Report: Hines Ward to join 'Dancing With The Stars'

Hines Ward is the most recent NFL star to join ABC’s “Dancing With The Stars.” reports that the Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver will be on the next season of the show, which begins in March. Rumors swirled recently that Brett Favre would be on the show but those were shot down.

Per the report, boxing legend Sugar Ray Leonard will be on the show along with the star of the original “Karate Kid,” Ralph Macchio.

Ward might not to have to miss the offseason time Chad Ochocinco did when he was on the show if there … is no offseason. Stay tuned.

Follow me on Twitter: @BradBiggs

Brad Biggs covers the Bears for the Chicago Tribune

Meeting with a priest? Welcome to the combine

The player interviews at the NFL combine. For some prospects, that is a major tool in the evaluation process—bigger than what they do on the field at Lucas Oil Stadium. Take Auburn’s Cam Newton as an example. NFL teams want to find out what type of person you are on top of what they see on the game tape.

Back in 2000, I went through the same process in Indianapolis. Sure, it was a much smaller scale compared to a top prospect such as Newton, but I walked into hotel suites and met with the big names in the business—coaches and GMs you see on TV.

Mike DitkaICONI would have been more comfortable interviewing with Ditka than a priest.

I then met with a team that caught me off guard. However, it wasn’t a coach, scout or GM asking me about my past. There wasn’t a coverage thrown up on the board with schemes I couldn’t break down, etc.

In this suite, I met with a priest.

Let me set it up. I walk into the suite of a team (which will remain unknown) and there is a priest sitting in one of the chairs. I play it off like this is something I am accustomed to seeing outside of Sunday Mass and sit down.

And then the guy in the collar starts firing off questions.

Maybe this team knew I was Catholic or maybe the guy wasn’t even a priest (I thought it might be a quality control coach dressed up). Regardless, I start to panic a little. My answers are choppy and I feel like I am sitting in a confession booth. I start sweating and I can feel my heart pounding in my chest.

Should I tell him about the crap I pulled as a sixth grader in Catholic school? Do I spill my guts here? I can’t lie, right? This all starts to enter my mind and I find myself having a hard time keeping up with this priest who is asking me about my religion, my faith, etc.

I am failing this interview.

To be honest, I would have rather been sitting in a room with Bill Parcells or Mike Ditka at the time. They would have been less intimidating in my eyes. Even an angry Ditka, the one on the sidelines in Chicago during ’85 season.

Finally, my heart rate slowed down and I was informed that this priest traveled with the team, offered guidance and so on. He finished up his questioning and then the coaches started asking about the defensive scheme I played in at Iowa, if I drank beer (which I did) and so on.

They didn’t end up drafting me. I went to St. Louis instead—a team that I never even spoke to in Indy. But I’ve always wondered if that was the one team that got me to shuffle in my seat. And if that guy was really a priest.

You have to love the NFL combine.

Follow me on Twitter: MattBowen41

Radio host says a tape exists that implicates Cam Newton

Former Auburn quarterback Cam Newton most certainly was asked nearly every question in the book, particularly pertaining to the pay-for-play scheme that centered around his father, while visiting with representatives from NFL teams during the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.

More allegations, however, came out late last week that may have gone under the radar. Although, based on what we know thus far, the validity of the story is certainly in question.

Cecil and Cam NewtonICONThe NCAA ruled that Cam Newton did nothing wrong in his father's pay-for-play scheme.

The host of a Huntsville, Ala., sports talk radio show says he has heard audio tapes, allegedly in the possession of former Mississippi State players John Bond and Bill Bell, that implicate the dual-threat signal-caller in his father, Cecil’s, pay-for-play scheme that was investigated by the NCAA.

Scott Moore, an Alabama fan and a college football speaker, said Friday during a radio interview with WNSP in Mobile, Ala., that he heard tapes of Cecil Newton selling his son's services to Mississippi State while Cam was in the room. Moore also claimed that Cecil Newton said he had received an offer from Tennessee for $200,000, but that he’d give Mississippi State a $20,000 discount.

According to Barrett Sallee of, however, Moore contradicted himself regarding the amount supposedly offered by Tennessee. In an interview on Mississippi-based 1st Call with Matt Wyatt one day before the interview in Mobile, Moore stated that Tennessee offered $150,000 for Newton’s services and not $200,000.

Of course, Auburn and Tennessee are the Crimson Tide's two biggest rivals and both are implicated in Moore’s claim.

If it's proven that Cam Newton knew about being shopped around, he would be retroactively ruled ineligible for the 2010 season and all hell would break loose. And you'd have millions of college football fans saying, “I told you so.” But why would either Bond or Bell sit on the tape(s) without turning the evidence over to the NCAA? The evidence can't really exist, right? Or, perhaps the audio does exist but it was deemed inconclusive, whether by the NCAA, Bond or Bell.

