Denzel Perryman is a high-floor, low-ceiling player

NFLU2009
Miami ILB Denzel Perryman "can be a highly productive NFL player but [his] ceiling looks to be limited," observed NFL Media draft analyst Lance Zierlein.

The analyst ranks Perryman No. 6 amongst linebackers. "Early-down linebacker who can make plays against the run but will struggle if isolated in coverage," Zierlein wrote. "Perryman is a lunch-pail worker who enjoys the physical part of the game." For those reasons, Zierlein likens Perryman to D'Qwell Jackson. "I have a little higher grade on Perryman than I probably should, but we like thumpers and badasses inside and he's both," said an AFC director of scouting.


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(rotoworld.com)
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Chuck Pagano on Andre Johnson: 'You don’t see a huge dropoff'

AndreJohnson2
INDIANAPOLIS -- Speed on the outside at receiver shouldn't be a problem for the Indianapolis Colts because they've got T.Y. Hilton and Donte Moncrief. What they need -- and missed at the end of last season -- is an underneath receiver.

That's where new Colts receiver Andre Johnson comes into play. What Johnson has in his favor is his size. His 6-foot-3 frame gives quarterback Andrew Luck a big target to throw to.

"He's a big body guy that can still separate, create separation," Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. "He's got a big catch radius. But again, the contested catches that you see on tape. It's very difficult to match up. There are few corners in the league that have length and size to match up but most are aren't on that size and they get pushed around a little bit. He's going to be able to bring that big, physical presence to us."

Johnson, who signed with the Colts after being released by the Houston Texans earlier this month, has 13,597 yards and 64 touchdowns in his career.

What impressed the Colts' coaching staff and front office is Johnson's ability to still go after the ball no matter who is throwing it.

Johnson's 936 receiving yards last season were the lowest of his career when playing at least 13 games since having only 688 receiving yards in 2005. Having Hilton, Moncrief and possibly Duron Carter to help out should ease Johnson's load, which is why it's not necessary for him to be the top receiver like he was throughout his career with the Texans. The Colts also have tight ends Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener, who combined to catch 16 touchdowns last season.

"You don't see a huge dropoff numbers-wise," Pagano said. "Maybe in touchdowns. But you still see a guy who is more than capable of stretching the defense. Certainly somebody who an opponent can't just line up and say, 'Don't worry about Andre Johnson.' They're still going to have to tend to him if you will. If they choose to double [Hilton] and take him out of the game, you have another guy on the other side, along with the rest of the guys on the roster who can still stretch the defense. He's a big, possession type guy. He makes contested catches in traffic. He's got a big catch radius. A big body. Those guys are hard to defend."


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(espn.com)
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proCane Pro Day On Wednesday, Who to Watch

NFLU2009
Who to watch: Offensive tackle Ereck Flowers will headline a talented group of Miami players on Wednesday in Coral Gables. Flowers recorded 37 repetitions of 225 pounds on the bench press at the NFL Scouting Combine, the most of any player, and is projected to be a first-round pick. Wide receiver Phillip Dorsett was expected to be in the running for the fastest 40-yard dash time at the combine, but he finished in third with a 4.33. Dorsett has been clocked as fast as 4.18.

Also keep an eye on: RB Duke Johnson, TE Clive Walford, LB Denzel Perryman, DE Anthony Chickillo, CB Ladarius Gunter and G Jon Feliciano.


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(buccaneers.com)
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Chris Myers visiting Seahawks

ChrisMyersTexans
The Seahawks traded last year’s starting center Max Unger to the Saints in the deal for tight end Jimmy Graham and they’re visiting with a potential replacement on Monday.

PFT has learned, via a league source, that Chris Myers is in Seattle for a visit. Myers was released by the Texans earlier this month.

Myers started every game for the Texans over the last seven seasons and has drawn reports of interest from other teams looking for a center without landing a new deal. The Seahawks have also been linked with former Raiders center Stefan Wisniewski, although Wisniewski’s offseason shoulder surgery makes him somewhat riskier as a plan for the starting job in 2015.

Signing Myers would give them a veteran option to use in the event that they can’t find a better one in the draft, which is something Seattle would still need to explore with Myers’s age making him a short-term solution at best.


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(profootballtalk.com)
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Titans sign CB Brandon Harris to one-year deal

BrandonHarris
The Titans added depth — and a familiar face — in the secondary Friday by signing cornerback Brandon Harris to a one-year deal.

Harris joined the Titans in August after being claimed off waivers from the Houston Texans.

He played in 11 games for the Titans in 2014, recording nine tackles, three passes defensed and two special teams stops.

Harris spent the first three years of his career with the Texans, where he played in 31 games. In his NFL career, Harris has registered 42 games played, 42 stops and 10 passes defensed.

Earlier this offseason, the Titans signed former 49ers cornerback Perrish Cox.


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(thetennessean.com)
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Bob McNair thinks Vince Wilfork won’t be another Ed Reed

VinceWilforkPatriots2
Two years ago, the Texans gave $5 million in guaranteed money to an 11-year veteran defender who had just won a Super Bowl.  It didn’t work out.

This year, the Texans once again gave $5 million in guaranteed money to an 11-year veteran defender who had just won a Super Bowl.  Some wonder whether it will work out.

Obviously, owner Bob McNair believes Vince Wilfork won’t be another Ed Reed.  Otherwise, the Texans wouldn’t have taken a chance on a player that Patriots coach Bill Belichick opted to not keep around.  So what’s the difference between Reed and Wilfork?

“I think the difference is when you have someone at a position where they have to be able to run, then age is more of a consideration,” McNair said at the league meetings, via Tania Ganguli of ESPN.com.  “We thought Ed was in good shape and was going to be able to come down and play and he was a big disappointment.  At nose tackle, you don’t have to run that much.  He’s got to be strong.  So there’s some positions you can play for more years and you aren’t taking as much risk.”

The notion that old guys are more likely to lose speed than strength seems a little simplistic.  Plenty of fast guys retain their speed well into their 30s.  Plenty of strong guys lose their strength well before turning 40.

The biggest difference between Reed and Wilfork is that Reed was damaged goods when he signed with the Texans.  The Texans didn’t notice that Reed needed hip surgery when giving him a passing grade on his physical.

So it’s less embarrassing for the Texans to distinguish Reed and Wilfork based on the speed vs. strength of older players, and not to remind everyone that whoever gave Reed a clean bill of health in 2013 made a major mistake.  Ultimately, Reed’s short stay in Houston had a lot more to do with the hip problem the team didn’t spot than an age-related reduction in his speed.


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(profootballtalk.com)
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Browns to meet with Miami OT Ereck Flowers

NFLU2009
The latest reported pre-draft visit is going to add to the confusion of team's wondering what the Cleveland Browns will do in the first round of April's NFL Draft. According to WalterFootball, the Browns are planning to visit Miami offensive tackle Ereck Flowers. The Miami native is expected to be taken in the first round.

The junior is also receiving interest from the Chargers, Buccaneers, Saints, Colts, Panthers and Falcons according to the report. Flowers is unlikely a candidate for the Browns selection at No. 12. He could be at pick No. 19, however.

Offensive tackle is one of the positions that the franchise could conceivably take. Defensive tackle, outside linebacker, quarterback, wide receiver and tight end are also considered positions of need. In the past, reports have stated that Cleveland's primary target to take over the right tackle position is LSU's La'el Collins.

Mitchell Schwartz is the incumbent starter at the position but he has underwhelmed and is entering the final year of his rookie contract. Michael Bowie is also expected to get a long look after returning from an injury.


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(247sports.com)
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The Sean Taylor graffiti at Brookland Metro has been restored

The graffiti mural honoring former Redskins safety Sean Taylor at the Brookland Metro station has been restored.

The original piece, painted by a D.C. graffiti artist who goes by the name Cert after Taylor was killed in a home invasion in November 2007, was defaced earlier this week.


Brookland resident David Poms noticed the restored mural while out for a walk on Saturday morning and tweeted the following photos:



The updated piece looks virtually similar to the original, with a new yellow background and the message “D.C. Loves You” beneath the No. 21. The artist(s) responsible for restoring the piece tagged it with the names Ser, Nehi, Kuthe and Cert. Someone left a bouquet of flowers along the wall.





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(washingtonpost.com)
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Bruce Arians would like to see a more consistent Calais Campbell

CalaisCampbellCards
But Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians thinks Campbell, who has amassed 43.5 sacks in seven NFL seasons, can be even better.

"I'd like to see a more consistent player out of him," Arians said Wednesday at the NFC Coaches Breakfast at the annual NFL Meetings. "He went to the Pro Bowl, but I still think he's not even scratched his consistent level of play.

"He disappears too much. I told him that the other day, you can't disappear in games anymore. You've got to be dominant the whole game."

Though Campbell finished the season with three sacks, he tracked down the quarterback in just four different games. Three of his seven came in Seattle, a game where afterwards Arians said the defensive lineman could have had a couple more sacks.

But as Campbell, a second-round pick out of Miami in 2008, heads into his eighth season, he does so as a player who has been recognized as being one of the best at his position in the NFL. As a Pro Bowler, he got to spend time talking with -- and learning from -- some of the game's greatest players. The confidence that comes from being in that setting could lead to a different Campbell next season. Arians, for one, is hoping it does.

"I only saw him for a minute…you automatically see swagger in a guy as he changes," the coach said. "Haven't been around him enough to see it to know. But I would hope -- saw it in Justin Bethel, especially the second time because he's been around rehabbing a lot. I've seen a little bit of it in Calais just the other day, but I want to see it on the field."


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(arizonasports.com)
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Reunion between Santana Moss, Redskins likely wouldn’t be until mid-summer

SantanaMoss2
PHOENIX — If the Washington Redskins decide to bring back venerated wide receiver Santana Moss, it likely won’t be until mid-summer.

Moss’ contract with the Redskins expired earlier this month, making him an unrestricted free agent. Relegated to a reserve role in 2014, Moss played in just 10 games and had only 10 catches — his fewest in each category since his rookie season with the New York Jets in 2001.

He was healthy, but inactive, until a Week 6 loss at Arizona, and he didn’t catch his first pass until a Week 13 loss at Indianapolis. All told, Moss played just 131 snaps on offense, roughly 12 percent of the team’s total.

“I could always play with Santana,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said at the owners’ meetings. “Santana’s a great person. He’s great in the locker room for us. He knows all the positions. I know he’s going to be in great shape, and I would not hesitate one bit to call him.”

