Throwback Thursday, 1985: Bernie Kosar announces he'll leave Miami to play for the Cleveland Browns

CORAL GABLES, Florida - On April 24, 1985, University of Miami quarterback Bernie Kosar announced he was taking his talents to the North Coast.

Through a bit of NFL draft wizardry, Kosar became available to the Cleveland Browns in the supplemental draft that year.

Kosar grew up in the northeast Ohio city of Boardman. He graduated from the University of Miami in just three years.

His arranging the circumstances to come to Cleveland was just one of the reasons he became a fan favorite. As a hard-working quarterback  from a blue collar area, he made it easy for fans to identify with him.

His teams went to the playoffs in each of his first four years he played for the Browns.

But back to Miami: the story in our video player is from WEWS reporter Roger Morris. Morris traveled to Florida to cover Kosar’s announcement he was leaving Miami for Cleveland.

Bernie may have had Cleveland on his mind at that press conference, but his attire was all Florida. He walked to the podium in a tank top and shorts.

Answering a question regarding how badly the Browns have handled their operations of late, Kosar responds, “It’s funny, if they’ve handled things so badly, how come I’ve been in this position, with these options for really the first time any player has had these kind of options.”

Bernie alludes to then-Browns starter Paul McDonald saying, “Until I prove I’m better, he’ll stay the starting quarterback in all probability.”

According to, Kosar started 10 games in his first season with the Browns and a total of 105 in his Cleveland career.

He was released in 1993 after Browns coach Bill Belichick said Kosar suffered from "diminishing skills." He went on to play for the Miami Dolphins and Dallas Cowboys.

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Will Hester Be "Ridiculous" Elsewhere Next Season?

Welcome to Decision 2014, a series of articles designed to discuss which players the Chicago Bears should attempt to keep in the fold for next season, and which players they should bid adieu to as they attempt to work through a tough salary cap situation.

Today’s player is kick returner Devin Hester.

If you were to ask a Bears fan what their favorite memory of the team is over the past decade, odds are that the moment they choose would involve Devin Hester in some way.

Whether it was the insane comeback against the Arizona Cardinals on Monday night football in 2006, or his opening kickoff touchdown in Super Bowl XLI, or even his threats to retire after the firing of Lovie Smith as head coach (okay, maybe not that one), Hester has been part of plenty of history during his tenure in the Windy City, but all of that may be about to change.

That’s because Hester’s 4-year deal with the Bears, which at its peak carried a $6.833 million cap hit in 2010, has expired after the 2013 season. Hester had a decent year for the Bears, scoring his first return touchdown since 2011 and leading the league in average yards per kickoff return. Overall, he returned 70 kickoffs and punts for 1698 yards for the Bears.

Now though, Hester’s tenure with the team is a giant question mark. With the club currently in a bit of a salary cap crunch thanks to a combination of long-term money being given to guys like Jay Cutler and Tim Jennings, as well as the dead money that is inevitably going to be carried when the Bears start slicing and dicing contracts off their books, Hester is nowhere near the front of the line when it comes to guys that the Bears are considering handing fresh coin to.

The question, then, is whether or not the Bears should make it a priority to bring Hester back. After all, having a guy on the roster who does nothing but return punts and kicks isn’t the most effective allocation of resources in today’s NFL, but there rarely are guys who are capable of breaking the big play quite as often as Hester has in his career. Granted, those return touchdowns, once a gushing waterfall of scoring, have now gone drier than the Sahara Desert, with his touchdown in 2013 serving as merely an oasis in a land largely devoid of scoring.

Of course, you can’t just look at the numbers that Hester puts up in the touchdown category to prove his worth. After all, teams still kick away from Hester at times, and even when they don’t, his average return number is still very good even for a guy who isn’t getting to the end zone quite as much. Additionally, Hester did have a couple of return touchdowns called back because of penalty (thanks, Craig Steltz), so it isn’t like he is fully incapable of getting to the end zone.

Unfortunately though, the Bears aren’t in a position where they can afford much more than a 1-year, low-guaranteed money deal for Hester. They have guys on the roster like Eric Weems who are capable of returning kicks, and because of that expendability that Hester now has, it’s probably time that the team parts ways with him.

Jeff Joniak may no longer be able to say “DEVIN HESTER YOU ARE RIDICULOUS” on his return touchdowns, but the Bears will be better off having some financial freedom to pursue other avenues rather than trying to come up with money to sign a guy that is more of a luxury item than a necessity.

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Willis McGahee says he wants to play four more years

The Cleveland Browns reached out to free agent running back Willis McGahee last year after they traded away Trent Richardson and in doing so they gave an over-the-hill player another shot at competing. The move must have lit a fire under McGahee as the running back is stating he wants to play at least four more years in the NFL.

Per ESPNCleveland:
McGahee said he wants to play four more years, but he finished the year on fumes and lost his biggest advocate in the organization, former coach Rob Chudzinski.

Seeing McGahee return last season was a surprise to many and to hear he plans four more years of football is even more surprising. He’s not the back he used to be and after suffering a knee injury in the National Championship game during his final season with the Miami Hurricanes, it can be argued McGahee never really became the back he could have been.

Still, for a guy who many thought wouldn’t play in the NFL at all, McGahee has longevity and apparently the will to keep playing. The only question is will anyone give him a contract in the offseason?

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Kellen Winslow Jr. pleads not guilty to synthetic marijuana charge

HANOVER -- Jets tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. did not appear in municipal court for a hearing here Thursday morning, where two of his attorneys entered a plea of not guilty on his behalf to a charge synthetic marijuana possession.

Winslow, 30, of Madison, was arrested back in November after a woman called police to say she saw him masturbating in his vehicle in a parking lot outside the Target on Route 10 in neighboring East Hanover. Winslow was not charged with lewdness, but police allegedly did find synthetic marijuana in the vehicle.
Winslow's publicist would later say Winslow was just changing his clothes.

Winslow was scheduled to appear before judge Vincent A. Pirone on Thursday, but he's on the west coast with what was described in court as a "medical issue" that will prevent him from flying for the next two weeks.

Winslow's attorney, Jason Meisner of Morristown, told judge Pirone that attorney David J. Blair of Colorado would also be handling Winslow's defense.

After the hearing, Blair declined to address any specifics about the medical issue.

The next hearing in the case was scheduled for March 13. Judge Pirone made it clear to Winslow's attorneys that Winslow must be present for that hearing.

Winslow was formally charged in late December after lab tests confirmed he allegedly possessed the synthetic weed, which he allegedly told the arresting officers he used because the NFL tests players for actual marijuana.

The executive director of the NFL's players' union said Winslow should not face any discipline from the league because synthetic marijuana is not listed in its drug policy as a banned substance.

A 10-year NFL veteran, Winslow has played just one season with the Jets. He is scheduled to become a free agent when the 2014 league year begins next month.

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Antrel Rolle Cap Casuality?

Antrel Rolle, Giants: The Giants are in a stronger cap position for 2014 than the Cowboys, but they also likely have no interest in keeping Rolle’s $9.25 million hit on the books. A contract extension for the 31-year-old safety could solve that problem, but releasing him would free up $7.25 million — all of Rolle’s remaining deal save leftover bonus money.

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Give Bryant McKinnie Credit

Free agent tackle Bryant McKinnie deserves credit for playing with a torn meniscus through his entire 10-game Dolphins tenure. And McKinnie is lobbying for the Dolphins to re-sign him. "I wasn't afforded enough time to help like I wanted to help," he told WQAM. "I'm a leader. I know what it takes to win. I still can play. I'm... getting my weight down." 

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Kellen Winslow to enter plea Thursday in marijuana case

HANOVER — New York Jets tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. is scheduled to have his first appearance in municipal court Thursday morning on a charge of possession of Fubinaca, a synthetic form of marijuana.

Winslow, 30, of Madsion, will enter a plea during his appearance in East Hanover Municipal Court, which shares a joint court with Hanover.

Winslow was allegedly found in possession of the designer form of cannabis on Nov. 19 by East Hanover police officer John M. Fox. Police had received a complaint from a woman who said she saw Winslow masturbating inside his car outside the Target store on Route 10 in East Hanover, according to a police report.

A publicist for Winslow later issued a statement saying he was only changing his clothes.

Winslow was formally charged on Dec. 30 after lab tests that came back on Dec. 23 revealed Winslow was allegedly in possession of synthetic marijuana, according to the police report.

He pleaded not guilty at his initial appearance before central judicial processing in Superior Court in Morristown last month, and the case was referred to municipal court.

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Re-signing Sam Shields won't come cheap for Packers

Sam Shields has been at the bottom of the NFL’s salary rung for four years after entering the league as an undrafted rookie in 2010.

But Shields resisted relative financial security last year when the Packers tried to negotiate a contract extension, and then survived the significant injury risk of playing through 2013.

Now the 26-year-old cornerback no doubt is looking for his reward: a blockbuster payday as a free agent this spring. Which likely is making it difficult for the Packers to re-sign the player who likely is their No. 1 contract priority this offseason.

The Packers have been in contact with his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, this offseason and likely will talk to him at the NFL scouting combine later this month. But Shields will be one of the top cornerbacks available in free agency starting March 11, along with New England’s Aqib Talib, Tennessee’s Alterraun Verner, Indianapolis’ Vontae Davis and Denver’s Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.

“It’s a small class of top cover corners, so (Shields) has a chance to do well,” a pro scout for another NFL team said. “He runs as well as any free agent cornerback.”

Working in Shields’ favor is his youth (26), speed and still-ascending career trajectory. Working against him is the NFL’s relatively flat salary cap, which is expected to rise only slightly from last season’s $123 million to an estimated $126.3 million. A flat cap contributed to a soft free agent market for cornerbacks last spring.

Last year, the four cornerbacks to come out of free agency with the highest-paying contracts were Philadelphia’s Cary Williams ($5.7 million average), Kansas City’s Sean Smith ($5.5 million), New Orleans’ Keenan Lewis ($5.11 million) and San Diego’s Derek Cox ($5 million). Their guaranteed moneyicon1 ranged from $5.75 million to $7.65 million.

