Gators Lead Recruitment of Michael Irvin's Nephew?

When you think of the football surname Irvin and the city of Miami usually the first thought that comes to mind is Michael "The Playmaker" Irvin scoring touchdowns in the famed Orange Bowl for The U. However, those memories might not be enough to keep Michael's nephew, Tim Irvin from Palmetto (Fla.) Westminster Christian School (WCS), in South Florida for college.  Irvin told me he is giving serious thought to leaving Miami to play at the next level. In fact, he likes what the Gators are selling him after his July visit for the annual Florida Friday Night Lights Camp.

I spoke to Coach (Will) Muschamp and T-Rob (Travaris Robinson) when I was up there. They are funny guys, comedians. T-Rob is recruiting me as a strong safety. They said I can be the next Matt Elam. That's a good thing. Elam is a great player.

Irvin is planning to make his college announcement at the US Army All-American Bowl next January. His top five schools are Alabama, Clemson, Florida, Florida State, and Miami. Even with the Florida overtures the hometown Hurricanes are still a major player in his recruitment.

Everything is a factor with Miami. My teammate Jordan Cronkrite is committed there. When I go there it feels like home. I'm from Miami, I like the vibe of Miami. I talk to all the coaches and they tell me to stay home.

The two-way star said his parents and his other famous uncle, Sedrick Irvin, will help him make his decision. Sedrick was a standout at Michigan State and spent three seasons in the NFL. He is the head coach at WCS and began his coaching career at the University of Alabama under head coach, Nick Saban.

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Bears Reportedly Choose Pat O'Donnell Over Way as Punter

The Chicago Bears are preparing to make their first round of roster cuts this week, and a couple of the decisions that are being made in the special teams phase of the game are already leaking out.

According to Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune, Pat O’Donnell, whom the Bears took in the sixth round of May’s NFL Draft, has won the competition to be the team’s punter. Tress Way, who struggled during the team’s first two preseason games, was waived by the Bears according to Biggs.

It isn’t much of a surprise to see O’Donnell win the battle to become the team’s punter, considering that GM Phil Emery has been very adamant about keeping draft picks on the roster. Last year’s draft class had every single player retained on the opening day roster, and it seems very likely that the Bears will keep just about all of their picks this time around, with offensive tackle Charles Leno Jr. being the only one still on the fence.

At any rate, the Bears still have plenty of questions to answer regardless of which players win the position battles on special teams. Replacing Devin Hester is still a battle that needs to be won, with Micheal Spurlock holding an edge in the competition over the injured Chris Williams. Eric Weems was released over the weekend to make room for wide receiver Santonio Holmes on the roster, so it would appear that the team is confident either Spurlock or Williams will win the job.

Special teams coordinator Joe Decamillis has a lot of work to do over the final few weeks of preparation before the regular season, but with decisions already being made at punter and long snapper, he should be able to focus on getting his team ready tactically instead.

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Travis Benjamin injures rib in Cleveland Browns' preseason loss

Cleveland Browns receiver Travis Benjamin sustained a rib injury in the third quarter of his 2014 preseason debut against the Washington Redskins. Benjamin was also treated for a possible concussion, but passed the test.

He did not return to the Browns' 24-23 loss in Washington.

From The Cleveland Plain Dealer:

The Browns receiver-returner sustained a rib injury later in the third quarter after getting hammered by Washington Redskins' defensive back Bacarri Rambo on a play that resulted in a Johnny Manziel sack. Benjamin, who stayed down for several moments, was checked for a concussion, but doctors determined he suffered no head trauma.

Benjamin is listed third at wide receiver on the Browns depth chart, behind Josh Gordon and Andrew Hawkins, but Gordon could be suspended up to a full year for a failed drug test. Along with his receiver duties, Benjamin will field punts and kickoffs this season. 

There has been no timeline for how long Benjamin will be sidelined.

The receiver missed the final eight games last year after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament.

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Allen Hurns Making Strides

There are currently 90 players on each NFL roster and each team has to get down to 75 by next Tuesday and then to the final 53 a week from Saturday.

The undrafted rookie free agents are all trying to beat the odds because only a handful of them usually make the opening day roster.

Last year, the Jaguars had just three make it – defensive tackle Abry Jones, linebacker LaRoy Reynolds and long snapper Carson Tinker – even though they were rebuilding the roster.

This year, there appears to be only one undrafted rookie – wide receiver Allen Hurns – who doesn’t have to sweat out the final cuts although at least three others, tight end D. J. Tialavea, cornerback Rashaad Reynolds, and tackle Josh Wells, who’s currently injured, appear to have a shot at making it.

Hurns had one major thing going for him when he signed with the Jaguars after the draft. He was familiar with offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch’s offense because Fisch spent two years at the University of Miami as the offensive coordinator when Hurns was there.

The Miami native then got a rare opportunity with the Jaguars because so many of the receivers went down with injuries that he was thrust into the starting lineup for the first two preseason games.

Coach Gus Bradley said, “It’s unfortunate the injuries we had at wide receiver, but because of that, it creates opportunity. Allen Hurns got reps with the ones and you saw him go against our corners and he caught our eye and now he’s really catching our eye doing a nice job.’’

Hurns has made big plays in each of the first two preseason games, catching a 24-yarder against Tampa Bay and a 45-yarder on the final play of the first half in Chicago.

For the two games, he has leads the team in catches (six), receiving yardage (117), average per catch (19. 5 yards) and longest catch (45).

Bradley said, “Sometimes with these rookies, you’re looking for the maturity level. You’re looking for how they grasp the offense. How well do they come into a whole new environment, how well do they compete? And it seemed like he was ahead of the curve and he was intriguing.’’

He then impressed the coaches with his play on the field.

Bradley said his reaction “Wow, this kid’s got some talent.’’

Bradley added, “By the end of the OTAs [organized team activities], he was almost like a diamond in the rough. He’s done some pretty good things and he’s really taking advantage of his opportunities. I think a big thing is that he can play multiple [receiver] positions.’’

Wide receiver coach Jerry Sullivan said, “He’s got great football IQ. He’s very coachable and faster than you think. He has strong hands, a tough kid, blocker and he’s getting better as a route runner.’’

When Sullivan was asked about his potential, he said, “Potential isn’t any good unless you’re doing it and he’s doing it.’’

Of his thoughts when he first saw him, Sullivan said, “I never get into a lot of prejudgment. I just kind of watch them and see what they do. How they respond. You can get into over judging guys and who’s supposed to do this and that. I just watch and see what they can do. He has a real inner urgency into wanting to excel. He’s very calm and listens to what you have to say and then tries to implement it. That coachability is so important.’’

Hurns has also impressed his fellow wide receivers.

Cecil Shorts said, “He’s very smart, a hard worker, very humble. He understands what he needs to get done and does it. He has a hunger to get better. He has improved tremendously from when he first got there.’’

Kerry Taylor said it helped that Hurns spent two years in the offense in Miami so he could concentrate on the challenge of learning techniques when he arrived in Jacksonville.

“He has all the physical tools. He’s real coachable. He does everything the coaches ask of him. When you have all those tools and work hard, you can do everything,’’ Taylor said.

And Hurns has good rapport with QB Chad Henne.

“I really like him,’’ Henne said. “He’s been in this offense for three years [counting the two in Miami]. He’s coming into his own. He runs routes, is quarterback friendly. He understands where to be in the right situations. He’s made some really big plays this preseason, so we keep pushing him along and getting him better each and every day. If he’s there for the taking, we give him the ball. He’s very good getting off press coverage and getting open for the quarterback.’’

At Miami last year, he was named the team’s MVP as he played in 13 games, started 11 an caught 63 passes for 1162 yards.

But he was had some injury issues in college, including tearing the labrum in both shoulders, and he’s not a speed burner. He was invited to the combine and labeled a late round pick, but wound up getting bypassed in the draft.

He said the snub was “very devastating’’ but he said it “gave me motivation and kept me humble.’’

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One-On-One With Lamar Miller

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Miami Dolphins running back Lamar Miller is entering his third season in the NFL after a successful college career at the University of Miami.

Miller has shown that he has the skill and ability to thrive as a running back is poised for a big year in the Dolphins new offense run by Bill Lazor.  He has continued to be involved in the South Florida community throughout his young career and recently volunteered his time to help out at Zoo Miami.

Despite having a childhood fear of animals, Miller enjoyed his time at the zoo meeting lots of new friends and even conquering his fear and feeding some of the exotic creatures that call Zoo Miami home.

During his visit, Miller was joined by CBS Miami’s Rhiannon Ally and discussed everything from his time working at the zoo to the upcoming Dolphins season and the expectations that he is could be on the verge of a breakout year.  Miller grew up in South Florida and is very grateful that he has the opportunityicon1 to play in his hometown.

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Sam Shields cracks top 100 defensive player list

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Green Bay Packers cornerback Sam Shields broke in to the top 100 on ESPN's #NFLRank project, but just barely.

It remains to be seen how many cornerbacks will check in higher than Shields as the rest of the list is unveiled over the next two weeks. The fifth-year cornerback was No. 95 on the list of top defensive players in the league as polled by 85 ESPN NFL contributors, including all 32 NFL Nation reporters.

But the four-year, $39 million contract he signed as a free agent in March suggests the Packers expect him to be even better than that.

Based on average per year, Shields' $9.75 million pay ranks tied for sixth among all NFL cornerbacks behind Darrelle Revis ($16 million), Richard Sherman ($14 million), Patrick Peterson ($14.01 million), Joe Haden ($13.5 million) and Brandon Carr ($10.02 million).

According to ESPN Stats & Information, since Shields' rookie season of 2010, no player has more postseason interceptions than he does (four).

This is the second year of this ESPN project, and Shields did not make the top 100 last year. Over the next two weeks, the list of players will be revealed 10 at a time. The Packers did not have any players in the 91-100 category on the offensive side of the ball.

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#NFLRank: Antrel Rolle No. 83 on defense

There's no shortage of poor personnel decisions that led the New York Giants to last year's 7-9 record and their subsequent roster rebuild, but signing safety Antrel Rolle to a five-year, $37 million contract in 2010 was among the better moves in recent franchise history.

We've ranked every player in the NFL -- a top 100 on offense and another on defense -- and we're rolling out the results 20 at a time (10 on offense, 10 on defense) per day. Today brings us players No. 81-90 on either side of the ball, and Rolle checking in at No. 83 on defense offers a chance to reflect on just what he's turned out to be for the Giants.

Rolle is the No. 13-ranked safety and the No. 25-ranked defensive back on this list, but quibbling about whether he should be ranked ahead of Donte Whitner on the former list or Johnathan Joseph on the latter doesn't interest me too much. Rolle's value to the Giants has been diverse and significant, and it rises beyond stats and on-field performance.

Rolle arrived in New York at the age of 27 and chafed under coach Tom Coughlin's rigid, old-school structure. But he grew quickly, and he and Coughlin proved wise enough to realize they could be of great benefit to each other. Over the past three seasons Rolle has developed as a team leader, captain and spokesman, and he handles the role gracefully and naturally. Sure, he says crazy things on the radio sometimes. But these days they're almost always about how great he thinks his team is, and that's a perfectly acceptable method for a leader to try to keep his teammates in a productive frame of mind.

On the field, Rolle has played opposite three different starting safeties the past three years, and all three have flourished. He teamed with Kenny Phillips (who predated and helped mentor him as a Giant) in the Super Bowl season of 2011. Stevie Brown replaced an injured Phillips in 2012 and collected eight interceptions, roaming the post safety position while Rolle played up in the box because he knew how and Brown hadn't learned it yet. Will Hill replaced an injured Brown in 2013 and became one of the best playmaking safeties in the league by season's end before smoking himself out of a job this spring.