Moss, who turns 36 on June 1, has played 10 of his 14 seasons in Washington, where he ranks third all-time in receptions, fourth in receiving yards and seventh in receiving touchdowns.

He returned to the Redskins a year ago on a one-year contract for $955,000, the minimum for veterans with at least 10 years of experience, and it appeared likely the season would serve as a farewell tour, of sorts, for the wide receiver.

But Moss, who hasn’t been reached for comment since the season ended, said in December that he believes he can still play at a sufficient level and will do so if he can find the right opportunity. If he can’t, he’ll simply walk away.

“When I leave this game, there’s not going to be no press conference,” Moss said four days before the Redskins’ season ended with a home loss to Dallas. “I’ll probably be somewhere at home and you’ll find out I’m gone. Seriously. I’m not good with goodbyes and I’m not going to sit here and make it a big deal about me. At the end of the day when it’s over it’s over, and there’s no need to be announced.”

The Redskins have four wide receivers under contract who finished last season on the active roster — Pierre Garçon, DeSean Jackson, Andre Roberts and Ryan Grant — and Gruden remains committed to developing Grant, a fifth-round pick out of Tulane last summer who had seven catches during his rookie season.

Offseason workouts will begin April 20, and if there’s still a glaring need for a reliable, veteran slot receiver when the program ends in mid-June, the door could be open for Moss.

“We’ll wait until the draft to see what we have as far as numbers at every position and go from there,” Gruden said. “You know, that’s something that we know where Santana is and he knows where we are, and something may work out down the road.”


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(washingtontimes.com)
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Jon Jay ready for 2015 Baseball Season




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Brewers release former all-star closer Chris Perez

ChrisPerezIndians2
Chris Perez's bid to recapture his form as an All-Star closer may still come true, but it won't happen in Milwaukee.

The Brewers released the two-time all-star Sunday, a month after signing the 29-year-old right-hander, nicknamed “Pure Rage,” to a minor-league deal. He pitched well this spring, with a 2.70 ERA in 10 games, but the Brewers wanted to send him to the minors. Perez told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel that is not an option.

"That's not my first choice," Perez said. "I think we would want to look around. I'm healthy; I'm throwing the ball well. I have a pretty good track record. I know I belong up here and can get outs up here."

Perez enjoyed a great four-year run as the Indians closer, averaging 31 saves from 2010-2013 and making All-Star appearances in 2011 and 2012. But his 2013 season ended on a sour note, with a rash of blown saves, and an arrest for marijuana possession. Perez who had roughly a third of a pound of marijuana delivered to his house — addressed to his dog — pleaded no contest to the charges and received one year of probation.

The Indians released Perez after the 2013 season. Joining the Dodgers for 2014, he posted a 4.27 ERA with one save in 49 appearances.


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(cbssports.com)
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Ryan Braun has 2 hits, 2 RBIs in 3-2 loss to Indians

RyanBraun
PHOENIX (AP) — Ryan Braun extended his torrid stretch with two more hits and two RBIs for the Milwaukee Brewers in a 3-2 loss to the Cleveland Indians on Saturday.

After an 0-for-12 start this spring, Braun has 10 hits in his last 19 at-bats (.526) and is hitting .323 in Cactus League play. He had both hits against Cleveland starter Zach McAllister, who struck out nine in five innings.

"Their guy was throwing really hard and (Braun) squares it up and the ball was really taking off," Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke said. "He looks good. We need to keep him where he is now and hopefully he can maintain that."

Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis, who recently missed seven games with back spasms, hit a two-run homer in the second inning. Cleveland scored the go-ahead run on a force play in the eighth.

The Brewers had scored 91 runs in the last 11 games, hitting .353 as a team. But Braun provided all the offense Saturday with an RBI double in the first and a run-scoring single in the fifth.

McAllister made a strong bid for a rotation spot, striking out five consecutive hitters in the second and third innings, and two more in the fifth. He allowed six hits.

"He had real good velocity and he held it through his last inning," Cleveland manager Terry Francona said. "He also threw some good off-speed pitches. That was impressive but he's been good all spring.

McAllister was matched by Milwaukee starter Wily Peralta, who continued an impressive spring with six innings of two-run, six-hit ball.


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(utsandiego.com)
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Jon Feliciano Preparing For NFL Draft

NFLU2009
MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Miami Hurricanes offensive lineman Jon Feliciano is getting ready for the NFL Draft, accomplishing a childhood dream that seemed very unlikely growing up.

As a child, his family home was condemned and his mother was battling cancer.

Feliciano spent five years pushing people around for the University of Miami, but before that he was pushing through some of the hardest times in his life.

“You know it’s tough to sit down and think about all the stuff that happened,” Feliciano said. “My mom having breast cancer twice, living house to house. I just try to live in the moment. I don’t look back and think of it as sob story, you know.”

Feliciano is moving forward, working out with current and former Hurricanes in the hopes of hearing his name called in the 2015 NFL Draft.

“You’re here working out with Andre Johnson, Santana Moss, Olivier Vernon, Lamar Miller, the list goes on, Sean Spence,” he said. “Just to be a part of that group of names is awesome.”

Despite doing some shopping and hanging poolside at the Fontainebleau, the best part of his day came in the form of a phone call from his mother.

“She had a lump next to her breast,” explained Feliciano. “We got the results today that it’s not cancerous so we’re happy about that.”

CBS4’s Mike Cugno asked Feliciano if he draws a lot of strength from his mother.

“Yea, her and my father,” he replied. “My dad works his butt off and on the other side my mom fights her butt off.”


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(miami.cbslocal.com)
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Ndamukong Suh Deal Killed Jimmy Graham Trade to Miami Dolphins



JimmyGrahamSaints
The New Orleans Saints traded tight end Jimmy Graham to the Seattle Seahawks, but the Miami Dolphins were also interested in trading for him.

How close were the Dolphins to acquiring Graham? Did the Ndamukong Suh deal kill the Graham trade?

Watch as Adam Lefkoe and Bleacher Report NFL Insider Jason Cole discuss Graham in the video above.


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(bleacherreport.com)
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Meet Andre Johnson and Frank Gore 2015 Colts Offensive Free Agents

FrankGore2
INDIANAPOLIS – The major offensive splash of the Colts 2015 free agency came from a pair of weapons, who have a long history together.

Frank Gore and Andre Johnson are the headliners of the Colts haul this offseason with free agency quieting down after two weeks of players on the open market.

Colts.com takes a look back on the 2015 additions on offense:

Running Back Frank Gore (49ers)
-2014 Stats: 16 games played (16 starts). 255 rushes for 1,106 yards and four touchdowns.
-Career Stats: 148 career games played (134 starts) in 10 seasons. 2,442 rushing attempts for 11,073 yards and 64 touchdowns.
-Gore’s Quote to Note: “I feel like before I leave this game, I want to win a championship. This is the best team, the best situation for me to get there.”
-Ryan Grigson’s Thoughts: “I was always taught never overlook production, even if the measurables aren’t there, just don’t overlook rare production and consistency. He’s been the model of that and the fact that he can do it on all three downs at a high-level, that’s worth its weight in gold, especially for this offense.”

-Outlook: Running back was a definite need of the Colts this offseason and they were able to lure the most productive back there was on the open market. Gore’s age will be questioned for the rest of his career, but his numbers indicate he’s a different breed than other ball carries with 10 years of tread. He ended 2014 with back-to-back games of at least 140 rushing yards. The Colts aren’t going to ask Gore to carry a heavy burden in the backfield. Chuck Pagano knows that having a healthy Gore each Sunday is the most important factor in tapering back his practice regime. Another reinforcement to the backfield could happen in the draft, where numerous quality backs are this year.

AndreJohnson2
Wide Receiver Andre Johnson (Texans)
-2014 Stats: 15 games played (15 starts). 85 catches for 936 yards and three touchdowns.
-Career Stats: 169 games played (169 starts) in 12 seasons. 1,102 receptions for 13,597 yards and 64 touchdowns.
-Johnson’s Quote to Note: “I wanted to be at a place that had a stable quarterback. I feel like Andrew is arguably the best quarterback in the game playing against him twice a year, getting a chance to watch him a lot. I felt like this was a good place where I could win a championship.”

-Chuck Pagano’s Thoughts: “You still see a guy who is more than capable of stretching the defense. Certainly somebody who our opponent can’t just line up and say, ‘Don’t worry about Andre Johnson.’ They’re still going to have to tend to him. If they choose to double (T.Y. Hilton) and take him out of the game, you have another guy on the other side, along with the rest of the guys on the roster who can still stretch the defense. He’s a big, possession type guy. He makes contested catches in traffic. He’s got a big catch radius.”

-Outlook: A veteran, big bodied, piece was the ideal hope to fill the Colts pass catching void this offseason. That’s what they are getting in Johnson. Just like Gore, the age question for Johnson will be one to answer throughout his time in Indianapolis. The belief by some in Houston was that Johnson has lost a step. What he hasn’t lost though his the frame (6-3 and 220 pounds), which allowed him to put up Hall of Fame numbers with the Texans. The Colts skill group will welcome that frame to an already explosive playmaking core. Despite reaching his 30s, Johnson’s numbers have barley diminished while catching balls from six different quarterbacks the last two seasons. With Andrew Luck looking his direction, and the extra attention inevitably coming towards T.Y. Hilton, Johnson should have his fair share of chances to be an impact guy for one of the league’s best offenses.


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(colts.com)
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NFC West coaches: Frank Gore will be productive for Colts

FrankGore2
INDIANAPOLIS -- The Indianapolis Colts have been looking to team quarterback Andrew Luck with a running back who would help ease some of his workload for nearly three years now.

Vick Ballard hasn’t been able to stay healthy since rushing for 814 yards his rookie season in 2012. Ahmad Bradshaw was effective, but like Ballard, he couldn’t stay healthy. And Trent Richardson? Everybody knows that was a disaster and that chapter has closed.

Now it’s Frank Gore's turn to try to fill that role for the Colts.

And while some question whether Gore can still produce at the age 31, the common theme at the NFL owners meetings was that the Colts signed a player who will produce.

“I think there are some freaks of nature out there and he’s one of them because his skill level hasn’t diminished at all and I think he’ll be a good fit,” Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said. “You don’t like playing safety against Frank because one of you is getting knocked out and it’s usually the safety.”

Despite losing Gore to the Colts, you could hear the passion and respect for Gore in San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Tomsula’s voice.

