Trial date set for Sean Taylor slaying trial

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MIAMI -- A new trial date has been set for the man accused of fatally shooting Washington Redskins safety Sean Taylor during a 2007 burglary in Miami.

Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Dennis Murphy on Thursday set the murder trial for Eric Rivera Jr. for Nov. 5. The trial was delayed after Rivera fired his attorney.

Rivera is one of five defendants from the Fort Myers area who are accused of killing Taylor during a robbery at the player's Miami-Dade County home. Four have pleaded not guilty and are being tried separately. Each faces a possible life sentence if convicted.

A fifth man previously pleaded guilty to murder and burglary and is likely to testify against the others.

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Jimmy Graham uses altitude training for pre-camp edge

Jimmy Graham soars over opponents on a regular basis.

So it’s no surprise the Saints tight end is getting some pre-training camp work in at altitude.

Graham has spent part of the last two summers in Steamboat Springs, Colo.

“The week before (training) camp I make sure I’m in Steamboat,”Graham told Luke Graham of the Craig Daily Press. “It’s to get those extra red blood cells. I can tell a big difference.

“Camp in the NFL — what you do in the offseason helps you survive camp.”

Graham lives in Miami in the offseason, and spends plenty of time there working out with former “U” alumni such as Ray Lewis, Andre Johnson and others. The South Florida heat is one thing, as well as the humidity of Metarie, La., where he’ll report to training camp soon.

But heading to the ski resort town has become part of his ritual, for two or three weeks of running and lifting, along with hiking and mountain biking (logging at least three hours and 25 miles a day).

“For me it’s the community. For me I feel like everyone’s mindset here is really outdoor training,” Graham said. “It seems like everyone is working out. Last movie you can watch here is at 8 p.m. People are in bed at 9 p.m. to go hiking at 6 a.m. To be around that is a great atmosphere.”

It’s also great training, and it can’t hurt his progress in becoming one of the best tight ends in the game.

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Jon Beason Epathizes with Jon Vilma's Situation

Jon Beason empathized with New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma – another University of Miami product – and Vilma’s attempts to overturn a season-long suspension stemming from his role in the Saints’ bounty program.

Vilma has a federal lawsuit pending against the league that alleges Commissioner Roger Goodell failed to make a timely ruling on his appeal. Goodell denied the appeals of Vilma and three other suspended players last week.

“It’s tough in our league because Goodell’s rule is law. There’s no one to really challenge him or go against him,” Beason said. “Obviously, he’s probably bouncing stuff off people.

“But it’s tough because when you do file an appeal, the appeal goes through him. Well, he issued it. So it’s like, what is the point or the purpose for having an appeal process?”
Beason hopes Goodell will allow Vilma to play this year while investigating the matter further.

“Vilma’s always been an upstanding guy, class act, very smart guy. Great player, leader, give you everything he has,” Beason said. “He loves the sport and he’s good for the sport.”

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Ed Reed 'working out,' but hints at possible holdout

With 12 career return touchdowns, Ed Reed has earned a reputation for being a tough man to get a grasp on.

And this offseason, far from a football field, the Ravens safety has been equally as elusive when it comes to his playing status. Reed wiggled away again Wednesday night.

Appearing on Baltimore radio station 105.7 The Fan, Reed, whose cryptic comments on Twitter over the weekend have been scrutinized by national media and curious fans, was noncommittal about his status for the upcoming season. He is physically prepared to play an 11th NFL season, but insists he is "still thinking things through." He is slated to report to training camp July 25, but he eluded to the possibility of a holdout.

"The only way we protect ourselves,
the only way a player gets what he wants is by holding out," Reed said. "So if Ray Rice doesn't show up, so be it. If Joe Flacco didn't show up and got a contract, so be it."

The Pro Bowl safety's status for training camp came into question when he skipped the team's three-day mandatory minicamp in June without calling coach John Harbaugh beforehand to provide an explanation. He joked on Wednesday that he didn't attend minicamp because he couldn't find anybody to cut his grass, which was a nod to a message he sent Saturday on Twitter.

"Back home with my son, he's riding his bike [and] I'm doing yard work! Tell the bosses I'm comfortable!" wrote Reed, who also posted a picture of his lawn and his young son's bicycle.

Reed, who has also mentioned retirement during the previous two offseasons, is in the final year of the six-year contract extension he signed in 2006 that made him the highest paid safety in the NFL.

If he plays in 2012, he will earn a base salary of $7.2 million. It is believed that Reed is frustrated by the lack of another extension, though he has not made any public demands. He sidestepped around questions about his contract status in the interview, though he did say he has outplayed his current deal and "exceeded all expectations."

"I've been working out this whole offseason, but there's other things that are more important to me like getting my son out of his car seat right now to go play golf," said Reed, who had just arrived at a golf course only to discover that it might be closed. "That's more important to me."

Reed, who mentioned that the NFLPA "messed things up" last summer when negotiating the new collective bargaining agreement, feels he needs to stick up for players around the league.

Reed was mostly upbeat throughout the interview. He hummed along with Michael Jackson's "Beat It" when he was introduced. He interrupted to tell his son to get his golf bag out of the car. And he talked at length about his annual football camp, which will be held Monday and Tuesday at Stevenson University. He also seemed to really enjoy side-stepping any tough questions.

Asked what he would be doing when the season started, Reed told 105.7 host Glenn Younes, who also serves as the director of Reed's foundation, "Watching Sunday and Monday night football on my sofa, man, and watching these guys play some real good football."

Reed started every game for the Ravens in 2011. He made 52 tackles and intercepted three passes during the regular season. His 57 career interceptions are tied for 11th all-time, and he remarked he would like to catch the NFL's career interception leader, Paul Krause, who has 81.

Reed acknowledged that he and the Ravens could eventually part ways, but said he "loves" Baltimore.

"Baltimore has done me good," he said.

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Jon Beason says he’s ready to work

Panthers linebacker Jon Beason took a break from training Thursday to speak at the basketball camp hosted by Bobcats president Fred Whitfield.

Meanwhile, back in Miami, Beason’s teammate and workout partner indicated Beason and his surgically-repaired Achilles tendon look to be in good working order.

Panthers tight end Greg Olsen posted on Twitter that he had worked out with Beason for the past week.

“Trust me he will be fine,” tweeted Olsen, who played with Beason at Miami. “He looks like he did in college at 21 (years) old.”

Beason ruptured his left Achilles in Week 1 last year and missed the rest of the season. He participated in organized team activities and minicamp on a limited basis, but expects to be fully ready when training camp begins in two weeks.

“I’ll be out there. I’ll take the reps with the ones (first-teamers),” Beason said. “Camp is a grind. I expect it to be sore. You’re going to have good days and bad days. It’s just camp, even if you are healthy. Getting in football shape is always a tough task. I’ll do as much as I can and be smart about it.”

Beason told the basketball campers he spent part of his summer watching Wimbledon and the Euro Cup soccer tournament.

“I love to watch championships. It doesn’t matter what sport it is because I just want to be in that moment,” Beason said. “It’s going to be special to me when we get a championship.”

Running back Jonathan Stewart said getting Beason back is a big key to a successful season.

“He’s a monster,” Stewart said. “And we didn’t have our monster last year.”

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James Jones to play next season for Miami Heat

Miami Heat small forward James Jones told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel on Thursday that he is not retiring.

"I guess, more than anything, I was just stating my desire to stay here in Miami," Jones told the Sun-Sentinel of the retirement reports. "If there is a trade or anything like that, we'll cross that bridge if we get there. But, like I said, I have no desire to be anywhere else but by Miami."

Miami has been busy adding 3-point shooters in guard Ray Allen and forward Rashard Lewis this offseason. Jones is embracing the challenge of having to fight for minutes.
"For me, they're two quality guys," Jones told the Sun-Sentinel. "I'll still be there to compete. I'm going to compete and I'm going to do what I do, and put pressure on Coach (Erik Spoelstra) to play me."

Jones, 31, plans to play the final two seasons of his contract with Miami, which includes a 2013-14 player option, according to the Sun-Sentinel. He says he will only reassess his plans if the Heat try to trade him.

"I'm pretty much like if I'm dealt, then that's probably it for me, because I've sacrificed money, time, energy to be a part of this to win," Jones said. "I sacrificed to be in Miami and this is where I'll be."

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Meet the U.S.Team – Zach Railey

In this edition of the Meet the Team series, we introduce readers to 2008 Olympic Silver Medalist Zach Railey. This Clearwater, Florida native is about to compete in his second Olympic Games in the Finn class.  Zach, who is the 2012 Team Captain, explains what it means to compete for Team USA and why the 2012 Games will be a family affair.
How and when did you first get involved in sailing?
When I was eight years old our family dentist suggested it to us. Our parents don’t sail and they thought it was a good idea.

What motivates you to pursue an Olympic sailing campaign?
Representing your country on the world’s biggest athletic stage and knowing you are there to represent your country and bring home a medal is a lot of pressure, but something I dream about everyday!  Each day I wake up and work toward that goal. I have that visual in my head of standing on the podium again knowing that I had done what we had set out to do for the USA. 

What would winning an Olympic medal mean to you?
It would mean that all the hard work, dedication and sacrifice of not just me, but so many others, had paid off!  I sail an individual boat, but it is far from an individual effort and we could collectively celebrate in the achievement.  There is so much meaning wrapped up inside a medal when I look at an Olympic medal. I don't see the medal itself but look back on the sacrifice it took to win it not only from myself but of others who helped me get there. It is a special achievement and to do it again would be incredible. 

