the putt to take double bogey.

"I wasn't even trying to get cute with it," Woods said. "It just came out soft and buried under the lip."

Four holes, and Mickelson was already six shots clear of the world's No. 1 player. When they made the turn, Woods had a 3-foot birdie putt to draw even and get back to level par. He missed, of course.

Singh, meanwhile, had issues beyond his four-putt at No. 1 and a three-putt at No. 8. He went from bunker to rough to hazard on the sixth hole and did well to escape with double bogey, and he shanked a 4-iron on the 11th hole that caromed out of the trees and into the rough in front of a bunker.

"Phil got off to a great start, just had one bad hole," Woods said. "I did not get off to a good start, and Vijay basically struggled all day. It was a bit of a grind out there."

There were a few chilly vibes inside the ropes.

For the second straight week playing with Mickelson, Singh at times wore dark sunglasses that had ear plugs attached to them. At least the sun was shining outside Boston, unlike last week at The Barclays when he wore them under cloudy skies and a drizzle.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press


Lawyer for WWE says wrestlers ordered HGH

NEW HAVEN, Conn. -- Ten performers suspended by World Wrestling Entertainment were punished for ordering drugs, mostly human growth hormones, that violate the company's drug policy, a WWE lawyer said Friday.

WWE said it issued suspension notices based on independent information from the Albany County, N.Y., district attorney's office, which has been investigating sales of steroids and growth hormones through Internet and phone-order firms.

The wrestlers had ordered drugs prohibited by WWE policy, company attorney Jerry McDevitt said.

The company did not release the names of those suspended. No criminal charges had been filed.

Human growth hormone occurs naturally in the body, and synthetic versions have been prescribed for children with growth issues and adults with pituitary gland problems. The synthetic version has become popular with athletes because it is believed to help build muscle mass.

WWE policy begun requires a 30-day suspension without pay for a first violation, a 60-day suspension for a second violation and firing for a third violation. Performers are tested at least four times per year.

Stamford-based WWE has about 160 wrestlers. WWE shares closed Friday at $15.14, up 34 cents.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press


Source: NFL suspends Harrison for HGH violation

New England Patriots safety Rodney Harrison will be suspended by the NFL for four games because he admitted to federal investigators that he obtained Human Growth Hormone, sources have told ESPN's Chris Mortensen.

Harrison had a hearing with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell on Friday, the sources said. The Patriots could announce the suspension as early as Saturday.

A league spokesman said the NFL had "no comment" about Harrison, who also could not be reached. Efforts to reach the Patriots were unsuccessful.

The admission by Harrison has never been made public but his name was among those known to federal and New York state investigators that conducted a two-year investigation into an Internet pharmaceutical distribution ring for steroids and other performance enhancers such as HGH.

Investigators have discovered several athletes across many sports whose names were linked in the probe. Sources say at least one NFL assistant also has been questioned.

Chris Mortensen is an NFL analyst for ESPN.


Clinical Tsonga ends Henman era

Flushing Meadows, New York, 27 August-9 September

Tim Henman put in a battling display before his Grand Slam career came to an end with a 7-6 2-6 7-5 6-4 defeat to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga at the US Open.

The 32-year-old Briton displayed some of his trademark touch at the net and raised hopes of another improbable win after dominating the second set.

But Frenchman Tsonga, 22, put Henman under increasing pressure with some magnificent serving.

Henman saved one match point at 3-5 but Tsonga kept his cool to seal victory.

The Briton will make his final farewell to tennis at Britain's Davis Cup tie against Croatia, which begins on 21 September at Wimbledon.

Source: BBC Sport

The Sports Guy: Fantasy football preview

You're getting a 2007 fantasy football preview for three reasons:

1. Because my East Coast draft already happened and I have the No. 1 pick in my West Coast draft next week ... which means I'm getting LaDainian Tomlinson ... which means I can give away all my sleepers, favorite picks and stay-aways and still finish third or higher with LDT on my team. It's good to be the king.

2. Because we need a dissenting opinion to combat the side effects of MBFO (Matt Berry Fantasy Overload). Just know that Berry and I made a wager last season on Steven Jackson's 2006 production -- I was pro-Jackson, he was anti-Jackson -- and I cruised to an easy victory and won dinner off him. Sure, it will end up being an overcooked cheeseburger at the Ruby Tuesday's in Bristol, but that doesn't change the fact the scoreboard reads, "Simmons 1, Berry 0." If you want to trust Berry for your fantasy tips this year, good luck with your sixth-place finish. If you want the proven fantasy football guru of who has been churning out winners for the past six years, keep reading.

3. Because it's going to be more entertaining than hearing me bitch about J.D. Drew and the 2007 Red Sox for 2,000 words.

Without further ado, here's my Top-50 list heading into the weekend using the tier system:


1. LaDainian Tomlinson
Probably the single-best argument for scrapping the draft format and going to the auction format. On the other hand, it's fun to have LDT for an entire season while your buddies constantly bitch about the fact you have him; there's really nothing else like it in the male bonding stratosphere. I mean, your friends wouldn't begrudge you for making a lot of money, or having a great car or girlfriend, or buying a huge house. ... If anything, they'd be happy for you. But when you have Tomlinson on your team? They openly hate, envy and disparage you the entire time. Somebody needs to bring this up during his Hall of Fame enshrinement in 10 years.


Starting this season, expanded its Pigskin Pick'em game and allowed an unlimited number of people in a group. In other words, let's say I wanted to start a gigantic NFL Picks Pool in which any reader could pick every NFL game against the spread and compete against me, the Sports Gal and various ESPN and personalities and other readers, and let's say the winner received a dopey prize to be named later.

Would you welcome to the chance to potentially kick my prognasticating ass? Well, here's your chance: If you have an ESPN username, click here and follow the instructions.
2. Steven Jackson
Although 2007 could be the year when a running back gets pulled down from behind by his dreads and blows out his ACL, MCL, PCL, XFL and ACLPA. We're overdue. He's one of the prime candidates.

3. Shaun Alexander
Comeback year. You can feel it in the air.

4. Joseph Addai
One of the fundamental mistakes of fantasy football is that people would value Addai over Alexander because it's more fun to take Addai. After all, he's the up-and-comer, the potential breakout guy, the guy with the higher ceiling. Well, why not go with the guy who's healthy and who has done it before? With your first-round pick, you should approach it like you'd bet your life on the pick. Would you bet your life on Addai doing better than Alexander this season? I sure wouldn't.

5. Frank Gore
Dropped him two spots because of the broken right hand. I think he's on pace to break or tear every bone and ligament in his body.

6. Larry Johnson
Forget the fact he put 110,000 miles on his odometer in 2006 and 2007. After watching a month of "Hard Knocks" episodes, what scared you more -- the Brodie Croyle/Damon Huard combo at QB, or Herm Edwards being Herm Edwards? Did anyone else watch Herm and think, "Wow, I'm glad we finally know what it would have been like if Cameron Diaz's dad in "There's Something About Mary" became an NFL coach"? His "I did a terrible job preparing the team this week ... I DID A TERRIBLE JOB!" speech in Episode 4 rivaled some of Denny Green's finest work.


7. Peyton Manning
My logic: The gap between Manning and the sixth-best QB in the league is much more significant than the gap between Westbrook/Parker and whatever RB you'd get in the second round. If you don't take Manning here, you're not getting him on the way back, and you're not taking Palmer in the top half of the second round, and you might not get Brady/Brees/McNabb in Round 3. Why risk pinning your fantasy hopes on the likes of Jon Kitna?

8. Brian Westbrook
Replaces Tiki Barber in the old "Reuben Sandwich" analogy that I've been making for years. When you had Tiki on your team, it was like ordering a Reuben at lunch -- for some reason, there's a hesitation as you're making the order, but when you're eating it, you're thinking, "Man, why don't I order the Reuben more often?" and your friends are all looking over and wishing they had ordered it. Now, Westbrook is like that. You never hear someone say, "Man, I wish I didn't pick Bryant Westbrook." Er, Brian Westbrook.

9. Willie Parker
Scares me only because of the fumbles. Fumbles eventually kill a running back's confidence, turn the fans against him and cause his coaches to say things like, "Maybe I'll start Najeh Davenport this week ..."

10. Willis McGahee
Baltimore's upgrade from Jamal Lewis to McGahee was like going from coach to first class on one of those two-floor jumbo jets like the one they used on "Snakes on a Plane." By Week 6, I see him sitting at 600-plus yards and eight TDs and taking shots at J.P. Losman. Too bad we can't wager on this.