“It’s Frankie G, man,” Tomsula said. “You watch the film, I just love the guy and I have a tremendous amount of respect for Frank and there are enough people on [the Colts staff] who know who Frank is. You see Frank the player, but Frank the guy, he’s going to mean a lot to the team.

Gore’s production during his 10-year career can’t be questioned. He’s rushed for over 1,00 yards in eight of those 10 seasons. He's also a durable player, having only missed 12 games in his career.

To put into perspective what Gore could mean to the Colts, Indianapolis hasn’t had a 1,000-yard rusher since 2007 when Joseph Addai ran for 1,072 yards. The Colts have only had one player (Ballard) rush for 100 yards in a game in Luck’s 48 career regular-season games.

“I think it’s a very exciting matchup for those guys,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. “You add the receiver (Andre Johnson), too. It has to be really exciting. I talked to Coach [Pagano] about that. Has to be exciting going into this offseason with those two new elements to add with the quarterback on a really good team already. [Gore] has tremendous style. You feel his intensity when he plays. Again, he can come through in the clutch and make things happen when you need him. He’s tough to play against and anybody who has him on his team has to be excited about it.”

Pagano has described Gore as an every-down running back. With that said, the coach doesn’t plan to overwork Gore in practice during the week because they want to conserve him for game day.

Gore will be 32 years old when the 2015 season starts. Ricky Williams is the last running back to rush for at least 1,000 yards at 32 years old or older. He rushed for 1,121 yards while with the Miami Dolphins in 2009.

Gore doesn’t need to rush for 1,695 yards like he did in 2006, but he needs to be productive, which many say he will be, once he lines up in the backfield for the Colts.

“You’ve got to be able to run the football,” Pagano said. “We talk about protect the quarterback, protect the quarterback, protect the quarterback. Well, one way is to have success on the ground and be able to hand it off, where he’s not in harm’s way standing back there having to throw it 50 times a game because you get behind and can’t run the football. I think it’s huge.”


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(espn.com)
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Vinny Testaverde working as quarterback tutor for ECU prospect

VinnyTestaverdeMiami
When Chris Weinke left IMG to take a job as the Rams quarterback coach, he was replaced by another old guy who once played for the Panthers.

According to Bill Voth of Black and Blue Review, East Carolina quarterback Shane Carden is under the tutelage of former Bucs, Browns, Ravens, Jets, Cowboys, Patriots and Panthers quarterback Vinny Testaverde.

Testaverde thinks he’s smoothed out the delivery of Carden, a mid- to late-round prospect.

The longtime NFL quarterback said Carden had an “awkward-looking delivery, if you will.”

But the use of a quarterback tutor isn’t the only thing that has changed about the pre-draft process when Testaverde was chosen first overall in 1987.

“When I ran my 40, two days before I had our strength coach show me how to do a 40 start,” Testaverde said. “So I worked on it for a day. Went to the combine, ran the 40, so we didn’t have all that specific training.”

Testaverde said he ran his 40 in 4.72 seconds, which is a lot faster than most of us might have thought.

But the thing he should teach Carden is longevity, after 21 seasons in the NFL.


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(profootballtalk.com)
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Yasmani Grandal out to improve reputation for working with pitchers

YasmaniGrandalPadres
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The San Diego Padres' top three starting pitchers preferred to work with another catcher, but Yasmani Grandal said he is determined to establish a good rapport with Clayton Kershaw and Co.

The Los Angeles Dodgers traded Matt Kemp for Grandal in December because they like his bat and highly value his ability to frame pitches, but getting Dodgers starters comfortable pitching to Grandal might take some time. Grandal caught Kershaw for the second time this spring Thursday, and the results were good this time. Kershaw pitched six strong innings, allowing a run on four hits and striking out eight.

Afterward, Grandal said he is determined to improve his reputation for working with pitchers. A report on FoxSports.com this week quoted anonymous sources on the Padres saying that Tyson Ross, Andrew Cashner and Ian Kennedy all preferred to work with Rene Rivera and that the team wasn’t satisfied with Grandal's apology for being suspended for using performance-enhancing drugs in 2012.

“I don’t go online and read articles. I think that’s the worst thing you could possibly do,” Grandal said. “It seemed like they all threw to [Rivera] and I was fine with it. Like I’ve been saying, I’m just going to keep doing whatever it is I’m doing and making sure the guys I’m catching, I’m on the same page with. I think last year I did a pretty good job with those new guys that came up to the big leagues.”

Grandal said he felt he had good rapport with less-experienced San Diego pitchers such as Eric Stults, Odrisamer Despaigne and Jesse Hahn.

Of course, none of those guys is Kershaw, who has won the major-league ERA title four seasons in a row. Dodgers manager Don Mattingly seems determined to dispel any notion that A.J. Ellis is Kershaw’s personal catcher.

“I didn’t shake off as much today, so I think it’s just that learning process getting better,” Kershaw said. “There are no scouting reports no or anything. He knows kind of how I operate and different pitches in different counts. Once we start looking at hitters and stuff, it’s just game to game.”


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(espn.com)
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Diamondbacks' Peter O'Brien plays the outfield

PeterObrienCanes
Peter O'Brien came into spring training with a chance to win the Diamondbacks' catching job, but he was in left field on Thursday afternoon in a minor league game, the second consecutive day he has played the outfield.

O'Brien hasn't been behind the plate since throwing problems developed earlier this month. In several consecutive games in big league camp, O'Brien struggled to throw the ball back to the pitcher. The problems persisted after being re-assigned to the minors.

"I think he's going to play some outfield (once the minor league season starts) and catching isn't out of the question, but we're still talking internally to figure out what's best for him," farm director Mike Bell said.

In January, General Manager Dave Stewart said he wasn't pursuing catching help via trade in part because of the team's belief O'Brien was their catcher of the future. Though other clubs did not believe in his catching abilities — opinions formed before the throwing problems developed — the Diamondbacks thought he needed more reps at the position after bouncing among catcher, third base, first base and the outfield in his minor league career.

Club officials and coaches have been reluctant to publicly acknowledge O'Brien's issues.


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(azcentral.com)
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Yasmani Grandal seeking a fresh start with the Dodgers

YasmaniGrandalPadres
Yasmani Grandal is looking for a fresh start with the Dodgers, after a tumultuous tenure with the Padres, according to FOX Sports. Clayton Kershaw, the ace of the staff, has a strong relationship with A.J. Ellis, but when asked about Grandal's past issues with San Diego, he said: "I haven't seen any of that. The only thing you want in a catcher is that he works. He does that. He's a hard worker. Not only with catching, the physical part of it, but the mental side. He knew what I did before I even talked to him.

"There are obviously some growing pains, getting to know a catcher. But he's been great. He's done everything you can ask for. Everyone always comes in with a reputation regardless. I just try to tune it out and judge for myself."

Grandal was acquired this offseason as the centerpiece in the trade that sent outfielder Matt Kemp to San Diego. The switch-hitting catcher, who is under club control through 2018, slashed .225/.327/.401 with 15 homers and 85 RBI in 2014. He posted a .795 OPS after the All-Star break last season.


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(cbssports.com)
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Antrel Rolle's leadership skills impressed Bears coach John Fox

AntrelRolleGiants2
PHOENIX - Bears head coach John Fox thought enough of Antrel Rolle's ability to sign him to a three-year, $11.25-million contract earlier this month. But what Fox really likes about Rolle is what the Giants really liked about the 32-year-old safety: his leadership skills.

"Leadership is important," Fox said. "There's kind of a 10-80-10 percentage on a football team. There are 10 percent of the guys that are doing it right all the time. The key is to get a big majority of that 80 to see it done right so they can climb up to the 10. We think he's in that 10. He has the ability. He's done that before. I've seen him even at the Pro Bowl show leadership."

Fox probably hopes some of Rolle's leadership skills rub off on quarterback Jay Cutler, who heads into the season as the No. 1 quarterback. But Fox knows from Cutler's well-chronicled issues with coaches and teammates that the quarterback will have to be on his best behavior.

"I'm going to watch [Cutler] on the field, look at all the practice tape," Fox said. "Obviously, we're judged by how we perform on Sundays. We're a production-based business. I haven't had one of those experiences [with Cutler] yet, so I can tell you those things will occur and like every position, how you practice usually is how you play and perform and we'll evaluate at every position as we move forward."

Fox said he'll take a wait-and-see approach with Cutler.

"When you come in with all your players in a new organization, you hear all kinds of stuff," said Fox, who signed with the Bears after parting ways with the Broncos following the 2014 season. "You just file it and you give a guy the benefit of the doubt and let them earn that [trust] with me personally."


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(newsday.com)
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Jay Gruden comments on Santana Moss

SantanaMoss2
Washington Redskins coach Jay Gruden addressed reporters in Phoenix on Wednesday morning as part of the NFL Owners' Meetings.

His remarks were broadcast live on the team website. Below are some excerpts:

Santana Moss: Gruden said no contract has been signed with the receiver, and it likely wouldn't happen - if it does - until after the draft.

"I could always play with Santana," Gruden said. "Santana's a great person, was great in the locker room for us. I know he's going to be in great shape. I would not hesitate one bit to call him.

"We'll wait until after the draft, and see what we have as far as numbers at each position. ... We know where Santana is, and he knows where we are, and hopefully something may work out down the road."


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(richmond.com)
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Bob McNair on Andre Johnson: Athletes never want to acknowledge losing a step

AndreJohnson2
PHOENIX -- Houston Texans owner Bob McNair wasn't surprised Andre Johnson bristled at the idea of a reduced role next season. It's just human nature, McNair told me this week at the league's owners meetings at the Arizona Biltmore.

"Every athlete I think would like to play forever," McNair said when I asked if he was surprised to hear Johnson felt even before last season that he would be gone from the Texans after 2014. "They never want to acknowledge that they’ve lost a step or they can’t quite do what they did before. Just look at history. Look at all the players. It just happens time and time again. We don’t like to acknowledge that we’re getting older. None of us do. That’s just human nature, and I don’t think that’s going to change. ... They’re used to being a star and they’d like to continue being a star. I don’t blame 'em, I understand that."

Until now, there hasn't really been a public acknowledgment by the organization of the belief that Johnson had lost a step. When asked about Johnson several times since, Texans coach Bill O'Brien has repeated the refrain of how much respect he has for Johnson.

Johnson was granted permission to seek a trade earlier this month after being told the Texans planned to reduce his role significantly this season. They simply no longer believed he was a starter. When no trade options materialized, Johnson requested a release and was granted it. He signed with the Indianapolis Colts as a free agent.

