Ed Reed has $50,000 cash stolen from his car

Former Houston Texans safety Ed Reed learned a $50,000 lesson about financial safety.

Do not leave $50,000 in your car.

As simplistic as that sounds, Reed is currently without that amount of money after leaving it in the front seat of his car in Houston, according to Click2Houston.com. The thief smashed the window in Reed's car and stole the money.

Here is a portion of that story:

“Sources say the bag contained $50,000. Reed had gotten the money from a bank down the street and then stopped off at the Bank of America in the 12000 block of Westheimer near the Westpark Tollway.

“Police believe Reed was followed.”

The only positive aspect of this story is Reed was not harmed during the theft. If Reed was followed, this story could have ended differently if the thief tried to take the money with force.

Reed signed with Houston prior to last season, but was released after only appearing in seven games. He signed with the New York Jets, but failed to have an impact. He is slated to become an unrestricted free agent this offseason.

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Jimmy Graham reportedly wants top-5 WR money

Jimmy Graham is looking to get paid, and that’s bad news for the New Orleans Saints.

The Saints and Graham could end up in a standoff this offseason because Graham is looking for a long-term contract from the team. New Orleans has already said that they will franchise tag Graham if the two sides are unable to agree on a deal. Graham has said he is not keen on the idea of the team tagging him.

One major dispute that could arise if the franchise tag becomes a real possibility is whether Graham is categorized as a wide receiver or tight end. The best wide receivers are paid more money than the best tight ends in the league — the difference in value of a franchise tag for a wide receiver and tight end last year was $4.5 million. Even though he was drafted as a tight end and is listed as a tight end, Graham lined up as a traditional tight end last year just one third of the time, according to Pro Football Focus. Graham was split out frequently as a wide receiver and reportedly will try to make the argument that he should be paid as a receiver.

According to NFL reporter Jason Cole and former sports agent Joel Corry, Graham wants top-five wide receiver money.

If Graham’s camp holds firm on that stance, there could be a huge dispute between the two sides. The Saints are already over the salary cap, so paying Graham an extra $4 million on the franchise tag would be a big deal.

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Seantrel Henderson seeks momentum at combine

The NFL Scouting Combine runs Feb. 22-25 in Indianapolis, and it brings together 335 of the nation's most draftable players and numerous front-office representatives and scouts from each NFL team.

A big portion of the combine is the individual events, such as the 40-yard dash, the bench press and the vertical jump.

This is Part 3 of our position-by-position look at the combine, spotlighting offensive linemen. We look at six prospects who will be scrutinized this year and also look at noteworthy event performances in the past five combines. We'll also look at how notable current NFL players performed at their combine events.

OT Seantrel Henderson, Miami: Henderson (6-foot-6, 337 pounds) is massive and has tremendous athleticism for a guy his size. He is expected to fully show off his athletic gifts at the combine. But to steal a line from Winston Churchill, Henderson is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. He hasn't come close to matching his high-school hype or living up to his potential. The question for scouts after they watch what should be a strong combine showing from the big man is how much stock they should put in actual game tape.

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New Dodgers reliever Chris Perez says injuries affected his arm slot in 2013

Chris Perez did not have an impressive 2013: his 1.43 WHIP, fuelled by the right-hander giving more than a hit per inning, was a career-worst, as was his 4.33 ERA. The former Indians closer landed with the Dodgers in the offseason and as he told Jon Weisman of Dodgers.com, the injuries he battled in the first half of 2013 caused him to adjust his arm slot, meaning he never really got his mechanics right all season.

“Once I got healthy in the second half of the year, I went back to my normal arm slot,” he said. “But I had been pitching three of four months from different arm slots. I was in between arm slots, which is tough to do, especially in my role last year as a closer. … This year, coming in healthy, I’m back to my normal arm slot and hopefully it stays there all year.”

Perez was dealing with shoulder issues right from the start of Spring Training in 2013 and took months to fully recover, attempting to pitch through the pain before finally hitting the DL with stiffness in his rotator cuff in late May. Despite seeming to put those health issues behind him after that stint, things actually got worse for the reliever in the second half, as he gave up seven home runs and 33 hits in just 27 1/3 innings, contributing to his 5.60 ERA and 1.50 WHIP, a performance Perez obviously attributes to his mechanical issues.

The 28-year-old won't be anywhere near the closer role in 2014. Strikeout machine Kenley Jansen is firmly entrenched as the first choice in the ninth, with former Giants closer Brian Wilson lined up to be his primary set-up man. If Perez can stay healthy and put together a performance like he did in 2012, he may find a team willing to pay him to be their closer next offseason.

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Last year behind him, Chris Perez starts fresh with LA

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- If all Chris Perez needs is a change of scenery, he's got it.

He's in Dodgers camp with a clean slate. He's not expected to live up to a big salary or save games, let alone a franchise.

He said he's here to reestablish himself as an effective Major League reliever. Like several new Dodgers, he said he is willing to take on a lesser role for the chance to play on a World Series contender.

He takes the blame for last year's struggles, saying he made mechanical changes so he could pitch through injuries, but those changes turned into bad habits that turned pitches into home runs (11 in 54 innings). By September, he had lost the closer job in Cleveland. At the end of November, he was released.

He said -- and he's shown so far in a few impressive bullpen sessions -- that he's healthy.

"Last year was a learning experience, and I learned I can't pitch through [injuries]," Perez said. "I felt I had to stay out there. I feel a lot better now. I feel I can pitch back to that [All-Star] level. But I've still got to show it. I'm excited for the games to start. I've got a little chip on my shoulder. I've got something to prove."

He even thanked the Indians for releasing him quickly, giving him extra time to find a new home.

"No hard feelings," he said. "I understand why they did what they did. They could have non-tendered me much later."

The home he found is in a Dodgers bullpen where 20-save seasons are almost mandatory for admittance. In addition to Perez, Kenley Jansen, Brian Wilson, Brandon League, J.P. Howell and Javy Guerra have each done it in the big leagues.

Perez, 28, had 25 saves for the Indians last year, but he also had a career-high 4.33 ERA, a shoulder strain that cost him most of Spring Training, then a month before the All-Star break with discomfort in a different part of the shoulder, and a misdemeanor marijuana arrest.

"Just one of those up and down years," he said.

He also had a $7.3 million salary last year that projected to increase to $9 million in 2014 through arbitration, which was the main reason the Indians cut him loose. The Dodgers signed him for a $2.3 million base and as much as $6 million more in incentives if he appears in 60 games and finishes 55 of them.

Perez's salary climbed to $7.3 million after back-to-back All-Star seasons in 2011-12. A former first-round pick of St. Louis, he was dealt to Cleveland in 2009 for Mark DeRosa and emerged as the Indians closer in 2010. He has 132 career saves, more than Jansen or League or Howell or Guerra.

Perez said he knows he could have had a closer job elsewhere, but chose a lower profile role with the Dodgers.

"But for me, this is a good situation," he said. "It's fun to be part of a team like this."

It's fun, he said, to be in a bullpen as loaded as the Dodgers' appears to be.

"It's fun to imagine what the games will be like," he said. "The way our starting rotation stacks up, they get us as deep as the sixth inning and with all the arms we have in the bullpen, it's exciting to think about. And the [reputation] will get around the league. By the sixth or seventh inning, game's over. That's fun to think about."

Not much fun was last year's misdemeanor arrest, the coverage of which led Perez to impose a three-month media blackout. Like the injury, he said that's history.

"I don't think that was a distraction to me as a pitcher at all," he said. "I wasn't on the mound thinking, I've got to go to court. The mound was my sanctuary. I was always able to concentrate and focus on baseball. Now it's all behind me, everything legal is fulfilled and I've turned the page."

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Gaby Sanchez recognizes opportunity

BRADENTON, Fla. — When the Pirates were ousted from the playoffs, Gaby Sanchez gave himself 10 days to kick back and enjoy the offseason. Before the World Series had run its course, Sanchez was back in the weight room.

“It was just me and one other guy working out for a good month before other guys started trickling in,” Sanchez said. “It was good. I wanted to get after it, get started.”

The results were noticeable Thursday, when the Pirates opened their spring training camp. Sanchez has packed on muscle, sweated off flab and is 20 pounds lighter than he was a year ago.

“Guys get to the point where they recognize there's a big opportunity for them,” general manager Neal Huntington said. “Gaby's got the opportunity to become a regular first baseman again.”

All winter, Huntington tried unsuccessfully to land a first baseman via free agency or a trade. He expects to keep searching during spring training and maybe get a bargain as players are forced off other teams' crowded rosters.

Sanchez spent the offseason drilling with a personal trainer, a woman he first worked with years ago. Back then, her workouts were too intense, and Sanchez quickly drifted away from her.

“She was a lot crazier back then, and it was more of a football-conditioning type thing,” Sanchez said with a laugh. “Since then, guys have talked to her and brought her into the baseball mentality.”

Sanchez is more focused on conditioning and exercises that help give him an explosive first step on the field. Unlike many first basemen, Sanchez prefers to play far off the line. With better quick-twitch speed, he hopes to steal an extra hit or two from batters every week.

Even as Huntington keeps looking for a first baseman, Sanchez's message is simple: Don't worry. I've got this.

“I've always felt that way,” Sanchez said. “I've always felt I could take first base and be perfect there. What (management) does is out of my hands. All I can do is work hard, train hard and show, ‘Hey, I am here. I definitely can help the team.' ”

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Steelers brass impressed with recovery of Sean Spence

New Steelers defensive assistant Joey Porter had a fighting spirit as a player.