The aforementioned scout said Shields is a better pure cover man than any of them, and thus figures to be in line for a better deal. The question is, how much better?

The highest-paid cornerbacks in the league are Tampa Bay’s Darrelle Revis ($16 million average), Denver’s Champ Bailey ($10.6 million), Dallas’ Brandon Carr ($10 million), St. Louis’ Cortland Finnegan ($10 million) and Cincinnati’s Leon Hall ($9.75 million).

Though Shields had his best season last year and led the team in interceptions with four, he doesn’t appear to be in line for that kind of contract.

Shields’ teammate with the Packers, Tramon Williams, ranks No. 8 on that list at an $8.25 million average. In 2014, Williams is scheduled to make $7.5 million in salary and bonuses.

That could be the kind of offer it would take to prevent Shields from testing the free-agent market. A second NFL scout this week guessed that Shields might command as much as an $8.5 million average on the open market.

If the Packers don’t work out a new deal with Shields, they have until March 3 to use the franchise tag on him. However, the tag’s cost could prove prohibitive for general manager Ted Thompson. The NFL has not released tag values yet, but it’s likely to be similar to last year, when the tender for cornerbacks was $10.854 million.

Thompson and team vice president Russ Ball have plenty of salary-cap room — with the rollover of unused money from last season, they have about $26 million in cap space, minus the several million dollars they’ll need to sign rookies. So that could help their chances of signing Shields.

However, Thompson also probably will be looking in the next six to nine months to negotiate expensive contract extensions with receivers Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb, who are in the last season of their deals. Plus, Thompson has 17 unrestricted free agents of his own, and if many of those players sign elsewhere, the GM might have to turn more to the free-agent market than he has in the past to replenish high-priority positions.

Thompson’s desire to retain Shields has to be high as he attempts to rebuild a defense that last season ranked No. 25 in yards allowed and tied for No. 24 in points allowed. Shields was one of the defense’s best performers, and Thompson already has holes to fill on that side of the ball at safety, inside linebacker, and probably defensive line and outside linebacker.

If the Packers re-sign Shields, cornerback probably would be the defense’s strongest position. He and Williams would be the outside starters, Casey Hayward the nickel back, and Micah Hyde the likely dime back. Fourth-year pro Davon House would be the No. 5 cornerback.

However, if Shields signs with another team, the Packers probably would look to Hayward to replace him as a starting outside cornerback, which could be a concern because of Hayward’s durability issues — he missed most of last season with a recurring hamstring injury. Then either Hyde or House would be the No. 3 cornerback — if Hyde, he would play the slot corner in the nickel and Hayward would stay outside; if House, he would play the outside in the nickel and Hayward would move to the slot.

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Ravens eligible to get comp pick for Ed Reed

The NFL confirmed that the Baltimore Ravens are eligible to get a compensatory pick after losing safety Ed Reed in free agency last year.

There were questions about whether or not the Ravens would receive one after I wrote last weekend the team will likely get four comp picks. So, I reached out to league spokesman Corry Rush, who explained why the Ravens could still get a compensatory pick for Reed (although it can't be higher than a fifth-round one).

A reader suggested that the Ravens wouldn't get a comp pick for Reed because he played 10 years in the league. Here's the exact rule: "No Club shall be entitled to a Compensatory Draft Selection before the end of the fifth round for any CFA (excluding quarterbacks) with ten or more Accrued Seasons at the time of signing with his new Club."

Another reader questioned whether or not the Ravens would be awarded a comp pick because Reed was released during the season by the Houston Texans. According to the NFL, a team won't receive a comp pick if its former player is released or waived before Week 10. But the Texans cut Reed after the 10th week of the season. If they had done so the previous week, the Ravens wouldn't have been eligible for one. The Ravens should thank Gary Kubiak for that one.

So, the Ravens could get the league-maximum four compensatory picks, when they're announced at the NFL Owners Meetings next month. These are the four players that the Ravens are eligible to receive compensatory picks for: Reed, linebacker Paul Kruger, linebacker Dannell Ellerbe and cornerback Cary Williams.

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Santana Moss: Kyle Shanahan ‘one of the young great coaches of this league’

Many Redskins fans will watch with interest as Kyle Shanahan takes over the mediocre Browns offense next season. If Shanahan and the Browns prosper, there will be unhappy grumbling. If Shanahan and the Browns struggle, there will be satisfied gloating.

Santana Moss, who spent the last four years with Shanahan in Washington, appears confident that Shanahan will succeed.

“I think it’s great, honestly,” Moss told Cleveland’s 92.3 The Fan when asked about the Shanahan hiring. “It’s tough what we all had to go through these past couple of years together. And just to see one of the youngest coaches – to me, I think, one of the young great coaches of this league – not have a chance to really shine with the offense that he had, it was tough seeing us not be as good as we’re supposed to be.

“But I think Cleveland has a great coach,” he continued. “The offensive players should all get real amped about what he’s going to bring to their offense. … If you’re really rolling in that offense, everyone should be able to eat and have fun with it. We had our share of years where we all got a chance to see that. It’s just last year was a tough one for us. But I think the players up there in Cleveland should be amped up, knowing what kind of offense is coming to their team.”
Moss was then asked how much offensive control the younger Shanahan had as the situation in Washington spiraled downward in 2013.

“Honestly, as a player, you don’t always know what’s going on,” Moss said. “Coaches put you in place to go out there and have an opportunity to perform, and I think every week that’s what he gave us. Every week he came up with a way that we can run different concepts with our offense that we should be able to get open. And as a receiver, we had those chances a lot.

“There wasn’t a week that I could go out into a game and say that the defense could cover what we’re running, as long as you hit the right guy that’s open,” he said. “Every week, he brought that for us. And he was the guy that you’re gonna love. He gets right to the point. He’s a young guy, so at the end of the day he’s just like a player. He has the same mindset. He’s going to go out there, and if he’s allowed to, he’s gonna run the score up if he has the right kind of guys, as far as running those plays he’s calling. I think no player on that Cleveland team is gonna be disappointed with the kind of coach they got, because he’s gonna be out there for them. He only wants them to do better and do good, because if they do good, then it’s gonna make him look great.”

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Antrel Rolle impressed by Seahawks' defense

NEW YORK – Antrel Rolle enjoyed watching Super Bowl XLVIII, and not because he was rooting for the Seattle Seahawks.

“I’m a fan of defense, it doesn’t matter which team it is,” Rolle said. “I’m just very, very happy for those guys. They deserve everything that they received.”

Seattle’s defense completely dominated Peyton Manning and the Broncos in a 43-8 steamrolling in the Super Bowl Sunday in MetLife Stadium. A safety and defensive captain who was the Giants’ lone Pro Bowler this season, Rolle is an admirer of the Seahawks’ defense. The unit led the NFL in six significant statistical categories, including total yards (273.6), passing yards (172.0) and points (14.4) allowed per game.

“People would ask me my prediction and it was kind of hard to say,” Rolle said. “You have Peyton and I’m a huge fan of Peyton. I have a lot of close friends on the Denver team, but I told them, ‘You know what, I’m a fan of defense.’ I study the game inside and out, I study each and every position from the defensive line all the way back and I also study offenses. So when I put two and two together, I didn’t know it was going to be as bad as it was, but I did know that Seattle would win the game based on the defense’s performance.”

Rolle made his comments at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Manhattan, where he was honored at the 34th annual Thurman Munson Awards Dinner. He was clear that he would like the Giants’ defense to play at the lofty level attained by the Seahawks’ D.

“I think Seattle’s defense set some pretty big standards and left some pretty big shoes to fill for the 2014 season,” Rolle said. “Our expectations are always great. At the beginning of the year, they’re always great. We just wish for more consistency and just better play overall from the Giants because we can do it.

“Any defense would want to see itself play to that caliber. We’ve had games, absolutely, where we’ve played to that caliber before. They just put it all together for that one game, which is the game that happens to count. That’s what it’s all about. Nobody remembers who made it to the playoffs or who made it to the NFC championship. They remember one team – the Super Bowl champions.”

Two years ago today, the Giants defeated New England, 21-17, in Indianapolis in Super Bowl XLVI. Although the Giants finished 7-9 in 2013, Rolle is confident the team can rapidly reverse its fortunes. And he believes Seattle’s overpowering defense provided the blueprint for all challengers to emulate.

“That bar is set extremely high,” Rolle said. “I think they went out there and more importantly - I tell everybody throughout the week, even within the Giants - this game is won on attitude. I think they went out there and they set the tempo extremely early. You saw some fear in Denver’s offense from the front line all the way through. The defense created that, they created the mismatches and they took advantage of every opportunity.

“It was a defensive effort. I think they played extremely well as a unit. We all know what they can do, (safeties) Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas, they accompany each other very well. I think it was the defensive front that really stole the show in my eyes. They never, ever let Peyton get into a rhythm, they were exceptional against the run, they created havoc in the passing game and the linebackers and secondary just capitalized on it. It was a great game plan. The defensive coordinator (Dan Quinn), he did an exceptional job with that unit and it showed.”

Rolle shared his thoughts on several other matters:

• On whether he thought the Seahawks could be Super Bowl champions when they Giants lost to them, 23-0, in MetLife on Dec. 15.

“I’m a defensive guy,” Rolle said. “I go against their offense and their offense is good, very talented. They didn’t have Percy Harvin and if Percy’s healthy, he’s going to be your X-factor. We all know what Percy Harvin can do. That’s the reason Seattle paid him the money, that’s the reason why he was the X-factor in the Super Bowl.

“The defense, I think, played phenomenal and it started up front. They never allowed Denver to get in a rhythm. You have to take your hat off to those guys.”

• Rolle watched the game with a group that included Green Bay tight end Jermichael Finley, whose position coach from 2008-11 was Ben McAdoo, the Giants’ new offensive coordinator.

“(Finley) was telling me that McAdoo is a brain, that he’s going to keep defenses guessing,” Rolle said. “He’s very smart and I just said, ‘Yes.’ I feel like our offense is definitely going to excel in his system. Eli (Manning) is going to go and do everything he does best, which is lead our offense, and the defense will be there to also lead and pick up the pieces and make sure we create more turnovers and give them more opportunities to do their thing.”

