AFC Spring Round-Up





BALTIMORE:  JOHN HARBAUGH, the third head coach in franchise history, will usher in a new era in Baltimore in 2008.  Harbaugh has brought on board CAM CAMERON as offensive coordinator and longtime Ravens assistant REX RYAN returns as defensive coordinator and assistant head coach.  "There are three qualities we wanted from each coach we hired," says Harbaugh.  "First, good people with great character; second, outstanding teachers; and third, football expertise.  I believe we got all three qualities with each coach."……Cornerback SAMARI ROLLEteamed with ALAN FANECA of the Jets and GEOFFREY POPE of the Giants to participate in the 2008 National Walk for Epilepsy this past weekend in Washington, D.C.  The walk is designed to support the Epilepsy Foundation, which is the national organization leading the fight against the illness.


BUFFALO:  In an effort to further regionalize its fan base, Buffalo recently established an eight-game series in Toronto at the Rogers Centre.  From 2008-2012, the Bills will play an annual regular-season game and a total of three preseason games in Toronto.  "We are very pleased to be the first franchise in NFL history to split our schedule between our domestic home city (Buffalo) and our neighboring international city (Toronto)," said Bills President RALPH WILSON.  "The population growth in Toronto and passion the Canadian fans have shown for the Bills have made this possible."  . Rogers


CINCINNATI:  Tight end NATE LAWRIE and safety CHINEDUM NDUKWE took part in the 2008 NFL Business Management and Entrepreneurial Program this spring.  Ndukwe, a second-year player from Notre Dame, values the program, which prepares NFLers for their post-playing business careers.  "This is a great opportunity that the NFL provides," he says.  "It is basically free education from top professors -- something that other people pay a lot of money to get.  I have a strong interest in business and business strategy, and we examined a lot of things, like case studies, that should help me a great deal."……The Bengals signed UFA defensive end ANTWAN ODOMfrom Tennessee*to help bolster their pass rush and run defense in new defensive coordinatorMIKE ZIMMER*'s schemes.


CLEVELAND:  Finishing last season with a 10-6 record and falling short of a playoff appearance, the Browns have been movers and shakers this offseason.  Their first order of business was re-signing head coach ROMEO CRENNEL, who is now under contract through 2011.  On the player front, Cleveland acquired two-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle SHAUN ROGERSfrom Detroit and DT COREY WILLIAMSfrom Green Bay, both via trade…Cleveland also added UFA wide receiver DONTE' STALLWORTH and re-signed Pro Bowl quarterback DEREK ANDERSON through 2010.


DENVER:  Broncos cornerback DOMONIQUE FOXWORTH, the team's Walter Payton Man of the Year honoree, has devoted much of his offseason to fundraising for his late teammate DARRENT WILLIAMS' Memorial Teen Center.  Construction of the facility began this January and will be completed in May.  Foxworth has been a huge advocate of the team-sponsored Boys and Girls Club in Denver (where the Williams' center will be located) and has most recently started teaching a weekly writing class there.   


HOUSTON:  Texans 20-year-old defensive tackle AMOBI OKOYErecently returned to his native Nigeria for the first time since he was 12.  Joining Okoye on the seven-day trip:  his brother, ARINZE, Bears defensive linemen ADEWALE OGUNLEYEand ISRAEL IDONIJE, Texans running back AHMAN GREEN and Giants defensive end OSI UMENYIORA.  The group donated 20 scholarships to young men and women preparing to attend Nigerian universities, helped in the completion of water wells in a village, and delivered HIV test kits to a number of university hospitals to promote the HIV initiative……The Texans and the Greater Houston YMCA recently announced a partnership to open a new YMCA facility in the "Third Ward" section of Houston.  The Houston Texans YMCA is the first "Y" in the country to be named after a professional sports team.


INDIANAPOLIS:  Colts President BILL POLIAN, who was recently signed to a contract extension through 2011, approached the '08 free agency period with a keen eye on re-signing the team's core players.  Indianapolis re-signed All-Star tight end DALLAS CLARK, who had career-highs in receptions, yards and touchdowns in 2007; Associated Press NFL Defensive Player of the Year BOB SANDERS and offensive guard RYAN LILJA.  "That's a pretty good free-agency crop by any measure," says Polian……Pro Bowl quarterback PEYTON MANNING is hosting a star-studded event to raise money for the Peyton Manning Children's Hospital at St. Vincent in Indianapolis.  Celebrity invitees include "The NFL Today" CBS host JAMES BROWN, Indiana Governor MITCH DANIELS, father ARCHIE MANNING and singer and Indiana-native JOHN MELLENCAMP.


JACKSONVILLE: *In his first season as the Jaguars' starting quarterback, *DAVID GARRARD led the club to its first playoff win since 1999 and is now focused on improving his season franchise record 102.2 passer rating.  Garrard's new targets in the passing attack include wide receivers JERRY PORTERfrom Oakland and TROY WILLIAMSON from Minnesota.  "We feel like we've adequately addressed that position from a standpoint of adding one proven guy (Porter) and adding one guy that's got a lot of promise and potential (Williamson)," says Jaguars head coach JACK DEL RIO.  "Everything we're doing is geared toward putting a better product on the field next year and contending for a championship."  