It seems as if the same quality can be said for a player he will soon be coaching.

Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported today that Steelers General Manager Kevin Colbert is pleased with inside linebacker Sean Spence's progress after suffering multiple career threatening injuries during the 2012 preseason. The third round pick out of Miami back in 2012 suffered a torn ACL and LCL while also dislocating his kneecap and damaging a nerve in his leg.

Bouchette reported that Colbert said that Spence "had a great day of practice" near the close of the 2013 season. Spence practiced with the squad during the last three weeks of the season after spending the year on the PUP list.

While his career is still in serious doubt, Pittsburgh expects him to participate in the team's spring and summer practices.

The 5'11, 231 pound Spence enjoyed a decorated collegiate career with the Hurricanes. He was a Butkus Award semifinalist his senior year as Spence led the 'Canes with 106 total tackles while finishing second nationally with 47 tackles for loss.

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Brandon Meriweather wants to return to Washington

In a radio interview, free agent SS Brandon Meriweather said he "really would love to be back" in Washington.

Meriweather better hope the Redskins feel the same way. Meriweather showed zero remorse after being suspended one game in 2013 for repeatedly hitting opposing players with the crown of his helmet. In fact, his solution to the problem was, "I just got to take people's knees out." To top it off, Meriweather is not even a good NFL safety. He should find a soft market this offseason. Meriweather is our No. 25 free agent safety.

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Jonathan Vilma Released

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WAFB) - The New Orleans Saints announced Wednesday that the team has terminated the contracts of Jabari Greer (CB), Roman Harper (S) and Will Smith (DE/OLB) and that they will not re-sign Jonathan Vilma (LB).

"I have coached and been around a lot of great players and I put these four guys right there at the top," said Saints Head Coach Sean Payton. "Jabari, Roman, Will and Jonathan all represent and epitomize what we look for in our players. These are disciplined, smart, tough and team-oriented individuals. They all played an important role in helping this team and this city win its first Super Bowl and they have all enjoyed multiple playoff appearances and wins."

The Saints are estimated to be in the range of $12-15 million over the cap and will need more space to re-sign or use the franchise tag on tight end Jimmy Graham.

"These were not easy decisions to make," said Saints General Manager Mickey Loomis. "Since we acquired them, Jabari, Roman, Will and Jonathan have all been excellent players on the field for us. Each of them were integral parts in turning this program around and winning a Super Bowl. They were a great example to our players as team leaders in the locker room as well. Will and Roman were two of the better draft picks we have made. Jonathan Vilma has been one of our best trades ever and Jabari Greer has been one of our best free agent signings. These are the kinds of players and people you hope to acquire. However, a new NFL year is about to begin and, with the start of free agency in March, these difficult moves allow us to position our team under the salary cap to move forward for 2014."

The Saints drafted Smith out of Ohio State in the first round of the 2004 NFL Draft. He ended his Saints career with 363 tackles (255 solo), 67.5 sacks, two interceptions, 24 passes defensed, 19 forced fumbles and seven fumble recoveries. Smith would have earned $11.55 million in the final year of his contract.
Harper was drafted by the Saints in 2006 out of Alabama. With New Orleans he made 743 tackles, had 17 sacks, seven interceptions and 13 forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. Harper would have earned $3.15 million this season.

Greer was signed by the Saints in 2009 after playing with Buffalo for five season. Greer had nine interceptions (two for touchdowns), 290 tackles, 68 passes defensed, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. In 2013, Greer's season ended after suffering a knee injury vs. San Francisco on November 17.

Vilma was acquired by the Saints in a trade in the 2008 with the New York Jets. With the Saints Vilma recorded 530 tackles (331 solo), eight sacks, six interceptions, 27 passes defensed, five forced fumbles and seven fumble recoveries.

"I would like to thank Jabari, Roman, Will and Jonathan for their contributions on and off the field for the New Orleans Saints over the past several years," said Saints owner Tom Benson. "All four of them played important roles in the success of our club and were great players and teammates. In addition, all of them made a significant impact in our community, especially with our youth and helping serve the less fortunate. On behalf of our organization and our fans, we appreciate everything that they have done for us and wish them continued success."

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Orlando Franklin honoured by Mayor Ford

Orlando Franklin of the Denver Broncos has a fan in Mayor Rob Ford.

Ford wore Franklin’s orange No. 74 jersey in the days before the Broncos were crushed 43-8 by the Seattle Seahawks in the Super Bowl.

Franklin, 26, who grew up in Scarborough, won high praise when he visited the mayor at his city hall office Tuesday.

Ford read out a proclamation congratulating the six-foot-seven, 330-pound right tackle.

“I truly wish you the best of success in your future endeavours, and win the next Super Bowl, buddy, again and again and again. There you go, partner,” Ford said.

Franklin took only two media questions before Ford escorted the player down the elevator outside the mayor’s 2nd-floor office.

Asked what he thought of Ford wearing his jersey, Franklin said: Anytime someone from Toronto supports me and the Denver Broncos, I’m happy. I’m from Toronto, so why not support Orlando Franklin?”

Asked if he had any advice for Ford in this election year, Franklin responded: “Just win.”

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Frank Gore Still Staying Ahead of Father Time

When the 49ers and Seahawks played for the NFC championship in January, the Seattle defense had one primary goal:

Stop Frank Gore.

“They’re going to get Frank Gore the ball,” Seahawks defensive end Cliff Avril said before the game, adding: “It all starts with Frank Gore.”

The Seahawks accomplished their mission, holding the Niners’ veteran running back to 14 yards on 11 carries, and won the game, 23-17.

That wasn’t the only reason for Seattle’s success, of course, as both the Seahawks defense and offense came up with bigger plays in crunch time to earn a spot in the Super Bowl.

But it does point out how crucial Gore has been to the 49ers’ offense for so many years, and raises a question: How long can Gore keep it up?

At the age of 30, when most running backs hit a wall, Gore kept going. In the 2013 season, he rushed for 1,128 yards in the regular season for nine touchdowns. That gave him three straight seasons with more than 1,100 yards, following 2012 (1,214) and 2011 (1,211). Yet Gore’s per-carry average dropped to 4.1 in 2013, a significant change from 2012 when he averaged 4.7.

And as Bryan Knowles at Bleacher Report noted, Gore was much less effective in the second half of the season. On the same number of carries (162) in the final eight games as the first eight games, Gore had 108 fewer yards and averaged less than 4 yards per rush. And he had two of his three 100-yard games in the first half, along with a streak of seven straight games in the early to mid portion of the schedule in which he had at least 70 yards rushing.

Yet when the playoffs came around, Gore was big against the Packers and Panthers. He gained 66 yards vs. Green Bay and 84 vs. Carolina before being stuffed by the Seahawks. That was more a tribute to the Seattle D than Gore's ability.

Though the 49ers have young running backs Marcus Lattimore, Kendall Hunter and LaMichael James waiting to step into larger roles, it doesn’t seem likely that Gore is ready to slow down or step aside.

Plus, what Gore gives the 49ers is far more than a running back. He’s also a leader and perhaps the best-blocking running back in the NFL. According to stats by the website Pro Football Focus, Gore was in pass protection 160 times in 2013 – more than any other back in the league – and didn’t allow a single sack. He allowed just one quarterback hit and three pressures.

Already, Gore has begun his rigorous offseason conditioning program. Lately, he’s been working out with 49ers linebacker Nick Moody and Giants outfielder Michael Morse. Each year since he’s been in the league, Gore has put in the work to keep himself at the top of the running back ladder.

The 49ers owe Gore $6.5 million for the 2014 season, and based on what he did as a 30-year-old, it seems likely he’ll continue to be a key part of the team’s offense. His numbers may drop a bit, but he’s still running behind one of the best lines in football, and with Lattimore, Hunter and James, he may even get a few plays off to keep himself fresher.

And, Gore’s speed still seems intact.

Looking back on the 49ers’ season, Gore broke off a 39-yard run in the playoffs vs. Carolina and a 51-yarder against Seattle late in the regular season. Even late in the season, he still had that burst.

As far as head coach Jim Harbaugh is concerned, Gore remains one of the NFL’s best running backs.

“He runs the football very effectively,” Harbaugh told the media at season's end. “Nobody does it better. He blocks in protection. And he catches the ball out of the backfield. (He) does everything you’d want a back to do. And then he’s such a great example. Showers us with his attributes every day – the work ethic, the team attitude. (He’s) just a guy that says the right thing at the right time.

“That’s a pretty good list.”

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Vinny Testaverde honored by Sports Club of Tampa Bay

TAMPA -- A Heisman Trophy winner, World Series hero and local baseball hero in the community were the 31st class to be inducted into the Sports Club of Tampa Bay Hall of Fame on Wednesday night.

Vinny Testaverde, the College Football Hall of Famer and longtime NFL quarterback, became the second Buccaneers quarterback to be inducted, joining Doug Williams, who was enshrined in 2008.

Testaverde, a Heisman Trophy winner with the Miami Hurricanes, spent six seasons with the Bucs, before leading the New York Jets to an AFC Championship game in 1998. Testaverde is also the oldest NFL quarterback to throw a touchdown and win a game. He retired in 2007 at the age of 44.
"Vinny taught me how to be a better player, a better man and a better father," said Anthony Becht, Testaverde's teammate with the Jets. Becht spoke for Testaverde, who was in New York on a prior commitment.

Also inducted was Luis Gonzalez, the Jefferson High School product who ended the New York Yankees' run of three-straight World Series crowns in 2001.
As a member of the Arizona Diamondbacks, Gonzalez drove in the winning run in the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 7 off of Mariano Rivera to cap a come-from-behind effort off of the recently-retired legendary closer.