(Note: Speaking or predictions, if "Snakes" doesn't have one of the most magical runs in cable history, I'll be shocked. So much to love, including Sam Jackson showing off a Barry Bonds-sized noggin, Juliana Marguiles with an "I never should have left 'ER' " look on her face, Tim Riggins from "Friday Night Lights" joining the Mile High Club, Kenan Thompson successfully landing the plane because of his experience landing planes in video games and, yes, snakes eating people on a plane. I've watched this movie three times in 10 days, and I might go for No. 4 tonight.)

11. Reggie Bush
First, he's not doing worse than he did in 2006 (1,300 rushing/receiving yards, eight TDs). Second, he should be better -- it's a logical evolution for a second-year back. Third, there's an outside chance he could have a monster season. And fourth, out of the next 10 guys on the list, he's the one who'd leave you kicking yourself if he DID have a monster year and you passed on him. So just take him here.

12. Cedric Benson
Getting 350-400 carries on a great defensive team with a potential midair plane collision playing QB. (Note: I'm tired of the phrase "train wreck," we need to start mixing it up.) Shouldn't this translate into 1,300-1,500 yards, 10-12 TDs and an eventual inclusion in the "Curse of 370" Club next summer? Or am I overthinking this?

13. Marvin Harrison
He's the best receiver. He's always the best receiver. Just take him. Nobody has ever said the words, "I wish I hadn't taken Marvin Harrison." Well, unless you're in a playoff fantasy league.


14. Marshawn Lynch
If we've learned anything about fantasy football over the years, it's this: Every season, without fail, one rookie RB puts up a ton of fantasy points. Since Lynch is the obvious candidate this year, I'm overvaluing him and sticking him here. And if the aforementioned Rookie RB Du' Jour turns out to be Adrian Peterson, so be it.

15. Travis Henry
A little scary because of the fumbling problem and Mike Shanahan's abject hatred for fantasy owners ... and that's before we get to last weekend's remarkable "nine kids by nine different women" revelation. Remember when we were all blown away when it was reported that Shawn Kemp had seven kids by six different women? If Kemp was like Roger Bannister breaking the four-minute mile, then Henry just brought the sports fertility record down to the 3:35 range. You have to admire the way he's spreading his seed around. According to the guys at Football Outsiders, Henry has the highest kids-per-partners rate (100.0) since they started keeping track of the stat in 1993.

16. Maurice Jones-Drew
Take it from a proud MoJo owner in 2006 -- you can't go wrong. You really can't. Every time they cut into a game to say, "Let's go to Jacksonville," you'll move to the edge of your seat thinking MoJo just broke a 76-yard screen pass. I think he's a little undervalued this year, actually.

17. Carson Palmer
Everybody now: one ... two ... three ...



Willie Parker; Rudi Johnson; Laurence Maroney; Terrell Owens; Clinton Portis; Randy Moss; Eli Manning; Chad Pennington; anyone involved with Baltimore, Chicago, Cleveland, Jacksonville, Kansas City, Miami, Minnesota or Tampa passing games; Julius Jones; Jay Cutler; Tatum Bell; Jamal Lewis; Kevin Curtis; any tight end other than Gates; any kicker in a round other than the last round.
18. Rudi Johnson
One of those picks with which you're not happy even as it's happening, and then Kenny Watson starts stealing carries from him and you're telling your friends, "I knew I shouldn't have taken Rudi Johnson!" as they patiently wait for you to finish whining so they can complain about their team next. And yeah, I know this is 8-10 spots lower than he's going everywhere else. I don't care. Buyer beware.

19. Laurence Maroney
Trust me on this one: he won't get as many carries as everyone thinks. Kevin Faulk is the third-down back, and they might use Maroney and Sammy Morris almost as a Starter 1A/Starter 1B thing to keep Maroney fresh for December and January. (Remember, he died down the stretch last season, partly because of a bum shoulder and partly because he just ran out of gas.) And if that's not enough, they love going play-action near the goal line and throwing to linebackers and third-string tight ends. Just promise me you won't take Maroney before the second half of the second round. Don't do it.

20. Edge James
Comeback year alert! Comeback year alert! Please read Michael Silver's recent Edge column for further details. Although I might just be high on the Edge because he drinks Patron.


21. Tom Brady
For the first time, Brady is blessed with an above-average receiving crew that includes his best slot guy since Troy Brown in 2001 (Wes Welker), two home-run threats (Donte Stallworth and Randy Moss), a pass-catching tight end (the slightly overrated Ben Watson) and some serious depth if anyone gets hurt. Only one person could sidetrack a career season for Brady: Bridget Moynahan, his enterprising ex-girlfriend who gave birth to his baby after spending the past nine months clotheslining US Weekly photographers to take her picture while she held her belly. I was hoping she'd name her baby, "Son of New England Patriots' Star Quarterback Tom Brady Moynihan."

22. Donovan McNabb
I like him. Can't explain it. I think it's because he gave up on the Gus Williams Memorial Afro and finally shaved his head.

23. Drew Brees
The last reliable QB pick. Right after the Brady/McNabb/Brees group goes, that's when everyone looks at their list and says, "Oh, s---, I better get a QB!" And that's the chain of events that leads someone to say the words, "I'm taking Jon Kitna."

24. Larry Fitzgerald
I like everyone on that 'Zona offense -- they finally have a real coaching staff. Yeah, I want to crown Ken Whisenhunt and his staff! I want to crown their asses! OK? All right? That new coaching staff is what I thought they were gonna be! OK? All right?

25a. T.J. Houshmanzadeh
25b. Chad Johnson

It's unclear why everyone ranks Johnson over Housh when Housh had better stats last season, and Housh's efficiency as a receiver (number of catches versus number of times they threw to him) was one of the highest in football. So why do people take Johnson over Housh? Because nobody wants to say Housh's name. If his name sounded as cool as "Torry Holt" or "Reggie Wayne," he'd crack everyone's top 30.

27. Reggie Wayne
He's always one Harrison groin pull away from being the No. 1 receiver in football for a few weeks.


Before you head to the theaters for Rob Zombie's "Halloween" remake this weekend, dip into the archives for Bill Simmons' mock "SportsCentury" episode about the great Michael Myers.
28. Steve Smith
Free falls into the late-20s because of the ongoing QB problems in Carolina. Has there ever been a recipe for a 6-10 season quite like a Jake Delhomme/David Carr QB battle? And what are the odds Smith sucker punches one of them before November?

29. Torry Holt
Top-five sentences you never want to hear from your No. 1 fantasy receiver: "In time, I'm going to be exonerated of these charges." ... "I'm never using cocaine again." ... "I did not knowingly take steroids, I thought I was taking a vitamin supplement." ... "My knee isn't totally recovered from the surgery, I'm at like 75-80 percent right now, but it's feeling better every day." ... and (fill in any Terrell Owens quote since 2004). And, yes, Holt made the knee comment this week. Gulp.

30. Javon Walker
After what happened in the offseason, it's safe to say Mr. Walker will be sufficiently inspired this season.


31. Thomas Jones
The first Jet is off the board! J ... E ... T ... S ... JETS, JETS, JETS!

32. Lee Evans
Seems a little early, but screw it. Anyone who can catch long TD passes thrown by the likes of J.P. Losman deserves to be taken seriously. By the way, I forgot to put Evans on the Lindsey Hunter All-Stars for athletes with names that make them sound like hot females. Sorry about that, Lee.

33a. Marion Barber 33b. Deuce McAllister
Just because they rack up those TDs. I have Barber ranked slightly higher because every one who watched the 2006 Cowboys and/or studied their 2006 statistics believes Barber is clearly better than Julius Jones. Eventually, you'd think that someone on the Dallas coaching staff will realize this. On the other hand, Wade Phillips is prominently involved, so who knows?

35. Marques Colston
Everyone seems lukewarm on him this year. I don't get it. What's not to like? He's clearly their No. 1 guy now.

36. Antonio Gates
A hard one for me because he killed both of my fantasy teams last season and I kinda sorta hate him for it. And yet, if Norv Turner has shown anything over the years, it's an ability to maximize his assets on offense and get career years out of them. You'd think this would happen with Gates. You'd think.

37. Andre Johnson
It's not like Matt Schaub is Joe Montana or anything, but at least he's a decent QB, and Johnson was putting up big numbers with David Carr slinging him the ball. And don't underestimate the positive effects of rookie WR Jacoby Jones (aka, the 2007 Mega-Sleeper Who Isn't a Mega-Sleeper Any More After Last Week's Preseason Game) opening some space for him. Like this pick. He's 40-to-1 in Vegas to finish with the most receiving yards, by the way. Hmmmmmm.