Rolle has been a constant in a Giants secondary that's seen its share of ups and downs over the past four years. And last year, largely freed from the nickel corner responsibilities he willingly assumed so often early in his Giants career, he flourished as a playmaker in his own right and earned a Pro Bowl trip to Hawaii. His coaches say he's just coming into his own as a safety, at age 31, because this is the first time since he signed with the Giants that he's been able to focus on the position exclusively. They believe he'll get the best out of his former Cardinals teammate Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, one of their big free-agent cornerback signings, and Rolle has a track record that backs up that belief.

One of the best 100 defensive players in the NFL? Nobody in the Giants' building would disagree. Rolle's as solid an acquisition as any they've made over the past 10 years.

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Brandon Meriweather Honors Michael Brown

The Washington Redskins played against the Browns on Monday night football and that game saw the defensive backs for the team pay remembrance and support for Michael Brown and Ferguson, Missouri, as Brandon Meriweather and his group of players came out pregame through the tunnel with their hands up at FedEx Field.

According to USA Today and CBS, Meriweather organized the move and not the team (Dan Snyder and the Redskins have enough on their plate) and along with his defensive backs, the players raised their hands, which is a rallying move that has been going on in Ferguson after Brown allegedly had his hands up when he was murdered in the street by a white police officer.

Meriweather said after the game that it was the players' idea and that he wanted to show "support" about what is going on.

"We just want to show our supporters what's going on in St. Louis," Meriweather said. "We just wanted to show support."

"That could have been any one of us," said free safety Ryan Clark. "That could have been any one of our brothers, our cousins... When you get an opportunity to make a statement, and be more than a football player, it's good."

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Greg Olsen Returns To Practice

Panthers tight end Greg Olsen returned to the practice field Tuesday after missing a week due to a sore calf muscle, according to the Associated Press' Steve Reed. Olsen did not play in the Panthers' second preseason game last weekend. Olsen is one of the only veteran receiving options on the Panthers' roster going into 2014, as Steve Smith and Brandon LaFell both left the team in the offseason.

Fantasy Analysis:
Olsen is an intriguing value prospect since he is being taken on average as the eighth TE in fantasy drafts. So it's good news that the calf issue turned out to be minor. Dealing with a squad of unproven, young receivers, expect QB Cam Newton to look Olsen's way early and often this season, particularly in the red zone. Olsen can be taken in most drafts with a ninth-round pick, and he stands as one most promising "sleeper" TEs with that kind of ADP.

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Ryan Braun has RBI double, scores in win over Jays

Ryan Braun had an RBI double and a run scored in Tuesday's win over the Blue Jays.

Braun had one of the Brewers' seven doubles on the night, his only hit in four at-bats. It gave him his 70th RBI of the season, seventh-most in the National League. The outfielder has struggled in August as his thumb continues to bother him, and he owns a .275/.327/.482 line on the year.

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Time to move Jon Jay up in the order?

Center fielder Jon Jay is hitting .400 in August, so moving him up in the lineup might be a good idea. Jay is 13 for 28 (.464) in has last 10 games and has boosted his season average to .304 — second only to Matt Adams (.311) on the team. 

Matt Holliday looked fresh Monday (2 for 4 with a walk and two runs scored) after taking Sunday off to rest nagging knee soreness.

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Reggie Wayne opens up about returning to the game

ANDERSON, Ind. - Reggie Wayne opened up to Eyewitness Sports about returning to the field this year after last year's injury to his ACL.

He said the biggest motivating factor to work through the injury was his son.

"Reggie Junior came up to me and he said, 'Daddy, so are you going to play football again? Is this it?' I told him, 'No, man. Dad's gonna be out there next season. Dad will be just like you've seen him since you've been born.' That alone was motivation because at the end of that, he said, 'Good, 'cuz I want to see you play.' So that was motivation for me to go out there with the team and play, just so my kids can see it. I didn't want the last thing for them to see was me being helped off the field."

13 WTHR Indianapolis

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Jon Beason pushing for preseason reps, still on track for season-opener

EAST RUTHERFORD – While the offense continues to try and keep the sky from falling, the defense has gotten some good news: Jon Beason is still on track for the season-opener, and is still pushing to get some snaps in the preseason.

The news is pretty remarkable given that Beason, who as also recovered from a ruptured Achilles and microfracture surgery, continues to fend off serious issues to stay on the field.

"I think so, I feel pretty good, man. I'm going through the progressions," Beason said when asked if he would play against Detroit. "Today should be pretty aggressive getting after it and doing some things based off reaction as opposed to anticipation, which is what we do on defense."

Beason said he doesn't necessarily need to practice, which makes sense given that he's basically run the positional meetings since his arrival last year. He said he'll be confident enough to tell the training staff when he'll be ready.

Beason will wear a larger shoe to fit in some of his custom orthotics, which should help keep the injured area from enduring too much stress. He wants to take his final tests on turf in order to convince himself he is ready. Beason sustained the injury on the Giants' indoor turf field and the team plays a majority of their games on the artificial surface this year.

"I feel like I'm really close, but I have to go out and do it and I want to test it, that's going to confirm it for me," he said. "Obviously, we play a lot of games on turf. Turf is more rigid than grass, so it's going to feel really good on grass. In my opinion, we should only play football on grass, you do yourself a huge service later on."

He is just happy to have the chance to play in a preseason game, though the training staff will likely advise against it because Beason does not need the reps. Sustaining a serious injury at this point in the preseason could be catastrophic for the team.

"Going into it, to have the opportunity to play in the last few preseason games was really the goal," he said. "Whether you do or you don't, because that is not my decision, they might say 'hey, it's not worth risking it to go out and play against the Jets or the Patriots,' but you have the opportunity and that is great."

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No definite answer on when Reggie Wayne will play

INDIANAPOLIS -- One of the biggest question marks still remaining with the Indianapolis Colts is: How will receiver Reggie Wayne look when he plays in a game?

The other question is: When will Wayne play in a game?

There’s no answer to either one of those questions yet.

Wayne has said a number of times during training camp that he wants the first tackle on his surgically repaired knee to be in a preseason game. With that said, you have to believe Wayne will play in Saturday’s game against the New Orleans Saints because the starters are expected to get extensive playing time in the first half.

“There’s a possibility,” coach Chuck Pagano said when asked if Wayne will play against the Saints. “We’re managing that thing and keeping a close eye on him. From a physical standpoint, make sure there’s not too much wear and tear on that knee early on and coming back and all those things. We’re going to monitor him this week and see how he goes. If things go according to plan, there’s a possibility there, but again, we’ll make sure he’s ready for action.”

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Chris Perez Will Begin Rehab Assignment Monday

Perez (ankle) will begin a rehab assignment at High-A Rancho Cucamonga on Monday, Eric Stephen of True Blue LA reports.

Perez will throw one inning with Rancho Cucamonga, and that may end up being the extent of his rehab assignment. He's eligible to return from the DL on Tuesday, though the Dodgers could choose to wait an extra day to afford him some additional recovery time following Monday's outing.

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Jon Jay keeps delivering key hits with both his bat and his (bruised) body

ST. LOUIS -- In what almost qualifies as a news flash these days, Cardinals out fielder Jon Jay was not hit by a pitch Sunday. His body certainly could use a respite after being plunked five times in the previous four days.  

In another development that hardly qualifies as a news flash these days, Jay delivered another big hit for the Cardinals on Sunday. His two-run single was the key blow in a four-run first inning that started the Cardinals on the way to a 5-0 lead that ended up a 7-6 victory over the Padres. Jay's two first-inning RBI came three days after he came through with a two-run double in the eighth inning that turned a 3-2 deficit into a 4-3 victory over San Diego.

Thanks in no small part to Jay, the Cardinals won three out of four against the Padres to take some momentum into a three-game series against the struggling Reds, who were swept in a doubleheader at Colorado and dropped 8 1/2 games out of first place. On a day when Trevor Rosenthal threatened to blow a three-run lead for the Cardinals, Reds closer Aroldis Chapman walked the first four Rockies he faced and the Reds blew a four-run lead in the ninth to lose, 10-9. A 10-5 loss in the second game sends Cincinnati to Busch Stadium with seven losses in their past nine games.

The Cardinals still trail the first-place Brewers by three games but have built a 2 1/2-game lead on third-place Pittsburgh and a 5 1/2-game cushion on fourth-place Cincinnati.

Jay has done his part in helping the Cardinals to a strong start in a weeklong homestand.

After adding a seventh-inning single, Jay upped his batting average to .500 during a season-best, nine-game hitting streak in which he has driven in nine runs and scored eight. The career .294 hitter also raised his average for the season to .304, just four points behind team leader Matt Adams. Thanks in part to the HBPs, Jay has improved his on-base percentage to .372, just four points behind team leader Matt Carpenter.

For a guy who was supposed to have lost his job last offseason, the University of Miami's proudest alum is doing pretty darn well.

"He's having a nice year," manager Mike Matheny said Sunday. "Just look at what he's been able to do. I like the way he's going about it defensively, too."

No one seems overly bothered that Jay is getting hit almost as often as he is delivering hits. He has moved into the major-league lead with 14 HBPs this season, giving him an NL-most 43 over the past three seasons.

"He doesn't do a lot of bailing out when the ball comes at him," Matheny said. "Jon stays in there and takes it, not that he's leaning over the plate. But if they miss in at him, he's going to go ahead and wear it. They keep missing more on him than anybody else."

Added Jay: "Guys are going to throw inside to try to get me out. Sometimes they're going to miss inside. It's part of it. It's not a big deal to me. There's no secret or anything, and it's not like I'm trying to go up there and get hit by a pitch."

He was smiling as he talked, more pleased to be getting on base than perturbed by any pain he has absorbed. As he pointed out, the errant pitches have hit him on the lower half, where there is considerably more padding than the rest of the body.

"It always hurts," Jay said. "I've got a couple of bruises here and there, nothing too bad. "I've been pretty fortunate that it hasn't been anything too serious. Hopefully, it stays that way."

Don't look for the lefty hitter to back off the plate or change his approach in the batter's box. He says getting plunked has been part of his game since his days at The U and he understands it is part of the hazards of a high OBP.

"I don't change. I'm going to keep doing the same things I always do," he said. "Just stay in there and have a good at-bat, try to let the ball get deep."
Positive -- though sometimes painful -- things will happen, based on recent results.  

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Yasmani Grandal to host Masq Madness Masquerade Ball

(SAN DIEGO) August 1, 2014 - ALTITTUDE Sky Lounge at the San Diego Marriott Gaslamp Quarter, along with Yasmani Grandal, catcher for the San Diego Padres, will host Masq Madness, a glamourous black tie affair, on Saturday, August 30th beginning at 9 p.m. Proceeds from this enchanting event will benefit the Gary Sinise Foundation.

"I wanted to give back to the large military population of San Diego because they are such great fans and have sacrificed so much for our country," said Yasmani Grandal. "It gives me great satisfaction knowing that the Gary Sinise Foundation is helping wounded veterans and their families within the community of San Diego."

Guests will enjoy a night of mystery and secrets as they dance into the night under the concealment of an elegant mask. The event will include appearances by Yasmani Grandal as well as a silent auction of prestigious items to benefit the Gary Sinise Foundation. Cocktails will be flowing throughout the night as guests indulge in array of hor d'oeuvres and decadent desserts.

"This masquerade ball will be the black tie affair of the season," said Jim Durbin, general manager of San Diego Marriott Gaslamp Quarter. "We are thrilled to be hosting this event with Yasmani Grandal and raising money for a great cause."

