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March 23, 2009

AFC Spring News Round-up

BALTIMORE: All-Star linebacker RAY LEWIS will enter his 14th season with the Ravens after recently signing a multi-year contract. The deal will essentially keep Lewis in Baltimore for his career. “To be with the same team with the same fans for an entire career, that doesn’t happen in the NFL,” says Lewis. “I don’t think an athlete can have a greater legacy than to be able to stay in one place for an entire career."

BUFFALO: Bills newcomer TERRELL OWENS will receive the Young Champions Award at the sixth annual National Alzheimer’s Association Gala at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C. on March 25. The veteran receiver will be recognized for his commitment to the Alzheimer’s cause through philanthropy, volunteerism and advocacy……Bills starting right guard BRAD BUTLER visited several U.S. military bases in Afghanistan earlier this offseason. Butler was inspired to visit the troops through his family’s deep military ties. “My one grandfather was a Marine and my other grandfather was in the Army,” says Butler. “My great uncle fought in the Battle of the Bulge during World War II. He was a tank operator. I grew up hearing stories about the war. It showed me how selfless somebody could be to have so much respect for your country that you put it ahead of yourself.”

CINCINNATI: Linebacker DHANI JONES has ventured from the world of professional football into reality television. Known as a “renaissance man,” Jones recently kicked off his show, Dhani Tackles The Globe, on the Travel Channel. In each episode, the 6-1, 240-pound linebacker competes in a variety of sports around the world. “That's the beauty of it,” says Jones. “Not only do I get to experience the culture and the people, but for eight days, everywhere, I get to practice a sport before getting into competition. It's cross training.”

CLEVELAND: After beginning his NFL career as a ball boy in 1994 with the Browns, ERIC MANGINI returns to Cleveland as head coach. “I couldn’t be happier to come home to Cleveland,” says Mangini. “I’m excited about getting to work and moving forward.”……Browns quarterback BRADY QUINN enrolled in the NFL’s Business Management and Entrepreneurial Program. Quinn, who participated in the Kellogg School of Management program at Northwestern University, learned valuable lessons through the program, which prepares NFL players for their post-playing business careers. “We watched a clip of President Obama’s address and then talked about things that would stimulate our economy,” says Quinn. “One of the biggest things I learned is it's all up to us, the citizens of the U.S. It starts with creative, innovative ideas to help create jobs. I feel it’s a little on my back too to start something up, to help people out who don’t have jobs. I think down the road I see some entrepreneurial things in my future."

DENVER: Broncos 32-year-old head coach JOSH MC DANIELS takes over the reigns in Denver after winning three Super Bowl titles in New England as an assistant. “When the job came open, certainly it was something I had to look at very seriously – it’s a great place with a great history and a great tradition,” says McDaniels……The Broncos have taken an aggressive approach this offseason in free agency led by the acquisition of safety BRIAN DAWKINS, known around the league for his passionate play and leadership qualities. Dawkins will join All-Star cornerback CHAMP BAILEY to form a formidable Broncos secondary.

HOUSTON: The defensive side of the ball has been a focus for the Texans this offseason. In January, head coach GARY KUBIAK named FRANK BUSH defensive coordinator. Bush has spent more than 20 years in the NFL as a player, scout and assistant coach. Bush will have an additional weapon in free agent defensive end ANTONIO SMITH from Arizona, who will line up opposite Pro Bowl defensive end MARIO WILLIAMS. “I know that what I can bring to the table will help the people around me,” says Smith. “I’m going to play my heart out for them, and once they see how much I give for my teammates, I think we can feed off each other.”

INDIANAPOLIS: In an effort to empower people around the state of Indiana to create change and engage in random acts of kindness in the community, the Colts launched the “Help A Hoosier Campaign.” “The campaign is simply a way for Hoosiers to help each other at a time when we all need a helping and positive hand up,” says Colts Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing TOM ZUPANCIC. The campaign kicked off on March 20 with a canned food drive in Indianapolis and marked the start of a state-wide food collection campaign. “This is a tough time for America. But together, with everyone doing a little bit on a local level, we can overcome any challenge,” says Colts Senior Vice President PETE WARD.

JACKSONVILLE: Quarterback DAVID GARRARD will serve as the Honorary Chair of the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation “Take Steps Walk” on May 14. The two-mile walk will raise awareness and funds for the foundation. Garrard suffered from Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis prior to the 2004 season before consulting a doctor and beginning a treatment program……Free agent acquisition TRA THOMAS from the Eagles will protect Garrard’s blind side at left tackle in 2009. The DeLand, Fla. native enters his 12th year in the NFL and is coming off a season in which he allowed only two regular-season sacks. “The signing worked out big for me,” says Thomas. “Once I visited here, I knew this was a perfect fit for me.”