38. Terrell Owens
Just know that he'll never be on my team. I can't root for him. It's not in me. When TO does something good, I don't want to feel happy. Also, for the number of times they threw to him, he should have had better numbers. I just don't see him getting better. Speaking of TO, did anyone else think that the Idaho senator hired Kim Etheredge to handle his P.R. decisions this week?


39. Donald Driver
Stick a gigantic, Bonds-like asterisk next to this pick if we find out that his injured foot is keeping him out for an extended length of time. When healthy, he's one of the most reliable fantasy guys in football -- not quite the Reuben, but definitely a grilled ham and cheese sandwich.

40. Clinton Portis
The captain of the "I Hope Somebody Else Takes Him So I Don't Have To" Team.

41. Marc Bulger
If Westbrook is the Reuben, and Driver is the grilled ham and cheese, then Bulger is like an onion bagel that's toasted and covered in butter -- good enough to tide you over until dinner, tasty if you're in the right mood, but that's about it. I don't totally trust him this season -- between the contract extension, Holt's knee, Isaac Bruce's age and the inevitable Drew Bennett injury that hasn't happened yet, he makes me juuuuuuuuuuuuust a little nervous. I'd almost rather take my chances with Alex Smith or Matt Schaub a few rounds from here.

42. Vince Young
Let's say Bulger comes close to last year's stats: 4,200 passing yards, 24 passing TDs and 44 rushing yards. And let's say Young finishes with realistic numbers for him, something like 2,500 passing yards, 750 rushing yards, 13 passing TDs and eight rushing TDs. Guess who would have more fantasy points using a conventional scoring system with one point for every 20 passing yards, one point for every 10 rushing yards, four points for passing TDs and six for rushing TDs? Yep ... Vince Young. So why is Bulger ranked 5-10 spots ahead of Young in every fantasy magazine, newspaper and Web site? You got me.

43. Adrian Peterson
The home run pick for this tier. Yeah, he's splitting time with Chester Taylor and probably rushing against the first-ever 11-0-0 defensive formation because of Tavaris Jackson ... but you never know.

44. Philip Rivers
You know he'll put up solid numbers, and there's a chance Norv Turner will give him a boost. Yes, this is where I include the obligatory "Every offense that Norv has taken over since 1873 has jumped at least 10 places in the offensive standings" stat.

45. Ronnie Brown
Splitting preseason carries with Jesse Chatman on an awful team with below-average QBs and spectacularly bad receivers, and it's unclear whether he was ever that good in the first place. Other than that, he looks good.

46. Brandon Jacobs
Crummy team, crummy coaching staff, and it's unclear whether he's the poor man's Christian Okoye or the homeless man's Christian Okoye.

47. Roy Williams
Seems about right.

48. Matt Hasselbeck

49. Anquan Boldin
See the reason for No. 24.

50. Ahman Green
Here's where the draft officially falls off -- when you're talking yourself into Ahman Green. I'd go with the Ravens, Bears or Pats defense in this spot. But that's just me.

While we're here, my 12 favorite fantasy sleepers:

Sleeper No. 1: Wes Welker
I am making one "take this to the bank" prediction, and only one: if he stays healthy, Wes Welker will catch at least 85 passes for at least 950 yards and at least eight TDs this season ... and he'll throw in one or two special teams TDs to boot.

Sleeper No. 2: Vince Young
As explained above.

Sleeper No. 3 (tie): Matt Schaub, Alex Smith
I'd rather grab these guys in the middle rounds over wasting a fourth-round pick on Bulger or Hasselbeck and hoping they stay healthy.

Sleeper No. 4: Jerious Norwood and Warrick Dunn (as a handcuff tandem)
If you go this route, make sure you get both -- after analyzing this from every direction, I have become convinced that (A) the Falcons have more Ewing Theory potential than any sports team in the 21st century, (B) Bobby Petrino might have a bigger fantasy impact than any player on this list outside of the top six, and (C) it's exceedingly possible Joey Harrington isn't a terrible quarterback.

Sleeper No. 5: Vincent Jackson
Technically, he's not a sleeper anymore because everyone's onto him. We need a new term for guys like this. Nappers? Dozers?

Sleeper No. 6: Jacoby Jones
If I'm a Dolphins fan this season, I'm thinking about four things: (1) I hate Nick Saban; (2) I hate Daunte Culpepper; (3) I hate Ricky Williams; and (4) instead of taking Ted Ginn Jr., the Fins could have taken Brady Quinn at No. 9 and grabbed Jones at No. 71 (two picks before the Texans took him) to do the same things that Ginn does. Bad times.

Sleeper No. 7: The Oakland defense
They were a top-five defense last season (secretly) and now they have a real coaching staff and the following QBs on their schedule: Jon Kitna, Jay Cutler (twice), Charlie Frye/Derek Anderson, Trent Green, Damon Huard (twice), Vince Young, Matt Schaub, Rex Grossman. Tavaris Jackson, Brett Favre, Byron Leftwich. That's a lot of potential turnovers, no? I just made your second-to-last round pick for you.

Sleeper No. 8: Joe Horn
Might have one last good season in him. And don't underestimate the Petrino Factor. In fact ...

Sleeper No. 9: Joey Harrington
You're not picking Harrington as much as you're picking the QB who's running Bobby Petrino's potentially explosive offense on a Falcons team reeking of Ewing Theory potential. Think of it that way.

Sleeper No. 10: Santonio Holmes
Nearly every season, a second-year receiver makes The Leap. Here's your best bet for 2007.

Sleeper No. 11: The Ronald Curry/Daunte Culpepper combo
I'm not even kidding.

Sleeper No. 12: Selvin Young
I won't even tell you what team he's on. Now that's a sleeper.

Bill Simmons is a columnist for Page 2 and ESPN The Magazine. His book "Now I Can Die In Peace" is available in paperback.


West Ham sign Solano & Camara

West Ham left it late on transfer deadline day before sealing the signings of Nolberto Solano from Newcastle and Henri Camara from Wigan.

Senegal striker Camara, 30, signed a season-long loan deal.

Peruvian international Solano, 32, joined on a one-year contract, with the option of another year.

Solano had informed Newcastle he wanted to move closer to London to be near his wife, from whom he is separated, and their children.

Source: BBC Sport

Arsenal take Diarra from Chelsea

Arsenal completed a late move to sign midfielder Lassana Diarra from Chelsea for an undisclosed fee.

The Gunners say the 22-year-old Frenchman, who can play at right-back, has signed a long-term deal.

The former Le Harve player said: "I have great respect for the manager Arsene Wenger and am attracted by the style of football that the team plays.

"Of course I am excited by what the future holds and keen to play my part in helping Arsenal fight for trophies."

Diarra, who has played for France in their Euro 2008 qualifying campaign, will wear the number eight shirt.

Wenger added: "Lassana is a multi-functional player, making him a great addition to our squad. Not only is he hard working, he has a creative edge and is comfortable playing in the middle of the pitch or at right-back."

Source: BBC Sport

US Open day five quotes

"I am totally exhausted. I have no energy. I just smelt my shoes - they are so stinky but it's always good to win those matches."
A shattered Novak Djokovic struggles to put one (smelly) foot in front of the other after his five-set marathon with Radek Stepanek

"They love the showtime."
Unlikely showman Stepanek on his newfound fan club in New York

"That's life. People are getting together, they are leaving each other."
Stepanek takes the philosophical view on his break-up with Martina Hingis

"He told me I couldn't use my notes. I was like, well, it's not like I'm Harry Potter, and my dad can magically gives me notes to read. It's something that I write myself."
Serena Williams takes umbrage at the umpire for banning her from looking at her notes on the basis that it would contravene coaching rules

"I cannot live without my watch. I never saw another player playing with a watch. But I always keep my watch. I sleep with it. I take my shower. Everything."
A fascinating insight into Justine Henin's mindset

"I froze. It had a lot to do with nerves."
Mardy Fish explains how he went from leading 4-1 to losing 6-4 in the fifth set against Tommy Robredo

"Let my wife down or let my country down..."
Tim Henman on the decision he will face if his third baby arrives late. It is due before Britain's Davis Cup tie against Croatia

"I came to the court like I was going to a picnic."
Jelena Jankovic on her carefree approach to playing 17-year-old Alize Cornet. Jankovic won in three sets

Source: BBC Sport

Sources: QB Frye to start for Browns in opener

There has been no official announcement -- and there may not be -- from coach Romeo Crennel, but all indications are that quarterback Charlie Frye has retained the Cleveland Browns' starting job for the outset of the season and will open against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sept. 9.