Tickets to Masq Madness are available to guests 21+ and are priced at $130, which includes two complimentary cocktails, hor d'oeuvres and a decadent dessert bar. Tickets can be purchased online at

Individuals also have the opportunity to purchase Masq Madness VIP Sponsorship Packages starting at $750. These packages include tickets, placement of company logo on website and invitation, unlimited cocktails, hors d'oeuvres and dessert bar as well as a one-on-one meet and greet with Yasmani Grandal.
Partygoers can also reserve a room at the San Diego Marriott Gaslamp Quarter at

About ALTITUDE Sky Lounge
At 22 stories above street level, ALTITUDE Sky Lounge is the West Coast's highest open-air bar and a defining feature of the award-winning San Diego Marriott Gaslamp Quarter hotel. With panoramic views of the city and San Diego Bay as well as a bird's eye view of PETCO Park, ALTITUDE Sky Lounge is a destination for signature cocktails and modern, casual fare in a relaxed environment sought after by in-the-know locals and tourists. Accolades include Travel + Leisure's "America's Top 30 Outdoor Bars," Conde Nast Traveler's "Top 25 Best Bars in the World," Sunset's "Top 10 Rooftop Bars in the West." ALTITUDE Sky Lounge is located at 660 K Street, San Diego, Calif. 92101 and via telephone at (619) 696-0234. Visit ALTITUDE Sky Lounge online at

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Brandon Linder expected to start

Jacksonville Jaguars OG Brandon Linder probably will start at center or right guard this season, according to head coach Gus Bradley. C Mike Brewster likely will start at center if Linder starts at guard, while OG Jacques McClendon likely would start at right guard if Linder wins the center job.

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Travis Benjamin Hoping To See Action

Benjamin (knee) is hoping to return a few kicks during Monday's preseason matchup with the Redskins, the Elyria Chronicle-Telegram reports.

Benjamin, who missed most of last season with a torn ACL, has impressed the Browns' coaching staff thus far in camp. While he's hoping to expand his role outside of special teams, he'll first need to prove he's healthy enough to handle kick-return duties. Benjamin sat out last weekend's preseason opener against Detroit.

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Jimmy Graham: I have to stop dunking on goal posts

Jimmy Graham decided to protest the NFL’s decision to ban dunking on the goal posts on Thursday night, and the result was two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties after he found the end zone twice. New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton chewed Graham out after the second penalty and told reporters after the game that he was upset with his tight end. Graham now sounds ready to give up his favorite celebration.

“For four years and however many touchdowns I always dunked it,” Graham said Sunday, per Larry Holder of The Times-Picayune. “I just got to stop doing that now.”

Graham, who literally bent the goal posts during a game against the Atlanta Falcons last season, is probably the reason the dunking celebration has been outlawed. While he said he wouldn’t take back Thursday’s dunks, he insisted he would never intentionally cost his team 15 yards during the regular season.

“I haven’t (been fined),” Graham said. “That’s just the rule, which is unfortunate because I just love the game. I have a lot of passion for the game. I go out there on Sunday and it’s fun for me. It’s just fun. Act like a little kid out there, and sometimes I act like it.”

Not surprisingly, it sounds like Payton has forgiven his franchise cornerstone.

“I’m his biggest fan,” Payton said. “I’m sure as we get going here that type of thing isn’t going to be a problem. Rules are changing constantly whether we like them or voted for them or any of those things. He’s outstanding. He’ll be ready to go.”

If the NFL is worried about Graham or anyone else bending the goal posts, they should reinforce them. The No Fun League needs more personality. Tell me Chad Johnson or Ochocinco or whatever you want to call him wasn’t entertaining when he was relevant. Let the entertainers entertain.

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Lamar Miller struggles in run game Sat. night

Lamar Miller managed three yards on three carries in the Dolphins' second preseason game Saturday night.

He did secure both of his targets for 20 yards, but Miami's offensive line continues to stumble, failing to clear running alleys. Through two preseason affairs, Miller has just 14 yards on seven carries (2.0 YPC). It's obviously a small sample size, one that should grow considerably in the third week of the exhibition season. Knowshon Moreno (knee) remains squarely in the picture.

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Leonard Hankerson: ‘I feel like I’m close’ to returning after knee surgery

Long after practice had ended Friday morning, Leonard Hankerson and Kirk Cousins walked to the far end of the main practice field at Redskins Park.

Cousins removed his helmet and grabbed a ball. And Hankerson, nearly nine months removed from left knee surgery, ran routes and caught passes from the backup quarterback for about 20 minutes.

The extra session marked a small but significant step in Hankerson’s rehabilitation process. The wide receiver, who is on the physically-unable-to-perform list, said it was the most substantial work he’s done since tearing the ACL and LCL in his left knee Nov. 17.

“I feel like I’m close,” Hankerson said. “It’s coming along, it’s coming along well. I just got to keep grinding, keep listening to the coaches, my strength and conditioning coach, doing what he’s telling me to do. And when he gives me the thumbs up, I’ll be ready to go.”

Hankerson spent all of training camp working on an auxiliary field, running routes and participating in agility drills. On Friday, he was running routes at nearly full speed.

As he enters his fourth season in the NFL, Hankerson said he is waiting to see orthopedic surgeon James Andrews and hopes to then be cleared to return to practice. However, he does not know when that meeting will occur.

“I’m still grinding right now,” Hankerson said, “and whenever they tell me that he’s available or he’s coming up or whatever, that’s when I’ll see him.”

While Hankerson has been relegated to the sidelines, a number of wide receivers have made the most of their opportunities in camp. Rookie Ryan Grant has drawn praise from the coaching staff for his crisp route-running ability. Aldrick Robinson has shown his speed down the field and improvement on intermediate routes.

If Grant, Robinson and veteran Santana Moss solidify their spots on the roster alongside DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon and Andre Roberts, Hankerson could be the odd man out. But he said that won’t push him to rush back to the field more quickly.

“That’s not a thought at all,” he said. “I mean, I went to the University of Miami. I always had guys come in every year. That’s part of your job. No matter what type of job you have. Somebody’s coming for your job. Somebody’s coming for my job. That’s just the nature of the game. I can’t worry about what’s going on when I’m not there. I just got to worry about what I can control and right now, that’s rehab.”

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Colin McCarthy has shoulder surgery

Titans linebacker Colin McCarthy had season-ending shoulder surgery on Friday.

McCarthy sent two messages on Twitter: "Surgery went great. Now it's just the road to recovery." Earlier he posted: "Heading into surgery this morning. Want to thank everyone for (their) support and prayers during this time. It means a lot. Thank you."

The surgery was expected. McCarthy suffered the injury in last Saturday's preseason game against the Green Bay Packers, and initial tests indicated he needed surgery. The fourth-year pro had been scheduled to get a second opinion.

McCarthy, a captain in 2012, was a fourth-round pick of the Titans in 2011. He started 19 of 36 games in his first three seasons, including five starts last year when he replaced injured Moise Fokou. (McCarthy had lost the starting job to Fokou in training camp.) Injuries have been a problem during his career, however. He was working with the second- and third-team defense in training camp.

The Titans are expected to place McCarthy, who's in the final year of his contract, on Injured Reserve.

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Darryl Sharpton ruled out for Monday night’s game

The Redskins have ruled running back Chris Thompson and linebacker Darryl Sharpton out for Monday’s game against Cleveland because of ankle sprains. Defensive end Jason Hatcher, who is still working his way back from arthroscopic knee surgery, also will not play.

Sharpton, competing for a backup inside linebacker position and a role on special teams, missed time earlier this week with a high ankle sprain. He returned to practice on Tuesday, but returned to the sideline for Thursday and Friday’s practices.

Hatcher wasn’t expected to play on Monday. He opened training camp on the physically unable to perform list after having his left knee scoped on June 20. He practiced for the first time last Saturday, but has continued to only take part in individual drills. The plan is to increase his workload next week. Gruden has said the third or fourth preseason games are more realistic target dates for Hatcher’s return.

Starting strong safety Brandon Meriweather is questionable for Monday’s game because of a toe injury. He missed the last two practices, but has not been ruled out for Monday. Second-year pro Bacarri Rambo played strong safety in place of Meriweather when the first team defense was on the field Thursday and Friday.

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NFL Network will feature the Redskins’ Sean Taylor in ‘A Football Life’ series

SeanTaylor copy
Former Redskins safety Sean Taylor, who died in 2007 after being shot by intruders at his Miami area home, will be featured in NFL Network’s “A Football Life” documentary series this fall, a network spokesman confirmed. The hour-long program about Taylor is tentatively scheduled to air on Sept. 26; the network typically follows up such documentaries with additional programming, including further interviews and discussion.

This is the third straight year the series will include a prominent former Redskins star. In 2012, the network aired a John Riggins documentary, and last year’s topics included former tight end Jerry Smith.

The series, a production of NFL Films, “examines the untold stories of the most influential NFL icons with unprecedented access,” the network says in its promotional materials. “Each film tells the story of how their legacy is forever intertwined in the fabric of NFL history.”

Fans began speculating about a Taylor documentary in recent days, after NFL Network started airing “A Football Life” promos that included famous footage of the safety leaping into the end zone.

Taylor, of course, remains beloved in Washington, with fans frequently wearing his jersey and otherwise celebrating his career. The return of Ryan Clark this season has also meant more stories about Taylor, with Clark wearing Taylor’s No. 21 jersey during practice, as he has for years.

“People in Pittsburgh knew about it, and if you hear a fan ask me why I had a different number on, people who were there, who were at camp a lot, would explain to them, ‘Well, Sean Taylor, he was his friend, he played for Washington,’ ” Clark told reporters during training camp. “And so it always made people talk about him, it always struck up conversation about the player he was, about the man he was becoming. And so that’s exciting.

“Wearing it here is difficult,” Clark said. “There are some fans who never met Sean who say I shouldn’t wear it to practice. But I understand. That’s why they call them fans; they’re fanatics and they’re not always right in certain situations, so I don’t mind that. I just try to wear it and honor him. I know I’m not the player he was or the athlete he was, but he was my friend and I want people to remember him.”

Clark also often wears towels that pay homage to Taylor’s name and number.

“I’ve done it since he passed,”  Clark said. “I know a lot of people may think it’s something new that I do now because I’m a part of the Redskins organization, but nah, this is for me. And this is an opportunity for me to remember a friend, an opportunity to get other people to remember a friend, and that’s why I do it. I’ve got about seven of these towels actually, different colors, and it’s part of me. I made a vow that as long as I was playing, he’d be playing somewhere, too.”

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Frank Gore Continues to Cement 49ers Legacy

Before we ask the question, we’ll answer it.


Frank Gore is a future Hall of Fame running back. There should be no debate. And that sentiment is not just because we received co-signage from San Francisco’s running backs coach Tom Rathman, the flat-top haircut, eye-black, neck-roll wearing fullback, who paved running lanes for 49ers Hall of Famer Roger Craig.

We make an early case for San Francisco’s current bell-cow runner because Gore’s numbers and contributions to a proud football organization deserve to be celebrated inside of pro football’s hallowed grounds. Some voters might look the other way and select players with greater statistical production during Gore’s playing era, but that opinion isn’t shared by the highly respected Rathman. The Hall of Fame voting process could be described as “peculiar at times,” according to one national football writer, but it doesn’t change the way the 49ers see their star player.

“If you look at some of the stuff he’s been doing the past four-five years; pass-blocking, run-blocking,” Rathman says, “I don’t think you see any other players at the position in the history of the game who have done that before. Not only statistically speaking, but doing the little things.”

Sure, Gore has the most carries (2,187), rushing yards (9,967), rushing touchdowns (60) and 1,000-yard rushing seasons (7) in team history. But can you even fathom the 49ers reaching the NFC title game in three consecutive seasons without the hard-charging running style of number 21? Not possible. Even with a reloaded receiving corps, Gore - a five-time Pro Bowler - figures to spearhead a large chunk of San Francisco’s offensive attack heading into 2014.

“Frank loves the game of football, and he loves being a part of a team; loves overcoming,” offensive coordinator Greg Roman said. “It’s just been the story of his career, so why would it be any different now? He’s got a heart. You can’t measure how big his heart is. What does that mean? Well, what it means is every play he plays all out and with a great will.”

