Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Ben Roethlisberger signs 8-year extension with Steelers

PITTSBURGH (AP)—Talk about a comeback.

Ben Roethlisberger signed an eight-year extension Monday with the Pittsburgh Steelers that is worth $102 million and makes him one of the league’s top-paid players.

“He’s a Steeler and he’ll always be a Steeler,” team chairman Dan Rooney said.

The agreement comes after Roethlisberger re-established himself as one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks last season, and nearly two years after his life and career were threatened by a motorcycle crash. The accident happened a few months after he led the Steelers to a Super Bowl victory.

Roethlisberger’s contract guarantees him $36 million and is easily the largest in the Steelers’ 76-season history. The quarterback, who turned 26 Sunday, gets $25 million immediately as a signing bonus.

“I told them I didn’t want to go anywhere the day I walked in (as a rookie in 2004),” Roethlisberger said Monday. “I love Pittsburgh, I love the fans. Got probably the best organization and fans in all of sport. I don’t want to go anywhere.”

Nor did the Steelers want to lose the club’s most successful quarterback since four-time Super Bowl winner Terry Bradshaw. Roethlisberger, drafted in 2004 as part of the same QB class as the Giants’ Eli Manning and the Chargers’ Philip Rivers, won all 13 regular-season starts as a rookie, began his career 27-4 and already has appeared in two AFC title games and seven playoff games.

Last season, Roethlisberger threw 32 touchdown passes with only 11 interceptions in leading the Steelers to a 10-6 regular-season record and the playoffs, a major turnaround from his 23-interception season of 2006.

In four seasons, Roethlisberger has steered Pittsburgh to two AFC championship games, one Super Bowl and three playoff appearances. No Steelers quarterback, not even Bradshaw, had a better start to his career; Bradshaw didn’t win a Super Bowl until his fifth season.

Roethlisberger wants to be “like the Dan Marinos, like the John Elways, guys who played with one team their whole career.”

The Steelers, quiet in free agency until signing running back-kick returner Mewelde Moore on Monday, felt some urgency to get a deal done with Roethlisberger. Director of football operations Kevin Colbert called it his top offseason priority.

Roethlisberger was due a $2.95 million bonus this month that, if paid, would have put the Steelers over the salary cap. By reworking Roethlisberger’s contract now, the team rolled that bonus into his new contract and can prorate his signing bonus over the eight years of the contract.

“Ben never said, ‘I need a record-breaking contract.’ He never said, ‘I need the most money in the history of anything,”’ said Roethlisberger’s agent, Ryan Tollner. “He said, ‘I need a fair deal.”’

Roethlisberger, who played in his first Pro Bowl last month, is now focused on getting “a bunch more trophies.”

“I believe that the guys we have on this team right now are exceptional players,” he said. “I believe we all have the pieces of the puzzle, that we could be a championship football team, and I think that we know the history that we have of drafting well, we’ll be able to bring guys in that will hopefully do more.”

Roethlisberger was one of the leading vote-getters for the NFL Comeback Player of the Year award. By contrast, he never found a groove in 2006 after reporting to training camp only six weeks after his motorcycle crash in Pittsburgh, then needed an appendectomy the week of the season opener. The Steelers started 2-6 before finishing 8-8 during former coach Bill Cowher’s 15th and final season.

Moore, the Steelers’ only pickup during free agency, spent his first four seasons with the Minnesota Vikings. A likely replacement for kick returner Allen Rossum, he returned two punts for touchdowns and averaged 10.4 per return while returning 74 punts from 2003-07. He averaged 19.3 yards on 26 kickoff returns.

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Pats Re-Sign Randy Moss to 3-Year Deal

New England Patriots wide receiver Randy Moss (81) during an NFL football game at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., in this Dec. 29, 2007 photo. The Patriots re-signed Moss, a All-Pro receiver to a three-year deal Monday, March 3 2008, that is worth $27 million, according to (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson) (AP)

Randy Moss is staying with the New England Patriots. The defending AFC champions re-signed the record-breaking receiver on Monday to a three-year deal worth $27 million, his agent said. The signing was confirmed by the team shortly after Moss posted a message to fans on his Web site.

"I want to take time out to thank all of the fans for their support and for wishing me well in my return to New England," quotes him as saying. "I'm ready to get back. We have some unfinished business to take care of."

Moss' agent, Tim DiPiero, said the deal included guarantees of $15 million, including a $12 million signing bonus to the receiver who set an NFL record with 23 touchdown catches and helped the Patriots reach the Super Bowl in his first season with the team.