Two sources told that Frye has held off the challenge of the other quarterbacks on the roster, and published reports on Friday cited Cleveland players as having been told by Crennel following the Thursday night preseason finale that the third-year veteran will start.

Crennel had earlier said that he might not reveal the identity of the starter prior to the game against Pittsburgh, in part to keep Steelers coaches guessing.

Frye, 26, engineered only two scoring drives in the 11 offensive possessions that he worked in the preseason. But fellow third-year veteran Derek Anderson, who started the final three games of the 2006 season and who many felt entered training camp as the favorite to win the No. 1 job, did not mount a consistent challenge.

Rookie Brady Quinn out of Notre Dame, the second of the Browns' two first-round picks in the April draft, posted solid numbers and led Cleveland to four touchdowns in 11 possessions. But much of Quinn's success came against second- and third-team defenders and Browns officials prefer not to have the rookie open the season as the starter.

It will be interesting to see how Cleveland officials handle Anderson. There is some feeling he will be released when the Browns reduce their roster to the mandatory league limit of 53 players by Saturday afternoon. Crennel said this week, though, that he and his staff have discussed the possibility of retaining four quarterbacks. That group would include veteran journeyman Ken Dorsey.

If Frye does start the opener, it would halt a streak of five straight seasons in which the Browns had a different starting quarterback in their first game.

In four preseason games, Frye completed 24-of-37 passes for 251 yards with no touchdown passes and one interception, for a passer efficiency rating of 73.1. Quinn had the highest passer rating on the team in preseason, with a mark of 96.5. He could start the season No. 2 on the depth chart and eventually vie for the starting job if Frye falters.

Some observers feel that, if Frye does not play well, Quinn could be groomed to take over when the Browns have their bye week after the first six games.

A third-round choice in the 2005 draft, Frye has started 18 games in his first two seasons, including 13 contests in 2006. He suffered a wrist injury in late December and was replaced in the lineup by Anderson for the final three games of the year.

In Frye's career, the former Akron star has completed 350-of-557 passes for 3,456 yards, with 14 touchdown passes, 22 interceptions and a 72.2 passer rating.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for


Strahan ends holdout 9 days before Giants' opener

After 24 hours of soul-searching and a conversation with general manager Jerry Reese, defensive end Michael Strahan has decided to end his holdout and report to the New York Giants.

Strahan had been training in Los Angeles for weeks, but he had not decided whether it was worth it to continue his career with the Giants until Friday.

By late in the afternoon, Strahan decided to give it one more season. He missed 36 days of training camp. At a fine of $14,000 a day, Strahan owes the team $504,000 for not being in camp. It is not exactly known how Strahan resolved the monetary issue, but he and the Giants reached a settlement that allowed him to return.

Early in the week, it appeared retirement was more of an option. Though he had hoped to make a decision by last Monday, Strahan couldn't.

During his holdout, Strahan has met with ownership and talked to teammates and friends. He has one week to prepare for the regular season opener Sept. 9 at Dallas.

Senior writer John Clayton covers the NFL for


All Black Howlett joins Munster

New Zealand wing Doug Howlett will join Irish province Munster after the World Cup on a two-and-a-half-year deal.

The 28-year-old is the latest big name to join the exodus of players from the southern hemisphere to Europe.

Howlett told Munster's website: "I have had an amazing rugby career in New Zealand and I am grateful to every person who has contributed to that.

"I consider Munster a fantastic opportunity to experience a different lifestyle with my family."

Howlett, who has scored 43 tries for the All Blacks, will join former Heineken Cup champions Munster on 1 January 2008.

Munster Rugby director of coaching Declan Kidney said: "We are delighted to have someone of Doug's calibre and quality joining the squad."

Howlett joins fellow All Blacks Carl Hayman, Chris Jack, Luke McAlister, Byron Kelleher, Aaron Mauger and Rico Gear in moving to Europe.

All Blacks Coach Graham Henry said: "Doug is a quality international player who has proven his ability at the highest level.

"Although it is disappointing to see a player of his class go overseas, we'll remember the outstanding contribution he has made to New Zealand rugby."

It is not only big names from New Zealand who are heading north after the World Cup.

Australia stars George Gregan and Stephen Larkham and South Africa players Victor Matfield, John Smit, Butch James and Ashwin Willemse have also signed for European clubs.

Source: BBC Sport

Yanks' Chamberlain gets two-game suspension

NEW YORK -- Yankees rookie sensation Joba Chamberlain was suspended for two games and fined $1,000 Friday, a day after he threw two 98-99 mph pitches over the head of Boston's Kevin Youkilis.

Chamberlain, ejected by plate umpire Angel Hernandez, claimed the ninth-inning pitches slipped and "there was no maliciousness or bad intention."

The umpires disagreed.

"There's more than a little bit of history between these clubs," crew chief Derryl Cousins said. "Those were two pretty nasty pitches the young man threw. Up here, you need to be a little better throwing strikes, and we just had to put a lid on it before there was a problem."

Bob Watson, baseball's vice president for discipline, cited Chamberlain for "inappropriate actions." Watson at first contemplated suspending Chamberlain for three games but decided on a two-game penalty after conversations with Yankees officials, a person familiar with the talks said, speaking on condition of anonymity because that detail wasn't made public.

Yankees manager Joe Torre was upset after the ejection.

"That's absolutely ridiculous," he said. "Unfortunately, in a lot of situations, the umpires do not apply common sense. And I've seen it too many times. And something has to change. Either they have to school them or do something that certainly gives them a feel for the game better than they showed today."

Youkilis also was angry.

"Who knows what it really meant? You would have to ask him what his intent was and he's going to probably tell you he didn't mean to throw them," Youkilis said.

Chamberlain will miss games Friday and Saturday against Tampa Bay. Under the Yankees' rules for him, the 21-year-old right-hander wouldn't have been allowed to pitch Friday, anyway.

Chamberlain has thrown 11 1/3 scoreless innings in the majors, striking out 17, walking four and allowing just five hits.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press


Live - Henman v Tsonga

Flushing Meadows, New York, 27 August-9 September

US Open, Flushing Meadows

Second round latest:



* denotes server


To get involved, text us on 81111 (UK users only)

First set:

Henman 2-3 Tsonga
Henman is trying to attack at every opportunity but so far to no avail. Tsonga shows he can come to the net as well, finishing off the game with a volley.

Henman 2-2 Tsonga
Tsonga gets the first break point of the match but our Tim comes through the test with some solid serving.

"Dare I say Henman looks the better player already?"
WF on 606

Henman 1-2 Tsonga
Now it's Tsonga's turn to enjoy a straightforward service game.

Henman 1-1 Tsonga
Great start for Henman, winning his first service game to love. The Briton zaps down a 124mph serve that has Tsonga scrambling for cover.

Henman 0-1 Tsonga
There's a bit of a breeze swirling around the Louis Armstrong Stadium as Tsonga begins erratically, finally winning the game with a beefy crosscourt forehand.

Tim Henman is attempting to prolong his Grand Slam career against world number 74 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

The 22-year-old Frenchman is on the rise, having reached the fourth round at Wimbledon.

In contrast, Henman, who announced earlier this month that he would retire in September, has had a nightmare season.

The 32-year-old has been plagued by a back problem and has won just six matches on the men's tour in 2007.

But he managed to upset Dmitry Tursunov in the first round - can he survive to fight another day?

Source: BBC Sport

Sources: Jags to name Garrard starting QB for '07

The Jacksonville Jaguars will name David Garrard their starting quarterback for the 2007 season on Friday, ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported.

David Garrard


Byron Leftwich


Team and league sources said that former starter Byron Leftwich will likely be traded or released.

Leftwich missed 15 games the last two seasons because of an injured left ankle. He had surgery last November, more than a month after coach Jack Del Rio benched him in favor of Garrard.

The Jaguars have been actively calling teams around the league to gauge interest in Leftwich, who is in the last year of his contract. He had been designated as the starter in the offseason by Del Rio.

Team sources said Garrard's continued development in training camp and preseason convinced Del Rio that Garrard was the right quarterback for the team.

The Jaguars are also trying to acquire a veteran quarterback to serve as a backup and may turn to former Jaguars quarterback Mark Brunell.