At 31, Gore wills himself to show liveliness on the practice field. In his mind, there’s no slowing down in his 10th season in San Francisco. Critics might question how much Gore has left in the tank, but nobody around the 49ers is wondering that. Gore pointed to how he approaches the challenge of maintaining his Pro Bowl-caliber play in the late stages of his career. It’s a welcomed opportunity to silence doubters, the same ones who wondered how the third-round draft pick in 2005 would recover from two major knee surgeries at the University of Miami.

“I knew from seven years on that I would hear that every year,” Gore said before the start of training camp, “It doesn't bother me. I train hard during the offseason, I practice hard during camp. I'm just trying to be the Frank Gore I have always been.”
Rathman backs his player up in that regard.

“He hasn’t changed,” the coach says. “You watch him on the practice field and he’s practicing hard. He’s not getting a lot of reps because we have young guys who need reps, but he’s getting himself prepared. Physically he’s in shape and mentally he’s sharp. He’s right where he needs to be at this stage of camp.”

Gore continues to be a selfless, team-first contributor who loves the game and everything that comes with it. He values the sacrifice, the teamwork and the stage. Rathman sees a player who continues to thrive in the team setting. The more the 49ers have won under Jim Harbaugh, the more the leading rusher has grown to appreciate sharing touches on offense and being a key cog in Roman’s power-running system.

“It takes 11 guys being on the same page to win,” Rathman says. “I think that’s where he’s really grown, understanding that piece of the game.”

Gore’s contributions stretch beyond carrying the football. Look no further than last season’s Wild Card road playoff win over the Green Bay Packers. When Colin Kaepernick was breaking contain to torch the Packers defense on the ground, it was Gore who was throwing his body around with clutch open-field blocks to spring his athletic quarterback. Those plays didn’t go unnoticed in the film room.

Simply put, it’s why Gore is revered as a true “football player” by his teammates and coaches.

“He’s dynamic at run blocking,” Rathman says. “If you look at the film from last year, look at his cut-blocks downfield. He’s an all-around player. You have to love him. He’s good at everything. It’s great to have players like that.”

Rathman knows do-it-all running backs quite well. His college roommate, Craig, thrived in Bill Walsh’s West Coast offense, becoming the first player in NFL history to record 1,000 rushing and receiving yards in the same season. Gore has never been used that way as a receiver, but he does have the chops to move the chains out of the backfield when needed. Either way, Rathman sees Gore as a determined runner just like Craig.

“I think you can put him in the same category,” Rathman says. “This guy is going on 10 years and will probably be over 10,000 yards. I don’t know how many players who were able to do that and play for one organization. He’s a great player. There have been other great players here at the position and Frank ranks up there with Roger.”

So will we see Gore continue his run of 1,000-yard seasons, going on three-straight years?

“Past performance often times predicts future success,” Harbaugh said. “Frank has been one of the top backs in the National Football League and I see that continuing. Frank gets football. Frank understands football. Frank keeps himself in tremendous shape.”

The dedication is coach-like. Gore could even become a valued teacher or evaluator once his playing career concludes and he celebrates a certain enshrinement in Canton, Ohio.

“I don’t think there’s any question about that,” Rathman says. “He’s got a great passion for the game. Any time you have passion for the game, he can do whatever he wants. You could see him as a scout or as a coach. He could hold his own meeting room and get up there and have confidence as he’s coaching because he knows it.

“He’s dynamic.”

Yes, he certainly is.

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Matt Bosher 2014 Outlook

Everyone loves Matt Bosher. If we put aside his punting (for now), Bosher is well-known for his entertaining and hard-hitting prowess as a tackler, and he has put together several memorable plays without the mention of his punting leg. In addition, Bosher remains one of the better kick-off men in the league, ranking in the top-5 in touchback percentage in 2013, and that makes him extremely valuable.

From a punting perspective, 2013 was a good year for the 26-year-old Bosher, as he finished ninth in the NFL in punting average (46.6 yards per punt) and the overall unit finished sixth in the league in net punting (41.1 yards per punt). This is an area where the Falcons should not worry unless there is an injury to Bosher.

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Greg Olsen Gives The Carolina Panthers A Proven Receiving Threat

Name: Greg Olsen – TE – #88
Height: 6’5″
Weight: 253
Age: 29
Hometown: Wayne, NJ
College: Miami (Florida)
Experience: 8th Season

The Carolina Panthers released Steve Smith and let Brandon LaFell, Ted Ginn Jr. and Domenik Hixon leave via free agency. That leaves Greg Olsen and Richie Brockel as the only returning receivers – both tight ends – from last season’s team to record a catch. Brockel only had one catch, so Olsen is the only proven elite receiver on the roster.

Olsen is a proven reliable receiver with 381 receptions, 4,180 receiving yards and 36 receiving touchdowns in seven seasons while playing for the Chicago Bears and Panthers. He finished last season as the Panthers leading receiver with 73 catches, which also set a career-high in a season for him. He also posted the second most receiving yards (816) and touchdowns (six).

The Panthers acquired the 2007 first round draft pick from the Bears for a third round draft pick in the 2012 draft. Olsen and the Panthers agreed to a five-year contract extension, which is scheduled to end following the 2015 season.

Quarterback Cam Newton has yet to establish himself as a top tier passer in the NFL and not having Smith will force him to lean on Olsen more this season. Newton has thrown for 11,299 yards – decreasing steadily each year since his rookie season in 2011 – while completing 59.7 percent of his passes.

However, last season, he set a career-high for completion percentage (61.7) and touchdown passes (24). But, without Smith, Newton loses 216 of his 882 career completions (just under 24.5 percent).

“It’s kind of been the storyline of the offseason,” Olsen said in a phone interview on July 23 in the Charlotte Observer. “Any time the Panthers have come up that’s kind of been the first comment made by everybody. I think guys are just kind of tired of it. I think we feel confident about our group. I think people are eager to get (to training camp), get to work and put together what works for us as an offense.”

The Panthers signed wide receivers: former Philadelphia Eagle Jason Avant, former Pittsburgh Steeler Jerricho Cotchery, former Tampa Bay Buccaneer Tiquan Underwood as well as former Baltimore Raven tight end Ed Dickson to reload the receiver group. They also drafted former Florida State Seminole Kelvin Benjamin of the 2014 NFL draft. Only Benjamin has the upside to be a featured receiver, but it will not be quick.

The Panthers offense does not want to rely on the pass, but needs to at some point to loosen the defense. The entire offense – even their quarterback – are run-first players, but being able to throw is a must in today’s NFL. 

“It’s not a mystery. When we’re at our best, we’re a balanced offense,” Olsen also said in the July 23 phone interview. “We’re not going to throw the ball 60 times a game. We might not throw 50 touchdowns. But we’re going to win games, we’re going to control the game.

“The sum of our parts is going to be very productive.”

Olsen will be an integral part of the Panthers passing offense early in the season as Newton builds chemistry with his new wide receiver weapons.

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Frank Gore going strong at 31, with one goal left

SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Nine years later, Frank Gore remembers every name. You ask, and he'll start rattling them off.

Ronnie Brown. Cedric Benson. Cadillac Williams. The guy who went to Arizona ... J.J. Arrington, that's his name. And Eric Shelton.

All five running backs who were picked ahead of Gore in the 2005 draft.

"Then the 49ers drafted me," said Gore, the 65th pick of that draft, in the third round.

Just look at those names. Brown is the only other one still going, and he was out of work until the Texans signed him earlier this week. Vernand Morency, Ryan Moats and Maurice Clarett (!) were the next three backs to go. Those names seem like NFL relics, probably because in the world of a running back, they are.

And then there's Gore. He's 31 and says he feels great. He doesn't look like he's near the end, coming off an 1,128-yard, nine-touchdown season. On draft day in 2005 he lasted longer on the board than all five of those guys he remembers so well, and he's prideful that he'll likely be the last one of that group standing in the NFL.

"It's a blessing," Gore said. "That's why when I'm out here, I have fun. Because I've been up and I've been down, and I know it can be taken away from me."

It'll end at some point. One of these days the annual prediction will be right, and Gore will hit the wall. The 49ers are preparing, having drafted Marcus Lattimore last year, and Carlos Hyde in the second round this year. Gore's contract is up after this season. It's not hard to see where this might be headed.

Gore understands the possibilities. If he is bitter about the 49ers planning for life without him, he shows it in a strange way. After a practice at Levi's Stadium on Friday night, he stopped by the tunnel for a few minutes to sign autographs for fans who had come to watch. He spotted Hyde, and waved him over to do the same. It was a small moment, a respected veteran showing a rookie what he should do – and it just happened to be for a rookie who might have his job next year.

"I know what I can do," Gore said about the 49ers drafting Hyde. "God has me healthy and I know what I’m capable of doing. So why be mad at a guy who the organization brought in? Why not bring him on?"

Gore knows this might be his last season in San Francisco, although that hasn't been determined yet and the 49ers love the hard-nosed Gore. However, he understands the business side of the game.

"All I can do go out and try to be the same Frank Gore," he said about being in a free-agent year. "Show the organization I can play this game at a high level, and also show other teams, if I’m not here, someone else can have interest in me."

Whatever happens after this season will be figured out later. Like the rest of the 49ers, Gore has some unfinished business this season and some urgency to tend to it.

The 49ers have lost in either the NFC championship game or Super Bowl three straight years, all very close and very late losses. Gore has team records for carries (2,187), rushing yards (9,967), rushing touchdowns (60), but no championship ring.

"I want a Super Bowl," Gore said. "Before I leave this organization, I'd love to have a Super Bowl with this organization. Just to know what I've done here and I would love for it to be said when I'm done, 'Frank Gore, arguably probably was the best back here, and he got a ring here.'"

He brings up Roger Craig, who might have the best argument other than Gore for best 49ers back among those in the Super Bowl era, and immediately points out that Craig had three Super Bowl rings.
Meaning that he needs a ring too no matter what else he has done, although what he has done in his 49ers career has been fantastic.

“Frank is the most underrated football player – and this is not hyperbole – honestly that I’ve ever known,” 49ers legend Steve Young said on KNBR, via the team's website. “He’s a well-known player, but no one understands how great he really is. He’s one of the best backs I’ve ever seen or watch play."

If the 49ers finally get that Super Bowl ring, Gore will be a big reason why. San Francisco has an improving passing game with the incredibly talented Colin Kaepernick at quarterback, but the 49ers still want to be a tough, running team. And one of the reasons they've established that identity the past few years is Gore, who has evolved into a versatile back who takes as much pride in his blocking and receiving as his rushing yards.

He said he feels good at age 31. He works out with younger players back in Miami ("It keeps me honest, to know where I'm at," he said) and said he feels the same as he always has. At an age when most backs are deep into retirement, Gore has been remarkably durable. He hasn't missed a game in three seasons, with 877 regular-season touches and a lot of playoff action. That's pretty impressive for a player who slid in the draft because he had two knee surgeries at Miami.

However long Gore has left playing at a high level, or playing in San Francisco period, he again brings up the one thing left on his to-do list.

"I've played in a Super Bowl, NFC championship, but before I leave, I want God to bless me and my teammates and get us a ring," Gore said.

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Yonder Alonso done for the season with forearm strain

Yonder Alonso was placed on the 15-day disabled list Thursday with a right forearm strain and now Jeff Sanders of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports that the first baseman has been ruled out for the rest of the 2014 season. Surgery might be coming.

Alonso, who also missed time in June and July because of right wrist issues, will finish 2014 with a disappointing .240/.285/.397 batting line and only seven home runs in 84 games. He earned National League Rookie of the Year votes in 2012 but hasn’t been able to build off that promising debut season in San Diego and the former first-round pick (seventh overall in 2008) turns 28 years old next spring. Alonso is going to be arbitration-eligible for the first time this winter.

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Jon Jay plunked twice in back-to-back games

ST. LOUIS -- Jon Jay wore a bit of Cardinals' history on Saturday night after he was once again hit by a pair of Padres pitchers. The same thing had happened a day earlier, too, making Jay the franchise's only player in at least 100 years to be hit by multiple pitches in consecutive games.