Though I didn't quite phrase the question this way, McNair disagreed with any characterization that the Texans did anything other than honor Johnson's wishes this offseason.

"No, he had the opportunity to stay, but his role was changing," McNair said. "As a player gets older, that’s what happens. He wasn’t interested in the role that he thought was available and he wanted to pursue a role with another team so we honored his request."

Though the end was ugly for the Texans and Johnson, he's still the most iconic offensive player the franchise has ever had.

"I think when he’s ready to retire, we would love to honor him and give him an adequate ceremony recognizing what he’s done," McNair said. "And we’ll look forward to that."


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(espn.com)
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Frank Gore, in statement, thanks 49ers, fans

FrankGore2
Frank Gore had been a member of the 49ers since the team drafted him in the third round in 2005. The team cut ties with the 31-year-old running back this offseason, but that didn't erase the memories he made during his time in San Francisco.

Gore, now a member of the Colts after signing as a free agent, expressed his thanks to those who supported him throughout his decade in San Francisco. He released a statement Monday, via CSN Bay Area.

As I look forward to an exciting new opportunity, I cannot help but to reminisce about the past 10 years in the Bay Area. I would like to, once again, thank the York family and the 49ers organization for giving me the opportunity to realize my childhood dream of playing in the NFL. I am truly thankful to all of my 49ers teammates, coaches and staff that have helped me reach milestones and strive for greatness over the years. And to my fans: I do not know where to start, there are no words to describe how appreciative I am of the support and encouragement each and every one of you has provided. I will always carry you with me. Thank you for everything.

Gore is expected to be the Colts' feature back in 2015. He rushed for 1,106 yards and four touchdowns while playing in all 16 games last season. He is 20th all time with 11,073 career rushing yards.

Trent Richardson was Indy's leading rusher last year with 519 yards. He was released in the offseason. Richardson filed a grievance over the move.


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(sportingnews.com)
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Ex-coaches talk up Orlando Franklin

OrlandoFranklinBroncos
PHOENIX -- It’s always interesting to get a different perspective from coaches of other teams who worked with new additions to the San Diego Chargers.

At the NFC coaches breakfast Wednesday morning, we had a chance to catch up with two head coaches who worked with recent free-agent additions for the Chargers, offensive lineman Orlando Franklin and cornerback Patrick Robinson.

New Chicago Bears head coach John Fox worked with Franklin while serving as head coach of the Denver Broncos. Fox vouched for Franklin’s toughness and tenacity on the field.

“He’s a great kid,” Fox said. “He started ever since he came out as a rookie. He started at right tackle. We moved him to guard. I think he’s a tremendous teammate and a tremendous young player that I wish nothing but success.”

Fox said Franklin can play in a zone or power scheme up front offensively.

“Yeah, he’s got enough athleticism to play in a zone scheme,” Fox said. “And he’s a big, powerful body coming off.”

Fox also vouched for Franklin’s ability to play with a chip on his shoulder.

“He’s plenty tough enough,” Fox said.


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(espn.com)
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Shane Larkin invisible in ugly loss

ShaneLarkinCanes
Shane Larkin hit just 1-of-2 shots for two points and two assists in 30 minutes of Wednesday's blowout loss to the Clippers.

He's getting minutes for the banged up and dreadful Knicks, but he is also dreadful. If you thought Tony Snell didn't do anything with his minutes for the Bulls, take a look at Larkin's game log.


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(rotoworld.com)
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Ryan Braun collects three hits in win over the A's

RyanBraun
Ryan Braun finished 3-for-4 with an RBI double in Wednesday's Cactus League game versus the Athletics.

Braun is now on a five-game spring hitting streak. Wednesday's performance helped lift his average to .280 (7-for-25). Two of those seven hits are solo homers. Braun had battled a thumb injury over the last two seasons but it appears to be a non-issue now.


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(rotoworld.com)
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Diamondbacks' manager: Peter O'Brien to see work at other positions in minor leagues

PeterObrienCanes
When the Arizona Diamondbacks acquired catcher Peter O'Brien from the New York Yankees last summer in exchange for Martin Prado, he came to the organization billed as an excellent power hitting prospect whose future was not behind the plate.

The D-backs, though, insisted that he could succeed as a backstop, and earlier this month chief baseball officer Tony La Russa talked about how O'Brien had been improving every day.

"I've seen a guy who is very smart, very tough, very talented, and has a fierce desire to work and learn, which are great traits for a catcher," he said.

Things are a bit different a few weeks later.

O'Brien, who hit .250 with two RBI in spring training, has been reassigned to minor league camp, and while he's there it looks like the 24-year-old will be getting work at some new positions.

"I think he's going to go down and he's going to play, not that they're going to move him all around, but I think they're going to let him play a little bit at other places just to start out with and then get back behind the plate," D-backs skipper Chip Hale told Burns and Gambo on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Tuesday. "I think he just needs a little break and he's going to dictate some of this. We're going to have some meetings here down the stretch and talk to him."

In three minor league seasons, along with catcher O'Brien has seen action at third base, first base and right field, with varying degrees of success.

But if nothing else, the 6-foot-3, 215-pound prospect has power, as evidenced by the 66 home runs he's hit in 1,058 professional at-bats.

So even if he ultimately can't hack it at catcher, the organization will do all it can to get him on the field somewhere so he can be in their lineup.

"He's such a good prospect for us, we want that bat to play," Hale said, comparing O'Brien's situation to that of Yasmany Tomas. "We need to see the bat play and then we'll find a spot because his camp, we felt like he received and handled the pitching staff really well but he just wasn't swinging the bat at all, so we need to see that come back at Reno."


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(arizonasports.com)
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Dodgers betting Grandal's struggles in San Diego will pay off in L.A.

YasmaniGrandalPadres
The Padres’ top three starting pitchers preferred throwing to other catchers, so what happens if the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Co. also sour on Yasmani Grandal?

The question is not unreasonable, considering Grandal’s fall from grace with the Padres and the strong relationships that the Dodgers’ A.J. Ellis maintains with Kershaw and the team’s other pitchers.

The Dodgers, however, believe that they have a unique talent in Grandal, a 26-year-old switch-hitter whom they made the centerpiece of their return for Matt Kemp. And if Grandal fails, it will not be for lack of effort.

His problems with the Padres stemmed from his strong personality; Grandal walks the line between self-confidence and stubbornness, according to major-league sources. Over time, he lost his rapport with Padres right-handers Tyson Ross, Ian Kennedy and especially Andrew Cashner.

Grandal’s suspension for performance-enhancing drugs in November 2012 — and a subsequent apology that some with the Padres perceived as scripted — eroded his standing in the clubhouse, sources say. Grandal said he thought he did a “pretty good job” with his apology, and that no one with the team challenged him on it. But when he tried to assert leadership and initially did not play well, some viewed him even more skeptically, sources say.

The 2013 season was a mess for Grandal, who sat out the first 50 games with his suspension, then underwent reconstructive knee surgery in August. Rene Rivera emerged as a superior catcher in ’14 while Grandal, coming off surgery, experienced problems throwing and receiving. He tied for the NL lead with 12 passed balls despite starting only 67 games behind the plate, and only in the second half did he regain his offensive rhythm.

Now Grandal will be handling an even more established rotation and incorporating data-driven scouting reports from the Dodgers’ new front office. He has a strong backer in vice-president of baseball operations Josh Byrnes, who as the Padres’ GM acquired Grandal in the Mat Latos trade. Grandal and Ellis also will work closely with new advance scout Danny Lehmann, a former catcher at Rice whose professional career peaked at Triple A.

For Andrew Friedman, the Dodgers’ new president of baseball operations, Grandal amounts to a new toy. Friedman rarely employed a catcher who could hit during his nine seasons with the Rays; the team’s catchers averaged 12th in the AL in OPS during that time. Grandal last season had a .795 OPS after the All-Star Game and is under club control through 2018.

“It’s been awesome so far — the more I catch the (Dodgers’ pitchers), the better I get,” Grandal said. “The relationships will start building the more I catch, the more they see what I’m thinking back there, the more I see what they want to do.”

Kershaw, asked about the issues that Grandal had with the Padres, said, “I haven’t seen any of that. The only thing you want in a catcher is that he works. He does that. He’s a hard worker. Not only with catching, the physical part of it, but the mental side. He knew what I did before I even talked to him.

“There are obviously some growing pains, getting to know a catcher. But he’s been great. He’s done everything you can ask for. Everyone always comes in with a reputation regardless. I just try to tune it out and judge for myself.”

Kershaw’s affection for Ellis is well known, but manager Don Mattingly ended talk of any Dodgers pitcher using a personal catcher in mid-January. If Mattingly uses a strict platoon, Grandal likely will get about twice as much playing time as Ellis, who bats right-handed, turns 34 on April 9 and is coming off a trying, injury-marred season. Against a tough right-hander in Game 1 of a division series, Grandal seemingly would be the logical choice to catch Kershaw.

Assuming, of course, all goes smoothly.

Cashner declined comment when asked about Grandal, but the facts speak volumes: Grandal did not catch Cashner after July 5, 2013, a span of about 1-1/2 seasons. Grandal also did not start at catcher with Ross after last June 27 and with Kennedy after last July 18. The bulk of his work came with other Padres starters: lefty Eric Stults (now with the Braves) and righties Jesse Hahn (now with the Athletics) and Odrisamer Despaigne.

Rivera, since traded to the Rays, finished last season with a 3.10 catcher’s ERA in 734 innings. Grandal, however, did nearly as well working with lesser starters, producing a 3.35 catcher’s ERA in 607-2/3 innings. The Padres allowed the fewest runs over a 162-game season in their 46-year history, and fourth-fewest in the National League.

True, Grandal threw out only seven of 56 base stealers and played mostly at first base in the final five weeks to reduce the stress on his surgically repaired knee. His pitch-framing numbers, however, were elite. He was the best in the majors at getting called strikes when he should, and eighth among catchers who got called strikes on pitches that the Pitch F/X tracking system deemed outside the strike zone, according to ESPN.com. (Ellis’ framing numbers were not as good.)

“I got all those new guys who came up, gave them a taste of what the big leagues was like. They trusted me. They loved throwing to me,” Grandal said.

“It was a learning time for me. I never had anybody say, ‘We want to throw to this (other) guy.’ It had always been me. How do you deal with that? It was, ‘All right, concentrate on the guys you’re going to catch, be ready to catch the other guys just in case.’ And from there on, just play.”