• Rolle was asked how difficult it was to watch Seattle and Denver play the Super Bowl on the Giants’ home field (where both teams defeated the Giants in 2013).

“It wasn’t difficult at all,” Rolle said. “If you had asked me that question at the beginning of the season, you probably would have gotten a different answer. We had every opportunity, just like Seattle and Denver did. We didn’t capitalize on it. I’m professional enough to understand that and to take that. There’s nothing to be sour about, you just use that for extra motivation come next season.”

• Rolle originally was not selected to the Pro Bowl but was a late addition as a substitute for Earl Thomas, who couldn’t play once Seattle advanced to the Super Bowl. For the first time, the Pro Bowl did not have a team of NFC players facing one from the AFC. Hall of Famers Jerry Rice and Deion Sanders selected the teams. Rolle had four tackles (three solo) for Team Rice, which won the game, 22-21.

“Pro Bowl was awesome,” Rolle said. “It didn’t take away the feeling of being snubbed, but it was awesome. At the same time it was an opportunity, I took advantage of the opportunity. My family and my friends, the game itself was quite interesting. I think I loved the un-conferenced situation 10 times better, because it gives you some sort of challenge in a way. You’re not sure who is going to be on your team. More than anything, you’re teaming up with a lot of the AFC guys and you’re developing that chemistry and that bond within three days max just to get ready for a game and to be on the same page at the same time. We were out there clicking. More importantly, we were out there thumping. I like that, I’m all for that.”

• Rolle was honored at the dinner with Yankees outfielder Brett Gardner, Mets pitcher Dillon Gee, former major league pitchers turned broadcasters David Cone and Jim Kaat and former New York Knicks forward and basketball Hall of Famer Bernard King.

When approached, Rolle knew little about Munson, the Yankees captain who died on Aug. 2, 1979 when the plane he was piloting crashed at Akron-Canton Airport, where he was practicing takeoffs and landings on an off day. Munson was just 32. His widow, Diana, attended her 34th consecutive benefit for the AHRC NYC Foundation.

The Thurman Munson Awards Dinner has raised more than $12 million for programs that serve New York City children and adults who have intellectual and developmental disabilities.

“Once I realized I was going to be presented this award, I went back and did my research on Mr. Thurman Munson himself,” Rolle said. “I got chills just reading about it. I realized for sure who this guy was and I was like, ‘OK, I’ve heard about this story once before.’ It’s an extreme honor, especially for Ms. Diana Munson to have this foundation and run it for 30-some odd years and what they’ve been able to accomplish through the charities for kids with cerebral palsy and autism. It’s just an extreme honor, just being honored with the guys who have been honored in the past. I think that speaks volumes for itself.”

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Shane Larkin back with the Mavs

A little over a day after sending point guard Shane Larkin down to play for the Texas Legends of the D-League, the Dallas Mavericks have suddenly recalled the rookie from Miami.

Larkin was sent to play for the Legends after the Mavs' win over Sacramento on Friday night. Larkin played 33 minutes for the Legends on Saturday against Rio Grande Valley and finished with nine points, three rebounds, seven assists and two steals.

He also was 4-of-10 from the field, 1-of-3 on 3-pointers and committed two turnovers.

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Kenny Kadji adjusts

New Vipers rookie forward Kenny Kadji has been busy getting acquainted with the NBA D-League’s faster pace and his team’s unique, 3-point-heavy system.
“The speed, the way we play … you have to be in tip-top shape,” said the 6-foot-10, 242-pound Kadji, who is averaging 4.3 points and 2.3 rebounds in 11.3 minutes in four games. “The last week has been rough. Once I get my legs under me, I’ll be fine.”

Kadji, a range-shooting forward, averaged 9.1 points, 4.7 rebounds and 1.1 blocks in four college seasons split between Florida and Miami. He played his first two years at Florida, where one of his teammates was current Houston Rocket Chandler Parsons.

After going undrafted in last summer’s NBA Draft, Kadji played a month in Germany before returning to the States. It didn’t take him long to figure out that the D-League was the best route to the NBA. While he has not talked to Parsons in a while, he knew what the Vipers could offer.

“I know a lot of people from this team get called up and I felt it was a good fit as far as the Rockets and that relationship,” Kadji said.

Kadji has impressed with his defense. Having spent the NBA preseason in camp with the Cleveland Cavaliers under defensive-minded coach Mike Brown, he is further ahead in that aspect than offensively, where his lack of conditioning has affected his shooting (3-for-19 from the field, 1-for-9 from 3).

“He’s gifted athletically,” Vipers coach Nevada Smith said. “He’s really long, he’s got good feet and good instincts. He does a good job with rotations and knowing where to be.”

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Orioles newcomer Jemile Weeks eager to show his defensive flexibili

Going over the list of the nearly 60 players who will be in Sarasota, Fla., when major league spring training opens for the Orioles next week and trying to project the club's 25-man roster for Opening Day is a tough task.

However, there are roughly 13 "locks" for the Opening Day roster. After that, there are about six players who have a better chance to make the team than not.
That doesn’t leave much room for everyone else, and it'd be best for two newcomers who are competing for roster spots to show they can play multiple positions in order to have a chance to crack the Opening Day roster.

Second baseman Jemile Weeks, who came to the Orioles from the Oakland Athletics in the trade for closer Jim Johnson in December, and catcher Johnny Monell, acquired in a deal with the San Francisco Giants, both likely will have to show their flexibility.

Showalter loves players with versatility, and he will test players in different positions this spring while formulating his roster. Last season, Steve Pearce earned the final Opening Day roster spot by showing he could play both corner outfield spots and first base while also serving as a right-handed designated hitter.

Ryan Flaherty will enter the spring as the favorite to take over as the starting second baseman, but he might be forced to shift to third base if Manny Machado isn’t fully recovered from offseason left-knee surgery in time for Opening Day.

If Flaherty opens the season as the Opening Day second baseman, Weeks will compete with nonroster utility player Alexi Casilla, who can play second base, shortstop and third base and brings speed on the base paths. Top position player prospect Jonathan Schoop could also compete for that spot, but it'd be best for him to continue developing with everyday at-bats at Triple-A Norfolk.

While Weeks has made each of his 209 major league starts at second base, he played center field twice at the big league level and saw action in 25 games there at Triple-A Sacramento last year. He also played 23 games at shortstop last season in Triple-A.

“I see myself as a second baseman first, but I have experience at shortstop, I have experience in the outfield,” Weeks said Saturday at Orioles FanFest. “I feel like I can play anywhere on the field. I do."

As for Monell, he will compete with Mount St. Joseph graduate Steve Clevenger for the backup catcher spot behind Matt Wieters.

The Orioles took a brief look at Clevenger, who was acquired along with Scott Feldman in the trade last July that sent Jake Arrieta and Pedro Strop to the Chicago Cubs, and he impressed the organization.

Monell’s defensive ability behind the plate has been criticized in the past. Last season at Triple-A Fresno, he played nearly as many games at first base (47) as he did at catcher (48).

“I feel like I’ve got good arm strength, good footwork, I block well, I call a good game,” Monell said Saturday. “It’s just [having] an opportunity to play and come into my own and get that experience and the games under my belt and just play and not worry about anything.

"In the past, I was knocked as far as defensively and all that, I feel like I’ve grown into the position and I’m not a liability back there. I have confidence and I know I can play the position at the big league level. We’ll see what happens.

“Whatever Buck wants me to do, whatever can help the ball club win, I’m up for it,” Monell added.

Clevenger also played 11 games at first base last year in Triple-A and two at third base. Both are left-handed hitters, but Clevenger batted .380 against left-handers last year in the minors.

Regardless, the Orioles need to figure out their future at catcher with Wieters eligible for free agency following the 2015 season. So they need to find out whether Clevenger or Monell, who both have minor league options remaining, can eventually emerge as an everyday player at the position.

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Bryant McKinnie would like another season in Miami

Tackle Bryant McKinnie’s 2013 season was something of a whirlwind.

He was traded by the Ravens to the Dolphins, but not before his birthday party played host to an incident involving a stripper named Sweet Pea and a champagne bottle to the side of wide receiver Jacoby Jones‘ head. Once McKinnie got to the Dolphins, he was bothered by a knee injury and saw their struggling offensive line lose both guard Richie Incognito and tackle Jonathan Martin in the wake of Martin’s harassment allegations against his teammate.

McKinnie said he felt more comfortable playing alongside Incognito on the left side of the line because of how little time he had to learn the Dolphins’ scheme, but added he felt better closer to the end of the season. McKinnie is set to become a free agent, but he’d like to return for a full season in Miami in 2014.

“Hopefully I return back with the Dolphins,” McKinnie said, via the team’s website. “You know you have four out of the five [offensive lineman] whose contracts are up. I’ve been in the healing process and everything and I’m feeling better, working out and stuff like that. We have a new general manager so that’s good, and we’ll just see how things go. I plan on playing for a couple more years and it would be great to just finish my career there where I already have a home.”

McKinnie turns 35 early next season and there’s definitely room to upgrade, although it might be hard to do while also addressing the other needs on the offensive line. That would put McKinnie in play for another year in Miami and allow him to possibly end his caereer in the same town he called home in college.

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Since Ray Guy Is In, Devin Hester Should Have a Better Chance for Hall of Fame

This past weekend, the NFL announced the seven players who will be enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame this summer. There were some former players expected to be called, and there were some who raised an eyebrow or two. Then there were some whose call to the hall was long overdue, and one of those individuals was Ray Guy.

Ever since the Pro Football Hall of Fame came into existence in 1963 there has never been a punter enshrined. Guy will be the first punter ever to receive this honor and will be the second full-time special teams player inducted. The first one was kicker Jan Stenerud. Including Guy and Stenerud, there are now four players who are in the HOF who played special teams with the other two players being George Blanda and Lou Groza, who also played quarterback and offensive tackle respectively.

Guy, who finally got enough votes after eight attempts, was, and still is, considered the best to ever play at his position. In fact, Guy was so good that the annual award given to the best collegiate punter in the nation is named after him.