The accomplishment, if it can be described as such, was last achieved in 2000 by Houston's Craig Biggio, who was hit by pitches 285 times in his career. That is second most in Major League history.

As for Jay's recent propensity to take pitches off his body?

"He's a magnet for whatever reason," manager Mike Matheny said. "There are guys who are crowding and won't budge. It seems to be down low, which is obviously where a lot of guys are trying to pitch him. When they miss, they pull it a little bit much. He doesn't mind getting on base, I know that."

Jay has been hit a Major League-most 14 times this season, equaling the number of plunkings he took last season. In 2012, Jay was hit 15 times, fifth most in the Majors.

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Ed Reed joins Showtime's 'Inside the NFL' as analyst

Former Ravens safety Ed Reed had his moments with the media during his superlative career here, some good, some bad. But now, he’s joining their ranks.

Sports Business Daily’s John Ourand reported Thursday afternoon that Reed would be joining Chicago Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall on the “Inside the NFL” show, which will air Tuesday nights on Showtime and re-air Wednesday on NFL Network.

Reed told reporters at Lardarius Webb’s charity softball game in June that he was “definitely preparing to play,” though he didn’t have plans to sign at all.

"I'm very excited to be part of the Inside the NFL team this season," Reed said in a statement. "It's an honor to work along side such an award winning cast and crew. I look, very much, forward to continuing to work in and promote the game I love so much."

He joins notable former Ravens like linebacker Ray Lewis, quarterback Trent Dilfer and tight end Shannon Sharpe among those who have transitioned from the field to the television studio. Former linebacker Bart Scott will join CBS as an analyst this fall.

Let’s hope for Reed’s sake that his transition is just as smooth.

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Allen Hurns Becoming Playmaker for Jacksonville Jaguars

Undrafted wide receiver Allen Hurns is not only making a case to earn a spot on the Jacksonville Jaguars' 53-man roster, but he could find himself earning meaningful regular-season snaps if he keeps playing at his current level.

Against the Chicago Bears in the second week of preseason action, Hurns flashed playmaking potential on a national stage.

But for those who have been watching him through Jaguars training camp, he's already begun to make a name for himself.

The former University of Miami receiver got his shot early on in the Jaguars' mandatory minicamp when rookies Marqise Lee and Allen Robinson as well as veteran Cecil Shorts were sidelined with injuries.

On June 19, receiving time with the first-team offense, he made a one-handed catch on a Chad Henne pass in a red-zone 11-on-11 drill that impressed his teammates.

"Allen Hurns had a heck of a camp," Henne told Fox Sports Florida's Ken Hornack. "He's a big, strong receiver and understands the offense ... Just a really reliable guy."

At practice on August 1, Henne squeezed the ball into a tight window and Hurns made the grab, as seen in this Vine from the team's Twitter:

After Ace Sanders' suspension was announced and Tandon Doss sprained his ankle, the door opened a little wider for Hurns, who earned the start alongside Lee against the Bears on Thursday.

At 6'3" and 195 pounds, Hurns is one of the tallest receivers currently on the Jaguars' roster. He led the Hurricanes in receptions (62) and receiving yards (1,162) in 2013, and was second in scoring with six touchdowns. indicates he ran a 4.55-second 40-yard dash at the combine and posted a 31-inch vertical jump.

His pedestrian speed is part of what caused him to tumble out of the draft, but the Jaguars don't need him to be a burner to be successful.
Without top speed, if Hurns can prove he's a reliable option on quick slants and has the hands to catch anything thrown his way, he can make a serious case for a spot on the 53. 

Hornack notes Hurns has learned all three receiver positions used by the Jaguars, which becomes a huge advantage while Robinson remains out with a hamstring injury. Ryan O'Halloran of the The Florida Times-Union reported that Robinson may not be available for "a few more weeks." Shorts missed the preseason action against Chicago as well.

Spending two years with Jacksonville offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch in Miami has also given Hurns a leg up through camp. "I had a good relationship with Jedd Fisch," he told Hornack. "I know his playbook. So coming in, that put me a step ahead."

Hurns was Jacksonville's leading receiver Thursday evening against Chicago, finishing the night with four receptions for 74 yards, including a 45-yard bomb from Blake Bortles with one second to go in the second quarter.

In the first half, Hurns helped the Jaguars convert two third downs, including one from Henne for 10 yards on 3rd-and-8 at the Chicago 19-yard line that set up a six-yard Lee touchdown.'s Michael DiRocco expects the Jaguars to carry six receivers into the regular season. With Shorts, Lee and Robinson as virtual locks for the top three spots, and Mike Brown having a solid offseason, Hurns is proving himself worthy of one of the two remaining spots.

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Travis Benjamin feels faster coming back from torn ACL

Cleveland Browns wide receiver and return specialist Travis Benjamin, the fastest player on the roster before he suffered a torn ACL in 2013, feels he’ll be faster in his comeback.

“I actually feel much faster than I was before. Mostly I focused on my lower body and getting it stronger knowing that I had an ACL surgery,” said Benjamin.

Benjamin was injured returning a punt on Oct, 27 and had to rehab relentlessly to be ready for the start of camp July 25.

He added after a 50-yard catch from Johnny Manziel that he also feels he can stretch the field and catch sharp balls and long balls.

Benjamin, a 2012 fourth-round draft pick from Miami, caught 18 passes as a rookie. One was a 69-yard catch and run for a touchdown. He caught five passes last year and one of those covered 39 yards. He had one carry for 45 yards in 2013 and six in 2012. One of those went for 35 yards.

He has six career kick returns for 222 yards — a 37.0 average, and has 25 career punt returns for a 16.7 average.

“I always feel like I’m the fastest guy in the NFL. I’m just waiting for the challenge,” said Benjamin.

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Leonard Hankerson could go on reserve/PUP

Redskins coach Jay Gruden acknowledged Thursday that reserve/PUP is a realistic option for WR Leonard Hankerson (ACL, LCL surgery).

Rookie Ryan Grant's strong training camp has given the Redskins reason to be patient with Hankerson, who underwent surgery last November. At age 25, Hankerson's career has reached a crossroads with a new regime in D.C.

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Colts should play Reggie Wayne during preseason

Reggie Wayne wants to be on the field in the preseason. He needs to be on the field in the preseason. If the Indianapolis Colts don't put him out there, they're making a mistake.

Wayne missed most of last season after his severe knee injury required surgery and months of rehabilitation. He's done the work, no question. He has looked good back at wide receiver in public training camp sessions at Anderson University, which ended on Wednesday.

Wayne has said all along he'd like to play in the preseason, if only for one game. The Colts play the New York Giants at 7 p.m. Saturday in Lucas Oil Stadium, the New Orleans Saints at home on Aug. 23 and the Bengals in Cincinnati on Aug. 28.

“(We're) just kind of playing it by ear,” Colts coach Chuck Pagano said on whether Wayne will play Saturday. “He looks really good out there, running around good. Obviously, we're keeping a close eye on him, watching his reps and things like that. We'll just play it by ear.”

Wayne seems itching to get on the field in a real game situation.

“I'm just following orders,” Wayne said. “As we always say, we're just here to serve. I'm just here to serve. Whenever they tell me it's time, I'll get ready. I'm going to do the same thing I have been doing, prepare like I am going to (play) and then once he gives me the bad news, I am going to sit it on down.”

If Wayne is back to full health, they should put him back in the rotation for the second and third games of the preseason. That will allow him to be comfortable with contact again, as well as work with the offense in game situations.

Colts quarterback Andrew Luck and the first-team offense are expected to play one quarter against the Giants, possibly less if they generate a couple of early scoring drives.

Typically, NFL teams play their starters into the third quarter in the third preseason game and that's been the Colts' routine in the first two seasons with Pagano in charge. If Wayne is only used in one preseason game, it should probably be the third. But if he can play in one, why not two?

The only benefit to holding Wayne out of preseason games would be if he needs more time to become fully healthy. That doesn't appear to be the case. He has run through every drill, taking days off only as determine by Pagano for veterans. During camp, Pagano believes in a two-on, one-off style of practicing for the veteran players to keep them fresh. Wayne has looked fresh.

The downside to holding Wayne out of the preseason entirely would be the fact he'd have to take his first hit in a regular-season game.

Now, that first hit will matter. Regardless of how confident a player is, nor how many years he has played, there remains uncertainty in testing the surgically repaired body.

The knee is so essential to Wayne's play, as he makes his living out of running crisp routes with sharp cuts and moves to find openings. He's not a speed demon. He's receiver-as-artist, painting the field canvas with precise strokes.

Wayne said he would prefer to have his first hit in the preseason.

“That's the mindset, but at the same time if the big dog tells me to sit it down, I am going to sit it down,” Wayne said. “Like I said, I am just here to serve. I am just a servant. I'm Semmi in 'Coming to America.' I'm just here to do my job and when it's time and the time comes, I am going to be ready, ready to perform the way I have been performing.”

Set aside the fact Wayne shows his age with his reference to a 1988 Eddie Murphy movie. He has been in the league long enough to know his own body.
Play Wayne. Let him work out the initial apprehension, presuming he has to have some, in the preseason. Then he'll be relaxed and ready to be his usual reliable self when it counts.

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Steve Young Lauds Frank Gore as 'Most Underrated'

Frank Gore speaks the loudest on the football field. 

Given his remarkable longevity and consistency at the most punishing position in the game, the 49ers veteran running back can let others do the talking off it.

For one, allow Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young to detail the light in which he views Gore.

“Frank is the most underrated football player – and this is not hyperbole – honestly that I’ve ever known,” Young said on KNBR. “He’s a well-known player, but no one understands how great he really is. He’s one of the best backs I’ve ever seen or watch play. The things he does, the things he helps with in all facets of the game, the kind of guy he’s on the field, he’s just a really good player.”

Those words come from Steve Young the ESPN analyst, not Steve Young the 49ers supporter. The high praise didn’t stop there, though. He went on to put Gore’s immeasurable value into a more luminous perspective.

“He might not explode for 80 (yards), but wouldn’t you rather have a guy that made every first down?” Young said. “Third-and-four and he got you five because of his unique, incredible ability to wait and hold. He has made more first downs just purely on guts and guile.”

Despite Gore beginning this season at 31-years-old, Young believes the hard-nosed rusher still has plenty left in the tank, but he’d like to see 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick take the next step in his career progression to alleviate some of Gore’s responsibilities in the offense.

“Colin is going to have to drop back, read some defenses and deliver some footballs,” Young said. “Put the ball in the end zone without Frank doing it all. It’s going to be a challenge, but it has to come at some point.”

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Reggie Wayne exceeding expectations

The Indy Star's Stephen Holder says Reggie Wayne has exceeded his expectations in Wayne's return from an ACL tear.

Beat writer reports on Wayne have been glowing, even as the Colts limit his reps. Per Holder, the 35-year-old has "looked fresh and fast," and his "hands are as reliable as ever." If Wayne can keep this up, he should reemerge as the favorite to lead Indianapolis in catches. His ADP is in the middle seventh round.

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Brandon Meriweather sits out

Linebacker Darryl Sharpton (high ankle sprain) was also sidelined, as was Brandon Meriweather, who was nursing a minor toe injury.

“He hurt his toe,” Gruden said of his starting strong safety. “Got a little blood underneath his toenail, limping around a little bit. But he should be okay.”

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Greg Olsen misses practice

Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen missed practice on Thursday with a leg injury.

Coach Ron Rivera said a player stepped on Olsen’s calf on the last day of training camp in Spartanburg. Olsen expects to play in Sunday’s home exhibition game against the Kansas City Chiefs.

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Season-ending shoulder injury could end Colin McCarthy’s Titans career

The star-crossed career of Tennessee Titans linebacker Colin McCarthy took another wicked turn with the news that he could miss the entire season with a shoulder injury.