Besides that bloop single, Gonzalez was a five-time All-Star in his 19-year career with Houston, the Diamondbacks and Marlins, who had a lifetime average of .283 and hit 354 home runs.

"I played to inspire the younger generation of players in Tampa," Gonzalez said during his induction speech. "And I wanted the men in the coffee shops back home to see my name in the box score."

Gonzalez also noted that one of the highlights of his career was hitting the first home run in the history of Tropicana Field, as a member of the Detroit Tigers in 1998.

The final member of the 2013 class was Tony Saladino, Jr. Saladino is also an alumnus of the Jefferson High School baseball program, and has organized a week-long springtime high school baseball tournament in Hillsborough County every year since 1981. 

The tournament's championship game is an annual event televised by Bright House Sports Network.

The tournament has had 39 eventual Major Leaguers play in it, but Saladino calls that a bonus. The main goal of the tournament is to stress sportsmanship, patriotism and good manners, one inning at a time. Always while showing humility.

"I'll be basking in these accolades tonight, but tomorrow it's back to teaching," Saladino said while accepting the honor.

The Sports Club of Tampa Bay was formed in 1961 and was instrumental in bringing professional sports teams to the Bay Area. This was the 31st Annual Hall of Fame class.

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Michael Irvin: NFL players should be mature enough to accept Sam as teammate

In July 2011, former Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Michael Irvin was pictured on the cover of Out, a magazine focused on gay fashion and lifestyle.

In that edition, the Pro Football Hall of Famer said he would support a gay player.

In a recent interview on The Arsenio Hall Show, Irvin remained true to his word, supporting Missouri defensive end Michael Sam, who announced Sunday that he is gay. Sam is projected to be drafted by an NFL team in May.

While many wonder how this announcement will affect Sam's draft stock, Irvin, an analyst for NFL Network, called it a "beautiful plan" because he says the league doesn't want to see Sam go undrafted.

"There is no way on God's green earth that the NFL wants him sitting there tick, tock, tick, tock, and not get drafted," Irvin said. "They don't want that. They do not want that. So trust me, I believe this may help him way more than hurt him."

Irvin, who had a gay brother, called Sam a good player and added that if he can rush the quarterback in the NFL, his sexual orientation won't matter.

In regards to how he will be accepted in an NFL locker room, Irvin pointed to how well the Missouri football team dealt with Sam announcing to them that he was gay before the 2013 season.

"The college athletes at Mizzou, they handled it perfectly. He told them before the season. In the SEC, you never heard about this. The very definition of a locker room is saying, 'Hey man, I got your back. You can count on me. I give you my word.' And that's exactly what those guys did. They had his back, they counted on him. I think that's what gave him the strength to come forward.

"Now, I would hate to think grown men in an NFL locker room are going to be less mature than those kids in college."

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Andre Johnson: I would probably trade No. 1 overall pick

A lot of different people think the Houston Texans should do a lot of different things with the No. 1 overall pick in May's NFL Draft. Former Houston defensive coordinator Wade Phillips thinks the Texans should take Johnny Manziel.

Houston wide receiver Andre Johnson, who would presumably be catching passes from Johnny Football, doesn't agree with Phillips. If it were up to Johnson, he would trade the No. 1 overall pick.

"I have thought about different scenarios. Me personally, if I had it, I would probably trade it, but that's just my opinion," Johnson said on Wednesday, via ABC-13 in Houston.

Just because Johnson thinks the Texans should trade the pick doesn't mean the team should though. The wide receiver conceded that he's never had to deal with the pressures of draft day. "That doesn't make it right. Doesn't mean they should listen to me, because I am not the [general manager]," Johnson said. "I have never had to sit in the draft room like that."

Texans owner Bob McNair may end up taking Johnson's advice. In January, McNair talked about the possibility of trading the No. 1 overall pick, "Maybe we'll trade down and still get a quarterback that can do the job and get an outstanding defensive player," McNair said. "It's an exciting time. Everything's a moving target. Lot of different pieces."

As for what the Texans will actually do with the pick, guesses are all over the place right now. In his first 2014 mock draft, CBSSports.com senior NFL columnist Pete Prisco has the Texans taking Central Florida quarterback Blake Bortles. NFLDraftScout's Dane Brugler also has the Texans taking Bortles while Rob Rang, also of NFLDraftScout.com, has the Texans taking South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney.

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Shane Larkin steps up w/ Devin Harris out

Mavericks rookie Shane Larkin stepped up in the rotation with Devin Harris (ankle, knee) unavailable Wednesday, dishing out five assists but missing all five of his shot attempts in 23 minutes.

Larkin is making 38.7 percent of his FGs this season and Harris should be ready to go after the break, so there's no reason to adjust expectations in fantasy leagues. The Mavericks won the game anyway, their sixth win in seven games before the All-Star break, and are currently seventh in the West with a two-game lead over ninth-place Memphis.

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Jon Jay may fill super sub role for Cardinals

MLB.com's Jenifer Langosch says Jon Jay may play all three outfield spots for the Cardinals this year in an attempt to get at-bats.

"I've done it before," Jay said. "I have played left field. I have played right field. It's a luxury on our team. We have so many guys who are so talented that they can step up to play any given day and do a good job. It's one of those things that's going to give our team flexibility." Langosch suggests Jay may be largely relegated to a bench role with the arrival of Peter Bourjos, so he may have to fill a super sub role as a fourth outfielder to find playing time. The 28-year-old is coming off a season in which he hit .276/.351/.370 as the team's everyday center fielder.

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'Highly likely' Saints let ILB Jon Vilma walk

Profootballtalk reports it's "highly likely" the Saints let ILB Jonathan Vilma walk in free agency.

Suspension and injury have limited Vilma to just 12 total games over the past two seasons. Two months shy of his 32nd birthday, Vilma has been playing through knee issues since 2011. He made only one appearance in 2013 before landing on injured reserve. Even if he can prove he's healthy, Vilma will have trouble tracking down guaranteed money on the open market. He won't be a starter in 2014.

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Jets not expected to re-sign Kellen Winslow

New York Jets tight end Kellen Winslow is set to hit free agency in March, and it doesn’t look like his current team has much interest in bringing him back. ESPN New York reports that they do not expect to see Winslow re-sign with the team, which really comes as no surprise.

After an eventful few months that have included synthetic marijuana charges and allegedly playing with himself in his car outside of Target, there may not be much interest in the aging tight end from anyone around the league.

Then again, this is the NFL, so anything can happen.

But unless Winslow has his eyes set on the veteran minimum, he is going to have a hard time finding a new home.

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Jon Beason Could Get Franchise Tag

When half of your roster is eligible for free agency, you have a lot of candidates for your franchise player designation. The New York Giants haven't been liberal users of this option in the past, but there are a couple of guys on whom they could use it this year. Monday is the first day teams may designate a player as their franchise player, and March 3 is the last. So the Giants have a couple of weeks left to determine whether they need it this year.

For those unfamiliar, the franchise player designation effectively binds the player to his team on a one-year contract worth either the average of the top five salaries at his position or 120 percent of his prior year's salary, whichever is higher. A team can use it on only one player per year and does not have to use it at all. Teams generally use the designation as a means of holding onto a player with whom they are unable to reach agreement on a long-term contract. When the Giants have used it in the past, it's usually been as a precursor to a long-term deal that's completed shortly after the start of the open free agency period -- i.e., they were close to a deal with the player but unable to finish it before free agency started and they wanted to make sure no one else came in and stole the player away.

So with that in mind, here are three Giants candidates and a brief rundown on the chances they'll receive the franchise player designation.

LB Jon Beason: The Giants loved what they got from Beason in return for the seventh-round pick they sent Carolina to get him, and people familiar with their plans have said they would like to sign him to a new contract before free agency opens. Beason said several times during the season that he liked playing for the Giants and would like to be back, and if they can get him to agree on a contract worth about $4 million per year with some incentives built in, he could be one of the first pieces of offseason business they take care of this year. The linebacker franchise tag could be more than $10 million, and the Giants surely don't want to pay Beason that much in 2014. So if he were tagged it would be because they felt very close to agreeing on a long-term deal at a more reasonable number, and tagging him would be a procedural move.

DT Linval Joseph: This is the player I think they need to make a top priority before free agency opens, but I honestly haven't been able to get a handle on whether the Giants agree or where talks stand between them and Joseph. With defensive tackle contracts at the top of the market going up, Joseph might be able to get $8 million or more per year if he hit the open market, and the franchise number for the position this year should be around $9.1 million. They could carry Joseph at that number and justify it if he continued to perform as he has the past couple of years, but it would merely delay their long-term decision on him by a year. As with Beason, if Joseph is the guy they franchise, you could probably take it as a sign that they're close to a long-term deal with an average annual salary closer to $6 or $7 million.

WR Hakeem Nicks: I don't see it. I think the chances of the Giants bringing back Nicks after his disappointing contract year are incredibly slim, and that he'd only be back if he found no market for his services and came crawling back to them at their price. Which could happen, but isn't likely. The franchise tag for wide receivers will be about $11.5 million, and with a heavy investment already in Victor Cruz and other needs across the roster, it's hard to see them committing that much of their 2014 salary cap to a wide receiver. Nicks would be a candidate for a "prove-it" deal, and the Giants could afford to carry him at that number. But this past year was a "prove-it" year and he didn't catch a single touchdown pass. I think disappointment over the way he performed in 2013 and the Giants' historic tendency to stick to their preset value assessments for free agents make Nicks an unlikely franchise player candidate.