Garrard went 145-of-241 for 1,735 yards, 10 touchdowns and nine interceptions last season, with a passer rating of 80.5.

Leftwich was 108-of-183 for 1,159 yards, seven TDs and five interceptions last season, with a passer rating of 79.0.


Milan beat Sevilla in Super Cup

AC Milan beat an emotional Sevilla side in the Super Cup in Monaco.

A Renato header put Sevilla ahead and all their players hugged and pointed to the sky in memory of former team-mate Antonio Puerta, who died on Tuesday.

Champions League winners Milan equalised when Filippo Inzaghi nodded in at the far post.

Marek Jankulovski put Milan ahead and Kaka had a late penalty saved but headed in the rebound before pointing to Puerta's name on his shirt.

Source: BBC Sport

Portsmouth land Diop from Fulham

Portsmouth boss Harry Redknapp has signed midfielder Papa Bouba Diop from Fulham for an undisclosed fee.

Diop had been given the go-ahead to quit by Cottagers boss Lawrie Sanchez after the 29-year-old told him he wanted a new challenge.

"It's nice to be here," Senegal international Diop told the Pompey website. "It's a good move for me and a good move for the club.

"It was an easy decision to make and I am very happy."

Diop said he had a number of offers and Newcastle were one of the clubs linked with him.

He joined Fulham in 2004 from French club Lens and signed a new contract last year.

The powerhouse midfielder was close to a �5m move to Wigan in January but the transfer fell through.

Diop added: "Three years ago was the first time I'd come to England and I didn't understand english football very well.

"Now I understand it very well and i'm happy that I'm at Portsmouth.

"It's different to Fulham. The fans here are hot for 90 minutes."

Source: BBC Sport

Irish to reveal new QB in opener vs. Georgia Tech

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- One quarterback or two? And if one, which one?

Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis isn't sure how many quarterbacks he'll use when the Fighting Irish face Georgia Tech on Saturday -- or how many his defense will face.

After a three-way competition to replace Brady Quinn, Weis finally settled on a starter two weeks ago. Weis doesn't want his choice to be looking over his shoulder when he makes a mistake while acknowledging that the competition was close.

"Is one guy going to be there forever? Maybe," Weis said. "You're asking could two guys play this week? The answer to that is also maybe. The thing is I don't know the answers to all the questions at this point."

There are plenty of questions for both teams in the season opener Saturday: What will the Irish offense look like? How will the Tech offense look under new offensive coordinator John Bond with quarterback Taylor Bennett? Will the Notre Dame defense, which has struggled mightily the past two seasons, play any better after switching from a 4-3 scheme to a 3-4 under new coordinator Corwin Brown?

Weis won't disclose the answer to the biggest question: Is Demetrius Jones, Evan Sharpley or Jimmy Clausen the starter? He wants to keep the Yellow Jackets guessing.

It appears to have worked. Georgia Tech coach Chan Gailey says his team prepared to face two different offensive styles.

"When Jones is in there, you may end up with the option/quarterback run sprint-out game, whereas when the other two are in there you will end up with the traditional Charlie Weis offense. So I think that's been difficult for our defense to try to prepare for both of those types of offenses they may face," Gailey said. "I can't tell you the percentage of what it's going to be of each one. Not even sure they know."

He's right. Weis isn't sure either. It all depends on how things go. But keeping Tech guessing wasn't the only reason Weis remained silent. He also was trying to keep the pressure off Quinn's successor.

"Why would you want to anoint someone a few weeks ago and have them be living under a microscope of being the Notre Dame quarterback before they've ever even played a down?" he said.

Instead all three were swarmed by the media each time they were made available. Jones seemed the most at ease but acknowledged the pressure the new quarterback will face.

"Everybody knows how prestigious the Notre Dame quarterback is. There's one thing everybody in the country is going to know, they're going to know who the president of the United States is and they're going to know who the quarterback of Notre Dame is," he said.

Weis is also hoping to take some pressure off the quarterback by using five backs to try to improve on the worst rushing season in school history, when the Irish averaged just 126 yards a game. He'll also try to come up with some tricks to slow down Tech's blitzing defense.

"You never know what to expect," Tech safety Jamal Lewis said. "He throws everything in world at you. Just never know what he's going to do."

The Yellow Jackets will be looking for some answers of their own.

Some Tech fans questioned how good Bennett could be if he was stuck playing for three seasons behind Reggie Ball, a frustratingly inconsistent quarterback. But Bennett played well against West Virginia in the Gator Bowl last season when Ball was ruled academically ineligible, completing 19-of-29 passes for 326 yards and three touchdowns.

"I believe he's going to play well, but I don't know. Isn't that what makes the game great?" Gailey said.

While Weis was busy trying to keep Georgia Tech off-balance, he also had the Irish preparing for freshman quarterback Josh Nesbitt just in case the Yellow Jackets try a mobile quarterback of their own.

"It wouldn't shock me to see him in the game in some kind of package where they spread it out, had him involved in something," Weis said.

Gailey said all the unknowns will make for an interesting start to the season.

"The first quarter of this game is going to be a little bit of a dancing match rather than a hitting match. Going to be seeing who's going to do what," Gailey said. "Once we feel each other out, then I think everybody will settle into the game."

And start answering questions.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press


ESPN The Magazine: Manning's passing camp

There's a cauldron of jambalaya, a table of Manning merchandise and a wicked seven-piece zydeco band accompanied by a kid in a blue Colts jersey playing the tin washboard. It's mid-July, and the heat could melt the Lombardi Trophy.

Yet more than 1,200 kids from all over the country have traveled to Louisiana swampland, paying as much as $495 for three days of QB 101 with football's most celebrated family.

Archie Manning is here. So is his oldest son, Cooper. All that's missing are the guests of honor, Peyton and Eli.

Peyton Manning

Ross Dettman for ESPN The Magazine

Football, not autographs, is the mainstay at the Manning Passing Academy.

With the start of their training camps just a few weeks from now, they've sneaked away to work out inside NSU's quaint stadium. But once word leaks out, the stands begin to fill with campers, who watch in awed silence as Peyton and Eli run through a series of passing drills and sprints that turn their gray T-shirts dark with sweat.

The students didn't know it, but they'd just had their first Manning Passing Academy lesson. Over the next 72 hours, they'd get plenty more.

9:12 p.m., Thursday, July 12
Nicholls State's Stopher Gym

Dressed in a navy golf shirt and suede loafers, a tan and rested Peyton Manning steps onto a makeshift riser. A gymnasium packed with more than 1,000 spellbound teenage quarterbacks falls silent. After awkwardly plowing through his welcome-to-camp speech, Peyton steps off the stage, walks to the middle of the gym and begins to lecture about the Cover 2 defense.

With every step away from the stage, Peyton becomes more enthused. Holding a mike in one hand, he barks instructions. Cooper is ordered down on one knee to play center. Baby bro Eli is told to man the linebacker slot. Peyton moves a counselor to tight end. He rushes defensive backs into place. He claps his hands, and someone chucks him a ball. As the lesson takes off, one thing is clear: Forget the Super Bowl and Saturday Night Live -- you will never see Peyton Manning enjoying himself more than at this very moment.

Peyton Manning

Ross Dettman for ESPN The Magazine

Peyton Manning shows a collection of campers how it's done. "Look off. Look off. Always look off. You don't need to watch the receiver," he tells the teenage campers.

When linebacker Eli tries to mess with him by moving laterally after the snap, Peyton grins, explaining into the mike that this is a sign for man-to-man. If Eli had dropped deep, it would have been zone. Eli then shows blitz. Peyton explains that he now has to signal to his running back, with a secret code, that Eli is the back's responsibility.

Sometimes the code is a day of the week. Sometimes it's R-rated. Sometimes it's both. "This time I'm gonna whisper," Peyton says, "because coaches from the Ravens and Rams are here." Peyton then hand-signals his tight end that he is the hot route and must break off his pattern. If not, the ball is going to the wide receiver. "But first I'll look off the safety," Peyton says. "Look off. Look off. Always look off. You don't need to watch the receiver. You know exactly where he'll be, right? Sixteen yards deep and two yards inside the numbers."

Peyton's stream-of-QB-consciousness speech goes on for 20 minutes. Then he takes questions. When a camper asks him how much longer he's going to play, he says, "I always thought I'd play 16 years. So I guess I'm in the last half of my career, right?" After saying he absolutely, positively has time for only one more question, he takes six.

