PHOTO: Jimmy Graham flies plane over New Orleans


NEW ORLEANS -- New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham is soaring to new heights -- literally.

The Pro Bowl star manned the cockpit in a small plane Wednesday and took a ride over the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

You can see him huddled in the front seat -- apparently a bit tight for his 6'7" frame -- of the picture above.

Last week Graham announced he had reached a next level of pilot certificaton.

Bookmark and Share

Breaking down Bryant McKinnie's two-year deal with the Ravens

Ravens left tackle Bryant McKinnie's two-year contract has a base value of $6.3 million that includes a $2 million bonus, according to a source with knowledge of the deal, with a maximum value of nearly $7 million.

The contract includes a $1 million base salary this year, a $2 million base salary in 2014 and corresponding salary-cap figures of $2.5 million and $4 milllion.
The contract has annual workout bonuses of $200,000.

There are also incentive clauses that can boost the total value of the deal. There's a $200,000 reporting bonus each year as well as a $500,000 roster bonus is due next year.

The reporting bonus and workout bonuses should provide motivation for McKinnie.

The former Pro Bowl blocker has had weight and conditioning issues in the past and reported late to training camp last year after saying he slipped at his South Florida home and hurt his back.

The 6-foot-8, 354-pounder said he plans to be around the Ravens more during the offseason.

He started every game at left tackle during the playoffs as the Ravens' offensive line allowed just six sacks in four games while the offense averaged 410.3 yards of total offense during their Super Bowl run.

Bookmark and Share

Darryl Sharpton Out

HOUSTON (CBS Houston) - The Texans are precariously thin at the inside linebacker position, still dealing with injuries from last season.  Darryl Sharpton, who said he was “100% healed up” in February via the Houston Texans website, is unable to participate in offseason training. Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips broke the news on SportsRadio 610′s MaD Radio Thursday.

“Some guys just have some injury problems. Darryl is not healthy enough to right now to do our offseason stuff. He still hasn’t been cleared by the doctors from his injuries at the end of the season,” said Phillips.

Sharpton, 25, has yet to play a complete season.  In 2012, the linebacker began Week 1 on the physically unable to perform list, returned in Week 11 for seven games, but then suffered a hip injury in Week 17 that placed him on the injured reserve list.  Phillips still remained optimistic about the fourth-year veteran’s return.

“Hopefully things change for him.  I think luck has a lot to do with it, unfortunately.  He’s just been banged up what, three or four years in a row now.  We hope he’ll get back.”

The Texans did not address the ILB position in the draft but did take two outside linebackers, Sam Montgomery (LSU) and Trevardo Williams (UConn), in the third and fourth-rounds, respectively.  Linebackers coach Reggie Herring said that Brooks Reed could potentially move to the inside if needed.  Phillips said that Reed will stay on the outside for now.

“I think everybody’s putting a lot into we drafted two outside backers but Jesse Nading and Connor Barwin aren’t on our team again.  That’s two outside backers we had. It’s not necessary that we move somebody just because had two outside backers because we lost two. But, Brooks Reed is versatile and right now, we’re playing him outside and going with what we got and see what the young guys can do.”

With Sharpton out and Brian Cushing still in rehabilitation after ACL surgery, the Texans may have to look to free agency to gain some depth at the position.  Phillips did not rule out signing a veteran ILB if needed.  In fact, the Texans did re-sign Tim Dobbins to a one-year deal on April 12. Phillips is hopeful that all three will be ready to play when the season begins.

“We re-signed Dobbins and he played a lot for us last year, started a lot of games.  We won a lot of games with him playing and we also had Sharpton in who played last year and we won games when he was in there. Both of them are very capable of starting and playing. Along with Cushing coming back, that makes us a lot stronger.”

The Texans begin OTAs (organized team activities) on May 20 and training camp on July 26.

Bookmark and Share

Orlando Franklin Discusses Off Season And Houseguest Louis Vasquez

Who would have thought that Denver Broncos right tackle Orlando Franklin would be making headlines in early May? He was the prime target for Peyton Manning’s latest prank on Tuesday night when he took a pie to the face at the Rockies game.

Pies aside, Franklin along with the rest of the offensive line has been using the off season to rest and rehab surgically repaired shoulders, toes, and ankles.

“My toe is great,” Franklin said Wednesday. “It’s 100 percent. My shoulder feels about 85 percent. My shoulder was a little bit worse than my toe. My toe wasn’t really a big deal. So I’m looking forward to getting after it. I’m pretty sure that I’ll be able to go full-go here in about two weeks when we start up.”

Franklin has also used the off season to drop some pounds so that the Broncos can play much faster on offense, which is Adam Gase and Manning’s idea.
“I know I for one want to play a little bit lighter this year than I’ve played in the past,” Franklin said. “I want to actually go down to about 315 [pounds]. I haven’t played in the NFL lighter than 320 in the past two years…I know a lot of guys want to be in better shape because last year definitely was an eye-opener with Peyton. You definitely got a little bit tired at times in the game. You don’t want that to happen again this year.”

Franklin said that he hired a nutritionist, and he’s feeling much better about himself. Those bags of potato chips at midnight or 6:00 a.m. are long gone, but entering Franklin’s house was something entirely new.

New guard Louis Vasquez lived with Franklin for over two weeks when he first arrived in Denver. That’s because the 6-5, 335-pound four-year veteran wasn’t closing on his house until the 19th.

“He just reached out to me and I said, ‘Yes, of course.’ Especially if this is a guy that I’m getting ready to play beside, potentially. Need to have some kind of chemistry there,” Franklin said.

The only downside to having Vasquez in his house goes back to food.

“He came in one night, the first night he got there, he ate my meals,” Vasquez said of the meals that the nutritionist recommended for him. “He woke up, ate my meals. I had to talk to him about that. Just a bad houseguest, I think. No, I’m playing. He was actually a good roommate. But he did eat my meals, and I wasn’t happy about that.”

It’s great to see Broncos players hanging out with each other off the field. Building chemistry and cultivating trust now will go a long ways, perhaps even all the way to February.

Bookmark and Share

Chris Perez reflects on Wednesday controversy

CLEVELAND -- Mike Aviles passed his phone around to a gathering of teammates in the clubhouse on Thursday morning.

One by one, Indians players read the latest article discussing Wednesday night's controversial call. It may take some time before talk about the play dies down.
With two outs in the top of the ninth inning, Oakland's Adam Rosales hit a Chris Perez pitch toward the top of the 19-foot wall in left-center field. The ball appeared to strike the railing above the padded fence. Initially, umpires ruled it a double, but they reviewed the call as Rosales waited at second base.

After the review, they upheld the original ruling, and A's manager Bob Melvin argued his way to an ejection before the Indians eventually hung on for a 4-3 victory.