Now that the football world has finally given Guy his just due, there seems to be a much better chance for Chicago Bears return specialist Devin Hester to make it to Canton, OH once he decides to hang up his cleats.

Hester has been dubbed by many as the greatest return man of all time. During his eight years in the NFL, Hester owns the record for punt returns for touchdowns in a single season (4) and has the most punt returns for touchdownsicon1 in a career (13). In addition, Hester shares the record for most total returns for touchdowns in a career (19) with Hall of Famer Deion Sanders.

Although his skills in the return game might have diminished over the years, Hester is still considered one of the best and most dangerous returners in the league. The fact that Hester has accomplished what so many couldn’t even do in an entire football career should be reason enough for an invitation to the be among the best of the best.

The small number of special teams players in the HOF shows that this phase of the game is being terribly overlooked. Hopefully, the enshrinement of Guy will open the floodgates for more special teams specialist for the HOF such as Brian Mitchell and Steve Tasker.

Just like Guy, Hester is the very best to do it at his position. Regardless of whether more special teams players are selected to go into the HOF, Hester definitely should be the next Chicago Bear to have a bronze bust in Canton.

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Warren Sapp Claims He Didn't Actually Bet Rick Ross $100,000

Is Rick Ross gonna have to send his goons to pay a visit to Warren Sapp? Maybe.

Over the weekend, we told you about how Ross and Sapp bet $100,000 on the Super Bowl. Ross liked the Seahawks, while Sapp liked the Broncos. There is visual evidence of it and everything! But now, Sapp is saying that he did not make a wager with Ross and that it was all for show. Er, or something. He took to Twitter a little while ago and posted this:

“just FYI for you clowns, Rick Ross don't even know my Phone # lets alone made a bet of 100k! Sounded Good #Not”

“I only bet on two things, sure things & my abilities, because the only thing I was ever sure of was my abilities #1stBallot”

We appreciate Sapp stunting with #1stBallot and all that. He was a helluva football player. But, there is VISUAL EVIDENCE of you making a bet with Ross, man. There's also this:

Me and my big bro @warrensapp bet on the Superbowl tonight $$$$$

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Kayne Farquharson to lead strong receiving corps for Danger

Kayne Farquharson has found a home away from home in Grand Island.

The Nebraska Danger receiver is from Miami, but February finds him back in Central Nebraska and there is no place he’d rather be.

“It feels good to be home,” Farquharson said. “Like I’ve said in the past, Grand Island is my second home. It’s good to see the people in the community. It’s just great to be back.”

Farquharson will likely be the leader of a very strong group of receivers when the Danger open the season with an exhibition game against the Lincoln Haymakers Monday at the Heartland Events Center.

Farquharson, an All-IFL performer last season, led the league with 1,081 yards last year and was second in touchdown receptions (21) and third in catches (73).

Andre Piper-Jordan (50 catches, 6-2 yards, 11 TDs), Marcus Barnett (19 catches, 298 yards, 4 TDs) and Maurice Avery (10 catches, 124 yards, 4 TDs) are also returning this season.

Not only that, but the Danger also signed Troy Evans, who led the IFL in catches with 79 while playing for Wyoming last year. Evans was also fifth in the league in both receiving yards (728) and touchdowns (16).

“The nice thing about it is we have some new receivers who are going to push the veterans for starting positions and to make the team,” Danger coach Mike Davis said. “Talent-wise it’s going to be really competitive.

“I told them at the team meeting that there will be guys here who don’t make it. They’ll go to other teams and start and play. Unfortunately it’s just the nature of the beast.”

Farquharson said all the receivers know that they are battling for jobs.

“That’s why every rep counts,” Farquharson said. “Guys better give their maximum effort because guys might be playing for other teams or guys might be going home. Even though a lot of these guys can play, it’s a business at the end of the day.”

Danger quarterback Jameel Sewell said it’s great to have so many familiar faces lined up at receiver.

“I realize I can throw the ball anywhere, and those receivers I have will give everything they’ve got to got get it,” Sewell said. “That just makes my job a whole lot easier.”

The Danger return a large group of veteran players from last year’s team that fell to Sioux Falls in the United Bowl. Farquharson said that’s important.

“If you look at the history of the league, that’s the key to success,” Farquharson said. “Sioux Falls, they always keep their same core of guys. One or two might change, but that’s their key to success.”

Farquharson said the veterans wanted to come back because of people like owner Charlie Bosselman, general manager Mike McCoy and the entire Danger coaching staff.

“It’s great to be a part of a first-class organization,” he said.

Sewell said the new players will be impressed with the Danger and Grand Island.

“We have guys who are coming from different teams and guys who haven’t even played this game of arena football yet, and they’ve adjusted very well to this atmosphere,” Sewell said. “It’s totally different from outdoor to indoor. Every time you run a rout it’s different, the way you throw the ball is different, the way you run the ball is different.”

Barnett said the chemistry between the players already feels pretty good.

“It feels good to be back,” Barnett said. “I just told the guys the other day, it just felt like we had a bye week. When everybody got back together, we seemed to click. We got out here running around (Monday). We were a little rusty, but I’m sure we’re going to pick it up.

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Antrel Rolle: Giants defense needs to spend more time studying

NEW YORK — Giants safety Antrel Rolle watched the Seahawks’ demolition of the Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII Sunday and focused on Seattle’s defense. He was impressed with the Seahawks’ sheer domination of the Broncos’ offense; how they instilled fear into the most explosive offense in NFL history.

In order for the Giants defense to get to that unit’s level, he said, some players need to dedicate more time to studying defensive coordinator Perry Fewell's schemes.

“Just guys taking more initiative and more focus toward their craft, understanding our defense in and out,” Rolle said Tuesday in Manhattan, where he was honored at The 34th Annual Munson Awards for his charitable work. “There were some times throughout the year when Perry Fewell was restricted from running certain defenses that I know he loves to run — certain defenses that I know could’ve helped us.

“But it takes everyone. It’s a collective effort. If one guy’s wrong, we’re all wrong. So you need everyone on the same page at the same time.”

Rolle specified that most of his defense’s troubles were early on in the season and the Giants defense eventually performed better, but he indicated he believed some players did not put in the time working on learning the defense that he did. Rolle, 31, was the Giants’ most consistent defender, compiling 98 tackles and six interceptions on the way to his third Pro Bowl and second All-Pro selection.

“You’re going to have guys that study and go way above and beyond the X’s and O’s,” Rolle said. “And you’re going to have guys just go in there and do what is taught to them during the meeting times and during the film study at the facility or what’s taking place on the field. And we all know you have to study this game. That’s what a lot of people don’t understand.”

* * * *
Rolle said he watched the Super Bowl with Packers tight end Jermichael Finley and gave the free agent a recruiting pitch.

Finley, Rolle said, responded favorably and complimented new offense coordinator Ben McAdoo, who spent two seasons as the Packers’ quarterbacks coach.

"He said that he would love to be a part of the Giants,” Rolle said. “He was telling me Ben McAdoo is a brain, that he’s going to keep defenses guessing, and he’s very smart."

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Josh Bush Will Shadow Ed Reed into Offseason

Frustration, disappointment, even resentment would all have been perfectly understandable feelings for safety Josh Bush after the November signing of Ed Reed buried him deeper in the defensive depth chart.

But for Bush, Reed was no speed bump on his road to additional defensive snaps. He was a ramp to the top.

“Mr. Reed, how are you doing? I’m your shadow,” he told the future Hall of Fame safety prior to their first practice together as Green & White teammates.

Throughout the season, Josh took advantage of the opportunity to learn from, in his words, “the best instruction manual in the world."

Despite going the first three-quarters of the 2013 season without a pick, Reed was tied for the lead among NFL safeties with three interceptions from the time he joined the Jets through the end of the year. Maybe he did lose some speed due to his hip surgery, but he compensated with an active brain.

“I saw a true leader,” Bush said at Jets House in Manhattan this past week about his seven weeks playing alongside Reed. “The common man knows he wasn’t 100 percent coming off hip surgery, but he was more of a coach than anything. Just to have him around us was a special time.”

Now, it’s time for Bush to let the special times roll right into the offseason. In the next few weeks he’ll be taking a trip down to Atlanta to live with Reed, pick his brain and, holding true to his word, shadow his every move.

“He’s always willing to share knowledge,” the 24-year-old Wake Forest product said. “He told me once you get to a certain point, that’s what it’s all about. Why would you keep knowledge away from a younger guy? That keeps the world turning, so he definitely wants to give knowledge.”

Of course, their time spent together won’t entirely be spent talking X’s and O’s.

Josh Bush is not just a 5’11”, 205-pound, third-year safety for the Jets, just as Ed Reed is more than just the NFL's active career interceptions leader. Just take a look at @JBush’s Twitter bio, for instance, and you’ll see that he’s also a self-proclaimed music producer, singer, rapper and songwriter.

“People always want to talk about football,” Bush said of his 7,391 Twitter followers. “I can ask, ‘What’s a good breakfast spot to eat at?’ and they’ll be like ‘Football!’ But we’re more than football. I’m trying to get across to my fans in music.”

That’s where Reed comes in once again.

“Ed Reed actually had a song out from his University of Miami days. It should be on YouTube,” Bush said. “He’s mentoring a producer named Hit-Boy out in California. He really has an ear for music, so I’ll send my music to him just to get an ‘OK’ or a ‘Nah, you have to go back and switch a few things.’ It’s the same way on the field. He’ll tell me when I’m messing up or congratulate me when I’m doing well.”

Currently, Bush is working alongside Carolina RB Jonathan Stewart along with WR Kenny Moore (Wake Forest in college, Panther in the NFL) to create all types of music.

“We’re just trying to get a lot of material,” Bush said. “Making music may sound easy, but it’s really not. You have to almost force yourself to just go into the studio and produce and create every day.”

Josh primarily sings R&B, his favorite instrument to play is the piano, the instrument he plays best is the guitar, he plays the drums as well, his lyrical inspiration can be drawn from anything, although it’s typically not football-related, and while he listens to any and all types of music, his favorite artist is J. Cole because “everything he says in on point.”

All that being said, Bush is not setting out to be the next J. Cole, just as he's not setting out to be the next Ed Reed.