"All right, listen, y'all," he finally says. "We can't make you into great quarterbacks in three days. But we can teach you the fundamentals and the techniques of the position. Eli and I weren't great athletes in high school, but we studied and worked hard and got better. That's what this camp is all about."

Campers flood out of the gym and make their way across the dark campus. Inspired, and with time to kill before the 10:45 p.m. bed check, they begin to gather under every available streetlight. Before long, shadows of footballs flicker and flutter and fill the night sky.

Passing fancy: Family patriarch Archie and sons Cooper, Eli and Peyton Manning.

Ross Dettman for ESPN The Magazine

Passing fancy: Family patriarch Archie and sons Cooper, Eli and Peyton Manning.

7:40 a.m., Friday, July 13
NSU residents quad

With 20 minutes to spare before the day's first staff meeting, Archie pokes his head into the four-bed, two-bath dorm occupied by Cooper, Peyton and Eli. He pleads, "Come on, guys, seriously, you need to get up!"

The MPA was born 11 years ago, after Archie visited a Florida State camp and saw what a bonding experience it was for the Bowden boys. The Mannings started at Tulane with 180 campers. Now they have nearly that many counselors. This isn't your typical wave-from-the-limo celebrity camp, either. Autographs are a no-no. Eli and Peyton work every minute of the camp -- staff meetings, two practices each day, 7-on-7 passing competitions after dinner, evening lectures -- and cherish every second. Except the wake-up calls. Snoozing in the room this morning are two NFL QBs with combined contracts totaling well north of $100 million. Cooper, 33, works for Howard Weil, an energy investment firm in New Orleans. "Yet," Cooper says, "Dad still treats us all like we're 12."

And like any set of reunited brothers, that's how they act. If any of them is caught napping in their dorm room, he'll get a good old-fashioned mauling from his siblings. There's mental torture, too. Peyton still hasn't lived down the time Cooper talked him into donning a paper bag at one of their dad's Saints games.

Flipping through TV channels after he first arrived on campus, Cooper came across a retrospective of Peyton's career. But he waited until the part about Peyton's 3-13 rookie season before he called him into the room. Peyton tried to cover his eyes, then he began to berate the rookie on the screen making all those dumb throws. "Stop. No. Hold it.

Look at the safety! The safety! No!" yelled Peyton as Eli and Cooper nearly choked with laughter. "I really thought I would see a difference in Peyton after the Super Bowl," says Cooper. "I thought he'd ease back and release some of that intensity. Nope. He's still one tough customer, and about the most difficult person in the world to impress. The Super Bowl didn't do crap."

9:52 a.m., Friday, July 13
NSU practice fields

Camp workouts are held on a lush, 10-acre expanse situated between the stadium and a hospital. Different drills, covering every passing situation imaginable, are run in every direction on 10 fields. Three-step drops. Five. Seven. Rollouts. Pressure up the middle. Play-action. Timing patterns. Screens. Deep seams. Sidelines. Deep balls. Check-downs. Curls. Blitz pickups.

Peyton Manning

Ross Dettman for ESPN The Magazine

Says Cooper Manning of brother Peyton: "I really thought I would see a difference in Peyton after the Super Bowl. I thought he'd ease back and release some of that intensity. Nope."

On a stroll between fields, every step reveals a new teaching tip. Don't gather. No hitching. Look off the safety. Find the middle linebacker. Watch your body level. Be tall with the ball. Elbow up. Back hip down. Stagger your cadence. Balance your feet. Square your body. Don't see it, feel it.

Every 15 minutes or so, an air horn blasts, the campers rotate to a new instructor, and the madness begins all over again. This must be what it's like inside Peyton Manning's brain as the play clock ticks down below 10.

In the near corner of one of the fields, Ravens offensive coordinator Rick Neuheisel is teaching a long-ball course. Campers stretch out 35 yards apart and begin to fill the sky with what looks like migrating fowl. Neuheisel stops the drill and brings everyone together. He asks if they wonder why so many QBs have body shapes that can best be described as doughy but can still throw bullets and bombs. It's because the power doesn't come from the arm, he tells them. He rattles off a few quick tips: Dip your back shoulder. Replace your front foot with your back one, and as you step forward, pop up and launch the ball as if you were throwing a javelin. Feel that? The power comes from your back hip and leg, not your arm. The lesson lasts less than three minutes, but when the campers start to throw again, the improvement is mind-boggling.

Peyton wanders behind the group like a professor eyeing his class during an exam. There's no mistaking that the Super Bowl win has added a royal air to his presence. He reminds the kids not to ignore their follow-throughs. Balanced hips, square to the target, he tells them. Manning demonstrates with a bomb. His momentum brings his back foot forward until his right toes tap on the turf and his throwing hand snaps down, as it would after a jump shot. "You should be able to close your eyes and know if you threw a good pass just by the feel," Peyton says. Meanwhile, campers behind his back exchange how-awesome-is-this looks. "I still do that, even during games. I close my eyes and do what I call taking a picture of myself to check my form after throws."

The air horn blows. But before allowing the campers to rush off, Neuheisel huddles them up for one last bit of advice. "Remember, fellas," he says, "chicks dig the long ball."

2:23 p.m., Friday, July 13
NSU practice fields

During the first water break of the afternoon session, Cooper rides onto the field wearing a large straw hat and thick sunglasses. His golf cart skids to a stop on the steamy grass a few feet from Eli and a camper built like portly Giants backup quarterback Jared Lorenzen. "Didn't anyone tell you?" Cooper deadpans. "Linemen camp was last week." The kid cracks up, then so does everyone else.

Eli Manning

Ross Dettman for ESPN The Magazine

"The kids get you excited and make you feel lucky to be playing again," Eli Mannng says.

During breaks, Eli's watercooler is the place to be. Cooper says Eli is the sly one, "silent but deadly."

At the MPA, Eli blends in like a camper, enjoying the annual trip back to high school more than any other Manning. Someone yells, "Who's faster?" to Eli, who responds, "Oh man, it's not even close." He then mimics Peyton's biomechanically challenged gait, a cross between the dance moves of Elaine Benes and those of Mark Madsen. "How far can you throw it?" comes the next query. Eli picks up a ball and says, "Start running." Everyone else senses the Charlie Brown moment, but the kid with the white tank top and buzz cut gets about 65 yards downfield before he realizes what's up.

"Come on back, you know I can't throw it that far!" Eli hollers. "You fell for the same thing last year."

While the kid is on his way back to the group, Eli hits him in the numbers with a pass, and the kid beams. Then it's back to work. "The kids get you excited and make you feel lucky to be playing again," Eli says. "It's cool seeing how the position's evolved too. Five years ago, if you tried to talk coverages or reads, there would be blank faces staring back at you. Now, heck, the 10th-graders follow everything you say."

If only the Giants would do the same.

2:12 p.m., Saturday, July 14
NSU's Guidry Stadium

The entire camp is crammed under the cement bleachers, waiting out a lightning storm. Some kids use their footballs as pillows and catch some quick z's. Others pass the time talking junk about the 7-on-7 passing competition. Another group of kids squeezed into a stadium tunnel take turns imitating Peyton's signature move, the play-action pass. Without realizing it, these campers have unlocked the underlying philosophy of both the MPA's and Peyton's success: Everything physical about the position has a larger, and more important, mental component. All the work on the fundamentals and technique puts the passer in the best possible position to read and deceive the defense.

Academy athletes

Ross Dettman for ESPN The Magazine

Elbow down. Feet square. Eyes on the safety. The lessons pay off.

As thunder rattles the bleachers overhead, the kids realize that mimicking Peyton isn't easy; he has no tells. On his drops, he lowers his 6-foot-5' frame to about 5-10 to freeze the middle linebacker and free safety. He hides the ball on his hip to confuse the back-side defensive end. And he always trails his eyes downfield to mess with the corners. Rather than attack, defenses must wait, for an eternity, as the play reveals itself. By then, it's almost always too late. "We've said it all week, over and over, and I think they're getting it," says Peyton. "The mental makes up for a lot of the physical. You give the same look every time, because when the linebacker leans the wrong way, my tight end gets a seam and now has a step on everyone down the middle of the field."

At the MPA, being a great quarterback isn't about throwing the ball a country mile; it's about making the defender take one false step.

1:33 p.m., Sunday, July 15
New Orleans airport

Camp ended 90 minutes ago. Inside Concourse A, a gangly kid wearing a Manning Passing Academy T-shirt waits for his US Airways flight to Charlotte. You'd think that after 72 hours of instruction and practice, the last thing he'd want to see is another football. But when his dad leaves to get a cup of coffee, the kid pulls a ball out of his black nylon bag and begins to practice his throwing motion. Elbow down. Feet square. Eyes on the safety. After each throw, he pauses for a moment with his eyes closed. This goes on for 10 minutes. Every time he shuts his eyes and stands perfectly still, his fellow passengers giggle a bit more.