"That's definitely one of the weirdest saves I've had," Perez said. "The most memorable, for sure. To end the game like that -- I had two outs and nobody on and then the home run, err, double, and then a hit-by-pitch and a walk. It shouldn't have been as intense as it was."

On Thursday, Melvin detailed his thinking during the umpires' review.

"It actually worried me when it took so long," he said. "Even the group in the suite next to us, you could see them look at the replay one time, and they all turned around and said, 'It's a home run.' And when I went to look at it in the video room, their announcers were saying, 'It's a home run, let's go. What's taking so long?' So that was my experience with it."

As Indians players sat around a table on Thursday morning, playing cards and completing crossword puzzles, they discussed how they would approach the situation if they were forced to replay Wednesday's contest from the point of the disputed call.

Melvin doubted that would take place.

"I don't know if there's a precedent for that," Melvin said. "I do know the rule stands that when I ask them to go in and look at replay and they do, and when they come out with a decision, that's supposed to be the end of it. And that's why I was thrown out, for continuing it. Other than that, I don't know."

Major League Baseball executive vice president for baseball operations Joe Torre issued the following statement Thursday regarding the instant replay review: "By rule, the decision to reverse a call by use of instant replay is at the sole discretion of the crew chief. In the opinion of Angel Hernandez, who was last night's crew chief, there was not clear and convincing evidence to overturn the decision on the field. It was a judgment call, and as such, it stands as final.

"Home and away broadcast feeds are available for all uses of instant replay, and they were available to the crew last night. Given what we saw, we recognize that an improper call was made. Perfection is an impossible standard in any endeavor, but our goal is always to get the calls right. Earlier this morning, we began the process of speaking with the crew to thoroughly review all the circumstances surrounding last night's decision."

Bookmark and Share

Yonder Alonso finds "peace" in better numbers

After 30 games, Yonder Alonso leads the Padres in both home runs (four) and RBIs (19).

Last year, the then rookie Alonso didn’t hit his fourth homer until the Padres 92nd game on July 17. And he didn’t drive in his 19th run until the final game of the first half on July 2.

The difference between the seasons for the 26-year-old first baseman?

“I’m just more at peace,” Alonso said Saturday afternoon. “I’m just trying to make things simple. Last year guys didn’t know me. Now they know they can count on me. That feels good. There’s a comfort level with that.

“It also makes it easier when everyone (meaning Chase Headley and Carlos Quentin) are here. Everyone in the lineup is stronger.”

Alonso is on pace to hit 21 homers and drive in 103 runs this season after finishing with nine homers and 62 RBI last season while batting .273 and setting a Padres rookie record with 39 doubles.

So far this season, Alonso is hitting .353 (18-for-51) at Petco Park with four doubles, two homers and 11 RBI. He had hit safely in 12 of the first 13 home games before going 0-for-3 with a walk Saturday night.

Of course, fans continue to compare the careers of Alonso and Anthony Rizzo. Shortly after Alonso came to the Padres in the 4-for-1, 2012 trade that sent Mat Latos to the Reds, the Padres traded Rizzo to the Cubs.

It turns out that is far from the only link between Alonso and Rizzo.

“Rizzo and I go way back,” said Alonso. “We’re both south Florida kids. My high school coach scouted Rizzo for Boston. After we met, Anthony wanted to hit with me.

“I think he’s one of the up-and-coming players in the major leagues. He can hit, hit with power, play defense and run.

Bookmark and Share

Browns sign Rashad Butler

Tackle Rashad Butler has missed 30 of the last 32 games after tearing his triceps twice and he’ll be trying to get his career back on track in Cleveland this season.

Butler’s agent Ken Sarnoff tweeted out congratulations to Butler on signing a deal with the Browns. No financial terms have been announced for the deal with Butler, who entered the league as a third-round pick of the Panthers in 2006. He never played for Carolina, joining the Texans the next year and playing in 42 games with Houston.

Butler had a shot to become the right tackle last summer after Eric Winston left the team, but wound up being beaten out by Derek Newton during camp. Butler’s injury might have made losing that competition a moot point, but he was ticketed for a backup role all the same.

He’ll be trying to land the same role in Cleveland. Joe Thomas and Mitchell Schwartz are set as the team’s starters at left and right tackle respectively, leaving Butler to fight for a job against Oniel Cousins, 2013 seventh-round pick Garrett Gilkey and others.

Bookmark and Share

Frank Gore led NFL running backs in facing eight in the box

The folks at Pro Football Focus asked which running back faced the highest percentage of eight defenders in the box. The 49ers very own Frank Gore took home top honors:

We have a winner. 42.3% of plays w/ at least 8 men in box. League average is 23.3% @MarkusEricsson: @PFF Gore?

There were various follow-up tweets with various details that provide a little more context. For example, Gore faced eight men in the box 37.8% of the time when Alex Smith was starting, and 46.6% of the time when Kaepernick was starting.

Here was another interesting stat:

Big reason Gore faced so many 8 in the boxes? 53.5% of rushing snaps with 1 or fewer receiver split out wide. Most in league

And Joe Staley had his own retort on all this:

@PFF good thing we got away from the running game with all those 8 man fronts ha! We laugh at 8 man fronts

It will be interesting to see how defenses handle the 49ers multi-faceted offensive attack in 2013. Defenses can load up in the box, but if it opens up the edges for the read option, they will continue to struggle against the 49ers. I imagine Greg Roman is keeping plenty busy preparing for how the 49ers will counter defensive adjustments.

Bookmark and Share

Orlando Franklin is healthy after procedures

Let's review the four ailments suffered by Orlando Franklin this offseason.

The Broncos offensive tackle had corrective eye surgery. Worked like a charm.

He had surgery on his toe.

"My toe is great," Franklin said. "It's 100 percent."

He had shoulder surgery.

"My shoulder feels about 85 percent," he said. "My shoulder was a little bit worse than my toe. My toe wasn't really a big deal. So I'm looking forward to getting after it. I'm pretty sure that I'll be able to go full go here in about two weeks when we start up (with organized team activities)."

Finally, Franklin suffered a bout of good-natured embarrassment. With both courage and kindness, Franklin agreed to step in front of roughly 30 teammates and a live television audience to conduct an interview. As he was speaking, Franklin received baseball's tried-and-true prank of a shaving cream pie to the face.

It was wide receiver Eric Decker who delivered the pie and quarterback Peyton Manning who was behind it. Manning also organized the Broncos' players-only outing at Coors Field for the Rockies-Yankees game Tuesday night. The players were given the suite that Rockies owners Dick and Charlie Monfort use.