“For me it’s never been pursuing anything,” he explained. “Even for football, you just want to be as good as you can be so that’s why I work on it. I never dreamed of playing in the NFL. I just started playing football because my friends did so I just practice to be good at it. I never actually pursued a career in the National Football League.”

It’s reasonable to say Josh Bush prefers to simply go with the flow.

“Music is one of the most important things in the planet,” Bush said. “Every car has a radio, every cellphone plays music, so it’s just having fun with it. There’s no way anyone could go more than an hour without hearing music. They may not notice it, but they definitely run into it. If music is everywhere, just embrace it.”

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Stephen Morris To Be Picked Between 4th & 7th Rounds?

An NFC scout who watched UM’s Stephen Morris closely at Senior Bowl practices last week told us: “His accuracy was erratic, like he was during the season. He will throw late to a receiver on an out route, or his ball will sail on him – more high than low. I’m not sure he judges the speed of receivers coming across the middle. I’m disappointed he didn’t improve from his junior to senior year. He probably will be picked between the fourth and seventh rounds.”

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Broncos lineman Orlando Franklin extends proCane streak

NEW YORK — Orlando Franklin, the former Miami Hurricane and current Denver Bronco, has a particularly notorious fan - the mayor of Toronto, who admitted to having smoked crack.

Rob Ford, Canada's biggest embarrassment this side of Justin Bieber, recently briefed the media while wearing a Franklin jersey. Franklin spent his formative years in Toronto. And Ford, in addition to illicit substances, likes American football.

Franklin, the third-year offensive tackle appearing in his first Super Bowl Sunday, took the homage in stride this week.

"I got a couple of hundred (more Twitter followers)," Franklin joked when asked about Ford's support. "I am not really so much amazed as I am just happy that he is supporting the Denver Broncos."

Thanks to Franklin's participation, a Miami Hurricane has now reached the Super Bowl for the 14th time in 15 years. It's a remarkable streak that reaches back to 2000, when an astounding six UM products participated in the big game.

Franklin has been a rock on the right side of the Broncos' line from nearly the day they took him in the second round. He has started 47 of the team's 48 games since then, and is a big reason why Peyton Manning hasn't been sacked this postseason.

"He's just continued to get better," Broncos coach John Fox said. "He's a really good teammate. He's well-liked by our building and everybody in it, both in the locker room and out of the locker room. So I've been very, very impressed."

Franklin follows the lead of his quarterback. He said by playing alongside Manning, he has learned to pay attention for all 60 minutes and block out distractions.

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Sam Shields, Packers in regular contact

A source tells the Journal-Sentinel that the Packers and free agent CB Sam Shields have been in regular contact.

The Packers want to re-sign Shields as a talented bookend to Tramon Williams. But the former undrafted free agent is going to go to the highest bidder, and position coach Joe Whitt Jr. didn't do the franchise any favors when it comes to leverage by calling Shields a top-10 NFL corner. Therefore, his return is considered "50-50" by the Journal-Sentinel's source as March creeps closer.

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Brees says Jimmy Graham is a tight end, not a receiver

Vikings tight end Chase Ford grew up in a small southeast Texas town. His favorite Christmas present shouldn’t come as a surprise.

The Corrigan native received a .410 shotgun when he was 6 years old. Ford spent the day shooting cans. Later in his life, he downed his first deer with that gun.

“Brings back memories,” Ford said with a chuckle.

He rarely finds enough time to enjoy one of his favorite hobbies lately, which has actually been a good thing. Ford bounced around on three practice squads before making his first appearance on an active roster this season, and he is hoping Sunday’s season finale against the Lions won’t be his last.

Ford hasn’t started, but he has appeared in eight games, making six receptions for 90 yards. With Rhett Ellison injured in Week 8, Ford was signed to the active roster and activated against the Packers. He didn’t play, got cut and was signed back to the practice squad.

An eventful first taste of an NFL Sunday in pads.

“They always say you got to be prepared to leave when you come into this game,” Ford said. “That’s just the mindset I hold.”

Ellison was scratched again, so Ford was brought back up the next week. This time he would get a chance to play against his favorite childhood team, the Cowboys. He spent a week on Dallas’ practice squad after he was dropped from the Eagles’ practice squad.

The Vikings trailed Dallas 20-17 with less than six minutes in the fourth when Adrian Peterson scored a go-ahead touchdown on an 11-yard run. He had four defenders surrounding him after picking up a first down on fourth and inches and nearly stumbled short of the goal line, but Ford kept Peterson on his feet and pushed him in.

“I blocked my guy but he kind of got off,” said Ford, who was initially brought in as a pass-receiving tight end but has improved his blocking during the season. “I was running to try and make sure he didn’t make the play and it fell in my lap, literally.”

Two of Ford’s six catches came two weeks ago in a victory over the Eagles, with one changing the outcome of the game — a 37-yard connection from Matt Cassel on third-and-14 early in the fourth quarter after the Eagles had pulled to within 27-22.

“Just to think, we came out of training camp and we weren’t even sure that he would make our football team and ends up on the practice squad,” Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said. “… He is a hard-working guy and he has come up with some big plays for us. Evidenced by the third-and-14 we had [against the Eagles], Hard work does pay off.”

He made his previous catch on the team’s first drive and said he felt before the play he was ready to grab another pass and move the sticks. Ford eluded a tackle and stiff-armed a defender before he was wrestled 5 yards short of his first career touchdown.

“I got to finish that, right?” Ford said. “I came pretty close to scoring. But we scored a touchdown. If we didn’t score a touchdown my feelings probably would’ve been hurt.”

On Sunday, Ford will have one final chance this season to grab his first career touchdown pass. The franchise will say goodbye to the Metrodome, in one of three games Sunday without any playoff implications. But for Ford, who is signed through 2014, he is not sure what will happen to him in the offseason.

The Vikings have three tight ends, with Kyle Rudolph (foot) and John Carlson (concussion) on injured reserve, along with Ellison. Carlson’s health concerns could open up a roster spot for Ford, but he is content with whatever outcome occurs.

“If Minnesota feels that they’re good with the three tight ends they’ve got now and say they don’t want to keep me on the active roster, that’s fine because I’ve got tape for other teams to see that so other teams can pick me up,” Ford said.

Ford plans to make a trip back home in the offseason to pick up his hobby again. While he chases ducks and deer with his father and uncle, Ford hopes he won’t have to hunt for a job in the spring. He is prepared to return for organized team activities and build off the work he has put in just to make the active roster.

“You grow up playing football in the back yard and being from a small Texas town, you don’t make it out of there,” Ford said. “You’re living out your childhood dream. It really motivates you to not give up, and play hard every game.

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Seantrel Henderson moving on after failing to live up to hype

Seantrel Henderson never asked for all of it. Or maybe he did. That's the hard part four years removed from being the nation's No. 1 high school player.

Seantrel Henderson never asked to be The Next Big Thing. Or, if he did, no one ever told him it would be like this ...

• Becoming the rare offensive linemen to be considered the best prep player in the country.

• Being a part of -- or maybe orchestrating -- one of the most dizzying, anticipated, breathless, wild recruiting journeys in recent history.

• Being flown halfway across the country to declare his undying love for Southern California on (then) CBS College Sports Network.

• Then changing his mind five months later. On Signing Day 2010, Henderson's made-for-television decision was only a commitment. He didn't sign his scholarship until the next month, concerned about possible NCAA penalties at USC.

In July 2010, USC released Henderson without a fight after the crippling NCAA penalties were finally handed down. The giant from Minnesota who fell in love with the West Coast ended up at Miami.

It was a career littered with starts (26 in his career) and stops (various injuries). He experienced two head coaches and three suspensions -- Henderson revealed recently -- because of marijuana use.

Despite being a freshman All-American, Henderson never rose higher than third-team all-ACC.

"How did he play?" asked Art Kehoe, Henderson's offensive line coach for three of his four seasons at Miami. "I would say that he's been a work in progress."
In a word, Seantrel Henderson's career was OK. Not great, not a bust. Just kind of there.

The kid who knows a thing or two about being the biggest thing in the game -- NFL scouts recently measured him at 6-feet-7 and 331 pounds -- has been merely serviceable as a collegian.

"I don't know if he was a superstar," Kehoe said, "but he improved a lot each year."

As another Signing Day approaches, Henderson's tale is cautionary -- for him, for us, for the recruiting culture, for the American psyche. In a society that values hype over substance, forgets those highlight-show slam dunks are still worth only two points, Henderson is a another reminder.

We love our prospects to fulfill their destinies.

Frequently, they don't.

"That's one of the things wrong with recruiting out of high school," Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron said this week on the Jim Rome Show. "I don't know if it's complacency, so much as entitlement.

"You've got guys who never played the game of football rating these guys. They're a five-star because [the recruiting experts] are sitting behind a computer watching highlight film.

"The highlight film is supposed to be good."

Henderson's was off the charts. He smashed mere mortals across from him in high school. He neutralized top defensive prospect (and soon-to-be Florida signee) Ronald Powell in all-star game practices. There was a future at left tackle, arguably the second-most important position in the game. You might recall a best-selling movie and book (The Blind Side) that celebrated that fact.

Except that in college Henderson mostly played right tackle.

The ultimate irony: The kid left one NCAA mess for another. Between USC and Miami, Henderson was aligned with two schools that endured a combined four bowl bans and the loss of 39 scholarships.

Recruiting analyst Tom Lemming had Henderson as his No. 1 prospect as a high school sophomore. He called Henderson a franchise player, the first No. 1 player at offensive line he had had since Bill Fralic in 1980.

At a high school (Cretin-Durham Hall) that produced an All-Star catcher (Joe Mauer), a Heisman winner (Chris Weinke) and a baseball Hall of Famer (Paul Molitor), Henderson was going to be the next member of the legends club. Until he wasn't.

"He had what it takes to be Orlando Pace or Jonathan Ogden, who knows?" Lemming said. "The legacy [is one] of maybe underachievement and maybe effort."

There is speculation Henderson might get dropped off some draft boards because of the marijuana admission. He's projected as a fourth- or fifth-round draft choice.

"He will be a better pro player than college player," Lemming said. "It will be the incentive of making money and not having to go to school."