Grandal, after finishing with only 377 at-bats, played in the Dominican Winter League to bring the number over 500 and build up his endurance behind the plate. He said that he is working closely with Ellis every morning, going over pitchers, going over hitters, talking about the Dodgers’ philosophy. And he has definite ideas about how the pitcher-catcher relationship should work.

“The way I think about, I’m open to suggestions,” Grandal said. “At the same time, there has to be that line where you’ve got to be open to suggestions, too.

“If you go through a scouting report, I’m studying the hitters, I’m doing my homework, I’m seeing exactly what they’re doing. If I pick something up and see something, just trust me with what I’m calling; I think right now this is the way it should go.

“Even though you’re the guy with the bullet, the guy who wants to throw whatever it is, I’m just giving you a suggestion. Sometimes I go up to you and say, ‘Hey, this is what we should go with,’ and you completely disagree with me. I’ll let you go, throw whatever you want. You’ve got to be confident in what you’re throwing.”

Sounds logical enough, but Grandal, as he moves into a new environment, would be wise to work on his, um, presentation. Some with the Dodgers believe the team actually will benefit from the problems that he experienced with the Padres, reasoning that he will be more diplomatic, more open to constructive exchange.

It needs to happen. For Grandal’s sake. And for the team’s.


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(foxsports.com)
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Duke Johnson touts his own durability

NFLU2009
Simply put, Miami running back Duke Johnson questions those who question him.

Johnson (5-foot-9, 207 pounds) left UM after his junior season, already holding the school's career rushing mark with 3,519 yards. He also had 14 career 100-yard games, tying him with Edgerrin James and Clinton Portis for the most in school history. Despite his production and high-level receiving ability, Johnson has been knocked because of his size and durability.

He often has said he is short, not small. But the durability thing? That irritates him.

"I think it's a joke," Johnson told the Charlotte Observer. "I had a freak injury. I broke my ankle once, and that was the only time I missed a game (he missed five games as a sophomore in 2013). That was an accident that could have happened to anybody. I don't see the durability thing. Somebody will always have something to say."

Johnson played in all 13 games in 2014, when he rushed for 1,652 yards and 10 TDs and also caught 38 passes.

"I didn't have an injury that caused me to miss a game last year," Johnson told the Observer. "I think that goes to show that it's not a durability thing. It was a freak accident. If I am hurt and can play, I will play."

Depending on the evaluator, Johnson is at or near the top of the second tier of backs available in this draft. Georgia's Todd Gurley and Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon are the top tier and both are expected to go in the first round. Johnson, Boise State's Jay Ajayi, Nebraska's Ameer Abdullah, Indiana's Tevin Coleman and maybe Alabama's T.J. Yeldon are in the second tier, with their ranking a "beauty-is-in-the-eye-of-the-beholder" thing.

NFL Media analysts Bucky Brooks and Mike Mayock have Johnson fourth among running backs, while fellow analyst Lance Zierlein has Johnson fifth.

Johnson seems likely to be drafted somewhere in the second round; teams that could be looking for running back help in the second round include Baltimore, Dallas, Jacksonville, Minnesota, New England and St. Louis. Johnson seems confident he can help as a rookie.

"I think my game translates because I'm versatile," he told the Observer. "It's a passing league. I'm able to create mismatches in the slot and out of the backfield to help my team move the ball and put points on the board."


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(nfl.com)
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Colts View Frank Gore As Their "Work-Horse Back"

FrankGore2
ARIZONA - While Indianapolis Colts' head coach Chuck Pagano was in Arizona at the annual owner's meeting, he spoke to the media about some of the team's new free agent acquisitions. One of the consistent subjects of the questions was Frank Gore. Rightfully so, the team has struggled for many years running the football. Frank Gore seems to be the best running back that the team has had in what feels like a decade. Not only that, he fits exactly what Offensive Coordinator Pep Hamilton wants to run on offense.

Here is what Chuck Pagano said about Frank Gore taking the primary back role:

"Some guys are like that. Carry 1-20, they’re OK. And 20-30, they keep getting better as you wear defenses down. And I think Frank is that type of runner. He’s a tough, hard-nosed, every-down back. He can play all three downs. He’s a great protector in pass pro. He catches the ball out of the backfield. We all know what he can do as a runner on early downs. He loves football."

I agree with everything that Chuck Pagano said. He is a very physical runner out of the backfield, is a good receiving back, great pass blocker, and gives it his all every down. His versatile skill set will allow for the Colts to use him in basically any situation that he is not fatigued. With these comments, it seems that the Colts won't be making running back a priority in the NFL Draft this year. That's expected, they have their answer at running back for the next two seasons. Besides, there are larger needs than the running back position, especially on the defensive side of the ball.


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(indysportsnews.com)
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Dolphins were runner-up for Jimmy Graham

JimmyGrahamSaints
The Jimmy Graham trade from the Saints to the Seahawks shook the NFL world on opening day of the new league year. Apparently, the Seahawks weren’t the only team the Saints talked to about Graham.

According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the Dolphins “finished second” to Seattle as the runner-up in the Graham derby and were “aggressive” in trying to upgrade the tight end spot.

Being that the Saints were looking for line help, there’s a chance talks with the Dolphins revolved around contract-year center Mike Pouncey and Miami’s No. 14 overall pick in the upcoming draft. It would have been a steep price to pay, but both Graham and the Dolphins likely would have really enjoyed each other. Graham played football and basketball at the University of Miami, and new football czar Mike Tannenbaum was dead-set on overhauling Ryan Tannehill’s weaponry. Graham would have provided that needed intermediate and red-zone presence for Tannehill.

In the end, the Saints took the Seahawks’ deal of center Max Unger and the No. 31 overall pick in April’s draft. The Dolphins then replaced Charles Clay, whom Miami never really seemed too inclined to retain after slapping him with the transition tag, with former basketball-playing tight end Jordan Cameron on a two-year, $15 million contract.


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(profootballtalk.com)
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Charles Davis: UM DE Chickillo 'will surprise people'

NFLU2009
Miami DE Anthony Chickillo is "a tough kid who will surprise people," predicts NFL Media analyst Charles Davis.

The analyst added that Chickillo was an "absolute terror in the East-West Shrine Game." We can understand why a sect of evaluators believes Chickillo is a sleeper. He didn't post much in the way of stats in college, but was miscast as a 3-4 defensive end. The 6-foot-3 1/8, 261-pounder is a former five-star prospect who ran an impressive 4.77 40-yard dash with a 10-yard split of 1.59 seconds at the combine. "Someone is going to get a gem in the third or fourth round," Davis previously said.


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(rotoworld.com)
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Duke Johnson ready to face his NFL doubters

NFLU2009
Duke Johnson is tired of hearing concerns about his durability.

The all-time leading rusher in the history of the Miami Hurricanes, Johnson has repeatedly had to answer questions about whether he can hold up in the NFL despite missing just the final five games of his junior season because of injury.

“I think it’s a joke,” Johnson told the Observer on Monday in a phone interview. “I had a freak injury. I broke my ankle once, and that was the only time I missed a game. That was an accident that could have happened to anybody.

“I don’t see the durability thing. Somebody will always have something to say.”

At 5-foot-9 and 207 pounds, Johnson is an undersized running back by NFL standards. If he were an every-down back, there would be concerns on how many hits he could withstand.

He was able to play through injuries and migraines – which he’s suffered since he was a kid – to rush for 1,652 yards in 2014.

“I didn’t have an injury that caused me to miss a game last year,” Johnson said. “I think that goes to show that it’s not a durability thing. It was a freak accident. If I am hurt and can play, I will play.”

Johnson met with 22 teams at last month’s scouting combine, including a quick meeting with the Panthers, who have Jonathan Stewart and Fozzy Whittaker under contract for next season. He and his representation won’t begin visiting teams until after Miami’s April 1 pro day.

Johnson is his school’s leading rusher with 3,519 career yards, more than Clinton Portis, Edgerrin James or Frank Gore. He did it in three seasons before deciding to forgo his final year and enter the draft.

Johnson said he’s noticed the devaluation of running backs in recent drafts, and after a solid junior year he felt the time was right.

Former Georgia running back Todd Gurley and Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon are firmly the top two rushers in this year’s draft. Johnson is competing with Boise State’s Jay Ajayi, Alabama’s T.J. Yeldon and Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah for the No. 3 spot.

The third running back taken will likely go in the second round. The first running back taken in the 2014 draft was selected late in the second round.

Though he disappointed himself by running a 4.54-second 40-yard dash at last month’s combine, Johnson still has good football speed that allows him to outrace defenders. His ability to run between the tackles isn’t as good as his zone running skills, but he likely wouldn’t be asked to do that in the NFL.

He needs to improve his pass protection, and has tried to work on his base and hand placement when blitzers come. He has ability as a receiver out of the backfield – he had 69 catches for 719 yards in his career.

“I think my game translates because I’m versatile,” Johnson said. “It’s a passing league. I’m able to create mismatches in the slot and out of the backfield to help my team move the ball and put points on the board.”


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(charlotteobserver.com)
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Clive Walford comps to Allen as multi-purpose TE

NFLU2009
NFL Media draft analyst Lance Zierlein believes Miami TE Clive Walford is a "combo tight end who can help a team in the running game and through the air."

Zierlein compares Walford to Dwayne Allen. "He lacks the elite athletic traits to be a game-changer at the position, but he is becoming a premium blocker," Zierlein wrote. "With teams looking for versatile tight ends to create matchups in two-TE sets, Walford's stock should be high." The analyst ranks Walford as the No. 2 tight end in the class. The 6-foot-4, 258-pound Walford logged 44 receptions for 676 yards and seven touchdowns last season.


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(rotoworld.com)
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Duke Johnson comps to Vereen, who he could replace

NFLU2009
Miami RB Duke Johnson "compares favorably to [Shane] Vereen from a size, style and versatility standpoint," points out Scouts Inc.'s Kevin Weidl.

It's an interesting observation, because New England lost Vereen to the Giants and might now seek out his replacement in the draft. Johnson, a newer make of a similar sports car, should hold great interest because of that. "He has a strong combination of vision, quickness and burst to create yards as a runner and after the catch, and he is dangerous in space," Weidl wrote. "In addition, Johnson brings the versatility to create mismatches in the passing game with experience both out of the backfield and flexed out in the slot." The 5-foot-9, 194-pound Johnson had 1,652 rushing yards on a 6.8 YPC average and 10 touchdowns in 2014, adding 38 receptions for 421 yards and three scores.