"I'm definitely looking forward to revenge," Franklin said. More footballs needed. Joel Dreessen was going through the projected reception stats now that the Broncos have added slot man Wes Welker to what already was a prolific, Manning-led passing game.

"We have a lot of weapons, and a lot of people to get the ball to, and that's a good problem to have," said Dreessen, a starting tight end, but "everybody wants their piece of the pie.

"The great thing about this team is we don't care. Whatever it takes to win. If Demaryius (Thomas) catches 100 again and Decker has 85 and Jacob (Tamme) and I combine for another 90 and Wes throws in his 100 ... You see, we're running out of balls, but who cares? We're just out to win ballgames."

Bookmark and Share

Knowshon Moreno, Willis McGahee up for one spot

Denver Broncos RBs Knowshon Moreno and Willis McGahee likely will compete for one roster spot during training camp because the team probably will not keep both. Moreno could have an edge for the No. 3 running back job because he is younger, less expensive and a better receiver than McGahee.

Fantasy Tip: The Broncos would like to go with Montee Ball and Ronnie Hillman as their top two running backs this season, so Moreno and McGahee likely will be competing for the No. 3 RB job. Neither running back would have much fantasy value as the third running back. Whoever wins the competition should not be drafted in fantasy leagues this season.

Bookmark and Share

Bryant McKinnie officially signs his two-year contract

Ravens offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie has officially signed his two-year contract worth up to $7 million.

McKinnie flew into town from South Florida to finalize the paperwork on his deal after agreeing to terms last week.

McKinnie remained with the Ravens after working out for the Miami Dolphins and visiting the San Diego Chargers, garnering offers from both teams.

The Ravens' contract was his best financial offer. The deal includes an undisclosed signing bonus, weight clauses and workout bonuses, according to a source.

“Having Bryant back is a big plus for us," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said Sunday. "We were hoping that would be the case. I’m looking forward to seeing him next week and getting him in here and going to work. We want our line to be as strong as it can possibly be, and that makes us stronger.”

Last week, McKinnie told The Baltimore Sun that he was happy he was able to remain with the Ravens after his foray into free agency.

"I'm excited to be back," McKinnie said. "I didn't really want to leave anyway. I like being in Baltimore."

McKinnie's plan is to reprise his play from the Ravens' Super Bowl run.

With McKinnie at left tackle, Michael Oher at right tackle and Kelechi Osemele playing left guard, the Ravens allowed just six sacks in four playoff victories capped by defeating the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII. The Ravens averaged 410.3 yards of total offense, as quarterback Joe Flacco had plenty of time to throw 11 touchdown passes and no interceptions during the postseason.

"Yep, that's what I want to do," McKinnie said. "I want to pick up from there. I feel like we have a chance for a great year with me and K.O. on the left side."

Bookmark and Share

Nick Hundley is not impressed with Yasmani Grandal... at ALL

Sure, Nick Hundley’s refusal to mince words says a lot about the battle Yasmani Grandal faces when he returns to the Padres a little less than three weeks hence.

“You want to talk about a guy who is unproven and had a good couple months on steroids, go ahead,” Hundley said on Wednesday.

But it’s what Hundley said next that makes this more about him than Grandal.

“I’ve got a job to do,” Hundley continued.

His job. He’s the Padres catcher.

Grandal will be eligible to return from his 50-game suspension on May 28. The Padres have publicly supported him without condoning what he did to earn that punishment.

“They’ll both have jobs,” manager Bud Black said. “They’ll both play. … This will be performance based.”

Hundley couldn’t care less.

“I haven’t given it any thought,” he said.

I believe him when he says so. Here’s why.

It was almost a month ago that I had last spoken at length with Hundley, and he talked then about his new approach.

“I don’t look too far ahead or too far behind,” he said. “I’ve wasted plenty of time in my career and in my life playing the what-if game.”

He had just finished a series against the Dodgers in which he went 7-for-11 with two doubles and a homer. It was already a fantastic start to 2013 for the man whose horrid 2012 has been hashed again and again.

He spoke of there being times the weeds threatened to choke his thoughts and how he works to quickly eradicate the negative. It was like talking to a less-annoying Tony Robbins or attending a 12-step meeting. Hundley said with utmost confidence that he was absolutely “not going to let” himself slip into the stinking thinking.

“You go back and look at the work you’ve put in,” he said.

And it is just a fact that if you weren’t rooting for Hundley to sustain his rebound, you have a cold, black, dead heart.

But over 20 years of covering sports at the highest level — of being repeatedly thrilled as well as let down, misled and used — you grow accustomed to things not quite going as you’d expect, nor as you’d prefer.

Rather than immediately writing about Hundley then, I wanted to wait to see if he was back for real.

After we spoke, he got his batting average to a season-high .367 with two doubles that night.

In 19 games since then, his average has dropped 97 points. A hitless Wednesday means he’s 0-for-17 over the past five games.

Yes, he will need to hit over a sustained period in order to keep his job.

But there is far less doubt now that he will do so.

Hundley’s progression is reflected in much more than numbers.

“You don’t see the head dropping, the shoulders slouching anymore,” said John Baker, the Padres’ backup catcher.

“There were a lot of times,” Hundley said, “I would get a solid swing and wouldn’t get the results and I’d wonder what was wrong.”

Now, he can look at his current five-game hitless streak and not be satisfied but live with the knowledge he swung well enough that he “could have easily had five or six hits.”

He knows now the hits will come.

“Last year was a big learning experience for Nick in a number of areas,” Black said.

“First of all, he learned he doesn’t have to carry the weight of the world on his shoulders.”

He knows now he only has to worry about today and just be a part of the team.

He knows he is a part of the team, regardless of what happens with Grandal.

Bookmark and Share

Jon Jay stays hot for Cardinals

Cardinals outfielder Jon Jay continued his recent hot hitting in Wednesday's series finale against the Cubs. He went 1 for 3 with two RBI in the 5-4 win.

Jay hit a sac fly in the fourth inning before driving in Yadier Molina with a single in the eighth.

The 28-year-old has hit safely in seven straight games and has gone 10 for 24 (.417) with one homer and eight RBI during that span.

Bookmark and Share

Danny Valencia's 3-run homer helps Tides top Buffalo

Danny Valencia's three-run homer in the fifth inning gave the Tides the lead for good, and Norfolk went to an 8-4 victory over Buffalo in an International League game Wednesday night.

Valencia's shot, his fifth homer of the season, capped a two-out rally as Norfolk erased a 3-2 deficit. Yamaico Navarro reached on a bunt single and Lew Ford walked ahead of Valencia's homer.

The first-place Tides (22-11) moved two games ahead of Durham in the IL South.

Jason Pridie led off the game with a home run, his sixth of the year. L.J. Hoes added three hits for Norfolk, which has won 5 of 7 games this month.

