Visit to McCarthy's Hometown...........Kenny Mayne

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

No. 6 pick Yi finally signs with Bucks

After all the talk, the media circus, and the frustration by Bucks fans, Yi Jianlian finally signed Wednesday night in Hong Kong to a multi year deal with the Milwaukee Bucks.

Yi played five games this summer with Team China Basketball in the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas. He averaged 12.4 points, 4.4 rebounds and 1.4 blocked shots. He had a team-high 23 points against Memphis, and 20, including the game-winner against Cleveland.

"We are happy that Yi will be playing with the Bucks to further develop his skill and his contribution to both the Chinese National Team and the NBA," NBA commissioner David Stern said.

"There has been a genuine excitement throughout our city and state, as well as internationally, following our selection of Yi in the NBA Draft," Bucks owner and team president Herb Kohl said. "We all anticipate Yi's arrival and welcome him and his family to Milwaukee. We look forward to a successful relationship for many years to come."

Curtesoy of Associated Press

Awful Brewers lose to 1st place Cubs

It's been so painful to follow the Brewers of lately. They dropped the 1st game against the Cubs yesterday and have now dropped to 3rd place in the division after a Cardinal win. Maybe next year is the year!!!!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Vikings sign Ferguson

Robert Ferguson ended up in a place with multiple ex-Green Bay Packers. It just wasn't Houston, like most folks expected.

Instead, the veteran wide receiver signed Tuesday with the Minnesota Vikings, joining former teammates Ryan Longwell and Darren Sharper in getting a chance to play against his former employer twice a year in the NFC North.

"That's definitely icing on the cake," Ferguson said. The actual cake is the role Ferguson could play for the Vikings, whose wide receiver corps are, to put it politely, inexperienced.

A less polite description? Bad.

The Houston Texans, with ex-Packers coach Mike Sherman as their offensive coordinator and a host of Sherman-picked ex-Packers on the roster, were thought to be the frontrunners for Ferguson, who is a Houston native and makes his offseason home there.

"Obviously once I found out I was released from Green Bay, that was the number one team that came into mind," Ferguson said. "But things changed dramatically once I visited here and got to talk with the coaches and talk with the teammates here."

A disappointment in Green Bay as a 2001 second-round pick, Ferguson joins Minnesota's 12-receiver group as the wideout with the most NFL experience (six years), most games played (60), most starts (26), most receptions (116), most yards (1,577) and most touchdowns (12). Bobby Wade currently is the Vikings' No. 1 receiver, while drop-prone Troy Williamson is No. 2 and rookie second-round pick Sidney Rice is the No. 3 receiver.

By the Vikings' Sept. 9 opener against Atlanta, Ferguson, who according to an NFL source signed a one-year, $700,000 deal that includes incentives that could boost the contract's value to $1.3 million, could work his way into the starting lineup.

But don't discount the revenge factor. "He has the same feeling I did when you leave Green Bay," Sharper said. "You want to play those guys twice a year."

Courtesy of Jason Wilde from today's Wisconsin State Journal:

Friday, August 17, 2007

Brewers continue to slide

Still barely hanging on are the Milwaukee Brewers to a 1/2 game lead over Chicago. After last night's 8-0 loss and sweep by St. Louis, the Cardnials now pulled to within 2 1/2 games and are considered a legitimate contender.

The Brew Crew are 14-25 in their last 39 games. They lost for the eighth time in their last 10 games. They've even lost four straight at home.

Ferguson is Done in Green Bay

The Green Bay Packers' patience with Robert Ferguson finally ran out Thursday.

Around 5 p.m., about 90 minutes before the team took the field for its final night practice of the summer, Ferguson was informed by coach Mike McCarthy that an attempt was being made to trade him to another team. If a trade can't be made, then he will in all likelihood be released.
"Robert will no longer be a Packer," McCarthy said after the night practice. "We're going to go in another direction. We're just moving on with the other guys and that's where it stands right now. I'll have more definitive information for you tomorrow."

McCarthy said the Packers were in discussions with several teams about a trade for Ferguson. It's possible they have a firm offer for the 27-year-old receiver and are trying to see if they can do better.