McCarthy suffered the injury in Saturday night’s preseason opener, playing in the third quarter with the Titans third-team defense, hoping to show the new coaching regime that he is still a worthwhile entity, either as an inside linebacker or on special teams.

The question now is whether the shoulder injury spells the end of McCarthy’s time with the Tennessee Titans.

In just his fourth season, McCarthy has been through quite a rollercoaster ride in his time as a Titan.

When Tennessee selected him in the fourth round of the 2011 draft, McCarthy made an immediate impact in preseason and on special teams by having a nose for the football and a knack for making big plays.

Back in 2011, the Titans were a team in transition, having moved on from Jeff Fisher with Mike Munchak in his first season as head coach.

They drafted Jake Locker to be the future franchise quarterback and lauded linebacker Akeem Ayers as a second-round steal.

And while third-rounder Jurrell Casey has had the biggest long-term impact from that draft class to date, it was McCarthy who became both a fan and locker room favorite.

Midway through his rookie season, McCarthy supplanted veteran Barrett Ruud as the starting middle linebacker and, by December, had garnered AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors for a nine-tackle game against the Buffalo Bills, in which he forced one fumble and recovered two more.

His inspiring play helped keep the Titans in playoff contention during Munchak’s first year as a head coach. The team would eventually finish just out the money at 9-7.

The next year, McCarthy’s star was still on the rise as he entered training camp and was voted as the team’s defensive captain – quite an honor for a player who had only 13 NFL games under his belt and just seven career starts.

McCarthy appeared to be the type of playmaker in the middle that then-defensive coordinator Jerry Gray could build his unit around.

However, things soon began to go badly, and for whatever reason the likeable linebacker has never really been able to fully reverse the trend.

McCarthy suffered a high ankle sprain in the 2012 season opener, and the injury bothered him throughout the season. While playing through that injury, he suffered a concussion that landed him on injured reserve.

In all, McCarthy managed to play in just seven games that year.

He came back healthy in 2013, but wound up losing his starting middle linebacker role to Moise Fokou in training camp.

Now, entering the 2014 season, with a new coaching staff, a new 3-4 system and in the final year of his rookie contract, McCarthy is in an uphill fight to stay on the roster.

Saturday night’s injury certainly doesn’t help his chances, and neither does his $1.431 million base salary, which the Titans probably deem as way too much for a non-starter and special teams player.

It’s doubtful that McCarthy could get healthy quickly enough to play this year. Indications are season-ending surgery will be required.

Would the Titans place him on injured reserve and either reach a settlement or pay off his 2014 salary? Seems unlikely.

Perhaps McCarthy would be better off finding a fresh start somewhere else in the league and put his Titans days behind him.

But if Saturday night proves to be the end of Colin McCarthy’s run with Tennessee, it closes yet another promising Titans career with fans and coaches wondering what might have been.

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Jon Jay's 2-run double lifts Cardinals over Padres 4-3

ST. LOUIS — Pinch-hitter Jon Jay wasn't choosy when he came up to bat for the Cardinals in the eighth inning.

Jay delivered a two-run double on the first pitch and right fielder Shane Robinson threw out the potential tying run at the plate in the ninth to help St. Louis hold off the San Diego Padres 4-3 Thursday night.

"I was trying to be aggressive," Jay said. "I wanted something over the plate I could handle. I was able to do that."

Jhonny Peralta hit an early two-run homer for the Cardinals, who moved ahead of Pittsburgh into second place in the NL Central. St. Louis remained two games behind division-leading Milwaukee.

San Diego had its five-game winning streak snapped and fell to 16-9 since the All-Star break.

Trailing by two in the ninth, the Padres loaded the bases with one out against closer Trevor Rosenthal. Pinch-hitter Jake Goebbert came through with an RBI single to right, but Alexi Amarista was cut down at home when he tried to score from second.

The replay review lasted 4 minutes, 9 seconds. Padres manager Bud Black then was ejected by plate umpire Bob Davidson for continuing to argue the call.

"You saw two major league players react to a play that indicated that a tag was missed," Black said. "You saw their catcher go back and try to tag our runner because he knew he missed him. You saw our player react knowing that he wasn't tagged. So you saw two experienced major league players react to a play that they both knew wasn't a tag.

"That's what's frustrating to us."

Cardinals catcher A.J. Pierzynski, who entered in the ninth, disagreed.

"I thought I got his arm," Pierzynski said. "I couldn't hear Bob. It was a big play in the game for sure. I couldn't see the umpire who was behind me. You just go. You hope they stay with the call. I think they got it right."

After a four-pitch walk to Will Venable loaded the bases again, Rosenthal struck out Tommy Medica for his 36th save in 40 opportunities.

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Titans' Colin McCarthy to likely need surgery

The Titans are preparing for life without inside linebacker Colin McCarthy.

After injuring his shoulder in Saturday's 20-16 preseason win over the Green Bay Packers, McCarthy underwent initial tests that suggested he'll require season-ending surgery, according to Jim Wyatt of the Tennessean.

McCarthy is slated to get a second opinion next week before going under the knife.

A fourth-round pick of the Titans in 2011, the oft-injured McCarthy was battling for a roster spot under new coach Ken Whisenhunt, who called the injury "significant."

The addition of Wesley Woodyard in the offseason pushed McCarthy down the pecking order, as did Tennessee's scheme shift to a 3-4 defense under coordinator Ray Horton. In the final year of his rookie deal, this could be it for McCarthy in Tennessee.

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Jon Beason progressing, waiting, coaching

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Standing on the sidelines and watching practice while healing from a foot injury has been an eye-opening experience for Jon Beason. The New York Giants' middle linebacker said he's gained a greater appreciation of his coaches' perspective.

"I see how coaches can get frustrated, because you're always right," Beason said. "You've got that great vantage point. You're not tired. You have the script. You get the chance to kind of think about the play longer. So that part of it has opened my eyes, and I get where they come from, their frustration when we don't do things right."

Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell said last week that Beason has been in his ear all throughout training camp with opinions and suggestions, and that it's been a help. It's about all Beason can do right now. He broke his foot during OTAs and spends time early in practice running by himself on a back field. He tracks his progress day by day while still hoping he can be ready for the Sept. 8 season opener in Detroit.

"You try to get out there and tax it a little bit, see how it feels, and then everything is based on gauging it the next day," Beason said. "Is it really sore? Is it just a little bit sore? And then if you can have consistent days, then you know you're kind of building up a tolerance. So that's usually the process in any rehab. Toes are a little iffy, because it doesn't take much pain to have irritated feet, makes it hard to change direction, especially as a defensive player where you have to do a lot of reacting."

Beason said earlier in camp that he hoped to play in at least one of the Giants' preseason games. But there's no way he'll be ready for Saturday night's game in Indianapolis, and at this point it would be pretty surprising if he were ready to play the Aug. 22 game against the Jets. That would leave only one more preseason game -- Aug. 28 against the Patriots -- for Beason to fulfill that goal. But he's staying patient.

"It's coming along," Beason said. "We still have time. I'm just trying to listen to the staff, who I trust, and trying to listen to my body. But we are playing on Monday night (in the season opener) and it's still a little over three weeks before the game, so a lot can happen between now and then."

Jameel McClain has been manning the middle linebacker spot in Beason's absence, with rookie Devon Kennard playing the strongside linebacker spot that had been slated for McClain.

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Andre Johnson practices at full speed vs. Falcons

Receiver Andre Johnson and running back Arian Foster returned to practice against Atlanta today.

Johnson and Foster had been sidelined because of hamstring injuries.

Foster refused to speak with the media, but, as always, Johnson was polite and cooperative.

“Its good to be back out here with my teammates running around,” Johnson said. “I was able to do things full speed.”

Johnson worked full speed on Monday and Tuesday on an adjacent practice field and told the trainers he was ready to return to practice against the Falcons.

He didn’t participate in every drill.

“It was just being careful about the way they work me back in,” he said.

As far as playing against the Falcons on Saturday night, Johnson said, “I don’t know. That’s the coaches decision. We’ll see what happens.”

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Travis Benjamin Sees Increasing Role

The Rabbit, the fastest player on the Browns’ roster before a knee injury ended his 2013 season, is back and hopping faster than ever.
The Rabbit is slender Travis Benjamin, who earned his nickname as a legendary rabbit catcher in his hometown of Bell Grade, Fla. More on that in a few paragraphs.
Benjamin is the kick returner, punt returner and deep-throw threat on a Browns team that sorely is in need of a reliable wide receiver. Josh Gordon is that player now, but he is likely to be suspended for all or part of 2014 for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. Any day now, or maybe that should be any month, the league is expected to rule on Gordon’s appeal, which concluded Aug. 4.
Benjamin’s season was smoothly sailing along last year until a gruesome knee injury in Kansas City ended his season.
Brian Hoyer has received more attention for his torn ACL because he’s a quarterback, but Benjamin was injured returning a punt on Oct, 27, 24 days after Hoyer went down, and had to rehab just as relentlessly to be ready for the start of camp on July 25.
“I always feel like I can stretch the field, catch sharp balls, long balls.” Benjamin said on Aug. 13 after a 50-yard catch from Johnny Manziel on the right sideline highlighted a very productive practice. “I actually feel much faster than I was before. Mostly I focused on my lower body and getting it stronger knowing that I had an ACL surgery. I always feel like I’m the fastest guy in the NFL. I’m just waiting for the challenge.”
Speed and quickness were priceless traits for a young boy growing up in Belle Grade, where rabbit catching is a rite of passage. Benjamin said his older brother would tell tales of the sport when Travis was too young to chase Peter Cottontail.
Benjamin’s time of glory came when he reached middle school. The game was on when the sugarcane was burned and the rabbits started running. “The biggest trick is, as a group, surround the bushes and when the rabbits hear you coming they just rush out and go any way,” Benjamin said. “Knowing you have a circle, you’re able to catch it.
“Sometimes you dive. Sometimes you have a stick or something in your hand so when you see it you just have to jump on it. One day I caught 20, 25 rabbits. I was telling (teammates and coaches) the story and they didn’t believe it, so they’ve called me “Rabbit” ever since. Now I go to the grocery store and everybody calls me Rabbit.”
Rabbit is a delicacy in Bell Grade.
“Kind of tender, almost like pork chops,” Benjamin said.
Benjamin, a 2012 fourth-round draft pick from Miami, has six career kick returns for 222 yards — a 37.0 average. He has 25 career punt returns for a 16.7 average. He had an 86-yard kick return (no touchdown) plus a 93-yard punt return for a touchdown last year. He returned a punt 79 yards for a touchdown in 2012.
Benjamin caught 18 passes as a rookie. One was a 69-yard catch and run for a touchdown. He caught five passes last year and one of those covered 39 yards. He had one carry for 45 yards in 2013 and six in 2012. One of those went for 35 yards.
The Rabbit doesn’t get his hands on the ball often. But when he does, good things happen for the Browns.
“It’s hard to have a roster spot just for a guy and all he does is return,” Coach Mike Pettine said. “He has to be able to function on one side of the ball or the other. In Kyle’s offense over the years, he’s had that guy that can kind of take the roof off. I think that’s important.”
Benjamin is ready to tear that roof off, even if he’ll find no rabbits under it.

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Antrel Rolle is smiling thinking out of the box

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Coming off his best season, New York Giants safety Antrel Rolle has reason to smile.

Not only have the Giants restocked the secondary in the offseason, they finally have enough cornerbacks to allow Rolle to stay at safety in passing situations instead of switching to the nickel back.

It was a position that he has disliked since joining the Giants in 2010, but one he played every week to help the team.

With the free agent signings of Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Walter Thurmond III and Zack Bowman and the return of Prince Amukamara, Jayron Hosley and Trumaine McBride, defensive coordinator Perry Fewell has the depth and talent to keep Rolle in his natural position.

For now, Thurmond is the nickel back.