He doesn't care, of course. This is the way Peyton taught him to do it.


ATP to suspend players for skipping top events

NEW YORK -- Players who skip mandatory events on the men's tour are to be suspended under a new set of rules designed to ensure the best performers enter the top tournaments.

The changes announced by the ATP, the governing body of men's tennis, in a news conference at the U.S. Open on Friday are due to come into force in 2009, with the rebranded "1,000" events boasting an increase in prize money.

Events in Indian Wells, Miami, Rome, Madrid, Cincinnati, Canada, Shanghai and Paris will have "1,000" status, with 1,000 ranking points awarded to the winner.

Monte Carlo will also have "1,000" status but will not be mandatory.

Anyone who misses one of the eight mandatory events without a legitimate reason, for example an injury that must be ratified by a new committee, will be banned.

"This is one of the boldest things this board has done," said Etienne de Villiers, the ATP's executive chairman. "This was a unanimous vote by the board. Player and tournament reps felt this was the right thing to do for the sport.

"You get suspended once but it's a cumulative suspension. It's a little bit like points on your driving licence. It stays on your record," he said. "We have a $7.5 million bonus pool for the top 20 players. If they're suspended they lose half of it. If they miss two, they'll lose all of it."

De Villiers said the committee which will determine if a player is injured had been approved by the ATP Player Council.

"[It will be] one player representative, one tournament representative and one ATP representative," he said.

"If the players want to have an independent, we're happy to have an independent there. This is not about witch-hunts. This is about establishing exactly whether a player is capable of traveling or not. We do not want to hurt our stars," he said.

Of the existing Masters Series events, Hamburg loses its status and will be replaced by Shanghai while Madrid will change from a hard-court event in the European autumn to a clay-court event before the French Open.

The ATP board has received 22 applications from tournaments that want to be part of the second tier of tournaments, the "500s," where the winners will receive 500 ranking points.

The 2009 calendar, which will end in London with the eight-man ATP Tour Finals, is to be confirmed in Shanghai in November.

By 2011, six of the eight events will become combined tournaments with the women's tour, the ATP said.


Striker Corradi moves to Parma

Manchester City striker Bernardo Corradi has joined Serie A side Parma on loan until the end of the season.

The 31-year-old has not featured in any of manager Sven-Goran Eriksson's squads this season having been signed by Stuart Pearce last July.

The Italian, who arrived from Valencia, made 29 appearances but managed just three goals.

Corradi began his career at Cagliari before moving to Inter Milan, Lazio and then Valencia.

Source: BBC Sport

Chicago acquires Trachsel

Steve Trachsel


CHICAGO -- Pitcher Steve Trachsel was traded from the Baltimore Orioles to the Chicago Cubs on Friday, giving the NL Central leaders another starter for the stretch.

Former Cubs president and current Orioles head of baseball operations Andy MacPhail made the deal.

Trachsel returned to the place where he started his major league career. The Cubs sent pitcher Rocky Cherry and infielder Scott Moore to Baltimore for the right-hander.

Players must be with a team by Friday to be eligible for the postseason. The Aug. 31 deadline often produces a late flurry of deals.

The 36-year-old Trachsel was 6-8 with a 4.48 ERA in 25 starts this season. He pitched well this month, going 1-1 with a 2.37 ERA in six starts.

Trachsel played for the Cubs from 1993-99, and later pitched for Tampa Bay, Toronto, the New York Mets and Baltimore. He is 140-151 with a 4.29 ERA lifetime, was an All-Star in 1996 and gave up Mark McGwire's record-breaking 62nd home run in 1998.

The Cubs made their second deal of the month. Earlier, they got outfielder Craig Monroe from Detroit.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press


Wawrinka beats ex-champion Safin

Flushing Meadows, New York, 27 August-9 September

Ex-champion Marat Safin was seen off in straight sets by Stanislas Wawrinka in the third round of the US Open.

Russian Safin, winner in 2000, had four chances to break in the first set but could not take any of them, allowing Swiss player Wawrinka to take the set.

The world number 49 then broke 25th seed Safin twice in the second set.

Another break in the third was enough to wrap up a 6-3 6-3 6-3 win and a fourth-round place at Flushing Meadows for Wawrinka for the first time.

Veteran Spaniard Carlos Moya, playing his 12th US Open, was another player to reach the fourth round.

The 31-year-old 17th seed, who reached the last four back in 1998, saw off Russian Igor Kunitsyn in straight sets.

Juan Ignacio Chela, seeded 20, beat Wayne Odesnik in straight sets to progress to the fourth round.

Also through is Chela's fellow Argentine Juan Martin del Potro, who upset 31st Jurgen Melzer in straight sets.

Source: BBC Sport

Former Terp star Baxter gets 60-day prison term

GREENBELT, Md. -- A federal judge sentenced former University of Maryland basketball star Lonny Baxter to 60 days in prison on Friday for illegally shipping firearms.

The decision could affect the 28-year-old Baxter's upcoming season with a Spanish league team.

U.S. District Judge Peter Messitte based the sentence on Baxter's history with firearms and his actions in the case.

"You are in a sense on injured reserve," Messitte told Baxter. "You have in effect injured yourself."

Baxter, a 6-foot-8 forward and member of Maryland's 2002 NCAA championship team, apologized to Messitte before the sentencing, saying he had an "obsession" with guns.

Baxter last played in the NBA in the 2005-06 season, when he appeared in 23 games for the Houston Rockets and 18 for the Charlotte Bobcats. He was the 44th pick in the 2002 NBA draft by the Chicago Bulls.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.


Report: Mulder may return to Cards next week

The St. Louis Cardinals' rotation might be getting a boost soon.

Mark Mulder


Left-hander Mark Mulder, who has been on the disabled list all season while rehabbing from rotator cuff surgery last September, could start at home against the Pittsburgh Pirates next Wednesday or Thursday, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Friday.

Mulder is scheduled to make his fourth minor-league rehabilitation start for Triple-A Memphis on Friday.

Mulder would be the sixth starter in the Cardinals' rotation, and because the defending World Series champions are finishing the season with 35 games in 34 days, manager Tony La Russa is thinking about using a six-man rotation for the month of September and giving each starter an extra day off.

"[Starter Adam Wainwright, who spent last season in the bullpen] is one of the reasons you want to go to six," La Russa told the Post-Dispatch. "All this is forcing normal September days off that we're not having.

"[Wainwright] and [converted reliever Braden] Looper are in their first full year as starters," La Russa told the newspaper. "This ensures that they're going to have that extra freshness."


Knicks' Morris pleads guilty to reckless driving

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- New York Knicks center Randolph Morris pleaded guilty Friday to reckless driving and agreed to pay a $100 fine.

Morris, who was scheduled to appear in Fayette District Court for a preliminary hearing, didn't attend. His attorney, Jim Lowry, entered the guilty plea on his behalf and said the fine and court costs would be paid Friday. He declined to comment further.

The former University of Kentucky star was arrested Aug. 7 in Lexington after an officer spotted him driving 62 mph -- 17 mph over the speed limit -- and failing to use a turn signal as he drove down an exit ramp.

Morris smelled of alcohol and had bloodshot eyes, according to the arrest report. He acknowledged he had been drinking 30 minutes earlier and was given a preliminary breath test at the scene, with his blood alcohol level showing .069, below Kentucky's legal limit of .08.

Morris signed with the Knicks in March after playing for Kentucky in the NCAA tournament. He played in five games for New York.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press


Stars take swipe at NBA's referee scandal in ad

DALLAS -- The Dallas Stars may have already taken themselves out of the running for the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy -- the NHL's award for "sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct."

As part of the team's "come into the cold" ad campaign to sell seats for 2007-08, The Stars took a shot at the NBA's referee scandal on a billboard near the American Airlines Arena, the building the Stars share with the Dallas Mavericks.

The message? "The only thing our refs shave is the ice."

But Mavericks owner Mark Cuban didn't seem to mind, according to the Dallas Morning News.

"I think it's hysterical," Cuban told the newspaper. "Good for them. It's a fun ad."

The campaign, dreamt up by the Stars and Austin, Texas ad agency Door Number 3, is aimed at conveying the toughness of hockey players in an edgy style. One board reads "One game a week? Is the N in NFL for Nancy?" the Morning News reported.