How have you filled your time since Sail for Gold?
We’ve had a plan laid out for four years. We are at the end of that plan now. I’ve taken a little bit of time off (since Sail for Gold), but spent two weeks training in Weymouth. We are in the home stretch and feel really good about where we’re at. The things we have worked on and the corrections we’ve made, we’re going to be a serious contender.

Is it more meaningful to have your sister Paige at the Games this time?
With Paige and me qualifying it’s a huge moment for both of us. It’s hard to put it into words. It’s a lifelong dream to go to the Olympic Games again and to do it with my sister is very exciting. Last time was incredibly disappointing for both of us. It was exhilarating for me and incredibly heartbreaking for her. It would mean a lot if we can be successful in 2012.

What are you known for on and off the water?
I am hard headed and very determined toward reaching my goals, but know when to have fun and when to turn it on to reach those goals. 

What other non-sailing interests or hobbies do you have?
Anything to do with the water:  Fishing, scuba diving, water skiing, going to the beach, days on the boat.

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Lauryn Williams moving past Olympic miscues

Former Miami track star Lauryn Williams knows success. She has a 100-meter world championship to her name and a 2004 silver medal on display in her mother’s home.

But relays have been an issue. She was involved in two high-profile transition mistakes in the past two Olympic games. A failed exchange with Marion Jones cost the U.S. a medal in 2004 (video) and a drop in 2008 (video) led to a disqualification.

Now 28, the 2004 UM graduate is heading to her third Olympic games later this month in London. She didn’t qualify for the 100 meters as an individual, but she’s in the six-member relay pool for the 4×100. The past mistakes are motivation for the next round, Williams said.

“Sometimes it just doesn’t go right and there’s no rhyme or reason to it,” she said. “You practice it. You try to develop chemistry with the person, but you never know what’s going to happen on that day. That’s with any race or any sport.”

Williams will also have a familiar face at her side if ends up on the four-member relay. The U.S. will be coached by Amy Deem, the head of the UM track and field program.
Deem isn’t worried about what happened in Athens or Beijing and said those misfires won’t factor into the team structure this time.

“There were technical mistakes, but that was in the past,” Deem said. “This is a whole new group of girls. Lauryn’s run a lot of relays and she’s run them very well. … To be honest, the only time this will be talked about is when the media brings it up.”

The complete list (courtesy of UM athletics) of current and former Miami athletes/coaches who’ll be a part of the London Olympics:

Athletes Murielle Ahoure, Ivory Coast, track & field T’erea Brown, US track & field, 400m hurdles Savanah Leaf, Great Britain volleyball Ciara Michel, Great Britain volleyball Zach Railey, US sailing, finn class Rueben Ross, Canada diving, 3m synchronized Brittany Viola, US diving, 10m platform Lauryn Williams, US track & field relay pool

Coaches Randy Ableman, US diving (assistant) Amy Deem, US track & field, (women’s head coach)

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Aubrey Huff could be ready to rejoin the team next week

Aubrey Huff leaned on a railing at AT&T Park on Thursday and quickly drew smiles and jokes from teammates and staff. Huff's last experience with the home dugout's railing sent him to the disabled list, but he finally could be close to a return.

Huff has missed 23 games since spraining his right knee while hopping the railing in the celebration after Matt Cain's perfect game on June 13, but manager Bruce Bochy said Thursday that Huff could rejoin the team next week.

Huff is scheduled to continue his rehab assignment this weekend, likely with the San Jose Giants. If all goes well, he could be activated in time for Tuesday's game in Atlanta.
"He's getting what he needs right now, which is playing time and at-bats," Bochy said. "His knee is doing a lot better. I think he can help us; I know he can."

Huff is 1 for 8 with the San Jose Giants with a homer and two walks. He took part in the San Francisco Giants workout Thursday.

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Is DeMarcus Van Dyke ready to step up?

He had his baptism by fire the first time he stepped on an NFL field.

"At the start of the preseason," DeMarcus Van Dyke mused during last month's OTA's, "I played against Larry Fitzgerald and I had a bad experience. But after that, I tried to make more plays, and it helped my confidence a lot."

And as such, Van Dyke is the most intriguing defensive back on the Raiders roster as the team prepares to report to Napa for training camp on July 28. The second-year cornerback was the quintessential Al Davis draft pick -- speed to burn, somewhat overvalued as a third-round draft pick.

But the new regime sees something in the lithe Van Dyke, and Van Dyke, who is starting to fill out physically, sees something in himself. Yes, the guy who blazed to a 4.25-second 40-time at the Combine will push veteran signees Shawntae Spencer and Ronald Bartell for playing time and maybe even for a starting job.

Intrigued yet?

"Next year, I just need to make more plays on the ball," Van Dyke said. "I had a bunch of chances to make interceptions that I dropped. And sometimes I kept my head on the receiver and didn’t look for the ball. That’s why at these OTAs I am trying to find the ball and make plays and hopefully help out next year."

Rookie coach Dennis Allen, who cut his teeth coaching up defensive backs, agreed.

"You've got to practice to get better," Allen said.

As a rookie last season, Van Dyke had a Raiders cornerback-best burn rate of 43.8, per Stats Inc., giving up 14 receptions on 32 targets for 167 yards and a touchdown while being credited with four passes defensed. By comparison, the departed Stanford Routt had a burn rate of 47.4 while Matt Giordano's was 42.5 and Mike Mitchell's was 34.6.

Both Spencer and Bartell had injury-shorted seasons in 2011 and their burn rates were 44.4 (four of nine) and 66.7 (two of three), respectively.
Van Dyke, now listed at 180 pounds, has found guidance from the two thus far.

"It’s the small things, like looking at the splits of the receivers and watching a lot of tendencies on film," he said. "I really appreciate those two guys helping me out as leaders this year.

Especially with a new regime and a new scheme.

"I am loving it," Van Dyke said. "It’s vision defense -- you see a lot of stuff and we’re going to make a lot of plays next year."

A year ago, the lockout wiped out any offseason activities, putting Van Dyke and his fellow rookies further behind an eight ball that the likes of Fitzgerald enjoyed shooting at the newbies.

"Without the OTAs and the minicamps, it really set a lot of the guys back," Van Dyke said. "But this year, it’s helped and I can’t wait to see how I play."

He's not the only one.

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D.J. Williams flunked second doping test, court documents say

Denver Broncos linebacker D.J. Williams — who is facing a six-game suspension for a failed performance-enhancing drug test — also flunked a second test a month later, according to documents filed in his court case challenging the suspension.

Williams also was involved in an incident during a third test in which a bottle fell from his waist area while he was providing a urine sample, according to the documents.

The information adds broader context to Williams’ suspension, which the linebacker is currently appealing to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver. Last month, when a federal judge rejected Williams’ request to overturn the suspension, she sided with the National Football League’s argument that “subsequent incidents demonstrated [Williams'] ‘common scheme or plan’ to manipulate tests.”

But Williams’ attorney says the details also provide further examples of the NFL’s slapdash prosecution of the case. Peter Ginsberg, Williams’ attorney, said the NFL never pursued disciplinary action against Williams for the second test. And, he said, both Williams and a Broncos trainer refuted the suggestion that the bottle incident was anything fishy.

“This other allegation unfortunately reflects the irresponsible way the NFL is going about its business these days,” Ginsberg said this week. “The NFL made the suggestion but offered no evidence, refused to present anyone involved in either this specimen collection process or the testing of that specimen and simply made an allegation that has made its way into the evidentiary record and the media.”

“It’s the wrong way to go about addressing a serious matter.”

For those unfamiliar with the case, let’s start at the beginning.

Last August, Williams provided a urine sample to an NFL-approved drug tester. According to a February letter rejecting Williams’ first appeal of his suspension, that sample was divided in two. One half was sent off for testing for performance-enhancing substances. The other half was sent off to be tested as part of the NFL’s “substances of abuse” program. Williams, according to the letter, was at an “intervention stage” of the program and, thus, subject to random testing.

According to the letter, Williams didn’t know the urine sample would be used for testing in both programs.

When the sample was analyzed for performance-enhancing drugs, testers flagged it because, as one toxicologist later wrote in an e-mail (see page 96 of this court exhibit), “The specimen does not contain any endogenous steroids. The profile is not consistent with a normal, healthy male urine specimen.”

As the February letter explains, endogenous steroids are naturally produced by the body and found in human urine. Their absence in the sample caused testers to conclude that Williams had provided non-human urine. The distinction wouldn’t have been made in a “substances of abuse” test because such tests do not look for endogenous steroids. Instead, the “substances of abuse” test would likely report a negative result for drugs.
(Side note: There is a semi-underground industry devoted to producing synthetic urine that can be used to beat drug tests. The court documents do not make clear whether Williams is accused of using these products.)

(Second side note: Up to this point, the sequence of events is nearly identical to that of former-Bronco Ryan McBean, who initially joined Williams in challenging his suspension but later dropped his half of the lawsuit and agreed to a reduced suspension.)

As the investigation of the August test continued, Williams provided a urine sample in September for another test. In that test, too, toxicologists concluded the sample was not human urine. (This is referenced in the February letter, as well as the NFL’s motion for summary judgment in the subsequent court case.)