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(rotoworld.com)
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Ravens would love to induct Ed Reed into Ring of Honor in 2015

EdReed3
Heading into their 20th season in Baltimore, the Ravens would like nothing more than to honor the player who wore their No. 20 for 11 years. But first, they’d like to make sure that player is retired.

Team president Dick Cass acknowledged that the Ravens would like to induct Ed Reed into the team’s Ring of Honor at M&T Bank Stadium during the 2015 season. But team officials wouldn’t want to do that until they know Reed isn’t planning a return to the NFL.

Now 36 years old, Reed hasn’t played since he ended the 2013 season with the New York Jets after he was released by the Houston Texans. However, the mercurial safety has indicated several times on his Twitter page that he’s still working out and preparing to play.

“Ed Reed will be in our Ring of Honor, obviously. He’s going to be in the Hall of Fame,” Cass said. “The question is, he hasn’t officially retired yet. I don’t know if he’s going to officially retire this year or not. I would love to get him in to our Ring of Honor this year. It’s our 20th season.

"He belongs there, obviously. Our fans would love to see him. We would love to do it this year, but in some sense, it’s in his court. He knows that we want him in our Ring of Honor.”

Reed, who the Ravens took with the 24th overall pick in the 2002 NFL draft, was selected to nine Pro Bowls. He was named the Associated Press Defensive Player of the Year in 2004, and was recognized as a first-team All Pro five times. 

He set a franchise record with 61 career regular-season interceptions.


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(baltimoresun.com)
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Ereck Flowers' evaluation compares to T Robinson

NFLU2009
Miami T Ereck Flowers has "some of the same strengths and flaws 2014 first-round pick Greg Robinson had coming in," writes NFL Media draft analyst Lance Zierlein.

The players have differing bodies, but the situations compare. "Flowers has the size, feet and talent to be a very good left tackle but he will be a work in progress unless he can eliminate some of the balance issues that could plague him," Zierlein wrote. Flowers compares to Anthony Davis on the field, Zierlein believes. The 6-foot-6, 329-pound Flowers, who decided not to hire an agent and will represent himself, is highly athletic (5.29 forty, 10-yard split of 1.78). He's a probable Round 1 pick.


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(rotoworld.com)
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Panthers will target Phillip Dorsett early in draft

NFLU2009
ESPN Panthers reporter David Newton expects Carolina to target a receiver in the second or third round of the draft.

Newton concedes wide receiver is among four positions the Panthers could address in the first round, but sees a second-day selection as more likely. Carolina needs to add a speed receiver complement to the big-bodied Kelvin Benjamin. Miami WR Phillip Dorsett could fit the bill in the second round. Dorsett ran forty-yard dash times of 4.33 and 4.35 at the Combine, and has drawn comparisons to Colts WR T.Y. Hilton.


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(rotoworld.com)
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Denzel Perryman was a star from Day 1 at Miami

NFLU2009
Miami ILB Denzel Perryman "was a playmaker from the first day he suited up until he ended his career last season as on coaches' first-team All-ACC," observed NFLDraftScout.com's Frank Cooney.

The analyst mentions that Perryman was highly productive both as a starter on the inside and outside while in school. Cooney then poked holes in comparisons made to Wisconsin's Chris Borland. "Perryman is not really a frenetic, hyperactive tackling machine like Borland," Cooney wrote. "Perryman is more of a deliberate, focused defensive quarterback who reads plays well and uses a combination of quickness and good angles to get in on plays and is an efficient open-field tackler." At the combine, Perryman was asked what scouts liked about him. He responded: "They like how I go downhill, they like how I take on blocks. Some scouts like to see my man-to-man coverage, my technique on that i just need to brush that up. As far as my pass coverage, some of them were impressed at the Senior Bowl."


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(rotoworld.com)
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Losing Vince Wilfork 'one of hardest things'

VinceWilforkPatriots2
PHOENIX -- At the end of warm-ups before each New England Patriots game, defensive lineman Vince Wilfork would pass by owner Robert Kraft and kiss him on the cheek, which was a sign of the connection between them.

With Wilfork signing a two-year, $9 million contract with the Texans last week, Kraft reflected on that turn of events.

“That was one of the toughest things. It was harder than anything else [this offseason]," he said. "He’s someone we watched come in here; I developed a very strong personal tie to him. It’s the hardest part of this game, speaking as a fan and also someone who got to know he and Bianca and his kids. He wrote something beautiful; he’ll always be a Patriot and he’s keeping his home here.

"Once again, we have certain disciplines and unfortunately -- you know, the other thing sometimes the player is more valuable to one team than other team given how they’re constructed. Losing Vince is probably one of the hardest things that happened. Some emotional ties. He’s a pretty special guy.”

Wilfork was one of several notable departures, a group including cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner, as well as running back Shane Vereen.
Kraft was asked his level of concern on the turnover of personnel.

"Well, there are good guys in the locker room as well. I have full faith in my head coach, and we’ve actually brought in some really good players," he said. "When you think about it, I believe 18 of our starters from last year are here. We were the fourth-highest scoring team, and we basically have that whole [offense] coming back, except for Shane [Vereen]. And we have the draft and a lot of things are going to happen now. I think the core of our group is still pretty good. We have a lot of young, up-and-coming players.

"We want to be good year in and year out. Our objective is to try and make the playoffs. If you make the playoffs, then you have a chance of anything else happening. We’ve gone to four [AFC] championship games in a row. In the last 19 years, we’ve gone to 10 championship games, we’ve been in seven Super Bowls. We’re going to try to keep it going."


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(espn.com)
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Chuck Pagano was surprised Andre Johnson was available

AndreJohnson2
PHOENIX -- The carousel of available football players doesn't often include those of Hall of Fame caliber. So Colts coach Chuck Pagano didn't anticipate he'd have the opportunity to reunite with Andre Johnson in the NFL.

"Yeah, we were surprised, but anything can happen in the National Football League," said Pagano, who recruited Johnson to the University of Miami more than a decade and a half ago. "I just feel fortunate that we were able to get him."

I caught up with Pagano at the Arizona Biltmore, the site of this year's owners meetings, in which owners, head coaches and general managers gather to discuss league issues.

The departure of a franchise icon wasn't specific to the Texans. The Colts also released Reggie Wayne this offseason, Johnson's friend and college teammate. Wayne had spent the entirety of his 14-year career with the Colts since being drafted in 2001.

Releasing Wayne left a hole in the Colts locker room, especially with their young talented receivers like fourth-year player TY Hilton. It's a role Pagano hopes Johnson can fill.

"I don't know if you can ever replace 87, matter of fact I know you can't replace guys like that, so you try to find somebody that can become like that guy," Pagano said. "That mentor, that leader in that room, that brings that veteran presence, veteran leadership into that room to help the young guys. TY (Hilton) naturally going into his fourth year is going to have to assume some of that stuff. He's got to grow into that role. Obviously having a guy like Andre that's played 12 years is going to be a huge help as far as that's concerned."

When Johnson announced his decision to become an Indianapolis Colt, become part of the Texans' biggest rival, he did so with a photograph of him with Pagano.
"It's extremely exciting," Pagano said. "I mean, No. 1, we're getting a really good football player obviously. Having the relationship that I have with him, going all the way back to high school, recruiting him out of Miami High, knowing his family, knowing the type of man he is, the type of character he has, all that stuff comes into play. I think it's cool. It's really cool for us to be back together again. Reunited."


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(espn.com)
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Colts owner Jim Irsay on not re-signing Reggie Wayne: 'It was really hard'

ReggieWayne
PHOENIX -- There was a lot of sadness, disappointment and even anger from some Indianapolis Colts fans on the morning of March 6 when the team announced it would not be re-signing veteran receiver Reggie Wayne.

There was a lot of emotion from owner Jim Irsay when he flew down to Florida to meet with Wayne, who spent his entire 14-year career with the franchise, to break the news to him face-to-face, man-to-man that was it time to part ways with him.

"He understood where the franchise was coming from in the end and we wish him well with whatever he decides on," Irsay said Monday. "It was really hard. I knew that when you kind of let that era from Peyton's era and Edgerrin (James) and Marvin (Harrison) and Reggie and everyone. It's hard to let that era go because it was so special. But at the same time, in terms of the direction we thought the team had to go in, it was tough."

Irsay or general manager Ryan Grigson could have easily called Wayne or asked him to fly up to Indianapolis to meet with them, but they respect him too much to do that.

Wayne gave his all to the Colts during his time with the franchise. He totaled 1,070 receptions, 14,345 yards, 82 touchdowns and helped Indianapolis win a Super Bowl in his career.

But it was also obvious that Wayne wasn't the same player last season. He had his worst season since 2002 last season, totaling 64 receptions for 779 yards and two touchdowns while dealing with an elbow and torn triceps in the second half of the season.

Wayne would have been the Colts' third receiver at best if the team re-signed him.

"I just think that we always look at making sure we can put the best possible team on the field," Irsay said. "It's professional football. It's very competitive and it has to do with winning and losing. So you can't let affection or emotion cloud your decisions when you're building your roster. And that's what I mean. It always comes down to what's the best direction for the franchise to go. And that's the way decisions get made."

Irsay said Wayne is feeling good believes he wants to try to play at least another season.

"If he does, we support that," the owner said.


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(espn.com)
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Leonard Hankerson on Kyle Shanahan's offense, expectations, and more

LeonardHankersonSkins
Leonard Hankerson, a third-round draft pick in 2011, spent his first few seasons with Washington. After the Falcons parted ways with veteran Harry Douglas, they brought in Hankerson on a one-year deal. Hankerson spoke to the Atlanta media this week, sharing his thoughts on transitioning to a new team, joining players like Matt Ryan, Roddy White and Julio Jones, and more.

Hankerson's development and productivity in his first three seasons were hindered by injury. According to Hankerson, he's physically ready to go at this point. "Everything is good, man. I'm 100%," Hankerson said. "I've been working really hard, you know, grinding. I mean, I've been 100% for -- I don't know, a couple months now. So everything's good."

The Falcons' high-powered offensive personnel were part of the appeal as Hankerson weighed his options as a free agent. "I mean, it was a great opportunity to come to an offense that I'm very...familiar with," Hankerson said. "A great quarterback in Matt Ryan, and a couple of other receivers on the squad that I'll come and join and have fun and do whatever it takes to win games and to compete."