If there is any truth to Moore's assertion, it would be a real ugly offseason in college football. After all, as Moore stated on the show Friday, the tapes “have a lot of value.”

If there are indeed actual tapes.

Moore proclaimed the NCAA heard at least some of the tapes last fall before Auburn declared Newton ineligible and the NCAA quickly reinstated him without conditions. If the NCAA found no wrongdoing, then what's the problem? Did the governing body hear all of the tapes?

An email sent out to Moore has not yet been returned.

UPDATE: On Tuesday afternoon, Moore made an appearance on 104.5 the Zone in Nashville, Tenn. and reiterated his claims that both Tennessee and Auburn offered money to Cecil Newton in an attempt to lure his son to their respective football programs. Moore claimed that the audio tapes he heard has Cecil Newton revealing that the Volunteers offered him $150,000 (with the price later going up to $200,000) and the Tigers $180,000. Moore also repeated his claim that Cam Newton was around during at least one of the discussions. “I do believe that Cam Newton knew. I do believe that on these tapes when we play them that you’ll be able to tell Cam Newton knew what was going on. That’s all I’ll say about that at this time,” Moore said during the radio spot.

Email or follow me on Twitter at Miller_Dave

NFL combine notes: LB breakdown

Some notes looking over the 2011 linebacker group from day three at the NFL combine. • Texas A&M linebacker Von Miller was timed in the sub-4.5 range according to some stopwatches in attendance at the NFL combine and was a real standout during positional drills. He was fluid, cleanly got out of his breaks and possessed a good closing burst throughout. Miller is the most NFL ready pass rusher in the draft and I can’t see him making it past the top 6-picks at this stage.

Ayers ICONAyers had an inconsistent day at the Combine.

• I wasn’t overly impressed with the 4.83 40-time put up by UCLA’s Akeem Ayers Monday. However, when watching him throughout positional drills he displayed natural change of direction skills, had a real burst to his game and looked very athletic for his size. Honestly, based off the drills and tape alone, I would have said the guy runs in the 4.6 range. Therefore, in my mind you can’t read too much into his slower 40, as he clearly plays faster than he times.

• One prospect who made himself some money this week was Illinois LB Martez Wilson. Wilson didn’t quite have the type of natural bend to his game as a guy like Ayers. However, he ran much better 40 (high 4.4 range), was still fluid for his size when asked to open up his hips during position drills and overall could now get some looks in that late first round range as an intriguing 3-4 rush backer.

• The more I watch Georgia DE Justin Houston try to hold up in the space, the less I think the guy is a 3-4 OLB. Now don’t get me wrong, Houston can rush the passer. He timed in the high 4.6 range today, was explosive off the football and is natural from a three-point stance. However, I don’t think he has the type of natural agility in his drop to hold up in coverage at the next level.

• Another guy who seemed a bit tight during workouts today was UNC linebacker Quan Sturdivant. He didn’t demonstrate a real burst when asked to get out of his breaks and seemed to almost fight himself trying to get back up to speed. Sturdivant wasn’t overly fluid either and didn’t possess great short area quickness in any area of the game.

• Finally, one guy who I think is going to be a real mid/late round steal for a cover two team is Ohio State’s Brian Rolle. The undersized linebacker ran in the 4.6 range, was fluid/balanced during positional drills and really possesses a good burst to his game. He isn’t going to be much more than a nickel backer on most team’s draft boards, but the guy can run and hit with the best of them.

Follow me on twitter: @WesBunting

Baylor spring practice preview

Baylor opens spring practice on Monday, and Art Briles’ Bears should be looking forward to putting behind a four-game losing streak that soured the early momentum that the team had built last season, which included a win over Texas.

Let’s take a look at some of the key storylines for Baylor entering spring camp.

Baylor (7-6, 4-4 Big 12)

RG III is back

Robert Griffin IIIICONRobert Griffin III continues to improve under center.

Dynamic Robert Griffin III will return under center for the Bears after throwing for 3,501 yards last season following his recovery from a knee injury that forced him to miss most of the 2009 campaign. He improved as a passer and it will be interesting to see if he continues to make strides as the Bears look to increase their aerial attack. He’s always been a good decision-maker, so he should remain dangerous operating behind an offensive line that returns four starters. The Bears also have five receivers who had more than 40 catches last season.

Who will replace Finley?

Running back Jay Finley was the perfect complement to Griffin in the backfield. Replacing Finley, who ran for a Bears record 1,218 yards in 2010, will be one of the more intriguing storylines. Terrance Ganaway, Jarred Salubi, Glasco Martin and Isaac Williams will battle for reps. Ganaway is a rising senior who had 46 carries last season, while rising junior Salubi averaged eight yards per carry primarily as a third-down back. He may ultimately end up replacing Finley because the coaching staff likes him a lot. Martin is a converted receiver, and the Bears also signed three running backs from the Class of 2011 — Jermichael Selders, Anthony Webb and B.J. Allen.

New-look defense

Phil Bennett has arrived in Waco to try to turn around a defense that ranked 104th in the nation in total defense, logged just 20 sacks and allowed more than 40 points in six games. Bennett has a track record, putting together solid units at Kansas State, Texas A&M and Pitt. In 2010, Pitt’s defense recorded 34 sacks and was ranked eighth in the nation overall. The scheme that Bennett runs should be able to thwart the variety of spread offenses being run in the Big 12, but do the Bears have the personnel for the scheme? Bennett will find out starting Monday, but he did say that his scheme will be built to fit the team’s personnel.

Ahmad DixonICONAhmad Dixon will be looked upon to step up in the defensive backfield.

The back seven needs retooling, as two new starters must be found at linebacker, both safety spots have to be filled and an open spot at cornerback remains. Two names to keep an eye on are safety Ahmad Dixon and cornerback Tyler Stephenson. Dixon was a top recruit last season but didn’t play much, recording 16 tackles and forcing a fumble in a backup role. Stephenson was impressive as a true freshman and started the last month of the season. These youngsters, along with original Miami signee Prince Kent, may be leaned upon to help a unit that allowed nearly 400 points in 2010.

Making the jump

There’s no question that Baylor’s 38-14 loss to Illinois in the Texas Bowl was disappointing. But the Bears made progress in Briles’ third season in Waco. Last season, Baylor went to the postseason for the first time in 16 seasons and beat Texas for the first time since 1997. Now, can the Bears take the next step and halt losing skids against Texas Tech and Oklahoma? The team returns 14 starters and should have an improved defense under Bennett, so Bears fans should be enthused.

Baylor concludes its 15-practice spring schedule on Saturday, April 2, with a controlled scrimmage.

Email or follow me on Twitter at Miller_Dave

Combine confidential: room service!

INDIANAPOLIS—Day 6 at the 2011 NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis finds Wes Bunting and Joe Fortenbaugh surrounded by empty room service trays in a Hilton hotel room just up the street from the legendary St. Elmo steak house.

Bunting is beginning to show signs of an oncoming cold after putting his nose to the grind for the last six days, while Fortenbaugh continues to offer him unwanted analysis from Sunday night’s Academy Awards.

A.J. GreenICONOh yeah, we also talk about A.J. Green (above) and Julio Jones.

That’s life on the road for the NFP.

The good news is that the guys hunkered down in their hotel room Monday afternoon and decided to put together a podcast detailing and analyzing the key storylines from the action that has taken place over the last few days at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Is Cam Newton still the draft’s top quarterback prospect? Did Mark Ingram’s 4.6 40-yard dash hurt his stock value? Is Marcell Dareus a better defensive tackle prospect than Nick Fairley? How much damage did Bunting and Fortenbaugh do in room service tabs over the last few days?

All good questions that need answers.

Take a listen and let us know what you think.

Follow us on Twitter: @WesBunting @JoeFortenbaugh

Redskins release Clinton Portis

If you needed more proof that the Washington Redskins lost the high-profile trade involving Clinton Portis, you got it today.

Portis became an ex-Redskin today, departing 684 yards shy of the franchise rushing record held by Hall of Famer John Riggins, as the team released him. Last week, of course, the Denver Broncos signed cornerback Champ Bailey, the other principal in the blockbuster trade, to a contract extension.

The Redskins have not ruled out the possibility of re-signing Portis, but given how coach Mike Shanahan manufactures running backs, that seems unlikely. Portis was due to earn $8.3 million this season, but he missed much of the last two years with injuries.

Yes, it appears Southeast Jerome, as Portis once referred to himself, will be heading to a new ’hood.

“In Washington, it's nothing left me to prove,” Portis said on 106.7 The Fan in Washington, according to the Washington Post. “It's not about the money for me at this stage in my career. It's about winning. I hope to help a team win rings, and that's what I'm looking forward to. Going in onto someone else's team and not having to be worried about Portis, Portis, Portis, and just to be able to contribute in any way I can, that will be a wonderful thing.

“I think missing games the last two seasons provided me the opportunity to rest me up. Coming off the groin injury, being away from the game and being on the outside looking in, before that, I don't even think I was a fan of the game. I think the most exciting thing that I've seen in the last two years was the run (Tennessee Titans running back) Chris Johnson had. But I think it developed and gave me a passion for the game and an appreciation for the craft. A lot of people look at me now and it's a hype situation and who's the man opposed to having that grind for the game and approaching it as a craft, and that's something I want to bring back.”

The 29-year-old Portis is 77 yards shy of 10,000 for his career and ranks 26th on the NFL’s all-time list.

Follow me on Twitter: @BradBiggs

Brad Biggs covers the Bears for the Chicago Tribune

Combine notes: breaking down the DL

Taking a look at which prospects stood out during day three of the NFL combine workouts.

Fairley ICONFairley has the athleticism to track down the passer.

• I will admit being slightly turned off when I first saw the overall physical make-up of Auburn DL Nick Fairley and his leaner lower half. However, watching him change directions, sink his hips and bend into and out of his breaks was nothing short of striking. Plus, the big guy posted a 40 in the low 4.8 range at nearly 300 pounds and displayed some real natural power on his punch during drills. If I had to pick number one overall, I am leaning toward Fairley as that guy.

• Another standout Monday was California DL Cameron Jordan, who I talked about last week as a guy who might not have the greatest of combine numbers and could fall slightly because of it. However, he posted a very solid low 4.7 40 and looked very fluid and comfortable during position drills. Jordan was able to cleanly change directions for a big guy, possessed good natural flexibility and can really generate a burst out of his breaks. He looked surprisingly natural in space as well and is definitely a prospect who could end up going in the top 10 because of it.

• Iowa defensive end Adrian Clayborn didn’t have the same type of straight-line speed as some of the other top defensive ends in group one. However, for a big guy, 4.8 is just fine. But where Clayborn really stood out was when asked to work his way through position drills, fluidly changing directions, sinking his hips and getting up to top-end speed quickly. Looks like a lock for the first round after this workout.

• On the other side, Purdue DE Ryan Kerrigan did shock me a bit with his 40 in the high 4.6 range and is a better straight-line athlete than I anticipated. However, he still looked tight hipped and stiff when asked to turn and run, too often allowing himself to get upright and didn’t get up to speed quickly out of his breaks. His ball skills were solid during linebacker drills, but again he’s more of a linear athlete in my view who needs to win with his hands and motor at the next level. Doesn’t warrant a first-round pick in my view.

• I’ve received a lot of e-mails from readers asking why I have Oklahoma DE Jeremy Beal listed as a free agent on our rankings. Well, in my view he’s simply not a very good athlete or natural pass rusher and Monday proved that. He posted a 5.0-plus 40 time, was stiff and tight hipped during linebacker drills and I just don’t see him having the ability to consistently create pressure off the edge at the next level.

Austin ICONAustin has helped his draft stock this post-season.

• The same can be said about TCU DE Wayne Daniels, who the NFP also has listed as a free agent. He’s a conversion player who is too small to play DE in the NFL, but lacks the range and overall fluidity to play in space. He ran in the 5.0-plus range as well today, struggled to change directions throughout and doesn’t look like a guy who can reach the passer at the next level.

• Again, I wasn’t real impressed with Miami DL Allen Bailey. He didn’t run nearly as well as I anticipated (4.7 range), was tight-hipped during drills and doesn’t look much more than a solid anchor, but reserve type lineman only.

• Finally, I have been critical of North Carolina DL Marvin Austin throughout the draft process and made the statements during the year that I would not have the guy on my draft board. Nevertheless, he has done nothing but improve his draft stock in my view since the postseason started. The guy has a strong, impressive looking frame, ran in the low 4.8 range Monday and showed good natural power and explosion throughout position drills. Now, my grade isn’t going to change on him and I still wouldn’t add the guy to my board even if I was part of an NFL team. However, because of his postseason workouts and impressive physique, I could see the guy coming off the board in the second-round range.

Follow me on twitter: @WesBunting

Tommie Harris among 3 veterans released by Bears

The Chicago Bears didn’t pull any surprises when they released three veterans on Monday, including three-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Tommie Harris.

The Bears owed Harris $3 million before the start of the 2011 season in the form of a $2.5 million roster bonus and a $500,000 workout bonus and his production the last three seasons made it evident the team could no longer chase good money with bad. Harris, who isn’t the same player after knee and hamstring injuries robbed him of his explosiveness, had only 18 tackles and 1

Another combine record bites the dust

<strong>INDIANAPOLIS—If you’re just now tuning in, the defensive linemen have been putting on a show at Lucas Oil Stadium over the past two days.

On Sunday, former Oregon State defensive tackle Stephen Paea set a new combine record when he posted a ridiculous 49 reps (225 pounds) on the bench press.

Less than 24 hours later, former Nevada DE Dontay Moch (6-1, 248) clocked an official 40-yard dash time of 4.44 seconds, which is the fastest time ever produced by a defensive end at the combine. The previous record was held by UAB’s Bryan Thomas, who ran a 4.47 back in 2002.

Moch was named First-Team All WAC in 2010 and has the versatility to play DE in a 4-3 or OLB in a 3-4.

CLICK HERE to check out his scouting report.

Hit me up on Twitter: @JoeFortenbaugh