Then, during a test in November, one specimen collector said he saw Williams appear to drop a bottle during the test. As detailed in the February letter, Williams then appeared to kick the bottle toward his locker. Because the collectors were not allowed to enter the locker room, one went to ask a trainer to retrieve the bottle, according to the letter.

Williams and head trainer Steve Antonopulos later returned with a brown bottle. Antonopulos said he saw Williams take the bottle from his locker and give it to the collectors. One collector — who was new to the job — said the bottle he saw fall from Williams’ waist area was opaque and clear-colored.

“My only reaction was just that that wasn’t the bottle that I had saw,” the collector testified, according to the February letter.

Williams said the bottle contained something legal that he used for energy and said it fell from his pocket during the test, according to the February letter. He said he accidentally kicked the bottle when turning to hand the collector his urine sample — he didn’t intentionally kick it.

“The evidence is clear,” hearing officer Harold Henderson wrote in the February letter, “that Williams was involved in three separate incidents of attempted substitution of a specimen.”

Ginsberg, though, has blasted the NFL’s collection and testing procedures. In the lawsuit — filed in March after administrative options ran out — Ginsberg argued that Williams had never failed a test before and said the NFL’s chain-of-custody policies are so shoddy that it is impossible to tell whether the sample tested was actually Williams’. He argued that there is conflicting information about who signed for the FedEx shipment containing Williams’ sample and when that shipment arrived.

Ginsberg said Henderson was a biased arbiter because, not only is he a longtime NFL league-office employee, but also he had improper communications about the case with another NFL executive.

Ginsberg also noted that the specimen collector who handled the August test has since been fired. Ginsberg said this week that the collector was fired for failing to follow the verification and security procedures for test samples. The February letter said he was fired, “based on the samples [he] collected which were found by the laboratory not to be consistent with human urine.”

Likely the last chance Williams has to avoid suspension before the NFL season begins rests with the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. Williams has requested a sped-up timeline for that appeal, and his attorneys have already filed a 57-page brief summarizing their arguments. A response from the NFL is due by the end of the month, but the case has not yet been set for argument.

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Ray Lewis in England to inspire London Warriors ahead of big game

Seventy-eight percent of former NFL players are bankrupt or facing serious financial difficulties two years after their football careers end. When Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis finally hangs it up, he will not be a statistic. That's because one of the best linebackers in the history of the game also has a knack for motivational speaking.

Lewis is the unquestioned inspirational leader of the Ravens, where he's been a fixture since 1996. But he's graciously shared his talents -- and his message -- to others during the NFL offseason. A few months back, in the middle of March Madness (the NIT version, but still), Lewis made a guest appearance in the Stanford Cardinal locker room to deliver a pep talk to the men's basketball team.

Apparently, it took because Stanford went out and beat UMass by 10 points. (Note to Johnny Dawkins: next time invite Lewis back at the beginning of the season.)

And this week, Lewis took his oratory skills to Great Britain. Specifically: London for a three-day minicamp with the London Warriors of the BAFA National Leagues in advance of their epic clash (or so we've been told) with the London Blitz (reigning champs!) this weekend.

"The Warriors, keen to do the double against their cross town rivals have scored a major coup in getting Lewis to train with them," Jonathan Little wrote on the league's website. "This follows after Sussex Thunder trained with Oklahoma Sooners Linebacker Tom Wort in the offseason. Will the presence of the Super Bowl XXXV MVP this week lead the Warriors to victory and a title Sunday?"

Lewis was so moved by a letter he received from the Warriors that he crossed the Atlantic to take part in the minicamp. Below, in an interview with, Lewis explains why he accepted the offer. Bonus: Warriors player Kendrick Tackle-Berry Agu posted one of Lewis' pep talks to Facebook. It's not delivered with quite the intensity of this spring's Stanford pregame chat but maybe Lewis is saving that for the weekend.

(We're secretly hoping the Warriors bust out the Ray-Rey shuffle prior to kickoff. Because nothing conveys the message "we're clearly insanse and are willing to do anything to win" like grown men rubbing grass all over themselves while dancing.)

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NFL files grievance with union over Jonathan Vilma suit

The NFL has filed a grievance with the NFL Players Association, requesting that Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma withdraw his defamation suit against Commissioner Roger Goodell.

Vilma is suing Goodell in federal court for defamation relating to Goodell's suspension of Vilma and other players in the Saints' 'bounty' program. The NFL Management Council contends -- in a letter dated July 3 and reported Wednesday by the Times-Picayune -- that Vilma's suit violates the league's collective bargaining agreement, which has a clause preventing players from suing the NFL or any club.

"Clearly, League Discipline, and the Commissioner's responsibility for upholding that Policy, is 'conduct permitted by the CBA' and under the NFL's Constitution and Bylaws. Because all challenged communication occurred in furtherance of the Commissioner's responsibility, such conduct falls squarely within the protections of Article 3's no-suit provision," the letter says.

Vilma, who separately is seeking an injunction that would prevent his season-long suspension from taking effect, responded to the NFL's action with the following tweet on Wednesday:

“The nfl sent me a letter "demanding" I drop my defamation suit or or else wat?!?? They no likey me lawsuitey”

Vilma's counsel, Peter Ginsberg, responded sharply Wednesday in a letter also obtained by the Times-Picayune, insisting that the CBA does not prevent his client from suing Goodell, and not the league or a team, for statements and not official actions as commissioner.

"Neither the NFL nor any NFL Club is a party to Mr. Vilma's lawsuit," Ginsberg says in the letter. "Mr. Goodell is the defendant in the action at issue."
Ginsberg also complained that the league failed to provide notice of the grievance to Vilma individually instead of just through the NFLPA.

Goodell filed a motion last week to dismiss Vilma's defamation lawsuit, and an Aug. 1 hearing was set in the Eastern District Court of Louisiana.

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Ed Reed says holdouts necessary

Ray Lewis had this to say last month about Ed Reed, his longtime Baltimore Ravens teammate:

"Ed is Ed, and when July 25 (training camp) comes up, Ed will be here and we'll be getting ready to roll."

In an interview with WJZ-FM radio in Baltimore on Wednesday, Reed painted the picture of a player who might not be as "ready to roll" as one might think.

"The only way a player gets what he wants is by holding out," Reed said, via the Carroll County Times.

Reed, 33, is set to complete the final year of a six-year, $40 million contract that he signed in 2006. He's due a $7.2 million base salary this season and is already in line to be docked $70,000 for sitting out mandatory minicamp.

"This is not about money," Reed said. "This is a business. There's two sides to every business."

Reed said he's "good with staying in Baltimore" and added this gem for critics who believe he should take the $7.2 million and play out the deal he agreed to: "Babies whine, I'm a grown-ass man."

Fair enough. One potential sticking point here: Reed has no agent. He fired Eugene Mato after his last deal was negotiated and never replaced him. You'd think it'd be a good idea to secure new representation, but perhaps this is a matter Reed believes he can resolve without forking over the 10 percent.

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Can Sam Shields Bounce Back From His Sophomore Slump?

Every year at Packers camp, there are always players who surprise and make a run to the 53-man roster. In 2010 training camp, that player was cornerback Sam Shields, a converted wide receiver who flashed great speed in coverage that allowed him to not only make the roster, but place him as the nickel corner behind Tramon Williams and Charles Woodson.

His playmaking potential and abilities in 2010, like the key interception against the Chicago Bears in the NFC Championship game, is what made the Packers see that he belonged on the roster, and deserving of his position among the Packers' secondary. 

But, after a rocky sophomore campaign, in which he struggled to make proper tackles and broke down in coverage, Shields will have to work to keep his spot on the roster, after the improvement by second year corner Davon House , not to mention the Packers drafted corner Casey Hayward out of Vanderbilt in the second round.

And with Charles Woodson's advancing age and the status of Williams' shoulder, Shields may be counted upon more than ever, but unless he can get back to his 2010 coverage form and improve his tackling ability, he may find himself passed in favor of House or Hayward, who have both received praises by the coaching staff for their progress. 

The Packers are re-tooling their 32nd-ranked defense, which gave up horrendous amounts of yards through the air, and the veterans are getting plenty of attention and challenge from the coaching staff to step their games up. With players like Nick Perry and Jerel Worthy already working with the first-team defensive units, Shields had better be careful that not only House, but Hayward as well, don't push him out of his nickel back position.

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Weeks before training camp, Bryant McKinnie is shedding pounds

Ravens offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie is so big that he describes his weight in just two digits. The “300” is assumed.
McKinnie is still squarely in the 300s, but he says he’s been working to cut his weight in the offseason. The offensive tackle told Tim Brando on Yahoo! Sports Radio on Wednesday that his weight is down to 350 pounds.

That’s down from what he claims was a high of 386 pounds when he played for the Vikings and down 10 pounds from a reported weight of 360 after voluntary workouts.

“Once you just be consistent and keep doing it, you start feeling better and better each day every time you go out and do it,” McKinnie said. “Add in the healthy meals and stuff, it definitely makes it a lot better because you’re putting good fuel into your body.”

The Ravens signed McKinnie before the 2011 season after the Vikings cut him. Minnesota claimed McKinnie weighed 400 pounds at the time, but McKinnie denied that claim on Wednesday.

“I never was,” McKinnie said. “That was exaggerated by the Vikings.”

McKinnie has never missed a game because of injury in his 10-year career, and joked that he is the most durable player on the field. But his weight began raising eyebrows within the organization and elsewhere, and he said the Ravens wanted him to shed weight so he could be fresh later in games.

