The greatest ballboy in Vikings history returns tonight, all grown up and ready to join the ranks of Randy Moss, Daunte Culpepper and other NFLplayers he used to serve on hot summer days as a young teenager in Mankato.
“To be honest, I just don’t want to embarrass myself,” said Larry Fitzgerald Jr., the former Holy Angels star, who will start at receiver for the Arizona Cardinals against the Vikings in a preseason opener at the Metrodome. “I just want to run the right routes and make the right reads. Would I like to score a touchdown? Yes, but I like to score touchdowns anywhere.”
—Mark Craig, The Star Tribune “High-flying return; As a youngster, Larry Fitzgerald Jr. was a ballboy for the Vikings. Tonight he’s back at the Metrodome as an NFL player”
Sammy Morris knows all about sudden change. It has dogged him from early childhood as the son of a career Air Force staff sergeant through college and into his fifth NFL season.
So when Dolphins Pro Bowl running back Ricky Williams phoned in his retirement a week before training camp, Morris took it in stride, knowing that his anticipated role as backup fullback to Rob Konrad and special teams stalwart had suddenly changed.
As the Dolphins begin one of their most intriguing exhibition seasons against the Jacksonville Jaguars Saturday night at Pro Player Stadium, Morris will be handed the ball and a more prominent role at running back along with penciled-in starter Travis Minor.
“That’s the nature of the game,” said Morris, 27, who signed a two-year, incentive-laden $735,000 free-agent contract on March 12.
…Morris, a 6-foot, 225-pounder, wasn’t expected to start as an inexperienced fifth-round draft choice by the Bills in 2000, but he took advantage of Antowain Smith falling into the running back coach’s doghouse.
—Harvey Fialkov, The South Florida Sun-Sentinel “Dolphins’ running back receives prominent role”
Morris appeared in 13 games for the Dolphins, leading all running backs in starts (8), carries (132), yards (523) and TDs (6). In 2005, the Dolphins drafted Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams returned to the team, relegating Morris to a backup role. He spent 2007 – 2010 with the New England Patriots as part of a stable of running backs.
Forty-one-year-old offensive tackle Ray Brown is back with Joe Gibbs and the Washington Redskins.
Brown, an 18-year NFL veteran, signed a contract Wednesday to return to the team. He played for the Redskins under Gibbs from 1989 to 1992.
The 6-5, 318-pounder also played for Detroit, San Francisco, the Phoenix Cardinals (renamed Arizona Cardinals in 1994) and St. Louis.
Brown signed to fill the roster spot of Jon Jansen, who was placed on injured reserve after suffering a torn Achilles tendon against Denver Monday.
Brown, a former Pro Bowler, started 16 games in each of the past six seasons and has appeared in 231 games, with 189 starts, in his career.
—UPI News “Redskins sign 41-year-old Ray Brown”
Brown returned to the Redskins for the 2005 season, his twentieth in the league. He turned 43 before the end of the season. He has been coaching in the NFL since 2008 and currently serves as the assistant offensive line coach for the Carolina Panthers.
The Miami Dolphins are in desperate need of a starting running back now that Ricky Williams has retired. The Arizona Cardinals also are hurting for running backs after Marcel Shipp dislocated his left ankle and fractured both his fibula and his chances of playing this season.
—Bob Sansevere, The St. Paul Pioneer Press “Vikings pleased with glut of running backs”
None of the Vikings running backs had more than 125 carries or 3 TDs in the 2004 season. Quarterback Daunte Culpepper was the second leading rusher on the team with 406 yards on 88 carries. Smith lead the team in carries (124) and yards (544) but was suspended for the 2005 season and out of the league before the 2006 season. Bennett faced continued injury struggles and was limited to 7 starts. Moore spent four seasons the Vikings, four seasons with the Steelers and one with Colts in his NFL career but only had more than 4 starts in a season once in his career. Williams had one start and 30 total carries in the 2004 season. He retired in 2006 after nine seasons with the Vikings.
This time there were no sidesteps.
No spin moves to change direction.
No cutbacks and no mid-step course corrections.
Barry Sanders knew where he was going this time and he arrived in style, taking his place among the NFL’s all-time greats in the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Sunday.
Sanders, the Lions’ all-time rushing leader and one of the most exciting runners in NFL history, was joined in the class of 2004 by Denver quarterback John Elway, Minnesota defensive end Carl Eller and offensive tackle Bob Brown, who played for Philadelphia, Los Angeles and Oakland.
If Sanders had one regret as he entered the Hall of Fame, it wasn’t that he had retired early— at the age of 31, with the NFL rushing record within reach—but that he never got the ultimate prize, a Super Bowl ring.
—Curt Sylvester, The Detroit Free Press “Hall of Famer Sanders’ one regret: never playing in Super Bowl”
Four touchdowns, one big stiff-arm and a standing ovation: Not bad for Willis McGahee‘s first time competing in an NFL setting.
“Today was a good day,” he said Saturday after a scrimmage against the Browns. “I was a little nervous on the first series, but after the second series, when I kind of got into a rhythm, everything went good for me.”
Selected 23rd overall in the 2003 draft, the former University of Miami standout missed all of last season recovering from reconstructive surgery on his left knee.
Though looking tentative at times, he finished with 10 carries for 40 yards and one reception for 8 yards.
—The St. Petersburg Times “Strong debut for McGahee”
McGahee finished the 2004 season with 1128 yards and 13 TDs. He was traded by the Bills to the Ravens before the 2007 season and made the pro bowl in his first season with the club. He was released after the 2010 season and signed with the Broncos for the 2011 & 2012 season. He signed with the Browns for the final 12 games of the 2013 season and is currently a free agent. Through 11 NFL seasons, he 8,474 yards and 65 TDs.
When Jacksonville Jaguars single-game tickets go on sale this morning, majority owner Wayne Weaver once again will confront the problem that has befuddled the organization for five consecutive seasons.
The Jags can’t fill their stadium, and with the building’s current 76,000-plus capacity, Weaver believes they may never be able to.
“Clearly it is the reality,” Weaver says, admitting the team will likely cover or remove seats in 2005 to avoid the local TV blackouts that have plagued the franchise. “The pent-up demand of the city chasing the NFL for so many years allowed us to artificially fill this stadium.
…”We have to sell a ticket to one out of every 17 people in the market to lift blackouts,” said Scott Loft, executive director of ticket sales and services. “That includes all incomes and ages, elderly and youth.
—Charles Robinson, The Orlando Sentinel “Jags come to grips with inability to fill stands”
Before the 2005 season, the Jaguars covered seven sections in the upper north end zone and four in each upper deck section, lowering capacity by 9,703. Since this change, the Jaguars have continued to struggle with blackouts.