Starter Jair Jurrjens (4-1) pitched six innings. He shut out Buffalo after giving up three runs in the first inning. He allowed four hits, struck out three and walked one.

The teams conclude their four-game series this afternoon. The Tides then play four in Syracuse before returning home Tuesday.

Bookmark and Share

Orlando Franklin gets pranked on live TV by Eric Decker, Peyton Manning

You are never safe around Peyton Manning. Not even on live television.

Not even if you are a 330-pound offensive lineman.

Denver Broncos right tackle Orlando Franklin learned that lesson the hard way Tuesday, as he was treated to a pie in the face from teammate Eric Decker on ROOT Sports' live broadcast of the Colorado Rockies game.

According to Franklin, the prank was orchestrated by Peyton Manning.

Peyton Manning is a prank mastermind. Somehow, Manning convinced Eric Decker to deliver the pie, even though Manning punked Decker only a month ago. The future Hall of Famer convinced his wide receiver that he owed Duke University a four-figure bill for their offseason workouts.

Weeks later, Decker is doing Manning's dirty work.

"Prank mastermind" might not be a strong enough term... Manning is an evil genius, and we are all at his mercy.

Bookmark and Share

Santana Moss has high hopes for Skins in '13

With OTAs set to begin in less than two weeks and all but one starter returning, wide receiver Santana Moss says he believes the Redskins are well positioned to build on last year’s 10-6 season and take that next step.

“I think the key is just to go out there and continue to do what we’re doing,” Moss said during a guest appearance Tuesday morning on NFL Network. “I think last year was one of those years where we showed everybody who we can be.”

“Coach [Mike] Shanahan has been trying to build this team to get all the core guys that he wanted,” the 12-year-veteran continued. “I think last year was the first year we can honestly say he has those guys.”

Indeed, the Redskins retained 21 of the 22 starters from last season’s NFC East championship squad, despite an NFL-imposed $18 million salary cap penalty. And the one position where there is an opening – safety – was bolstered in last week’s draft when the team selected a pair of promising prospects in Phillip Thomas and Bacarri Rambo. 

“It’s time to just build from what had last year and go out there and just do it,” Moss said. “There’s nothing to really talk about; you have to go out there and just want it.”

Moss is coming off a season in which he embraced a reduced role but still managed to lead the Redskins in receiving touchdowns (8), rank second in receiving yards (573) and third in catches (41).

The soon-to-be 34-year-old also joined fellow veterans Brandon Meriweather, Adam Carriker and Josh Wilson in accepting pay cuts this offseason. And while the moves were no doubt motivated in part by self-preservation, it’s hard to ignore the fact that four established vets took less individually in the hopes of achieving more collectively.

Asked if he believes the Redskins have enough talent to make a Super Bowl run in 2013, Moss said he views last year’s disappointing loss to Seattle in the first round of the playoffs as a necessary part of that process.

“I think we have a bunch of guys that’s eager and that’s ready to have that experience,” he said. “You play in this league for so long, and you get close, you get close, you get close, that’s kind of in the past. You want to go out there and live that moment.”

Moss added: “Last year was our first chance feeling like we can really live that moment. But we fell short in the first playoff game. With that in mind, we have that taste in our mouth now. We can take something from that and learn and know how to attack that moment next time around. The only way we can experience that moment is by experiencing what we experienced last year, so hopefully we can build on that.”

Bookmark and Share

Chris Perez picks up fourth save

Chris Perez nailed down his fourth save of the season with a scoreless inning in Tuesday's win over the Athletics.

Perez allowed a one-out single to Yoenis Cespedes, but Cespedes was gunned out by Yan Gomes while trying to steal second base. Save chances have been few and far between for Perez, but he's had a fine year, posting a 0.82 ERA and 1.00 WHIP.

Bookmark and Share

Future Basketball proCanes put books aside to prepare for NBA

Final exams end Wednesday at the University of Miami, but the studying and learning go on in Bradenton for former Hurricanes basketball players Kenny Kadji, Reggie Johnson and Julian Gamble.

They are participating in IMG Academy’s NBA Draft Training Program, and Shane Larkin is scheduled to join them Thursday night.

Draft prospects in the program are preparing for the NBA Combine, being held May 15-19 in Chicago. They are trying to elevate their stock by spending 12 hours per day working on basketball skills, speed and movement, strength and conditioning, mental exercises, vision training, nutrition and communications. Among the activities they go through are a mock combine, a mock draft, mock interviews with general managers and mock news conferences.

While they await their Atlantic Coast Conference championship rings in the mail, the former Canes are chasing their NBA dreams together. Larkin, a sophomore who decided to skip his final two years of college eligibility, is projected to be picked anywhere from late in first round to the middle of the second round. Kadji is expected to be chosen in the second round.

Among the other players in the program are Brandon Paul of Illinois, Laurence Bowers of Missouri and Romero Osby of Oklahoma.

“It’s definitely not college anymore,” said Johnson, who is working his way back from arthroscopic knee surgery that kept him out of the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet 16. “The whole focus is on life as a pro, everything from getting strong enough to handle bigger guys to how to walk into a room to meet with a GM. They told us to shake everyone’s hand, to make eye contact, and not to rock back and forth in our chair because that makes you look nervous. I’m glad Kenny and Julian are here because we’ve gone through so much together, we push each other, and we have a lot of fun together.”

Johnson said he meets with the nutritionist three times per week, is drinking only water and G2 (diet Gatorade) and already has lost 12 pounds since arriving nearly a month ago. He was itching to play after his surgery, and now he has added motivation — infant daughter, Camryn, who was born May 1 in North Carolina to Johnson’s high school sweetheart. He said they plan to marry “pretty soon,” but first he hopes to sign with a team and get financially stable.

“I have a beautiful little princess depending on me now,” he said. “I was there for the childbirth and it was the most amazing thing. God works in mysterious ways, and he brought us this little girl. When I look into her eyes, it makes me want to cry. I want to provide everything for her, and that drives me to work harder.”

He said the most challenging parts for him have been the outdoor agility training and the vision training. Athletes sit in a dark room, see lights coming quickly from different angles and have to react. The goal is to improve hand-eye coordination so players can handle quick passes and have better peripheral vision to find open teammates.

Gamble said the group of about a dozen athletes has bonded like a team, and he will be rooting for all of them on draft day June 27. Paul has been ribbing Kadji about a controversial out-of-bounds play during the NCAA Tournament game between the Canes and the Illini.

“We’re grinding hard together, day in and day out, and it’s good to be around guys that can relate,” Gamble said. “They don’t know anything about what to expect in the draft process, just like I don’t know anything. We’re learning together from people who coached, played and scouted in the league and the experience is invaluable.”

The basketball skills training is led by former NBA coach Kenny Natt, who worked with the Utah Jazz, Cleveland Cavaliers and Sacramento Kings. He has coached Karl Malone, John Stockton and LeBron James. Speed expert Loren Seagrave, who has coached Olympic track and field stars, works with the athletes on lateral movement, explosion and stamina.

Kadji is familiar with the staff and the campus, as he attended high school there. He showed Johnson and Gamble around when they arrived and is thrilled to be among friends.

“It’s great to have my UM brothers’ support,” Kadji said. “This is a big step for everybody, and there’s going to be a little bit of butterflies, I’m sure. This will help us be ready.”

He said he has been focusing on getting stronger, and improved from six repetitions bench pressing 185 pounds to 11 reps. He is enjoying the leadership training, and thinks it will come in handy.

“The teams want to see how professional you are, especially if you’re not a top 10 pick, if you’re a guy on the fence,” he said.

“Here, they give us advice on what to say and what not to say to GMs, how to handle the trap questions they throw at you, how to dress, things like that. So, when we get there, we’ll look like pros, not like nervous college kids.”

Bookmark and Share

Ed Reed expected back middle of training camp at latest

When Texans safety Ed Reed had surgery to repair a small labral tear in his hip recently, word was that he was expected to be recovered in time for the start of training camp.

Texans owner Bob McNair revealed a little more doubt than initially reported when he addressed Reed’s status on Monday. Tania Ganguli of the Houston Chronicle reports that McNair called Reed’s surgery a “minor procedure” while also admitting that that the safety may not be ready to get back on the field until a couple of weeks into training camp.

He wasn’t the only member of the Texans talking about Reed’s recovery from the surgery. Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips said that he’s got some worry about Reed’s status because he waited to have the surgery instead of having it right after last season came to a close.

“If it had been right after the season it’d have been different,” Phillips said. “There’s a little concern but the good thing about him is he’s experienced it before, he’s an experienced guy. You have no problem with him studying or knowing what you’re doing. He’s gonna spend all the time it takes off the field to get ready. I think Ed will be ready when it’s time.”

There was always going to be a little concern about the health of a safety who turns 35 in September. You never want a player to need surgery, obviously, but pushing Reed early in camp was never going to be part of the program in Houston. Absent any negative reports about Reed’s recovery, a little concern will likely remain just that.

Bookmark and Share

Deciphering differing opinions on Sean Spence

They say no news is good news. But what do they say about conflicting news? That's the situation in Pittsburgh with inside linebacker Sean Spence.

During the NFL draft, Steelers linebackers coach Keith Butler said it would be "miraculous" if Spence came back from a devastating knee injury. A week later, coach Mike Tomlin weighed in on the outlook for the 2012 third-round pick.

"I did hear the opinion regarding Spence. My opinion differs," Tomlin said during rookie minicamp. "I think he’s going to have a full recovery. But now you have two opinions, neither of which are expert medical opinions. Do with it what you wish."

It would surprise me if Spence's position coach decided to paint such a grim picture (and do it publicly) without being informed by someone from the medical staff or another high-ranking official. So, why did Tomlin say something completely different? We already know the Steelers are going to keep Spence around for the 2013 season to give him every chance to rebound from a knee injury that involves two torn ligaments (ACL and LCL) and a damaged nerve. My take is Tomlin is giving some hope to a 22-year-old who couldn't have been inspired by Butler's comments.

The Steelers had high expectations for Spence before he injured his knee last preseason. He would have been one of the core special teams players last year and he might have been in line for a starting job this year.

Now, the Steelers are unsure, or at least not on the same page, as to whether Spence will ever play a meaningful game for the franchise. If I took one thing away from Tomlin's comments, it's that Butler, who is considered the heir apparent to defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau, won't be revealing medical updates anytime soon.

Bookmark and Share

Vinny Testaverde To Be Inducted Into College HOF

Former Miami quarterback Vinny Testaverde will be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame as part of its 2013 class, a National Football Foundation representative announced Monday on "College Football Live."

Testaverde was 23-3 as a starter for the Hurricanes. During his senior season in 1986, Testaverde won the Heisman Trophy and was a unanimous first-team All-American. He led Miami to three straight bowl games, and finished his collegiate career with 6,000-plus passing yards and 48 touchdown passes.

Testaverde went No. 1 overall to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 1987 NFL draft. He played professionally for 21 years and was a two-time Pro Bowl selection.

"Congrats to one of the greatest #Canes of all-time, QB Vinny Testaverde, who will be inducted into College Football Hall of Fame," tweeted current Hurricanes coach Al Golden.

The rest of the class, which will include a total of 12 players and two coaches, will be announced Tuesday. The induction ceremony will occur Dec. 10 in New York City.

Bookmark and Share

Jonathan Vilma has inside shot

New Orleans Saints LB Jonathan Vilma has been the talk of the weight room and seems to be the front-runner for the second inside spot.

Bookmark and Share

Jon Jay has new setup at plate

St. Louis Cardinals OF Jon Jay had two hits, including a home run, and four RBIs in a victory Saturday, May 4, which marked his third straight multi-hit game. Jay has raised his average from .204 to .243 and has looked "relaxed" and "smooth" at the plate recently, according to OF Carlos Beltran. "He made some pretty big overhauls to his swing," manager Mike Matheny said. "He has been working hard to find that rhythm. It's not just simplifying – the ball sounds different coming off his bat."

Jay previously had a timing mechanism at the plate that involved several hand pumps, but he became too anxious with them at times, which threw off his timing significantly. His bat started to flatten over his back shoulder and his hands came closer to his chest during his slump. A downward loop had been created with his hands that left his swing slow and long. Jay worked with the coach staff to move his hands away from his body, raised his bat perpendicular to his shoulder and made his swing more direct.

Fantasy Tip: You'll likely find Jay's name on many a mixed league waiver wire still because of his slow start. With a retooled approach, however, he has shown signs of life and should be considered for a waiver wire acquisition if you're searching for outfield depth.

Bookmark and Share

John Salmons hasn’t changed regimen since 9th grade

WHITEMARSH — John Salmons returned to his alma mater, Plymouth Whitemarsh, on Friday afternoon to be added to the wall of distinguished graduates for his successful career in the NBA. However, what few people know is that John Salmons never really left.

“Right around this time of year you’ll get a text and you’ll hear John is coming up tomorrow,” said PW head coach Jim Donofrio. “He’s right back in the gym … right up at Colonial Elementary school all summer long and we’re all proud of that and we let him go, we let him do his thing.

“Everyone, the custodians, Superintendant, they see him, give a wave and just let him go.”

In the off-season, Salmons is a regular at Colonial Elementary School where he goes about his regimen in preparation for the next season. Soon to be in his twelfth year of service, Salmons started 72 of 82 games for the Sacramento Kings last season.

“Since as long as I remember, all I wanted to do was make it to the NBA,” Salmons said. “I spent a lot of hours in the gym working on my game.”

In his eleven years in the NBA, Salmons has played for four different franchises — the Philadelphia 76ers, Sacramento Kings, Chicago Bulls and the Milwaukee Bucks. Including his college career at the U — University of Miami — Salmons has lived in cities in all corners of the nation.

“When I got drafted by the Sixers, right away I wanted to come back to Plymouth Meeting to live just because of all the support I got here in my four years of high school,” Salmons said.

After his rookie season, Donofrio recalls a request from Salmons to open up the doors to the Colonial Elementary gym to work out. Donofrio let him in and left to run some errands. Three hours later, Donofrio said, he returned to the gym to find Salmons sitting on the sideline breathing heavily. Salmons had been running a series of sprints with interludes of stationary dribbling drills.

“Players only do those if they get on our nerves and they need to be disciplined,” Donofrio said. “To voluntarily do them means either you’re a glutton for punishment, or you have a serious desire to excel.”

As Gordon Glantz wrote in early 1998 in recap of the previous season’s championship run, the coaching had come full circle. He didn’t know at the time how right he was.

The 1996-97 Colonials were coached by Al Angelos, who was mentored by Hank Stofka whose ‘Kardiac Kids’ won the 1963 title. However, in 2010, PW captured its third state title under coach Jim Donofrio, who was an assistant coach to Angelos during the championship run a decade earlier.

Donofrio said after their championship season, he had ten or more players that were in college, seven of which were playing ball on scholarship money. Salmons, remains the shining success of his players in the game of basketball.

“We put so much emphasis in sports on the winning and the losing,” Donofrio said. “If you do things right, you’ll have a relationship with these guys for a long time.”

Salmons was neither the biggest nor the tallest nor the strongest nor the best player when he came to Donofrio to play on the JV team.

“I said, ‘let me see your left-handed layup,’ and it wasn’t that strong,” Donofrio said. “I said it jokingly, but I said, ‘you have a week before tryouts, if you get a left-handed layup in a week, I’ll let you tryout for JV.’ He came back with a perfect left-handed layup two days later.”

Salmons was a player that was mostly overlooked in the league and even on his own team. Friend and teammate, Chuck Moore, who played point guard for the Colonials and went on to play at Seton Hall, was the standout player on the team.

“He and Chuck Moore would look at the ranks, and a lot of people would say not to do that, but they’d look and say ‘you got to be kidding me, how am I not better than that guy?’” Donofrio said. “They had these high standards and they used it as a competition.”

A moment that will stand out in the memory of PW fans and players forever is the ‘Miracle at Conestoga Valley.’ Down one point with 3.9 seconds remaining in the state quarterfinals against Chambersburg on March 13, 1997, the Colonials did the unthinkable. With Chuck Moore fouled out and sitting on the bench, Coach Angelos sent out football player Kevin Gall to inbounds the ball. On the full-court inbounds, Gall sent the ball flying down court, and on one bounce Billy Guess jumped over the boundary line and with one hand slung it to an open Salmons who took two dribbles in the lane and hit a jumper to win the game 60-59. PW went on to win the state championship eight days later.

“His personality makes him a pro, because if he wanted to be a superstar he knows he’s not that guy, but every team needs the guy that makes the pass that needs to be made,” Donofrio said. “You don’t need to be Dwyane Wade, you just need to be able to be a piece that when you do get the ball to Dwyane Wade he makes an easy play.

“He’s found his niche with that.”

Donofrio attributes Salmons’ success mostly to his personality and work ethic. Despite the fact that Salmons can cover Dirk Nowitzki, then plays the point the next play, and that he can play the power forward or the wing, or defend — a “Swiss Army knife in your pocket” Donofrio said — it’s his approach to the game that has given him a brilliant career.

“Hard work is just a part of life, whatever you do you have to work hard at it,” Salmons said. “Playing basketball is something that I’ve always loved, so going hard came easy to me.”

“This is one of those moments that’s a payback when you hope you made that right approach,” Donofrio said. “To see John, that’s the pinnacle.”

Bookmark and Share

Tomlin disagrees with LB coach about Spence

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin disagrees with linebackers coach Keith Butler. He said Sean Spence, the second-year linebacker who severely injured his knee in a preseason game in August, will make a full recovery.

Butler said last weekend it would be "miraculous" if Spence, the team's third-round draft choice in 2012, played next season.

"It will be miraculous if he does come back," Butler said last Saturday when he met with reporters. "It will be miraculous if he comes back next year. We are going to take a chance on him and see if he can come back. To me, he is worth every bit of that."

Tomlin offered the following Saturday when he was asked about the rehabilitation of Spence and other injured players at Steelers rookie camp: "All the rehab is going to according to plan. No news there. I did hear the opinion regarding Spence. My opinion differs. I think he'll have a full recovery. But now you have two opinions, neither of which are expert medical opinions, so do with it what you will."

Bookmark and Share

Mike James Expected To Fight For 2nd String RB Position

TAMPA | There is a lesson running back Mike James' mother taught him at a young age — it's better to share with others. It is a principle that James has instilled in his entire life, including football.

And it is that unselfishness that has endeared James to the Tampa Bay Bucs.

As the Ridge Community High School alum concludes his first rookie mini-camp, James want to show that the team's sixth-round pick was a good choice.
"I'm getting acclimated with the language," James said. "I'm trying to get in tune with everything going on. It isn't tough, just different.

"Today went a long way in seeing how things work," he said. "They want to see how you handle things and seeing how you respond."

Nothing James has done since he arrived or prior has changed how the Bucs feel about him.

General Manager Mark Dominik is high on James and told a local radio station that he expects James to compete for the backup job behind starter Doug Martin.

Following the draft, Dominik compared James to former fan-favorite Earnest Graham, not only because of unselfishness on the field but also off.

James won the University of Miami's Captain Award in 2012; Melching Leadership Award and was voted the 2012 Jack Harding Team Most Valuable Player. He also was the 2012 Community Service Man of the Year winner for the Hurricanes.

But no one makes a professional team or gets drafted just because he is a good guy. James also has skills.

Even though he was a backup to some talented backs including Duke Johnson and Lamar Miller, James still contributed.

He became just the 38th 1,000-yard rusher in the program's history and even rushed for 621 yards and six touchdowns in his senior year.

"That's something I always prided myself on," James said. "My mom taught me as a child to share. That's something I do throughout my days in life and through football. I'll do anything to try to help this team get better. I'm just a puzzle piece to this team, trying to help."

Like Graham before him, the Bucs think James can be valuable on all four downs.

"As an organization we felt that and feel that after having him for a day (that he's a football player," said Bucs coach Greg Schiano. "Not only is he a good running back but he's good on special teams. I think he's going to be a real good addition to our football team. How fast does that happen? We'll have to play that out but I think he has all the tools to do that."

Bookmark and Share

Ed Reed undergoes second hip procedure

Perhaps John Harbaugh and the Baltimore Ravens had inside information regarding the true status of Ed Reed and his health status when they let their superstar safety walk in free agency.

It is being reported by the Houston Chronicle that the Houston Texans’ new safety has undergone arthroscopic hip surgery to repair a small labral tear in his hip.

Three years ago, Reed underwent a similar hip surgery that forced him to miss the first seven weeks of the season with the Ravens.

The good news for Houston fans is that the surgery is thought to be minor enough for Reed to return to training camp on schedule. Though it is worrisome that less than two months after signing with the team, the 34 year-old Reed is getting additional work on his hip. Even more bothersome is the history Reed has with injuries and recovery times.

Luckily, the Texans had a backup plan should Reed’s health deteriorate as it has. Second-round prospect D.J. Swearinger from South Carolina had a very successful college career and could be seeing extensive reps with the team this off-season and on the field in case Reed can’t go.

Even if Reed does play this season, his on-field production has dwindled year-by-year, forcing Danielle Manning and Swearinger to step up in the future Hall-of-Famer’s absence. It would be a shame to remember Ed Reed’s last season as a failure, especially for a player who leads the NFL in career interception yards and has been one of the most dominant safety’s in NFL history. Unfortunately, unless Reed’s health holds up, that may be his fate.

Bookmark and Share

Jason Fox is looking to win a starting spot after struggling to stay healthy

As a fourth-round pick in the 2010 NFL Draft out of Miami University, offensive tackle Jason Fox came to Detroit with the same goals that any young player entering the league would have: to be a strong competitor for a starting job.

But things didn't work out that way.

During training camp his rookie season, a knee injury that resulted in surgery sidelined him for the duration of the year.
In 2011, it was a broken foot.

In short, injuries plagued his first two seasons, and he saw action in just five games over that span.

The situation wasn't something he'd planned for, obviously, but he has benefited to some degree -- at least from a mental standpoint -- in his time off the field.
"I've grown up a lot and I've learned a lot, especially from guys like Jeff (Backus) and Gos (Cherilus) and even guys that don't play tackle, like Dom (Raiola)," Fox said.

"Just being around the NFL, being around vets that have been in this league for a long time, that taught me so much on how to be a pro, how to study, how to prepare for games.

"You don't come in hoping to get injured, but you have to make the most of it; you have to put the time in. I'm really thankful to have had those older guys to learn from and now I have a great opportunity in front of me."

Entering his fourth season, it's not the same meeting room Fox has been accustomed to over the last three years.

Backus, who was the Lions' starting left tackle for 12 seasons, retired. Cherilus, who was the team's starting right tackle, was picked up by Indianapolis in free agency. Right guard Stephen Peterman was released.

The only two starters from last season that remain are center Dominic Raiola and left guard Rob Sims.

For a unit that depends so much on the the consistency and familiarity of knowing who's lined up next to you, those are some big changes to deal with.

"The guys that left, they'll be greatly missed, they were all good guys," said Fox. "But we still have a bunch of good guys in that room. A lot of them are young, and, yes, we are inexperienced, but we still have a lot of talented players and I think we're going to be a good, athletic offensive line."

Transitioning to one of the youngest offensive fronts will certainly bring it's challenges, but it also means more opportunities for the younger players, like Fox, to contribute.

That makes this as good a time as any to be back in the mix for a starting spot.  

"This is the first offseason in a long time that I'm worried about being a better football player instead of worrying about getting healthy ... it's an exciting feeling," Fox said.

"I've dealt with some stuff, but the bottom line is that I have a great opportunity, and we have a great opportunity as an organization this year, so all we can do is look to the future and make the most of it."

Bookmark and Share

John Harbaugh calls Bryant McKinnie's return to Ravens a big plus

The return of left offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie via a two-year contract worth up to $7 million is expected to bolster the Ravens' offensive line.

Now that McKinnie has been retained after a brief foray into free agency where he drew offers from the Miami Dolphins and San Diego Chargers, the Ravens have four of their five starting offensive linemen back from their Super Bowl run.

“Having Bryant back is a big plus for us," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said today. "We were hoping that would be the case. I’m looking forward to seeing him next week and getting him in here and going to work. We want our line to be as strong as it can possibly be, and that makes us stronger.”

When asked to relate what McKinnie has told the team about his conditioning activities, Harbaugh didn't address that specifically.

"Yes, I’m always pleased with conversations with Bryant McKinnie," Harbaugh said with a laugh. "I enjoy talking to Bryant. He’s one of my favorite guys. He’s a sterling conversationalist. We talk a lot about stuff – a lot of different things, broad range of topics. I always enjoy that. I think he does as well.”

McKinnie's contract includes an undisclosed signing bonus, incentive clauses, weight clauses and workout bonuses, according to a source. The Ravens' contract was the best financial offer.

"I'm excited to be back," McKinnie told The Baltimore Sun on Friday morning. "I didn't really want to leave anyway. I like being in Baltimore."

McKinnie's plan is to pick up where he left off during the Ravens' Super Bowl run.

With McKinnie at left tackle, Michael Oher at right tackle and Kelechi Osemele playing left guard, the Ravens allowed just six sacks in four playoff victories capped by defeating the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII. The Ravens averaged 410.3 yards of total offense per game as quarterback Joe Flacco had plenty of time to throw 11 touchdown passes and zero interceptions during the postseason.

"Yep, that's what I want to do," McKinnie said. "I want to pick up from there. I feel like we have a chance for a great year with me and K.O. on the left side."

Bookmark and Share

VIDEO: Bernie Kosar Talks Football, Past And Present

When it comes to the most beloved athletes in Cleveland's history, the top spot for many fans belongs to Bernie Kosar. The gangly Youngstown, Ohio native won over the hearts of Cleveland sports fans when he announced after his impressive career at the University of Miami that he wanted to play for the Browns, and they've loved him ever sense.

Drafted as the Browns top pick in the 1985 NFL supplemental draft, Kosar took a Cleveland squad that had finished 5-11 the season before to three straight playoff appearances, including back to back heartbreaking losses in the 86' and 87' AFC title games that were infamously won by the Denver Broncos and now associate Kosar with spine tingling terms like "the drive" and "the fumble".

But Kosar had experienced football heartbreak on the big stage even before his time at Cleveland, during the famous "Hail Flutie" game where Boston College's Doug Flutie completed a hail mary on the final play of the game to beat Kosar's Hurricanes 47-45. Kosar threw for 447 yards and two touchdowns, completing 25 of 38 attempts in the loss and says during his entire football career that was the only game he chalked up as a win before the final whistle.

Kosar also says the outlook for the 2013 Cleveland Browns should be a bright one. Kosar believes the offensive philosophies of new head coach Rob Chudzinski and offensive coordiantor Norv Turner are "perfect" for quarterback Brandon Weeden and that the Browns could be dangerous if the young wide receiving corp progresses.

Kosar thinks the defense will be much improved as well with new coordinator Ray Horton and the additions to the defensive front. He says Horton has similar philosophies to Steelers coaching great Dick LeBeau and believes if the Browns defensive front seven plays well it will mean more wins for this years squad.  

Bookmark and Share

Calais Campbell hosting charity golf tournament

PHOENIX -- Calais Campbell, defensive lineman for the Arizona Cardinals, will host the first annual CRC Foundation Celebrity Golf Classic May 10 at the Raven Golf Course in Phoenix.

Confirmed golfers include former NFL stars Donovan McNabb, Jake Plummer, Patrick Peterson, NBA star Cedric Ceballos and many of Campbell’s current Arizona Cardinals teammates. The star-studded two-day event is presented by the Diamond League and kicks off with a VIP reception event Thursday, May 9 in Chandler On Friday, May 10, participants will hit the links alongside a celebrity golfer to raise money for a good cause.

Foursomes are still available and can be purchased by contacting Ian Grutman at or visiting Non-golfers can also support the cause by attending the VIP reception Thursday May 9 at a private residence in Chandler, AZ. Tickets for Thursday night are $100 and also available online.

“The support the CRC Foundation has received in the Phoenix community has meant so much to me,” said Campbell who is entering his sixth season with the Cardinals. “I’m looking forward to bringing together my friends from the Hollywood and sports to enjoy a fun day of golf. I know some of these celebrities take the game pretty seriously, but I’ve been working on my short game so I’m up for the challenge.”

The CRC Foundation is a non-profit, 501 c(3) organization established in 2010 to teach skills that are not typically learned in a traditional classroom setting that are necessary for real life, such as accounting, budgeting, drug and alcohol awareness, cooking, diversity awareness, and writing. Future CRC classrooms will use the facilities as an alternative to negative activities in the community. Students will also have the opportunity to shadow mentors from the community, participate in sports and develop creative talents.

For more information, check out or call 602-565-0759.

Bookmark and Share

Padres ride Yonder Alonso's HR to win over Arizona

SAN DIEGO (AP) — The new Jack Daniel's Old No. 7 deck atop the reconfigured right field wall at Petco Park provides an inviting target.

"It's nice," said Alonso, who hit a go-ahead, two-run homer off Wade Miley in the fifth inning to help the Padres to a 7-6 victory against the Arizona Diamondbacks on Friday night, San Diego's seventh win in nine games. It was Arizona's fourth straight loss.

Alsono's homer was one of 14 hits for the Padres, the second time they've had that many in three home games. Rookie Jedd Gyorko had his first three-hit game, including two doubles.

"I've sensed us starting to swing the bats better the last couple weeks," manager Bud Black said. "We've broken out a couple different times on a couple different games and it showed tonight again with double-digit hits, some good at-bats, some good walks, some hard contact along the way, a big home run, a couple big swings. I've sensed that."

With the Padres trailing 3-2, Alonso drove a 2-2 pitch from Miley (2-1) into the Jack Daniel's deck in right-center, his fourth. It probably would have been a home run even in Petco Park's old configuration. The fences were moved in 11 feet from the home run porch in the right-field corner to the gap in an attempt to make the downtown ballpark play fairer. Jesus Guzman was aboard on a grounder.

Miley was "locating pretty well early in the game," Alonso said. "I got a good fastball elevated middle in. He got me to foul some pitches inside. I wasn't catching up to it, but then I made a little adjustment."

Miley said he left a pitch up.

"I was trying to get it away and I overthrew it and it stayed middle and he did a good job of hitting it," Miley said. "I was battling a bit. You don't always feel your best every time. But I had some opportunities to get out of it."

The homer made a winner of Jason Marquis (3-2). Marquis allowed three runs and four hits in six innings, struck out five and walked five.

Bookmark and Share

Jon Jay has big day in Cards 7-6 win

MILWAUKEE — Jon Jay homered and drove in the go-ahead run in the ninth and Allen Craig and Daniel Descalso each hit home runs to lead the St. Louis Cardinals to a 7-6 win over the Milwaukee Brewers on Saturday.

Shane Robinson singled to center and then took second on center fielder Carlos Gomez’s fielding error off Jim Henderson (2-1) who started the ninth for Milwaukee with the game tied at 6. Robinson stole third and then scored when Jay singled up the middle, the last lead change in a back-and-forth game.

Jay hit a three-run home run in the second, Craig connected for a solo shot in the sixth and Descalso put the Cardinals ahead with a two-run homer in the seventh.

The Brewers trailed by one in the eighth when they got one-out singles that put runners on the corners. Cardinals manager Mike Matheny brought in Randy Choate. Norichika Aoki dropped a perfect bunt down as pinch-runner Jeff Bianchi raced home and slide feet first, avoiding catcher Yadier Molina’s tag. Seth Maness (1-0) came on and got the Cardinals out of the jam, getting Jean Segura to hit into a double play.

Maness earned his first major league win. Edward Mujica pitched the ninth for his eighth save.

Descalso hit his first homre of the season off reliever Tom Gorzelanny who came on for starter Yovani Gallardo. The Milwaukee right-hander looked liked he might pick up the win after Milwaukee went ahead 5-4 in the sixth.

That didn’t happen, but it kept Gallardo from suffering another loss to St. Louis. He came in 1-10 in 15 starts.

Cardinals starter Adam Wainwright gave up Segura’s two-run home run in the first, but nothing more until three runs in the sixth ended his start and put the Brewers ahead 5-4.

Gomez hit a one-out solo home run. Martin Maldonado singled, advanced on Alex Gonzalez’ single and both scored on pinch-hitter Jonathan Lucroy’s double. After Wainwright hit Aoki for the second time in the game, Kelly took over and got Segura to hit into a double play.

Wainwright went 5 1-3, allowed 11 hits, the most since he gave up 11 on Opening Day at Arizona, and struck out five.

His first three pitches of the game hurt, especially the one that snapped his streak of not allowing a home run this season.

On a 1-0 pitch, Aoki’ singled. Then first-pitch swinging Segura hit his fourth home run of the season.

Jay’s three-run homer in the second erased Milwaukee’s 2-0 lead.

Bookmark and Share