If released, Ferguson, a six-year veteran, would not be subject to waivers and would be free to sign with any team in the league. Players with four or more seasons of pension credit are exempt from waivers until the end of the trading period Oct. 16.

It's unlikely the Packers will be able to get a lot for Ferguson - probably a low-round pick at most - and it's questionable whether a team would be willing to take on his $1.8 million base salary.

One potential suitor could be the Houston Texans, where former Packers coach and general manager Mike Sherman is the offensive coordinator. Sherman was influential in the Packers selecting Ferguson over Wisconsin's Chris Chambers in the second round of the 2001 draft and it's possible Ferguson, whose off-season home is in Houston, might be willing to adjust his salary in order to play in his hometown.

What is certain is that Ferguson had little chance of making the Packers' roster. The writing was on the wall after receiver Carlyle Holiday clearly outperformed Ferguson on special teams in the exhibition opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Read More here from Tom Silverstein's article in today's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Jones makes a big-time impression

Last year, a second-round pick who lacked big-time name recognition coming from Western Michigan, justified his selection from the very first practice and, had he not suffered a midseason ankle injury, might've put up a 1,000-yard season as a rookie. His name? Greg Jennings.

Don't look now, but it appears to be happening again, this time with third-round pick James Jones.

"It's crazy, I'm only in my second year, and he kind of reminds me of myself," Jennings said Tuesday. "He's doing everything that people don't expect a rookie to do."

Added Driver, who watched Jones from the sideline during the first three days of practice: "I think he has what the coaches look for — confidence and comfort in the offense. When I came in in 1999, that's what I wanted to do right off the bat, come in and prove that I could play with anybody, regardless of who they were."

A reach?

Jones has caught virtually every ball thrown his direction, including two beauties on Tuesday morning, when he skied over No. 3 cornerback Patrick Dendy to reel in a touchdown from Aaron Rodgers, then went up and got a high Paul Thompson pass for another TD in the back of the end zone.

"That's why we drafted him," wide receivers coach Jimmy Robinson said matter-of-factly. "We knew he could do that."

Perhaps, but when the Packers took Jones with the 78th overall pick in April, the selection caused some head-scratching. Most of the pre-draft know-it-alls had Jones pegged as a second-day pick, as low as the sixth or seventh round, so he was considered a reach by many.

Plus, in some ways, the Packers opted for Jones' long-term potential over the short-term help a trade for Randy Moss could have provided. Moss went from Oakland to New England for a fourth-round pick (No. 110 overall), and general manager Ted Thompson could have dealt the pick for Moss had he wanted to.

Instead, Thompson opted for a guy who caught 70 passes for 893 yards and 10 TDs in 13 games as a senior at San Jose State last year after catching just 56 balls his first three college seasons combined.

"You definitely want to make a real good first impression. You want to open some eyes as fast as you can so the coaches start looking at you," Jones said. "I just go out there and make the most of my chances."

Learning curve

While Jones' ability to pluck the ball out of midair has gotten everyone's attention, coach Mike McCarthy cautioned that, unlike Jennings, who picked up the offense almost instantly, Jones "is thinking (a lot) right now. You can see when he breaks the huddle, he's thinking about the formation, he's thinking about the play."

Or, as Robinson put it, "Things came easy to Greg. I don't think they necessarily come as easy to James, in terms of the scheme. But he's handling it pretty well to this point.''

Indeed, while veteran cornerbacks Al Harris and Charles Woodson have been supportive of the rookie, they're also holding him to a higher standard after seeing what Jennings did last year in camp.

"From what I've seen, he's got real good hands. But this is camp," Woodson said. "It was kind of different with Jennings last year, there was just something with him that everybody could just kind of see. Jones, he catches some good balls, but I've got to see him in the game."

Added Harris: "I wouldn't quite say he's like Jennings was, because Jennings, he really caught on really fast. He was real smooth in his routes. James works hard, and he's got very strong hands. He caught a slant on me the other day where he ran a good route. He just needs to do that more often — sell his routes better, be crisper. But he catches the ball very, very well. I haven't seen him drop a pass."