KANSAS CITY: The NFL’s youngest team on kickoff weekend last year will be led by new general manager SCOTT PIOLI and head coach TODD HALEY. One of Pioli’s first key transactions was trading for quarterback MATT CASSEL from the Patriots. “I have a great relationship with Scott Pioli,” says Cassel. “He was one of my biggest supporters throughout the year. He was always very encouraging and anytime I needed some advice, I’d usually go to him as one of the guys who was always willing to open his office door.”……Linebacker DERRICK JOHNSON lost his father in December 2007 to diabetes. Recently, Johnson served as a spokesperson for the National Kidney Foundation (NKF) at a Kansas City elementary school. Johnson discussed the benefits of eating right and exercising to help avoid high-blood pressure and diabetes, which can lead to kidney disease.

MIAMI: In his new role as the Dolphins majority owner, STEPHEN ROSS co-chaired the first Fin Cup Pro-Am, which kicked off the The Honda Golf Classic. Ross and second-year quarterback CHAD HENNE hit the links with Pro Football Hall of Famer DAN MARINO. Proceeds of the event benefited local and national youth charities……Head coach TONY SPARANO recently took a brief recess from draft preparations. The West Haven, Conn. native, who pitched and played shortstop as a youngster, recently threw out the first pitch for a New York Mets spring training game. “I grew up a Mets fan, so it was nice to be there and involved in that atmosphere,” says Sparano. “I was more nervous heading out to the mound than I have ever been heading out to the (football) field.”

NEW ENGLAND: Patriots quarterback TOM BRADY is focused on making a full recovery from a knee injury he suffered last season, but that has not slowed his community involvement. Brady donated 1,000 laptops to “One Laptop per Child” to be distributed to children by organizations in 31 participating countries and Boys and Girls Clubs in each of the six New England states. “I've been blessed with many opportunities to have traveled around the world. I've been to Africa, been to some impoverished places around the world, and to give children the hope and the opportunity to learn and to expand their vision of the world is extremely important,” says Brady.

NEW YORK: In an effort to fight hunger in the New York metropolitan area, Pro Bowlers NICK MANGOLD, DARRELLE REVIS and LEON WASHINGTON will be on hand for the seventh annual New York Jets Taste of the NFL on May 5. Guests will have the chance to mingle with the players and taste food from a variety of New York City restaurants. “I’ve had a blast in the past,” says Mangold of the event. “The people there are great and the atmosphere is fun. It’s a great night out where you get to enjoy some of the fantastic food of the New York area and you get to mingle a little bit with a whole bunch of different people and it’s for a great cause. You add those three together and you’ve got a pretty good mixture.” Proceeds of the event will benefit the New York Jets Foundation.

OAKLAND: The Raiders officially named TOM CABLE their 17th head coach in franchise history last month and re-signed All-Star cornerback NNAMDI ASOMUGHA to a long-term deal this offseason. Asomugha is regarded as one of the NFL’s top cornerbacks and is held in the same class off the field for his philanthropic efforts. For the third consecutive year, Asomugha will organize an all-expense-paid college tour for aspiring students. This year the group will descend on New York City on April 15-19 for visits to Columbia University, Fordham University, The Julliard School and New York University. “I've always felt that I'm successful for a reason,” says Asomugha. “So I can help, whether that's one individual or a group of people.”

PITTSBURGH: The honors are still pouring in for the Super Bowl XLIII Champions. On St. Patrick’s Day, Steelers owner DAN ROONEY was selected by President Barack Obama to be the U.S. ambassador to Ireland. Obama says that he has confidence that Rooney and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton “will ensure America's continued close and unique partnership with Ireland in the years ahead.”….Texas native CASEY HAMPTON will be honored in his hometown of Galveston with a benefit dinner on March 27 for helping the Steelers capture a Super Bowl title. Proceeds of the event will support Hurricane Ike relief efforts. The next day Hampton will have his jersey retired at Ball High School.

SAN DIEGO: Cornerback CLETIS GORDON, linebacker SHAUN PHILLIPS and defensive tackle JAMAL WILLIAMS recently welcomed home 4,000 Marines who returned from oversees deployment. “Whenever we can show some love to the troops and let them know how much we appreciate what they do, it’s something I’m glad to be a part of,” says Phillips. “It was a special day and I had fun being there.” The threesome enjoyed their afternoon by signing autographs and posing for pictures with the Marines at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar. “It’s humbling,” says Gordon. “You’ve got these guys that are younger than me telling me about things they went through in Iraq and Afghanistan. It makes you appreciate them even more.”

TENNESSEE: Starting April 13, Titans players will hit the road for Titans Caravan XII. The journey around Tennessee, Kentucky and Alabama will make numerous school and public stops. Players will speak to youth about the importance of getting 60 minutes of physical activity a day as part of NFL PLAY 60 and greet fans along the way by signing autographs and posing for pictures……Pro Bowl cornerback CORTLAND FINNEGAN will host his second annual Karaoke For A Cure event on April 1 in Nashville. Proceeds will benefit the 2009 Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's (LLS) Man and Woman of the Year Campaign. For each tackle he made last season, Finnegan donated $50 to LLS and the Special Olympics.

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