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Jonathan Vilma apologizes for recent remarks about openly gay players

Two weeks ago, in the run-up to Super Bowl North Jersey, Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma—who spent four seasons with the Jets after they took him with the 12th pick of the 2004 draft—told the NFL Network he didn't think an openly gay NFL player would be accepted in the locker room.

Monday, just one day after Missouri defensive end Michael Sam became the first openly gay draft prospect, Vilma walked it all back in an interview with CNN.
Here's what Vilma initially told the NFL Network's Andrea Kremer, per NOLA.com:

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

"How am I supposed to respond?"

But Monday night on CNN's AC360, Vilma clarified what he was trying to say. More from NOLA.com:

"It was a poor illustration of the example I was trying to give on the context, so I do apologize for that I was trying to explain that whenever you have change into something that's been set in stone for so long, something that's been going for so long, that change always comes with a little resistance.

"Some people grew up with or without the acceptance of gays within their families. You have a lot of different elements within the locker room that you just don't see right now. Me being on the inside for 10 years, inside the locker room, I've been around that.

"And it's not to say that the locker rooms are bad, it's to say that there are going to be people that accept it willingly as soon as he comes in, welcome him with open arms, and then unfortunately, there will be some, I'm about 99 percent sure the minority, will say, well, they're not comfortable with that yet, they don't know how to respond to that. That's just what's going to happen in the first whatever, the first year, two years. When have more players like Michael Sam coming out and saying that they're gay, the transition will be a lot smoother."

As NOLA.com also noted, Vilma had once tweeted in 2011 that "[g]rown men should NOT hav female tendencies. Period." He later crafted a half-hearted explanation to say he wasn't talking about gay men.

Vilma's clarification on AC360 was far more thoughtful.

He went on to say cite his hypothetical shower scenario as something he's never experienced before, only to add this about showering with an openly gay teammate: "I don't see anything wrong with it. You have other players that may, you have other players that may not." Vilma also said he would be "A-OK with" having a gay teammate, noting that "it doesn't bother me at all."

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Chris Myers: The NFL Is More Than Ready For A Gay Player

Houston (CBS Houston) - Since NFL draft prospect Michael Sam announced he’s gay, there has been rampant speculation about the NFL’s readiness. But is it possible that NFL players don’t get enough credit?  Houston Texans center Chris Myers thinks the league is more than ready for its first openly gay player.

“It should have been accepted a long time ago,” Myers told SportsRadio 610. “I think the NFL has been ready for it.”

The two-time pro bowler had nothing but high praise for Sam, recognizing that it’s never easy to break down barriers.

“I’m happy for him, that he had (the) guts to be brave enough to be the first openly gay player. And I think that speaks volumes about his character and his strength,” Myers said. ”I give him all the credit in the world for being able to do this because it takes a lot of strength.”

Myers said he thinks Sam’s announcement will make things easier on other players who may be concerned about coming out.

“For him to be able to come out publicly right now, is great. I think it’s going to make strides for any other individuals who have been nervous or have had issues in the past.”

The NFL is often portrayed as a ‘macho man’s sport’ and a lot is made about the harsh environment of the NFL locker room. But Myers thinks those stereotypes have been unfairly tossed on the NFL and its players.

“The media thinks it’s one way –  society and fans think it’s one way – that (NFL players) are going to think negatively upon an individual for being homosexual and that’s just not the way it is.” Myers said. ”Will there be negative feedback? Unfortunately, yes. That’s just the way society is. I think it’s a direct effect of media and the shading of a picture of how NFL locker rooms are portrayed.”

Myers has played ten seasons in the NFL, meaning he’s been a part of ten different NFL locker rooms. He thinks a gay player would have been accepted in all of them.

“I don’t think it would have been a negative thing on any of the teams I’ve been on.” Myers said.

There have been plenty of anonymous quotes from front office personnel, quotes that foresee a tough road ahead for Michael Sam.

“For it to be anonymous, I think, to a certain extent is cowardly.” Myers said. ”If you are confident enough in your beliefs, you (should) be able to speak on them no matter what.”

The guy that lines up next to Myers on the Texans offensive line, Wade Smith, told CSN Houston he thinks Sam will be accepted too.

“I think for the most part, he’s going to be accepted well,” Smith said via CSNHouston. “I mean, the bottom line of the situation is can the kid play or not? And I think that if he can play and guys won’t really think about that.”

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Orlando Franklin will not let nerves get the best of him

After suffering a 43-8 defeat in Super Bowl 48 at the hands of the Seattle Seahawks, it has been a long week for the Denver Broncos.

The Broncos, who suffered the third-worst loss in Super Bowl history, had an errant snap leading to a Seahawks safety on the first offensive play of the game. The Broncos’ record setting offense had four turnovers in total (two fumbles) and did not look anything like themselves in their Super Bowl defeat.

After their Super Bowl disappointment, Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning received the bulk of the criticism. Manning finished the game with 280 yards on 34-for-49 passing. He actually set a Super Bowl record for completions. Receiver Demeryius Thomas’s 13 catches also were a Super Bowl record. However, by the time Manning threw a touchdown pass to Thomas as time expired in the third quarter, Seattle had built a 36-0 lead. Following their defeat, Broncos’ right tackle Orlando Franklin was quick to defend his quarterback.

“It’s unfortunate that a lot of people are going to try to put it in on ’18′ because he doesn’t deserve that,” he said after the game in reference to Manning. “We all had a hand in this loss.”

Following the loss in New York, Franklin returned home to Toronto, Canada. He spoke to the media Monday and continued his defense of Manning,

“At the end of the day Peyton will go down as one of the best quarterbacks in this leagues’ history and like I said, it wasn’t just him,” Franklin stated. “We all had a hand in that game. He does not play defense, he does not play special teams and the Seattle Seahawks were able to capitalize on both our defense and our special teams so we all could have done something different.”

The Broncos’ offensive tackle understands that the blame should not solely rest on Peyton’s shoulders and that each of his teammates could have performed differently to improve their chances.

“I personally have probably seen that game over in my head about 100 times and I wish I could go back to about five plays in that game,” Franklin said. “I think that if I had played different on those five plays maybe the outcome of the game would be a little bit different.”

“When you point your finger at somebody, four point back at you,” he added.

Franklin, who grew up in Scarborough, Ontario, was humble and collected when discussing the Broncos defeat. He took some time to reflect on his experiences this season and on his Super Bowl performance. When asked what he learned most from his first experience in the Super Bowl, Franklin admitted that he was very nervous.

“The biggest thing that I realized was…and I talked to a good friend of mine, Anrel Rolle who plays for the Giants about three days before the Super Bowl and he had been to two Super Bowls, he said to just play like it’s any other game, don’t get emotional, and that’s exactly what I did. I got too emotional. After the first snap it felt like my legs were wobbling, my legs were shaking after the first snap of the game. I got too involved in it emotionally. So that is one of the biggest things that I learned and when it comes around again and I get that opportunity to play in another one, I will definitely try to keep that under wraps,” Franklin said.

Franklin, 26, was candid when discussing his emotions to start the game. He knows that he made some mistakes and all he can do is learn from them. When asked how much of his personal performance he would attribute to the nerves he mentioned, Franklin said,

“At the end of the day I got to get the job done. I had a lot of nerves going on at the start of the game but that isn’t why I played bad or anything like that but I definitely needed to play a little bit more calm than I did at first.”

With or without Peyton Manning, the Denver Broncos are preparing to make another run at the Super Bowl in 2014 and if another opportunity presents itself, Franklin will make sure that his nerves do not get the best of him.

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Yonder Alonso: Will Enter Spring Training Healthy

Alonso will enter spring training next Tuesday, Feb. 18, with a fully healed right hand, MLB.com reports.

Alonso was hit by a pitch on May 31 last season, which forced a lengthy stay on the DL and afflicted him for the remainder of the year, including no plate appearances after Aug. 30. The offseason has provided more than enough time for a full recovery from the fracture in his right hand, and he'll attempt to play just the second full campaign of his career in 2014. If he returns to his 2012 form, when he belted 39 doubles and nine long balls in 549 at-bats, Alonso will be of value in the majority of formats.

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Did former Browns coach Rob Chudzinski deserve better

Good for Rob Chudzinski.

The one-and-done Cleveland Browns coach wound up with a good team, a great young quarterback, a good coach and a good organization when the Colts hired him as a special assistant Saturday.

He deserved it after what he went through this past season, where he was hired in his dream job, then given all the support of the bottom row of a deck of cards. Chudzinski won’t be the last guy blindsided in the NFL, but it’s not pleasant to see.

Among the less palatable elements of the way the move went down were the leaks to national reporters during the Browns' final game. Among them -- which nobody has stood up and taken responsibility for -- was the claim that lack of effort from players did in Chudzinski as Browns coach. That claim was a farce. The Browns played for their coach; they had one stinker of a game against the Jets, something that happens to every team in the league. But to say there was a lack of effort from the Browns was simply not true.

Could Chudzinski’s decisions be questioned?

Of course.

Every coach has head-scratching moments. To think a first-year coach would not have them would have been ludicrous. Chudzinski made some decisions that didn't help him (like the timeout before the two-point conversion in New England).

Is it fair to wonder why the Browns didn't play better as the season went on?

Absolutely. And the coach bears some responsibility for that, but so too does the front office who built the team he was leading. Consider that every key free agent signed before 2013 was a backup with their former team. Consider the roster littered with guys who were signed for 2014, not 2013. Consider the complete absence of a running game and the mess at quarterback. (None of these are going to magically solve themselves for 2014, either.)