Hankerson has some familiarity with offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, and he said that he expects Shanahan to really make an impact this season with the talent he has to work with on offense. "Kyle, he's a very good coach," Hankerson said. "He knows a whole lot of stuff, and with the players that we have on the squad, that we can go out there and get the job done and have a top five offense."

For Hankerson, his expectations for the role he will play in Atlanta's offense don't revolve around his personal stats. "You know, it's just about going in there and competing with the guys, getting the job done," Hankerson said. "Not me having a personal impact on the game, you know? Just about everybody coming together as a team and doing what we've got to do to win games."

And Hankerson knows he's surrounded by quality receiving talent on the Falcons roster. "I look forward to going in and playing with those guys...Roddy, Julio, Devin -- all of these guys that's on the squad," Hankerson said. "Coach Terry [Robiskie], he's a great coach here. I'm excited about the opportunity."

After missing significant time with various injuries in his first three seasons, Hankerson is looking forward to the opportunity for a fresh start in Atlanta. "I'm excited. I think we have a good thing going here," Hankerson said. "The players, the coaches, everybody's excited, and like I said earlier, it's just about everybody coming together, getting the job done, and going out here winning games, and it's not all about me. It's about the team. And that's what we're going to try to do starting on the sixth, is everybody working out and having fun and setting everybody's mindset to one thing, and that's winning games."

I asked Hankerson for his perspective on playing with quarterback Matt Ryan, and Hankerson cited Ryan's experience and work ethic as reasons he's glad to have him for a teammate. "Matt Ryan, he's a great quarterback. I'm excited about the opportunity to go and play with him," Hankerson said. "He's been in the league a long time as well. I mean, I'm pretty sure I could learn a whole lot from him and his other receivers, and I'm going there to do what I've got to do, work hard each and every day, and I'm pretty sure Matt Ryan is doing the same thing, and that's all I can do, but I'm definitely excited to play with him."


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(thefalcoholic.com)
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Bill O’Brien giddy to have Vince Wilfork on Texans

VinceWilforkCanes
PHOENIX — Talking with Houston coach Bill O’Brien yesterday, you almost got the feeling he had won the lottery.

The topic was Vince Wilfork, a player he considers a significant free agent pickup for the Texans. In fact, one Houston paper referred to Wilfork as the “most important free agent in franchise history.”

Usually, when coaches acquire players, there’s a bit of uncertainty. They might know the player from what they’ve seen on tape, what they’ve had to face on the field or what they’ve heard. But they really don’t know what they’re going to get. Not completely.

In this case, there’s no mystery. Having been a coach with the Patriots, O’Brien knows what Wilfork brings to the football field, in the locker room and in meeting rooms. He also knows what Wilfork is going to bring to the community, which is something else New England is going to miss about No. 75.

That’s why O’Brien’s face lit up at the mention of Wilfork’s name. He knows first-hand the Texans have gotten someone pretty special and are going to reap the benefits, even if Big Vince is on the back nine of his career.

“I’m very aware of what he meant to the Patriots and what he meant to the community in Massachusetts and Boston,” O’Brien said from the Biltmore Hotel, site of the league meetings. “We’re thrilled to have him. With his experience, his playing ability, his leadership and his knowledge of the defense, he just brings a lot to the table for us that’s going to help our team and help our younger players.”

Specifically, Wilfork is the perfect mentor for Louis Nix, the 6-foot-2, 342-pound defensive tackle out of Notre Dame who was the Texans’ third-round draft pick in 2014. Nix, whose stock dipped considerably after undergoing knee surgery just before the draft, spent last season on injured reserve.

But beyond providing much-needed guidance for the younger players, O’Brien also believes Wilfork, with plenty of experience in the two-gap, 3-4 scheme the Texans employ with defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel, can also share his wisdom with J.J. Watt. The two already have spoken several times about the prospects of being teammates and linemates.

“They’re both very excited about having the opportunity to line up next to each other,” O’Brien said. “Vince, I know, has a ton of respect for J.J., and it’s the same from J.J. to Vince.

“I think it’ll be a great experience for J.J. to have a guy who’s been in the system for a long, long time, similar to what we’re doing in Houston, so he’ll be able to bounce questions off him.”

O’Brien said he was pleasantly surprised to see Wilfork available in free agency. Even at age 33, O’Brien believes Big Vince has enough left to help his defense, which was 16th-best in the league last season.

The coach knew he would have a bit of an advantage in the Wilfork pursuit, given the lineman’s familiarity with several members of O’Brien’s coaching staff (Crennel, Mike Vrabel, George Godsey).

“When he comes into our building, he sees a lot of the guys who were there during his time in New England. He knows there’s a similar philosophy in Houston,” O’Brien said. “I’m not going to speak for him, but he’s told me he’s very excited about the opportunity.”

O’Brien also indicated knowing Wilfork outside the realm of football, knowing about all of his charitable work, was helpful during recruitment. Houston not only got better on the field but off the field by signing Wilfork to a two-year, $9 million deal.

“Vince did so much for the Boston community. I know he and his wife are really looking forward to doing the same thing in Houston, helping kids and helping people that are underprivileged,” O’Brien said.

“Everything he does, it’s so much more than just being a football player.”

Former Pats linebacker Andre Tippett echoed O’Brien’s remarks last week from Foxboro. He summed up what the area was losing, and what Houston was now gaining.

“You always tell a player when they come in to find somebody to emulate that does it the right way. Vince has been that guy from Day 1,” said Tippett, the Patriots executive director of community affairs.

“He first established himself as a player. After that, he took it a step further, establishing himself in the community as a giver. Not many guys are built that way. A lot of guys see it and want to do it and want to talk about it, but I think he and Bianca, they both put their money where their mouth was. And they weren’t looking for a lot of attention and fanfare. They really do it from the heart.”

O’Brien knows the Wilfork résumé on all fronts. He experienced it up close and personal. That’s why he was beaming yesterday.


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(boston.com)
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Peter O'Brien's swing, not catching, leads to minor league re-assignment

PeterObrienCanes
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Diamondbacks on Sunday assigned catcher Peter O'Brien to minor league camp in their latest roster cut. But it wasn't because of O'Brien's still-developing and sometimes shaky work behind the plate.

According to Arizona manager Chip Hale, it was O'Brien's biggest strength, his swing, that didn't serve him well enough to continue the fight for a roster spot.

"We're pretty happy with what we're seeing for the four (catchers) who are left, and we just felt it's time for him to go get more at-bats and get ready for the season," Hale said. "Big guys with longer limbs need to get their swings right. You don't want to start them off slow."

The decision to send O'Brien to the minors delays his free agent clock, as FOX Sports Arizona's Jack Magruder pointed out last week.

Tuffy Gosewisch and Gerald Laird appear to be favorites to make the Opening Day roster, but the D-backs will continue to take a look at Blake Lalli and Jordan Pacheco, who have value with their ability to play other positions. Pacheco could play in the infield or outfield. Also being calculated into the 25-man roster come the regular season is Oscar Hernandez, the Rule 5 pick currently out while he recovers from a hand injury. He must be part of the roster when he's off the disabled list, otherwise Arizona must offer him back to Tampa Bay or work out some other compensation.

Hale said O'Brien's catching issues -- including a few instances where he failed to return the ball to the pitcher -- aren't as concerning as his swing. O'Brien was coveted in last season's Martin Prado trade with the New York Yankees because of his bat, but he never got ahold of a pitch to show his pure power that led to 24 home runs in 76 games in Double-A last year.

O'Brien put up a .250/.250/.323 line in 28 at-bats this spring, tallying seven hits, all singles.

Hale said the team had yet to discuss O'Brien's future. The Diamondbacks appear willing to work with him as a catcher moving forward, but if his swing finds a rhythm, there's always a chance they'll attempt to find another spot for him.

"If he's a potential 30-, 40-home run guy with 100 RBI; we need him to play a lot," Hale said. "Is that at catcher or is that somewhere else?"

The D-backs won't need to answer that question until O'Brien gets his bat going.


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(foxsports.com)
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Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun's thumb getting healthier

RyanBraun
Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun is starting to get into the swing of things, literally. Braun has hit home runs in two consecutive games and displaying power to the opposite field, a sign his right thumb is getting healthier, reports MLB.com.

"It's showing that he's able to pull his hands inside and still attack the ball," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "I think it's real good to see that."


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(cbssports.com)
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Frank Gore: 'I wanted to be with a great QB'

FrankGore2
Frank Gore sent a shockwave through the Eagles complex last week when he left Philadelphia at the altar for the Indianapolis Colts.

The former 49ers running back acknowledged that he was minutes away from joining Chip Kelly's squad before making one last request of his agent.

"I told (him) to talk back with the Colts and see if they would match the deal or make it better," Gore told ESPN's Josina Anderson, per the team's official website. "And they did. That's where I wanted to be so that's why I made the decision."

On the latest podcast, we listed the Colts as one of the teams that strengthened their roster because of the additions on offense. Veteran wideout Andre Johnson finished last season with a flourish and still has plenty left in the tank. Gore gives the Colts a proven hammer on the ground and a runner who fits well into play-caller Pep Hamilton's scheme.

Gore would have been sensational in Kelly's run-happy attack, but, in the end, the Colts had something the Eagles couldn't offer:

"When I knew I wasn't going back to the 49ers, my first option was I wanted to be with a great quarterback," Gore said. "I feel that you have to have a great quarterback to have a chance. Luck is a young quarterback and he does everything. He can throw. He can run. He's physical. He's a leader."

The Colts threw plenty of coin at a pair of aging stars on offense, but we don't frown on that from a team that came within one game of Super Bowl XLIX. Gore hopes to help tip the scales in the AFC come September.

"I don't know how many years I've got left, two, three," Gore said. "But I want to have the opportunities to get back and chase that trophy I really want before I leave."

(nfl.com)
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Bucky Brooks: RB Duke Johnson scoring rave reviews

NFLU2009
NFL Media analyst Bucky Brooks notes that scouts have "raved about" Miami RB Duke Johnson's "footwork, quickness and creativity."

"The scouts also touted Miami RB Duke Johnson as a playmaker. They raved about his footwork, quickness and creativity. Impressed with IQ, too," Brooks tweeted. The 5-foot-9, 194-pound Johnson possesses a ton of explosiveness, which should translate well to the next level. However, the Miami prospect will have to continue to improve in pass-protection, in order to see valuable time on the field. NFL teams looking for a back with game-changing ability in the open field, will look to grab him on day 2 of the draft.