“[The Ravens wanted me] to be able to still have that conditioning to get through that fourth quarter, still play at a high level in the fourth quarter as well,” McKinnie said.

 Ravens teammates have been supportive of McKinnie’s efforts to slim down. McKinnie recently posted a photograph of a gift from Ray Lewis. The linebacker bought McKinnie a juicer.

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Ed Reed is starting to get the hang of Twitter

Ed Reed is starting to get the hang of Twitter, and the Ravens free safety continues to use the social media site to speak out on his contract status, which now is clearly the reason for his absence from mandatory minicamp.

Reed didn't have any activity on Twitter from April 11 to June 29. But in the past two weeks, he has Tweeted more than a dozen times. One of those Tweets is being scrutinized by local and national media. That has drawn the ire of Reed, who is unhappy with all the media attention. But fans want to know if Reed is going to show up at training camp in two weeks, which is why reporters like me are trying to decode his not-so-cryptic Tweets.

Saturday @ 6:14 p.m.: “Back home with my son, he's riding his bike an I'm doing yard work! Tell the bosses I'm comfortable!”

Monday @ 5:20 p.m.: “We tweet about our camps with kids throughout offseason why That never makes espn,  etc... This probably won't get a RT”

Monday @ 5:23 p.m.: “Build people up, not tear them down.”

Monday @ 5:25 p.m.: “Players that have2be smart business men,in a business that don't care an inch about them though we grind for that inch-notalwaysrightbutreal”

Monday @ 5:35 p.m. (this was him re-Tweeting a fan named @FaithDeller): “The media only picks out the negative. Controversy is what they hunt out. Haters gonna hate. Just gotta rise above it.”

Tuesday @ 3:16 p.m.: “Y'all believe money really make a difference to the families that lost love1's bc of football? Some people just want us to entertain them!”

Tuesday @ 3:35 p.m.: “$,it matters that's y it's a busines w/ two sides to it and the players r wrong, but we on the field and getting RELEASE at any point”

Tuesday @ 3:39 p.m.: “Anyone I'm tweeting workout today in this weather?If you didn't stop wasting my time man, if u not motivating ur tearing down that'snotright”

Tuesday @ 4:17 p.m.: “Im out of here peeps you all have a bless day! 20 Pick”

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Devin Hester Answers Questions About His Body

1. Which part of your body do you like the most and why?
Devin Hester, Chicago Bears wide receiver: (Laughs.) I don't even know how to answer that question. I like my legs, but they're skinny. Because I'm fast, I'd say my legs are the best part of my body.

2. Is there a part of your body you wish were bigger or smaller?
Hester: I'd say my calves. I wish my calves were bigger. I don't know, it just makes you look fast to have big calves.

3. What one exercise or drill do you dread the most?
Hester: Probably leg exercises. That's probably why they're skinny. Nothing's wrong with them, though. So if it ain't broke, don't fix it, right?

4. Athletes in what sport, other than your own, have the best bodies?
Hester: C'mon, bro, I can't answer these questions, man. Oh, wait a minute: women's volleyball. No, scratch that, women's track. They've got the best bodies.

5. Fill in the blank: I feel strongest when I'm ...
Hester: I feel strongest when I'm fresh, when my body's fresh and feeling good.

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Is Bryant McKinnie's Roster Spot In Danger

When Ravens offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie received a $500,000 roster bonus in March, it seemed to indicate that the Ravens were willing to go another season with their returning left tackle.

Then McKinnie was held out of minicamp for conditioning purposes, leading to widespread speculation that the offensive tackle was having trouble getting his weight down. That was a major reason McKinnie was released by the Vikings last August, which ultimately led to his job with the Ravens.

The speculation continues, with’s Brian McIntyre saying McKinnie could be a salary cap casualty.

“The Ravens have options at the position,” McIntyre writes, “and if the soon-to-be 33-year-old looks more like a planet than a left tackle when he reports to training camp, his $3.2 million base salary could make him expendable.”

Ravens coach John Harbaugh was vague on the subject when asked about during minicamp.

“That’s something that is an in-house type of thing right now,” he said. “Bryant [McKinnie] has done a good job, he’s worked hard. It’s not as simple as some of you guys want to make it. It’s just a situation where we are going to do what is best for the team, what is best for Bryant. We want him here; there’s no reason he wouldn’t be here.”

There was speculation that McKinnie, listed at 6-foot-8 and 360 pounds on the Ravens roster, was pushing 400 pounds. McKinnie denied that in an interview on WNST Radio in June, saying he left Owings Mills last month weighing 354 and was hoping to play at about 345 this season.

The Ravens do have a few options, but are they better than a 10-year veteran? For all the talk about McKinnie’s conditioning, he has started all 16 games in eight of the past nine years. The only games he missed in that span were while serving a four-game suspension in 2008 for violating the league’s personal conduct policy.

Assuming for a moment McKinnie is out of the picture, does Michael Oher move back to left tackle? If so, who takes over at right tackle? Jah Reid? Rookie Kelechi Osemele?

The Ravens could also look to the waiver wire after training camps begin and veterans are cut. That, after all, is how McKinnie ended up with the Ravens last season.

It is true that, especially if the Ravens don’t work out new deals with Ray Rice or Joe Flacco, they have very little cap room. To make any moves, they would need to create space. Translation: Someone would need to go.

Until McKinnie takes the field and shows he’s capable of running with the offense, the speculation that could be McKinnie is likely to continue.

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Authorities: Devin Hester's cousin suspected in murder

The Broward County Sheriff's Office in Florida was searching for the cousin of Chicago Bears wide receiver Devin Hester on Tuesday in connection with a fatal shooting that took place on the Fourth of July.

Antoinne Robert Hester was wanted in connection with the shooting of Bevins Bennett. Hester, 22, is suspected of shooting Bennett while both of them were in an automobile together. Bennett died on Saturday.

There were conflicting reports initially as to whether Antoinne was Devin Hester's brother, but and NFL Network confirmed Tuesday that they are cousins. The Broward County Sheriff's Office confirmed separately to ESPNChicago that officials have been in contact with the family of Antoinne Hester, including Devin. The family has cooperated fully with the investigation.

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Tim George Jr. makes first CWTS start at Iowa

This weekend's 200-lap affair will mark Tim George Jr.'s first Camping World Truck Series race at Iowa Speedway.

Although he has yet to make any competitive laps at the 0.875-mile track in the Truck Series, he has made two ARCA Racing Series starts,completing 98.8 percent of the contested laps (395 of 400) and holds a 17th-place average starting position combined with an average finish position of 15.5. George's best finish at Iowa Speedway came in the ARCA Racing Series race last July when he finished 12th after starting 15th.-Richard Childress Racing

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Ryan Braun admits he feels vindicated by All-Star selection

Milwaukee Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun suffered through an offseason during which he tried to clear his name of any performance-enhancing drug wrongdoing, even after his successful appeal of a 50-game suspension for a positive test. And he admits a big first half that resulted in his All-Star selection has provided some vindication.

"Yeah, absolutely, honestly, of course. At least a little bit," Braun told reporters, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Added Braun: “People have been very supportive. I said from the very beginning that the single best thing I could do to move on was to have success, go out there and do the same things I've done on the field. I think this is actually the best first half I've had in my six years I've been in the major leagues. The goal is to continue to do those things. As long as I continue to do that, that's the best thing I can do to move on.”

Braun is hitting .306 and leads the NL with 24 homers, is second in the league with 61 RBIs and ranks fifth with a .990 OPS. At the midpoint last season, he was hitting .320 with 16 homers, 62 RBIs and a .961 OPS.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel notes Braun was selected by the players to participate in this year’s All-Star Game, after having been voted by the fans to start in his previous four All-Star appearances.

That support from his peers has been especially gratifying to Braun.

"The players have been incredibly supportive, they really have," Braun told the newspaper. "I have a lot of good friends in this league, a lot of guys that truly have supported me. I've said when you deal with adversity, you see who your true friends are. There have been a lot of guys in this league who have been really supportive of me throughout my career and everything I went through. So, I truly appreciate it."

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Video: proCane Rookie Peter O'Brien singles off of Nic Hanson

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Ryan Braun has big night to help National League rout AL 8-0 in All-Star game

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Ryan Braun was back in the spotlight at the All-Star game. And this time, it was for what happened on the field.

The Milwaukee Brewers’ slugger was in the middle of everything early on for the National League, driving in the first run and playing solid defense in an 8-0 victory against the American League on Tuesday night.

Braun, last year’s NL MVP, spent much of the offseason defending himself after testing positive for a banned substance. He got his 50-game suspension overturned in February and has gone back to being one of the best players in the game.

At the All-Star game, he showed it.

The NL won its third straight All-Star game, with retired manager Tony La Russa, who led the Cardinals to an improbable World Series title last year, pulling the strings.

“If you’re trying to win one game, there’s not a better manager out there,” Braun said. “It’s only fitting that he went out with a win.”

Batting third, Braun jump-started a five-run first off Justin Verlander with an RBI double that drove in the first run. He added the NL’s All-Star game-record third triple in a three-run fourth.

He chipped in with a pair of nice defensive plays in left field, too, tracking down Josh Hamilton’s drive at the wall in the first and then snaring a liner by Prince Fielder to end the fourth.

Only Jose Bautista’s sliding catch of a looper to right denied Braun a third hit.