Then, too, consider the draft choices traded and choices acquired. The Browns gave up on the 2013 draft for picks in ’14. They made what looks like a smart move with Trent Richardson, but they did it for ’14.

Mike Pettine and his staff will benefit from all those moves, at Chudzinski’s expense. Pettine deserves a fresh slate and clean start, but to scapegoat one guy for all that happened in 2013 was simply wrong. And unfair.

CEO Joe Banner said the move to make Chudzinski one-and-done was not that unusual when he spoke the day Pettine was hired. It has been done before. Jim Mora was let go in Seattle, Mike Mularkey in Jacksonville, Hue Jackson in Oakland, Cam Cameron in Miami and Art Shell in Oakland, among a few others.

It happens. Not often, but it happens.

One of the guys it happened to was Pete Carroll way back in 1994. That stung Carroll badly. But he went on to win at USC and win the Super Bowl in Seattle.

Who knows where Chudzinski’s path takes him.

But he winds up in a good place, which he deserves.

He just deserved better in Cleveland.

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Jonathan Vilma says he would be 'A-OK' with an openly gay teammate

New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma ignited some controversy for his remarks to the NFL Network two weeks ago when he told Andrea Kremer he didn't think an openly gay teammate would be accepted in the locker room.

The topic came back up this week after NFL draft prospect Michael Sam's admission that he was gay. He is the first prospective player in NFL history to publicly come out and also the first in the other three major U.S. men's sports, baseball, basketball and hockey.

Sam, a former Missouri defensive lineman and the 2013 SEC Defensive Player of the year, told multiple news outlets Sunday he is an "openly proud gay man."

Vilma, who made the comments before Sam's announcement, told the NFL Network:

"I think that he would not be accepted as much as we think he would be accepted," Vilma told NFL Network. "I don't want people to just naturally assume, like, 'Oh, we're all homophobic.' That's really not the case. Imagine if he's the guy next to me and, you know, I get dressed, naked, taking a shower, the whole nine, and it just so happens he looks at me.

"How am I supposed to respond?"

Sam's admission has raised the question again as to whether the NFL is ready for its first openly gay player. Vilma went on "AC360" on Monday night to talk about the issue and clarify his initial comments, admitting that they were poorly worded.

"It was a poor illustration of the example I was trying to give on the context, so I do apologize for that," Vilma said. "I was trying to explain that whenever you have change into something that's been set in stone for so long, something that's been going for so long, that change always comes with a little resistance."

Vilma said the "resistance" comes with the dynamics of having 53 different men in the locker room, many who come from different backgrounds. 

"You have people that can be more outgoing, more open-minded. You have people that are a little more close-minded," Vilma said. "Some people grew up with or without the acceptance of gays within their families. You have a lot of different elements within the locker room that you just don't see right now. Me being on the inside for 10 years, inside the locker room, I've been around that.

"And it's not to say that the locker rooms are bad, it's to say that there are going to be people that accept it willingly as soon as he comes in, welcome him with open arms, and then unfortunately, there will be some, I'm about 99 percent sure the minority, will say, well, they're not comfortable with that yet, they don't know how to respond to that. That's just what's going to happen in the first whatever, the first year, two years. When have more players like Michael Sam coming out and saying that they're gay, the transition will be a lot smoother."

Vilma clarified his comment about showering with an openly gay teammate and said he didn't have any concerns about it. He said his comment to the NFL Network was another poor example he was trying to make.

"Again, the point I was trying to make or the context I was trying to take it in is that I've never been put in that situation, no player in the NFL has been put in that situation, so it's not as simple as anyone saying, well, there's nothing wrong with it," he said. "I don't see anything wrong with it. You have other players that may, you have other players that may not. 

"I don't know and the players don't know because it's the first time that you have a Michael Sam, who will by all accounts be drafted, openly gay, come into a locker room. No one in the NFL in the past however many years has experienced this before so this is all new for everybody, this is new territory."

Vilma has experienced heavy criticism for other comments, including tweets he made during the 2011 season. At the time, he said on Twitter that "Grown men should NOT hav female tendencies. Period."

A woman responded to Vilma on Twitter with, "that's a little sexist/homophobic, don't you think? #thinkbeforeyoutweet."

He responded: "hey....SHUTUP."

Vilma later tweeted, "So of course the homosexual men get sensitive to my tweet and respond all ticked off. RELAX I was not referring to u guys."

Vilma had changed his tune by Monday night.

"As long as he can play football, I'm A-OK with it," he said Monday. "It doesn't bother me at all."

What would Vilma, a former defensive captain who will become a free agent March 11, say to his teammates if Sam was drafted by the Saints?

"There's really nothing to say," he said. "The first thing that matters is, can he play football?"

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What happens if Jimmy Graham fights TE tag?

METAIRIE, La. -- This much we know: If the New Orleans Saints and free agent Jimmy Graham don't reach a long-term agreement in the next three weeks, then the Saints will use the franchise tag on him. And that will almost certainly set off a groundbreaking battle over whether Graham should officially be considered a tight end or receiver.

But who will win that battle? That's anyone's guess.

Count longtime former NFL general manager Bill Polian among the many observers who consider this debate too close to call.

"That would be an arbitrator's decision, and I wouldn't have any idea what he would decide," said Polian, who now works as an analyst for ESPN.

Polian, however, does think it could serve as an incentive for both sides to find common ground before it ultimately reaches a hearing date.

"In the end, you'd obviously like to reach an agreement without setting a precedent," Polian said. "There's an old saying that when you put an issue in hands of a third party, then there's a possibility that neither side is happy with the result."

Here's how the process would work: If the Saints franchise Graham as a tight end, he and agent Jimmy Sexton could then file a grievance through the NFL Players Association, claiming that Graham should be considered a wide receiver instead. Then the decision would be in the hands of a neutral third-party arbitrator agreed upon by the NFLPA and the NFL Management Council.

Obviously a lot would be riding on the arbitrator's decision. The difference in a one-year franchise tender between tight ends and receivers this year is projected to be around $6.7 million vs. $11.5 million (though it hasn't been finalized yet).

More importantly, the ruling will give one side much greater leverage in the long-term contract negotiations.

As Polian said, there are two reasonable schools of thought the arbitrator would have to weigh:

1. The union will argue that it's a "black and white" issue, that Graham lined up in the slot or out wide for 67 percent of his snaps last season. And according to the NFL's collective bargaining agreement, the franchise tag designation is based on the position "at which the Franchise Player participated in the most plays during the prior League Year."

2. The Saints' counter-argument would be that it's part of the modern tight end's job description to line up in a variety of positions, including on the line, in the slot and out wide. Although Polian said Graham isn't a "traditional tight end," he said most teams now differentiate between blocking tight ends and receiving tight ends.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, Graham was one of 11 tight ends in the NFL last year who lined up more than 50 percent of the time at those traditional receiver positions. Only three of them were full-time starters. But the other two were Atlanta's Tony Gonzalez (67 percent) and San Diego's Antonio Gates (52 percent) -- which is noteworthy since those two players have always been considered as tight ends for the purposes of determining franchise-tag salaries.

Other starting tight ends who blur the line between tight and receiver include Tampa Bay's Timothy Wright (49 percent), Cleveland's Jordan Cameron (49 percent), Carolina's Greg Olsen (48 percent), Green Bay's Jermichael Finley (47 percent), St. Louis' Jared Cook (47 percent), New England Rob Gronkowski (47 percent), Chicago's Martellus Bennett (46 percent) and Indianapolis Coby Fleener (46 percent).

In recent years, free agent tight ends Finley and Cook threatened to fight the same battle -- but they ultimately weren't franchised.

In 2008, Baltimore Ravens outside linebacker Terrell Suggs filed a grievance to be considered as a defensive end. But before an arbitrator ruled, all parties made an agreement to split the difference between the two salaries and consider him a defensive end-linebacker. However, the language in that deal made it clear that it pertained only to Suggs and not to any future issues.

Polian didn't offer an opinion on whether the Saints should try to avoid letting this case reach an arbitrator. He said each team and each case is different. And he said the NFL Management Council would also weigh in with counsel on what the legal issues are, what precedents might be relevant, etc.

Polian added that a looming hearing could put pressure on both sides to get a deal done – like with any labor negotiation.

But that will be easier said than done in this case. The only thing harder than determining Graham's official position will be settling in on his fair market value.

Graham, who has averaged 90 receptions, 1,169 yards and 12 touchdowns over the past three years, is expected to become the highest-paid tight end in NFL history, surpassing the $9 million per year the New England Patriots gave Gronkowski in an extension two years ago. However, Graham could push for more than $10 million per year, more in line with what top receivers make -- especially if he wins the franchise-tag battle.

One way or another, these two sides should make history at some point this offseason.

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Dolphins staffer: We want a more physical Lamar Miller

New Miami Dolphins general manager Dennis Hickey likely is spending these next few weeks being briefed not only on players to watch at the NFL Scouting Combine, but also his own players.

The Miami Herald's Barry Jackson got a taste of some of the evaluations Hickey might hear from Dolphins staffers.

One of the most interesting positions to monitor in Miami this offseason will be running back. The combination of Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas was disappointing last season, to put it kindly.

"They're a good complement to each other, and we like Miller's speed and explosiveness," one Dolphins staffer told Jackson. "Miller has the higher ceiling, but you wish he ran with a more physical (style). And both have to improve as blockers."

The comment on Miller's physicality is interesting -- especially considering that was the team's feeling when letting Reggie Bush walk last offseason.