"Yeah that's great," Rolle said Wednesday as the Giants (2-0) continued preparations for Saturday's preseason game in Indianapolis against the Colts.

"Having Walter here is a huge plus and a huge asset for our defense. He's a phenomenal player. Not just nickel back, but a player. You talk about special teams, you talk about just being a corner on the boundary and being a slot-nickel. He can do it all."

Rolle did it all last season for the Giants. The 31-year-old led the team with 98 tackles and six interceptions, both career highs. It earned him his third Pro Bowl appearance.

As a full-time safety, Fewell said there is no telling how good Rolle can be this season.

"That's up to Antrel," Fewell said. "We're giving him all the reps back there, he uses the term, 'I'm getting my eyes back.' So he can now see the field instead of seeing down in the box and the perimeter. Now he sees the entire field. I think that's important for him to develop that to become as good as he can be as a safety."

This is also going to be a season where Rolle emerges as the undisputed leader of the defense.

For the past couple of years, he and defensive end Justin Tuck shared the role. Tuck signed with Oakland as a free agent in the offseason and now it's fair to say Rolle is in charge among the players.

Linebacker Jon Beason might have shared that role, but he injured a foot in the offseason and has been on the physically unable to perform list.

So Rolle is the spokesman for the defense, which has allowed one touchdown in two preseason games.

"I'm very pleased with I've seen thus far," Rolle said. "Obviously, there's a lot of areas to clean up and fine-tune. Cut down on a lot of the penalties, especially in the defensive backfield, and eliminating a lot of the big plays: big play run and big play pass.

"Overall, I think we've been doing a great job in keeping a team out of the end zone, which is always our number one priority as a defense. So far, so good."
The defense will be challenged this weekend, facing the Colts and Andrew Luck.

"I think Luck is an elite quarterback," Rolle said. "He's an outstanding young and rising star in the league. I think he possesses great tools and great poise as a quarterback. This is going to be the best test that we've done thus far this year with the receiver tandem they do have."

Indianapolis should test the secondary with Reggie Wayne, T.Y. Hilton and former Giant Hakeem Nicks.

"I think we've been gelling excellent. Not just good, but excellent," Rolle said. "As a defensive back unit, I think our chemistry is definitely where it needs to be and it's going to continue to rise.

"We're friends on and off the field, which is always something you need when you're dealing with people on an everyday basis. We all love each other and we all play for one another. More importantly, we all understand what we have at task right now, which is to go out there and see the ball and get the ball."

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'Underrated' Calais Campbell would love more recognition

GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians calls Calais Campbell one of the most underrated players in the NFL.

It's a description the big defensive end doesn't really like.

"To me it's a term that you don't want because you'd rather be viewed as one of the best in the game," he said, "but it's nice that if you're not getting the top accolades, at least people know that you're working hard and they recognize you a little bit. So it's better than nothing."

An imposing 6-foot-8 and 300 pounds, Campbell is widely lauded for his talents by coaches and players around the league.

Yet he has never made it to the Pro Bowl, something that Arians says "baffles" him.

One reason is the 3-4 defensive scheme the Cardinals use. That leaves Campbell inside to fight off double teams while others make the play. In the 4-3 system, defensive ends rush the passer and accumulate the kind of sack totals that result in a Pro Bowl invitation.

"When you start getting guys with all the sacks and stuff as rush ends in a 4-3, they're going to get the hype to go to the Pro Bowl," Arians said.
Last year, at least, he was a Pro Bowl alternate.

Campbell toils in the trenches and, as far as responsibilities go, his duties often are nearly the same as a defensive tackle.

"Me and (Darnell) Dockett pretty much do the exact same thing but he is considered a D-tackle and me a D-end," Campbell said, "but that's a good thing because when I got the franchise tag I got the defensive end money."

Campbell spent a mere two months as a franchise player in early 2012 before signing a five-year, $51 million contract, with $31 million guaranteed.
The defensive tackle-defensive end confusion even spread to quarterback Carson Palmer, who called Campbell "probably one of the more underrated D-tackles in the league."

In reality, Campbell plays all along the defensive line, depending on what set is employed by defensive coordinator Todd Bowles.
"I move around a lot," he said. "I play nose tackle sometimes ... and even outside on the tight end sometimes."

That versatility is a tribute to Campbell's athleticism, Arians said.

"He's got great extension and length. Also he bats a lot of balls down," the coach said. "It (his height) is an advantage as long as he can bend. Some tall guys can't bend, they have to stay out on the edge. He can bend so he can play all four positions across the front. His athletic ability allows him to do that."

Campbell was an integral part of a defense that ranked sixth overall and first against the run last season.

"It's a team effort," Campbell said. "It comes down to playing well with your team and motivating the guys around you. The good players make the ones around them better. Those are the guys who really are the top of the game, the ones that go out there and command double teams and don't get any stats but make the team around them better. The linebackers and other linemen are able to make big-time plays."

Two and a half weeks shy of his 28th birthday, he is in the prime of his career.

Despite the persistent double-teams, Campbell had a career-high nine sacks last season and 72 tackles. His 12 tackles for loss tied for most on the team. Campbell also forced a fumble, recovered two fumbles and had 27 quarterback pressures. It was the fifth straight season he had at least 50 tackles and six sacks.

And, no matter what anyone says, Campbell is a defensive end.

"I've always been a D-end growing up and I feel like a D-end," he said. "I want to compete against the best and I want to be considered the best just from hard work and dedication. Right now there's a lot of good players in this league. It feels good to be amongst them, but when it's all said and done I want to be the best in the game. That's always been the motivation."

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Yonder Alonso likely back to DL

San Diego Padres 1B Yonder Alonso (wrist, forearm) suffered a right wrist/forearm injury Tuesday, Aug. 12, according to manager Bud Black. Alonso is expected to have to go back on the disabled list. He returned from the DL July 26 from a similar ailment and was hitting .421 (16-for-38) since returning. Alonso will have an MRI exam Wednesday, Aug. 13, after an MRI Tuesday showed a right forearm strain. He said he felt something "pop" while batting Tuesday. C Yasmani Grandal was starting at first base Wednesday, and Black said INFs Tommy Medica and Jacob Goebbert could also see time there.

Fantasy Tip: You can cut Alonso in most mixed leagues at this point. His wrist/forearm issue seems like it could be pretty serious, so his performance might be affected if he's able to return before the end of the season. Grandal probably benefits the most, with regular playing time at either catcher or first base throughout the end of the regular season.

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Greg Olsen limps away from final camp practice

SPARTANBURG The Carolina Panthers had a scare Tuesday when starting tight end Greg Olsen limped off the practice field and was carted to the locker room during the final practice of training camp.

It turned out to be a cramp – a byproduct of the hot and humid temperatures that were nonexistent for the majority of the 14 practices at Wofford.

Olsen and right tackle Nate Chandler were treated for cramps Tuesday during the nearly two-hour session under sunny skies. Olsen said his left calf “locked up” toward the end of practice, but he said he would be fine after the Panthers’ scheduled off-day Wednesday.

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Brandon Linder getting center snaps

An interesting development the last two days at Jaguars camp has been rookie Brandon Linder getting snaps at center, including with the second team Tuesday.

Throughout the first three weeks of camp, Mike Brewster, Jacques McClendon, Luke Bowanko and Matt Stankiewitch have taken the center reps. Patrick Lewis played the position in college.

So why Linder now?

The Jaguars, naturally, are downplaying it.

“He did a nice job [Monday] – it’s new [for him],” coach Gus Bradley said. “You may see him in there some at the center spot. When? That’s what we’ll decide tonight.”

I asked offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch this morning if center is a three-man race between Brewster, McClendon and Linder.

Fisch said: “We talked [last week] about the interior line and how we’re trying to figure out which two of the three we’re going to play. It’s still the same discussion.”

Kinda, sorta.

Last week, the discussion was Brewster playing center and Linder/McClendon playing right guard.

This week, the discussion has changed.

I asked Bradley if the Linder-working-at-center deal is the Jaguars’ acknowledgement they have a problem at center three-plus weeks before the opener.

“No,” said Bradley, who added, “The challenge for us is, ‘OK, we have to keep continuity.’ But, yet, we have to find out what the best combination is. … But Brewster has really done a nice job this week. I think that he’ll play good against Chicago.”

Some thoughts at what could be happening:

*The Jaguars intend to start Linder at right guard and Brewster at center, BUT like another player (maybe Drew Nowak) at guard more than they like McClendon. In this roster math, they would keep Nowak as a reserve guard and make sure Linder is able to move over to center if called upon.

*Brewster has experience at guard (left side) and the Jaguars could be thinking about moving him to right guard and Linder to center. A long shot theory.

*They don’t think Bowanko is even close to being ready to play and  might try to stash him on the practice squad.

*The Jaguars are going to give Linder a crash course at center to get him ready for Week 1. This would be the panic button.

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Sean Spence Talks About Returning To Game Action

Linebacker Sean Spence on returning to game action against the Giants after missing the last two seasons with a knee injury:

“It was fun. It was very emotional at the beginning of the game. But once I got in there I felt at peace, at home. I felt pretty good. I can continue to improve and I am going to try and do that. I think I did okay, but I think I can get better. I just need to work on some technique stuff, some alignment stuff.”

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Colin McCarthy roster spot may be in question after injury

NASHVILLE — Colin McCarthy’s future with the Tennessee Titans may be in limbo following a shoulder injury in Saturday night’s preseason opener with the Green Bay Packers.

McCarthy suffered a left shoulder injury in the third quarter of the game and was escorted from the field to the locker room.

Asked after the game, Coach Ken Whisenhunt, while not offering specifics on the injury, said McCarthy “probably is going to be out for a while with a shoulder.”

That is not good news for a player who took the Titans by storm as a play-making rookie middle linebacker in 2011 and was Tennessee’s defensive captain in the 2012 season. Also working against McCarthy is his $1.431 million base salary in the final year of his rookie contract — something that might be too big of a number for a backup player.

Since being named captain, McCarthy has seemingly been unable to catch a break — or rather he has had too many of them.

After playing 13 games with seven starts as a rookie, McCarthy struggled through his second year with a high ankle sprain, playing just seven games before going on IR. When he came back last season, he had lost his starting job to free agent Moise Fokou.

Saturday night when McCarthy suffered the injury, he was running with the third team unit and trying to secure a spot on special teams.

The Titans will be careful in their evaluation of the former Miami Hurricanes star. Speaking on McCarthy and backup center Chris Spencer, who suffered an ankle injury, Whisenhunt said the Titans would not be in a hurry to make a decision on either of them.

“They’ve been checked out today, but we’ll know more as the week progresses,” Whisenhunt said.

“We’re not faced with anything like (putting them on injured reserve) right now, so there’s no reason to even talk about that.”

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Chase Ford on course to come off PUP list

MANKATO, Minn. -- Vikings tight end Chase Ford is on course to be removed from the physically unable to perform list by the start of the regular season.

"I feel like I see light at the end of the tunnel," he said this week.

A broken left foot has sidelined Ford since the start of training camp. He learned it was fractured after participating in OTAs.

Ford, who caught 11 passes for 133 yards late last season, was a pleasant surprise for the Vikings, whose depth at tight end is in flux.

The team this week signed six-year veteran Kory Sperry, a former Arizona Cardinal, to replace AC Leonard, who was released before playing a game for Minnesota.

Ford was expected to compete with veterans Allen Reisner and Rhett Ellison behind 2012 Pro Bowler Kyle Rudolph. Mike Higgins, another free agent, also is in the mix.

"I'm always in my playbook and listening to the plays called, running it through my mind," Ford said. "I try to visualize it before they even run it."

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Cardinals defensive end Calais Campbell still has youth on his side

If it seems a little strange to see the words "seven-year pro" and the name "Calais Campbell" in the same sentence, relax. You're not the only one.
Campbell almost can't believe it, either.

"Yeah, it seems like I turned into a vet overnight or something," the 6-foot-8 defensive end said Monday as the Cardinals returned to practice for their third week of training camp.