Braun leads the National League with 24 homers and is among the leaders with 61 RBIs. He skipped the Home Run Derby, saving his cuts for when it counted for his league.

News leaked in December that Braun had tested positive for a banned substance with a urine sample he provided after an Oct. 1 playoff game showing a high level of testosterone. He maintained his innocence, and became the first major leaguer to have a drug suspension overturned.

Braun’s lone appearance in the home run derby came in 2008 at Yankee Stadium. He said he avoided the 2012 contest because it was too much of a pressurized environment.

He ticked off the reasons why not to swing before the game. The setting is unfamiliar, there’s no batting cage, cameras are stationed all over the field and a packed house has its eyes fixed on in anticipation you’ll muscle up on a practice cut.

Braun had said the home run hitting contest was just about as nervous as he’d ever been on a baseball diamond.

At ease in the All-Star game, Braun was at his best.

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Chris Perez thinks team needs to win Central Division

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - The addition of a second wild card this season will spell salvation for two teams come September. All-Star closer Chris Perez doesn't think the Indians can count on that.

"We're going to have to win the Central," said Perez Monday to a swarm of reporters around his podium at the American League interview session. "The second wild card is coming out of the AL East. That's the superior division in our league."

At the All-Star break, the Indians are 44-41 and in second place in the AL Central. They trail Chicago by three games with Detroit lurking in third place, a half-game out of second.

If the season ended today, the two AL wild card teams would be the Angels and Orioles. The Indians would miss the second wild card by one game.

"We've been in a dogfight all year," said Perez. "Now it's a three-team race."

Detroit was the preseason pick to win the Central. They paired newly signed Prince Fielder with Miguel Cabrera to lead the offense and had Justin Verlander, the AL's Cy Young winner in 2011, to lead the pitching staff.

The Tigers have had a hard time getting out of their own way through much of the first half. The Indians and White Sox gladly filled the void, trading first place in the division for the first 31/2 months of the season.

"For sure, we can catch them," said shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera, the Indians' other All-Star. "I believe in my team. We just have to keep doing what we're doing and be more consistent."

The White Sox under General Manager Ken Williams and rookie manager Robin Ventura had a good first half. They went into the break with eight rookie pitchers on their staff. Lefty Matt Thornton was the only veteran in the bullpen.

All-Star left-hander Chris Sale is not a rookie, but he had a lot to do with the White Sox's rise in the first half. Sale, in his first year in the rotation, could have easily started for the AL tonight against San Francisco's Matt Cain after going 10-2 with a 2.19 ERA. AL manager Ron Washington went with Verlander (9-5, 2.58), though Sale had the better numbers.

"At the start of the season, some people might have said you're crazy if you said we'd be sitting where we are at the All-Star break," said Sale, "but we're not surprised at all. . . . We're going to try and do the same thing in the second half."

The White Sox, who won 11 of their past 15 games going into the break, are 8-4 against the Indians this year. The two teams do not meet again until September when they play six times in the final 10 games of the regular season.

Sale, Adam Dunn, Paul Konerko and Jake Peavy are representing the White Sox at the All-Star Game.

"I don't think we're playing over our heads at all," said Dunn. "We had a lot of guys do a lot of great things in the first half, but myself included, I think we're capable of doing way more. I can get on base more. I can drive in more runs."

Dunn has always been an all-or-nothing hitter. Last year in Chicago, he was just nothing. This year he's hitting .208 (61-for-293) with 21 homers and 61 RBI. He leads the big leagues with 68 walks and 134 strikeouts.

Asked what this year's first half meant to him, Dunn said, "To be honest with you, it means nothing. I know it sounds crazy. I'm looking forward to the second half. There are a lot of things I need to clean up. Hopefully, I can have a better second half than first."

The White Sox beat the Tribe to Kevin Youkilis. They acquired the veteran third baseman from Boston and he has driven in 14 runs in 13 games. The Indians could have used his right-handed bat to balance their left-handed dominated lineup.

GM Chris Antonetti is still looking for help from the outside. It was suggested to Perez that the Indians could use another starting pitcher.

"We did it last year and it didn't work when we traded for Ubaldo [Jimenez]," said Perez. "I like what we have in-house, we just haven't played up to our potential. Justin Masterson is starting to get better. Ubaldo is throwing the ball better. Josh Tomlin had a nice start his last time out. Zach McAllister has really impressed me.

"We need to just keep being consistent."

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Ray Lewis as a Steeler? Nobody could see it

Steve Nash is going to play for the Los Angeles Lakers next season following a blockbuster deal this week. Nash’s trade to the Lakers comes months after Peyton Manning signed a deal with the Denver Broncos. But Nash’s deal is much more striking, considering nobody ever thought they’d see the day when Nash would call longtime Lakers rival Kobe Bryant a teammate.

So with that in mind, we turned to Twitter on #talkaboutit Friday and asked you to select one NFL legend and a “no way” team for him to finish with, similar to Nash and the Los Angeles Lakers.

The most-mentioned player was Ray Lewis on the Pittsburgh Steelers. Far and away. Nobody can imagine that scenario ever playing out.

Another oft-mentioned one was Tom Brady on the New York Jets. And the Buffalo Bills. And the Indianapolis Colts. And the Oakland Raiders. (But to be honest, don’t rule out Brady finishing with the Raiders. The “Tuck Rule” has been put into the distant past, plus he’s from the area.)

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Ed Reed: 'Tell the bosses I'm comfortable!'

Will Ed Reed show up at Ravens training camp at the end of the month? The Pro Bowl free safety gave us another tea leaf to read Saturday evening when he sent this message to his “bosses” via his Twitter account.

“Back home with my son, he's riding his bike [and] I'm doing yard work! Tell the bosses I'm comfortable!”

Though Reed was clearly trying to catch the Ravens’ attention with the Tweet, I would caution against reading too much into one Tweet. Why do I say that? Because it’s Reed. I would caution against reading too much into anything Reed says, at least when it comes to his playing status. And that’s not meant to disrespect Reed; it's just that his actions have always spoken louder than his words.

That’s why Ray Lewis said he expects Reed to be at camp.

"I talk to him all the time. I don't expect nothing different," the inside linebacker said when Reed skipped the team's mandatory minicamp last month. "Ed is Ed and when July 25th comes up, Ed will be here and we'll be getting ready to roll."

Reed will host his annual football camp next week at Stevenson University, so we should get an update from him then about whether he is 100 percent committed to playing. He will make $7.2 million in 2012, the final year of his deal. Reed has mostly danced around questions about his contract -- instead saying he just wants respect -- though he did say three months ago that he was open to discussing an extension to “help the team.”

But at this point, nearly three months removed from the start of free agency, the best way he can help the team is by simply showing up at training camp. Few, if any, players can match Reed’s range and intelligence in the secondary, but the Ravens don’t appear to have a starting-caliber player behind him on the depth chart.

Sean Considine, whom the Ravens signed this offseason to bolster their special teams, has started 28 games in the NFL, but only five were at free safety. Fourth-round draft pick Christian Thompson is unproven, as is third-year player Emanuel Cook.

In other words, Reed might be comfortable, but his bosses will be quite the opposite if he doesn’t show up to play ball this summer.


Update (5:30 p.m.) -- Reed Tweeted the following after his Tweet over the weekend became blog fodder here and on national NFL blogs such as Pro Football Talk and NFL's Around the League:

"Players that have [to] be smart business men,in a business that don't care an inch about them though we grind for that inch [not always right but real]."

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Calais Campbell gettin ready for 2012 season

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Jon Vilma lawsuit asks for quick appeal ruling

NEW ORLEANS -- Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma is suing the NFL in federal court, claiming Commissioner Roger Goodell failed to make a timely appeal ruling regarding Vilma's season-long suspension in connection with the league's bounty investigation.

The lawsuit filed Saturday night in U.S. District Court in New Orleans also asks for a temporary restraining order to allow Vilma to continue working if Goodell upholds the suspension.

The suit contends Goodell has undermined "the integrity of the NFL and the Commissioner's office" by handing down punishments to Vilma and others based on evidence that is either flawed or cannot be substantiated.

It is the second lawsuit Vilma has filed in the matter. The first, filed in May and also in federal court in New Orleans, seeks unspecified damages from Goodell for defamation of character.

In his latest filing, Vilma claims that the NFL's collective bargaining agreement required Goodell to rule as soon as was practical following a June 18 appeal hearing. Because players, in protest, declined to present new evidence or argue their case in the hearing, Goodell should have been able to rule by June 25, the first business day after the record was closed in the matter, the lawsuit argues.

"We have not yet had an opportunity to review Mr. Vilma's improper effort to litigate a matter that is committed to a collectively bargained process," NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said. "There is no basis for asking a federal court to substitute its judgment for the procedures agreed upon by the NFL and NFLPA, procedures that have been in place, and have served the game well, for decades."

In his latest attack on the NFL's handling of the bounty probe, Vilma contends punished players have only been able to see less than 1 percent of 50,000 pages of documents the league said it has compiled. His suit also claims that the few key pieces of evidence the league shared are flawed, including printed reproductions of handwritten notes.

"The NFL's alteration of other documents evidences that the NFL cannot substantiate the suspension, and undermines the integrity of the process," Vilma's lawsuit states.

The lawsuit seeks to discredit a key piece of evidence outlining bounty pledges from before the NFC championship game against Minnesota in January 2010, and also takes aim at fired assistant coach Mike Cerullo, who, according to Vilma, produced the document for the league.