Miller clearly is the better back, but he had huge boom-or-bust performances last season (putting up three games in which he had fewer than one yard per carry). He finished with 709 rushing yards on 177 carries.

In Pro Football Focus' elusive rating (in which the website ranks a runner's success beyond the point of a blocker's aid), Miller was ranked 27 out of 32 running backs who took 50 percent or more of a team's carries.

The Dolphins are likely to add a running back, either via free agency or the NFL draft.

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What happened to Eric Winston in 2013?

It took a few days, but I finally got around to the reader request about Eric Winston, who was the team's starting right tackle in 2013. Arizona Cardinals fans know that Winston is well thought of around the league, but he did not do well. Yes, he was the starter and was never in danger of losing it, but he was not the same player he was in previous years as a member of the Kansas City Chiefs and Houston Texans.

The question was basically this -- what happened to Winston?

I was intrigued enough to go back and look at some numbers.

The first thing I asked was if injury could have had something to do with his decline in performance. It did not. In fact, he has set the gold standard of durability. He has started every single game since 2007. He hasn't even shown up on an injury report since 2011.

Since injuries did not have anything to do with what happened in 2013.

From there, the next thing to consider was if there has been a decline in play over time. I used Pro Football Focus grades and metrics for this. We will go back to 2008. He was in Houston then, where he played through 2011. He played as a member of the Chiefs in 2012 and then in Arizona in 2013.

PFF says he allowed nine sacks and 35 other pressures in the passing game. He received a cumulative +3.7 grade for pass blocking and +4.1 for run blocking. The Texans averaged 5.2 YPC over right guard, 5.4 YPC over right tackle and 2.3 YPC over right end.

Winston gave up five sacks and 26 other pressures. His pass blocking grade skyrocketed to a +15.0, but his run blocking grade dipped to -0.5. The Houston running game averaged 3.5 YPC over right guard, 3.7 over right tackle and 4.2 YPC over right end.

Winston had a strong showing again in Houston. He allowed eight sacks, but only 22 other pressures. His pass blocking grade was +11.8 and his run blocking grade was +6.1. Houston averaged 4.2 YPC over right guard, 6.1 over right tackle and 2.5 over right end in the running game.

In his final season with the Texans, the numbers were still good. He gave up seven sacks and 25 other pressures. His grades were +14.0 for pass blocking and +8.9 in run blocking. The ran the ball consistently on the right side -- 5.5 YPC over right guard, 5.0 over right tackle and 4.6 over right end.

Now a member of the Kansas City Chiefs, he still has a solid season. He allowed four sacks and 31 other pressures. His grades were +8.0 and +8.8 in pass and run blocking. The Chiefs averaged 4.3 YPC over right guard, 5.1 over right tackle and 5.4 over right end.

This brings us to his one year (so far) in Arizona. He did not get signed right away. In fact, it wasn't until training camp began that he joined Arizona. The numbers say he struggled.

His sacks allowed were no worse than previous seasons, but he gave up a ton of pressures. He allowed seven sacks, but with 51 other pressures, The Cards averaged 3.7 YPC over right guard, 3.7 YPC over right tackle and 4.6 YPC over right end. His grades were terrible from PFF -- a -7.1 in pass blocking and a -8.4 in run blocking. The Cards averaged 3.7 TPC over right guard, 3.7 over right tackle and 4.6 over right end.

What changed?
If it wasn't injury and there was no steady decline, we can perhaps look at two areas. One, it could be that Winston simply is seeing the end of his career. The other would be offensive schemes. In the Bruce Arians offense, there are longer developing plays.

At age 30, it does not seem like his age would be a huge factor.

It must mean that his skills have simply diminished, right?

I'm not totally sold on that. You typically don't see a decline like that at age 30 unless injuries are involved. But maybe it is the case.

There is some evidence to support the idea that Winston perhaps struggled because of being in a different system. His final two games in 2013 were his best. He did not allow a sack in his final six games. He allowed only seven other pressures in his final four games. He had positive grades for the final two games.

Will he return in 2014? That we don't know. With the Arians coaching staff allegedly not being really high on Bobby Massie, they might try to bring him back. My guess is that a second year in Arizona would bring better results.

Based on the numbers above, what would you say the reason was for Winston's struggles? Do you think he will be back? Would he see a return to the average in 2014? Discuss it below.

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Bernie Kosar pre-trial for OVI, speeding charges postponed

BEDFORD, Ohio – A pre-trial hearing scheduled Monday morning for former Cleveland Browns star Bernie Kosar has been postponed to April, a Bedford Municipal Court official said.

Kosar is charged with speeding and operating a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol. The retired quarterback’s OVI and speeding charges stem from a September traffic stop in Solon during which he refused to take a breath alcohol test.

Police who pulled over the ex-NFL star just after 2:30 a.m. on U.S. Route 422 reported smelling alcohol coming from Kosar’s vehicle.

Kosar pleaded not guilty to both charges. 

Bedford Clerk of Court Thomas Day said Kosar's lawyer arrived in court Monday morning and requested the reschedule because Kosar is out of town.
Kosar played quarterback for the browns from 1985 to 1993.

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Jimmy Graham’s franchise-tag designation pits practicality against letter of CBA

Soon, the Saints will apply the franchise tag to tight end Jimmy Graham.  Soon after that, Graham will file a grievance, claiming that he’s actually a receiver.
And he has roughly 4.5 million reasons to make that argument.

Already, folks are chiming in on whether Graham is a tight end or a receiver.

During Super Bowl week, quarterback Drew Brees provided an answer that (in fairness to Drew) didn’t take into account the $4.5 million swing that applies if Graham is a tight end or a receiver for franchise-tag purposes.  Today, Peter King of TheMMQB.com argues aggressively that Graham is a tight end for purposes of the tag.

“I think Jimmy Graham is a tight end, regardless of where he lines up on the field,” King writes. “It’s ludicrous there’s even a discussion about whether Graham should be tendered as a tight end (at a franchise number of $6.8 million) or wide receiver (at $11.6 million).”

Peter, to borrow one of your favorite phrases, you’re wrong.  And here’s why.

The CBA is why.  Specifically, article 10, Section 2(a)(i) is why.

The labor deal requires that the franchise player be tendered at the position “at which [he] participated in the most plays during the prior League Year.”

So it’s not “ludicrous” that there’s a discussion, because Graham lined up tight to the tackle only one third of the time in 2013, according to Pro Football Focus.  It’s also not ludicrous because the Packers and tight end Jermichael Finley started down this road in 2012, with the Packers ultimately unwilling to roll the dice in the grievance process, instead striking a two-year deal with Finley while the challenge to his designation as a tight end was pending.  If the argument was ludicrous, the Packers surely would have held firm.

It’s likewise not ludicrous because the Titans opted not to even tag tight end Jared Cook last year, for fear that:  (1) he’d file a grievance; (2) he’d opt to not settle it; (3) he’d win; and (4) the Titans would be stuck paying him an eight-figure salary for 2013.

King’s ultimate argument isn’t ludicrous.  The modern tight end position entails moving the player around.  A tight end who lines up only a third of the time as a tight end is still a tight end, because receivers almost never line up as tight ends.  That’s the argument the Saints should make after Graham files a grievance.
Still, the CBA says what it says.

Is it ludicrous that the CBA doesn’t separate tackles, guards, and centers into separate categories, forcing any team that wants to tag a center or guard to pay him like an elite left tackle?  Yep.  But the CBA has one category for offensive linemen, and as a result centers and guards rarely if ever get tagged.

“It’s going to be a sad day for football if head coaches like Sean Payton have to consider when they formulate a game plan, ‘Well, I can’t flex Graham out too often, or he’ll be considered a wide receiver,’” King writes.  “Just a stupid, stupid can of worms that has been opened up.”

That can of worms was opened at least two years ago with Finley.  Unless and until a team successfully persuades a third party that tight ends are still tight ends even if they take more than half the snaps as receivers, the worms will be crawling all over the place, in plain sight.

That’s not ludicrous.  It’s one of the realities of the NFL.  Until a team fights the battle and wins it, tight ends who spend more than half their time lining up as something other than a tight end will have a non-ludicrous argument that, for the purposes of the franchise tag, they aren’t really tight ends.

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Orlando Franklin announces new foundation to help at-risk teens

Toronto couldn’t ask for a better ambassador than Scarborough native Orlando Franklin who grew up playing football in the local Thunder minor football organization, and ended up playing in his first Super Bowl earlier this month.

Asked at a Monday, Feb. 10, press conference at the Hard Rock Cafe in downtown Toronto about his relationship with the city he grew up in, the Denver Broncos offensive lineman said:

“I spend about four and a half months here in Toronto. I’m pretty much here every chance I can get ... It’s a place where I can see my childhood friends. I can get different types of food - it’s so diverse. I love it. It doesn’t matter if it’s cold or if it’s hot, I’m always looking forward to coming back to Toronto.”

Franklin also played a year of high school football at Scarborough’s Timothy Eaton, and Sir Robert L. Borden respetively before heading to the United States to further his athletic career.

Of course, coming back to Toronto as a now three-year NFL pro does carry its benefits with Franklin taking in the Feb. 8 Toronto Maple Leafs game at the Air Canada Centre.

“You try to support other athletes because you’ll see these guys around, different places you go,” he said, adding that back in Denver “I’ll go to about 12 to 15 (games) a year.”

He just missed being able to watch fellow Scarborough resident Chris Stewart who suited up for the Denver-based Colorado Avalanche but was traded the year before Franklin arrived.

Of course, that did work out well for Franklin.

“I bought my house from Chris Stewart,” he said.

Stewart also played football, and was a star running back in high school at West Hill Collegiate.

Asked what he thought about Mayor Rob Ford in a widely publicized photo wearing Franklin’s jersey, Franklin was diplomatic.

“Any support I can get from Toronto I’m happy. I would hope that he (Mayor Ford) would wear my jersey being that I am from Toronto and he is the mayor of Toronto and he knows that I’m from here.”

He was more enthusiastic when asked about his ‘Orlando Franklin Foundation’:

“It just really focuses on at-risk teens and helps them with their transition into adulthood,” said Franklin, who has been open about his own story as an ‘at-risk’ teen raised in a single-parent family.

In his case, he has credited his mother as being the key in helping turn his own life around. Now he’s just trying to return the favour where and when he can.
“I do a lot in group homes and stuff here in the Toronto area. I just try to let these kids know that pretty much if I was able to make it, then you guys can do exactly the same thing.

“It’s just how hard you’re willing to work and sacrifice. I try to sit down and talk to schools. I try to do stuff in the community, just anything I can really do just to really have a direct impact on young people’s lives and just help them as they get older.”

And finally, of course, there was the matter of the Super Bowl – which Denver lost 43-8 to the Seattle Seahawks. A shocking end to an otherwise outstanding season.

He hasn’t watched the replay. He doesn’t have to.

“I’ve personally probably seen that game about 100 times in my head. I wish I could have taken back about five plays in that game and I think if I’d played better on those five plays that the outcome of the game would be a little different.”

Franklin said he is already looking forward to next season with the Broncos, hoping he can stretch his playoff streak to all four years in the league.

“The good thing about it is, we’ve got a great team. I believe in my heart of hearts that if we come out and work the way we worked last year than we will back in that game (the Super Bowl).

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Dolphins say Lamar Miller isn't physical enough

One Dolphins staffer told the Miami Herald that Lamar Miller didn't run with enough physicality in 2013.
We noticed Miller's tendency to run "soft" on 2012 game tape, but the problem was much clearer when he got to a bigger sample size in 2013. "We like Miller’s speed and explosiveness," the staffer said. "Miller has the higher ceiling, but you wish he ran with a more physical [style]," adding that Miller must improve as a blocker. Miller's role under new OC Bill Lazor is up in the air.

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Rob Chudzinski hired by Colts

The Indianapolis Colts hired Rob Chudzinski on Saturday as a special assistant to the head coach. This means he'll work closely with Chuck Pagano, with whom Chudzinski has had a long professional relationship in the past. They worked together at the University of Miami for five years, and were together again in 2004. Chudzinski was fired earlier in the offseason after just one season as the head coach of the Cleveland Browns.

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Re-Signing Jimmy Graham Won't Be Easy For Saints

New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton was a guest on “Fox Football Daily” Friday afternoon. Watch the full interview above. Highlights from the interview are below

“I know that Mickey Loomis, CAA (Creative Artists Agency), Jimmy Sexton and all parties involved are going to work very hard and very diligently, no different than they did with Drew (Brees) on his contract.

“With that being said, the first thing that comes to my mind with free agency is your own roster. I think often times that gets overlooked. The most challenging part of your job as a coach, and I share that with Mickey or anyone that has been with an organization as long as we have been, going on year nine, is some of the tough decisions that have to be made with regards to your cap with the ability that you possibly can sign Jimmy Graham.

“It’s very easy to say ‘you are certainly going to get this done’ but you have to understand there is a budget here. That’s the challenging part. You are going to read these names that have already come across the ticker from Atlanta last week and we will be no different.”

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Damien Berry's Super Bowl ring sold at auction

Former Ravens running back Damien Berry's Super Bowl XLVII ring has been sold for $43,008, according to Goldin Auctions.

A former reserve player from the University of Miami who spent the 2012 season on injured reserve, Berry sold his ring and it was put up for consignment through a third party. Berry initially disputed that he had sold the ring before Goldin Auctions provided proof of a sales agreement and check made out to the former NFL player. Berry is no longer disputing the sale.

Former Ravens linebacker Jamie Sharper's Super Bowl XXXV ring was auctioned off for $36,883. Former Baltimore Colts defensive back and kick returner Leonard Lyles' 1958 world championship ring was sold for $14,372.

Other items sold included a 1955 Jackie Robinson bat for $162,267, a 1966 Mickey Mantle bat for $45,720, New England Patriots Spygate videographer Matt Estrella's Super Bowl ring for $15,810, R.C. Owens' San Francisco 49ers Super Bowl XXIX ring for $38,281 and Julius Erving's final NBA All-Star game ring for $29,375.

Total sales for memorabilia at the winter auction was $2.3 million.

"We are thrilled that our first auction that was not primarily baseball items was so well received by so many collectors around the world as we set company records for most bids, most bidders and website hits," said Ken Goldin, founder of Goldin Auctions.  "The Robinson bat final price, being one of the two highest-priced such bats ever sold and setting a record for this type of bat, was especially exciting."

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Sean Taylor’s Father Becomes Pro Coach

SeanTaylor copy
There’s something very fitting about this story.

Last week, it was announced that the Ultimate Indoor Football League would be returning to Miami, Fla. under the direction of Pedro “Pete” Taylor, father of the late, great Sean Taylor.

Fittingly, games will be played on the campus of the University of Miami at the BankUnited Center, the indoor arena currently used primarily for basketball games and other assorted concerts, wrestling matches, etc. (Noted Redskins superfan Wale will also be playing “Lovefest Miami 2014″ there on Valentine’s Day…so y’know…there is that).

For those of you unfamiliar with the UIFL, here are the specs: the field is 50 x 28 yards of indoor, artificial turf; the end zones must be five-eight yards deep and may have rounded corners to allow for hockey rink usage; walls must be at least four feet tall and padded, goal posts must be 10 feet tall and 10 feet wide with 20-feet uprights.

The games are four 15-minute quarters with a 15-minute halftime, similar to the NFL and NCAA. The game is eight-on-eight with 19 gameday actives for each team with five inactives. Two players may be in forward motion at any given time, with only three defensive linemen and one free blitzer allowed. No punts, no fakes on special teams, no touchbacks, and a point is awarded if the kickoff goes through the opposing uprights.

That’s the basic rundown of the sport, with a few other creative twists and turns that really put the “Ultimate” in the UIFL.

It should also be noted that Pedro Taylor is also the chief of police in nearby Florida City, so fans can expect players to be on their best behavior. Here is what Coach Taylor had to say at his introductory press conference:

“I am excited at the opportunity to bring indoor football to the Miami area. I am looking forward to working with my staff to find the best possible talent we can find from this football rich area in hopes of bringing the UIFL Championship to Miami.”

An interesting note: former Arena Football League defensive lineman Luther Johnson IV will join Taylor’s coachign staff as the defensive coordinator. Why should we care? Because from 1991-1992, Johnson IV squared off against Washington Redskins head coach Jay Gruden (of the Tampa Bay Storm) as a member of the Columbus Thunderbolts and Cleveland Thunderbolts.

For the record, Gruden torched both iterations of the Thunderbolts, winning 53-12 and 35-24, respectively. I told you this story was fitting.

But, two losses at the hand of Jay Gruden notwithstanding, Coach Taylor maintains confidence in Luther Johnson IV to slow down the high-flying passing attacks of the UIFL.

“I feel Coach Johnson will be able to guide the defense and teach the players the ins and outs of indoor football. He will be able pass on the knowledge he has gained from his time playing the game.”

Now, the real kicker for fans is that you can buy $75 season tickets to watch the Miami Inferno play, or you can quickly get yourself in shape and go tryout to be part of the team in 15 days. The three open tryout dates for you to realize your dream of playing professional indoor football are on Feb. 22, March 8 and March 22.

Best of luck to everyone who tries out, and may Coach Taylor bring the UIFL Championship to Miami. Redskins Nation will be watching.

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Antrel Rolle Say Giants were Forced to Simplify Defense Because It was Too Complex for Some

The New York Giants struggled mightily on both offense and Special Teams throughout 2013, and although they didn't start strong, their defense ended the season being at least a dimly lit bright spot amidst complete darkness. But, safety Antrel Rolle says, it could have been much more dominant if not for defensive coordinator Perry Fewell being forced into simplification.

“There were sometimes during the year when Perry Fewell was restricted from running certain defenses that I know he would love to run,” Rolle said. “Certain defenses I know could have helped us out defensively at the beginning of the year. But it takes everyone. It’s a collective effort and if one guy is wrong we’re all wrong. For the early part of the year that’s something that we failed to do as a defensive unit."

But why they failed, Rolle hints, is not so much about lack of talent, but instead, a lack of understanding the complexities of Fewell's defense.

"You’re going to have guys who study and go way beyond the X’s and O’s and you’re going to have guys who go in there and just do what is taught to them during meeting times and when they study at the facility and what is taking place on the field. This gameicon1, you have to study this game and that’s what a lot of people don’t understand. You have to study the game with the guy beside you because that’s who you’re going to be playing with, that’s who you need to have the same chemistry with," he added.

Rolle failed to call out any specific teammate or teammates, but the message is a clear one: someone or a group of people weren't going above and beyond for the team. And while that may be a direct result of seemingly endless injuries, the Giants' lone Pro Bowler seems no less frustrated by it.

And, Rolle adds, if the players on the team aren't willing to do what's necessary, then it's time to find some others who will.

“We failed to do that, especially in the beginning of the season, so coach Perry Fewell had to simplify a lot of things for our defense this year,” said Rolle. “We’re looking for the guys who can step in, who can understand the defense, who can play the defense and can be very versatile because that’s the way we won when we won the Super Bowl in 2011.”