Maybe it's the baby face and that boyish smile. Maybe it's because he's still only 27. Or maybe it's because he still hasn't been voted into his first Pro Bowl. He was named as a Pro Bowl alternate for the first time in 2013.

But it's true: Campbell is entering his seventh NFL season and even though he has accomplished a lot, he still doesn't feel as if he's scratched the surface.
He's had five straight seasons with at least 50 tackles and six sacks — the only Cardinals player to accomplish it on five occasions. But to Campbell, that's not good enough.

He had a career-high nine sacks a year ago, moving him into 10th place on the franchise's all-time list with 36½. With 10 more this year, he'll be sitting in fifth place. But that won't be good enough, either.

He's been to the Super Bowl, but he's also played on two teams that finished 5-11.

"I want to be the best," he said.

Campbell has had a chip on his shoulder since the day he got drafted out of Miami in 2008. He expected to be a first-round pick. Instead, he went to the Cardinals in the second round with the 50th overall selection.

"I didn't get drafted as high as I want to and part of that was my fault for not working as hard as I could leading up to the (scouting) combine," he said. "Going in the second round was motivation for me. I knew I could be a good player in this league.

"But I wanted to be one of the best in the game. I had high expectations for myself."

In his opinion, Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said Campbell has met all the expectations. It's just a shame, he added, that Campbell doesn't receive the type of notoriety as a rush end in a 3-4 defense as he would in a 4-3 scheme.

"When you start getting guys with all the sacks as rush ends in a 4-3, they're the one who are going to get the hype and go to the Pro Bowl," Arians said.

"I think (Campbell) is probably one of the most underrated guys in the league. It baffles me how he doesn't go to the Pro Bowl. With his size and length and the rush he gets — he commands double teams — to me, he's one of the premier 3-4 defensive ends in the league."

Campbell admits that getting overlooked for the Pro Bowl has been humbling. But not getting there, he said, continues to make him hungry to make it.

"It's something I know will come eventually," he says. "I just have to keep working hard and eventually I'm sure it will come if I do everything the right way. It has to."

If it's ever going to happen, this figures to be the season. Campbell insists he is a better player now than he was last season, that he's honed his pass-rushing technique and learned a few new tricks on how to get the jump on opposing tackles and tight ends.

"I'm not going to miss as many tackles," he promised. "I'm stronger. I've got more power. I know how to use my hands better now. … Now that I'm getting a little older and wiser, I'm trying to add more moves to my arsenal."

It also helps that he's leading the charge up front in what many NFL observers are projecting to be one of the more dominating defenses in the league. If the Cardinals make some noise again in 2014, it will be impossible not to notice Campbell.

"I want to win Super Bowls and be the best defense year in and year out and always be playing at the highest level," he said. "That's the ultimate goal and this year is the most critical because our expectations are high. We're a talented team and we're in an interesting situation right now."

So is Campbell. He's entering his seventh NFL season and it seems like he's still one of the younger players on the team.

"I'm definitely young at heart," he said, laughing. "But man, when you look around and start seeing a lot of guys that are younger than you, you really do start feeling like a vet, officially. For me, I still feel like I've got a lot of good years and good football left. I'm still young."

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Chuck Pagano interviews Reggie Wayne

ANDERSON, Ind. -- Indianapolis Colts coach Chuck Pagano had some time to kill before it was his turn to address the media Tuesday morning.

So rather than sit back and wait until receiver Reggie Wayne finished talking, Pagano decided to join in the interview session.

Here’s the transcript of the interview:

Pagano: Have you forgot how to play the game, Reggie?
Wayne: I have not forgotten how to play. It’s been some months, been since October. I’m excited about this opportunity to be back out here with my teammates. After you have been playing since you were 7 years old, I don't think you can forget.

Pagano: Is it like riding a bike?
Wayne: I think it’s even easier than riding a bike. I have probably played football more than I have ridden a bike the last nine years of my life. It’s easier; it’s like waking up and brushing your teeth.

Pagano: When it is taken away from you, how much do you miss it?
Wayne: It puts everything into perspective; it really makes you think about going out there and treating it like it could be your last one. One thing it did, it made me understand and respect it even more. When you’re out there on a daily basis, you always think I am going to be alright, I am going to be here "X" amount of time. But then when it’s pulled from right under your feet, it’s humbling. Last year was rough for me, it really was. I took that time to get back right and at the same time it made me respect it, it made me understand it, it made me even hungrier to take each day that I’m out here practicing with my teammates. It made me want to be out there even more because you never know, so you have to treat it as such.

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Beefed-up Allen Bailey ready for new starting role

The Kansas City Chiefs’ decision to not offer Tyson Jackson a monster free-agent contract last offseason is leading to an opportunity for Allen Bailey.

Bailey, a four-year defensive end out of Miami (Fla.), is expected to step into a starting role this season for defensive coordinator Bob Sutton.

Seeing more time last season, Bailey feels even more confident with the fresh defensive scheme that Sutton brought in upon being hired last year.

“It’s my second year in the defense so I’m a lot more comfortable with it. It makes it a lot easier,” Bailey said. “Being around the same guys as last year helps.”

Listed at 6-foot-3, 288 pounds, Bailey said he is pushing around 300 pounds since arriving at training camp after beefing up this offseason.

“I feel good out there,” he said. “I’m just trying to stay healthy and get better.”

Bailey will fill in for Jackson, now on a five-year $25 million contract with Atlanta, who provided a consistent threat on the Chiefs’ defensive line. In his five seasons in Kansas City, Jackson averaged 39.8 tackles per year before agreeing to join the Falcons, where former Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli works.

Bailey is coming off a career-best 25 tackles and one sack in 15 games in 2013.

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The Value Of Calais Campbell

Calais Campbell is so good that some of guard Jonathan Cooper’s problems in training camp have been directly attributed to having to face one of the best defensive ends in the NFL on a daily basis.

Yet Campbell not only has never made a Pro Bowl, he’s only been an alternate once.

Campbell is good enough that the “Madden” video game franchise gave him a 96 overall rating in their new version, trailing only elite ends J.J. Watt, Robert Quinn and tying him with Cameron Wake – all of whom were Pro Bowlers last season. He’s good enough that the Cardinals gave him a giant contract extension back in 2012.

Yet Campbell has never been included in the NFL Network’s Top 100 players list.

Campbell isn’t the sort to step up on a soap box to complain. He’d admittedly finds it awkward when asked to talk about his place in the game. But he’s noticed what is said and not said about him.

“The term underrated, it’s a term you don’t want,” Campbell said. “You’d rather be viewed as one of the best in the game. But if you’re not getting the top accolades at least people know you are working hard and they recognize you a little bit. It’s better than nothing.”

The Cardinals know what they’ve got. It’s why they signed him long-term and why, when the team drafted Kareem Martin in the third round in May, they were thrilled to discuss him as a Campbell clone. Given that he is a 3-4 end, Campbell’s tackle numbers are usually higher than expected. He had a career-high nine sacks a year ago and a team high 12 tackles for loss.

Darnell Dockett still gets the spotlight along the defensive line, but it is Campbell who anchors the crew.

“When Calais came out, he was 274 pounds and the questions were, 'Is he a 3-4 end, is he a 4-3 end, is he an under tackle, is he a linebacker?' ” General Manager Steve Keim said. "Our projection the whole time was when he hits puberty, he's going to be a 300-plus pound man with long arms and tremendous leverage. He's 308 pounds now, and still scratching the surface. It is scary how the guy just continues to get better.

"When you look at the national scene and J.J. Watt and Ndamukong Suh and the elite defensive linemen, I am obviously biased, but in my mind there is no reason why Calais Campbell wouldn't be considered among the top five defensive linemen in the NFL."

The defensive ends with the flashy sack numbers are the ones who earn Pro Bowl trips. Campbell’s rise to complete player also came after the Cardinals’ division title run, so his play has been undervalued.

What Campbell might value himself, however, won’t help in getting him on any top 100 list. He’s a believer in the best players making those around him better. In games, that might mean absorbing a double-team so a linebacker can go make a play.

Off the field, it might mean tips for Cooper or fellow guard Earl Watford, the men against whom he often battles in practice.

“He’s a really good player, he’s a unique talent, a good leader and he’s always looking to help guys, especially me,”

Watford said. “He helps with (my) weaknesses and stuff I can work on to put me in better positions against not just him but other players.

“You’re going to line up against good players every Sunday. You learn and get better from it, and limit the number of times he beats you. That’s how it works. It’s good to have players like Calais to go up against.”

Those are veteran moves for a guy who still has a hard time seeing himself as a veteran. As he goes into his seventh season, Campbell insists he can improve considerably.

If he were in a 4-3 defense, perhaps the numbers would be more flashy. As it is, Campbell moves around all along a defensive line – in both the 3-4 base and the four-man nickel line – and has even been used as nose tackle.

Dockett has had much better success making Pro Bowls, and to this Campbell shrugs. Dockett is listed as a defensive tackle and Campbell an end, even though “me and Dockett do pretty much the exact same thing.”

Then again, Campbell smiles when he notes that being called an end helped him tremendously on the financial end when he received the franchise tag with such a designation. He likes the challenge of playing end.

When the coaches and front office are in his ear saying he should be able to take over games, Campbell knows his talent is appreciated and needed. So maybe sometimes, he isn’t going to be on a “Sunday Night Football” promo, or be on the NFL Network Top 100 countdown.

“You can control what you can control,” Campbell said. “With that, all it can be is, ‘Wow, left off again?’ ”

Campbell smiled.

“Madden knows what they’re doing," he adds. "They’ve always given me good rating though. They know good football.” 

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Yonder Alonso getting MRI on right forearm strain

SAN DIEGO -- First baseman Yonder Alonso left Tuesday's game against the Rockies with a right forearm strain, the team announced.

The Padres' first baseman was replaced on defense in the top of the fourth inning. Alonso walked in his only plate appearance and scored a run in the second inning.

Alonso returned from the disabled list on July 26 after missing 30 games with tendinitis in his right wrist. He was hitting .421 (16-for-38) since returning.

Alonso wasn't available for comment after the game as he was getting an MRI.

"That was a weird one," said Padres manager Bud Black. "He was standing right next to me and had a bat in his right hand. He did something with the bat that triggered some discomfort."

Black indicated that the pain was in the same area where Alonso has previously had issues this season.

The Padres moved Tommy Medica from left field to first base after Alonso left the game, and then sent third baseman Yangervis Solarte to left field. Chris Nelson came off the bench to play third base.

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Pelicans Sign John Salmons

AUGUST 12TH: Salmons has finally signed his deal, tweets Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders. The team has yet to make an official announcement. It’s indeed for $2MM, all of which will count against the cap for the Pelicans this year, even though $500K of the payout is deferred, as Pincus adds in a second tweet.

JULY 14TH: The Pelicans will ink a deal with swingman John Salmons, whom the Hawks waived last week after acquiring him from the Raptors, tweets Marc Stein of New Orleans appears to be choosing a deal with him over Omri Casspi, whom the Pelicans are reportedly likely to release after the trade that brings him and Omer Asik to New Orleans is finalized. It’ll be a one-year, $2MM deal for Salmons, reports Chris Haynes of (Twitter link). Presumably, it’ll come out of the team’s $2.732MM room exception.

The Joel Bell client split this past season between the Kings and Raptors, receiving a similar amount of playing time with both teams. He averaged 5.2 points in 22.1 minutes, but his 38.7% three-point shooting was a career high outside of his 41.7% mark in 2008/09.

The 34-year-old’s name was reportedly a part of predraft trade talks between the Raptors and Grizzlies, but Memphis apparently wasn’t too motivated to advance the discussion further. It seems like he’ll nonetheless stand a decent chance of starting at small forward for New Orleans, which renounced its rights to incumbent starter Al-Farouq Aminu and has little other means to acquire a replacement.

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