KANSAS CITY:  Thirteen-year NFL linebacker DONNIE EDWARDS joined Saints quarterback DREW BREES and tight end BILLY MILLER earlier this month on a USO/Armed Forces Entertainment tour to Japan and Okinawa.  The group spent time with troops, posed for photos and signed autographs……All-Star tight end TONY GONZALEZ has continued his philanthropic efforts this offseason by participating in OPRAH WINFREY's new reality TV show, "Oprah's Big Give."  Gonzalez joins several celebrities in judging contestants in their quest to change the lives of complete strangers with their efforts in the community.  "I think when you give, that's probably the highest form of living," says Gonzalez.  "When you can actually go out and touch somebody's life and have an impact on them and help them for their future -- there's nothing else like it." 


MIAMI:  Executive Vice President of Football Operations BILL PARCELLS, general manager JEFF IRELAND and head coach TONY SPARANO will spearhead a new regime in Miami in 2008.  Sparano, who becomes the Dolphins' eighth head coach in history, spent the past five years with the Dallas Cowboys and is intrigued by his new opportunity.  "I'm a history guy, and to be a part of this organization with the great history that the Miami Dolphins have and the great tradition is something that really excites me," says Sparano……The offseason is in full swing and defensive end JASON TAYLOR is showing off his skills -- but on a different stage.  Earlier this month, Taylor began competing on ABC-TV's "Dancing with the Stars."  He has been a big hit.  "For whatever reason, I decided to give it a shot," says Taylor.  "I figured I'd put myself out there a little bit and stretch the limits and challenge myself to do something I wouldn't ordinarily do."


NEW ENGLAND:  Patriots owner ROBERT KRAFT and his wife MYRA were joined*by defensive linemanRICHARD SEYMOUR, tight endBENJAMIN WATSONand a number of Boston community leaders on the Kraft's annual voyage to Israel last month.  The group witnessed the final game of the inaugural season of Israel football at Kraft Family Stadium, which was funded by the Krafts.  "This is really something," Kraft said at the season-ender.  Seymour and his wifeTANYAwere grateful for the experience and enjoyed the culture and assortment of activities.  "It was just an awesome experience -- all the history, sites, cultures and different religions," said the All-Star defensive lineman.  * **


NEW YORK: *The Jets have taken an aggressive approach to free agency this offseason.  The club acquired veteran guards *ALAN FANECA and DAMIEN WOODY for an offensive line that already boasts tackle D'BRICKASHAW FERGUSON and center NICK MANGOLD.  Along with the o-line additions, All-Star fullback TONY RICHARDSON was added to the mix…The Jets also inked defensive end-linebacker CALVIN PACE, who recorded a career-high 6.5 sacks last season with Arizona and defensive tackle KRIS JENKINS(Carolina).  "The Jets are doing whatever it takes for them to win, and I am glad to be a part of that," says the eight-year veteran Jenkins.


OAKLAND:  Safety GIBRIL WILSON, who is a UFA signee from the Super Bowl-champion New York Giants, and All-Star cornerback DE ANGELO HALL, who was acquired via trade from the Falcons, are two strong offseason DB acquisitions for the Raiders.  Hall will join cornerback NNAMDI ASOMUGHA for a 1-2 cornerback punch……Free-agent acquisition JAVON WALKER will serve as a big target at wide receiver while aiding in the development of second-year quarterback JA MARCUS RUSSELL……Pro Football Hall of Famer and former Raiders wide receiver (1987-88) JAMES LOFTONwill oversee Walker and the entire receiving corps after joining the staff as WRs coach.  Lofton previously coached wide receivers with the Chargers from 2002-07.


PITTSBURGH: *Head coach *MIKE TOMLINwill be the keynote speaker on May 11 at the commencement ceremonies at the College of William and Mary, his alma mater.  Tomlin was a three-year starter at wide receiver and set the school record for yards per catch (20.2 avg.) in a season……Coming off his first Pro Bowl season and a career-high 32 touchdown passes, the Steelers have rewarded quarterback BEN ROETHLISBERGER with a new contract.  "I am really happy to know that I will be wearing a Steelers uniform for the foreseeable future because my intention all along was to stay in Pittsburgh," says the 26-year-old signal-caller.  "We have the greatest organization and fan support in the NFL and I'm looking forward to winning more Super Bowl titles that we can celebrate together."


SAN DIEGO:  The Chargers will play the Saints in the second NFL regular-season game played outside of North America in London's Wembley Stadium on Sunday, October 26.  "This is another step in the effort to globalize our great sport," says Chargers President DEAN SPANOS.  "It's an opportunity for the NFL to show off two of its marquee teams and some of its best players."…… Continuing an NFL-USO tradition of more than 40 years, Chargers defensive end LUIS CASTILLO in early March joined two other NFL players – Bears' defensive tackle TOMMIE HARRIS and Panthers' defensive end MIKE RUCKER --to meet and greet U.S. troops in the Persian Gulf.


TENNESSEE:  "Reunited" has been the theme for the Titans this offseason.  After spending the past four seasons with the Eagles, defensive end JEVON KEARSE returns to Tennessee where he was a fixture and earned NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year honors in 1999.  "I know the system, I know the city," says Kearse.  "The city has welcomed me back and it's good to be back."……Offensive coordinator MIKE HEIMERDINGER is a familiar face as well as he reunites with head coach JEFF FISHER.  Heimerdinger spent five seasons with the Titans and in 2003 orchestrated an offense that scored the second-highest point total in franchise history (435).  Joining Heimerdinger on the welcome-back-to-Tennessee tour is wide receiver JUSTIN MC CAREINS(New York Jets).  In three seasons with the Titans (2001-03), McCareins totaled 69 catches for 1,202 yards and nine touchdowns……A member of the NFL Players Association executive committee the past six years, 14-year NFL center KEVIN MAWAE replaces TROY VINCENT  as president of the union.

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