The captain has spoken.

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Lauryn Williams In USA-1 At Sochi Games

KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia (AP) — Lauryn Williams thought about quitting bobsledding after her very first ride four months ago.

She stuck around, and another Olympic medal may be her reward.

Williams' improbable story grew Saturday when she was selected to push the USA-1 sled driven by Elana Meyers at the Sochi Olympics. That decision legitimizes her chance of becoming only the second person to win gold in two sports at the summer and winter games, after she helped the U.S. win the 4x100-meter relay at the London Games two years ago.

"Incredible," U.S. coach Todd Hays said after the decisions were made. "I would have bet anybody any amount of money that no person could walk on this team as a rookie and make the team, let alone actually be in USA-1. But you look at Lauryn's resume and it tells you what type of athlete she is. She's one of the greatest U.S. sprinters of all time, incredibly talented, incredibly powerful with an incredible work ethic."

Lolo Jones, another track Olympian-turned-bobsledder, and the person who recruited Williams to sliding, will push the USA-3 sled driven by Jazmine Fenlator of Wayne, N.J. In USA-2, it's Jamie Greubel of Newtown, Pa. driving with brakeman Aja Evans of Chicago.

Jones, of Des Moines, Iowa, and Williams, of Rochester, Penn., are becoming the ninth and 10th Americans to compete in both the summer and winter Olympics.

"I came here to help this team, and wherever the coaches think is the best place for me to help is where I'm going to be," Williams said before the pairings were known. "And I'm going to push as hard as I can. ... I'm excited. I love everyone on this team and I'm going to do the best job that I can."

Meyers, from Douglasville, Ga., drove to either gold or silver medals in seven of the eight World Cup races this season, finishing one point behind Kaillie Humphries of Canada in the season long standings. Meyers and Williams were paired together once, earning silver.

Greubel and Evans also raced together once this season, finishing fourth. Fenlator was with Jones — who missed medals in the hurdles at Beijing in 2008 and London in 2012 — three times in World Cup races this winter, with seventh being their top finish.

"We have three great brakemen. That's the best-case scenario," Meyers said. "Regardless of who's in my sled, I'm going to have a great push, so that's a very comforting feeling going in."

The American women came into the season talking about sweeping the podium, something the U.S. has done only twice in any event at the Winter Olympics, claiming gold, silver and bronze in men's figure skating in 1956, then again in a men's snowboard event in 2002.

It's not totally farfetched. In the World Cup standings, Greubel finished third, Fenlator was seventh, and the U.S. swept one podium — a gold for Meyers and a two-way tie between Greubel and Fenlator for silver — in a World Cup race at Park City earlier this season.

"We're going to go for it," Meyers said. "I think we have the brakemen, we have the equipment and now it's just figuring out this track."

The men's two-man pairings also were revealed Saturday, with Steve Langton tabbed to push the USA-1 two-man sled driven by Steven Holcomb. Holcomb and Langton won a world title together in 2012.

The other two-man pairings for the U.S. include Nick Cunningham driving with Dallas Robinson, along with Cory Butner driving with brakeman Chris Fogt.
None of those picks were particularly surprising.

Williams being in USA-1 for the women's race, that one will surely raise eyebrows. She was going to be a financial planner a few months ago before deciding almost on a whim to go to Lake Placid, N.Y. and see what bobsledding was all about.

It's now within the realm of possibility that she can join Eddie Eagan — an American who won gold as a boxer at the 1920 Summer Olympics, then as a bobsledder at the 1932 Winter Olympics — on one of the most elite Olympic lists.

"You combine that everything she is together," Hays said, "and you find a girl who can make herself great at just about anything."

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Dallas Mavericks look for any way to get rookie Shane Larkin on the court

Rookies get used to not being “the man” when they get to the NBA, unless they’re lucky enough to get drafted into a situation in which they’re needed to play immediately. 

Midway through his rookie season, Dallas Mavericks first-round pick Shane Larkin has figured out as much.

“You go from being the man [in college] to being on a team with future hall of famers and great veterans who have earned their minutes,” Larkin says. “You have to start at the bottom and earn trust with coaches and players to get consistent minutes.”

A few weeks ago, it looked like Larkin had a breakthrough. An in-game injury to starting point guard Jose Calderon created a spot for Larkin to play against Phoenix on January 17. Larkin played 27 minutes, scored 18 points and dished out five assists.

But, just as quickly, the playing time went away. Calderon returned and Devin Harris — the veteran signed to help give the Mavs another option at point guard — came back from his injury and started siphoning off Larkin’s potential time.

It became so bad that Larkin played 11 total minutes in the final four games of January. That led to the Mavericks sending Larkin to their D-League affiliate in Frisco so he could play a game with the Texas Legends before returning to the Mavs at the beginning of this week. Larkin scored nine points and had six assists in 33 minutes in the contest last Sunday.

Mavs head coach Rick Carlisle characterizes Larkin’s performance as “aggressive” and admitted the team might look for more chances to send Larkin to Frisco for playing time if that doesn’t materialize with the Mavs.

“It’s good to see him develop that attacking mentality,” Carlisle says. “We need that from him, and we need him to keep his speed in the game all the time.”

The points actually don’t matter as much right now to Larkin’s development. Even he admits as much. The Mavs have plenty of players that can fill the basket. His 3-point shot needs to improve. Larkin calls it inconsistent, and Carlisle says that today’s NBA guard has to shoot the three well.

“If you can’t, [defenses] won’t respect you,” Larkin says.

What the Mavs need right now are facilitators, guards that can consistently drive the lane and get the ball to players like Dirk Nowitzki and Monta Ellis. That means the Mavs want Larkin in the lane driving, dishing and distributing, not standing passive on the perimeter and deferring to older teammates.

So Larkin didn’t take the assignment to Frisco as a demotion. Rather, he took it as an opportunity to get consistent minutes and work on his game. The fact that Larkin went to Frisco and didn’t try to make every play says as much about what the Mavs want from him as it does about his demeanor on the court.

“[Frisco] has a good team, and I didn’t want to throw them all out of whack by hogging the ball,” Larkin says. “I wanted to fit into what they were doing. We have so many scorers [in Dallas], and if I can get in the lane and kick it out, we’re going to score.”

Larkin’s talent isn’t the issue. The Mavs seem confident that in a couple of years, Larkin has the makeup to be their starting point guard. But right now the drive is to give Nowitzki one more shot at a ring.

For that, owner Mark Cuban and team president Donnie Nelson signed Calderon and Harris this past offseason. Calderon is in Dallas on a four-year deal. Harris is here on a one-year deal. Gal Mekel, another rookie point guard, has a three-year contract.

So the Mavs have options. But to give Dallas the best chance to reach the playoffs, Carlisle is leaning on players like Calderon and Harris, who know the NBA game well. There is less leeway to give a talented rookie like Larkin playing time when the Mavs are on the Western Conference playoff bubble.

Which is why Larkin may find himself in Frisco more often as the season winds down. Carlisle said the Mavs would be strategic in getting Larkin minutes in Frisco when they can.

That may be Larkin’s only shot at immediate playing time due to the logjam in front of him. After Larkin returned from Frisco, he played four minutes in his first two games.

“They sent me there to get my rhythm, and my next practice was great,” Larkin says. “If I’m called upon, I want to get in there and cause problems. I know I can bring a lot of energy.”

The Mavericks are looking for every way possible to let Larkin bring that energy.

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Yasmani Grandal aims to be ready Opening Day

SAN DIEGO -- Barely one month removed from reconstructive surgery on his right knee, Padres catcher Yasmani Grandal stood in front of his locker last September and proclaimed that he would be ready for the start of Spring Training.

That certainly seemed a little unlikely at the time, given the severity of the injury that he suffered after an ugly collision at the plate in July against the Nationals, when Anthony Rendon slid into his right knee trying to break up a double play.

But from the start, Grandal didn't like the 9-to-12-month recovery window that was quoted him as a guideline to how long it would take him to heal and play again after having surgery to repair his anterior cruciate ligament.

"I took that [estimate] as a negative … I set my goal for March 1 to be 100 percent," Grandal said. "And I think we're headed to that goal. I've stayed on point and ahead of schedule and met all my goals. So far, so good. We're confident in the knee."

Grandal has worked with Padres physical therapist Rick Stauffer, and also in Florida and Arizona, during a busy offseason in which he also got married. On Saturday, he attended FanFest at Petco Park.

To date, Grandal is running the bases and catching. He'll likely be brought along slowly during the team's six-week stay in Arizona. The Padres are certainly encouraged by his progress.

"It's gone great. I know he's worked awfully hard. The medical team, the therapists have been right on," said Padres manager Bud Black. "It has been one of those rehabs that has gone real smooth. He's hit all the markers.

"Again, he plays a demanding position. So we'll keep eye on that. But as far as the timeline goes, we're really, really happy."

The Padres would love to see what Grandal can do with a full season. He impressed in a 60-game stint in 2012, hitting .297 with eight home runs and 36 RBIs. But he was suspended for the first 50 games of the 2013 season for testing positive for elevated levels of testosterone. He hit .216 in 28 games following his return from the restricted list, but was then injured in July.

The Padres have two other catchers on the 40-man roster in Nick Hundley and Rene Rivera. Grandal was sharing time with Hundley at the time of the injury. Now, he's eyeing a return to actual games and isn't at all interested in waylaying his season.

Grandal was asked Saturday where he envisions himself on Opening Day, March 30, against the Dodgers.

"Behind home plate," he said, smiling. "There's nowhere else I want to be."

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