"Randy was serious about wanting to stay," DiPiero wrote in an e-mail. "Because of Randy's record-breaking year, the interest in him was very high. Randy took less than he could have to rejoin his teammates."

Pairing Moss with NFL MVP Tom Brady, who broke the league record with 50 touchdown passes, the Patriots breezed through the regular season with a perfect 16-0 record. They improved to an unprecedented 18-0 before blowing a chance at the league's longest unbeaten season with a 17-14 Super Bowl loss to the New York Giants.

"What Randy did for our team last year was outstanding," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said in a statement. "He is one of our most consistent, competitive and team-oriented players and it is undoubtedly a relationship we are excited to continue."

Moss, 31, has caught 774 passes for 12,193 yards in a 10-year career, and his 124 career receiving touchdowns are fourth in NFL history.

A four-time All-Pro, Moss took a pay cut to get out of Oakland and come to New England last April in exchange for a fourth-round draft pick. In addition to his 23 touchdowns, he caught 98 passes for 1,493 yards and largely avoided the type of turmoil that characterized his previous NFL stops.

During seven years with Minnesota, where he made five Pro Bowls, he was fined $10,000 for pretending to pull down his pants and moon the Green Bay crowd during a Vikings playoff win, and drew criticism for leaving the field with 2 seconds left in a loss to Washington.

He also bumped a traffic control officer with his car in 2002, verbally abused corporate sponsors on a team bus in 2001 and squirted an official with a water bottle in 1999.

In Oakland, he openly campaigned to be traded to a winning team. With the Patriots, he avoided controversy until the playoffs, when a woman sought a restraining order against him, claiming that he committed "battery causing serious injury."

Moss denied the allegation and said the woman was trying to get money from him.

Also Monday, the Patriots signed free agent receiver Sam Aiken.

The 27-year-old has played five seasons with the Buffalo Bills with 19 career receptions for 250 yards and 61 career special teams tackles.

"Competing against Sam many times over the years, we know firsthand what he brings to us," Belichick said.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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10 Best Sports Press Conference Meltdowns

After seeing Kevin Borseth’s amazing post-game press conference freak out over a women’s college basketball game, we were reminded about some of our favorite post-game tirades. Because it’s not about who wins and loses, it’s about who has a mental breakdown on camera after the game.

Jim Mora – “Playoffs?”
Starting this list with any other clip would be like starting to masturbate without first locking your office door. You just don’t do it. Notice Mora’s use of repetition. It will become a theme here.
Kevin Borseth Rant - Watch more free videos
Kevin Borseth - “After the game, was I mad? Yes.”
The last women’s sporting event I watched was Lingerie Bowl I, so maybe I don’t have the best frame of reference here. Yet, when a women’s basketball coach flies in from off screen and slams the stat sheet on the podium to start his post-game press conference, well, this could be the most entertaining thing to happen in women’s basketball since Juwanna Mann.
Terrell Owens Is A Cry Baby - Watch more free videos
Terrell Owens – The Crying (Post)Game
TO is clearly a changed man. Before this, the NFL’s douchiest receiver was known for blaming his teammates after a tough loss. Now he’s just known as a little bitch.

Herm Edwards – “You play to win the game.”
Not only is this a public temper tantrum, it’s also informative! On another note: somebody better send this clip over to the Miami Dolphins, they seem to be confused as to why you play the game.
Dennis Green – “The Bears are who we thought they were.”
Coaching the Arizona Cardinals can drive just about anybody insane, so when you start with a coach as batshit crazy as Dennis Green, you’ve got yourself a ticking time bomb. This clip has it all: table pounding, premature storm off, and, of course, the staple of the press conference tantrum, nonsensical repetition.
Allen Iverson – “Practice?”
Did somebody say “nonsensical repetition”? No, he said “practice.” 24 and a half times.
Mike Gundy Goes Off! - Watch more free videos
Mike Gundy - “I’m a man!”
I would be able to take him a lot more seriously if he wasn’t wearing a visor. As it is, instead of listening to his passionate rant about the loss of innocence in college football, all I can think is: “Aren’t visors for frat pledges who pass out and have balls drawn on their faces with magic markers?”
Avery Johnson - “What was your impression?”
Seeing a professional coach who gets paid millions of dollars acting this immature makes me feel pretty good about myself. Then I remember that he goes to sleep every night on a pile of money while I sleep on a pile of Long John Silver’s shrimp tails, and I begin to weep again.
Bob Knight – “What a shitty question.”
We know Bob Knight is funny - I mean, he strangles student-athletes! - but who knew his prop comedy was so polished? Lookout, Carrot Top! (Bonus points for featuring Pat O’Brien doing something other than drunk-dialing his co-workers.)
Compilation Of Funniest Tyson Quotes - Watch more free videos
Mike Tyson vs The Entire World - “I’ll eat your asshole alive, bitch.”
This montage of Mike Tyson’s greatest moments with the press really drives home the point that Mike Tyson should have his own TV show.
Bonus Mashup:
Jim Mora and Allen Iverson
These two classics discuss their favorite words.
Bonus Crying:
Tracy McGrady – First round flameout
I’d cry too if I never made it out of the first round of the playoffs. At least he has all of those All-Star game appearances to lean back on. Oh, and shitloads of money. And probably a groupie or two. Wait, what’s he crying about again?