Cerullo had a vendetta against the Saints after his firing following the 2009 season, and resented that the Super Bowl ring he received had been made with imitation (cubic zirconia) diamonds, the lawsuit contends.

The lawsuit claims Cerullo created the document "well after the 2009 NFC Championship game and in an effort to gain revenge against the Saints."

The suit further contends that a "close associate" of Cerullo has confirmed that Cerullo retracted his previous claims about the bounty program "in a communication directly with Goodell that occurred in April 2012."

The lawsuit notes that Goodell has not shared notes from interviews with Cerullo. Goodell also did not produce Cerullo as a witness at the appeal hearing or acknowledge Cerullo's retraction.

However, Aiello has denied that key witnesses in the bounty probe have retracted statements.

Aiello also has said the NFL has not issued any gag orders. Vilma's latest lawsuit, however, claims the NFL has ordered suspended former Saints defensive coordinator Greg Williams not to speak with suspended Saints players, coaches or officials as a condition for his reinstatement.

The NFL has said that Williams, who is suspended indefinitely, organized a bounty system that offered cash for hits that injured opponents, and which ran during his three seasons as defensive coordinator in New Orleans from 2009-11.

A close friend and associate of Williams, who was present for at least one discussion Williams had with Goodell, contends Williams never acknowledged the existence of a bounty program, Vilma's lawsuit said.

Williams' associate also contends that Williams has no information corroborating NFL findings that Vilma offered a $10,000 bounty for knocking quarterbacks Kurt Warner or Brett Favre out of 2009-10 playoff games.

The same associate confirmed that Goodell ordered Williams not to speak about the bounty matter with other punished individuals, the lawsuit said.

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A conversation with Sacramento Kings guard John Salmons

As soon as the belated NBA season finally starts on Christmas Day, it will also be the official start of John Salmons’ 10th season. Salmons has been well traveled, spending time in Philadelphia, Chicago, Milwaukee and now back in Sacramento where he played from 2006 to 2009.

But no matter where Salmons lands, the committed family man has a few key things in mind–stay on the right track, set a good example for his children and do both of those things by following the Holy Spirit’s lead. Here’s what he had to say about those personal goals plus more about his upbringing in Philadelphia and his spiritual journey:

Chad Bonham: Tell me about growing up in Philadelphia.
John Salmons: Philly’s a tough town. You can be really tested growing up in Philly. It helped me deal with adversity and some of the other things you deal with in the NBA. It makes you a tougher person.

Bonham: How did you become a Christian?
Salmons: For whatever reason, I always felt a connection in my spiritual life. In high school, I went to church. I read my Bible. I didn’t always understand what I was reading. But when I got to college, our team chaplain helped me with my growth the most. Those four years, I became not necessarily a mature Christian but I got to a point where I knew who I was. Being in Miami, there were a lot of temptations, so it was a great testimony.

Bonham: How important was it as a young player in Philadelphia for you to have spiritual support from teammates like Kyle Korver, Kevin Ollie and Monty Williams?
Salmons: Having those guys around was big. I went through a lot of adversity early in my career. Those guys helped me keep my faith. It would have been easy to turn my back on God. But they were right there with me. They helped me stay focused and they helped me mature as Christian.

Bonham: How do you stay spiritually grounded?
Salmons: I try to be led by the Holy Spirit and remember who I am in Christ. I know that I’m here because of God. It’s about keeping that first, keeping God first. With our schedule, it’s hard for us to get to church on Sundays. As many games as we have, 15 minutes isn’t a lot, but chapel helps us stay focused on what’s really important.

Bonham: How does having two children inspire you to maintain your Christian witness?
Salmons: It’s the same thing on and off the court when it comes to my kids. I feel like the most important thing is growing them up in Christ. That’s the most important thing I can do as a parent. I need to be an example on and off the court. I just try to live the right way the best I can. I make plenty of mistakes but I just try to do the best I can and be a great example for my kids.

Bonham: Is it difficult to balance family with the rigors of NBA travel?
Salmons: It’s not easy at all, but that’s just life. I try to leave it in Christ’s hands and trust that He knows the situation. He knows the position I’m in. He wouldn’t have put me in this position if I couldn’t handle it. That’s what keeps me going, knowing that He’s right there. I can call on Him whenever.

Bonham: Is all the talk about the vast temptations that accompany the NBA lifestyle overhyped or is it fairly accurate?
Salmons: It’s not overhyped. The hype is true. It’s just something you’ve got to deal with. For me, I just don’t put myself in those situations and try to stay away from it.

Bonham: Does playing under a sizeable contract put more pressure on you to perform at a high level?
Salmons: I don’t think its pressure. For me, it’s always Christ first and playing the right way for Christ. If I do that, everything else will take care of itself. When I stay focused on that, there’s no pressure to worry about.

Bonham: What spiritual truth do you rely on daily?
Salmons: Keeping God first. If you do that, if you just focus on God and keeping Him first, then everything else will just take care of itself. Do everything for Him.

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Ryan Braun in LF, batting 3rd in All-Star Game

Kansas City -- The Brewers' Ryan Braun will play his natural position of left field and also bat in his regular No. 3 spot for the National League in the All-Star Game Tuesday night at Kauffman Stadium.

Braun moved into the starting outfield after Los Angeles' Matt Kemp pulled out with a hamstring injury. It will be his fifth consecutive all-star start.

San Francisco's Melky Cabrera, who has played more left field than center, will make the start in center, with St. Louis' Carlos Beltran in right field.

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Danny Valencia 'not happy' in minors, friend Chris Perez says

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- It was a year ago this month that Danny Valencia handed his good friend, Chris Perez, his second blown save of the 2011 season, lacing a bases-loaded single to score two runs in the ninth inning of a 2-1 walkoff victory over Cleveland at Target Field.

Perez, a former high school rival and University of Miami teammate, spent that night at Valencia's place as the two celebrated their major leagues trajectories. A year later, however, Perez is making his second All-Star Game appearance and Valencia is battling to get back to the major leagues, 55 games into a tuneup at Class AAA Rochester.

"It seems like he's in a good place," said Perez, who has converted 24 of 26 save opportunities for the Indians this season. "He's not happy, obviously. He's frustrated. But he's doing his work down there; he just needs an opportunity again.

"Unfortunately, what's-his-name's crushing the ball."

What's-his-name, of course, is Trevor Plouffe, who has taken hold of Valencia's old job. Since Valencia was optioned to Rochester in May, Plouffe is batting .280 with 18 home runs, nine doubles and 34 RBIs. And in a weekend series at Texas, he made half a dozen terrific plays at third, one of five positions he has played this season. In his past 29 games, though, Plouffe has been the team's third baseman.

Valencia hit .311 in 81 games as a rookie and led the team with 72 RBIs in his first full season in 2011, but he was hitting .190 with one homer and 11 RBIs when he was sent down.

With the Red Wings, he is batting .244 with seven homers, 11 doubles and 31 RBIs, and he drove in the winning run in a 1-0, eight-inning victory over Lehigh Valley in Sunday's doubleheader opener. If there is a glaring weakness in his numbers, it's in the walks -- just 11 in 224 plate appearances. His on-base percentage is only .281.

Perez said he talks to Valencia once a month and texts him frequently.

"His head seems to be in a good spot," Perez said.

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Good beginning for new Staten Island Yankee Peter O'Brien

The roads not taken could have pulled Peter O’Brien in a few different directions rather than the path he ended up on, which brought him here to Staten Island on Saturday morning.

A year ago this time, O’Brien was a third-round draft selection of the Colorado Rockies coming off his junior season at Bethune-Cookman. But by the fall O’Brien was neither a Rockie nor a BC Wildcat.

Instead, it was out of the University of Miami that the New York Yankees selected O’Brien in the second round of the June amateur draft — the 89th selection overall — and after a few games in the Gulf Coast League the catcher went right into Staten Island’s starting lineup the last two days.

In the Yanks’ 11-8 loss to the Williamsport Crosscutters Sunday at the Richmond County Bank Ballpark at St. George, O’Brien had a sixth-inning sac fly RBI that cut Staten Island’s early 10-run deficit down to three runs, followed by a ninth-inning single.

It was a rare enough move that O’Brien chose to forgo signing with the Rockies last summer, but he followed that up with his decision to transfer to Miami.

“I wanted to move back home and be with my family,” said O’Brien. “I wanted another year of college baseball.

“I don’t want to get into it too much. But it was great and it was a good decision and it was a lot of fun.”

O’Brien has chosen not to discuss publicly the reasons for his transfer, but Miami coach Jim Morris was only too happy to see a hometown kid he hadn’t recruited out of high school fall into his lap.

The only problem was waiting to see if O’Brien would be approved to play immediately, rather than sitting out a year as a transfer student. After an initial denial, his appeal was approved in January.

“I didn’t think too much about it,” said O’Brien. “I was positive with things. I kept working hard and doing everything as if I was getting ready for the first game of the season.

“Once I got approved it was a big weight lifted off my shoulders.”

O’Brien went on to lead the Hurricanes in hitting with a .340 batting average, slugging .626 with a .441 on-base percentage. He added 10 home runs and 40 RBI in 41 games.

He earned All-ACC honors even though his season was interrupted by a broken left wrist on April 15 after he was hit by a pitch against Virginia Tech. O’Brien missed the final 17 regular season games and the ACC tournament opener before returning to DH and play first base in the ACC and NCAA Tournaments.

The Yankee organization felt no need to rush O’Brien back from the wrist injury. He worked out in Florida and played four games for the GCL Yankees, hitting .357, before jumping up to the New York-Penn League.

“I went down to the Gulf Coast and got my wrist back into shape,” said O’Brien. “I hadn’t caught since April. I did a lot of drills and I caught a couple games down there and got back into the swing of things.”

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Chris Perez not afraid to be himself

KANSAS CITY — Former Springfield Cardinals closer Chris Perez arrived to the All-Star festivities on Monday sporting a long, flowing mane and Grizzly Adams beard, plus a penchant for speaking his mind on a Twitter account.

Make that, a big penchant for speaking his mind.

“I’ve always been like that. Now it’s just getting more play obviously. I’m a sound bite, I guess,” Perez joked during an interview with the News-Leader.

Perez last season became the first Springfield Cardinals alum to participate in an All-Star Game, and the Cleveland Indians closer could be called on again tonight for the American League, having converted the circuit’s third-most saves, 23.

But his opinion and personality have taken center stage almost more often, or so it seems. Now 27 and five years removed from Springfield, Perez has more than 48,000 followers on his Twitter account, @ChrisPerez54.

Then again, living on the edge was his modus operandi in Springfield in 2007, when he converted 27 consecutive saves after coughing up a winning home run in the second game of the season. Many nights, however, were more like high-wire acts.

“I was raw. Now, I’m not a totally different pitcher but I definitely am more refined. A lot more strikes, a lot more control,” Perez said. “You remember, I’d walk the bases loaded and strike out the side.”

Perez joked that he wonders now whether the Cardinals would have allowed his Twitter account in 2007, given the organization had strict rules: no-facial hair policy and players were required to wear their socks up to their knees throw-back style. He went the extra mile, often sporting a buzz cut.

Already this year, Perez has fired off comments about Indians fans not supporting the team enough, about anti-LeBron James sentiment in Cleveland and also has taken a dig at the Kansas City Royals.

Beyond that, he went on radio and implicated the St. Louis Cardinals in a recent pine tar-pitchers controversy, after baseball slapped Tampa Bay’s Joel Peralta with an eight-game suspension. Umpires discovered pine tar in Peralta’s glove.

As teammate and fellow all-star Asdrubal Cabrera said Monday, “He’s crazy.”

“But he’s a really good guy in the clubhouse,” Cabrera quickly added.

Perez is among 19 players off the 2007 Springfield club to reach the big leagues, and was one of the bigger names that season, given the right-hander was a 42nd round draft pick in 2006 out of the University of Miami. He had signed for a reported $800,000.

Pretty much, games were over after the starting pitcher exited on a team that fell two wins shy of the Texas League pennant. Perez, however, was promoted to Triple-A Memphis on July 31 that season.

“(Kyle) McClellan was the seventh, (Jason) Motte was the eighth and I was the ninth,” Perez said, listing three current big-leaguers who were the back end of Springfield’s bullpen during the heart of the 2007 season. “In Double-A, that was a pretty good bullpen.”

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Everybody hates Chris (Perez) in Kansas City

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Chris Perez will take his place along the first-base foul line along with the rest of the American League All-Star team tonight at Kauffman Stadium.

The Cleveland Indians closer is likely to be booed more than any of the 68 players on the two teams, and he is fine with that.

"I'm sure it's going to happen," Perez said Monday. "That's OK, though."

The 27-year-old with the bushy black hair and beard to match then broke into a grin.

"I'm with the American League," Perez said. "I'm with the home team this time and I hope the Kansas City fans realize we're all in this together."

Perez drew the ire of Kansas City fans on April 14 when he made fun of the Royals' marketing slogan "It's Our Time," on Twitter after the teams had two benches-clearing incidents that day in Kansas City. The Indians used the slogan "It's Tribe Time Now," for a number of seasons before switching to "What If?" this year.

Perez also got into a war of words with Royals outfielder Jarrod Dyson on May 29 after Perez struck out Dyson to end the game. Perez made the "I Can't See You" sign, popularized by World Wrestling Entertainment performer John Cena.

"I just don't get Kansas City using 'It's Our Time Now,' because they stole our slogan," Perez said. "What do they mean it's their time now? That's a front-office thing, a marketing department thing. It's not coming from their players."

When he isn't comparing marketing ideas in the AL Central, Perez continues to develop into one of the top closers in the major leagues. He converted 24 consecutive opportunities between blown saves on opening day and the final day of the first half.

With 24 saves, Perez is third in the AL behind Baltimore's Jim Johnson (26) and Tampa Bay's Fernando Rodney (25). Perez was fourth in the league with 36 last season.

Yet Perez has developed a reputation nationally more for his controversial comments than for pitching for an Indians team that is in second place in the AL Central, three games behind the Chicago White Sox. A member of the Indians media relations department stood near Perez for much of the 45-minute media availability with AL players on Monday.

"I say what I feel and I've always been that way," Perez said. "I'm not trying to cause trouble. When people ask questions, I answer them from the heart. That's how I've always been and how I always will be. I don't apologize for that because you should never have to apologize for being honest.

"I know there are players who (the media) already knows what they are going to say before the interview starts. I don't want to be like that. I want people to know how I feel."

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Judge Sapp: Hot Dog Cart Fiasco - Ep 5

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Damien Berry bulks up for backup job

Ravens rusher Damien Berry told the Carroll County Times that he stayed in Baltimore all offseason to improve his conditioning. As a result he's put on 12 pounds of muscle and hopes his new physique translates into becoming the backup running back job behind Ray Rice. Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron is encouraged by Berry's changes. 'He has gotten bigger, he has gotten stronger. You can tell that he has done a ton of work,' Cameron said. 'He has done a great job in our weight room. I just love his approach. He’s another guy that I think is going to shine when the pads come on because he is big, fast and physical. He likes football. It means a lot to him. I think we’ll be pleased. I think he is primed to have a great preseason, and then we’ll go from there.'

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Texans say they're still high on Brandon Harris

Secondary coach Vance Joseph insists CB Brandon Harris "is what we thought he was" when the Texans drafted him in last year's second round.
The 60th overall pick, Harris played just 28 snaps as a rookie. There were rumors he couldn't run downfield fast enough to contribute on kick and punt coverage. "He’s got great feet. He’s got great ball skills," Joseph insisted. "He needs to play. The minicamp really proved that if he has a chance to play, he can play well." Harris will open 2012 as no better than a dime back.

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The Ed Reed Questions Remain

One of the most popular topics of conversation this off-season has been Ed Reed, and what he might or might not do in 2012. 

Will he play for the Ravens? Will he be done? 

Here’s the answer: we don’t know.

And in the Internet-fueled we-need-to-know-right-now world that sports seems to be in right now, we might not know for some time.. Fans and critics are going to have to accept that. 

Reed put the following message on Twitter on Saturday: "Back home with my son he's riding his bike an I'm doing yard work! Tell the bosses I'm comfortable!"

What does that mean? Who knows?

Ray Lewis has said he thinks Reed will be back. Maybe Lewis is exactly right. But since Reed hasn’t said much, we just don’t know. 

Or he could say one thing and switch up and go do another. 

There’s just no real way to know and worrying about it is a waste of time. 

The Ravens and the fans are going to have to wait to see what happens at training camp, and even if this issue remains alive then. He’s in the final year of a contract, something that’s got to be an issue somewhere. He wants something bigger, which is understandable. 

Reed kind of does things his own way. And that’s just fine. He just doesn’t want to say anything yet. Maybe he wants to make the Ravens nervous in the hopes that this would help him get a new deal. Maybe he’s just trying to be tough. Maybe he just really hasn’t decided yet.

Who knows? 

In the end, the Ravens will adjust to whatever happens. They’ve got some very solid defensive backs that are going to continue to make life tough for opposing passing games. 

But if they lose Reed this season – after already having to go without Terrell Suggs for a large portion – that’s going to be tough. 

We’ll just have to wait and see what happens.

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Vince Wilfork anchors deep group of Patriots defensive linemen

It’s time to head to the other side of the ball. After running through five days of offensive positions, let’s switch it up and head to the defense. Now, let’s analyze the guys in the trenches.

Through July 12, The Blitz will highlight one position per day on the Patriots’ roster. The morning post will be a strict breakdown, and the afternoon post will highlight the position’s superlatives. Today’s edition focuses on the defensive linemen.

Defensive linemen on roster (15): Jake Bequette, Ron Brace, Jermaine Cunningham, Brandon Deaderick, Jonathan Fanene, Marcus Forston, Justin Francis, Marcus Harrison, Chandler Jones, Aaron Lavarias, Kyle Love, Myron Pryor, Alex Silvestro, Gerard Warren, Vince Wilfork

Projected roster spots: 8-9

Key Stat: Bequette (10) and Jones (4.5) combined for 14.5 sacks last season in college.

Storyline in focus: Before last season, only two Patriots reached 10 sacks in a season under Bill Belichick. That was until Andre Carter and Mark Anderson came along and doubled the population of that club. But what’s next? Anderson departed for Buffalo, and Carter and the Patriots are at an impasse in contract talks. There’s still a decent chance Carter returns, but even still, how do things change at defensive end? Fanene will be a good option, and outside linebacker Trevor Scott (might be better suited as a 3-4 outside linebacker) will jump in, as will Jones, Bequette and Deaderick, who surpassed expectations last season. The Patriots have the pieces in place, but it remains to be seen if they can be as explosive off the edge as they were in 2011.

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Jonathan Vilma gets same judge for his new case

Part of getting the justice you want is getting the judge you think will give you the justice you want.  And Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma has gotten the judge he wanted, for both of the lawsuits he has filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana.

Daniel Kaplan of SportsBusiness Journal reported on Tuesday, and we separately have confirmed, that Judge Helen G. Berrigan has been assigned to the new suit filed against the NFL challenging his suspension.  She previously was assigned to the defamation lawsuit Vilma filed against Commissioner Roger Goodell.

As we explained in May, Judge Berrigan’s background and temperament favor Vilma’s interests.  Appointed by a Democratic president and having a reputation for being liberal, she’ll be more likely to side with David in a case against Goliath.

That’s a very loose, but very real, perception in the legal profession.  Liberal judges tend to be more favorable to the rights of individuals, and conservative judges tend to be more favorable to the rights of large organizations.  It’s a dynamic about which the NFL surely didn’t complain once the ultra-conservative U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit got its hands on the ruling from liberal Judge Susan Nelson that the 2011 lockout violated antitrust laws.

The NFL surely is complaining, albeit privately, about the fact that Vilma was able to finagle Judge Berrigan for both the case against Goodell and the new case against the NFL.

Vilma’s lawyer, Peter Ginsberg, definitely isn’t complaining now.  Ginsberg recently expressed his belief in a letter to Judge Berrigan that a then-looming action to block the suspension is a “related case,” and that it should be joined with the case against Goodell, which shows that Ginsberg likes the fact that Berrigan has been assigned to the initial case, and that Ginsberg wanted her to take the new case, too.

As to the initial case, Goodell’s response to the defamation complaint filed by Vilma is due tomorrow, July 5.  Look for Goodell to file a motion to dismiss, claiming that the case is blocked by the Collective Bargaining Agreement, and to avoid (at least for now) addressing Vilma’s specific allegations.

If/when Goodell must address Vilma’s allegations, look for Goodell to deny everything.

The good news for the NFL and Goodell is that the federal appeals court with jurisdiction over Louisiana — the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit — has a reputation for being conservative.

The NFL definitely isn’t complaining about that.

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Lauryn Williams headed back to Olympics

Lauryn Williams is headed back to the five-ring circus. The former Miami track star was named to her third Olympic team Friday.

She will be in the relay pool for the London games starting later this month. Williams was on the 2004 and 2008 U.S. Olympic teams as a sprinter. She was the fastest American in the 100 meters both times — winning the silver medal in Athens.

She was also a member of relay teams both years that didn’t go so well. Williams couldn’t handle a baton exchange in the Beijing four years after having transition troubles with Marion Jones in the same 4X100 event.

A sixth-place finish in the trials wasn’t good enough to make the team as an individual, but put her in the running for a relay spot. The 28-year old graduated from Miami in 2004. Miami track and field coach Amy Deam will also serve as the U.S. coach in London.

Williams joins a list of eight with ‘Cane connections who’ll complete in the summer games starting July 27. Here’s the list:

Brittany Viola (diving) U.S.
Savannah Leaf (volleyball) Great Britain
Ciara Michel (volleyball) Great Britain
T’erea Brown (track and field) U.S.
Lauryn Williams (track and field) U.S.
Murielle Ahoure (track and field) Ivory Coast
Zach Railey (sailing) U.S.

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Murielle Ahoure wins Women's 200m - Meeting Areva 2012

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Sailing siblings Zach, Paige Railey off to London

When it's time to line up to march into the stadium for the opening ceremony of the London Olympics, Zach Railey will make sure little sister Paige is at his side.

It's the moment the sailing siblings from Clearwater, Fla., have been waiting years for.

"It will sink in for us when we walk in together at the opening ceremony," Zach Railey said. "That's what we've always dreamed about, a brother and sister standing next to each other walking in. It's a dream come true."

Zach Railey, 28, knows the drill. He made his Olympic debut at Beijing, winning the silver medal in the Finn class.

Paige didn't make those Olympics. She flipped her boat in the trials and lost to Anna Tunnicliffe, who went on to win the gold medal in the Laser Radial class.

"It was incredibly exciting for me to go in 2008, but it was also incredibly disappointing for Paige." Zach Railey said. "We think of ourselves as a team. So we were successful in me going, but we were unsuccessful in Paige going. That's always been what it's about, the two of us going together and the two us being successful at the Olympics. We learned from that experience in 2008 and we came back and didn't let it beat us, and now we're going in 2012 and we can't wait."

Both are strong medals contenders, although Zach Railey has the difficult task of being in the same class with British star Ben Ainslie, who will be trying for his fourth straight Olympic gold medal and fifth medal overall.

"We've always been a key support system for one another, so to go to the Olympics together is one of the best things in the world," said Paige Railey, 25. "We're going to do everything we can to be there for one another and bring home those medals for the country."

The Raileys grew up as self-described water rats. Sailing just happened to be the sport they excelled at.

"We were pretty much those tan little hippie babies with bleach-blond hair running around with their mom down at the beach," Paige Railey said. "It just seemed like a natural thing for us to go into a sport that was associated with the water. Our whole life was based around the water."

When Zach was 8, their family dentist suggested that his mother, Ann, enroll him in a summer sailing program. Three years later, it was Paige's turn. They both fell in love with the sport and began winning regattas.

"You look back to when we were 14, 15, 16 years old, we were traveling around together, we were going to the gym together, we were going through the same experiences," Zach Railey said. "We experienced the ups and downs together. You form a relationship outside of just being a brother and sister. That is what has brought us together, closer than just having a family relationship, is that we also have an athletic relationship.
"When you understand the time and the commitment that goes into it, you want each other to do well," he said.

That's what made it so difficult when, on the same day in October 2007, Zach Railey qualified for the Beijing Olympics and Paige didn't. While Zach won his trials -- only one boat per class per country qualifies for the Olympics -- Paige's chances ended in a split second when she caught her life jacket in the boom and flipped her boat.

"Not only was that a race for the Olympic berth, but it was very widely known around the world that whoever won that event was going to be a medal contender at the Olympics," Zach Railey said.

Sure enough, Tunnicliffe won the gold medal. Tunnicliffe then moved into the women's match racing class and will be seeking her second gold medal at Weymouth on the English Channel.

"It was so gut-wrenchingly disappointing," Zach Railey said. "It was an emotional, emotional, emotional time for our family. But I think that our family is so close and we're incredibly strong and we support each other, that we got through it. But it was tough, it was really, really tough. It was tough on all of us. I can tell you it's much better this time around with both of us going."

While disappointed that she didn't go to Beijing, Paige Railey said she was ecstatic for Zach.

"Just because I couldn't go, my brother was there representing both of us," she said. "He went there and he won a silver medal and we got to celebrate. The most respectful thing my brother did is he received a lot of publicity and he never left me behind. When he reached his goal and got his silver medal, when he was meeting his sponsors or talking to the press, he was always saying, `My sister Paige.' He took me along for the ride. I have a lot of respect for my brother. I'll always be grateful for that. It means so much more that I get to go the games with him because when I was sad over not making the games, my brother was there for me. He never left me behind."

After losing in the trials, Paige Railey finished college before starting her campaign for London.

"It was out of my control and there was nothing I could do, so instead of taking it as a negative, I turned it around and made that trials a positive and I learned from it," Paige Railey said. "I wasn't going to let that setback ruin my career."

The Raileys achieved their goal of going to the Olympics together when they clinched berths for London during the world championships in Australia in December.

`'It's certainly one of those things where we understood that the chances of one of us not being successful again were high," Zach Railey said. "Our goal is to go to the Olympic games and win medals. We were relieved, we were excited and then we got refocused on the next goal, which is getting on the podium in London."

Zach Railey has told his sister about the pressures of competing at the Olympics, the attention it brings and the responsibility that comes with it.
As a 12-year-old, Zach Railey became smitten with the Olympics while watching on TV as Michael Johnson won the 200 meters in his gold shoes at the Atlanta Games. At Beijing, after winning his silver, he watched in person as Usain Bolt, also wearing gold shoes, broke Johnson's world record in winning the gold medal.

Railey's next big Olympic moment will be marching into the Olympic Stadium with his sister.

"We're going to be side by side, having fun," he said.

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Beverly Goebel-Yanez Scores First Goal in Japan

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Ryan Braun has another monster day

Ryan Braun went 2-for-4 with a double, RBI, walk, two runs scored and two stolen bases in Sunday's 10-inning win over the Astros.

The RBI was Braun's 61st, while the swipes were his 14th and 15th. The National League's reigning MVP will close the first half with a .306/.391/.599 slash to go along with 40 extra-base hits in 80 games.

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Chris Perez blows first save since Opening Day

Chris Perez blew his first save since Opening Day in Sunday's loss to the Rays, allowing three runs on four hits in an inning of work.
The only bright side in an appearance where Perez served up both a home run and triple was the fact that he managed to record all three of his outs via strikeout. The nightmare day ballooned Perez's ERA from 2.59 from 3.34, but somehow we doubt the cries for Vinnie Pestano will be quite as loud as they were in April. Perez will represent Cleveland for the second consecutive season in Tuesday's All-Star Game.

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