And that might be the best part of Jones' strong first impression: He isn't getting swept up in his early successes. While his highlight-reel catches have been a staple of the local news stations' 10 p.m. sportscasts, he's acutely aware of how far he has to go. Told of Woodson and Harris' comments, he simply nodded in agreement.

"Definitely. I need to improve on a lot of parts of my game," he said. "I can run routes better, I can read coverages better, I can understand the game a lot better — I can do a lot of things better to elevate my game. That's why we're practicing, and that's what we're here for, to practice the things we need to get better on.''

Courtesy of Jason Wilde, Wisconsin Sports Writer of the Year from today's Wisconsin State Journal:

UW football: Beckum back for more

Take a moment to digest the numbers.Travis Beckum set University of Wisconsin records last season for a tight end, with 61 receptions for 903 yards and five touchdowns.

Now, consider the consequences.Beckum is a former defensive player who just moved to the position in the previous spring and admittedly didn't start to feel comfortable until the Big Ten Conference opener against Michigan.

Finally, contemplate the future. Just how good can Beckum, a junior, become with a full year at the position under his belt?"Travis improved so much as the season went along as a football player, but also as a person, as a student, as someone who can maybe help us lead a little bit on the field," UW coach Bret Bielema said after the spring game."

And the competitive nature he has — I always kid him about being pretty and being fast and all this. I said, 'I want you to become a football player.

I want you to use your hands when you block, I want you to stay in good football position.' It's been steady (progress) over time, little doses here and there, and he's continued to develop."Given everything Beckum accomplished last season, it's easy to overlook senior Andy Crooks, another former linebacker who also made the move to tight end in the spring of 2006.

Yet, when offensive coordinator Paul Chryst was asked this spring to evaluate some of the potential leaders on his side of the ball, Crooks was the first player mentioned."He was a lot of our (offensive) personality, I felt like, last year," Chryst said.

With both Beckum and Crooks back this year, tight end is one of the strongest areas on a deep and experienced team.Beckum and Crooks proved to be such an effective combination, the double tight end formation became a staple in UW's offense.

The versatility of Crooks, who can also line up in the backfield, allowed the offense to overcome injuries to fullbacks Chris Pressley, who missed the entire season with a broken ankle suffered in fall camp, and Bill Rentmeester, who was in and out of the lineup all season with a shoulder injury. Crooks had 19 catches for 206 yards and four TDs and was also the team's best blocking tight end.

Even in passing situations, Chryst often preferred to use two receivers and two tight ends, rather than three receivers and a tight end, or four receivers."I want the offensive coordinator to call plays to our guys, but they have to merit that," receivers coach Henry Mason said in the spring. "It doesn't make any sense to take Travis Beckum off the field in passing situations."Crooks missed spring practices, following post-season shoulder surgery and third tight end Sean Lewis was also out with an injury.

That allowed Beckum extra reps to concentrate on his blocking, the weakest part of his game."With Crooks and Sean being gone, (I'm) kind of getting all the blocks down — down blocks, zone blocks," Beckum said in the spring. "Last year I was kind of limited in what blocks I did. I think that's good experience for me to be able to do all the blocks."

Former quarterback John Stocco used to joke that Beckum didn't always know where he was going, either. So, Beckum was working on polishing his route-running skills, too.

But it's hard to find another tight end nationally who impacted games — and defenses — as much as Beckum. In Big Ten games only, Beckum ranked second in the conference in receiving yards, averaging 75.1 per game.

Even with defenses increasingly focusing their coverages on him later in the season, he still caught five or more passes in each of the final five games, counting the bowl victory over Arkansas."I expected it," Beckum said of the different coverages he faced, including bracket coverage, with a linebacker underneath and a safety over the top. "It's just something I kind of look forward to."

If defenders are going to bracket me and put more defenders on me, it's going to leave other players open. Once that happens, we can have a complete offense."The popular perception, going into the season, is Beckum will be a better all-around player, but might not put up the numbers he had last season.

But given his extraordinary talent and competitiveness, don't rule out an even bigger season."That was kind of a point for me, to have an even better season this year," Beckum said. "The numbers I put up were kind of large last year. I definitely think I'm capable of doing it."

Courtesy of Tom Mulhern from today's Wisconsin State Journal: