05 August 2012

PHOTO: proCane Olympian T'erea Brown's AWESOME U-Track Tattoo

proCane T’erea Brown participated in her first olympics this year in London and competed in the 400m Hurdles Finals where she placed 6th in World. Congratulations to T’erea and we know she will be competing for Gold in Rio in 2016. Check out her great U-Track tattoo below. Go Canes!


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PHOTOS: proCane Olympian Zach Railey Competing in London ALWAYS Wearing His Canes Cap


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Brandon Washington Inactive For Eagles on Thursday

Not a good sign for Brandon Washington that he was inactive for the Eagles last night in their first preseason game. Most of the 11 inactive players for the Eagles were starters. The Eagles had 11 players inactive against the Steelers: WR Riley Cooper, S Nate Allen, S Colt Anderson, LB Jamar Chaney, DE Trent Cole, LT Jason Peters, G Brandon Washington, TE Brent Celek and DT Mike Patterson.

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A bigger and badder Willis McGahee

McGahee turns 31 in October, which is ancient for a running back. Since college, McGahee has conquered doubts, and he has an answer this year. He dedicated himself to the weight room and arrived in camp a muscular 245 pounds, about 10 pounds heavier than last year. His upper body is ripped. His body fat dropped to 9 percent. He's coming off a successful season in which he rushed for 1,199 yards and averaged 4.8 yards per carry. The presence of Manning could help his game. Once Tebow took over as the starter, defenses stacked the line against the run. That forced McGahee to run against eight- and nine-man fronts. The threat of throws from Manning will create more seven-man boxes and running lanes for McGahee. The Broncos have options in the backfield. They drafted speedy Ronnie Hillman in the third round to give them a younger version of Darren Sproles. While McGahee feels secure about his role in this year's offense, a former first-round pick, Knowshon Moreno, is facing a career crisis. The Broncos' top pick in 2009 is listed fourth on the depth chart behind McGahee, Lance Ball and Hillman, and he's fighting just to make the team.

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Jon Beason unlikely to play Saturday for Panthers

Carolina Panthers middle linebacker Jon Beason's hamstring injury from Wednesday is a bit more serious than the team had originally thought. As a result, Beason is unlikely to play in Saturday night's preseason opener against the Houston Texans, coach Ron Rivera announced Thursday.

"He tweaked it a little bit more than we anticipated," Rivera said, according to Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer. "Right now, if I had to guess, I'd say he's probably not going to play on Saturday night, unless somehow he feels much better this evening."

Beason is coming off a torn Achilles tendon that ended his 2011 season after just a few dozen snaps in one game. The three-time Pro Bowl linebacker is being counted on to improve the communication on a defense that ranked 28th in the NFL last season. Since his reps were managed closely during OTAs and minicamp, the Panthers are unlikely to rush Beason back from a tweaked hamstring.

The Panthers used the No. 9 overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft on Boston College tackling machine Luke Kuechly, who's playing weakside linebacker to begin his pro career. In what could be a sign that Beason's injury isn't one the Panthers expect will linger, they will keep Kuechly on the outside and start Jason Phillips in the middle, Steve Reed of the Associated Press reported.

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Lawyer: Vilma return 'a long shot, but maybe less of one'

New Orleans Saints LB Jonathan Vilma didn't get the temporary restraining order he sought when he was in court last month. But he might get it Friday.

Lawyers for Vilma and the NFL return to federal court tomorrow to argue over Vilma's one-year suspension for his participation in an alleged bounty system that paid Saints players for knocking opponents out of a game.

The NFL says: The lawsuits should be dismissed because these matters are covered by the collective bargaining agreement, and the courts don't have the authority to interfere with Commissioner Roger Goodell's decisions. If a federal judge can rule on cases like this, then the commissioner isn't the final arbiter on what's best for the league.

The players say: They haven't received what they bargained for -- due process. They're not entitled to Constitutional due process, but they are entitled to some due process -- an appeal hearing, for instance, which Goodell has not granted. They say Goodell has been biased, has prejudged the case and is overreaching.

"The players deny there was a bounty system, but say that if there was, it's a pay-for-play system that violates the salary cap and should go to arbitration," Tulane Sports Law Program Director Gabe Feldman said. "And if it's an on-field disciplinary matter, it should go to the NFL officials that decide those cases, not Goodell.

"Bottom line, they say the commissioner didn't do it the proper way, and besides, he didn't have the power to do it anyway."

Feldman said it's hard to predict what will happen Friday, but based on the Judge Ginger Berrigan's questions at the last hearing, "the players had to feel better leaving the hearing than they did going in."

He added: "The judge had serious questions about the process and whether the commissioner had the authority to rule. It's still a long shot, but maybe less of one."

Although the NFL has stood its ground (denying reports this week of a settlement offer to Vilma), is the league sweating the prospect of Goodell being skillfully deposed and airing the NFL's dirty laundry?

"Not yet," Feldman said. "If the NFL loses, it'll appeal. If it loses again and discovery begins, that's when they'll likely look to settle."

Some believe a victory by Vilma could open the floodgates to lawsuits on virtually every ruling against a player by Goodell, but Feldman doubts that.

"Lawyers are expensive," he said. "Is a player going to challenge a one-game suspension? He'll spend more in legal fees than the one-game check.

"A victory might embolden the players, but it would only persuade them to go to court in outlier cases, like this one -- cases with a lot at stake."

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Leonard Hankerson started the Redskins' preseason opener Thursday

Leonard Hankerson started the Redskins' preseason opener Thursday night, catching one pass for 12 yards.

Hankerson got the nod over Josh Morgan, while Santana Moss entered in three-receiver sets. The Z receiver -- Hankerson's role -- is not typically a featured position in the Shanahans' offense, but it will still bode well for his NFL outlook if he's able to hold off Morgan and Moss entering the regular season.

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Cory Nelms of 49ers watches T'erea Brown in Olympic hurdles final

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Cory Nelms ran off the field in the middle of the San Francisco 49ers' Wednesday practice to go watch television. Don't worry: He had special permission.

The second-year pro cheered on girlfriend T'erea Brown in the final of the 400-meter hurdles from eight time zones away, watching her finish sixth in London after posting a personal best of 54.21 seconds in the Olympic semifinals. Brown ran the final in 55.07. Natalya Antyukh of Russia won it in 52.70.

"It was exciting. Your heart is pumping out your chest," Nelms said after watching the final. "You don't know what's going to happen when that light goes off, and you're just a spectator like everybody else.

"I'm definitely proud of her. I'm definitely sure she went out there and did her best. I'm thinking maybe it's been a long week. Peaking two times back to back, that's a lot on your body. Maybe that's all she had this year."

Nelms is a former hurdler at the University of Miami, where he met Brown and walked on the football team. Nelms also won hurdles in the 60-meter indoor (2009) and 110-meter outdoor (2010) at the Atlantic Coast Conference championships.

Nelms, 24, still misses the sport. Defensive lineman Demarcus Dobbs joined him to watch some of the Olympic re-runs at night last week, and Nelms said he had flashbacks to his track days.

"I told him like, 'Man, if I wasn't playing football, I'd definitely be in London right now,' " Nelms said.

Nelms is just happy that 49ers defensive backs coach Ed Donatell approached head coach Jim Harbaugh to excuse the cornerback from practice to watch the hurdles finals. Nelms said he hadn't had a chance to talk to Brown just yet but planned to wish her well -- and he believes she'll be a stronger contender at the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro.

"It's definitely incredible, and I'm definitely proud of her," he said of watching Brown in this year's Games. "It was an experience for her and me both."

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What to know about Vilma hearing

As the Saints returned to the field last Sunday in the Hall of Fame Game, noticeably absent from the sideline were head coach Sean Payton and linebacker Jonathan Vilma, both serving one-year suspensions for their involvement in the bounty scandal.

Unlike Payton, who has accepted his suspension, Vilma and the other players involved -- Scott Fujita, Anthony Hargrove, and Will Smith -- have contested the discipline by bringing suit against commissioner Roger Goodell and the NFL in federal court in New Orleans. The players have requested their suspensions be overturned; Vilma has also individually sought a preliminary injunction to block his.

A preliminary hearing was held on July 26, but Judge Helen Berrigan -- presiding over the case -- has declined to rule until she hears further arguments on Friday, when the NFL will try to persuade her to dismiss the lawsuit. Let's go inside the issues:

Superseding the commissioner
The collectively bargained NFL conduct policy grants Goodell full authority to discipline players for "conduct detrimental." Pursuant to the policy, Goodell suspended Vilma and the others and, predictably, affirmed their suspensions on appeal.

In going to court, Vilma appeared to be waging a futile, albeit spirited, battle.
Courts show great deference to procedures outlined in collectively bargained agreements, as well as to arbitrations. (Two earlier arbitrations on this matter ruled for the NFL.)

Vilma, however, may have found a judge unwilling to rubber-stamp Goodell's decision. At the July hearing, Judge Berrigan firmly stated: "The issue here is whether the commissioner complied with the requirements of the collective bargaining agreement in imposing the sanctions, and obviously I have a serious question as to whether he did." Berrigan stridently questioned NFL attorney Gregg Levy about Goodell’s jurisdiction to discipline here.

Friday's focus
The NFL argues the case should be dismissed, as 1) Vilma's state law claims are pre-empted by federal labor law, 2) Vilma’s suit is an improper circumvention of procedures set forth in the CBA, 3) Vilma cannot prove "actual malice" by Goodell, as required in defamation actions, and 4) Goodell's freedom of speech is protected by Louisiana law.

The NFL will further argue that Vilma failed to use his CBA rights by not actively participating in the appeal process. Also, the NFL will contend that the NFLPA’s appeal of an earlier arbitration ruling on this matter is still pending in front of the NFL's newly constituted appeals panel, as per the CBA. The NFLPA continues to claim that cap arbitrator Stephen Burbank, not Goodell, is the appropriate individual to discipline the players. And, surprisingly, Judge Berrigan showed signs of agreeing with them.

With reports -- though strongly denied -- that there have been settlement discussions, Friday's hearing serves as a soft deadline for such talks.

Pros and cons of settlement
Settlement offers advantages and disadvantages to both sides.

For Goodell, a settlement becomes viable if Judge Berrigan’s initial sympathy to Vilma’s arguments becomes more evident. A settlement could prevent the uncertainly of her injecting herself into the disciplinary process.

A settlement by Goodell, however, is problematic, as it would set a harmful precedent of providing suspended players a roadmap to circumventing the CBA and weaken one of the key tenets of Goodell’s tenure, the policy’s power to player conduct.

For Vilma, a settlement would allow him to 1) play in 2012 and earn potentially half of his $1.6 million salary, and 2) become known as the player who fought the power of the commissioner and forced him to compromise his position.

A settlement by Vilma, however, would undermine his vehement and passionate public denials and stated goal of completely clearing his name, as it would be a tacit admission that he was involved in bounty misconduct.

While Judge Berrigan could conceivably rule from the bench on Friday, it’s more likely that she will take the matter “under advisement” and rule within a week or two. Vilma may attend the hearing as a spectator, but only the attorneys are expected to speak.

As Friday's hearing approaches, all eyes turn (again) to New Orleans.

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Antrel Rolle on Jerry Jones’ Comments: “They are going to need a little more motivation than that to come in and kick our ass.”

There’s never a dull moment with Antrel Rolle. The Giants safety who made the statement ‘at the end of the day’ famous last season with WFAN in New York was at it again for the start of training camp. No.26 had a jaw dropping hair cut when he arrived to Albany, NY last week from who he calls the best barber in Miami, who also happens to be blind.

Rolle made it known last season that the Giants were a Super Bowl team and he backed that talk up. He took Jerry Jones recent comments in stride and believes that both teams won’t disappoint on September 5th.

Antrel Rolle joined WFAN in New York with Boomer and Carton to discuss his performance in training camp so far, getting his hair spray painted neon yellow and blue, playing cornerback while Terrell Thomas gets healthy, Jerry Jones saying he wants the Cowboys to kick the Giants ass and Jerry Jones comments regarding ‘Glory Hole’.

How’s training camp going for you guys?
“It’s been going good man. We are doing good. Doing a lot of great work. You know a lot of progress. Guys are filling in the blanks. We’re starting to figure out what we have on our team and trying to keep what we pretty had consistent with the older guys and our veterans.”

I’m trying to figure out what you did with your head. What’s this haircut all about?
“Hey man that’s the best barber in Miami hands down. [Craig Carton: Cause he spray painted your head neon yellow?] It wasn’t spray paint. It was actually dye. It was a four hour process.”

Are you hoping that Terrell Thomas gets healthy, so you don’t have to play cornerback as much?
“Oh absolutely. That’s always been my primary concern with hoping for the best with Terrell Thomas. It’s not only him being on the field because I know what he has gone through. I see the work he has put into that rehab and getting his knee right. To come back and be himself for the team each and every day, so it was extremely hurtful to see him have another setback like that. Terrell Thomas is a strong guy and I am sure he is going to bounce back in no time. As far as me? This is my third year doing this, so whatever position I am detailed to play it really doesn’t matter. I am going to go out there and be the best guy I can at that position.”

What are your thoughts on Jerry Jones saying he wants the Cowboys to kick the Giants ass?
“[Laughs] Jerry Jones is an awesome owner. He does whatever he can do to try to motivate his organization, but they are going to need a little more motivation than that to come in and kick our ass. I tell you that much. We don’t lay down to anyone and that’s our approach. We come to play the game. We know they are going to be ready. We know they are going to bring their ‘A’ game, but so are we.”

What are your thoughts on Jerry Jones comments regarding ‘Glory Hole’?
“[Laughs] You know there is nothing wrong with wishful thinking. There’s nothing wrong with wishful thinking. You just have to make that become a reality in the best way possible.”

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Relay redemption: Lauryn Williams finishes blazing prelim run

LONDON -- All day, Lauryn Williams carried that familiar feeling. No, she wasn't running the individual Olympic 100-meter dash this time. But Thursday night's preliminary round of the 4x100 relay presented several pressure-packed subplots.

For one, Williams had been at least half-responsible for the United States not earning medals in Athens and Beijing, botching handoffs with Marion Jones and Torri Edwards as the anchor of those relay teams.

Then there was the matter of her personal journey to London -- losing her father, David, to cancer in the fall of 2008; leaving the sport for the '10 season to take a soul-searching mission; and coming back in '11 to find that she was no longer a dominant sprinter.

It was all supposed to mean something. In fact, it had to, and Thursday night's race was about attaining proper closure to one of the most decorated Olympic careers to have blossomed in the rolling hills of Western Pennsylvania.

Williams, a native of Rochester, had one more job to do: Receive that baton and run the last 100 meters as she has done it thousands of times. She wouldn't leave anything to chance either, continually extending her left hand behind her to receive an imaginary stick as she walked throughout the day.

"Someone laughed at me this morning," Williams said.

"I was walking in the village to meet my friend, and they were like, 'What are you doing?' "

The world found out Thursday night exactly what she was doing. She easily grabbed the baton from Bianca Knight and made a beeline for the finish line, not slowing down until Team USA's "B-Team" had coasted to a time of 41.64 seconds -- the second fastest in Olympic history (East Germany ran 41.60 in 1980).
"A total sense of relief," Williams, 28, said. "A huge weight off my shoulders. I am so blessed to have done my part and be able to watch these girls tomorrow as they go for a gold!

"It was disappointing in '04 and '08, but I'm really excited to have had this opportunity, even if it's just a preliminary, you know, it's my chance at redemption."
Williams, who got a silver medal in the 100-meter in Athens, will be in an unfamiliar position tonight, unable to control her medal fate. Faster sprinters Carmelita Jeter and Allyson Felix will take her spot and Tianna Madison, Jeneba Tarmoh or Knight will round out the team.

"We're definitely a golden team," Williams said.

After Thursday night's blazing run, it appears the United States could race any four of its six 100 runners and sprint away with gold. Trinidad & Tobago was second at 42.31 seconds.

By the time Williams got the baton, her lead was so big she could have tried to do cartwheels into the finish. Williams, of course, would do no such thing. This meant too much to her, and as soon as she clasped the stick in her hand, she felt redeemed.

"I was just like, 'I got it! Don't stop now!' " Williams said. "Even when you know you're winning, it's all the way to the finish line, because you never know. When you've got all this speed together, it could be a world record, an Olympic record, American record, whatever."

She'd have to settle for the second-best Olympic time, which could very well become the third best by tonight. Jeter, Felix, Knight and Marshevet Myers ran a 41.56 at the 2011 world championships.

Williams will be watching tonight and cheering as loudly as anyone, hoping her teammates help win her first Olympic gold.

"I wanted to show the world that even the 'B-team' for America is really, really fast," Williams said. "And you better watch out and be ready tomorrow."

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James Jones part of YMCA's water safety event

Children getting swim lessons at a YMCA summer camp is a normal occurrence.

Getting personal instruction from a Miami Heat player? Not so much.

James Jones recently jumped into the water alongside children at the YMCA Aquatic Center in Pembroke Pines as part of a partnership to promote water safety in South Florida. According to the YMCA, drowning is the leading cause of death in Florida for children ages 1 to 4. South Florida led the state with 41 drownings in Miami-Dade and 61 in Broward in 2010. Broward had eight drowning deaths in 2011.

Many children are exposed to water by their parents but don't receive specialized instruction, said Sheryl Woods, president and CEO of the YMCA of Broward County.

"Parent teaching is great, but formal instruction is better," she said. "There are lots of other safety components than just swimming lessons."

Jones said water safety is important to him since he has children of his own. He's participated at past water safety events on behalf of the Heat.

"I don't want to be one of those parents who hears tragic news about their children," Jones said.

Jones joined several YMCA instructors who were working with children ages 6 to 13. Instructors taught children how to jump off a diving board, as well as how to swim with a paddle board. Older children practiced jumping off a starting block, while Jones helped younger children with floating and practicing their backstroke.

"These kids are sponges. They listen," Jones said. "Their eyes light up when they see someone cares about them."

Swimming safety is nothing new for Heat courtside TV reporter and host Jason Jackson, who grew up as a water safety instructor. Jackson also has participated in multiple water safety events.

"This is where you can make a difference," said Jackson, who also hosts a weekday sports radio show. "These kids have an open mind."

The water safety event marked the YMCA's second time working with the Heat, Woods said. About 17,000 to 18,000 children learn annually how to swim through the Broward YMCA's swimming programs. The event's other partners included the American Red Cross and Florida Blue.

Aside from water safety, Florida Blue also encourages swimming for exercise, said Penny Shaffer, president of the company's South Florida market.

"It's how you build a healthy community," Shaffer said. "You can't get better partners than the Heat, the YMCA and the Red Cross."

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Jon Jay laying claim to leadoff spot in Cards' order

ST. LOUIS -- It appears as if the Cardinals have settled on a new regular leadoff hitter, at least for as long as it takes Rafael Furcal to move past the nagging back stiffness that has coincided with his drop in production.

Manager Mike Matheny plugged Jon Jay into that leadoff spot for a second straight game Thursday. And, encouraged by how Jay has seemingly turned a corner offensively, Matheny seems ready to keep the center fielder there.

"I do like Jon Jay at the top of the lineup, especially with the way he's swinging the bat right now, even against the lefties," Matheny said after the Cardinals' 3-1 win Thursday. "He puts together a good at-bat. He's not afraid to work the count.

"Now, with that being said, I think we all saw where Rafael Furcal, when he is right, what he can do at the top of the lineup, so we're not ruling out that that's going to come back around. But right now it's a good fit for Raffy to sit down in the eight-spot and really work the count. I'm confident he's going to get back there, and we'll have a tough decision about how to use that leadoff spot."

Jay would seem to fit the mold of what the Cardinals are looking for at that top spot in the order. His .383 on-base percentage is third-best on the club, behind only Matt Holliday and Skip Schumaker. Jay, as he displayed Thursday, also has the speed to set up RBI opportunities for the team's middle-of-the-lineup hitters.

Jay swiped two bases Thursday, giving him a team-leading 13 this season.

"Just every day I'm working hard, trying to keep it simple and have good at-bats," said Jay, downplaying any significance to where he hits in the order.
Jay has been getting on base with regularity lately, too. He has notched four straight multi-hit games, going 10-for-15 during that stretch.

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Yasmani Grandal could begin swinging a bat as early Monday

Yasmani Grandal (oblique) could begin swinging a bat as early as Monday.

It's a good sign for his progress, as he's only been out of action for a week, but obviously he hasn't really tested himself yet. Grandal was batting .312/.349/.597 with five homers over 24 games before tweaking his oblique while taking a swing.

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Chris Perez rebounds to record 30th save

After a pair of colossal blown saves, Chris Perez rebounded nicely on Thursday, retiring the Red Sox in order to earn his 30th save of the season.
While Perez's job was never in serious jeopardy, had he blown a third consecutive chance there may have been rumblings of making the switch to Vinnie Pestano. As it stands, Perez has now converted 30-of-34 chances on the season while posting a 3.89 ERA and 46/11 K/BB ratio over 40 2/3 innings.

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Jimmy Graham suffers back injury after awkward fall; Brees, Vitt say he's 'fine'

Jimmy Graham is one of several players that the Saints absolutely need to stay healthy in 2012. Drew Brees is clearly the most important player to the team, but Graham (along with Darren Sproles) isn't all that far behind in terms of making that offense hum. So it's never good to have him suffer a back injury while making a catch in practice before the season even begins.

According to Brees and interim coach Joe Vitt, however, Graham is "fine."

"He was fine," Brees said. "In typical Jimmy Graham fashion he was completely selling out for a ball that was way up over his head. He ended up catching it for a huge play in practice. But at a time that we're just wearing shells and trying to take it easy of course he's going 1,000 miles an hour and just came down a little funny. Just kind of needed to shake it off, but he's fine."

Per Larry Holder of the New Orleans Times-Picayune, Graham "landed hard on his back while making a touchdown catch." Afterwards Graham went to the sideline "where he immediately fell to the turf in pain." Graham stretched his back and "walked around gingerly" and apparently avoided speaking with the media following practice.

"I saw him take a fall right here," Vitt told reporters. "If there was anything serious the trainers would've come to me. He just gone in there to get stretched out. He's fine."

So ... whew? Maybe: Brees and Vitt are obviously pointing out how great Graham feels, but if he was in serious pain on the sideline and didn't talk to reporters, well, that doesn't really sound like "fine," now does it?

That being said, Graham's a tough dude. He was able to walk. He shook off the injury. If he can't get back out to practice or is unable to play in the Saints preseason game against the Patriots on Thursday -- his status is currently unknown -- then we can start getting concerned.

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Brandon Harris waiting his turn with Texans

HOUSTON – No matter how all of this ends for Brandon Harris, whether he earns his keep as a rotation cornerback for the Texans or drifts into the abyss as an unfulfilled second-round pick from the 2011 draft, his maturity shown during occupational adversity can't be marginalized.

Professional football players oftentimes fly off the rails at the first signs of disrespect and disregard, and Harris certainly had just cause to rage against his oppressors when the Texans opted to place him on the inactive list for nine games during his rookie season. He was a decorated standout at Miami, Fla., even starting six contests as a true freshman in 2008, so the concept of waiting his turn could have subjugated his ego.

"It was a very unique situation with me being drafted here last year," Harris said. "It was unique in a way where they were able to go out and sign a high-quality free agent in Johnathan Joseph and they had a guy like Kareem (Jackson) who was a first-round pick the year before and came on and played very well last year.

"Jason Allen, who was an experienced veteran, also played well as well as Brice (McCain). It was an opportunity for me to just learn. I didn't really have to be in there. The defense played well; it was the No. 2 pass defense in the league, so looking at all those things together it really wasn't a disappointment at all. It was actually a benefit to my career."

Harris expressed these truths without any trace of hostility or resentment. Patience is a challenging virtue for young players anxious to make an impression, yet Harris' approach to his place on the depth chart as a rookie proves that 20-somethings are capable of perspective.

If the Texans' current depth chart can be used as a trustworthy guide, Harris has earned an opportunity to showcase his talent. With their preseason opener set for Saturday in Charlotte against the Panthers, the Texans have listed Harris as the backup to Jackson at left cornerback. With Jackson slowed by a balky hamstring during training camp, Harris will get ample reps to prove how much he developed while watching.

As with most youngsters, Harris' growth wasn't instantaneous. He wasn't necessarily ready to contribute as a rookie, and because the Texans featured sufficient enough depth to excel without him, Harris had no choice but to learn by observation. What he gleaned wasn't readily available during organized team activities earlier this summer, but Harris kept plugging away. His commitment hasn't gone unnoticed.

"Brandon's had a lot of great progress," Texans coach Gary Kubiak said. "He struggled in OTAs, he struggled a little bit last year, then about the last four days of OTAs a light went on. He practiced better. He has been the same guy since he came back, so that's impressive.

"He's acting like a second-year guy, so we'll see how he does once we go for him."

It can be argued that Harris is a "second-year guy" in designation only. He participated in only seven games last year, primarily on special teams, and recorded just three tackles. The Texans attempted to offset the loss of Allen, who signed as a free agent with the Bengals, by signing veteran Alan Ball. The depth behind Joseph and Jackson, who has yet to establish himself as a credentialed corner, is relatively inexperienced.

McCain and Sherrick McManis are entering their fourth and third years in the NFL, respectively. Roc Carmichael, drafted two rounds after Harris, spent 2011 on injured reserve. Free safety Torri Williams was recently relocated to cornerback. There are bodies but reliability is suspect, especially from those who haven't manned NFL islands before.

At this stage all Harris has to rely on outside of a handful of standout camp efforts are the pointers he absorbed in film study. With his eyes and ears opened Harris labored hard to improve, and the time has come to put classroom lessons into action and to warrant Kubiak's praise.

"I'm definitely applying a lot of techniques that I've learned through my coaches and through my teammates also," Harris said. "In that room we help each other a lot. Those veterans, they don't mind giving you extra tips on what you need, and right now things are going well.

"It's only camp; I can't get satisfied. I have to continue to play well and play for the opportunity to play during the season."

That shot was unavailable last year, but now that it's at hand, Harris can reflect on where he was then and where he stands now. He needed wisdom to offset his competitive nature, with the chance to feed that nature only present because of the work Harris put in while waiting.

"As a football player you want to complete. You want to be out there doing everything it takes to help your team win," Harris said. "Being a rookie and seeing a lot of other rookies contribute right away and seeing that that wasn't my role, I had to be adult about the situation.

"I was in no room to complain. I was learning a lot. It was difficult but I understood it had to be done."

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Jon Beason tweaks hamstring in Wednesday practice

Middle linebacker Jon Beason tweaked his hamstring at Wednesday's practice and missed the evening walkthrough while receiving treatment.

Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera hopes Beason, who was out last season following Achilles surgery, can play in Saturday's exhibition game against Houston.

The Panthers defense was a problem area in 2011, with the Panthers finishing 28th in the league in total defense.

Beason's return is a key part of the plan to reverse that in 2012. Even with Beason back, Rivera has expressed concern about the defense.

He told the Observer on Tuesday, "We have to improve based on what happened last year. We got better at the end of the year but we’re still an unknown. I know that (linebacker) Jon Beason is back, I know we drafted (linebacker) Luke Kuechly, we made some upgrades at our safety position, our safeties have come together as a unit, we’re very competitive at the corner position and our pass rush looks like it’s improved. But we don’t know."

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Kellen Winslow Talks About the Seahawks, Health and More

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Sources: No settlement before ruling for Jon Vilma

There will be no settlement between New Orleans Saints suspended linebacker Jonathan Vilma and the NFL before a judge rules on the temporary restraining order, sources familiar with the case told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter on Wednesday.

Some believe there's a "good chance" U.S. District Judge Ginger Berrigan will issue a decision on the TRO on Friday or shortly thereafter, the sources told Schefter.

The judge's decision also would impact the other three suspended players -- Will Smith, Scott Fujita and Anthony Hargrove -- in the wake of their alleged roles in what the NFL says were illegal bounties used by the Saints against opposing players.

Vilma and seven witnesses testified in New Orleans last month that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell got his facts wrong in the bounty scandal, saying league investigators "misconstrued" evidence gathered in their investigation and incorrectly concluded that the Saints had a bounty program.

Vilma asked Berrigan to impose a TRO against the NFL while his lawsuit against Goodell proceeds. Vilma's suit accuses the commissioner of defamation and also asks Berrigan to overturn permanently Goodell's decision to suspend him for the entire 2012 season.

NFL attorneys did not attempt to challenge testimony denying the existence of a bounty program. Rather, they argued the real question in Vilma's case was whether the federal courts had jurisdiction to overturn a process that was collectively bargained.

After Vilma's testimony, Berrigan said Goodell's contention that players were being punished for actions that occurred not on the field, but in meeting rooms and locker rooms, "borders on ridiculous," and cited it as one of several examples of "slicing the salami very thin."

The NFL last week offered to reduce Vilma's suspension to eight games as part of ongoing settlement talks involving the league, the NFL Players Association and legal representatives for the four players, according to sources familiar with the discussions.

The league's offer was conditional upon Vilma dropping a civil lawsuit charging Goodell with defamation of character, sources said.
The NFL, in a statement released Monday morning, denied that Vilma was offered a settlement deal.

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Frank Gore Q&A

Frank Gore enters his eight season with the 49ers and once again finds himself at the top of the running back depth chart. But now at 29, Gore faces much more competition in his own camp with the additions of Brandon Jacobs and LaMichael James and the development of Kendall Hunter.

Gore spoke about how he's handling that competition, the shape of the 49ers compared to last year at this point and what the team's new wide receiver threats mean for his role in the passing game.

On the benefits of practicing against one of the best defenses in the league…
“Just to get us better. We know that we’ve got great players on the defensive side. They play great together, and I feel that if we can do things against them, then we should be able to do anything against anybody, any other team.”

On the progress the offense has made through training camp…
“We’re doing good. We’re taking steps. We’re far ahead of last year at camp. We’ve taken a step forward.”

On what areas in which the offense has gotten ahead of where they were at training camp last year…
“I’d say everything, just knowing our coaches better at this time, just knowing the offense better. I’d say every position.”

On how long it took him last year to a get a feel for the team and the roles he needed to perform…
“It took some time. I’d say all of training camp, the first couple games. We were still learning. But now, like I said, this time, we’re far, far ahead of where we were before last year.”

On being with the 49ers for the full offseason program for the first time this year…
“It was both (Gore’s and the team’s decision). (Running backs) Coach Tom (Rathman) told me to try something different. He wanted me here, and I was here. Just being around the guys, working out with (head strength and conditioning coach Mark Uyeyama), who is one of the best strength coaches in the league, he did a great job with me this offseason. And I still had time to go home, work out with my guy, Pete Bommarito. I feel good, I feel good.”

On what Uyeyama added to his game during the offseason conditioning program…
“He and my trainer back home of probably similar. I probably did the same things with Uye that I do with my trainer back home.”

On how his role changes with the 49ers’ new additions at running back and Kendall Hunter’s development…
“I’ll be the person I’ve always been. When I’m in a game, whenever I’ve got opportunities, I’m going to take advantage of it, go hard every play and try to help my team win. I’m the same guy I’ve been seven years before; I’m going to be the same guy.”

On whether he feel the competition from other running backs to take on some of his duties…
“It’s the coach’s decision. Whatever Coach feels is best for the team, then we’ll go with it.”

On whether he’s concerned about his playing time…
“I can play football. I’m in shape. I feel good, and I’m having a great camp. I’m working hard every day. You all have seen it. You all have been telling me that I look great. So I’m ready to play.”

On why he frequently asks for others’ opinion on how he played…
“Because you all are looking. You all saw me for seven years, and if you all see a difference, you all will see it.”

On whether he feels different…
“I feel great. Like I said before, I think it’s a mind thing. People say you’re turning 29 or 30. I feel that it’s all about how you train and take care of your body and how you work in practice. If you do that, you’ll be fine.”

On if he thinks his career can be prolonged by the 49ers using another running back with him…
“Our coach does a great job of using different personnel and getting the guys the ball who we feel can help the team. I know he’ll make sure I have my share and be happy about my share on Sundays and also the other guys. They do a great job.”

On moving up from 94th last year to 28th this year in the NFL Network’s list of the top 100 players…
“I feel good about moving up, but the year I was 94th I played half of the season. Last year we won more, and as a player I’ve just been doing the same things I’ve been doing since I’ve been here. It’s just that we got an opportunity to win, and everybody saw what I do on Sundays.”

On his decrease in receptions during the regular season last year before leading the team in postseason receptions…
“It’s on what Alex Smith reads. I feel that we won last year with him looking down the field more than just checking the ball down. So if we’ve got to keep doing it and getting the ball downfield to win, I’m good with it.”

On what the additions of Randy Moss and Mario Manningham mean for the passing game…
“It’ll be great. Like you said, you can name all of the guys who can play football and also the guys who we already had (Michael) Crabtree, Vernon (Davis), Delanie (Walker) or Teddy (Ginn Jr.), that’s a lot of weapons. I hope that they pay attention to more of the receivers than the running backs."

On whether he’d rather catch passes out of the backfield than block…
“I don’t mind. Whatever it takes for me to win, I’m doing it.”

On his gold cleats…
“They’re gold shoes. The reason why I wear them is because of my feet. I’ve got great feet running the ball, to get in and out of cuts, find a small spot. That’s what I’ve got on my gold shoes for.”

On why his feet are his best attribute…
“To get in and out and find small spots.”

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D.J. Williams could play in preseason game against the Bears

Denver Broncos Head Coach John Fox declined to rule out LB D.J. Williams, terming him a "game-time decision," but his complete lack of repetitions through 12 practices makes it highly unlikely he'll play ? Running back Ronnie Hillman will be a game-time decision; he was eased back into practice the last two days after missing time because of a hamstring injury.

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Brandon Harris Standing Out

According to write John McClain proCane Houston Texan CB Brandon Harris has really stood out during training camp. Harris who played sparingly after being drafted last year by the Texans has really stepped up his game since the end of OTAs. Harris has been playing both on the inside and outside.

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William Joseph's Hearing Set For Next Week

MIAMI -- Former Minnesota Viking Michael Bennett has pleaded guilty to his role in a South Florida tax refund and identity theft scheme.

Court records show Bennett pleaded guilty last week to one count of wire fraud. As part of a plea agreement, federal prosecutors agreed to recommend less than the possible 20-year sentence.

Prosecutors say the FBI operated an undercover check-cashing store in North Miami used by Bennett and seven others -- including two other former football players -- from February through April. The group allegedly cashed about $500,000 in fraudulent refund checks.

Former Oakland Raiders and New York Giants defensive tackle William Joseph has a change of plea hearing scheduled for next week. Louis Gachelin, who played professionally in Europe, previously pleaded guilty to theft charges.

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Devin Hester Not Expected To Play Today

BOURBONNAIS -- Linebacker Brian Urlacher was excused from practice again on Tuesday for personal reasons while receiver/returner Devin Hester was out with sickness, according to coach Lovie Smith. Neither is expected to play on Thursday against the Denver Broncos.

Receiver Eric Weems (ankle) was dressed for practice but did not take an active part in basically a half-speed session without pads for the first time in a week.

The absence of veterans (several others are expected to see little or no playing time on Thursday) is an opportunity for roster hopefuls under game conditions. Daily practices the past several days have concluded with live hitting between reserve offenses and defenses, but this will be different. Far different.

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Cory Nelms has his Olympic moment

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) -- Cory Nelms ran off the field in the middle of the San Francisco 49ers' practice Wednesday to go watch television. Don't worry, he had special permission.

Call it an Olympic moment.

The second-year cornerback cheered on girlfriend T'erea Brown in the final of the 400-meter hurdles from eight time zones away, watching the fellow American finish sixth in London after posting a personal best of 54.21 seconds in the semifinals. Brown ran the final in 55.07. Natalya Antyukh of Russia won in 52.70.

"It was exciting. Your heart is pumping out your chest," Nelms said after watching the final. "You don't know what's going to happen when that light goes off and you're just a spectator like everybody else.

"I'm definitely proud of her. I'm definitely sure she went out there and did her best. I'm thinking maybe it's been a long week. Peaking two times back to back, that's a lot on your body. Maybe that's all she had this year."

In many ways, this week has been a culmination of hard work for the couple.

Nelms is a former hurdler at the University of Miami, where he met Brown and walked on the football team. Nelms also won hurdles in the 60-meter indoor (2009) and 110-meter outdoor (2010) at the Atlantic Coast Conference championships.

Nelms signed with San Francisco as an undrafted free agent last year and spent the season on the practice squad, splitting time at cornerback and safety. He earned the Thomas Herrion Award, presented annually to a rookie or first-year player "who has taken advantage of every opportunity, turned it into a positive situation and made their dream turn into a reality" in honor of Herrion, who collapsed and died after a 2005 exhibition game in Denver.

Now Nelms is looking to earn a spot on 53-man roster.

"Cory's a jack of all trades," defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said. "We play him at corner and safety. We've kind of focused him at safety here primarily lately. But he's played both corner, and you guys also know that he's played some wide receiver in the past. So he's trying to make this team primarily as a safety, but also as a jack of all trades."

Nelms still has a love for track and stays close to the sport through his, well, new love.

He said he reached out to Brown even before she arrived as a freshman at Miami in 2007, the two started talking, working out together and "it just went on from there." The couple lives together in South Florida. Brown, now 22, visits the Bay Area during football season when she's not running track, which should keep her busy through September.

The 24-year-old Nelms still misses the sport. Defensive lineman Demarcus Dobbs joined him to watch some of the Olympic re-runs at night last week, and Nelms said he had flashbacks to his track days.

"I told him like, 'Man, if I wasn't playing football, I'd definitely be in London right now,'" Nelms said.

Nelms is too busy working on football to run hurdles anymore. He helped set up the course for Brown along with Miami track coach Amy Deem in the offseason, participating once just to see "if I still had it." He said Brown still can't beat him - but it's getting closer.

"Yeah, I still got it," he said. "She's definitely a lot faster than when I left."

Nelms is just happy that defensive backs coach Ed Donatell approached head coach Jim Harbaugh to excuse the cornerback from practice to watch the hurdles finals. He said he hadn't had a chance to talk to Brown just yet but planned to wish her well - and he believes she'll be a stronger contender at the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro.

While he would've loved to be in London, Nelms said sharing the experience from more than 5,000 miles away was special.

"It's definitely incredible and I'm definitely proud of her," he said. "It was an experience for her and me both."

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proCanes T'Erea Brown Finishes 6th In Women's 400m Hurdles, Murielle Ahoure 6th In 200m

T'Erea Brown, resident of Hampton, Va. entered Wednesday's 400m hurdles final in London hoping to medal. Unfortunately a slow reaction time out of the blocks cost her a chance to medal and she finished sixth in the final with a time of 55.07, a full 2.37 seconds behind gold medalist Natalya Antyukh of Russia who finished with a time of 52.70. Fellow American Lashinda Demus claimed the silver medal with a time of 52.77 seconds and Zuzana Hejnova claimed the bronze medal with a time of 53.38.

In other women's track and field events, Murielle Ahoure, running for the Ivory Coast but went to high school in Virginia, finished sixth in the 200m finals with a time of 22.57 seconds, 0.69 seconds behind gold medalist Allyson Felix of America who finished with a time of 21.88 seconds. Jamaica's Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce claimed the silver medal with a time of 22.09 seconds and American Carmelita Jeter won the bronze with a time of 22.14 seconds.

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Chris Perez not down after blown saves

CLEVELAND -- After Chris Perez blew his second consecutive save for the Indians on Tuesday night, the closer said he may need to look at video to solve his recent problems.

On Wednesday, he dismissed the idea.

"I still haven't watched video," Perez said. "I don't need to, because I know it's just minor, nothing major. If I was throwing stuff to the backstop and hitting guys, that's a major mechanical issue. ... It's just little things that are painful."

Perez met with pitching coach Scott Radinsky in the clubhouse on Wednesday morning, and the two discussed the possibility that the All-Star closer has been tipping his pitches. Perez allowed three runs in Cleveland's 7-5 loss to the Twins on Tuesday, and he gave up five runs with two outs in a 10-8 extra-inning loss to the Tigers on Sunday.

Perez had converted 29 of his first 31 save opportunities.

"I just keep opening up to hitters, and they're seeing the ball really well, obviously," Perez said. "I felt good last night. The one in Detroit -- that's [a] lack of concentration, that's something."

Perez struck out Joe Mauer to begin the ninth inning Tuesday, but then the struggles began. Josh Willingham muscled a single to right field, stole second and scored after an error by first baseman Casey Kotchman on a ball hit by Justin Morneau.

Perez wasn't upset with Kotchman because it was a tough play, but Perez was upset with himself for letting Willingham steal second.

"I was more mad I didn't hold the runner better, honestly," Perez said. "If I would have held him better, Kotchman's [covering] on first, [and] that might be a one-hop right to him instead of getting that second hop, and it might be a double play."

Still, even amid his recent blown saves and the team's 11-game losing streak, Perez seemed in good spirits on Wednesday. Manager Manny Acta walked through the clubhouse, patted his closer on the back and told him to keep his head up. Perez had a simple response.

"I just want to get back out there," he said.

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Ryan Braun ends slump with RBI double

MILWAUKEE - Cincinnati manager Dusty Baker decided to pitch to Ryan Braun and it cost the Reds the game.

Braun snapped a 0-for-18 slump with an RBI double in the eighth inning, lifting the Brewers to a three-game sweep of Cincinnati with a 3-2 win Wednesday.
"You're in a situation where you've got to face Braun or Aramis Ramirez," Baker said. "Aramis is one of the hottest hitters in baseball right now. So we chose to pitch to Braun and he blooped it in front of (Chris) Heisey out there."

Jonathan Broxton (1-1) started the eighth with the Reds leading 2-1. He retired the first two batters before an infield single by Norichka Aoki. With Carlos Gomez up to bat, Aoki stole second and took third on catcher Dioner Navarro's throwing error. Gomez hit a soft liner over the outstretched glove of shortstop Wilson Valdez and Aoki scored to tie the game.

Gomez stole second and Braun followed with a hit that fell in front of the Reds' center fielder.

"There aren't too many better ways than to help your team win a game," Braun said. "Certainly not the first time I've struggled; it won't be the last. But it's never enjoyable when you go through something like that. It's always nice to get a hit. It's that much more enjoyable when it happens in a victory and a big situation."

Braun came in batting .304 but had struggled at the plate in the three-game series against St. Louis and was hitless against Cincinnati. Ramirez has seen his batting average climb to .295 and leads the NL in extra base hits (54) and doubles (37).

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PHOTO: Richard Gordon Snags A Pass At Raiders Camp


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Damien Berry Continuing To Battle For No.2 RB Spot

The battle for the No. 2 role behind Ray Rice in the Baltimore Ravens' backfield isn't clear right now. While RB Bernard Pierce (hamstring) appears to be the most suited for an every-down role if called upon, a hamstring injury has prevented him from being on the field much. RB Damien Berry bulked up and has had a solid camp while RB Anthony Allen hasn't shown much in moves to go along with his power-running style. Undrafted rookie RB Bobby Rainey has turned heads. The diminutive back has shown the ability to catch well out of the backfield and no longer appears to be a long shot to make the team's final roster.

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Patriots Pursued Kellen Winslow

I think this tells you more of what you need to know about New England's further offseason obsession with tight ends: The Patriots were interested in acquiring Kellen Winslow from Tampa Bay before the Bucs dealt him to Seattle. I'm told the relationship between Bucs coach Greg Schiano and Bill Belichick had something to do with the deal not getting made with the Patriots. Schiano knew Winslow wouldn't be Belichick's kind of player, and so the Bucs -- who would have been advantaged by sending Winslow to an AFC team instead of the NFC 'Hawks -- made a deal for a conditional seventh-round pick with Seattle.

I also hear New England might have been willing to offer a sixth-round pick for Winslow at one point. The Pats ended up signing Visanthe Shiancoe, another solid veteran. Belichick obviously is going to continue using the tight end tight to the formation, split out, set in the slot and lined up in the backfield.

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Leonard Hankerson shines for Redskins, report says

If everything goes as planned, Robert Griffin III will be throwing the ball in a Washington Redskins uniform for the next decade-plus. His cast of receivers, however, still is being sorted out.

Pierre Garcon and Santana Moss are penciled into the top slots, but the competition behind them presents an opportunity for the likes of Josh Morgan, Anthony Armstrong, Brandon Banks and Leonard Hankerson.

The Washington Post reported Tuesday that Hankerson has "made a strong bid" for a prominent role in the offense with a productive training camp. While Morgan has been sidelined with a hamstring injury, Hankerson has been the most consistent of the bunch, according to the newspaper.

"It always can be a whole lot better," Hankerson told The Post on Monday. "But I feel like I'm right there. I feel like I'm getting better. I feel like I'm doing what the coaches ask me. And I feel like I'm taking a step each and every day, and that's what it's all about."

We listed Hankerson among our potential breakout players for 2012 after he played well in a pair of starts as a rookie last season before being lost to injury. He's a nice fit in the slot and gives RG3 a young wideout to pair with. A franchise quarterback in the house could get Hankerson's young career on track in a hurry.

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Gibson Park Named After Duane Starks


From left, Commissioner Willy Gort, Thelma Gibson, former NFL standout Duane Starks, Mayor Tomas Regalado, and Commissioner Michelle Spencer-Jones cut the ribbon for the opening of the new Theodore R. Gibson Park. The new park opened its doors with the unveiling of a mural and a ribbon-cutting ceremony by City of Miami officials on Tuesday, August 7, 2012 in Miami.

Gibson Park named their newly renovated Football Field after Duane L. Starks (Field of Dreams).

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Brandon Harris improves since ‘light bulb’ moment

As a second-round pick in 2011, cornerback Brandon Harris struggled with his transition from college football to the NFL. He was drafted to play inside after Brice McCain had a bad season in 2010.

But last season McCain was outstanding, which left Harris on the outside looking in. This season is a different story. Harris has been competing outside and inside and doing well.

“Brandon’s made a lot of great progress,” coach Gary Kubiak said. “He struggled in OTAs. He struggled a little last year, then about the last four days of OTAs, a light went on. He practiced better.

“He’s been the same guy since he came back, so that’s impressive. He made a big play (interception) today in the red zone. He’s acting like a second-year guy.”

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Harland Gunn Battling at Center

Dallas Cowboys OLs David Arkin and Harland Gunn struggled with their snaps so much in practice Tuesday, Aug. 7, that head coach Jason Garrett had to insert C Phil Costa to work with the third team just so the unit could run plays. Still, executive vice president Stephen Jones downplayed any fears in the event Costa goes down with an injury. "Center? We feel like we are going to be fine there," Jones said. "Arkin, I've noticed days he's had a little problem with the snaps. At some point, we will put the ball in (OG Mackenzy) Bernadeau's hands. He's (played center) before. It's not totally foreign to him."

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Kellen Winslow: 99% would retire in my shoes

Kellen Winslow believes "99 percent" of NFL players would retire rather than play with the pain in his surgically-repaired knee.

Winslow has always thought highly of himself, so it's no surprise that he believes he's more resilient than the rest of the league. Winslow's Dynasty value has long been in the tank due to the creaky knee. Battling Zach Miller for production in Seattle's run-heavy offense, his redraft value is hanging by a thread as well.

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Leonard Hankerson Says He’s Not 100% But Will Play Hurt

Redskin’s wide receiver Leonard Hankerson experienced the high and low point of his short career in a single game last season.  In a week 10 match up against the Miami Dolphins, Hankerson had a break-out game with career high 8 receptions for 106 yards before suffering a hip injury that ultimately ended his rookie season. After off-season surgery, the second-year receiver is looking to re-establish himself as a go-to target in Coach Mike Shanahan’s offense.
Hankerson joined 106.7 The Fan’s Holden and Danny to discuss the status of his recovery and how he’s fitting in with rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III.

When asked about how close he was to being fully healthy, Hankerson said he was still a ways off but that won’t keep him off the field.

“I really don’t feel like I’m 100% yet because there’s always going to be a little nagging and a little problem but if you don’t play hurt, or whatever, you’re not going to be here,” Hankerson said.

In addition to adjusting to an increased workload, Hankerson will also have to adapt to playing with Griffin III. He says that having a year under his belt and knowing what’s expected of him will help him do just that.

“If I’m running my routes, getting to my right depth and (Griffin III) is going through his reads then of course it won’t be a problem. That’s getting everybody on the same page,” said Hankerson. “When we get everyone on the same page, like I said, we’re gonna be special.”

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D.J. Williams takes the field at training camp

There has been a D.J. Williams sighting.

Williams, an observing bystander throughout camp, filled in for Von Miller at strongside linebacker during the walkthrough portion of early practice Tuesday morning. Miller was late coming out on the practice field.

Newly signed linebacker Keith Brooking is attending practice, but he can't participate until after the Broncos' preseason game Thursday against the Bears in Chicago.

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'Muscular' Willis McGahee up 10 pounds this year

After dedicating himself to the weight room this offseason, Willis McGahee arrived at training camp a "muscular" 245 pounds, up 10 from last year.

McGahee's upper body is "ripped," and his body fat has dropped to 9 percent in preparation for a heavy workload in his age-31 season. McGahee is locked in as the Broncos' early-down workhorse, with Lance Ball, Knowshon Moreno and rookie Ronnie Hillman in the mix for passing-down duties. We don't believe Hillman will overtake McGahee at any point this season, barring injury.

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Andre Johnson has Hall of Fame credentials, but durability an issue

If you listen to a lot of fans and some members of the Houston media, Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson sounds like a cinch to be voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

The truth is that Johnson is on the right path, but he has a long way to go if he wants to be enshrined in Canton, Ohio, when his eligibility begins five years after his NFL career ends.

A survey of some members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame over the weekend shows that Johnson has everything it takes to be inducted, but the one question involves his durability.

“Andre’s a great, great player, but there’s the question of injuries,” said former defensive end Howie Long, an NFL studio analyst for Fox Sports. “If he stays healthy, I think he can (make it).”

Johnson is entering his 10th season. He has missed 12 games the last two seasons, including nine in the 2011 regular season. Hamstring injuries limited him to 33 catches for 492 yards and two touchdowns, but he bounced back in the playoffs. In the victory over Cincinnati and the loss at Baltimore, Johnson had 13 catches for 201 yards and a touchdown.

Best at position Former tackle Dan Dierdorf, a color analyst for CBS, has seen a lot of Texans games. He was reminded of something his mentor, the late Jack Buck, told him years ago.

“Talking about the prerequisites of being a Hall of Famer, Jack said you can’t get caught up in numbers,” Dierdorf said. “Jack said at one point during your career, you should have been considered the best in the league at your position.

“When you’re looking at receivers, I think you have to ask that question rather than just focus on numbers. Because some have big numbers but were never considered the best at their position.

“When you ask that question about Andre Johnson, the answer is affirmative. He has been and may still be considered the best receiver in the game. I think that makes him an automatic.”

Former Oilers quarterback Warren Moon is a game analyst for the Seattle Seahawks’ radio network. He has special affection for the league’s best receivers.

“For the last five, six years, he’s been one of the best in the league,” Moon said. “When he’s healthy, he’s as consistent as anybody. And he can do everything you want in a receiver.

“He got some playoff exposure last year, and he did well. Now he needs to do more of it on the playoff stage and in national TV games. Getting that kind of consistent exposure will increase his chances.”

Numbers no guarantee Johnson is the only receiver to have at least 60 catches in each of his first eight seasons. He has 706 catches for 9,656 yards and 52 touchdowns.
In recent years, it has been difficult for receivers to be elected. Cris Carter (1,101 catches for 13,899 yards), Tim Brown (1,094 for 14,934) and Andre Reed (951 for 13,198, four Super Bowls) are among the great receivers who have been passed over.

“There are a lot of great receivers who have put up big numbers, but they’re still not in it,” said Johnson, who is supposed to return to practice Monday after missing time with a minor groin strain. “All I can do is to play as hard as I can for as long as I can and help us win, and the rest will take care of itself.

“It (induction) is a goal, definitely something I’d like to be part of, but right now, I don’t think about it much because I don’t plan on retiring any time soon. I plan to keep playing at a high level for as long as I can.
“When that time (Hall of Fame eligibility) comes, hopefully, I’ll make it.”

Winning helps cause Former cornerback Mike Haynes, who works for the NFL, believes Johnson is headed in the right direction but isn’t guaranteed of enshrinement.

“Andre needs to keep doing what he’s been doing,” Haynes said. “I don’t see that he needs to do a whole lot more. He’s got a great track record for coming up with plays when they need them the most. He’s got to keep putting up those kinds of numbers. Even if the team doesn’t win, I think he’s got a shot, but if they continue to win, it’ll help him for sure.”

Texans’ system good fit Bill Parcells, a finalist this year who fell short of induction, presented Curtis Martin, his former running back, on Saturday.

“Durability’s the key,” Parcells said about Johnson. “He just needs to stay on the field. He’s got a good situation with his quarterback (Matt Schaub) and coach (Gary Kubiak). They know how to use him, and that system is good for him because they throw the ball a lot.”

Former safety Ken Houston, who resides in Houston, watches the Texans as much as he can.

“I think Andre’s right there,” Houston said. “He’s got size, speed and talent. He’s gotten national recognition for being the best or one of the best receivers in recent years.

“Now that the Texans are winning, he’s going to get even more recognition. If he can continue to play at a high level for another three or four years, he can make it.”

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Rob Gronkowski, Jimmy Graham the best at TE

FOXBORO — They are considered the two best tight ends in the league, the two deadliest weapons over the middle of the field, and especially where it counts most — the red zone.

Debates have raged during the offseason between football pundits and fantasy experts on which third year tight end you’d rather have, which one is truly better.
Rob Gronkowski or Jimmy Graham?

Tom Brady’s 6-foot-6, 265-pound matchup nightmare, or the 6-6, 260-pound freak Drew Brees has lining up for him?

Gronk or Graham? The Patriot or the Saint? They’ve been analyzed and dissected, right down to their distinctive touchdown celebrations. One spikes. The other dunks.

They were both on display yesterday with the Pats and Saints engaging in their first joint practice session of the week. And as usual, neither one could be adequately stopped or covered by the opposing team’s defense.

“They’re both such a tough task,” Pats cornerback Kyle Arrington said of the dueling tight ends. “Graham is a pretty good basketball player. He hasn’t played football that long, but you watch him, and it looks like he has. He’s just so athletically freakish.”

Gronk, of course, can do it all. He can block with the best of tight ends, and he’s big and fast and can catch the football. He’s virtually unstoppable in the red zone. Graham, meanwhile, having a hoop background, has amazing athleticism. He’s more in the Aaron Hernandez mold, but can also leap tall buildings while going up to get the football.

Ask Graham if he’d take himself over Gronkowski and Hernandez, and the athletically freakish hoop player turned tight end doesn’t hesitate. He’d pick himself.
“Of course I would,” Graham said. “I mean, I’m young. The thing about me, I’ve been playing for three years. I know I’m getting better. I’m focused on getting better. I know my weaknesses. I know where I need to improve.”

Graham described the tight end wars as “friendly competition.”

Gronk wouldn’t go there. He wouldn’t even acknowledge a competition existed between the players, who were drafted in the second (Gronkowski) and third rounds (Graham) in 2010.

“There really is no competition. He’s a great player and that’s why every team has the position of tight end,” Gronk said yesterday. “He’s a great guy, a great player you can put the film on and see what he is doing to get open cause he’s doing a great job at it and you can learn from him. You can learn from other tight ends in the league, they’re doing such a great job and you want to take their concepts too and add it to your game.”

What might he be watching in Graham to study during these few days?

“His speed, his separation,” Gronk said. “He’s good at the long ball, how he goes up and grabs it in the air. I mean, he used to be a basketball player, so it’s kind of cool to see him go up and grab the ball at the highest point and that’s something you always want to do when the ball is coming at you.”

Graham also watches his “competition.”

“I think we all watch each other. I use the film, I try to take little bits that I can from each one of them,” Graham said. “Hernandez and Gronkowski. (Tony) Gonzalez in Atlanta. (Antonio) Gates (in San Diego). I study film a lot. Gronkowski uses his body really well. Me and him are similar in size. And Hernandez is really good in the routes. His technique and his routes is among the best as far as tight ends go.

“Hopefully I can learn from both those guys.”

Teams are still searching for that Gronk buster or Graham stuffer.

What might that player look like?

“I don’t know. Hungry, working hard,” said Graham. “I think that our teams exploit our talents very well. We’re very similar. (Tom) Brady and (Drew) Brees, they definitely go to us in the red zone. They definitely enable us to use our size and our body down the field.”

So who has the better touchdown celebration? The Gronk spike or the Graham dunk?

“His spikes are pretty good. He’s got some velocity on those,” Graham said. “But I’d rather dunk it any day.”

Funny thing, though. The best tight end on the field yesterday wasn’t Gronk or Graham. It was Hernandez. His one-handed catch down the sideline on a bomb from Brady was breathtaking.

But let’s not spoil a good duel.

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Zach Railey Falls Short At Olympics

Clearwater's Olympic sailing siblings, Paige and Zach Railey, have wrapped up their Olympic Games. Zach, right, 27, who had previously won a silver medal at the 2008 Summer Olympics, didn't make the 2012 medal race in sailing a Finn, a men's single-handed heavyweight dinghy. Paige, 24, finished sixth in the medal race in the lighter-weight Laser Radial class. "I saw an improvement on things, and I'm happy," Paige told USA Sailing. "This week hasn't gone the way we planned," Zach told USA Sailing. The siblings learned to sail at the Clearwater Yacht Club and the Clearwater Community Sailing Center.

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Murielle Ahoure advances to 200-meter final

She carried the flag for her country during the opening ceremonies of the London Olympics. She raced in the women's 100-meter dash final last weekend, and she'll race in the finals of the 200-meter dash on Wednesday.

She also went to high school and college in the Washington area.

Murielle Ahoure isn't easily recognizable as one of a number of former D.C. products in this year's Summer Olympics. The first reason may be that she's racing for Ivory Coast, the country where she was born before relocating first to France then the U.S. when she was a teenager. The second reason is that she left her first college, George Mason, after two seasons, and headed to Miami, where she won the 200-meter NCAA title in 2009.

But her start came at Hayfield High, just south of the Beltway in Alexandria, where a guidance counselor introduced her to coach T.D. Holsclaw a couple weeks into the spring track season. A sophomore then, she'd never run competitively before.

"I said, 'Sure,'?" Holsclaw said. "Just add another one to the bunch, I guess."

Holsclaw stayed with Ahoure through her time with the Patriots, where she was an All-American.

Last weekend in London, in her first Olympics, she finished seventh in the 100 final, with a time of 11.00 seconds. In the 200, she won her preliminary heat with a time of 22.55 and finished second in her semifinal heat (22.49) to qualify for Wednesday's final.

"She's turned into quite a stud," said Hayfield assistant director of activities and field coach Jeff Herbert. "We fought tooth and nail for two years to get her in the weight room. Seeing pictures of her now, I'd be afraid to see her in a dark alley. A very sweet girl, awesome kid."

While Hayfield has a message of support on the school's marquis, nobody saw Ahoure carry the flag into Olympic Park Stadium -- NBC skipped over it during commercials.

"They haven't even shown any of her heats on TV," Herbert said. "They've only been online. That's been the downfall for us."

Holsclaw, who now coaches at South County High, said his family dressed up in Ivory Coast T-shirts and sent a picture to Ahoure back in late spring. He said it would be the only time during the Olympics that they wouldn't wear red, white and blue. He also believes that the 200 is Ahoure's best event.

"Still to this day, it's funny because once she starts running, she is yet to slow down," Holsclaw said. "She just seems to keep getting faster and faster."

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Chris Perez blows second straight save chance

Chris Perez blew his second straight save opportunity, allowing three runs (one earned) on four hits and a walk in just 2/3 of an inning in Tuesday's loss to the Twins.

He entered the game with a 4-3 lead, and retired the first hitter before Josh Willingham singled. Darin Mastroianni pinch-ran and stole second base, then came around to score as Casey Kotchman made a critical error on a ball hit by Justin Morneau. The error surely didn't help keep Perez's emotions in check, as he proceeded to allow a double, sacrifice fly, single, single and walk to the next five hitters before being removed. While he's still converted 29-of-33 save chances on the season, Vinnie Pestano has been incredible this season and provides them with a strong alternative the next time a save chance arises.

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NFL U Rosters 8.7.12-2

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Leonard Hankerson having a strong training camp

It has been a solid training camp for Washington Redskins receiver Leonard Hankerson, a second-year pro who has been one of the team’s more consistent pass-catchers in practices.

While free-agent addition Josh Morgan has been plagued by a hamstring injury, Hankerson has made a strong bid thus far for a prominent role in the team’s receiver corps alongside Pierre Garcon and Santana Moss.

“It always can be a whole lot better,” Hankerson said Monday. “But I feel like I’m right there. I feel like I’m getting better. I feel like I’m doing what the coaches ask me. And I feel like I’m taking a step each and every day, and that’s what it’s all about.”

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Lamar Miller doing well in protection

Dolphins OC Mike Sherman says rookie RB Lamar Miller has been "excellent" in pass protection.

It's an interesting comment because Miller was thought to be exceptionally raw as a pass protector after contributing little in the passing game in college. Sherman tempered his praise, however, by saying Miller has been "dancing (too much) in the hole instead of one step, cut and go." Miller could put heat on No. 2 back Daniel Thomas with a strong preseason, but is fourth on the depth chart also behind Steve Slaton until further notice.

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Brandon Washington as the third right guard

The Eagles were pretty high on guard Brandon Washington when they selected him in the sixth round of the draft this year. Many had predicted Washington to go as high as the second or third round this past year, and it was assumed that Washington would be able to contribute immediately. That may be true, but as of now, he’s going to have to fight to even make the roster, as he’s behind veteran Mike Gibson on the depth chart.

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Will Lions' James Bryant Signing Pay Off?

FB James Bryant: After eschewing a traditional fullback during the 2011 season, Mayhew looked north of the border to sign Bryant, who played DE for the CFL's B.C. Lions. Bryant's performance in Detroit's only padded practice was impressive. He used a combination of quickness and a massive (6-3, 257) frame to open huge holes in run drills. Both of Detroit's current healthy first-team RBs, Kevin Smith and Stefan Logan, have running styles that could benefit from a player of Bryant's stature clearing the way on interior run plays.

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Orlando Franklin Practices At Right Guard

Denver Broncos right tackle Orlando Franklin got off to a rough start at training camp when he received a concussion on the first day of practice. After being cleared to play over the weekend, Franklin is back at things on Monday, but apparently he is trying out a different position: right guard, according to Andrew Mason.

Orlando Franklin is back at team drills -- and unexpectedly, at RG. Chris Clark at RT. #Broncos

Franklin is no stranger to playing guard, as he spent time there while playing for the Miami Hurricanes. This is not wholly unexpected as the team had reportedly kicked around the idea before training camp started. Franklin struggled as a pass-blocker in his rookie season, but was outstanding as a run-blocker.

However, this is likely to get him accommodated to the position again, as Franklin moved back to right tackle later in practice. Incumbent starter Chris Kuper is coming back from injury and is listed as the first-teamer there on the recently released depth chart. Franklin will resume playing right tackle when Kuper is healthy enough to be on the field again -- or so we believe.

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Greg Olsen on par with Graham, Gronkowski?

SPARTANBURG, S.C. – We already knew the Carolina Panthers were filled with optimism. (See Ryan Kalil’s newspaper ad promising a Super Bowl title before the start of training camp).

Well, the latest can’t be construed as a “guarantee," but head coach Ron Rivera had a very strong answer Monday when asked if tight end Greg Olsen could be as productive as New England’s Rob Gronkowski and New Orleans’ Jimmy Graham.

For context, Gronkowski had 90 catches for 1,327 yards and 17 touchdowns last season. Graham had 99 catches for 1,310 yards and 11 touchdowns.

“I think he can be right in there with them,’’ Rivera said. “This will be his first real opportunity with us to step up and be the starting tight end and be the guy. You watch him catch footballs and you watch him run routes and you see those traits that say you can fit right into that group. We’re excited about it.’’

That may sound a little grandiose, especially when you consider that Olsen had 45 catches for 540 yards and five touchdowns last season. But I get Rivera’s point and I don’t think he’s totally off base.

First off, Olsen shared time with Jeremy Shockey last season. Shockey had 37 catches, but he hasn’t re-signed with the Panthers and that doesn’t seem likely. Project those 37 catches over to Olsen and it at least puts him in the same ballpark as Graham and Gronkowski.

But there’s more than that. Olsen was traded to the Panthers from Chicago last year and got thrown right into coordinator Rob Chudzinski’s offense. Rookie quarterback Cam Newton also was picking up the scheme on the fly.

Olsen and Newton have had a full offseason in the system. Plus, Chudzinski’s a former tight ends coach, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s put in a few more wrinkles for Olsen.

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Dwayne Hendricks Injured

DT Dwayne Hendricks appeared to suffer an injury to his knee -- Coughlin said there was initial concern about his MCL -- but was up on the sideline moving around afterward, Coughlin said he hoped it was not serious.

Hendricks, a 26-year-old defensive tackle, was on the Giants' active roster for five games last season. The 2004 Millville High School graduate spent parts of the previous two seasons on the practice squad after signing as an undrafted free agent out of the University of Miami.

Coughlin said Hendricks was able to do some zig-zag moves after being hurt.

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Richard Gordon returns to practice

Oakland Raiders TE Richard Gordon (hip) returned to practice Sunday, Aug. 5.

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Sam Shields Injured

Sam Shields may have to step out of that number two and three corner battle. Shields left with an elbow injury Monday night.

A lot of injuries caused practice to be cut short, just 1 hour and 45 minutes.

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Greg Olsen ready to stand on his own

SPARTANBURG Standing in front of his locker late last season, Panthers tight end Greg Olsen looked over the NFL statistics and marveled at the numbers being put up by tight ends Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski.

Olsen noted that, taken together, the receiving totals posted by him and Jeremy Shockey would have placed them fairly high on the list.

With Shockey waiting in limbo as an unsigned free agent, Olsen is poised to take his place among the best pass-catching tight ends in the league.
Except in the Panthers’ offense, Olsen does more than catch passes.

“The world we live in is production-based. That’s fair. And those guys are special guys, don’t get me wrong,” Olsen said Monday. “What Gronkowski and Graham have been able to do in two years – those are the two guys you hear a lot about, deservedly so. They’ve played well. They’ve been very productive. And at the end of the day that’s what you get judged on.

“But I feel on a play-to-play basis with what we’re asked to do, there’s not a lot of guys in the league that get asked to do what we do. From run routes, then the next play you’re at fullback, then you’re pass-blocking, then you’re in the backfield picking up blitzes, then you’re playing receiver again.”

Gronkowski and Graham ripped up the record books in 2011 in their second seasons. Gronkowski, a second-round pick of New England, caught 90 passes for 1,327 yards and a league-leading 17 touchdown receptions. His receiving yards were the most by a tight end in league history.

Graham, a former Miami basketball player drafted by New Orleans in the third round, was just as potent in the Saints’ offense. Graham’s 99 catches were the most by a tight end, and his 1,310 receiving yards would have been if not for Gronkowski.

“When you look at guys like Gronkowski and watch them, they’re not just stat players. He does a lot. He blocks. He really is an all-around player. Same thing as (the Cowboys’ Jason) Witten,” Olsen said. “But the thing that draws the attention is the stats. And last year, me and Jeremy combined were right up there. If we were one person, we would have been right up there.”

Olsen and Shockey combined for 82 catches and 995 yards, which would have ranked third behind Gronkowski and Graham. The catches were split fairly evenly: Olsen had 45 catches for 540 yards; Shockey 37 for 455.

“That system worked for us last year. And we were very productive at it. Neither one of us took it as a knock,” Olsen said. “We knew that neither one as an individual were going to get a lot of recognition. But I’m not a big attention guy.”

Olsen’s father was his high school coach in Wayne, N.J. As the son of a coach, he enjoys the nuances of the game, and says he gets as much satisfaction picking up a back-side blitz as he does pulling down a long pass.

Panthers’ second-year receiver Kealoha Pilares said Olsen knows where everyone is supposed to line up every play.

“That guy approaches every day like it’s work. I always look at him and Steve (Smith) and just how they approach every day at practice. Those are the guys who are always looking to forward to getting better,” Pilares said. “If I ever don’t know what I’m doing I just go ask (Olsen). He’s a really intelligent guy who knows what’s going on.”

The Panthers acquired Olsen last summer in a trade with Chicago, where Olsen played behind Desmond Clark his first two years. Olsen, 27, caught a career-high 60 passes for 612 yards in 2009, but his role diminished the following season when Mike Martz became the Bears’ offensive coordinator.

With the Panthers’ decision not to bring back Shockey, Olsen should be one of Cam Newton’s top targets in the NFL’s fifth-ranked offense last season. Panthers coach Ron Rivera believes Olsen is in the same class as Gronkowski and Graham.

“I think he can be right in there with them,” Rivera said. “This will be his first real opportunity to step up and be the guy. You watch him catch footballs, you watch him run routes and you see those traits that he can fit right into that group.”

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Ravens will garnish Bryant McKinnie's wages to repay debt

Ravens left tackle Bryant McKinnie will have 50 percent of his eligible wages garnished this season, according to a settlement he reached with Pro Player Funding.

McKinnie owes the New York-based company more than $4.5 million for loans he took out to cover costs during the NFL lockout last year. According to the NFL players association, McKinnie is scheduled to earn a base salary of $3.2 million this season. Court documents show he was eligible for a $1.5 million performance bonus on March 15, and a roster bonus of $500,000 on March 17. Both were garnished, but it is unclear exactly how much money Pro Player Funding will recover.

“We don’t talk about players’ finances,” Ravens senior vice president Kevin Byrne said.

Attempts to reach lawyers representing McKinnie and Pro Player Funding were unsuccessful.

According to the agreement, Pro Player Funding will take no other action to collect the debt as long as McKinnie’s wages from the Ravens are garnished.
McKinnie missed the first three days of training camp this year, incurring a fine of $90,000. At first his absence was attributed to a personal matter; he has since said a back injury kept him from the field.

McKinnie defaulted on the loans last August in part because the agreement stipulated that the Minnesota Vikings would transfer a payment the team owed him directly to Pro Player Funding. But the Vikings cut McKinnie before they were required to pay it .

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Andre Johnson on play count, may hold him out of preseason game

Eight days after suffering a groin injury in practice, Texans receiver Andre Johnson is back.  But he’s still not really back.

Coach Gary Kubiak said after practice on Monday that the Texans will be using Johnson sparingly, for now.

“We put a play count on him, so we’re going to do that as the week goes on,” Kubiak said, in comments distributed by the team.  ”It’s about getting him going again and not expecting him to go the full bore on the first day out.  I thought he held up well, and we’ll move forward tomorrow.”

The magic number seems to be 20.

“They just wanted to work me in,” Johnson said.  ”I took probably about 20 reps today, but they were kind of mixed in.  Sometimes I went in for two or three plays in a row.  They did a great job of mixing it up.  The practice went fine.”

Kubiak said the team will decide on Thursday whether Johnson will participate in Saturday’s preseason opener at Carolina.

The Texans should rest the oft-injured Johnson now, because they need Johnson later.  Beyond him and Kevin Walter, there’s no receiver on the roster with any regular-season experience.

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Source: Jonathan Vilma, Saints LB, has no NFL settlement offer

The NFL "has made no settlement offer" to New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma regarding his season-long suspension for his role in a "bounty" program despite reports to the contrary, a source close to the situation told NFL.com and NFL Network reporter Steve Wyche on Monday morning.

The source told Wyche that the lack of an offer does not mean a proposal might not be made in the future.

ESPN.com reported Vilma had received an offer that would reduce his suspension to eight games on the condition that the linebacker drop his defamation lawsuit against NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, citing sources familiar with discussions by the NFL, the NFL Players Association and the counsel for Vilma and three other suspended players.

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello issued the following statement Monday:

"Today's report about a settlement offer by the league to Jonathan Vilma is completely inaccurate. No such settlement offer has been made. We will continue to respect the court proceedings on this matter and have no further comment at this time."

The two sides are scheduled to appear before U.S. District Court Judge Ginger Berrigan on Friday. The courts have ordered the parties to engage in settlement discussions.

Vilma and Saints defensive end Will Smith (four games), now-Green Bay Packers defensive tackle Anthony Hargrove (eight games) and now-Cleveland Browns linebacker Scott Fujita (three games) were all suspended for their roles in the "bounty" program, in which former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams ran a system from 2009 to 2011 that allegedly rewarded defensive players for injuring or knocking opponents out of games.

Goodell told NFL.com's Marc Sessler on Saturday that it was "clear" the Saints players received payments for injuring other players and that the league "would not tolerate it."

UPDATE: There also has been no settlement talks involving Hargrove, Fujita or Smith, outside of the court-ordered settlement conference, a union source told NFL.com and NFL Network reporter Albert Breer on Monday. There also have been no discussions about reducing those players' suspensions between the NFL and the NFL Players Association.

The cases for those three and Vilma have been consolidated, however, Vilma is the only one seeking an injunction to lift his suspension, and he could cut a side deal on that matter, according to Breer.

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Ed Reed Wants the Challenge

Ed Reed talked with the media after a training camp practice recently and gave his opinions on a number of subjects, one of which was the fact that the Ravens are going to be seeing some very good quarterbacks this season.

The Ravens are going to be battling the likes of Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger and the Manning brothers -- back-to-back in December – but Reed said he’s looking forward to the challenge. 

“Bring them on, man,” Reed said when talking to the media last week. “I’m sure they are going to game-plan like they always do – write [his name/number] on their wristband and know I’m there and all that. I welcome them. I look forward to them.

It also was easy to see that Reed wanted to make a point. He might be older, but he’s still a person opposing offenses want to watch out for at all times. 

The veteran safety has no doubt on that one.

“That’s probably a question for you critics who said Ed Reed has lost it, but they won’t throw my way,” Reed said. “How have I lost it if they are not throwing my way? It’s a lot of respect for those guys. I never train any different or prepare any different for either game. It’s always who I am going against and what we need to prepare for as a team.”

So, that’s the main thing Reed looks at before each game—who will the Ravens be going against and what is needed for a victory.

That’s the point Reed was trying to get home. He and the Ravens insist on being prepared, no matter who’s playing quarterback.

“So, whether it’s Brady, Eli [Manning], those guys know who we are, and they are going to run their game plan,” Reed said. “All we have to do is be ready.”

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Jon Jay has four hits in win over Giants

Jon Jay went 4-for-4 with two RBI and a run scored in a win over the Giants on Monday.

All four hits were singles. His two-run single in the bottom of the seventh busted the game open. Jay has struggled quite a bit since returning from the disabled list in late June and figures to sit against lefties, but he can help in deeper mixed formats when he's hot.

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LaRon Byrd Leads Cardinals In Receiving In 1st Pre-Season Game

LaronByrd 2
proCane rookie LaRon Byrd in his first career NFL Pre-Season game led the Arizona Cardinals with four receptions for 54 yards with a long reception of 19 yards. Byrd was targeted six times on Sunday night. This is a great start for Byrd who is battling a very deep receiving corps for a roster spot. The Cardinals’ first round pick from Notre Dame Michael Floyd only had one reception for 15 yards.

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Lamar Miller Gets First Team Reps

It was interesting to see rookie Lamar Miller get first-team snaps today. If you're a loyal reader of this blog or my columns, you know I really liked the Miller draft selection by Miami. Well, today he got the repetitions with the first team in team drills at the end of practice.

He didn't do antyhing in those eight plays but did a nice job with the second-team on Inside-the-30 work earlier in practice when he took a pitch and went around right end for 10 yards. A defender had the angle on him and he simply outran him to the edge. A safety was the only player between Miller and a TD.

Miller's speed has made him a candidate for kick and punt return duties since camp began. He's running second- or third-team on kick returns today (depending on the day) behind Steve Slaton with Marcus Thigpen also getting second-team work.

Here's what Miller thinks of his status:

Armondo Salguero’s Blog at miamiherald.com

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Olivier Vernon impressing the veterans

DAVIE – Olivier Vernon's fists were filled with the jersey being worn by arguably the NFL's best offensive tackle.

The small shoving among linemen was more of a territorial warning from four-time Pro Bowler Jake Long. One play earlier, Vernon had slipped inside his Miami Dolphins' teammate escaping a block that could have prevented a sack of quarterback David Garrard.

Vernon's speed, technique and strength as a rookie defensive end have caught the attention of many veteran teammates eager to see what the former University of Miami star can become in the NFL.

"I have a lot respect for how he's playing," Long said. "We go hard against each other. I think we're making each other better."

The immediate impact of Vernon (6-2, 261 pounds) one week into training camp is validation he made the right decision to leave the Hurricanes with a year of eligibility remaining.

On Friday while his former college program starting fall practice in Coral Gables, Vernon was heavily involved with the Dolphins' first-team defense. He'll be key in third down situations, a pass rush specialist opposite Cameron Wake in nickel and dime packages.

Vernon's skills are obvious to teammates studying practice film in meeting rooms.

"You see his different moves," Dolphins cornerback Sean Smith said. "He's keeping his pads down, and that's something you don't really see from a guy coming out of college early on."

Keeping the pads down is important to prevent an offensive lineman from targeting the defenders jersey number, an obvious target for forcing guys like Vernon out away from the quarterback and out of the backfield.

Kacy Rogers, who coaches the Dolphins' defensive linemen, is molding Vernon's raw collegiate talent and loading his mind with the necessary software to decipher NFL tackles and guards on a weekly basis.

Right now, Vernon is intent on studying his hand placement so he can get off blocks quickly to make his specialty moves more effective.

"In pass rushing, you always have to win every one-on-one," Vernon said. "That's what Coach Rogers stresses. I try to do it as much as I can."

Artis Hicks, a Dolphins' guard, remembered preparing for the Miami's defense last year as a member of the Cleveland Browns. The emphasis was stepping up their game for the Dolphins' defensive line.

"Now that I'm here and I see what these guys really can do, man I'm glad I'm playing with them," Hicks said. "...(Vernon's) nice, man. This guy can move. And him with Cameron Wake opposite each other, they're gonna put a lot of pressure on the outside pocket. And when that quarterback goes to step up, guess what. You've got (Randy) Starks and big Paul (Soliai) in the middle pushing backwards, so that pocket's gonna collapse on a lot of quarterbacks this year."

Wake sees himself in Vernon when he watches the rookie scrap with Long.

"He's got a lot of energy," Wake said. "He's got the mindset, his temperament is right. Guys like us, who are not the traditional defensive ends in a 4-3 we've got to have that little extra bite. ...He's got a lot of fight in him, and he comes after the ball hard."

Vernon's dust up with Long wasn't the first, and certainly wasn't as note worthy as the one that was more of a small fight in June during a mandatory minicamp.
Based on Vernon's intentions to improve it's bound to happen again in the spirit of competition. One way is through standing up to the toughest guy on the team.

"I've never grown up to be intimidated or have any fear against anybody," Vernon said. "I try to make that known that I'm not scared of  nobody out here even though they're grown men."

So how are things between the two of them?

"We shook hands after (the fight in June) in the locker room," Vernon said. "It was all good. It's all football."

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Warren Sapp To Auction Off Rare Air Jordan And Sneaker Collection


If you like shoes ... especially RARE Air Jordans (and you happen to be a Size 15) you're in luck, 'cause Warren Sapp's ENTIRE collection is up for auction ... as part of his bankruptcy case.

The collection is INSANE -- a total of 240 pairs of Jordans ... some worn, some untouched.

TMZ broke the story ... Sapp filed for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy earlier this year ... claiming he's racked up millions of dollars in debts since he retired from the NFL. Warren's expensive shoe habit probably didn't help the situation.

But now, Warren's loss is your gain ... because the entire collection is now up for auction ... with all proceeds going towards paying back Warren's creditors.


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Travis Benjamin continues to improve

BEREA - Browns rookie receiver Travis Benjamin continues to show signs of progress as the first week of training camp nears an end.

Benjamin looks shorter than his listed height (5-foot-10) and lighter than his listed weight (175 pounds). Although he hasn't taken a direct hit, he's shown no fear of going across the middle.

Another positive sign for the fourth-round draft pick out of Miami (Fla.) has been his ability to beat press coverage. He uses quickness more than strength to get by cornerbacks that are determined to disrupt and delay his release into his route.

"I don't know (if he's done) more than I expected," coach Pat Shurmur said. "I anticipated with his natural size he might get banged around. He's done a great job. He handles the traffic pretty well, and you could see today he caught the ball in contested situations extremely well. We knew he has the skill and ability to play in this league. At least to this point he's doing a good job of improving his game."

Benjamin takes the crafty approach to beating a physical cornerback at the line of scrimmage.

"You have to know your defender," he said. "Playing against Joe Haden, Buster Skrine and D. (Dimitri) Patterson, it's all about who's going to be physical and who's going to try to speed with you. You have to know the game."

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Sources: Jonathan Vilma offered deal

The NFL has offered to reduce New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma's year-long suspension to eight games as part of ongoing settlement talks involving the league, the NFL Players Association and legal representatives for the four players who were suspended for their alleged participation in the team's bounty program from 2009-2011, according to sources familiar with the discussions.

The league's offer was made late last week but it is conditional upon Vilma dropping a civil lawsuit charging commissioner Roger Goodell with defamation of character, sources said. Vilma has expressed his strong feelings about his tainted reputation.

The talks could also lead to reductions in the suspensions of the other three players -- Saints defensive end Will Smith (four games), Packers defensive tackle Anthony Hargrove (eight games), and Browns linebacker Scott Fujita (three games).

Settlement talks are expected to continue Monday and sources say that Friday's next scheduled appearance before U.S. District Court Judge Ginger Berrigan could serve as a soft deadline to reach a settlement. The two sides filed more arguments in the Louisiana court this past Friday in advance of this week's hearing.

The original hearing was conducted on July 26th as Judge Berrigan was deciding on whether to grant a temporary restraining order on behalf of the four players who were suspended by Goodell.

Judge Berrigan expressed concerns about Goodell's actions during the first hearing in which seven members of the Saints testified that they never witnessed Vilma offering $10,000 to any teammate who injured opposing quarterbacks Kurt Warner and Brett Favre in the 2009-2010 playoffs. Those who testified also denied there was a pay-to-injure bounty program, including Saints interim head coach Joe Vitt, who will serve his own six-game suspension to open the season.

While sources said league attorneys have urged Goodell to offer reductions in the suspensions as a settlement, a league official reiterated Goodell's position that if the players had participated fully in the appeals process, the commissioner may have reduced the penalties as he has with other players who have been disciplined in other cases. The league official also noted that the current legal proceeding began with a settlement conference.

Saints owner Tom Benson has privately expressed his displeasure with Goodell on the severity of the sanctions that hit the franchise, including a year-long suspension of head coach Sean Payton and an eight-game suspension of general manager Mickey Loomis, according to sources.

Payton and Loomis are not part of the legal proceedings that are currently active in federal court. A source speculated that if the federal judge rules in favor of the players then Benson could push for Goodell to consider a reduction in Payton's suspension. A team source downplayed that scenario.

The Saints opened their preseason slate with a 17-10 win over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday night.

When asked his thoughts about the possibility of a reduced suspension for Vilma, New Orleans safety Malcolm Jenkins said it'd be "huge" for both the veteran linebacker and the rest of the league's players.

"I think it would be a huge victory especially for Jon and for the NFL -- the players to finally kind of show a little bit of power."

Offensive tackle Zach Strief said it's been tough to watch Vilma go through the process.

"The hardest thing going through this process is seeing a guy, you know what kind of person he is, kinda be dragged through the mud like that," Strief said.
Veteran safety Roman Harper added that Vilma's "fighting for who he is, it's all about his family name and all the great things that he's done on and off the field and I back him 100 percent and I know the truth and we all know that he's doing what he needs to do."

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Matt Bosher Looking For More Touchbacks, Fair Catches

Earlier in the offseason, special teams coordinator Keith Armstrong said he felt punter Matt Bosher was the one player that was hurt the most last year by the lack of an offseason.

Bosher’s rookie season as a kickoff specialist and punter didn’t start the way he wanted to, but he found his way as the season progressed. Down the stretch last season, Bosher averaged more than 50 yards per punt in five of the final six games. The one game he didn’t accomplish the 50-yard average, he netted a 47.8 average.

This year, with the benefit of the offseason, Bosher feels like he can avoid some of the early-season struggles.

“Last year, I didn’t start the way I wanted,” he said. “It’s a new year. I had a good, long offseason this year. I had OTAs and minicamp. I got a lot of work done here. Coach Armstrong has really done a lot, dedicating his time to help me get better. He’s trying to help me succeed this year.”

While they’re not clear-cut goals, Bosher and Armstrong are striving to reach that 50-yard punt average in every game and force as many touchbacks as possible on kickoffs. While Bosher has complete faith in his coverage teams, he wants to stay consistent and pin teams back like he did to close 2011.

“I’m trying to get a good ball (on kickoffs),” he said. “If I hit a good ball, I know it’ll go back in the end zone. It’s just trying to be calm and stay nice and smooth and hit the ball.”

As is the case with so many aspects of football, Bosher compares the punting game to making a soup with numerous ingredients. The ingredients he’s using he feels good about and his confidence is growing as a punter in the league.

“I’m trying to get fair catches, trying to keep the ball outside,” he said. “The returners in this league are very good. There are a lot of ingredients. It’s like making a good soup. You’ve got a bunch of ingredients and put it all together and you’ll make something good. It took me a couple of games to get into that stride and get everything put together. The end of the season last year and into this season, I feel like I’ve been able to put all those ingredients and it’s really coming together.”

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Getting To Know . . . Harland Gunn Getting Plenty Of Reps

Position: Guard
Height/Weight: 6-2, 314
Age: 22
College: Miami
NFL Exp: Rookie
How Acquired: FA – ‘12
Hometown: Omaha, Neb.

Fitting in: A player who might have seemed buried deep on the depth chart when camp began, Gunn will be receiving ample opportunities due to numerous injuries to the offensive line. Centers Bill Nagy and Kevin Kowalski are both nursing injuries, along with guard, Mackenzy Bernadeau. Gunn will have to impress in his increased reps in order to earn a permanent spot on the roster.

So Far: Gunn has impressed some with his ability to play a few reps at center after playing his entire college career at guard. He has not lacked aggression on the field.

Best Asset: Gunn is considered a powerful guard who always finishes his blocks. While he may face trouble recovering if a player is able to get around him, once he locks up with a rusher he typically finishes strong.

You Should Know: Gunn believes that the transition from college to the NFL takes a significant amount of mental preparation. “Football is a very mental sport,” Gunn said. “A lot of the older guys are taking me in and giving me advice and helping me along the way. It’s been a collective effort so that we can all be prepared.”

A Mouthful: Gunn came into Wednesday excited to start the first day of practice with full pads. “My shoulders are banged up. I’m ready to go to work with some pads on.”

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Vernon Carey Retires From The NFL

The Miami Herald reports that former Dolphins OL Vernon Carey has retired and is an assistant coach at Miami Northwestern High School.

Carey, 31, played eight NFL seasons, all with Miami, which drafted him in the first round of the 2004 draft, and 107-of-121 games in which he played over that span. He played both tackle and guard for the team but, after his contract expired following last season, the team chose not to re-sign him and no other teams apparently were interested.

According to Miami Northwestern head oach Stephen Field, Carey is the Bulls’ co-offensive line coach.

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Bryant McKinnie says chiropractor advised him not to report to camp

Ravens tackle Bryant McKinnie was advised by his chiropractor to not report for the first three days of Ravens training camp, he said following Saturday's practice at M&T Bank Stadium.

After falling outside of his South Florida home days before training camp opened, McKinnie said he suffered back spasms. He said he was told to rest instead of potentially aggravating it by riding on a plane for more than two hours.

"I went to the chiropractor and he called up here and told (the Ravens) that they were giving me treatment until he felt like I was well enough to get on a plane," McKinnie said.

Complicating matters is thatt McKinnie is reporting a weight of 360 pounds. McKinnie had been down to 354 in May but said the time spent injured hurt him. His goal this offseason was to get to a playing weight of 348 pounds.

He expressed frustration that he's had to battle weight issues for the past three years and that he's meeting with a specialist Monday to figure out what he can do to drop the additional weight.

"I don't know how to diagnose it until I find out on Monday," McKinnie said. "It's just to better help me with my whole weight thing because this wasn't an issue my whole career until about three years ago, in '09. I think there's kind of like an imbalance or something maybe that is going on with metabolism. We're going to try and work on it."

McKinnie spent the past two practices participating in individual drills and will fully participate when Baltimore returns to practice Monday. He said his back feels fine and that he doesn't anticipate any setbacks.

"If you all check my track record, I don't stay injured at all," he said. "I don't miss games with injuries and stuff like that. The whole being injured thing wasn't a big deal to me. It's just how fast I could recover. I'll be ready by next week or whatever.”

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Santana Moss continues to remake himself

After 11 seasons of NFL service, Santana Moss continues to remake himself. The latest version of the Washington Redskins wide receiver comes to training camp considerably lighter and more nimble, bent on recovering from his least productive season as a starter.

At 33, Moss is the elder statesman among Washington’s wide receivers and second in tenure to Chris Cooley on the offense. Pierre Garcon, Leonard Hankerson and Josh Morgan, the young bucks contending with Moss for playing time, have fewer years in the league combined (nine) than Moss.
Linebacker London Fletcher is the only Redskin on offense or defense with more years of professional duty than Moss.Starting quarterback Robert Griffin III was in grade school when Moss was participating in his first NFL training camp with the New York Jets.

“That’s where winning comes from,” Hankerson, 23, said of Moss’s lengthy NFL tenure. “Having a guy like that, getting information from him, getting his train of thought about everything. It’s a good thing to have him on this team and have him here to help us.”

Moss fancies himself as much more than just a teacher. He’s here to rejuvenate a career that, along with the team, stalled last season. His 584 receiving yards were his fewest since he became a full-time starter at wide receiver in 2003. That sharp decline in production compelled Moss to pay more attention to his physical fitness.

His offseason workouts became more aggressive and more frequent, and Moss altered his diet to expedite the slimming process. The sleeker Moss has been a bundle of activity in training camp, where he has lined up on the outside and in his customary position in the slot.

“Everybody’s got a lot of confidence in Santana because he’s been a playmaker throughout his career,” Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan said. “But I think Santana knew that he had to lose a little weight to come back and play at a certain level to help the team win, and that’s what did. He came in, dropped about 15 pounds, and he looks like a different guy out there.”

Now Moss finds himself square in the middle of a competition to start after the Redskins signed Garcon and Morgan as free agents. Garcon agreed to a five-year deal reportedly worth $42.5 million. Morgan, who played high school football at H.D. Woodson and attended Virginia Tech, also signed a five-year contract.

Hankerson, a third-round pick from the University of Miami, is back after a hip subluxation and torn labrum limited his rookie season to four games.

“This year I came back in at the weight I played at earlier in my career,” Moss said recently, after signing autographs for eager fans at Redskins Park. “That was something that made me look forward to camp a little different than all the other years. When you play for so long, camp is not even camp to you anymore. It’s something you look forward to doing, so I just wanted a little challenge. I challenged myself because I felt like I could be better.”

A broken left hand also derailed Moss’s performance last season. He absorbed the injury, which included a broken finger, on Oct. 23 in a 33-20 loss to the Carolina Panthers. Moss had signed a three-year contract worth $15 million during the offseason and had been validating the deal by leading the Redskins in receptions and receiving yards until he was injured.

Doctors inserted three pins in Moss’s hand. The prognosis was for him to be unavailable for five to seven weeks, but Moss came back after sitting out four games.

It was the first time in four seasons that Moss had missed a game. When Moss came to Washington in 2005 via a trade that sent disgruntled wide receiver Laveranues Coles back to the Jets, he played in 16 games and went to his first and only Pro Bowl.

Moss missed four games over his next two seasons before playing in every game for three straight seasons.

“My main thing is just to be available all the time,” he said. “Whatever they call on me to do, that’s the only thing I have to do.”

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Jimmy Graham flying high entering 3rd season

METAIRIE, La. — Jimmy Graham flies airplanes upside down.

So when quarterback Drew Brees says "the sky is the limit" for the third-year tight end out of Miami, he isn’t kidding.

Graham argues that he isn’t so much crazy as driven to extraordinary things.

"I love flying, man. It’s very freeing, very challenging," Graham said after a training camp practice this week. "One day I want to do air races. I’ll dominate."

If Graham’s learning curve is as quick with stunt flying as it has been with playing football, he very well could be an air racing maestro one day. After playing four years of college basketball at Miami and only one season of football for the Hurricanes, it took him only two pro seasons to become Brees’ top target and a Pro Bowl tight end.

Last season, Graham led the Saints in receptions (99), yards receiving (1,310) and touchdown catches (11). An yet, as he heads into his third pro season with more fanfare than at any point in his life, this man who loves to fly has every intention of remaining personally as well-grounded as possible
"I feel like I did all those things just being Jimmy," Graham said. "So for me it’s not changing anything, always working as hard as you can and keeping everything in front of you, just one step at a time, not thinking that anything is too big, or that you’re too big for anything.

"I continually focus on staying humble and hungry and that’s how I’ll be the rest of my career."

Oddly enough, the 6-foot-7, 265-pound Graham was too big to be a fighter pilot, a childhood dream ever since he saw his favorite movie, "Top Gun."
"Then I wanted to be a Navy Seal or a Marine, but then I got even bigger, so I played basketball," Graham recalled.

During his junior year at Miami, however, he had an opportunity to sit in a single-engine plane with a pilot certified in aerobatics. Asked if he wanted to see what it was like to fly upside down, Graham said he did, and was hooked on flying ever since.

Shortly after turning pro, he started taking flying lessons and recently got his pilot’s license. While he never executes loops or rolls without an instructor in the seat next to him, he expects to be fully certified in aerobatics sometime in the next year.

His first order of business, however, is the 2012 football season. And it seems full of promise, given how much difficulty Saints defenders have had stopping him in practice.

"He’s tall, fast and can catch the ball. There are a lot of times where you’ll be in perfect position and you just can’t stop him, plus the fact that he has Drew Brees as a quarterback who can put it right where the defensive back can’t get it," free safety Malcolm Jenkins said. "He’s a special player. He’s really shown everybody what he’s got last year and he’s doing better this year. I think his route-running has been crisper. He’s understanding defenses and his offense."

Graham still sees a variety of areas in which he can improve, particularly his blocking. He also wants to run routes better and rack up more yards after the catch.

"I am kind of a perfectionist and I am always looking to get better any way possible," Graham said. "Whenever I look back to last year ... I had a lot of missed opportunities out there, a lot of balls that I could have gotten to, a lot of routes that I should have been more disciplined on."

When Graham talks like that, he sounds like Brees, who routinely laments missed throws after big wins in which he has passed for well over 300 yards. It would make sense that Brees’ influence would rub off on Graham, given that the Saints star quarterback routinely pokes his head into tight end film sessions to instruct Graham on improvements he could make to his route running.

"It’s all constructive criticism. I wouldn’t even call it criticism. It’s progress," Brees said. "I feel like we’ve been really good at doing certain things and yet I still feel like we can make some hay in a lot of areas and continue to get a little bit better.

"Jimmy Graham only had one full year as a starter. The sky is the limit for this guy," Brees continued. "The good thing about him is that he doesn’t necessarily need to be pushed or motivated. He is self-motivated. He is driven. He’s got a fire that burns inside of him. But then again, just like I am going to push myself, I’m going to push him as much as I can."

While Graham tries not to let his growing fame go to his head, he has been pleased with how it has allowed him to promote his social agenda — namely, helping at-risk youth find healthy foster home environments.

"It elevates my ability to help out kids and parents who really don’t understand how much they can do to affect their kids negatively or positively," Graham said.
Graham, the child of a single mother, grew up poor and lived part of his childhood in a group home for youth, where he was sometimes picked on and beaten up. His life turned around when he was adopted by a young woman in his hometown who led a youth prayer group at church.

Graham said he hopes orphaned or abandoned children, along with prospective foster parents, see how his life turned out, "and it touches them, and lets them know that it can be done. You just have to do it the right way."

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Willis McGahee's motor still running for Denver Broncos at age 30

The questions Willis McGahee hears now really aren't so different from the doubts others had about him nine years ago, when he was drafted in the first round despite a significant knee injury suffered in his final college game.

Would he be fast enough? Can he handle the burden of being a No. 1 running back?

"That's always been a question since I came into the league," McGahee said. "You know what? I really don't care what they think. My job is to go out there and prove them wrong, and I'm going to prove them wrong."

Now entering his 10th season in the NFL, and at 30, McGahee gets age questions added to the mix, even after a 2011 season in which he rushed for 1,199 yards, had seven 100-yard games and made the Pro Bowl as an alternate.

But was his success a product of the Broncos' run-heavy, read-option offense under quarterback Tim Tebow?

It's easy to answer yes, because before the quarterback switch in mid-October, the Broncos were rushing for only 101.8 yards per game, 22nd-best in the NFL. By the time the season ended, the Broncos led the league in rushing, averaging 164.5 yards.

But a closer look at McGahee's totals show he stayed remarkably consistent. He had three 100-yard games in four starts playing behind Kyle Orton, and he averaged 20.3 carries per game in those starts. That incarnation of the Broncos' offense featured a more traditional passing game, with wide receivers Brandon Lloyd and Eric Decker as the featured players.

In 10 starts with Tebow, McGahee had four more 100-yard games, and averaged 20 carries in those starts. In many of those games, the passing game was nearly invisible and Tebow the scrambler drew the focus of opposing defenses.

At first, defenses seemed confused by the read option, particularly in its debut at Oakland in early November. That game was McGahee's best as a Bronco, with 163 yards and touchdown runs of 60 and 24 yards. On both, he sprinted away from the Oakland defense.

"They've got the fastest defensive backs in the league," McGahee said. "It just shows how determined I am."

And that brings McGahee back to the present. He has clearly been the No. 1 running back in training camp and has been getting the veteran treatment through the first two weeks of practice. He will take all of the first repetitions but cede other snaps to the younger guys behind him, such as Lance Ball, Jeremiah Johnson and Xavier Omon.

"The goal is to have him be ready on Sundays," said running backs coach Eric Studesville. "We're trying to get a whole lot of work for him early on so we can rest him, and have him at peak condition going into the season."

During the Broncos' public scrimmage Saturday at Sports Authority Field at Mile High, McGahee broke free around the left edge, burst toward the sideline and threw a fierce stiff-arm that propelled cornerback Drayton Florence out of bounds.

McGahee's run helped the first-team offense, led by Peyton Manning, get into the red zone and eventually led to a touchdown pass.

McGahee has said this summer his personal goal is 1,200 yards rushing — one more than his 2011 total. And it's OK with him if you aren't sure if he can't do it. In fact, he prefers it that way.

"With Willis, he's such a competitor. He kind of responds to the challenge of when people say, 'Can he or can't he?' " said Studesville, who first coached McGahee with Buffalo in 2004. "He takes care of himself so well physically, he's a great teammate to be around, and he pushes himself and other people around him. It's fun to see him now, from where I had him early on. It's really fun for me."

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Leonard Hankerson looking like #2 WR

With a week of practice in the books, Leonard Hankerson appears to be in the lead for the Redskins’ #2 WR spot.  ESPN.com’s Dan Graziano guesses that Hankerson and Garcon will be the starters on the outside, with Santana Moss manning the slot.  WR Josh Morgan could be used as a fill-in at all 3 spots.  This situation is still unsettled, but we like Hankerson’s odds of winning a starting job.  He has the best combination of size (6’2, 205 pounds) and athleticism among the trio behind Garcon.  And insider Rich Tandler notes that Hankerson is "holding onto the ball better [and] looks more fluid as he runs his routes" than he did last year.  Hankerson would be an upside bench stash in fantasy if he’s named the #2 receiver.

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Anthony Reddick questions fine by CFL

VANCOUVER - The popularity of high-definition or 3D TV is becoming a concern not only for the CFL but the NFL to tackle, with some fans choosing to stay home rather than follow the marketing mantra that “there’s nothing like the thrill of being there.”

The worry for players is that the coverage and clarity is so vivid that every transgression is seen in detail, then debated by a panel of TSN experts in the studio or anyone with an opinion on the Twitterverse.

Thus, when B.C. Lions defensive back Anthony Reddick clobbered Stampeders quarterback Kevin Glenn last Saturday in Calgary, or defensive tackle Khalif Mitchell confused the arm of Edmonton Eskimos’ offensive lineman Simeon Rottier with a Stretch Armstrong toy, everybody knows about it, even if the officials missed it.

In both recent instances, neither player was flagged, but the fallout, highlighted by slo-mo, instant replay, high-def, all the bells and whistles of the advanced TV age, plus provocative commentary, necessitated that the CFL office to do something.

Mitchell was slapped with a two-game suspension, which is under appeal, and Reddick was fined $750, a sum which he is going to petition for redress, as soon as he finds out what he did.

“There was no penalty on the play,” Reddick said Thursday. “So, what part of the rule book did I break? Somebody from the league contacted one of the CFLPA guys on our team [Korey Banks and Rolly Lumbala are the Lions’ player reps] and told them. I actually haven’t been told yet myself. I’ve heard it through the grapevine.”

The CFL put out a media statement Wednesday notifying the media that Montreal linebacker Shea Emry (illegal block) and Reddick (late hit) had been fined. “As per league policy, player fine amounts are not disclosed,” read the statement.

“From what I hear, the fine is $750,” Reddick said. “I thought it was kind of weird. How do I get fined? I don’t know anything about it still. They’ve never told me anything. I never got penalized. How can that happen?”

A league spokesman said Reddick was being fined for hitting Glenn late, after a handoff, when he no longer had the football.

Evidently, it was not the first-quarter play where Reddick got right into Glenn’s grill, just as the quarterback released a pass, a play that a resulted in an interception by linebacker Adam Bighill, which the Lions later turned into a Paul McCallum field goal. The Lions went on to win 34-8.

“We got a notice that he had been fined,” Lumbala explained. “There is an appeal process, just like for Mr. Mitchell. It gives a chance for the player to defend himself, to explain himself. I’ll get his explanation for hitting Mr. Glenn, then we’ll go through the appeal process. It’s like getting a traffic ticket. They might lower it. He might have to pay the full thing.”

“I’m going to appeal it,” Reddick vowed. “But four days later, they haven’t told me I’m getting fined or anything. Where’s the rule that I broke? I guess we just make ‘em up as we go. You have a better idea what it is than I do.”

Well, that’s giving us more credit than rightfully due. The star chamber that is CFL justice proceeds with its business secretively, like a private business, operating independently and heedless of public scrutiny.

In the case of Mitchell, we know that his appeal will be heard by an arbitrator, via conference call, sometime after the Lions’ game Monday against the Argos in Toronto. It has been reported that the hearing will take place on Thursday, Aug. 9, but that is information coming from a Lions source, not the CFL.

“We will communicate the decision of the arbitrator once it's available,” said a league spokesman.

When will the arbitrator hear the case?

“We aren’t communicating that right now,” the spokesman added.

The Lions head into a bye week following the Toronto game and won’t be on the practice field again until Monday, Aug. 13.

“By the time we get back to work, the hearing [for Mitchell] will have taken place,” said Lions head coach Mike Benevides. “When will they come down with a decision? I have no idea.”

That’s pretty much where Anthony Reddick stands now. He has no idea either.

In the collective sense of we -- the CFL public and media -- that makes three of us.

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Brandon Harris Working Special Teams Angle For Spot On Team

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Colin McCarthy tackles durability questions

There were times last season when Titans middle linebacker Colin McCarthy looked like an ice salesman as he walked through the locker room, one bag strapped to his upper body, another one or two clinging to his legs.

His ferocious playing style combined with a relatively small frame — 6-foot-1, 238 pounds — meant he spent a good chunk of his first NFL season battling through nagging injuries: a hamstring strain, dislocated fingers and a sore knee, to name a few.

Will McCarthy be able to withstand the rigors of a full season as a starter in 2012, after making a huge impact in just seven starts as a rookie last year?

In seeking an answer to that question, it’s worth noting what McCarthy showed he could overcome even before reaching the NFL — three shoulder surgeries and a car accident in which the vehicle McCarthy was traveling in flipped six times on the highway before smashing into a tree.

How much more difficult could a full-season starting job as an NFL middle linebacker be compared to that?

“Pain is just part of the game, and if you’re thinking about getting hurt or injured, then you’re probably going to get hurt,” McCarthy said. “That’s got to be the last thing in your mind when you’re on the football field.

“There’s a way you’re supposed to play the game as a middle linebacker. You’re supposed to be fast and physical, and you have to be able to plug the hole. That’s the way you play the game and injuries shouldn’t affect that.”

Strong rookie season in 2011

That’s the kind of attitude McCarthy displayed as a rookie when, despite starting only seven games, he totaled 76 tackles, a team-best eight tackles for loss, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and an interception.

He’s got fans and teammates — not to mention coaches — eager to see more.

“Colin processes stuff fast and he’d love to go hit somebody first and then think second,” defensive coordinator Jerry Gray said. “We’re trying to get him to do things a little more subtle at times. Other than just hitting someone, think first and then go hit someone.

“But he loves to be physical, so the thing we have to do is make sure we give him the chance to play 16, 17, 18 games and not get worn out with the big (offensive) linemen on him. If we’ve got to cover him up, we’ve got to be smart enough to cover him up.”

The 24-year-old McCarthy has had to deal with health concerns since before he entered the University of Miami, as a shoulder injury suffered late in high school was severe enough that a doctor questioned whether he’d be able to continue playing his sport of choice.

“I’m thinking, ‘I am about to play college football and I want to play football in the pros,’ ” McCarthy said. “So to hear that as a senior in high school, you really think about things.”

Another doctor’s second opinion was more favorable. That led McCarthy to the first of his three shoulder surgeries and allowed him to return to the football field.
But it was a non-football incident in 2007 that really put a scare into McCarthy.

He and two teammates were headed back to Miami, driving down I-75 from Tampa late at night, when Jermaine McKenzie fell asleep at the wheel, resulting in the car flipping six times and smashing into a tree.

McCarthy’s two teammates suffered season-ending injuries, but somehow he escaped with just a deep cut on his knee.

“The key thing I take from that is just how lucky I am to get out of there injury-free,” McCarthy said. “The crazy thing is that a lot of the paramedics came up after the accident and said, ‘Rarely do people survive, let alone all three of us.’ I was just fortunate to take every day as a blessing and be able to continue to play football.”

'He's a warrior'

Maybe the ability to bounce back from a life-threatening episode such as that leaves one feeling mighty resilient, which is a trait McCarthy displayed during his rookie season.

The hamstring injury forced him to miss three games, the dislocated fingers — one of which occurred when he dove on a fumble in Buffalo — were painful, and the knee soreness caused him to miss practices at times during the latter half of the season.

But McCarthy always found a way to be effective as a starter, especially in the Buffalo game, when he produced 11 tackles, two fumble recoveries and a forced fumble en route to earning AFC defensive player of the week honors.

“There were a lot of times he couldn’t practice during the week, but you knew you could still depend on him in the game,” linebacker Akeem Ayers said. “He’s a warrior. He gives up his body on every tackle and every fullback he takes.

“He leaves it all on the field on Sundays, and that’s the kind of player I love playing next to. He’s not worried about the next play. He’s just worried about that play, getting the job done right then and there.”

As he readies to assume a full-time starting role, McCarthy certainly doesn’t sound as if he’s preparing to change his style.

“Football is a physical sport and with the size of the guys here, you’re going to get bumps and bruises,” McCarthy said. “But I make sure during the week I prepare so that when I go out on Sundays, I play the same way. I throw my body out there and I’m willing to give it up for teammates.

“I can deal with the pain Mondays through Saturday. But when Sundays come, I have to make sure I’m ready to go out there and play football the way it should be played.”

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Orlando Franklin back after concussion

Broncos RT Orlando Franklin has been cleared to return to practice after suffering a concussion on the first day of camp.

The injury won't be a concern going forward in camp, but is something to file away for if/when Franklin suffers another head injury. The Denver Post reported last week the Broncos have "kicked around" giving Franklin reps at right guard, but that idea will likely be shelved with RG Chris Kuper (broken leg) looking healthy early in camp.

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Antrel Rolle changing positions to help Giants

ALBANY, N.Y. — Antrel Rolle reported to training camp with a new haircut and the same mind-set that helped him emerge as a leader for the Giants on the way to their Super Bowl XLVI victory nearly six months ago.

The outspoken Rolle, who has said every word that leaves his mouth has a message, went from complaining about teammates and game plans to complimenting everything the franchise for which he plays represents, from ownership to coach Tom Coughlin and on down.

What the Giants have had since is a playmaker willing to sacrifice his own hunger for some more All-Pro glory in order to help solidify the defense, making it one of the best.

The team is asking Rolle to do exactly that again, at least for the short term.

Because with the uncertainty surrounding Terrell Thomas’ ACL injury continuing to cloud his immediate future, Rolle is the best option the Giants have right now to play nickel cornerback against slot receivers, some of the quickest and most difficult players on the field.

"In life, sometimes you are going to get some changes," said Rolle, who opened camp by expressing his strong desire to move back to his free safety position. "You have to play the cards that are dealt to us. It is something that I have done before so I am not a stranger in this position. So if I have to play it, then so be it."
After practice Thursday, Coughlin had no new information to provide on Thomas’ right knee injury. A report late Wednesday night stated doctors – presumably Dr. Arthur Ting in California, who performed the second surgery — believed Thomas did not tear his ACL when he slipped in practice.

Asked if he believed Thomas could play again this season, Coughlin said, "I don’t know what to believe."

The plan now is for Thomas to see Dr. James Andrews in Pensacola, Fla., for a third opinion Tuesday.

"As I told you [Wednesday], I’m going to stay positive until somebody tells me differently," Coughlin said. "I think he’s with Dr. Andrews and that’s another opinion, so we’ll see. … I don’t know what to believe until we get it all back … at one time, there was a possibility of a scope to look at to see the damage.
"We’ve done the MRIs and all that stuff. I think he’s collecting different opinions."

The last two times Rolle reported to camp with a unique haircut his teams went to the Super Bowl. The first time was in 2008 with the Arizona Cardinals; then last year with the Giants.

"Whatever it takes to keep it going," Rolle said.

That seems to have become a mantra for a player critics once said talked too much.

"Antrel is willing to do whatever you ask him to do," Coughlin said. "He’s played down there. He’s played back at safety. He’s known both positions. He would play both positions and play them well."

Working under the assumption Thomas will not be back any time soon, if at all — the Giants have to go forward in camp believing that’s the case, considering the circumstances involving his surgically repaired right knee – Rolle playing slot corner puts Prince Amukamara with the first team on the outside likely in a competition against Michael Coe, Justin Tryon and Bruce Johnson.

A wrinkle ultimately could be whether that combination behind Amukamara — in addition to rookie Jayron Hosley — could be using linebacker Jacquian Williams in the pseudo-safety/slot role Deon Grant occupied for most of last season.

"I think we have some different combinations of people, as you’ve seen if you’ve been watching close enough," Coughlin said. "There’s different guys playing in that spot – even Jacquian is playing in that spot. We’ll use the different combinations of people … and whoever we feel like is the best person to give us the balance we want between the pressures and the man coverage aspect of it, we’ll go that."

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Bryant McKinnie says he passed conditioning test

The long wait for the practice returns of Ravens tackle Bryant McKinnie and defensive tackle Haloti Ngata could be coming to an end.

McKinnie tweeted Friday that he and Ngata passed the team’s conditioning test. If true, they’d be ready to start practicing as soon as Friday since the Ravens are holding an afternoon practice.

Ngata has been dealing with a hamstring injury and, per Aaron Wilson of the Carroll County Times, looks heavier than he did last season. It’s not likely to affect his role on the defense, however.

McKinnie’s role is a little less clear. His absence from the start of camp caused him to incur daily fines of $30,000 and then he showed up with a back injury McKinnie says happened when he slipped and fell at his Miami home. If McKinnie doesn’t hit the ground running, the Ravens might opt for keeping Michael Oher at left tackle for the long haul.

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Harland Gunn enjoyed college days at Miami

Harland Gunn is a rookie offensive lineman trying to make the Cowboys as a guard or center. He has been running third-team center and some second-team guard while three other guards ahead of him are injured. He is a Nebraskan who played college football at the University of Miami. Five things he liked about the city of Miami while he was down there:

1. The weather. "I loved the weather. Being a Midwest boy, it was always snowing. No snow. Got to the winter time, it was the perfect weather."
2. The culture.
3. The people. "More open and outgoing. It's a good place to have a good time."
4. The food. "I'm from the Midwest. I was raised off that beef. But since I got down there, I got into the sushi, the Cuban food, stuff like that."
5. The water. "I have a lot of friends with boats." Deep-sea fishing? "Never did that. That's one of the things on my bucket list. I need to get that checked off."

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Eric Winston shoring up line

Kansas City Chiefs OT Eric Winston has shored up the right side of the offensive line with athleticism and quickness. The team has been able to use more zone-base schemes as a result. Our View: Winston could help the HIllis/Charles backfield look like the Jones/Charles backfield of 2010. The Texans and Arian Foster will miss him.

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Andre Johnson set to return Monday

The Texans finished their first full week of training camp on Saturday morning at the Methodist Training Center. When they return to practice on Monday morning, three injured starters will likely be back on the field.

Wide receiver Andre Johnson (groin), left tackle Duane Brown (ankle) and cornerback Kareem Jackson (hamstring), who all suffered injuries this week, are on track to return as the Texans prepare for their Aug. 11 preseason opener at Carolina.

“I expect all three of those guys back,” Texans coach Gary Kubiak said on Saturday. “Obviously, we’ll have a plan for them for how they come back, but I expect them all out on Monday.”

Johnson, a five-time Pro Bowler who’s entering his 10th NFL season, was the Texans’ first major injury scare of camp. After missing nine games with hamstring injuries in 2011 and having arthroscopic knee surgery in May, he pulled his groin on the second day of practice. He has been running with Texans head athletic trainer Geoff Kaplan since Thursday and said that his recovery is going well.

“I expect him to be on the field Monday,” Kubiak said. “It’s my job to put the plan together to how we bring him along next week, but I expect him to be out here.”

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Santana Moss wants to be 'dominant'

ASHBURN, Va. -- Santana Moss was expecting a call from the Washington Redskins coaching staff this offseason. When his agent called him and told him the team wanted him to lose weight, he chuckled. Way ahead of you guys, he thought to himself.

"Honestly, before they even called me, me and our strength coach already had our plan when it came to what I wanted to do in the offseason," Moss said after Monday's practice. "So I was like, 'You know what? If that's what they want, I'm going to give it to them.' Because I already had my mind made up on that anyway. I feel like, the last few years, I played heavy."

Moss says he was over 200 pounds during each of the past three seasons. He lost 16 pounds this offseason and reported to camp a little bit under 190. At 5-foot-10, he says, that's where he should have been in the first place.

"The one thing I wanted to do was give myself a chance to be dominant," Moss said. "I was productive, so I let it slide away and didn't work hard enough to really get that weight off of me. I felt like I was still dominant. But when I looked at film and watched myself, I was like, 'I'm missing a step here and there from doing the things I can do.' So I just ate right and came with my mind made up."

He has dazzled the coaches and the younger receivers during offseason workouts and training camps. The Redskins are planning to use him as their slot receiver, but he's shown enough that, if guys like Leonard Hankerson or Josh Morgan struggle with their health or their development, Moss could be used on the outside opposite Pierre Garcon in two-receiver sets. He's a smart veteran who's had success in the NFL and feels rejuvenated, and those guys can sneak up on you.

"Santana's been doing a lot of great things," Garcon said. "He's been around the league for about 12 years, so he's got a lot of experience, he knows the playbook and he's been helping me out a lot with all of that. But he's still a great player, and you can see that."

Moss was watching when the Redskins signed Garcon and Morgan and tried to sign Eddie Royal during the first hour of free agency back in March. But he says he'd already heard from the coaching staff about what they wanted him to do, so he didn't take those signings as a threat to his spot on the roster.

"As a wide receiver, if you're telling me I'm gone, that's something different. Then I'm going to be motivated to go out and show you up," Moss said. "But if you're telling me, 'These guys are coming in to work with you,' I'm cool with that. I never look at other guys and worry about other guys. I had one of my best years in '05 and then the next year we got Antwaan Randle-El and Brandon Lloyd. So I never take it wrong. I look at it as a chance to get better and I go about my business."

And going about all of his business has been easier for Moss minus those 16 pounds.

"It's been the best I think I could have ever done," Moss said. "In the offseason, being so heavy, I didn't condition like I was supposed to. I did enough, and that's it. Now that I got back down to my size, I realize I can run without having to run. I can just go out there and float."

That's a good field on the football field too. Moss could be dangerous this year. Or even "dominant."

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Reggie Wayne takes new on role with Indianapolis

ANDERSON, Ind. (AP) — Reggie Wayne's world is changing.

The fun-loving receiver who always got overshadowed by Peyton Manning has suddenly become the feature attraction at Colts' training camp.

Fans roar every time he steps on the field and rush over to him for autographs. The group of rookies joining him for extra work catching passes has been increasing daily. Veterans pepper him with questions, and the perennial Pro Bowler seems to be savoring his new job as the offensive leader after deciding to play with the revamped Colts.

"Some people say we're depleted. I say we're younger and hungrier," Wayne said Friday. "I wanted to be here. I wanted to build this foundation to get the Colts back to the old winning ways, and we still have some OGs around here."

Wayne is one of those old guys, or OGs in his vernacular. But for the first time in his 12-year career, Wayne is the veteran leader of this team.
Edgerrin James, Wayne's old pal from Miami, left as a free agent before Indy's 2006 Super Bowl-winning season. Marvin Harrison, the receiver who mentored Wayne, wasn't re-signed after 2008.

The biggest purge came in March when Manning, the longtime face of the franchise, was released, clearing room for Andrew Luck's arrival. Free agent center Jeff Saturday signed with Green Bay. Record-setting tight end Dallas Clark, former Pro Bowl running back Joseph Addai and defensive captains Gary Brackett and Melvin Bullitt were cut. Longtime offensive line starter Ryan Diem retired, and Wayne could have left, too, as a free agent.

He almost did.

Wayne was so convinced his days in Indy were over that he celebrated the game-winning touchdown against Houston like it was his final score at Lucas Oil Stadium. The next week, he packed up his locker, took down his name plate and shipped everything home for the offseason.

His says his heart wouldn't let him leave.

Instead, Wayne took less money to return to the Colts, giving them a veteran presence on an offense that will have at least seven new starters in the Sept. 9 season-opener at Chicago. Indianapolis needed him.

"We're a young team, and if you watch Reggie, he's been doing the same thing for years," cornerback Jerraud Powers said. "For the young guys coming up, he's a great guy to watch, to see how to do it the right way. You know going against Reggie every day in practice, he's teaching me stuff all the time. He'll say, 'I read this or that off of you.'"

Wayne said he catches about 150 balls from a machine between workouts to keep his hands sharp. When Wayne walked over to the machine after Sunday's 2½-hour practice, he stood alone. On Day 2, two other players had joined him. On the third day, the group consisted of more than a half-dozen guys and it continues to expand.

After Friday's morning walkthrough, Wayne walked slowly from the field to the locker room, talking with rookie receiver LaVon Brazill, a sixth-round draft pick out of Ohio University. Wayne didn't say what they discussed, though it is a regular part of the routine for the 33-year-old whose poster-sized image has replaced Manning's on the front of Lucas Oil Stadium.

"He's teaching me a lot, how to get in and out of breaks," said T.Y. Hilton, a third-round draft pick from Florida International. "I haven't been able to go with him after practice, but I go to the machine before practice and catch with Reggie."

Why wouldn't the youngsters follow Wayne's lead?

In 11 seasons, he has 862 receptions with 11,708 yards — second all-time in Colts history and nearly four times the total of the other 15 receivers and tight ends at Indy's camp. His 73 TD catches are almost triple the combined totals of the other 15 (281 catches, 3,218 yards, 25 TDs), 12 of whom have yet to catch an NFL pass.

The most impressive part of Wayne's legacy has been his ability to stay healthy. He leads all NFL receivers with 145 consecutive starts, 166 games played and hasn't missed a start since 2002.

"Every player wants longevity and obviously what he does, going on 12 years, is just awesome," receiver Donnie Avery said. "He's been to Super Bowls, a number of training camps and he knows what it takes to get through practice, so you watch him."

Wayne came back to help the receivers get in sync with their new quarterback, learn the playbook and teach the next generation of Colts' receivers what it takes to stick around this league. And win.

Wayne insists little has changed. Teammates know better.

"I haven't seen him do anything he hasn't done. Reggie will do whatever this team wants him to do and he's not going to step on anyone's toes," Powers said. "But I'm pretty sure he's got a chip on his shoulder being in Peyton's shadow for so long."

And though Luck is running the offense, this is clearly Wayne's team.

"My intensity has stayed the same, even when Peyton was here. I was vocal when I needed to be vocal. If I see a guy do something wrong, I tell him about it," Wayne said. "We still have some old guys that they can build off of and show them what to do."

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Calais Campbell gives back on life-changing trip

Cardinals defensive end Calais Campbell doesn't shy away from his upbringing in Denver, saying he was poor growing up with seven siblings.

Today he is the team's third-highest-paid player with his recently signed five-year, $55 million contract.

But he is more than just the multi-million dollar contract he commands, giving back as often as possible through his CRC Foundation, established in memory of his father, Charles Richard Campbell, who died in 2003 while waiting for a new liver.

Calais plans to build a development center in the next two years to teach kids life skills in Arizona.

In July, Campbell teamed up with Cardinals linebacker Sam Acho and Acho's father, Dr. Sonny Acho's Living Hope Ministries organization to assist in Acho's home country of Nigeria, carrying men and women who received surgery from the operating room to their hospital beds.

At 6 feet 8, 300 pounds, Campbell admits that some of the people he carried were heavy even for him and at times had a bit of a struggle with them in his arms.
"Man that was crazy," Campbell said. "I'm young so I haven't had the chance travel a lot but I want to see the world. It was one of my lifelong dreams to go to Africa. So when Acho asked me I hopped on board quick. I'm glad I went -- it was definitely an eye-opening and life-changing experience."

He said he will now try to help those in that country with his own foundation or donate to Living Hope Ministries to continue to give back to poverty-stricken areas in Nigeria.

Helping out on the field

Campbell finished the 2011 season with a team-high eight sacks, 72 tackles, and two forced fumbles.

He also blocked three field-goal attempts for a Cardinals team that had an NFL-high five, though he gives the credit to teammates and special teams coach Kevin Spencer for putting him in the right spot.

"Great team player, works hard (but) always is going to have things that he has to work on, especially being as tall as he is, staying low," Cardinals head coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "But he's a very good football player and I think he's a great teammate, guy will do anything he can to help contribute to the win."

"If that means playing special teams, or if he could play offense I'm sure he would try to do that but he's working very hard."

Cardinals fans shouldn't expect to see Campbell on the offensive side of the ball this season, but the fifth-year University of Miami standout feels that he still has room for improvement in his own game and hopes to help the Cardinals back to the playoffs after a two-year absence.

"I think I really want to concentrate on causing more turnovers," Campbell said. "That's an aspect of the game that, as a defense, we can improve on a whole lot. I think we can win more games if we can cause more turnovers so our turnover ratio is my number-one goal."

Constantly in his ear is fellow defensive end, 36-year-old Vonnie Holliday, whose advice Campbell soaks up like a sponge.

"To play with somebody with that kind of wisdom is awesome; he helps me out a lot," Campbell said. "We go through a lot of drills together. I think he watches pretty much everything I do because every time I come to the sideline he's giving me some pointers.

"But I really do appreciate it because he's just a wise guy, he's smart and he's played the game a long time. I try to take as much advice from him as I can get."

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Ed Reed 'focused on season,' still looking for new deal

As far as Ed Reed is concerned, what's in the past is … well, in the past. The Ravens safety and future Hall of Famer made it clear earlier this year that he was unhappy with his current contract, contemplated retirement and then missed mandatory minicamp.

Now in training camp with the rest of his teammates, Reed looking forward to the 2012 season.

"I'm here, man," Reed said according to the Carroll County Times' Aaron Wilson. "What transpired months back transpired. What happened because of what I had to deal with family wise and what I've been going through for the last 11 years now in the league you know it's always a time when you have to assess yourself. Once you get to a certain part and you've been doing it maybe not being as vocal guys don't be as vocal with it, but when you're dealing with the business side of it, too, that's something you have to deal with.

"I choose to deal with it the way I deal with it. That way, young guys know it. Kids will know it as they come up. Their parents will know it. I'm not a guy who holds things back. That's why you get what you get. And if I didn't do it that way, you wouldn't have the information to write about."

We've never had an issue with guys looking for more money since salaries aren't guaranteed. The problem is that, given the current setup, players -- even the great ones -- have little leverage (glaring exception: Drew Brees). It explains why Reed is currently in camp (and why the Steelers' Mike Wallace will be doing the same soon, too). Still, the Ravens safety hasn't changed his mind about a new deal.

"Talks have already been there," said Reed, who currently is without an agent and is set to make $7.2 million in base salary in 2012. "I know (general manager) Ozzie (Newsome) and them know I want to be here. We will get that done when it's time to cross that bridge. I'm good with football right now. I'm focused on the season. That's all I'm worried about right now is getting my teammates better and get myself better and get ready to go forward this season."

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Willis McGahee on Playing with Peyton Manning: “He’s one of those quarterbacks that you don’t want to disappoint. He challenges us.”

It already seems evident that the Denver Broncos are giddy about Peyton Manning. Just take a listen to Willis McGahee in the following interview talk about the advantages that No.18 brings to the table. The Broncos starting running back is already being taken to school about his new role on the offense.

McGahee knows there is a lot of work ahead of him to get up to speed, but the veteran, physical back is ready for the challenge.

Willis McGahee joined 102.3 ESPN in Denver with CJ & Kreckman to discuss the new collective bargaining agreement helping NFL players recover faster in training camp, not missing the chance to hit early on in training camp, getting enough touches to learn the Broncos new run offense, Peyton Manning’s ability to read defenses in the pre-snap, and Peyton Manning making players around him better.

Has the new collective bargaining agreement made things easier for you guys?
“Well yeah it’s a big difference for when I first came into the league. Back then we were at two-a-days. When they said two-a-days it was two-a-days. You are going to hit in the morning and hit in the afternoon. You know but now they are taking care of us and giving our bodies a chance to rest and it has you last longer in the NFL.”

Do you miss getting the chance to hit early on or are you happy with the new collective bargaining agreement rules?
“No comment. [Laughs]”

Do you feel like you are going to get enough touches to learn this new offense and focus on the run?
“I mean that is an up-and-down question because it depends on who we are playing? If the run game is not working I am pretty sure we are going to do more passing than running. If the passing game is not working we are going to force the run in, so it depends on who we are playing and how they are adjusting to our run game.”

Talk about playing with Peyton Manning and the advantages he brings by being able to read the defense in the pre-snap?
“Well the biggest advantage is that we have Peyton Manning and he’s a very, very smart quarterback. He knows what is going on inside and out. He can dissect right then and then. He can tell you…well put you in the right position to let you know if we are going to run right here or pass and everybody…we trust his judgement and not doubt him or anything. It’s just the fact that we need to do our job. I don’t care who we play he can’t win by himself. It’s going to be a team effort starting from the o-line to the running backs to the receivers to the tight ends. Our job is to get up to speed with him. He’s one of those quarterbacks that you don’t want to disappoint. Not only that you don’t want disappoint him. You don’t want to disappoint the Broncos organization. So as a man we all have to take our game to another level each day because he challenges us.”

What have you learned about Peyton Manning that you didn’t know before?
“He’s a guru. We knew he was very smart and intelligent, but he’s a guy you can sit back and be like god d***! Is he really doing this? Like I said just like your first day of geometry class and you’d be like alright, alright I gotta start over and learn this. Really back then you just learn your position, but now with him it changes certain things. You have to know what this guy is supposed to do and the roles switch and things like that.”

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Rashad Butler Has Chemistry With Caldwell

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Jon Beason unsure 'what side to take' in Saints' bounty scandal

SPARTANBURG, S.C. -- The way Jon Beason figures it, the stiff penalties levied in the New Orleans Saints bounty scandal represent an NFL version of 50 shades of gray.

Beason, the Carolina Panthers middle linebacker, said he is unsure whether the NFL's punishment of the Saints was fair. He thinks the league could have done a better job in explaining how it arrived at the range of penalties levied (which included multiple suspensions, a fine and forfeiture of draft picks).

"As an athlete, you don't know what side to take," Beason said this week at Panthers training camp.

"Because it's an issue, it has to be addressed. But then you want to see the cold, hard facts about why this guy got 16 games, this guy got eight, this one got three, the coach got suspended, and so on. You can't form an opinion.

"Yeah, we're players in the NFL, but we don't know. We're spectators, too."

Beason was asked whether he suspects -- given the intensity of the Saints' denials -- that the league conducted a sloppy investigation.

"Even in Spygate, there were rumors about the tapes disappearing," he said, alluding to the New England Patriots' scandal in 2007 that didn't result in suspensions after the team illegally filmed opponents. (The team and Head Coach Bill Belichick were fined and a first-round pick was stripped.)

"I understand that you don't ever want to leave the shield (NFL logo) with a black eye. But sometimes, when bad things happen, people just want to know why."

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Michael Irvin wants to add Belichick’s name to the Lombardi Trophy

Hall of Fame wide receiver Michael Irvin knows how hard it is to win three Super Bowls, because he’s done it. And he says he’s so impressed with Patriots coach Bill Belichick winning three Super Bowls that the NFL should rename the trophy that goes to the Super Bowl winner and put Belichick’s name on it.

Irvin told the Boston Herald that if he had his way, he’d change the name of the Vince Lombardi Trophy to recognize Belichick as well.

“I think the world of Belichick,” Irvin said. “I told him this, ‘Man, if it was up to me, that trophy would be called the Lombardi/Belichick.’ I don’t care what they think. It would be called the Lombardi/Belichick. That’s how good he is to do what he’s doing in this day and age, what the league is now. I would call it the Lombardi/Belichick.”

The trophy given to the Super Bowl winners was just referred to as the “world championship trophy” for the first four years of its existence, but when Vince Lombardi — who led the Packers to victory in Super Bowls I and II — died in 1970, the name was changed to the Vince Lombardi Trophy, starting with Super Bowl V. Honoring Lombardi wasn’t just about recognizing his multiple titles, it was also about his role as one of the towering figures in the NFL during the era when the Super Bowl became America’s biggest annual sporting event.

If we’re going to add Belichick’s name, why not also add the name of four-time Super Bowl-winning coach Chuck Noll? Or three-time Super Bowl-winning coaches Bill Walsh and Joe Gibbs? Or two-time Super Bowl-winning coaches Jimmy Johnson, Tom Coughlin, Mike Shanahan, Tom Flores, Tom Landry and Don Shula? Maybe we should call it the Lombardi/Belichick/ Noll/Walsh/ Gibbs/Johnson/ Coughlin/Shanahan/Flores/ Landry/Shula Trophy.

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Chris Perez Calls Sunday "The Low Point Of His Career"

Cleveland Indians relief pitcher Chris Perez has always been vocal about his career through social media. He has over 51,000 followers and describes himself as, "Just a normal guy with an arm like a fu***** cannon." Normal guys have strong emotions, and after he fell apart on Sunday against the Detroit Tigers Perez cut no corners when he spoke about his overall performance:

"There aren’t enough words in the dictionary to describe how much I sucked today. Go ahead Cleveland, give it to me..."

Perez wasn't finished, as he went on to further express his frustration:

"Definitely the low point of my professional career. Only thing I can do is work harder tomorrow and get better. #NeverGiveIn"

Perez had a three run lead when he entered Sunday's game in the 10th inning, but after recording the first two outs, he gave up two walks, a double, a single and a two-run home run to blow his third save of the year.

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Sox acquire 3B Danny Valencia from Twins

The Red Sox acquired Twins third baseman Danny Valencia Sunday in exchange for minor league outfielder Jeremias Pineda.

This was the release from the Red Sox announcing the move in the second inning of Sunday's game against Minnesota Twins.

The Boston Red Sox today acquired third baseman Danny Valencia from the Minnesota Twins in exchange for outfielder Jeremias Pineda. Valencia has been optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket.

The announcement was made by Executive Vice President/General Manager Ben Cherington.

Valencia, 27, has hit .260 (257-for-989) with 52 doubles, four triples, 24 home runs, 129 RBI, 106 runs scored and 63 walks in 273 career Major League games with the Twins over the last three seasons. The right-handed batter is 25-for-126 (.198) this season with six doubles, one triple, two homers, 17 RBI and 13 runs scored in 34 games for Minnesota in 2012 and hit safely in five of seven contests in his second Major League stint of the season since July 27. Valencia has also played in 69 games for the Twins Triple-A club in Rochester this season, batting .250 (67-for-268) with 17 doubles, a triple, seven homers and 37 RBI. He was originally selected by the Twins in the 19th round of the 2006 First-Year Player Draft.

Pineda, 21, has gone 56-for-133 (.421) with nine doubles, three triples, 22 RBI, 20 runs, five walks and 14 stolen bases in 36 games this season for the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League Red Sox, including 29 appearances in center field, four in left and one in right. A switch-hitter, he is leading the GCL in batting average. Over two professional seasons in the Red Sox organization, Pineda has hit .321 (75-for-234) with 11 doubles, five triples, a home run, 32 RBI and 20 stolen bases over 70 games between the Domican Summer League Red Sox and the GCL.

With today’s transaction, Boston’s 40-man roster is now at 40.

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Eddy Rodriguez revels in week to remember

SAN DIEGO — On Monday, Eddy Rodriguez was reeling in about a dozen bass while fishing in a kayak on Lake Elsinore.

On Tuesday, the 26-year-old catcher was headed to Cincinnati — yes, straight from the Single-A California League — and on Friday he was standing in front of his new locker at Petco Park, a little more than an hour's drive from where Rodriguez started a whirlwind week he won't soon forget.

"This game is weird, and it works in weird ways," Rodriguez said. "That's what makes it a beautiful game. That's what makes it a romantic's game. It's so crazy. I was in high A four days ago. I'm an hour away from there now, but I'm in the major leagues.

"You never know what to expect."

Rodriguez, of course, has plenty to romanticize about his jump from the Storm to the Padres this week, which began when the catcher replaced fellow University of Miami alum Yasmani Grandal on the Padres' roster against the very Reds team that released him in 2008. Two days later, Rodriguez homered in his first major league at-bat off Johnny Cueto, whom he'd come up alongside in the Reds' organization before spending two years in independent leagues.
The Padres signed Rodriguez to a minor league contract last year and assigned him to Lake Elsinore this year, where he was hitting .233 with 13 home runs and 36 RBIs when he was suddenly called up to replace Grandal.

"Just getting the news was huge for me," said Rodriguez, just the second Padre to homer in his first major league at-bat. "It was a dream come true. It was a long road to get here, and to get the opportunity to play, getting on the field was the relaxing part.

"I just wanted to get out there, see the field, get acquainted with everything and catch. As soon as I got a mitt in my hand, I was at a little more peace."

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Chris Perez blows third save in epic fashion

Chris Perez melted down in Sunday's 10-8, 10-inning loss to the Tigers, allowing a season-worst five runs on three hits, two walks and a home run.

The home run was a two-run walkoff job from Miguel Cabrera. Both the blown save and loss were Perez's third of the year. He had yet to allow a run in seven innings over eight appearances since the All-Star break. Perez's ERA is now an ugly 3.82, but 11 of his 17 runs allowed have come in just three games. It's not a concern for a closer who's made 43 appearances. Perez's job is safe.

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Yonder Alonso settling in defensively

SAN DIEGO -- Padres rookie first baseman Yonder Alonso is having a strong debut campaign at the plate, settling into the heart of the San Diego order and leading all Major League rookies with 29 doubles. But his defense starred alongside his bat in Friday's 3-1 win over the Mets, as the 25-year-old dug out several tough throws in crucial situations.

One of those situations came in the ninth inning, when another pretty good corner infielder, third baseman Chase Headley, barehanded a slow roller off the bat of Jason Bay and fired low to Alonso. Alonso picked it on a short hop to change the complexion of the inning entirely, something manager Bud Black definitely noticed.

"Chase had to make a very good play on Bay's ball in the ninth, but Yonder, if he doesn't pick it, here comes the tying run to the plate," Black said.

That play, and others like it in recent weeks, show just how much the youngster has grown in his first 100 games: The success he's had recently is a far cry from a shaky first couple months in which he accumulated the lion's share of his eight errors.

"You wipe out the first six weeks, he's played really solid defense," Black said. "I think in April and early May there are some things he would definitely want to do over. ... He's been much more fundamentally sound around the bag. ... He is much improved."

Alonso has worked with third-base coach Glenn Hoffman on picking those short hops, and has also shown significant improvement in his awareness around the bag, as evidenced by his quick retreat to first prior to a Chris Denorfia throw from right field Friday night. Improvements like those, Blacks says, are just as important as Alonso's continuing development as a big league hitter.

"Defense at first base is, for me, underrated. It is a crucial position defensively," Black said. "If you have a defensive first baseman, it is a huge advantage. And if he can hit and play defense? Boy, is that a bonanza."

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DeMarcus Van Dyke clears waivers

Sixteen months ago, the Raiders liked DeMarcus Van Dyke enough that they took him in the third round of the NFL draft. Now the Raiders don’t want Van Dyke at all — and neither do any of the NFL’s other 31 teams.

Van Dyke, who was waived yesterday, has cleared waivers today, a league source told PFT.

It’s surprising how quickly Van Dyke’s stock has fallen: He’s a supremely talented athlete who’s 4.28-second 40-yard dash was the fastest at last year’s Scouting Combine, and he played reasonably well as a rookie, getting into 14 games and making four starts.

But Van Dyke struggled this year in the preseason, and Raiders G.M. Reggie McKenzie decided to cut ties with the former Al Davis pick. Now every team in the league has passed on a chance to acquire him.

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