Not a great projection, not bad one either. Just kind of in the middle -- like Henderson's college career.

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How does Andre Johnson stack up to HOFer Reed?

The ninth try was a charm for Andre Reed.

The former Bills receiver has been chosen as a Hall of Famer after being eligible for nine years. He was a finalist eight times. 

This -- after Cris Carter got in last year -- is probably a very good sign for Andre Johnson, who continues to play at a very high level after more than a decade.

Reed is the 23rd "modern era" wide receiver to make it into the Hall of Fame. And Johnson might very well join him one day, which would make him the first Texan enshrined.

Here's a look at how Johnson's numbers stack up to Reed's:

Reed: 16 seasons, 951 receptions, 13,198 yards, 87 touchdowns, seven Pro Bowls.

Johnson: 11 season, 927 receptions, 12,661 yards, 61 touchdowns, seven Pro Bowls.

Most of those numbers are already comparable and if Johnson has a few more seasons like the ones he's had recently, he'll crush the receptions and yards. But that's not all that matters. Aside from the obvious touchdown differential, Reed was a part of a team that went to four straight Super Bowls.

Johnson has been to the playoffs just twice and has never made it past the divisional round, which is a knock on him. But then again, he hasn't ever had a very good quarterback or talent around him. Do those two things cancel out?

Those things will be a part of the debate once Johnson is eligible. Should Johnson be punished for playing on an expansion team that hasn't been any good for most of his career? And should Reed be rewarded because he played on a very good team with a pretty darn good quarterback?

Those are the questions the Hall of Fame voters need to answer as they deliberate each year.

And this year, after a full work day of deliberation, the voters left off two other very strong receiver candidates: Tim Brown and Marvin Harrison. Here's a look at their stats:

Brown: 16 seasons, 1,094 receptions, 14,934 yards, 100 touchdowns, nine Pro Bowls.

Harrison: 13 seasons, 1,102 receptions, 14,580 yards, 128 touchdowns, eight Pro Bowls.

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Jonathan Vilma is afraid a gay teammate will look at him

New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma against demonstrated what a close-minded jerk he is in an interview with Andrea Kramer for NFL Network on the locker room that aired Super Bowl Sunday. When asked about having a gay teammate, he said he doesn't want one:

"I think he would not be accepted as much as we think he would be accepted. I don't want people to just naturally assume, oh, we're all homophobic. That's really not the case. Imagine if he's the guy next to me, and you know, I get dressed, naked, taking a shower, the whole nine, and it just so happens he looks at me, how am I supposed to respond?"

Ummmm -- how about you respond the same way you respond when any man glances at you in the shower? You just keep shootin' the shit. He doesn't give a crap about your manhood, especially when it's attached to someone with asshole tendencies.

Or how about you make a joke of it:
• "No, you can't have none of this."
• "I'm so telling your boyfriend you stole a peek."
• "Sorry, you're not my type."

Vilma goes the other direction, talking about how that player wouldn't be accepted and how uncomfortable he'd feel. How about how uncomfortable that gay teammate -- which you've likely had in the last two to three years -- feels being around you!

All this from the man who once tweeted: "Grown men should NOT have female tendencies. Period."

There is some serious insecurity going on in Vilma's head. He's played with gay teammates, he just doesn't know it. Vilma's so caught up in this macho nonsense that just being naked in the room with a gay man creeps him out. It certainly makes me think all the accusations about his involvement with the bounty incident were 100% true -- typical of that kind of guy.

Luckily, Vilma's attitude is in the distinct minority in the NFL. Pittsburgh Steelers safety Ike Taylor, on the other hand, sees the issue for what it is:

"Regardless of who it is, straight or gay," Taylor said, "if he's on this team, he's a teammate of mine."

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Sean Taylor's Pro Bowl hit resonates loudly with Seahawks' biggest hitter

SeanTaylor copy
JERSEY CITY, N.J. – Most pregame rituals are more or less the same: music and meditation. Seattle Seahawks strong safety Kam Chancellor's routine is a little different. It's a window into who he wants to be as a player, and a part of NFL lore that's been sadly lost.

Before every game, the Seahawks cornerback watches videos of the late Sean Taylor.

"The passion he showed," Chancellor said here Wednesday. "You can tell by the way he played. I wish I could have met him."

Taylor was a rare power player in the secondary – a 6-foot-2, 212-pound hitting machine at the University of Miami and then with the Washington Redskins. His hit on Buffalo punter Brian Moorman in 2007 is one of the most memorable plays in Pro Bowl history.

"He was the best athlete I ever came across in football," said former Redskin Chris Cooley.  "He was also one of the most intelligent. The way he studied -- he would stay after practice to get in reps with the scout team."

Taylor was slain in his home by burglars in 2007 at age 24, and players and coaches still speak of him with reverence. There was a lot to remember about Taylor, and a lot to emulate. Chancellor is trying to do both.

"I've seen everything of his on YouTube," Chancellor said. "I got two or three full games from the Seahawks on iPad."

Chancellor is about as close as it gets to Taylor in today's NFL. Like Taylor, he's huge for the safety position (6-3, 232 pounds) and he might be the most feared hitter in the league – just like Taylor, who was named one of the game's hardest-hitting player by Sports Illustrated in 2007, the year he died. "I've modeled my game after him," Chancellor said. "He's a vicious hitter."

Chancellor's admiration for Taylor isn't just because of the thrill of impact, though. The Seahawk watches the late Redskin for form and technique. There's a science behind how Taylor hit, and it might be more relevant in today's NFL than it was when he played.

"It's how to keep your feet under you," Chancellor said. "Especially being a big safety."

The problem with being a big safety is it increases the likelihood of a helmet-to-helmet hit – and a penalty or fine. Taller tacklers often lunge at runners instead of tackling from a solid foundation. The "Legion of Boom" makes tackling form even more important, as referees know the Seahawks' reputation for heavy hitting. Along with the rugby and steer wrestling highlights, Chancellor looks to Taylor's videos as a model for leading with the shoulder and aiming for the torso: the "Region of Boom." He prides himself on tackling properly and (unlike many players and pundits) he embraces the new NFL rules.

"I've been doing pretty good with it," he said. "It protects the guy's brain. I have an opportunity to show people how to tackle."

Taylor probably never imagined the imprint he made on a player he never met – a player who is taking him to the Super Bowl in spirit. As much as Kam Chancellor is a tribute to the past, Sean Taylor is becoming a model for the game's future.

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Kellen Winslow shouldn't face suspension for drug arrest

NEW YORK -- New York Jets tight end Kellen Winslow shouldn't face any discipline for his November arrest for alleged possession of medical marijuana, NFL Players Association Executive Director DeMaurice Smith told reporters in a news conference on Thursday.

Winslow was arrested in East Hanover for possession of synthetic marijuana, a substance that is illegal in New Jersey and many other states but is not among drugs banned under NFL drug policy.

"Our drug policy is one that has strict and well-defined drugs that are banned," Smith said. "If they are not on the list, they can't serve as the basis for discipline."

An NFL spokesman said at the time Winslow's arrest report was released -- which included alleged lewd conduct -- that Winslow could face discipline due to the fact it was a drug arrest. And since Commissioner Roger Goodell has the ultimate say, there appears to be at least the possibility Winslow, who is set to become a free agent, could face discipline.

Winslow allegedly' told police that he uses synthetic pot because the NFL doesn't test for it.

A source with knowledge of the drug policy talks between the league and the players union told that the NFLPA wants to see the adverse effects of synthetic marijuana -- typically incense infused with THC, the active ingredient in pot -- before agreeing to add it to the banned list.

"If the league or NFLPA wants to make additions or medications to that drug policy, the process for that is collective bargaining, as brutal, ugly and messy and imperfect as it is," Smith said.

Want messy? See the NFLPA's continued refusal to allow their players to be tested for human growth hormone originally agreed upon in August 2011. Smith said the league and the NFLPA are close on a final HGH agreement, as long as Goodell doesn't have final say on suspensions for a positive test.

And then there's the issue of actual marijuana. Both Sunday's Super Bowl teams (the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks) are from states that allow anybody 21 years of age or older. to purchase weed legally

Pot is on NFL's banned list and a positive test places a player in a treatment program and multiple positives can lead to a suspension.

"We've had preliminary discussions, but I'll be extremely blunt," Smith said with laughs from the audience over the weed reference.  "The framework for discussion with the league on any drug -- whether be medical marijuana or really anything -- is the drug policy. The focus far hasn't been on one issue, like medical marijuana. How do we close this deal on what we feel would be the gold standard in processional sports?"

That gold standard, Smith said, would be an outside arbitrator ---not the commissioner's office -- making the final call on disputed cases, like Major League Baseball. 

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Renting Lamborghini, sneaking down fire escape — Deion Sanders, Micheal Irvin reminisce about partying during Super Bowl week

Former Dallas Cowboys Michael Irvin and Deion Sanders shared some of their stories from the week before the Super Bowl, reminiscing with Warren Sapp and Kurt Warner.

While they spoke about the preparation they did, they also shared some stories about some of the imfamous partying that goes one before the big game.

Sanders said former Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson asked his players to get everything out of their systems on the Sunday and Monday night before the game.

"I had to party," Irvin said. "I had fun. I’m sorry, y'all. It was a blast. I love that I had Jimmy Johnson, too. Because Jimmy Johnson said do what you got to do to bring the best out of you Sunday.

“... Yeah, I worked hard on getting it  out of me Sunday and Monday night.”

Sanders, who talked about renting a Diablo Lamborghini during Super Bowl week, spoke about his appearance in Super Bowl XXIX with the San Francisco 49ers.

He called the 49ers’ win against the Cowboys in the NFC Championship game that year the actual Super Bowl, because he knew the Niners would beat the Chargers.)

"I wanted to party and have a good time because you never know when you're going to get back," said Sanders, who won the following year with Dallas. "I remember telling (49ers defensive coordinator) Ray Rhodes, 'Ray, now you know on Friday I got to get our there, now. That’s what I do.' Ray Rhodes — this is no lie — Ray Rhodes came and got me out of my room. Took me down the fire escape, put me in my car. I went and did my thing. I called him on my way back in. Got in my room. Got my rest. I'm straight!"