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(rotoworld.com)
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What Numbers Will Frank Gore And Andre Johnson Wear In 2015?

FrankGore2
Frank Gore will be wearing No. 23 in Indianapolis, the opposite number of another great Miami running back for the Colts (Edgerrin James). Johnson has gone with No. 81 as he begins a “new chapter” in his life. 





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Frank Gore says signing with Colts was his first choice all along




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Ray Lewis sues former business partner over development project that failed

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Former Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis has filed a lawsuit against his former attorney and business partner, alleging that he was duped out of more than $1.5 million after lending his name to a development project in Hunt Valley that never materialized.

In the lawsuit, filed against Marc Seldin Rosen in Baltimore Circuit Court, Lewis alleges that he believed he was only lending his name and likeness to the MVP Lanes entertainment complex, a Hunt Valley bowling alley project.

Lewis alleges that Rosen persuaded him to sign a line of credit that the attorney used to obtain $1.5 million for the project, announced in 2009. Lewis said he has been on the hook for the loan and has never been paid back.

The lawsuit, filed late last week, alleges legal malpractice, breach of contract and fraud, among other counts. Lewis' current attorney, Steven Freeman of Towson, declined to comment on the lawsuit, and Rosen did not return a call seeking comment.Jeffrey M. Kotz, an attorney who represented MVP Lanes LLC during the project, said in a statement that the allegations are false and that Lewis was "integrally involved from the outset" and "knowingly made his financial commitments."
"The MVP project was a business venture that failed, but that does not justify Mr. Lewis rewriting history in a lawsuit," Kotz said.

Lewis and Rosen worked together for years, and Rosen was a member of the board of directors for Lewis' nonprofit foundation.

The sports-themed development project was to include a bowling alley, an arcade and restaurants, with visions of it becoming a national chain. At the time, Lewis was said to have a majority stake, with Rosen and Rosen's wife as minority partners.

"Instead of putting on a helmet, you put on a tie and a suit," Lewis said in 2009 about the project. "That's where my next phase in life is going — the building and giving back to who we are in this world."

In the lawsuit, Lewis says he only lent his "name and likeness to the project for the purpose of attracting potential investors and promoting the project."

"Lewis then inquired whether his proposed involvement with the project would carry with it any potential negative legal and/or financial ramifications, and was assured by Rosen that it would not and that Lewis' own money would never be touched," the lawsuit states.

Lewis alleges that in early 2010, with the project in need of financing, Rosen persuaded him "unwittingly" to take out a line of credit that Rosen used to obtain $1.5 million, according to the suit. Lewis says he again was assured that he wouldn't have to lend any money to the project or be responsible for any losses.

Another $200,000 was obtained in January 2011 and transferred to an account related to the project, Lewis says in the suit. Rosen made interest payments on the loan until 2013, at which point he stopped and Lewis was required to make them to avoid default.

MVP is now out of business, and the project has been abandoned.

The project's troubles were apparent by 2012, with subcontractors filing suit against MVP and MVP suing a New England financier for failing to deliver on funds.

The financier was ordered in 2011 to give MVP $90,000, the amount the company had deposited into a trust in hopes of securing a $65 million line of credit that never materialized.

Lewis retired in 2013 and has been working as a contributor to ESPN. Before the MVP project, he opened a barbecue restaurant in Canton that closed four years later.


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(baltimoresun.com)
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Check Out Shane Larkin's Killer Behind-the-Back Pass




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Ryan Braun Struggling Mightily

RyanBraun
Ryan Braun has stumbled out of the gate so far this spring. He has failed to record a hit through 12 plate appearances and has struck out five times. He has also walked three times.

Fantasy Impact: While not recording a hit thus far this spring isn't necessarily a big deal for Braun, he is coming off a career-low .266 batting average in 2014. Braun's numbers were down all across the board last year and he may be showing signs of regression. He should still be drafted as an elite outfielder but don't be caught off guard by a continued slump.

(fantasysports.com)
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Brewers reliever Chris Perez puts up a battle

ChrisPerezIndians2
Chris Perez is getting a bit closer to learning his fate.

The veteran reliever, invited to the Milwaukee Brewers' spring camp as a nonroster player, must be told by March 31 if he is being placed on the 40-man roster, assigned to Class AAA Colorado Springs or getting released.

With more relievers in camp than available spots, it doesn't seem to be a good year to make the staff as a nonroster player. But Perez, 29, has plugged away, pitching better with each of his five exhibition outings.

"This year has been a little different because I don't have a spot," Perez said Wednesday. "I'm still taking the same approach. Regardless, I have to get ready for the season. It doesn't matter where it's at. Each time out, I'm feeling a little better, a little sharper, a little crisper."

With a scoreless inning Monday in a 6-4 victory over San Diego, Perez lowered his spring earned run average to 3.38 (two earned runs in 51/3 innings). He has allowed four hits and two walks with three strikeouts.

The bullpen picture remains a bit murky until either Jim Henderson or Tyler Thornburg, or both, are deemed ready or not after returning from injuries. Relievers who appear to have spots locked up are Francisco Rodriguez, Jonathan Broxton, Will Smith, Jeremy Jeffress, Neal Cotts and Brandon Kintzler.

If those six indeed have spots, there would be just one opening. Beyond Henderson and Perez, Rob Wooten has big-league experience that puts him in the picture. If the Brewers keep Perez, he gets a $1.5 million base salary. If they assign him to Colorado Springs, he qualifies for a $100,000 retention bonus as a player with at least five years in the majors.

"It's up to them," Perez said. "They could offer me to other teams before sending me to Triple-A but that would just be a courtesy. They don't have to.

"I imagine they'll keep the normal seven (relievers). I can't worry about that. Other guys have options. So, they have moving parts....I have a track record so it's not like it's all about this spring.

"I've made some adjustments since last year with my mechanics, and I'm working on improving that. I'm healthy and ready to go."

Manager Ron Roenicke isn't sure how many openings there are until everything shakes out with Henderson and Thornburg.

"I think his stuff is good," Roenicke said of Perez. "It's a live fastball; it's got sink on it. The slider has been really inconsistent but we've seen some good ones. It's a matter of him just being more consistent with what he's doing.

"If he shows he can do that, he's going to get out big-league hitters. His stuff really plays. (Being a nonroster player) doesn't help but we're hoping we take our best guys."


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(jsonline.com)
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D-backs sure O'Brien can fix arm woes

PeterObrienCanes
When the D-backs acquired Peter O'Brien from the Yankees in a trade deadline deal last summer, they knew the catcher could hit. His defense presented some different quandaries, and another has reared up in recent days.

The organization and observers aren't ready to dub it a case of the dreaded "yips," but O'Brien has shown some struggles in getting the ball accurately back to the pitcher's mound and elsewhere around the diamond. According to a report Monday from azcentral.com, Arizona's No. 8 prospect didn't get the ball back to his pitcher accurately at least four times in a Minor League game last Thursday. The problem flared up again Sunday with over six more errant throws, including some to third base after bases-empty strikeouts.

The catcher was unfazed by the issue when asked this week, saying, "I played a lot of different positions last year and had a lot of different arm angles. Now being back behind the plate full time, it's making sure I keep my arm slot consistent back there and keep throwing it and keep the tempo of the game up. It happens. It's part of the game. I'm looking to keep working on it and keep getting better and keep firing the ball."

On Wednesday at the D-backs offices at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, Arizona director of player development Mike Bell echoed that sentiment.

"He'll take care of it," Bell said. "It is a challenging game when you're bouncing around from position to position. There are different arm angles. He'll be fine with it and put the work into it that he needs to. He's done a good job."

O'Brien played first base, catcher and right field and served as a designated hitter in 106 combined games between the New York and Arizona systems last year. The 24-year-old was chasing the Minor League home run lead when he fouled a ball off his shin in just his fourth game as a member of the D-backs organization in August. He missed the rest of the year but appeared in 25 Arizona Fall League games, batting .256/.393/.512 for Salt River.

O'Brien started in Thursday night's Major League game for Arizona and went 0-for-3 with a walk.


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(milb.com)
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Ryan Braun to play consecutive games this weekend

RyanBraun
Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun is expected to play in consecutive games this weekend for the first time since having surgery on his right thumb, reports MLB.com.
"I would prefer him going out there getting hits, but the swings are better lately," manager Ron Roenicke said. "Early, I didn't like the swings too much. The [batting practice] has been real good. I think that's going to carry over and we'll start seeing it in some games."

Roenicke is continuing to be patient with Braun as he brings him along this spring.

"Everything is good," Roenicke said. "You can tell the way I've been playing him. We're going pretty slow with him. He's always been a guy who hasn't needed a lot of at-bats in Spring Training, and I think with where we are with everything, there's no reason to force him into playing a ton.


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(cbssports.com)
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Ryan Jackson shining for Royals

RyanJacksonCardinals
It has been a good spring training for three players with local ties in the major league camp of the defending American League champion Kansas City Royals.

Former Owasso lefty Brian Flynn, acquired in the offseason from Miami, has been a starter in his pro career, but is showing his future may be in the bullpen.

Flynn has a 2.25 ERA in five spring appearances, including four in relief. He has allowed six hits in eight innings, walked one and struck out six.

Adams, an outfielder from Red Oak, spent the last month of the 2014 regular season with the Royals. On Wednesday, he was sent down to Triple-A Omaha, after batting .286 with a homer in 10 games this spring.

Jackson, an infielder with family ties to Tulsa, was once a hot prospect for the St. Louis Cardinals and appeared to have been viewed by them ahead of Owasso's Pete Kozma for a time back in 2011-12. Since then, Jackson has been bothered by injuries and bounced around from the Cards to the Astros to the Padres to the Dodgers and now to the Royals, where he may have finally found a home.

This spring, he is 8-for-18 (.444) with three RBIs in 10 games....


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(tulsaworld.com)
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Jon Jay on track to make spring debut Friday

JonJayCards
Cardinals outfielder Jon Jay (wrist) is on track to make his spring debut Friday against the Mets, per MLB.com.

Jay played in a simulated game Wednesday against minor leaguers. He took 13 at-bats, totaling two singles, one double, one stolen base and one run.

"Obviously, I've been through a lot this offseason with surgery and rehab," Jay said after Wednesday's simulated game. "It's good to finally get out there and take swings against live pitching. I just kind of did a little bit of everything, getting me ready for a game. I'm feeling good out there, moving along and I'm ready to get out there."


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(cbssports.com)
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