Even baseball was not immune, despite the fact Stars owner Tom Hicks also owns the Texas Rangers: Another billboard reads "Maybe baseball should stop using the word sacrifice," according to the Morning News.

Stars president Jim Lites said Hicks laughed at that one, the newspaper said.

NBA Commissioner David Stern, who was made aware of the Stars' ad campaign on Thursday afternoon, said through a league spokesman that he had no comment, according to the report.

The Stars didn't take a swipe at the NBA without some reservations, Lites told the Morning News.

"It's edgy. But we're really good friends with the Mavs. They're our partners in the building. I think we thought it would be taken the right way," Lites told the newspaper. "It's not a slap at them. It's more of a snip. I think the same goes for the Cowboys. The NFL is the big daddy."


Marleau agrees to two-year extension with Sharks

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Patrick Marleau agreed to a two-year contract extension with the San Jose Sharks on Friday, keeping the longtime captain with the club through 2010.

After months of negotiations and public speculation on Marleau's future, he finalized a deal two weeks before training camp opens to stay with the club that drafted him in 1997.

Marleau's extension finishes a busy summer for general manager Doug Wilson, who also signed forwards Joe Thornton and Milan Michalek and defenseman Craig Rivet to long-term extensions.

Marleau, a two-time All-Star who has one year and $4.5 million left on his current contract, was San Jose's second-leading scorer last season with 32 goals and 46 assists while centering the Sharks' second line.

He also became the Sharks' franchise leader in points (491), goals (219) and assists (272) last season, surpassing former captain Owen Nolan in all three categories. Marleau, who has been with the Sharks since he was an 18-year-old rookie in the 1997-98 season, also passed Mike Rathje for the franchise record in games played (717).

But Marleau struggled in the playoffs, going scoreless with a minus-5 rating in the Sharks' six-game series loss to the Detroit Red Wings in the second round. Coach Ron Wilson was publicly critical of his captain, who accepted blame for the Sharks' exit after the NHL's fifth-best regular season.

Marleau was then surrounded by trade rumors when negotiations over his extension stretched through the summer, with the Montreal Canadiens reportedly eager to swing a deal. But Marleau always said he wanted to stay in San Jose, his wife's hometown and the Saskatchewan native's adopted home.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press


US Open photos

Flushing Meadows, New York, 27 August-9 September

Source: BBC Sport

Henin easily advances to U.S. Open 4th round

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NEW YORK -- Top seed Justine Henin became the first woman to reach the fourth round of the U.S. Open on Friday when she crushed Russian qualifier Ekaterina Makarova 6-0, 6-2.

The Belgian, champion in 2003, needed just 50 minutes to claim her place in the last 16, where she will play 15th seed Dinara Safina of Russia or American wildcard Ahsha Rolle.

Makarova had beaten No. 28 seed Ai Sugiyama in the previous round but world No. 1 Henin was in a different class, allowing the Russian just eight points in the first set.

The world No. 156 held serve in the fourth game of the second set and broke Henin in the seventh but the Belgian broke straight back to claim victory.


Lab director claims miscommunication with Nifong

DURHAM, N.C. -- A lab director who prepared a DNA report that failed to detail all the evidence in the now-discredited Duke lacrosse rape case testified Friday that miscommunication with defense attorneys was to blame.

A report given to the defense stated that DNA testing results linked none of the accused lacrosse players to the crime. But the report failed to mention that genetic material from other unidentified males was found on the woman who said she was attacked.

Defense attorneys want Superior Court Judge W. Osmond Smith III to punish former Durham County District Attorney Mike Nifong for initially telling the court he disclosed all testing results when he knew, and failed to reveal, the presence of the unidentified genetic material to the defense.

If held in contempt, Nifong faces up to 30 days in jail and a fine of up to $500. He has pleaded not guilty to the charge.

Brian Meehan, director of a private DNA testing lab, testified during the first two days of the criminal contempt hearing.

On Thursday, Meehan said he was the one who decided how to prepare a report stating no lacrosse player had been linked to the accuser.

Nifong's attorney, Jim Glover, asked Meehan on Thursday if Nifong had asked him to leave anything out of the report. Meehan answered, "no."

"My company and the company's assessment of that document request was that clearly there was a misunderstanding, that whoever went through that document we provided, that there were some things that they didn't understand completely, that clearly they got wrong," Meehan said Friday.

During a hearing last fall, Nifong told a judge that defense lawyers had all DNA test results. Glover said that the inaccurate statement was little more than an oversight, that Nifong never intentionally tried to mislead the court and believed he gave all DNA test results to defense attorneys.

Nifong recused himself from the lacrosse case after being charged with ethics violations, and state prosecutors who took over dropped all charges against the three accused players, declaring them innocent victims of a "tragic rush to accuse."

Nifong was disbarred in June for more than two dozen violations of the state's rules of professional conduct during his prosecution of the lacrosse case.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press


Lampard doubtful for England ties

Frank Lampard has emerged as a doubt for England's vital Euro 2008 qualifiers against Israel on 8 September and Russia four days later.

Lampard, 29, has a thigh injury and will miss Chelsea's Premier League game against Aston Villa on Sunday.

"We can confirm Frank Lampard was injured in training on Friday," read a Chelsea statement.

"A scan has shown he has a tear in his left thigh. It is too early to say how long it will keep him from playing."

The club added: "The injury is on the same leg as the toe he broke earlier this season."

Liverpool midfielder Steven Gerrard is also a doubt but is expected to play.

Gerrard, 27, is suffering from a hairline fracture of the toe and will miss Liverpool's game against Derby.

Coach Steve McClaren's plans had already been hit by injuries to David Beckham and Kieron Dyer.

McClaren said: "I have spoken to Steven and I am very confident he will be available.

"He did play against Chelsea a couple of weeks ago and obviously we will take medical advice before making a decision.

"But ultimately, Steven wants to play in the next two games. He knows how important he is to our team. We need him."

Gerrard took pain-killing injections to play against Chelsea two weeks ago, but Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez did not risk him against Sunderland and Toulouse last week.

Source: BBC Sport

Henin marches into fourth round

Flushing Meadows, New York, 27 August-9 September

Top seed Justine Henin raced into the fourth round of the US Open with a comprehensive 6-0 6-2 victory over Ekaterina Makarova of Russia.

The Belgian world number one swept through the first set in just 18 minutes and then went 3-0 up in the second set.

Left-hander Makarova finally held serve but there was no way back for the 19-year-old as Henin romped through.

Henin, 25, now plays either 15th seed Dinara Safina or Ahshah Rolle.

Source: BBC Sport

Michael Johnson column

I think Jeremy Wariner will break my 400m world record, and it will happen in the next year or two.

Since he ran 43.50 seconds a few weeks ago, it's been right there. He's been capable ever since then.

He'll continue to do little things in his race that will continue to get him closer and closer and then it will happen.

He's run 43.4 here. Had it not been for the wind in the stadium, he would have run 43.3.

It's a huge distance getting from 43.46 to 43.18 (Johnson's world record time).

The good thing is that it's a long sprint so there are lots of places where you can gain little bits of time here and there.

He showed great execution in his start.

One of the things he has been able to perfect that has really given him the consistency is getting out of the blocks as if he is running the 200.

You get up to your race speed as quick as possible because it takes a lot of energy to get up to race speed.

You don't want to spend 70, 80, 90 or 100m doing that. You want to get up to race speed at 60m and then just hold that so then you can relax.

The race was really going to be won - if he was going to run his best time - really pushing from 200m to 300m and he did that.

Since October last year he's really been doing a lot of training to increase his strength.

He was 11 seconds between 200 and 300 - that's pretty incredible. Normally you would see an athlete start to fall off and start to tie up a little bit at the end after that but he was able to hold it.

Between 200-300m is where he really turned it on.

He was extremely confident at that point because he knew he only had 100m left to go.

He knew that at 100m to go, with his training, he can hold his form and hold the others off.

Jeremy has great technique and he's got really good form.

He's generating a lot of power and downforce with his quads.

He's not a huge athlete and doesn't have a lot of upper body strength but he's able to generate a lot of power and downforce coming down the home stretch.

That propels him forward and he's able to hold his form so he doesn't falter.

When he breaks the world record, he's still going to be somewhere around 21 flat through the first 200.

It's going to really be from 200 to 300 - getting a little bit quicker there - and then be able to hold it to the end to break the world record.

Source: BBC Sport