You can watch the full video below:

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It’s Time To Promote Allen Bailey To Starter

Over the past three seasons, the Chiefs’ D-line has been the rock of its defensive success. Even in the darkest days of the 2011 season, the big boys up front were able to consistently shut down the run. In 2013, the unit jumped ahead, largely due to the development of NT Dontari Poe and DE Tyson Jackson — both questionable picks from the previous regime that took a while to hit their stride.

But while Poe and TJax were putting on a show, the team’s third defensive end, Allen Bailey, quietly showed this season that he has has been developing as well. With limited resources and needs in other areas, I think it’s time that Bailey gets his chance to start.

In 2013, Bailey continued to play a depth role on the D-line, and actually got fewer snaps in the rotation that he would have for most other NFL teams as Poe rarely came off the field, and even TJax developed into a three-down player. Nonetheless, this season was by far his most productive with 30 tackles, a sack and two tipped passes. In his only game as a starter — the JV game against San Diego that was won by the NFL Referees Association — he shined.

Pro Football Focus gave him a grade of +4.1 for the game, in which he led the team with 9 tackles. Only DE Mike DiVito had a better one-game tackle total for a Chiefs D-lineman last year with 10 against the Bills. In a sign of his progression, Bailey also led the D-line in tackles the week before against Indianapolis, and PFF also noted strong performances by him in Week’s 5 and 12.

Of course, a few good performances does not a season make and Bailey has big shoes to fill (not just literally) if Jackson departs. TJax ended the season with PFF’s 6th highest rating among interior D-linemen that are set to hit free agency. Also, at 28, he is one of the youngest high-end veterans available at the position. In other words, even with money being no issue, it will be hard for the Chiefs to hold onto Jackson, and with good reason.

But, money is an issue, and while Jackson admirably took a pay cut in the past, I think his agent would resign if he tried to limbo low enough to stay with the Chiefs. His current salary of $4.2 million is more than the total cap space that the team has available, and, while few will deny he was overpaid, the Chiefs can’t even afford to bring him back at half price and still fill other holes.

So, beyond the fact that I think Bailey is deserving of a shot as a starter, promoting him may be necessary as a business decision. At 24, he has his best football ahead of him and is in a contract year, so he will be motivated to make the most of his opportunity. Of course, promoting him will create a need for depth at DE, but the team should be able to bring in a sub-million-dollar player or a mid-round pick to do the job. Also, DE Mike Catapano showed some stuff in that Week 17 game, so I don’t think depth should be an urgent worry there.

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Orlando Franklin made major life choice early

JERSEY CITY, N.J. — Orlando Franklin was 15, fresh out of jail for a second time and looking over a contract written by a mother who was determined not to lose her youngest son. "He wasn't listening," Sylvia Allen, Franklin's mother, said in her Jamaican accent Wednesday from her home in Queens, N.Y. "He was stealing cars, driving around. I wasn't worried, because he was a very smart kid. I knew he would eventually come around. He just was going down the wrong path and hanging around with the wrong people."

Franklin grew up to be enormous in size and right by the world. He is one Super Bowl game away from completing his streak of three consecutive seasons as the Broncos' starting right tackle. He is a young man with a troubled past who shares his story with today's youths in hopes he can influence one or two of them.

"When I was younger, I thought nobody was on my side, nobody would help me out," Franklin said. "I was a product of my environment. At one point in my life, I thought it would be cool to get arrested, because all my friends had already got arrested."

The first time Franklin was arrested, he was 13 and charged with robbery. Mom bailed him out the next day. The second time Franklin was arrested, he was 15 and charged with robbery and possession of a stolen vehicle.

Mom let him sit in jail for 13 weeks.

"The first time clearly didn't work when she came and got me," Franklin said. "The second time when she left me in there, I learned my lesson."

Football vs. hockey
Out of jail and back at home, Mom sat Orlando down. What do you want to do with your life, son? Franklin had played hockey his freshman year in high school. A defenseman, right-handed stick, pretty fair skater.

"I was a little bit of an enforcer," he said, smiling. "I tried to bully a little bit."

But he played football too, and his growing body that is now 6-foot-7, 315 pounds told him he was better suited for rumbling on ground than sliding on ice. The family had relatives in Florida, where football is a way of life.

But before Mom agreed to move her son down to the coastal town of Delray Beach, Franklin had to sign the contract.

He had to promise Mom he would never get in trouble again. And he had to promise to be a good boy.

Franklin honored his mom's pact. He graduated from high school and played four seasons at the University of Miami. Selected in the second round of the 2011 draft by the Broncos, Franklin signed a four-year contract that included a $1.68 million signing bonus.

It wasn't the first contract he signed, nor was it the richest. It's not always money that defines the richness of one's life.

"A great guy," said Broncos left guard Zane Beadles. "I know a little bit about his past just from hanging around the guys, talking about how we grew up.

"You see it in football. I had tons of teammates in college who were from Compton or Watts, and the things they grew up seeing and being involved with. In my experience, a lot of those guys are the best guys and some of the best friends you could ever have."

Mainstay in lineup
Counting playoffs, the Broncos have played 53 games since 2011, and Franklin has started all 53. No. 54 will be Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLVIII at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey.

He has remained the starting lineup despite injuries serious enough to keep other players on the sideline.

He started a few days after learning his half-brother from his father's side was killed in Jamaica.

Orlando was born in Kingston and lived there until he was 3, when his mother moved him and older brother Kieno to Toronto. What little Orlando knew of his homeland was enough to understand he couldn't go back.

"My brother was killed because he was doing the wrong things," he said. "Being that it is Jamaica, I was advised that I shouldn't go to the funeral because of what he was doing when he was killed.

"I was lucky to be with an organization like the Broncos, because they helped me get through it."

Playing that game that week (against San Diego) was probably the best thing I could do for that situation."

It could have worked out so much differently for Franklin and he knows it. Besides his mom, the contract and his own self-reflection, Franklin credits his older brother, Kieno, for his conversion.

"My brother had a lot of run-ins with the law," Franklin said. "He said: 'Look, we can't have two in the family have all this happen. I'm a screwup already. I've messed up so much. You have an opportunity to stop messing up.' "

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How much would you pay to live in Super Bowl champ Jeremy Shockey's former Weehawken home?

You may never become an NFL player, but if you have $9,000 a month to spare then you can live like one.

The 2,900-square-foot former home of one-time New York Giants Jeremy Shockey was recently sold and is now being rented out for a cool $9K a month, said real estate agent Kristin Ehrgott, of Prudential Castle Point Realty in Hoboken.

Ehrgott, whose client list includes a number of athletes and celebrities, represented the buyer, an international investor, in the $1.95 million sale of Shockey's Henley Place home.

The waterfront home boasts three bedrooms,all with full baths; a spacious balcony overlooking the Hudson River with views of midtown and lower Manhattan, a large office, formal dining room and three half-baths.

Among the amenities in the private Henley on the Hudson community is a private elevator, a private two-car garage, concierge service, outdoor pool and a full gym, Ehrgott said.

Shockey played 10 seasons in the NFL and retired after the 2011 season. His first six seasons were with the Giants, where he was a member of the Super Bowl champion team that defeated the Patriots in the Super Bowl.

He was hurt in the season and did not play in the postseason.

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Brandon Meriweather’s contract voids five days after Super Bowl

Safety Brandon Meriweather’s contract with the Washington Redskins voids next week to make him an unrestricted free agent this offseason, according to a person familiar with the deal.

According to that person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the contract details publicly, Meriweather’s contract voids five days after the Super Bowl and there is no option year in the deal to potentially tie him to the team next season.

That clause to void Meriweather’s contract this offseason was not changed when he and the team agreed last year to rework the deal, the person said.
The Redskins still could retain Meriweather by re-signing him. He will be eligible to sign with another NFL team in March.

Meriweather has spent two seasons with the Redskins since signing with the team as a free agent.

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Restructuring Vince Wilfork's deal in a way that works for both sides

There are several big issues surrounding the future of Patriots defensive tackle Vince Wilfork. At 32 years old, the 6-foot-2, 325-pound monster in the middle will count $11.6 million against the 2014 salary cap, which is $7.85 million more than any other defensive tackle his age or older — and none of them are attempting a comeback from a season-ending Achilles tear in 2013.

The Patriots will be right up against the $126.3 million salary cap next year, so they may need to consider restructuring Wilfork's contract.

Should the Patriots expect Wilfork, at his age, to be back at 100 percent of his old self? Should Wilfork? If anyone can make a full recovery from such a devastating injury, it's him, but is that a risk the Patriots will be willing to take? The answer to all of the above: Probably not.

That doesn't mean Wilfork will be ready and willing to accept a restructured contract, but there's a way to get it done that could work for everyone involved. The Patriots did it with quarterback Tom Brady just last year.

So, I asked Michael Ginnitti of, a website that tracks the contracts of every athlete in every major sport, for his take on what a restructured contract might look like. He provided me the chart seen here, which he constructed in the image of Brady's contract extension of last season.

The goal, most likely, will be to keep Wilfork's average in the top five defensive tackles in the NFL, and right now, that's at least $8.45 million, so over five years you're looking at $42.25 million. Even though he is 32, extending four additional years would create five years in signing bonus pro-ration (the maximum allowed). The $3.6 million signing bonus from the current contract must stay in 2014. If we use Brady's new base salaries exactly, we can tack on a $10 million signing bonus, and a roster or workout bonus of $1 million each year, with an added $250,000 in the third year (midpoint of the contract escalator), we're right at the $42.25 million.

The $7.6 million cap figure for 2014 clears $4 million, and puts $12 million in cash in Wilfork's hand. The only debatable point from there would be guaranteed years for base salaries. I'd recommend fully guaranteeing 2014-15, and making 2016 for injury only (maybe).

By getting Wilfork his full $12 million in 2014, the Patriots could make the third year of the contract voidable to build in some insurance for themselves. By that point, Wilfork still will have made all the money he would have made on his current contract.