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'Mentally tired' Favre tells Packers his playing career is over

After flirting with retirement for years, Brett Favre means it this time. The Green Bay Packers quarterback quit Tuesday after a 17-season career in which he dazzled fans with his grit, heart and rocket of an arm.

"I know I can still play, but it's like I told my wife, I'm just tired mentally. I'm just tired," Favre, a three-time NFL MVP, told ESPN's Chris Mortensen in a voice mail message.

"If I felt like coming back -- and Deanna [his wife] and I talked about this -- the only way for me to be successful would be to win a Super Bowl. To go to the Super Bowl and lose, would almost be worse than anything else. Anything less than a Super Bowl win would be unsuccessful," Favre said in the message.

"I know it shouldn't feel unsuccessful, but the only way to come back and make that be the right decision would be to come back and win a Super Bowl. And honestly, the odds of that, they're tough. Those are big shoes for me to fill, and I guess it was a challenge I wasn't up for. "

Packers coach Mike McCarthy told Mortensen that Favre had called him Monday night to tell him his decision. He also said Favre had first mentioned the possibility of retiring on Thursday.

"He called me last night to tell me he'd thought this thing through, and he said, 'Well, you know how it is,' and 'I'm just tired and I just think it's time,'" McCarthy said.

"And I did tell him last Thursday when he mentioned retirement for the first time, I told him while we talked that he did have to trust his heart."

The news was a surprise to at least one of Favre's teammates. Most players expected Favre to return after a successful 2007 season.

"I just saw it come across the TV," Packers wide receiver Koren Robinson said when reached on his cell phone by The Associated Press.

Favre, 38, had made his annual flirtation with retirement a winter tradition in Wisconsin. He has taken weeks and even months to make his decision after recent seasons, with Cheeseheads hanging on his every word.

But unlike the final game of the 2006 season -- when Favre provided a cliffhanger by getting choked up in a television interview as he walked off the field in Chicago, only to return once again -- nearly everyone assumed he would be back.

"I think the finality of it just kind of hits you," Packers general manager Ted Thompson said. "Brett Favre's not going to be our quarterback anymore."

A surefire first-ballot Hall of Famer, Favre put the Packers back among the NFL's elite. He retires with 5,377 career completions in 8,758 attempts for 61,655 yards, 442 touchdowns and 288 interceptions, passing Dan Marino's touchdown mark last season.

"Brett Favre will always be remembered as one of the greatest players and fiercest competitors in NFL history," NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. "His long list of accomplishments both on and off the field is remarkable. Brett's talent, enthusiasm and love of the game helped him become the only player to earn three MVP awards and he was a vital part of bringing a Super Bowl championship back to Green Bay. It has been a joy and privilege for all of us to watch him play. We wish Brett, Deanna and their family all the best and hope he will stay connected to the game that he honored with his brilliant play for so many years."

As a player, Favre was known for his durability, his willingness to take risks and turn broken plays into big gains, and his love for the game that was evident in the way he played. He led the Packers to Super Bowls in 1996 and 1997, winning it all on his first try in Super Bowl XXXI, and was named to nine Pro Bowls.

In Super Bowl XXXI, a win over the New England Patriots, Favre went 14-of-27 for 246 yards and two touchdowns. A year later, in Super Bowl XXXII, he went 25-of-42 for 256 yards, three TDs and an interception in a loss to the Denver Broncos.

He finished his career on a streak of 253 consecutive regular-season starts -- 275 including playoff games.

Favre's agent, Bus Cook, told Mortensen that, as of Tuesday morning, there were no plans for Favre to hold a news conference.

"I talked to Brett this morning and I told him, 'Nobody forced you to make this decision to retire, but the flip side is nobody encouraged you to play,'" Cook told Mortensen. "Two years ago, Ted [Thompson] encouraged him to play, but there was nothing this time around from them offering encouragement or him to come back."

Former Packers GM Ron Wolf, who engineered the trade that brought Favre to Lambeau Field, told ESPN Radio's Colin Cowherd that Favre was the best player he ever saw.

"I was in the game 41 years and was around an awful lot of great players, but the greatest player I was ever around was Brett Favre," Wolf said.

Wolf was surprised by Favre's announcement, but felt it was the right choice.

"The way he played and the style he played and how he played requires an awful lot of dedication and passion, and if he no longer has the passion to play, then it's very, very wise for him to hang 'em up," he said.

Favre, who returned for the 2007 season when many thought he should have left the game, had a career renaissance in his final season and led Green Bay to the NFC Championship Game, which the Packers lost to the eventual Super Bowl champion New York Giants in overtime.

Favre passed Marino for the all-time completions record in 2006, and in 2007 set NFL records for wins by a QB, touchdown passes, pass attempts, passing yards and interceptions. He claimed the NFL record for career quarterback wins with his 149th victory in Week 2, passed Marino for the TD record in Week 4 and overtook Marino's career passing yards record in Week 15.

Mortensen reported that Favre, who wanted the Packers to obtain Randy Moss when he was a free agent last season, once again had pushed for Moss to join the Packers.

Favre had spoken to Moss late last week and was willing to commit to more than just this season if Moss and the Packers could come to an agreement. But the Packers did not pursue Moss, who re-signed with the Patriots on Monday.

In his voice mail message to Mortensen, Favre said the Packers' lack of interest in Moss was not the driving reason behind his retiring.

"This is not about the Packers and who they got or who they didn't get. I get along fine with [Thompson], and I get along great with [McCarthy]. Do I agree with them all the time? No. But the bottom line is, none of that stuff affected my decision," Favre said.

McCarthy said he and Favre had never discussed bringing in Moss.

"But I can tell you one thing, never once in all my conversations with Brett this offseason has he ever asked or told me that we had to have Randy Moss for him to come back and play," McCarthy told Mortensen. "Randy Moss' name never came up once. And it bothers me that [Favre's agent] has made this an issue."

Surrounded by an underrated group of wide receivers who proved hard to tackle after the catch, Favre had a career-high completion percentage of 66.5 in 2007. He threw for 4,155 yards, 28 touchdowns and only 15 interceptions.

It was a remarkable turnaround from the previous two seasons. In 2005, Favre's final season under former coach Mike Sherman, he threw a career-worst 29 interceptions as the Packers went 4-12. In 2006, he completed 56 percent of his passes and threw for as many interceptions (18) as touchdowns.

Given Favre's career resurgence, it was widely assumed that he was leaning toward returning for the 2008 season.

He even said as much just before the Packers' Jan. 12 divisional playoff game against Seattle, telling his hometown newspaper he wasn't approaching the game as if it would be his last and was more optimistic about returning than in years past.

"For the first time in three years, I haven't thought this could be my last game," Favre told the Biloxi [Miss.] Sun Herald. "I would like to continue longer."

The Falcons selected Favre out of Southern Mississippi with the 33rd pick of the 1991 NFL draft. He was then traded to Green Bay for the 17th pick in the 1992 draft and appeared in his first Packers game on Sept. 20 of that year, replacing injured starter Don Majkowski and leading Green Bay to a 24-23 come-from-behind victory over the Cincinnati Bengals. He was named the starter later in the season, a role he never relinquished.

By nature of his style of play -- he was willing to roll the dice on long throws and able to force passes into tight coverage thanks to a strong right arm -- Favre had a flair for the dramatic on the field. But his off-the-field life has been full of drama, as well.

He nearly died in a car accident in Mississippi in 1990, before his senior season at Southern Miss. In May 1996, Favre acknowledged he had developed an addiction to the painkiller Vicodin and sought treatment. In 2004, Deanna announced she was fighting breast cancer, for which she was treated successfully. That same year, his brother-in-law was killed in an ATV accident. And in 2005, Hurricane Katrina destroyed his boyhood home in Kiln, Miss., and damaged his current home in Hattiesburg.

Favre's off-field and on-field lives collided Dec. 21, 2003, when his father suffered a fatal heart attack in Kiln. The next night, Favre chose to play the Packers' scheduled "Monday Night Football" game against the Raiders and threw for 399 yards and four touchdowns in a 41-7 win.

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Photo Gallery: February 26, 200811 of 18

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