The problem, however, is that in order for these restructures to work, there has to be some good faith. The last time Wilfork's contract ran up (2010 offseason), the team placed the franchise tag on him before giving him a new contract. Wilfork never got to taste free agency, and he made his feelings known to the media about the matter, saying it would be a "slap in the face" and "insulting" to be hit with the franchise tag.

"I want a long-term deal or I want to be free. Point blank. That's how I'm looking at it, that's how my family is looking at it," Wilfork said on WEEI at the time. "There's a short window of opportunity for me to make the kind of money I want to make. I'm not selling my family short and I'm definitely not selling myself short just to stay back and to win and to be part of a great organization."

The Patriots were able to get a deal done with Wilfork, and gave him the richest contract ever for a nose tackle, but the amount of time it took to get there (the Patriots made Wilfork wait through the entirety of his six-year rookie contract before signing him to the big-money contract) may have created some animosity.
If they can't restructure his deal, the Patriots may have no choice but to cut him outright; doing so would provide the Patriots $8 million in cap relief. They could try to just rip up his old deal and sign him to a new one. Either way, restructuring seems like a stretch.

"The Patriots have leverage now, so an ultimatum offer is more likely," Ginnitti said, "probably to the tune of the three-year, $8 million contract Cullen Jenkins recently signed with the Giants — plus the $3.6 million in dead money Wilfork's current contract carries."

However, the parameters are in place for a restructured contract that could work for both sides. Such a move could make sure Wilfork gets what he's owed, while providing the Patriots some much-needed relief in a tight salary cap situation.

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Orlando Franklin: Don't blame Peyton Manning for loss

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The Seattle Seahawks set the Super Bowl record for most playing time with the lead in Sunday's championship victory.

Although Peyton Manning flunked an opportunity to establish a legacy as the greatest quarterback in NFL history, this was a team loss. The Denver Broncos were thoroughly outplayed in all three phases of the game.

"It's unfortunate that a lot of people are going to try to put it in on '18' because he doesn't deserve that," right tackle Orlando Franklin said after the game in reference to Manning. "We all had a hand in this loss."

Franklin emphasized that the Broncos "knew what was at stake," but were simply outplayed by the better team Sunday.

"They schemed the heck out of us," Franklin continued. "They did an extremely good job today, getting after guys."

It's a reminder that the Broncos not only got outplayed, but also outcoached by Pete Carroll's staff.

John Fox's challenge of a Percy Harvin drop that obviously wasn't a lateral scratched as many heads as Marvin Lewis' most baffling replay reviews.

With the booming leg of Matt Prater capable of sending the ball through the back of the end zone, the Broncos opted for a pop-up kickoff that Harvin returned for a back-breaking touchdown to start the second half.

Both of those decisions pale in comparison to an early third-quarter punt, down 29 points at Seattle's 39-yard line. It's not hyperbole to suggest this might have been the most nonsensical punt in football history -- Chuck Pagano's games excluded, of course.

Franklin took some semblance of solace Sunday night that the Broncos were able to accomplish a lot of things in this league that a lot of people are not able to accomplish.

It was a successful season in many ways. But Franklin, Manning and Fox all spit the bit in Super Bowl XLVIII.

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Lauryn Williams, an Olympian for all seasons

When the six-woman USA Olympic bobsleigh team was announced on 19 January 2014 it included two names more familiar to athletics fans than Winter sports aficionados: Lolo Jones and Lauryn Williams. Like former hurdler Jones, Williams had converted from the track, having competed as a sprinter for Team USA at three editions of the Summer Games in 2004, 2008 and 2012.

She enjoyed a string of successes as a track athlete, including a silver medal in the 100m at Athens 2004, two golds in the 100m and 4x100m relay at the 2005 IAAF World Championships in Helsinki (FIN), and another 4x100m gold at the Worlds in Osaka (JPN) in 2007. Five years later came her crowning glory on the track when she helped Team USA win Olympic gold in the 4x100m relay at London 2012.

Williams describes what happened next: “In July 2013, a nagging injury left me unable to finish what was likely to be my final track season. I returned to the states feeling dejected. But a fortuitous conversation with Lolo Jones, a hurdler known for joining the bobsled ranks in the midst of her track career, changed my mood.

“After our conversation, my interest was piqued, and with stage 1 of the trials looming, I decided to hop on a plane to Calgary and give bobsledding a try. With just one training session under my belt and an injured leg, I managed to finish third in the Push Championships and my bobsled adventure began.”

An exciting new chapter
That adventure certainly got off to an impressive start for the former sprinter, who had recorded a personal best of 10.88 in the 100m and was now channelling all of her explosive power and pace into her new role as brakewoman.

Williams competed in her first FIBT World Cup event on 7 December 2013 in Park City (USA), where she teamed up with pilot Jazmine Fenlator. The pair finished joint second with Greubel/Jones, behind Meyers/Evans to ensure an all-American podium.

On 14 December in Lake Placid (USA), Williams was brakewoman for Elana Meyers, who took second place behind the Canadian bob piloted by Kaillie Humphries. And on 19 January, the day the USA team was announced, Williams was in action again in Igls (AUT), this time with Jamie Greubel, and she enjoyed her first World Cup victory. A delighted Greubel was in no doubt as to the foundations of their success. “Thanks to Lauryn who gave me such a good start!” declared the pilot as the pair stood on top of the podium.

Williams competed in four World Cup events in the 2013-2014 season, pushing behind all three of the USA pilots who will feature at Sochi, and sharing the podium with each one of them!

Only eight American athletes had ever competed in the Summer and Winter Games before Jones and Williams, and only one of them, Edward Eagan, managed to win gold in both: boxing in 1920 and bobsleigh in 1932. In fact, Eagan remains the only athlete in history to achieve a Summer-Winter golden double.

The USA has featured on the podium ever since the two-women bobsleigh event was introduced to the Olympic Winter programme, winning gold in 2002, silver in 2006 and bronze in 2010.

Williams will be hoping she can help maintain that proud tradition, take her personal Olympic medal tally to three, and maybe even emulate Eagan’s unique double.

“I will be representing the USA after only six months in this sport,” she reflects. “I can’t tell the future, but I’m extremely enthused about this journey and the opportunity to make the most of another chapter in the exciting story that is my life.”

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Q&A with new Royals third baseman Danny Valencia

New Royals third baseman Danny Valencia won’t be at FanFest this weekend (he has a prior commitment), but I chatted with him on Monday.

Valencia made his major-league debut with the Twins in 2010 and he was with Minnesota until being traded in 2012. He was dealt to Baltimore after the 2012 season, and last year was mainly a designated hitter for the Orioles (he was DH in 42 of his 48 games and played third base the other six games).

We talked about a variety of subjects, including his first career home run, which was a grand slam against the Royals’ Zack Greinke, and his hitting prowess against Rays’ left-hander David Price (Valencia has a career .750 average against Price — nine for 12).

•  Did the Royals tell you anything in particularly after the trade?
“When I first heard from Dayton (Moore, the Royals general manager), he told me, ‘We always liked the way you played, we definitely can use your bat, you’re going to get playing time.’ Obviously, with Billy Butler there, I’m expecting to play in the field because I won’t DH at all. That was pretty much the extent of it all.”

•  What do you know of the Royals?
“I played against them a bunch when I was with Minnesota. I know they were very young when I played against them, and now it seems the young talent is really meshing well together and they have a group of guys, a good core of guys, very similar to what Baltimore had. It’s definitely an exciting team.”

•  What do you think of Kansas City? Did you get to go out much when you were with a visiting team?
“I’ve always enjoying going to Kansas City. As a player, we stayed on the Plaza. There’s nothing but nice things to say about it. They have nice restaurants there, they have a nice bit of shopping, it’s a really nice Midwest city and I always really, really enjoyed going there.”

•  What can you say about that first career home run?
“It’s funny, because at the time, before I got called up, I hadn’t hit a home run at Triple-A (Rochester) before that grand slam against Greinke. So it was kind of weird. It was in July, I think, when I did it, and I almost forgot what it was like to hit a home run. But it’s something I’ll never forget. It’s one of my better baseball moments that I’ll cherish.”

•  Do you remember what Greinke threw you?
“I want to say it was a 3-2 fastball.”

•  The Royals will be your fourth team in three years. Are there any challenges to switching organizations that frequently?
“I don’t really count my Boston experience (10 games in 2012) as feeling like I was part of the team. I was there for such a short period of time, only a month. It’s definitely different, because you have to meet the guys again and establish these relationships and to some extent you feel a little weird at first. But then you realize that all the guys are very similar and we all have the same goals in mind, so it’s not that tough. But it’s definitely cool to live in different places and play on different teams and be part of different organizations.”

•  You’ve played for Ron Gardenhire, Bobby Valentine and Buck Showalter. Can you share any secrets about those managers?
“Those guys are or were at their positions for a reason. I’ve enjoyed playing for all the managers I’ve played for. I’ve been fortunate enough to play for guys I’ve really respected. Playing for Buck Showalter, I’ve never met a manager who is more prepared than him. It’s definitely nice knowing that you had a manager who is going to put you in the position to be successful. That’s pretty nice to see as a player, that’s for sure.”

•  Finally, what’s your secret for hitting David Price?
“It’s funny, I get asked that a bunch. But there isn’t a reason for that. I always say who says that the next time I face him that he isn’t going to strike me out three times? I’ve been fortunate to get some good pitches to hit and even more fortunate to hit some of those balls, and some of those balls find some holes. It’s just one of those things. Some guys who maybe don’t have as good stuff as David Price get me out a lot easier than a guy who has really good stuff. You see the ball better maybe. But there’s only one way to go and we both know the answer to that one.”

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Yasmani Grandal: (Knee) Possible For Opening Day

Padres GM Josh Byrnes said Saturday that it's "possible" Grandal (knee) could be ready for Opening Day, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports.

Grandal, who underwent reconstructive ACL surgery back on Aug. 6, says he will be ready for Opening Day, but it seems the team isn't quite as certain. Byrnes wisely pointed out that Opening Day is just the start of a six-month season, so even if the 25-year-old feels 100 percent this spring, the club will limit him a bit to be safe. Rehab for an injury such as Grandal's typically takes around nine-to-12 months.

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